San Sebastian reborn with double the fun

by ChessBase
12/29/2011 – A very special tournament will take place in San Sebastian, Spain, from December 28 to January 6, celebrating the centenary of Capablanca's victory there in 1911. This new event, or rebirth, with three opens, includes over ten players rated 2700, playing in a new format christened the "Basque system". In this format, players play each other with both colors in two simultaneous games!

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San Sebastian reborn with double the fun

Press Release

A very special tournament will take place in San Sebastian from 28th of December till 6th of January. The program includes A, B, C tournaments and a blitz competition.

It is devoted to the famous chess tournament which was held one century ago in San Sebastian and won by José Raúl Capablanca.

A and B tournaments will be played by using a new “Basque System”. 
The prize fund of the event is 100 thousand Euros (the first prize is 20 thousand Euros and an electric motorbike).

The list of participants includes ten players rated over 2700.

General information:

As you all know, the very first super tournaments, as we know them today, took place in the former casino of Donostia-San Sebastian in 1911 & 1912, in which the first winner was a certain rookie called Jose Raul Capablanca. We wanted to celebrate this Centenary organizing a very special event, December 28th 2011, to January 5th 2012.

It will be a knock-out tournament with some modifications, as the players who get eliminated will keep playing in a parallel group. However, the main novelty is that, following an idea by David Bronstein, matches will consist of two games of classical chess played simultaneously. So no one has the advantage of playing the first game with the white pieces.

A demonstration of how two simultaneous games look like  

The idea came up mind when Professor Ignacio Palacios Huerta, from the London School of Economics (specialized in fields like Games Theory, Psychology applied to Economics, and Decision Taking), gave a speech during the Grand Slam Final, in Bilbao 2010. Ignacio shared the results of a very interesting research, in which he demonstrated the importance of having the white pieces during the first game in a chess match. According to his research, "when two players play a series of chess games against one another, alternating who plays with the white pieces, the player who plays with the white pieces in the first game – and so plays with the white pieces in the odd games – wins more matches than the player who plays with the white pieces in the even games". And, the more levelled these players are, the more relevance this phenomenon gains.

We have christened this combination of Bronstein's old idea and Palacio's modern analysis as the "Basque System".

December 27

During the opening ceremony a friendly match between French and Basque players was held. Each team had six participants. The Basque team was represented by Felix Izeta, Unai Garbisu, Alex Franco, Mikel Huerga, Santi Gonzalez, and Patrice Etchegaray, while the French team consisted of Sebastian Maze, Fabien Libiszewski, Eric Prie, Alex Delorme, Christophe Philippe, Jean Baptiste Mullon. Despite the tough struggle both matches were drawn.

The match between Basque-France was a more classic format

Results can be found here. The main organiser of the tournament in San Sebastian, GM Felix Izeta, was playing on the first board for the Basque team and won both games against French GM Sebastian Maze.
December 28

The novel format will require serious adapting

According to the rules only 64 players can participate in the ‘A’ group but 79 players showed their will to play there. Thus the last 15 participants of the ‘A’ group were decided during the preliminary round. The first round of the ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ tournaments will start at 3 PM local time (3 PM Paris time / 9 AM NY time) on December 29.  

And they say that sitting down doesn't burn calories. Try this in blitz!

In normal circumstances, this picture would be showing two players
in two different games, but here they are concentrating on different
boards of their simultaneous games against each other.

Pictures by David Llada and Anastasiya Karlovich


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client and get immediate access. Or you can get our latest Fritz 13 program, which includes six months free premium membership to Playchess.

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