The joys of chess: The Romanian Blitz, Rapid and Solving Championships

by Irina Bulmaga
3/16/2022 – From 11 to 13 March the Romanian Rapid, Blitz and Solving Championships took place in Bucharest, at the "Pentagon Events" venue and attracted a record number of 212 participants, 163 in the Open section and 49 in the Women’s section. Irina Bulmaga (pictured), who won the Solving and the Rapid event, reports. | Teaser Photo: David Llada > All other photos: Florin Ardelean / We Love Sport

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This year’s edition saw all the strongest players in Romania, with a record number of titled players, but also young kids participating! Was it thanks to the increased prize fund, the Romanian Federation’s efforts to offer the best possible conditions for the players, or the increased media attention chess has started to get in Romania? From my perspective, all these factors played an important role and I feel proud of the Romanian Federation’s latest work to get chess the attention it deserves!

Before jumping to chess, I’d like to take a moment to thank the president of our federation - Vlad Ardeleanu (CEO at Medima Health) for his passion for chess and for all his efforts (together with his young and enthusiastic team) for us, the players, to be proud to represent Romania at both the national and the international events! In his speech at the closing ceremony, Mr. Ardeleanu said that his approach was to be among the players, hear them out, and get a real feel about the challenges we face and that’s exactly why he decided to participate in the Blitz Championship himself - an initiative I can only applaud!

Vlad Ardeleanu, President of the Romanian Chess Federation

Jumping to the chess part, the first dare was the Solving Championships - a discipline which I love and participate at every time I get the chance! It consists of 9 puzzles and one can get a maximum of 5 points for each - 2 mates in two moves, 2 mates in 3 moves, one mate in 4 moves, two studies, one self-mate and one help-mate, all to be solved in 120 minutes. Mate in 2, how come - should be easy, one would be compelled to think. But no! These are not straightforward mates, but rather crazy and irrational ones. Those of you knowing a bit about chess composition are probably familiar with the concept, but for those who hear about it for the first time, here are some positions which gave me quite a headache, thanks to one of the arbiters of the competition and the one in charge for our ‘headaches’ at the National Solving Championships for many years now: IA Dinu-Ioan Nicula.

Mate in 3- position #4 at the Women’s National Solving Championship

Solution: 1.Ne3 - 1.5p (threatening 2.Qf2+ - 0.5p)

                 1…Ke4 2.Qd5+ -1.5p

                 1…Kxg3 2.Qg2+ -1.5p

This one was a nightmare - I couldn’t solve it and lost quite a lot of time and nerves on it, as I usually don’t struggle so much in finding the mates in 2 and 3 and it was so frustrating not being able to find the solution…

Another very tricky one was the help-mate, a task in which black starts and helps white to mate him in 2 moves. I could find only one of the two solutions - the first one. (the notation for help-mates is a bit different, as we use "1." for black’s first move rather than "1…")

Helpmate

Solutions: 1.Bb3-Rd5 2.Bc2-Nd3# - 2.5p

                   1.f5-Rb3 2.Bf3- Rb6# -2.5p

Isn’t it fascinating? I love how one can use one’s imagination to think in a completely different way that is unusual for a professional chess player when solving this type of puzzles! I believe this was a very good training before the Rapid & Blitz and even if not all the titled players share my enthusiasm and prefer to keep their energy for the other disciplines - the competition at the solving tournament was fierce! Interestingly enough, a high rating is not a guarantee that someone is be good at solving. For example, I had 25.65 points out of 45, and with an Elo rating of 2390 I was the highest rated player in the event whereas Dariana-Gabriela Didiliuc, who finished second with 25.5 points, has only a rating of 1841 in classical chess! Third place went to WIM Silvia-Raluca Sgircea (2238 ELO).

Irina Bulmaga, Dariana-Gabriela Didiliuc, WIM Silvia-Raluca Sgircea

In the open section, the first two players both scored 34.5/45, but IM Mihnea Costachi finished first, as he used 119 minutes while GM Vlad Jianu used all his time (but only one minute more - 120 minutes). FM Marius-Nicolae Ceteras (long-time coach of IM Mihnea Costachi) came third with 32.5 points.

GM Vlad Jianu, IM Mihnea Costachi  and FM Marius-Nicolae Ceteras

The Women’s Rapid Championship was a tough competition, with all the members of the National Team present along with dangerous and quickly-progressing young players.

A future Romanian Champion?

At the end, it all came down to the last round. I was leading throughout the event and had 7.0/8 before the last game, and was one point of WGM Elena-Luminita Cosma, WCM Iselin-Amanda Lolici and IM Corina Peptan who all had 6.0/8.

I needed only a draw to secure first place, but I had to play with black against IM Corina Peptan, who probably has won more tournaments than any other female player in Romania. The first tie-break was the result between the tied players, so a loss would mean that I might lose the title. However, in case of a three-player tie the best Buchholz would count, and I probably would still be first as I had the best Buchholz before the round. Cosma quickly won against Lolici securing me a three-way tie should I lose against Peptan.

I got a good position against Peptan and a drawish endgame arose, but then I suddenly started to blunder all my pawns… Did I relax too soon or was I already too tired? Who knows… At a certain point, I just wanted to resign, but then decided to keep fighting until the end, even with 3 pawns down. When we had only seconds on our clocks, I managed to hold a draw in a position which reminded me of the Solving Championship…

 

WGM Elena-Luminita Cosma came second with 7.0/9, while WGM Mihaela Sandu scored 6.5/9 and finished third on tie-break.

The winners of the Women's Rapid Championship (from left to right): IM Irina Bulmaga, WGM Elena-Luminata Cosma, WGM Mihaela Sandu, WIM Silvia-Raluca Sgircea, WFM Ekaterina Nikanova

The Open Section saw an all-star field, with all the players of the National Team present along with other strong GMs and IMs, but here too, a lot of promising youngsters started.

A future Romanian Champion?

Before the last round, GM Constantin Lupulescu and his student IM David Gavrilescu were sharing first place with 7.0/8 each. Five players with 6.5/8 each followed half a point behind. Lupulescu drew his last round game with Black against Romania’s number one GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac, but Gavrilescu, who also played with Black, managed to win against GM Marius Manolache and won the tournament with a fantastic score of 8.0/9!

IM David Gavrilescu

Lupulescu (who had the best tie-break), 16-year old CM Teodor-Cosmin Nedelcu, and IM Alexandru-Vasile David shared places two to four with 7.5/9 each.

The winners of the Open Rapid Championship (from left to right): IM David Gavrilescu, GM Constantin Lupulescu, IM Teodor Cosmin Nedelcu, IM Alexander-Vasile David, GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac, IM Lucian Filip

Games

 

The Blitz Championships followed on Sunday, starting at 9 am in the morning - the only thing I could criticize the organization for, as I believe many of us love our Sunday sleep, but, on the other hand, once the first game started and the adrenaline started to pump, we quickly forgot about the early hour!

In the Women’s Section, IM Corina Peptan was leading throughout the event and finished first with an impressive score of 8.0/9. I believe the critical moment was our game in round 6. I had White and avoided a repetition but soon found myself in a completely lost position which Corina had no problems to win!

In round 8 Corina suffered her only loss in the tournament against Cosma, who in the end finished third with 7.0/9. I was a bit disappointed by my bad loss against Corina, but managed to pull myself together and won all my remaining games to finish second with 7.5/9.

The winners of the Women's Blitz Championship: (from left to right): IM Corina Peptan, IM Irina Bulmaga, WGM Elena-Luminata Cosma, WFM Alessia Ciolacu

In an interview after the tournament, Corina mentioned that this might be her last National Championship, as she felt like focusing on other things after a long and successful career. I hope she will change her mind and we will continue seeing her competing in the future as there are so many things one can learn from her - and I’m not only talking about the chess qualities she has, but also about the fact that she is a very humble and kind person - qualities which our (chess) world desperately needs.

IM Corina Peptan

In the Open Blitz Championship, four players shared first, all scoring 7.5/9. Lupulescu had the best tie-break, followed by Deac, Jianu and GM Costica-Ciprian Nanu.

The winners of the Open Blitz Championship (from left to right): GM Bogdan-Daniel Deac, GM Constantin Lupulescu, GM Vlad Jianu, GM Ciprian Nanu, IM David Gavrilescu, GM Vladislav Nevednichy

Last, but not least, it was the first time the Romanian Blitz, Rapid and Solving Championships were covered live by a great media team, with commentary by WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor and IM Vladimir Doncea. I was told they did a great job and many of our supporters had a great time following the action from their homes!

WGM Sabina-Francesca Foisor and IM Vladimir Doncea

After a weekend full of adrenaline and emotions, I would once again like to thank the organizing team for this celebration of chess and for the very fine job they did, for us, the players, who had the chance to enjoy the game and to give our best! Caissa smiled to some of us, but I hope she also inspired the many lovers of the game and young children to work on their chess, to demonstrate fair-play, be fierce, but also not to forget about being kind and humble!

Proud to be Romanian!

One could check the social media pages of the Romanian Federation for more material from the event:

 


Irina Bulmaga is a WGM/IM born in Moldova, currently representing Romania. She became the youngest Moldavian Champion among Women at the age of 14 years old. Since 2010, she has been a part of the Romanian Olympic team, successfully representing it at 5 Olympiads, winning an individual bronze medal in 2014.

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