Rafael Leitao wins sixth Brazilian title

by ChessBase
1/2/2014 – In the last weeks of 2013, the 80th Brazilian Championship was held in the beautiful city of Joao Pessoa. The top-seed was GM Rafael Leitao, who was able to win his sixth title, ahead of Krikor Mekhitarian, and surprise third, FM Cesar 'Samurai' Umetsubo. Commenting the event, with personal impressions and select moments, is the champion himself. Here is Rafael Leitao's personal account.

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Chronicles of the Brazilian Championship

By GM Rafael Leitao

The end of the 80th Brazilian Chess Championship was held in the city of João Pessoa, from 13 to 21 December 2013. After eleven hard-fought rounds, I won my sixth title with eight wins and three draws. In second was GM Krikor Mekhitarian and bronze went to the amazing MF César Umetsubo.

João Pessoa is a beautiful city in the northeastern Brazilian coast. Besides the lush beaches, it is worth noting the city's excellent infrastructure, not to mention the warmth of the people, always solicitous and with good cheer. With a top-notch hotel and a spectacular ocean view, the "only" thing left to do was to transform these natural beauties into good moves on the board - easier said than done!

The beautiful Joao Pessoa

The list of participants is noteworthy by the presence of only two grandmasters. Considering that Brazil is a country with about 200 million inhabitants, including eleven grandmasters in all, there is no question that only two grandmasters in the national championship is very few! Without delving too deeply into the issue of shortage of professional players in the country, the fact is that the circumstances made it impossible for some of our strongest chess players to participate, and as a result they eventually declined their invitations.

Thus, the event had two clear favorites: The author of these lines, with the highest rating, and the 2012 champion and rising star, Krikor Mekhitarian (yes, people with similar surnames usually play chess very well!). But favoritism does not always play out as it should, and who says there is no luck in chess? Had my first-round opponent found one of many possible winning blows, who can say how the tournament would have ended ...

[Event "Joao Pessoa"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.14"] [Round "1"] [White "Di Berardino, Diego"] [Black "Leitao, Rafael"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B92"] [Annotator "Rafael Leitao"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r4/3Pkpp1/1P6/p1r3p1/1pP1P3/3R4/6PP/2R3K1 w - - 0 34"] [PlyCount "24"] {[#]} {An excellent example of the strength of passed pawns!} 34. Rcd1 $2 { Unfortunately for White, this throws away the win.} ({It would be impossible to stop the onslaught of White's central pawn mass after} 34. Rd5 $1 Rxd5 35. exd5 $18) 34... Rc6 35. b7 Rb6 36. c5 Rxb7 37. c6 Rc7 38. Rc1 a4 39. Rc4 b3 40. Rxa4 Rxc6 41. Rb4 Rxd7 42. Rxd7+ Kxd7 43. Rxb3 Ke6 44. Kf2 Rc2+ 45. Kg3 Ke5 1/2-1/2

Rafael Leitao (right) playing Roberto Molina under the intense study of GM Darcy Lima

Ultimately, a great part of a chess player's success can be summarized in a single word: confidence. In the second game, I used a classic device to assert my initiative and with a good win, I began to feel good about my chances in the tournament.

[Event "Joao Pessoa"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.12.14"] [Round "2"] [White "Leitao, Rafael"] [Black "Molina, Roberto"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D31"] [Annotator "Rafael Leitao"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r3knnr/pp2qppp/2p3b1/3p4/3P4/1QN1P1B1/PP2BPP1/R3K2R w KQkq - 0 13"] [PlyCount "19"] {[#]} {Surprisingly, until here we were still following my opponent's preparation. But after the central break 13.e4! Black is practically lost.} 13. e4 $3 dxe4 $2 (13... Bxe4 14. Nxe4 dxe4 15. d5 Nf6 (15... cxd5 $2 16. Bb5+ Nd7 17. Rh5 $3 $18) 16. dxc6 bxc6 17. O-O-O $36) 14. d5 Nf6 15. O-O-O (15. Rd1 Rd8 16. O-O $1 $18) 15... Rd8 $6 (15... a5) 16. dxc6 bxc6 17. Qa4 $2 (17. Rxd8+ Qxd8 18. Qb7 $1 $18 (18. Rd1 $2)) 17... Qb7 $2 (17... Qc5 $18) (17... Bf5 $1) 18. Rxd8+ Kxd8 19. Rd1+ N8d7 20. Rd6 (20. Ba6 Qb6 21. Rd6 Qc5 22. Rxc6 Qg5+ 23. Kd1 $18) 20... e3 21. Ba6 exf2 22. Bxf2 1-0

The tournament only began to clarify in the eighth round. At this point, Krikor had a half-point lead over Umetsubo and myself. I won a tough game with black against IM Yago Santiago, while Krikor, also black, had to split the point from a worse position against IM Molina. Still, what happened in Umetsubo's game was truly dramatic, and in all my years as a professional I cannot recall seeing such a devastating turnaround:

[Event "80th ch-BRA 2013"] [Site "Joao Pessoa BRA"] [Date "2013.12.19"] [Round "8.3"] [White "Umetsubo, Cesar"] [Black "Toth, Christian"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D02"] [WhiteElo "2279"] [BlackElo "2365"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r5/4p2p/5bp1/5p2/1R6/2PpP1B1/kP1K1PPP/8 w - - 0 40"] [PlyCount "104"] [EventDate "2013.12.13"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "11"] [EventCountry "BRA"] [EventCategory "7"] 40. Kxd3 {[#]} Kb1 41. Rb8 Rc5 42. c4 e5 43. b3 e4+ 44. Kd2 Ra5 45. f3 Ra2+ 46. Kd1 Rc2 47. fxe4 fxe4 48. Be1 Rxg2 49. Rf8 Bg5 50. Rf2 Rg1 51. Ke2 Bh4 52. Rf1 Rg2+ 53. Bf2+ Kb2 54. b4 Kc3 55. b5 Kxc4 56. b6 Rxh2 57. b7 Bg3 58. Rc1+ Kd5 59. Rf1 Kc6 60. b8=Q Bxb8 61. Rg1 Kd5 62. Kf1 Ke6 63. Rg5 Rh1+ 64. Kg2 Rh2+ 65. Kf1 Rh1+ 66. Kg2 Rb1 67. Ra5 Be5 68. Kh3 h5 69. Ra6+ Kf5 70. Ra5 Rb6 71. Bg3 Re6 72. Kh4 Kf6 73. Be1 Kf5 74. Bc3 Re8 75. Bd4 g5+ 76. Kh3 Kf6 77. Ra6+ Re6 78. Bxe5+ Kxe5 79. Ra5+ Kf6 80. Kg3 Kg6 81. Rb5 Rf6 82. Kg2 Rf3 83. Rb3 Kf5 84. Ra3 Kg4 85. Rb3 h4 86. Ra3 h3+ 87. Kh2 Kh4 88. Rb3 g4 89. Ra3 g3+ 90. Kg1 h2+ 91. Kg2 Rf2+ 0-1

Can you believe this game ended in a victory for Black? Apparently the young player of white (affectionately nicknamed "Samurai") felt the pressure of fighting for the title. This defeat shook him so badly that the next game he decided to draw right in the opening. Sometimes chess can be cruel! Anyway, his participation was nothing short of a resounding success. Not only did he score an IM norm, but he finished in third with bronze and secured a spot for the final in 2014.

Cesar 'Samurai' Umetsubo with his third-place trophy. His performance was so
impressive, that if one more of his opponents had had a grandmaster title, he
would have earned a GM norm instead.

On the other hand, Mekhitarian was surprisingly defeated by strong IMs Barbosa Evandro and Yago Santiago, white in both games, and consequently I won the title with a round to spare.

The top three finishers (left to right): GM Krikor Mekhitarian (silver), GM Rafael
Leitao (gold), and FM Cesar Umetsubo (bronze)

I would like to think that this sixth title has a certain symbolism. Who can say whether Brazil might not be looking forward to a sixth title of another kind in 2014?...

Final standings


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