Oliver Barbosa conquers Kolkata 2014

by Sagar Shah
3/30/2014 – It is one of the strongest Opens in Asia, sporting players from 13 countries – 27 GMs, 18 IMs and four WGMs – with an an astonishing rating average of 2394 for all 77 participants. The winner (on tiebreak points) is a very talented GM from the Philippines, and the outcome was decided in an exciting key game in the final round. Sagar Shah tells us about it in this big pictorial report.

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Oliver Barbosa conquers Kolkata 2014

By Sagar Shah

It was already five hours into the final, tenth round. All the games were completed except one: on the top board a battle between two of the most talented youngsters of India, GM Vidit Gujarathi (2602) vs GM Lalith Babu (2575), was still under way. The crowd had gathered around the board in huge numbers. The winner of the tournament was undecided. Oliver Barbosa had made a draw with Ziaur Rahman and was sitting at the top of the table at 7.5/10. But Vidit was on seven points, and if he were to draw his game, he would have been the champion due to his better tie break.

The extremely tense top board game between Vidit Gujarathi and Lalith Babu

[Event "19th Kolkata GM Open 2014"] [Site "Kolkata IND"] [Date "2014.03.27"] [Round "10.1"] [White "Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi"] [Black "Lalith, Babu M.R"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E15"] [WhiteElo "2602"] [BlackElo "2585"] [Annotator "Shah,Sagar"] [PlyCount "194"] [EventDate "2014.03.18"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb7 6. Bg2 Bb4+ 7. Bd2 c5 8. O-O O-O 9. Bc3 Qe7 10. Bb2 cxd4 11. a3 Bc3 12. Nxc3 dxc3 13. Bxc3 Na6 14. b4 Rfd8 15. Qb3 Ne4 16. Bb2 d5 17. cxd5 Bxd5 18. Qe3 Nc7 19. Rac1 Rac8 20. Ne5 Nf6 21. Nc6 Bxc6 22. Bxc6 Ncd5 23. Qe5 Qc7 24. Qxc7 Rxc7 25. Be5 Rcc8 26. Bb7 Rxc1 27. Rxc1 Kf8 28. Kg2 Ne8 29. b5 f6 30. Bb2 Ndc7 31. a4 Rd2 32. Ba3+ Kf7 33. e3 Nd5 34. e4 Ne3+ 35. Kg1 Nc2 36. Bb2 Nd4 37. Bc3 $2 {Call it championship pressure or momentary lapse of concentration, but White has blundered a piece. The position was worth resigning, but Vidit keeps fighting...} Ne2+ 38. Kf1 Ra2 39. Rd1 Nxc3 40. Rd7+ Kg6 41. Bc6 Nxa4 42. Rd8 Nc7 43. Rd7 Nxb5 44. Bxb5 Nc5 45. Re7 Nxe4 46. Bd3 f5 47. Rxe6+ Kg5 48. h4+ Kg4 49. Bxe4 fxe4 50. Rxe4+ Kf5 51. Re7 Kf6 52. Rb7 h5 53. f3 g6 54. g4 hxg4 55. fxg4 Ra4 56. h5 gxh5 57. gxh5 Kg5 58. Rh7 Ra2 59. Ke1 a5 {... and reaches this position.} 60. Kd1 $2 ({White had to play} 60. Rd7 $1 Kxh5 61. Rd5+ Kg4 62. Rb5 {is a draw and would have secured Vidit the title.}) 60... Rf2 $1 {With this move the point was in the bag for Lalith, and the watching Oliver Barbosa must have heaved a sigh of relief!} 61. Rh8 Rf6 62. Kc2 Rh6 63. Rg8+ Kf5 64. Kb3 Rxh5 65. Rb8 Rh3+ 66. Ka4 Rh4+ 67. Ka3 Rb4 68. Re8 Kf6 69. Re2 b5 70. Re8 Kf5 71. Rh8 Rg4 72. Rb8 Ra4+ 73. Kb3 Rb4+ 74. Ka3 Ke5 75. Rh8 Rf4 76. Rb8 Ra4+ 77. Kb3 Rb4+ 78. Ka3 Kd6 79. Ra8 Ra4+ 80. Kb3 Kc6 81. Rc8+ Kb7 82. Rh8 Rc4 83. Rh7+ Kb6 84. Rh6+ Rc6 85. Rh3 a4+ 86. Kb4 Rc4+ 87. Ka3 Ka5 88. Rh5 Rc3+ 89. Kb2 Re3 90. Ka2 a3 91. Rh4 b4 92. Rh8 Re2+ 93. Ka1 Ka4 94. Rh3 Re1+ 95. Ka2 b3+ 96. Rxb3 Re2+ 97. Kb1 Kxb3 0-1

GM Oliver Barbosa and GM Lalith Babu both finished with 7.5/10, but the Philippine player won the Sixth Kolkata Open 2014 due to his better tiebreak.

A jubilant Oliver Barbosa flanked by runner-up Lalith Babu and third placed GM Abhijit Kunte

The Kolkata Open, formerly known as the Goodricke Open, was held in Gorky Sadan, Kolkata, from 18th to 27th March 2014. The tournament is one of the strongest opens in Asia and has a long pedigree, with the likes of Smyslov, Korchnoi, Anand, Bologan, Short and many more star players having taken part in previous editions.

This year we saw 27 GMs, 18 IMs and four WGMs taking part. Players from 13 countries were there, making it a truly global event. The average rating of this tournament was an astonishing 2394, in spite of the fact that 77 players were participating. The strength of the tournament can be gauged when top seed GM Nigel Short played GM Sundaranjan Kidambi (2400) in the very first round.

The total prize fund of the event was 1,400,000 Indian Rupess (approx US $ 23,300). It was ten-round tournament with a time control of 90 mins for 40 moves and 30 mins for the rest of the game, with an increment of 30 secs from the first move. Every round began at 14.00 IST, except for the last round which began at 10.00 IST.

GM Oliver Barbosa of Philippines who won the tournament played some excellent chess and finished unbeaten with five wins and five draws and a rating performance of 2688. He bagged the winner's purse of 400,000 rupees (approx $6,500). What was amazing was that Oliver faced seven GMs and three IMs and in spite of such strong opposition scored heavily. He recorded wins over strong 2600+ players like Levan Panstulaia and Konstantin Landa, and his hard working and determined nature can be seen from his cover picture on his Facebook page:

When I got the chance to talk with him after the tournament, his humility and down to earth nature could be easily seen. “When I came to Kolkata one day before the tournament," he said, "I didn’t even know the player’s list. I was pleasantly surprised to see that so many strong 2600+ players had registered. I thought to myself, a top five finish would really be good. But I played well and won the tournament and I am very happy.” About the strength of his opponents he said: “It was barely possible to underestimate anyone, and Indian players I think are very strong. Even a 2100 player here can beat a GM if you take him lightly.” This was Oliver’s third tournament victory in India, after he had once won the Bhubaneshwar Open and the Delhi Open. However this was definitely the strongest tournament of the three.

Oliver’s favourite game from the tournament was the one against Konstantin Landa where as White he gained a small advantage. It seemed absolutely nothing at first. Slowly and steadily, just like Capablanca, he ground his strong Russian opponent down. To outplay such a player like Landa with just a miniscule edge speaks volumes of Barbosa’s talent. Here is the game.

[Event "19th Kolkata GM Open 2014"] [Site "Kolkata IND"] [Date "2014.03.26"] [Round "9.1"] [White "Barbosa, Oliver"] [Black "Landa, Konstantin"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D02"] [WhiteElo "2564"] [BlackElo "2645"] [PlyCount "75"] [EventDate "2014.03.18"] 1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. c4 cxd4 4. cxd5 Nf6 5. Qa4+ Qd7 6. Qxd4 Qxd5 7. Nc3 Qxd4 8. Nxd4 a6 9. g3 e5 10. Nb3 Nc6 11. Bg2 Be6 12. O-O Bb4 13. Bg5 Bxc3 14. bxc3 Bd5 15. Bxf6 Bxg2 16. Kxg2 gxf6 17. Rfd1 Rc8 18. Nc5 Rc7 19. Rab1 Nd8 20. Rd5 Rg8 21. Rbd1 Ne6 22. Nxe6 fxe6 23. Rd8+ Kf7 24. R1d7+ Rxd7 25. Rxd7+ Kg6 26. Rxb7 Rc8 27. Rb6 a5 28. Rb5 Rxc3 29. Rxa5 e4 30. Ra8 e5 31. e3 f5 32. a4 f4 33. gxf4 exf4 34. exf4 Rf3 35. Rg8+ Kh5 36. Rg3 Rxf4 37. Re3 Rg4+ 38. Kf1 1-0

With a live rating of 2580 I consider Oliver Barbosa one of the finest talents, not just from the Philippines but also from Asia. He seems extremely focussed and hardworking, and what separates himself from the rest is his will to win. You must definitely watch his queen endgame against Levan Pantsulaia, where in spite of being down to his last few seconds and facing stiff resistance from the Georgian GM, he showed amazing tenacity to win the position. Le Quang Liem won the Kolkata Open in 2009 and shot into prominence on the world level pretty soon. I sense something similar on the cards for Oliver!

The top seed and biggest attraction of the event was definitely Nigel Short. Being a World Championship finalist, who locked horns with the great Garry Kasparov in 1993, Nigel is nothing short of a legend in the chess world. However in Kolkata, as Nigel would say, like the English cricket batsmen he just couldn’t get going. The tournament started off badly for him when he couldn’t win a won endgame against GM Kidambi in the first round. And it went really bad when he lost his third round game against GM Ziaur Rahman.

Nigel was terribly dejected after his loss to Ziaur Rahman

He started making his way back to the top but could not reach the absolute top boards. After the tournament he said, “I am just gathering steam now. Too bad the tournament is already over!”
His twelfth position finish was not something Nigel was proud of. However, his presence surely enhanced the aura of the event.

GM Lalith Babu finished with a score of 7.5/10 and was the runner-up of the event. In spite of losing the third game to Deepan Chakravarthy, Lalith fought back with a sizzling 4.5/5 finish to clinch the silver medal. There is something extremely unique about this 20-year-old talent. He is able to find excellent resources even in lost positions, and his "never say die" spirit helps him to turn many of the inferior positions in his favour.

Known in Indian chess circles as Dada ("elder brother" in Marathi), Abhijit Kunte was one of the best players of the country during the period of 2000-2005. He has been the national champion on many occasions and also the British champion in the year 2003. Of late he had been performing quite poorly and his rating had dipped quite low to 2439. But everyone is aware of his class. It was only a matter of time before he would come back to form. Just when Anand showed his supreme form in Candidates 2014, Abhijit Kunte did the same in the Kolkata Open, gaining 31 elo points with his 2671 performance . He dispatched strong GMs like SP Sethuraman (2578), Deep Sengupta (2529), and Abdulla-Al-Rakib (2518). If Kunte keeps up this form, then I am sure we can see him back in the 2500 Elo range pretty soon!

Touted as one of the biggest talents of Indian chess, GM Vidit Gujarathi finished fourth at the tournament. He knows when to press the accelerator and when to use the brakes. Thus, you can see his 20 odd moves nice win over GM Debashish Das, and also his safe draws against GM Kunte and GM Chakravarthy. It was only because of his last round loss to GM Lalith Babu (see above) that he failed to become the champion. The 2013 World Junior bronze medallist has a very bright future ahead of him and I surely think he will soon cross the 2700 elo barrier!

GM B Adhiban (2608) who had shot to fame earlier by entering the quarter finals of the World Cup 2013, had broken into 2600 with a strong performance at Gibraltar Open. He finished fifth at the Kolkata Open. His style of preparing before the game by listening to music is going to gain a lot of followers! Is it the secret to reach 2600?!

Finishing sixth in the tournament is not such a big deal for a strong player like GM Ziaur Rahman (2486) from Bangladesh. However, the fact that he remained unbeaten with a performance of 2688, and also beat two strong players, Nigel Short and Sergey Fedorchuk, and at the same time gained 26 Elo points, means that he had a tournament of his life! Great play by the Bangladeshi genius!

Final Ranking after ten rounds

Rk.   Name FED Rtg Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3   TB4  Rp
1 GM Barbosa Oliver PHI 2564 7.5 56.5 51.0 45.25 49.5 2688
2 GM Lalith Babu M.R. IND 2585 7.5 55.0 50.0 44.25 48.0 2655
3 GM Kunte Abhijit IND 2439 7.0 61.0 55.5 43.25 53.5 2671
4 GM Vidit Gujrathi IND 2602 7.0 58.5 53.0 40.00 51.0 2659
5 GM Rahman Ziaur BAN 2486 7.0 56.5 51.5 41.25 49.0 2684
6 GM Adhiban B. IND 2608 7.0 55.0 50.0 41.00 48.0 2614
7 GM D. Chakkravarthy IND 2496 6.5 57.5 53.0 38.25 50.0 2630
8 GM Landa Konstantin RUS 2645 6.5 56.5 51.5 37.50 49.0 2584
9 GM Sethuraman S.P. IND 2578 6.5 53.5 49.0 34.00 46.5 2553
10 GM Sengupta Deep IND 2529 6.5 52.0 47.5 33.25 44.5 2539
11 GM Grigoryan Avetik ARM 2583 6.5 51.5 47.0 34.25 45.0 2566
12 GM Short Nigel D ENG 2674 6.5 51.0 46.0 34.50 44.0 2548
13 GM Gopal G.N. IND 2558 6.5 48.5 44.0 34.25 42.5 2514
14 GM Mchedlishvili Mikheil GEO 2639 6.5 48.0 44.0 33.25 41.5 2540
15 GM Fedorchuk Sergey UKR 2647 6.5 48.0 44.0 31.25 41.0 2531
16 GM Haznedaroglu Kivanc TUR 2462 6.0 53.5 49.0 32.25 46.0 2539
17 IM Swapnil Dhopade IND 2424 6.0 53.5 49.0 31.25 46.0 2528
18 IM Karthikeyan P. IND 2355 6.0 52.0 47.5 31.75 44.5 2548
19 IM Ly Moulthun AUS 2429 6.0 49.5 45.5 24.25 42.0 2507
20   Kunal M. IND 2339 6.0 44.5 41.0 26.50 38.0 2485

All pictures by Amruta Mokal, who is the wife of our reporter

– Part two will follow soon –


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Topics: India

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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