Italian one-two in Bad Zwischenahn

by Bettina Trabert
2/4/2024 – The Northwest Cup took place for the first time in Oldenburg and then moved to Bad Zwischenahn. This year it celebrated its 25th anniversary. The railway strike in Germany made it difficult for participants to travel to the event, but well over 380 chess enthusiasts made it to the tournament hall, including Bettina Trabert. | Photos: Bettina Trabert

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The North-West Cup was held for the 25th time at the end of January. What started out as a small tournament in Oldenburg and then moved to Bad Zwischenahn a few years later has now become one of the largest German open tournaments. With 382 participants, maximum capacity was reached — the participants were nonetheless comfortably accommodated in the spacious and bright Wandelhalle of the Kurhaus.

After enjoying the tournament very much last year, we made the long journey from Freiburg to Bad Zwischenahn again this year (a journey of around 7 and a half hours under the best of circumstances), but this time with some additional difficulties: on Monday, we found out that the rail strike was due to start on Wednesday — our planned day of travel — which meant that our train journey was in danger of being cancelled. Fortunately, the headmaster was kind enough to allow Max another day off school, and the booking of our holiday flat could also be moved forward by one day so that we could arrive on Tuesday. This gave us a full day before the tournament to have a look around the lovely spa town on the shores of the Zwischenahner Meer Lake.

It is of course not a real sea, but a large lake, also known as the “Pearl of the Ammerland”

The playing hall was located directly next to the spa gardens and the Zwischenahner Meer, so that the time between the double rounds could be used for walks

As I wasn’t playing myself, but was looking after my 13-year-old son Max (Skembris), I had a bit more time to look around the playing hall. The top of the lineup in particular was very international this year. India’s Himal Gusain had travelled directly from France, with two recent tournament wins in his pocket (Tours and Marseille). He almost got another tournament victory, but he lost to 23-year-old Italian Lorenzo Lodici in the last round.

Lodici v. Gusain (1-0)

The Italian player was thus assured shared first place. However, he was beaten in the Buchholz tiebreak score by his lesser-known compatriot IM Alberto Barp, who won the last round with a bit of luck.

Barp v. Kramer (replay game below)

The top three in the A tournament, from right: 1st Alberto Barp, 2nd Lorenzo Lodici 3rd Erik Van den Doel, the rating favourite from Holland

Some very strong Chinese players were also present, including the 13-year-old Lu Miaoyi. The young Chinese player is already a WGM and is one of the strongest girls of her age worldwide (in Bad Zwischenahn she started with a 2252 rating, but in the latest ranking she has a 2369 rating). She is coached and accompanied by her mother, WGM Xu Yuanyuan, who also played in the tournament.

A strong mother-daughter team: Lu Miaoyi and Xu Yuanyuan (replay Lu’s game below)

Of course, a number of young German players also took the opportunity to gain experience in this tournament, especially as the division into A, B and C tournaments means you quickly get opponents of similar strength. The 13-year-old Lisa Sickmann, by far the strongest girl in her age group in Germany, has gained more than 200 rating points in recent months and is now in 5th place in the German U14 rankings.

In Bad Zwischenahn, she was even able to win her first “GM scalp” with a victory against the Greek grandmaster Spyridon Skembris. Incidentally, a nice touch was that special successes against rating favourites (the best in each of the three groups) were rewarded with a book gift before each round.

On the rise — Lisa Sickmann from Lübeck

Max Skembris

However, Max Skembris was able to ‘avenge’ his dad a few rounds later with a win against Lisa and restore the family honour.

Another young player in the lineup was Hussain Besou, who has an amazingly full tournament calendar for a 12-year-old and was again able to win the youth prize in this event. His little brother Jad (at the age of 7, he has a DWZ rating nearing 1600 points) took part in the B tournament.

Jad Besou is not yet as used to photos as his big brother

All in all, it was a very successful tournament, which was organised jointly by SK Union Oldenburg, SC Schwarzer Springer Bad Zwischenahn and Jürgen Wempes ChessOrg.

Anke and Jürgen Wempe belong to the successful organizing team

Final standings

No Title Name Elo Pts Buchh.
1 IM Barp,Alberto 2437 6 32,5
2 GM Lodici,Lorenzo 2548 6 32
3 GM Van den Doel,Erik 2551 5,5 32,5
4 GM Korneev,Oleg 2474 5,5 30
5 Zhang,Xiao 2137 5,5 30
6 IM Skytte,Rasmus 2342 5,5 30
7 GM Solodovnichenko,Yuri 2477 5,5 29
8 IM Chen,Qi b 2467 5,5 29
9 IM Feuerstack,Aljoscha 2467 5,5 29
10 GM Milov,Leonid 2422 5,5 28
11 IM Langheinrich,Ferenc 2347 5 33
12 IM Kramer,Julian 2470 5 31,5
13 IM Gusain,Himal 2457 5 31
14 WIM Schulze,Lara 2285 5 30
15 Hirneise,Jens 2270 5 30
16 Meins,Gerlef 2401 5 30
17 WGM Lu,Miaoyi 2252 5 27,5
18 IM Schneider,Ilja 2468 5 27,5
19 Besou,Hussain 2277 5 26,5
20 Loftgaard,Mikkel Vinh 2318 5 25,5

...167 players

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Bettina Trabert, WGM since 2000, took part in several World Youth Championships and played in five Chess Olympiads and two European Team Championships for Germany. She regularly writes tournament reports for ChessBase.
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