Three GMs lead in SPICE Cup in Texas

by ChessBase
9/26/2009 – This Category 16 event, billed as the "highest rated international invitational tournament in U.S. history", is named after its founder, former Women's World Champion Susan Polgar. After six rounds GMs Kuzubov, Andreikin and Hammer lead, but Group B (Cat. 11) is also interesting, since 14-year-old IM Ray Robson is trying to pick up his final GM norm. Illustrated report.

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This year’s SPICE Cup is the third such tournament in a row. The first cup took place in the fall of 2007 – just a few months after the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) was created at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. The following year the second SPICE Cup was organised and featured all grandmasters. The current SPICE Cup features two groups: an A group, consisting of an extremely talented and young group of grandmasters who are playing a double-round robin event, and a B group, consisting of three grandmasters, six International Maters and one FIDE Master. Several of the IMs are one norm short of the GM title, so there will be some battles and no easy draws in this section!

The SPICE cup tournaments were created to set a new standard for invitational chess events in the US. They are among the strongest tournaments in this country; in fact, the A group for the current event is the strongest in US history. Participants are carefully selected by GM Susan Polgar – director of SPICE – to ensure that we have the highest quality of sportsmanship and lively, yet friendly, competition. The university also uses these tournaments to showcase itself and its many programs.

Dr. Hal Karlsson

Standings in the A Group

The category of this event is 16, with an average rating of 2631 (and an average age of 20!)

Standings in the B Group

The average rating here is 2501 = category 11. In order to gain a GM norm players have to score 5.76 points. So, if our calculations are right, Ray Robson needs to win both his final games to clinch the title. Very tough, but not impossible.

Picture Gallery

At fifteen years of age, Wesley So is not far removed from his attainment of the grandmaster title at the age of 14 years, 1 month and 28 days, which made him the seventh youngest player in history to earn it. Having already achieved the highest rating of any Filipino player in history, So's pace can only be appreciated in an international context, where he currently stands as the seventh-ranked junior player in the world, and the youngest player ever to break the 2600 barrier. It is little wonder his father seems so proud.

Grandmaster Wesley So, Philippines, 2644, member of the 2008 Filipino Olympiad team

Here we see GMs Jon Ludvig Hammer and Dmitry Andreykin shake hands at the start of their game. As the top seed in the A Group, with a rating of 2659, Andreykin has the privilege (and added pressure) of playing in the presence of the championship trophies. Of course, as reigning Russian Junior Champion, he is surely up to the task. Hammer is no slouch, however, ranking as the second-best player in his homeland Norway (no prize for guessing who is the strongest).

Fourth-seed and current American Junior Champion, IM Ray Robson, faces off against third-seeded GM Eugene Perelshteyn, the 2000 US Junior Champion, in a marquee match-up of the B Group. Despite significant successes of his own, Perelshteyn had yet to achieve the same accomplishments attributable to the younger player when he was Robson's age. That said, Perelshteyn won the 2007 edition of SPICE, leaving Robson the player with something to prove in this tournament.

Top seed in the B Group, IM Gabor Papp, 2562, offered his opponent the opportunity to give peace a chance prior to the start of the round. The vivacious 22-year-old Hungarian is currently attending Texas Tech University, this year's tournament host.

As bottom seed in the B Group, with a rating of 2388, FM Danny Rensch prays for inspiration prior to commencing his game. Despite the odds against him, this 23-year-old has some reasonably impressive titles to his credit, including that of former National High School Champion of the United States.

Here, IM Ben Finegold, 2515, prepares for an important encounter...

... and springs the novelty on a 14-year-old IM Ray Robson

At forty years of age, Finegold is the oldest competitor in this tournament (by ten years!), but he refuses to let age hold back his play, or his sense of humour. As a two-time US Open and National Open Champion, he can hardly be said to be fighting above his weight class. He is also a two-time National Open Champion and former winner of the prestigious Samford fellowship). Ben has two GM norms.

IM Ray Robson, United States, 2527, is 14 years old, reigning U.S. Junior Champion and winner of the prestigious Samford fellowship, with two GM norms. Ray would be the youngest American GM in history if he can earn final GM norm here.

With the competitors of this tournament having an average age of approximately 23 years of age, who can blame these ladies for wanting to witness first-hand one of the most presitigious events on the American chess calendar?


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