Tamir Nabaty wins Rilton Cup in style

by Antonio Pereira
1/5/2019 – Rating favourite Tamir Nabaty dominated the field in Stockholm as he finished the Rilton Cup on 8 out of 9, a whole point ahead of a three-player chasing pack — Tiger Hillarp Persson (second), Sergey Volkov (third) and Frode Urkedal gathered 7 points each. The champion would have taken first place with a draw in the last round, but anyway defeated American youngster Awonder Liang in style with the black pieces. | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

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A career best

When first place was secured for Tamir Nabaty after his victory over Awonder Liang, the Israeli talked with Fiona Steil-Antoni in the commentary booth and shared his happiness with the live audience: "I'm feeling great, this was maybe my best tournament. I enjoyed every moment here, it was very pleasant for me". The 27-year-old had reason to celebrate — his 2885 rating performance earned him almost 20 rating points and allowed him to climb precisely twenty spots in the live rating list (he is now the 54th highest rated player in the world and Israel's clear number one).

He had arrived in Stockholm as the favourite, but nonetheless had to face fierce opposition, with three fellow members of the 2600-club (Mikhail Kobalia, Maxime Lagarde and Alexander Donchenko) and a big pack of ambitious 2500s mostly from India and the Scandinavian countries. When asked about the difficulty of arriving as first seed, he answered with typical professionalism: "I don't care if I'm first in the list or not — I just play chess and try my best every time". 

Tamir had a peculiar start in the Swedish capital, as he was practically lost in his round one game against 2320-rated Tommi Luukkonen from Finland. In a razor-sharp middlegame, the Finnish missed some complex tactical continuations that would have given him a model victory, and when time pressure was imminent he gave away the game in a balanced but difficult position:


Luukkonen blundered with 30.Nd6? and resigned after 30...Re2 — the threats of back-rank mate are impossible to parry without big material concessions. The computer gives 30.e7 as the only way to keep the dynamic balance with White — a sample line is 30...Qxd7 31.exf8Q+ Kxf8 32.Rf1 Ke7 33.Rxf3 Re2 34.Rf7+ Kxf7 35.Qf3+. We definitely cannot blame the Finnish FM for not finding this continuation with his clock ticking down. (You can try more variations on the diagram above!)

Luukkonen could have changed the fate of the event | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

Steil-Antoni brought up this game in the post-game interview, and Tamir confessed that this is a common issue for him: "Usually I have some problems in the first round because I'm not [yet] inside the tournament — I need some time to get into the tournament".

The champion's most impressive performance in the tournament was his win over fifth seed Grzegorz Gajewski in round seven (a game we already covered in a previous report). Tamir was asked if he considered this to be the best game he had played in his career, and the Israeli responded that this was his second best game ever — his favourite is still a win he got over Ildar Khairullin at the 2010 European Championship in Rijeka. You can replay both games in the viewer:


A little below in the standings, Tiger Hillarp Persson missed a win in a very favourable position against Murali Karthikeyan in the final round. This allowed Sergey Volkov and Frode Urkedal to catch up with him after both won their last round games with the white pieces. Volkov's final position against Jaime Santos illustrates White's domination throughout the game:


If Black tries to save his attacked bishop with 34...Bg4, White takes advantage of the black rook’s unfortunate position on a6 after 35.Nf7 Bf3+ 36.Kxf3 Rf8 37.Ke2 Rxf7 38.Nxe5 Nxe5 39.Bxa6.

As mentioned above, Hillarp Persson still took second place on tie-breaks.

Sergei Volkov was the tenth seed | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

Frode Urkedal finished undefeated | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

Final standings (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Nabaty Tamir 8,0 50,5
2 Hillarp Persson Tiger 7,0 47,0
3 Volkov Sergey 7,0 46,5
4 Urkedal Frode Olav Olsen 7,0 44,5
5 Gopal G.N. 6,5 49,5
6 Karthikeyan Murali 6,5 49,0
7 Gajewski Grzegorz 6,5 49,0
8 Lagarde Maxime 6,5 48,5
9 Valsecchi Alessio 6,5 46,5
10 Kobalia Mikhail 6,5 46,5
11 Gholami Aryan 6,5 45,5
12 Moroni Luca Jr 6,5 44,0
13 Libiszewski Fabien 6,5 41,0
14 Santos Latasa Jaime 6,0 50,0
15 Lalith Babu M R 6,0 48,0
16 Liang Awonder 6,0 48,0
17 Santos Ruiz Miguel 6,0 47,0
  Yeoh Li Tian 6,0 47,0
19 Donchenko Alexander 6,0 43,5
20 Zumsande Martin 6,0 41,5
21 Lyrberg Patrik 6,0 41,0
22 Rakesh Kumar Jena 6,0 40,5
23 Bellia Fabrizio 6,0 40,0
24 Maze Sebastien 6,0 39,0
25 Gorshtein Ido 6,0 36,0

Commentary webcast of Round 9

Commentary by IM Jonathan Westerberg & WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni

All available games


"Rilton Elo" and "Rilton 1800"

Two parallel events for players under-2200 and under-1800 were organised in Stockholm. The "Rilton Elo" tournament was won by Yaroslav Slugin (8/9), while Vadims Bolsakovs and Theodor Lindbergh (7/9) finished in second and third place, respectively. The "Rilton 1800" was a shorter eight-round Swiss tournament and was won by AO Mossin (7/8), who got a better tie-break score than Albert Moller; Claes Joensson finished third (6½/8).

Yaroslav Slugin | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund

AO Mossin | Photo: Lars OA Hedlund


Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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