A chess celebration in Puerto Rico

by Cristóbal Vega
4/8/2019 – At the end of March, San Juan, the capital and most populous municipality in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, hosted what was depicted as the biggest chess event of the island in the last thirty years. Cuban grandmaster Yuri González (pictured) won the main section, finishing ahead of his compatriot Reynaldo Vera and American veterans Alex Yermolinksy and Alexander Shabalov. CRISTÓBAL VEGA ADORNO wrote a full report, while GM ALEX YERMOLINKSY sent expert analysis of two games. | Photo: Puerto Rico Chess Academy

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Yuri González beats the field

From the 21st to the 26th of March 2019, the “Festival de Ajedrez de San Juan” took place in Puerto Rico’s capital. The festival was organised by the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan and the capital’s Department of Sports and Recreation. This was, without a doubt, the biggest chess event to take place in Puerto Rico during the last 30 years.

The meeting was organised at the San Juan Natatorium and was headed by Gabriel Pinales Roussel, President of the San Juan Chess Club. On Thursday morning, Gabriel and his great staff kicked off the festival with the Metropolitan Championships for age groups spanning from U-8 to U-18 — both for boys and girls — with 108 young players participating.

Gabriel Pinales

Organiser Gabriel Pinales just trapped that bishop

On Thursday afternoon, the main section of the "VIII Memorial Hermanos Colón Romero" — in memory of Miguel and Arturo Colón Romero — began. Four special guests led the field, two from Cuba and two from the United States. From the Caribbean Island arrived GMs Yuri González Vidal and Reynaldo Vera González, while from the US former national champions Alex Yermolinsky and Alexander Shabalov made their way down to San Juan. The highest rated Puerto Rican player was national champion Edgardo Almedina.

It was a seven-round Swiss, which lasted four days. There were many surprises, so it was never clear who would win the event. In the end, nonetheless, rating favourite Yuri González took first place after scoring an undefeated 6 out of 7. Second place went to Alex Yermolinksy, a half point behind, while Puerto Rican champion Edgardo Almedina tied on 5 points with 2022-rated Diego Zilleruelo, who upset GMs Reynaldo Vera and Alexander Shabalov. Reynaldo Vera and Juan Dávila also finished on 5/7.

Puerto Rico Chess 2019

Alexander Shabalov, Alex Yermolinsky, Gabriel Pinales, Yuri González, Reynaldo Vera and José Reyes

Reynaldo Vera, Cristobal Vega, Yuri Gonzalez

Vera (left) and González (right) with IA Cristóbal Vega, the author of this article 

Analysis by Alex Yermolinsky

Yermo has been travelling around Latin America with his good friend Alexander Shabalov. He has been to Chihuahua (Mexico) and Arica (Chile), for instance, and always sends us something from his trips. This time around, he analysed the two games in which tournament sensation Diego Zilleruelo upset experienced, much higher-rated grandmasters.


The Ne2 Caro-Kann

Caro-Kann players typically love their solid structures and modest setups, but with this bamboozling sideline they will be forced to enter unknown territory right from the off!

Final standings - Main event (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Gonzalez Vidal Yuri 6,0 0,0
2 Yermolinsky Alex 5,5 0,0
3 Almedina Ortiz Edgardo J. 5,0 0,0
4 Zilleruelo Irizarry Diego 5,0 0,0
5 Vera Gonzalez - Quevedo Reynaldo 5,0 0,0
6 Davila Vega Juan R. 5,0 0,0
7 Shabalov Alexander 4,5 0,0
8 Santana Otero Orlando 4,5 0,0
9 Shaffer Alexander 4,0 0,0
10 Ramos Roman Miles 4,0 0,0
11 Davila Blanco Juan Jose 4,0 0,0
12 Sotelo Kohama Daniel 4,0 0,0
13 Freyre Forest Jorge 4,0 0,0
14 Pinales Roussel Gabriel 4,0 0,0
15 Lugo Roldan Jean P. 4,0 0,0

...see all 38 players

All available games


Side events

The celebration did not finish on Sunday, as all four grandmasters were booked to give lectures on the following two days. On Monday, Reynaldo Vera talked about "Capablanca's universal dimension". The following day, Alexander Shabalov gave a lecture called "Ignoring the threat", Alex Yermolinsky talked about "Bishops of opposite colours" and Yuri González gave a presentation on "How to face 1.e4 with Black: Ruy López structures".

Reynaldo Vera

Cuban Reynaldo Vera lecturing about Capablanca

Two five-round Swiss tournaments were played for the U-1900 and U-1600 categories. Javier Ríos Maldonado and Abner Silva Rodríguez were the winners. Finally, a blitz tournament wrapped up the festival. Once again, Yuri González took first place after scoring 8 out of 9, and was followed by Reynaldo Vera and Alex Yermolinksy, who collected 7 points each.

Full results: B group (U-1900), C group (U-1600) and Blitz

Translation from Spanish: Antonio Pereira


Cristóbal Vega Adorno is an International Arbiter and FIDE Trainer from Puerto Rico. A big chess enthusiast, he is the President of the Puerto Rico Chess Academy.


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