Vasily Papin wins New Caledonia Open

9/5/2013 – If you look down at your feet you are probably looking in the direction of the South Sea archipelago, a thousand miles east of Australia (and tens of thousands away from anywhere else). To hold a chess tournament there is idyllic and exotic, which is brought out in this big pictorial report by Luis Sanchez Botella. It is about the 64 black and white squares – but also about crows and whales.

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Crushing victory of Vasily Papin in New Caledonia Open

Report by Luis Sanchez Botella

After a few years of absence due to the restructuring of the members of the Noumea Chess Club, this year a strong tournament was hold, at the idyllic five-star hotel of “Le Meridien” at Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia.


View Larger Map New Caledonia is an idyllic place on the southwest Pacific Ocean,
about 1000 km from Australia (orange on the right), but belonging to France.

The Open was a FIDE rated nine-round Swiss with norm opportunities and also valid for the Oceania Grand Prix.
With 40 players, six of them holding an international title and wonderful weather, the opening ceremony was held the 19th of August at the Grand Casino of Noumea.

The drawing of colours for the first round was decided in a friendly game between the two top ranked players, GM Maze and GM Papin. This fight in a five-minute game was a draw and consequently, the ranking number one would be playing with white in round one. After the game, and some speeches from the organizers and some local representatives, a welcome dinner was held in the Casino.

The tournament by itself was a bit unbalanced. The two GMs were the main favourites, while three FMs tried to make the things a bit more interesting, together with a bunch of local players who are usually underrated and whose real strength is unknown.

The above game between GMs Vasily Papin and Sebastian Maze was supposed to be the key game of the tournament. In the background FM Guadalpi, who moved for some years to live in New Caledonia. He told me that his results were affected by his inactivity.

[Event "New Caledonia International 2013"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.08.21"] [Round "5.1"] [White "Maze, Sebastien"] [Black "Papin, Vasily"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "B42"] [WhiteElo "2547"] [BlackElo "2545"] [Annotator "FM Luis Sanchez Botella"] [PlyCount "36"] [SourceDate "2013.08.19"] 1. e4 {Both players were the two main contenders of the tournament. This game was played in the fifth round when both had perfect scores, so everything was yet to be decided} c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Bd3 Bc5 {One of the main lines nowadays} 6. Nb3 Ba7 {Both players were using their main repertoire, they didn't want any surprises.} (6... Be7 {is the other main choice.}) 7. Qg4 {There are several setups for the White against this particular Paulsen, but Qg4 is certainly one of the sharpest, trying to make use of the absence of the black bishop in the kingside.} (7. Qe2 {is the main line}) 7... Nf6 8. Qg3 (8. Qxg7 {is not possible because of the basic trick} Rg8 9. Qh6 Bxf2+) 8... d6 9. Nc3 Nc6 10. O-O b5 11. Kh1 Bb7 12. f4 (12. Be3 {was recently met by GM Papin in Istratescu-Papin (76) 1/2 03.07.2013 Abu Dhabi op 21st} Bxe3 13. Qxe3 O-O 14. Rad1 Qc7 15. f4 Nb4 16. a3 Nxd3 17. cxd3 {was played with a balanced middlegame.}) 12... h5 13. a4 {Novelty in this position - not sure if it was home preparation.} h4 14. Qxg7 {Accepting this pawn is almost a draw offer from White, as it is difficult for Black to find any alternatives to what it follows.} Rh7 15. Qg5 Rh5 16. Qg7 Rh7 17. Qg5 Rh5 18. Qg7 Rh7 {After this draw the two players continue, tied for the leadership, and all posibilities still open. But it would be Papin the one who would take victory in the end, by making less mistakes in the following rounds.} 1/2-1/2

[Event "New Caledonia International 2013"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.08.22"] [Round "7.2"] [White "Maze, Sebastien"] [Black "Pouchon, Mickael"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A01"] [WhiteElo "2547"] [BlackElo "1940"] [Annotator "FM Luis Sanchez Botella"] [PlyCount "34"] [SourceDate "2013.08.19"] 1. b3 {Let's forget about theory, and just play chess! This is what White might have thought, as there are more than 600 hundred points of difference between the two players!} e5 2. Bb2 Nc6 3. e3 d5 4. Bb5 Bd6 5. Nf3 (5. f4 {is the main line according in my opening book, and it's certainly more critical.}) 5... Qe7 6. d4 (6. c4) 6... e4 7. Ne5 Qg5 8. O-O $146 (8. g3 {I can only find two games where this was played, so castling is a novelty. Black has played natural moves, but somehow is already better. White is lacking harmony in his pieces and has weaknesses in the light squares of the kingside.}) 8... Bh3 9. g3 Bxf1 {Black is already completely winning} 10. Qxf1 Nge7 11. h4 Qf5 12. Nxc6 bxc6 13. Be2 h5 $5 {Black is ready to launch a pawn storm on the kingside, making use of the white weaknesses.} (13... O-O {could be a normal continuation, trying to win with your material advantage, but that was not the plan of the black player.}) 14. c4 g5 $6 {This seems too hasty. Since Black has a material advantage there is no need for such drastic measures.} 15. c5 gxh4 {Although Black is losing his bishop our engines show that he is on top in every variation, as White is quite underdeveloped and the black attack is very dangerous.} 16. cxd6 Rg8 $1 {Who cares about pieces - Black was only seeing a white king to kill.} (16... cxd6) 17. Kh2 (17. dxe7 {is another try} hxg3 18. fxg3 Rxg3+ 19. Kh2 Qg5 20. Qf4 Rg2+ 21. Kh3 Qxf4 22. exf4 Rxe2 {and Black is also winning.}) 17... hxg3+ {After so many brilliant moves, Black offered a draw when Maze was going to instanly recapture the pawn. Maze stopped, and after some consideration decided to take it, since although there is no forced win, White continues being worse.} 1/2-1/2

Here's how the tournament ended (top scorers with five or more points):

Winners: GMs Sebastien Maze (2nd), Vasily Papin (1st) and FM Luis Sanchez Botella (3rd)

During the entire event, everyone was incredible nice, making your stay as pleasant as possible. And in this report I would like to express my gratitude to all the organizers and people who made this event possible.

International Arbiter Gary Bekker with his girlfriend Dominique, a lovely couple

Being in such a beautiful place, it was impossible not to take photos, and our only problem was the lack of time, as there were several days with double rounds. Noumea and the surroundings are quite beautiful, but what it is even more spectacular are the islands, which you can only reach by boat in organized trips, or by plane, although they are quite close. Especially recommended is the famous ‘Ile des Pins’ – but we didn’t have time to visit it. That is a perfect excuse for coming back for the next edition.

Some photos of the area closed to the hotel, where you could find in just a few minutes walk, two of the main beaches of the capital, the “Baie of Citrons” and the “Baie de L’Anse Vata”

The hotel venue with the beautiful pool, from which you have access to ...

... the beautiful ‘Baie des Citrons’ beach, where we enjoyed temperatures...

... of around 20-25 degrees Celsius – in the coldest month of the Caledonian winter!

Sunset: this is the view we were treated to from the venue, every evening

At the end of this gangway you can see the “Ilot Canard” (Duck Island)...

... which that we visited, as it was only 15 minute by boat

While we were on this island some whales showed up, drawing a lot of people to the beach to watch. We tried to take some photos of the breaching whales, but it’s quite difficult to be fast enough and we did not succeed.

No, no, you have to go way out, on a boat – and use a harpoon!

New Caledonia has a big maritime market as they have great quantities of
nickel that they export. It’s one of the main incomes, alongside the tourism.

Group photo on the last day, on the lawn of the hotel

Where to go next – this sign says it all

About the author

FM Luis J. Sanchez Botella is a student of a Master in Civil Engineering in the UPV of Valencia (Spain) but is currently doing his last year of studies with an exchange year at the UNSW in Sydney. Trying to enjoy this unique opportunity as much as he can, there is always time for some chess and travels, two of his main passions.


Editorial addendum: And yes, of course, the crows...

The smartest entities on the South Sea archipelago are without doubt human beings, especially the chess playing variety. But in close second are the famous New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides), our absolute heroes in the animal world. Together with dolphins, the great apes and a few other animals they represent the highest form of intelligence in non-human species. Take a look.

Here a New Caledonian crow tries to extract a morsel of food which is in a little bucket at the bottom of a transparent tube. The wire it is using does not do the trick, so after some though it decides to bend the wire into a hook to lift out the bucket. Really! The video is from the Behavioural Ecology Research Group at Oxford University, where you can see the wire-bending experiment (and others) in higher quality.

Here the New Caledonian crow has to come up with a three-step plan, "like three chess moves" says the experimentator.

This one will blow your mind: Oxford University scientists show that New Caledonian crows can spontaneously use multiple tools in the correct sequence to achieve a goal, something never before observed in non-human animals without explicit training. The crow Betty does not attempt to probe for food, but immediately uses the tabletop tool to retrieve a medium-length tool. She then appears to look into the food-tube, without probing, before using the tool to extract the longest tool. Finally, she uses this tool to retrieve the reward from the food-tube. It is noteworthy that she seems to actively dispose of each tool as its role in the sequence is completed, and she also turns the tools around in order to place the cross-piece distal, where it is most effective as a hook-like instrument.

If you are still not convinced take a look at the videos here or listen to Professor Russell Gray's lecture: part one and part two. You must admit: these birds are just one step away from playing a very competent Queen's Gambit Declined.


Topics New Caledoina
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