Rabat Blitz Marathon won by L'Ami (1/2)

by Alina l'Ami
5/23/2015 – The Rabat Blitz Marathon has stuck to its guns and been able to perpetuate a fantastic tradition much appreciated by top pros and aficionados of the modality. This year the 21-round blitz bonanza, held in a single monumental stretch, saw the presences of top names such as Mamedyarov and Shirov, but the player to stand on the top was Dutch GM Erwin L'Ami. A large pictorial with analysis.

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During my intense globe-trotting over the years, I have never thought I could feel the pulse of a new country in just one weekend! This was the amount of time I could afford to spend in Rabat and, using a pun which works out well only in Romanian, I had no intention to make any “rabat” (= rebate, allowance or reduction) on quality or quantity. My tournament schedule simply didn't allow me staying for more, as on the next weekend I am about to take part in the Limburg Open from Maastricht.

Greek-like blue washed walls but with an authentic Moroccan feeling

My usual fascination for traditional doors,...


... and alleys.

A walk around the old market is a pleasure for the eyes of both the camera and the photographer

No matter how adventurous I am, I still care about 'small' details such as preparing or relaxing, so I cannot blame myself if anything goes wrong in the tournament. Fair enough, I can always blame the others…

Lots of colours and opportunities

If only we had a bit more time to see more, explore more

Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - Cherigui, Mourad

[Event "Rabat Blitz 2015"] [Site ""] [Date "2015.05.16"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Cherigui, Mourad"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2735"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r2k1/p4p2/3Pp1p1/1p1pP3/1Pr5/P4KP1/5P2/2R1R3 b - - 0 31"] [PlyCount "26"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] {In any chess tournament, being it open or round robin, it is crucial to start on a good note. This is exactly what the highest rated player in the event did, despite having to wake up as early as 7 am and facing a rather dubious position at some point.} 31... f6 $1 {looks very promising for Black but the Azeri tricky player knows how to mess up with his opponents' minds:} 32. a4 $1 {the best defence is known to be the counter-attack, when practical problems must be solved; meanwhile, the clock is ticking...} (32. exf6 {obviously doesn't work in view of} Rxd6 $19) 32... a6 {the first concession, but a rather natural move to make, especially in a blitz game, when one has to count on intuition and automatisms.} ({Worth considering was:} 32... Rxc1 $5 {and I will give you a sample line, although far from being possible to calculate with seconds on the clock; rook endgames are never easy, even with hours at your disposal!} 33. Rxc1 bxa4 34. Kf4 $5 g5+ 35. Kg4 fxe5 36. Kxg5 Rxd6 37. Kf6 Rd8 38. Ra1 d4 39. Rxa4 d3 40. Ra1 d2 41. Rd1 Rf8+ 42. Kxe6 Rxf2 43. Kxe5 $11) 33. axb5 axb5 34. Ra1 $1 {keeping the rooks on the board, which is useful for both winning and drawing ideas...as we know, the top GM would always choose the first option.} Rxb4 35. Ra7 fxe5 36. Rc1 Rc4 37. Rh1 Rf8+ 38. Kg2 Rc2 39. Kh3 $5 {Shakh always finds a way to play for the win!} Rd8 $2 {What could be more logical than preventing White to promote the d-pawn?! Unfortunately this was the deadly mistake, as the energetic white king will march all the way to his enemy's camp:} ({Instead} 39... Rcxf2 {assures Black a comfortable edge if not a winning position, since} 40. Kg4 {is met by} R2f7 $1) 40. Kg4 Rcc8 41. Rhh7 Rc4+ 42. Kg5 Rcc8 43. Rag7+ Kf8 44. Kf6 {domination! And mate, of course:) } 1-0

The absolutely gorgeous drink, called by the locals the "Moroccan whiskey"...

... the tongue-in-cheek name for the mint tea.

The traditional Moroccan couscous

As time passes, an abstract feeling grows stronger in my mind: the experience we chess players accumulate in one year, equates to as many as seven of other people. While I would like to take credit for this plastic description of the intensity of our lives, I must confess that I was inspired by the growth of “Fat Frumos” (the equivalent of Prince Charming) as pictured in the Romanian fairy tales, by comparison with other boys of his age. Looking at it from a different perspective, I could say we have nine lives as well, just like the cats, being able to recover and start it all over again after every game and tournament failure.

Local humour or the game of trust

Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - Shirov, Alexei

[Event "Rabat Blitz 2015"] [Site ""] [Date "2015.05.16"] [Round "11.2"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "Shirov, Alexei"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2735"] [BlackElo "2696"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] [WhiteTeam "Aserbeidschan"] [BlackTeam "Lettland"] [WhiteTeamCountry "AZE"] [BlackTeamCountry "LAT"] {Once the most difficult game has passed (it is not always easy to find your rhythm and the right level of concentration in the first round), Mamedyarov proved to be the strong Blitz player that everybody expected, not only with tricky moves and traps and sacrifices but also with deep, slow, maneuvering powerplay! Quite unusual though, to have a quiet game between two disciples of "Fire on board"! How is it possible to have such, almost flawless, examples in a 3 min game?! Top GMs will always be top GMs...} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Qc2 dxc4 5. Qxc4 Bg4 6. Bf4 Nbd7 7. Nbd2 e6 8. e4 Bxf3 9. gxf3 Be7 10. O-O-O O-O 11. Kb1 c5 12. dxc5 Nxc5 13. Be2 Rc8 14. Nb3 Qb6 15. Be3 Qc6 16. Nxc5 Bxc5 17. Rc1 Bxe3 18. Qxc6 bxc6 19. fxe3 Rfd8 20. Rc2 Kf8 21. Rhc1 Ke7 22. Rxc6 Rxc6 23. Rxc6 Rd2 24. Rc2 Rxc2 25. Kxc2 Kd6 26. b4 Ne8 27. Kc3 e5 28. a4 Nc7 29. Kc4 Kc6 30. b5+ Kb6 31. Kb4 Ne6 32. a5+ Kc7 33. h4 g5 34. h5 g4 35. fxg4 h6 36. Kc4 Kd6 37. b6 axb6 38. axb6 Ng5 39. Kb5 Nxe4 40. Ka6 Nc5+ 41. Ka7 Kd5 1-0

Our chess group during the tour

I didn't expect to be fascinated by trees in Rabat

Around Rabat

Our guide making sure I don't get lost

Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar - L'Ami, Erwin

[Event "Rabat Blitz 2015"] [Site ""] [Date "2015.05.16"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar"] [Black "L'Ami, Erwin"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2735"] [BlackElo "2635"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/1p1K2kp/p3P3/8/6P1/8/4r3/5R2 b - - 0 43"] [PlyCount "43"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] {As early as round 5, the tournament win became a race between two players: the favourite, Mamedyarov, and the Dutch GM l'Ami, who happens to be my husband:) Both players were on 4/4 and in this game the Azeri GM should and could have added another one to his collection. It was not to be...the rook endgame didn't go well this time, even though Erwin did his best to help his opponent.} 43... Rd2+ $2 {An innocent check that could have been fatal! Anyways...calculating in depth endgame lines during a blitz game is impossible; in hindsight, one could argue that, intuitively, Black could have thought about it this way: Why to bring the white king in a better position? Just roll the pawns!} (43... b5 44. e7 Rd2+ 45. Ke8 b4 $11) 44. Ke8 b5 45. e7 (45. Rf7+ $1 {Another "innocent" check is actually making a huge difference! As it is always the case in endgames.} Kg8 46. Rd7 Re2 47. e7 $18) 45... a5 $2 {Oups, the wrong one!} ({It is still possible to fight with} 45... b4 $1 $132 {which will be closer to the promoting square.}) 46. Rf5 (46. Rf7+ $1 Kg8 47. Rf5 $18 {such nuances are very difficult to spot even during a "normal" game...}) 46... b4 (46... h6 {doesn't help either, due to} 47. Rxb5 a4 48. Ra5 Rd4 49. Ra8 Kg8 50. Rd8 $18) 47. Rxa5 b3 48. Rg5+ $1 Kf6 49. Rb5 Re2 50. g5+ $2 {handing in hopes to Black} (50. Kf8 $1 {would have won on the spot, since Black cannot capture} Rxe7 51. g5+ Ke6 52. Rb6+ Kd7 53. Rb7+ $18) 50... Kg6 51. Kf8 Rf2+ 52. Ke8 b2 53. Rb6+ Kxg5 54. Rb5+ Kg6 55. Rb6+ Kg7 56. Kd7 Rd2+ 57. Kc7 $2 {All or nothing is a good motto, which brings a lot of success, but sometimes it can be like a two edged sword. In this game, pushing your chances too much, went into the wrong direction - suddenly Black is winning!} Kf7 58. Re6 Ke8 $19 59. Re1 h5 {which doesn't spoil anything; besides, generally speaking, with a few seconds on the clock, when you see a winning continuation you just have to play it, no time for debates!} ({Even faster is} 59... Rc2+ $5 60. Kd6 Rc1 $19) 60. Kc6 h4 61. Kc5 h3 62. Kc4 h2 63. Kc3 Rg2 64. Rh1 Rg1 {Of course, mistakes are part of the blitz games but I am always amazed how little obvious blunders the GMs are making...dropping pieces is usually not in their vocabulary, as the quality of their play remains very high, despite the circumstances!} 0-1

The Mausoleum of Mohammed V is a historical building which contains
the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons, the late King Hassan II
and Prince Abdallah. In the center is the tradtional guard.

I would also quote Short who makes it... short: "Chess keeps us sane" and on a more personal level - "chess makes me feel alive"; I sometimes have the impression that I pass through so many exciting events during a single day that I tend to lose their count; it sometimes feels like a whole month has passed and not just one weekend, but at the same time it was like yesterday that I was in Jakarta. Strange, contradictory and hard to explain, but one thing is sure: I am far from unhappy.

The building is considered a masterpiece of modern Alaouite dynasty architecture, with its
white silhouette.

A beautiful sun casting shadows and light

The building is topped by a typical green tiled roof, green being the color of Islam

A more unusual customer

My trip to Rabat gave me several reasons to be cheerful: I visited a new country, I was in contact with a new culture, new people, rehearsed my blitzing - a territory where I don't quite excel, since I tend to ponder a lot on my moves... I had the chance to cross swords with players like Shirov and Mamedyarov… How many occasions like that do I get in a year's time?! And as a bonus, my husband Erwin won the tournament with a massive score!

Van Wely, Loek - L'Ami, Erwin

[Event "Rabat Blitz 2015"] [Site ""] [Date "2015.05.16"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Van Wely, Loek"] [Black "L'Ami, Erwin"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2653"] [BlackElo "2635"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4rrk1/2p4p/1p1pq1pP/p7/2P1PP2/1P4K1/P2Q4/3RR3 b - - 0 29"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] {After a shaky fifth round, the Dutch GM took the lead convincingly, defeating his compatriot immediately afterwards, also with black pieces! So how would you continue with black?} 29... g5 $1 30. f5 ({Perhaps} 30. fxg5 {would have been "less" dangerous, but which player in a "normal" state of mind would have deliberately open the king like that?} Qe5+) 30... Qxh6 31. Rh1 Qf6 32. Qd5+ Kg7 33. Rh5 h6 34. Rdh1 Rh8 35. Kg4 Re7 36. a3 Rhe8 37. Re1 Qb2 38. Qd3 Qg2+ 39. Qg3 Rxe4+ {Game over and perfect score for the one who will continue his powerful play all the way until the end: 18.5/21 is not so bad to be honest:) Mamedyarov kept the pace but was half a point too short and had to content himself with the 2nd position on the podium.} 0-1

The first part of our excursion: a visit to the Royal Palace

Thanks for the photo to the enthusiastic person and photographer: François-Alexandre Léonard!

The sumptuous Royal Palace

The turquoise water and smooth waves remind me of Greece

There is no lack of color in the streets

Waking up at 7 AM to play 21 rounds, the same number as in the World Blitz Championship, but with the difference that they are all hold in a single day (!), explains why the Rabat blitz tournament is considered a marathon. Nevertheless, chess life is a perpetual marathon...

Local drink which is not milk nor yogurt-like produce. I still don't know what exactly it is since
my Moroccan friends couldn't translate it either. But it does taste good.

The lovely family of Macauley Peterson: Isabel and Amélie

Final standings

Rk SNr Ti. Name
1 6 GM L'Ami Erwin
2 1 GM Mamedyarov Shakhriyar
3 5 GM Fridman Daniel
4 4 GM Van Wely Loek
5 2 GM Shirov Alexei
6 7 GM Heberla Bartlomiej
7 3 GM Fedorchuk Sergey
8 11 GM Larino Nieto David
9 12 IM Dourerassou Jonathan
10 8 GM Peralta Fernando
11 9 GM Libiszewski Fabien
12 18   Le Huec Marc
13 98   Salaka Youssef
14 90   Mounib Adil
15 10 GM Romero Holmes Alfonso

Click for complete standings


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Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.
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MidoRZ MidoRZ 5/24/2015 11:29
Thank you for the report and for the beautiful photos. For the local drink, it is called "Leben" or "Laban", it is simply a fermented milk or buttermilk
PKH PKH 5/24/2015 04:30
Beautiful photography and nice selection of positions from the tournament. Your reports really do add some nice flavor to this website, and do a great job highlighting the multi-cultural nature of this wonderful sport that we love so much. Thank you!