THE most popular chess tournament in the USA over the past two weeks—the 2009 SPICE Cup—has ended with resounding success.
For the first time in its three staging, the SPICE Cup organizers decided to have a second group of 10 participants with title norms are stake. True to expectations it turned to be an exciting one which almost eclipsed the Category 16 first group consisting of very strong juniors and last year’s champion.
The tournament, dubbed as a chess festival, culminated with a traditional farewell party and blitz tournament in the home of organizer Susan Polgar.
Two titles in SPICE Cup B
IM Ben Finegold achieved his third and final GM norm in the penultimate round while FM Daniel Rensch got his long overdue international master title with a draw in the last round against IM Ray Robson, himself seeking his 3rd and final GM norm to become the youngest ever American grandmaster.
Finegold, who led the B-tournament throughout, could have been the outright winner with a draw in the last round against Eugene Perelhsteyn. The euphoria of completing his title quest, however, caused him to lower his guard and enabled Perelhsteyn and GM Vinay Bhat to catch up with him.
A three-way tie resulted among Perelhsteyn, Bhat and Finegold, all of USA. Officially Perelhsteyn is declared tournament winner for obtaining the highest tiebreak score among them.
IM Ray Robson's failure to win his last round game halted him temporarily from achieving his aim of becoming America's youngest grandmaster ever. A win could have achieved for him not only that distinction but also a piece of the tournament top honors via a 4-way tie. As fate would have it, that was not to be. No, not yet! Robson can still achieve the honor from one of his next tournaments before the year is over.
The excitement generated by the fighting spirit displayed by the protagonists in the B group ensures that it will become a permanent fixture of SPICE Cup tournaments in the years to come.
Kuzubov wins blitz playoff, takes SPICE Cup A title
A three-way tie for first resulted in the SPICE Cup A-group among Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukraine), Dmitry Andreikin (Russia) and Rauf Mamedov (Azerbaijan), with 5.5 points apiece. Another three-way tie for last place ar0se among Jon Ludvig Hammer (Norway), Wesley So (Philippines) and Varuzhan Akobian (USA), each with 4.5 points. These results were an indicator of the equality in relative playing strength of the competitors.
The top three in Group A—Kuzubov, Andreikin and Mamedov—all scored plus one undefeated while the remaining three with minus one. Wesley lost one game against Hammer in round 2 and drew 9 games. Akobian got his only win from Hammer in the penultimate round against 2 losses. Hammer has the most number of wins with 2 and, consequently, with most number of losses 3.
The double round robin blitz playoff that ensued in determining the tournament winner provided some exciting moments in the otherwise ‘lackluster’ closed event in terms of sporting results (decisive games total of 20% only). Actually the playoff was not a double-round robin but rather a single round robin of two-game mini-matches.
The first round witnessed Kuzubov split his mini-match with Mamedov, 1-1. Andreikin trounced Mamedov in the second round, 1.5-0.5.
Standings going to the third and final round: Andreikin, 1.5 out 2; Mamedov, 1.5/4; and Kuzubov, 1/2.
The third and final round between Kuzubov and Andreikin started with a draw in the first game. Andreikin still leading with 2/3 and Kuzubov 1.5/3. The stage was set for a very exciting second and final game between the two. Andreikin needed only a draw to bag the title and the trophy. .
The final game saw Kuzubov edged out Andreikin who contrived to lose the endgame despite being both exchange up (rook against bishop) and one minute ahead on the clock! In fact Dmitry was the one who even lost on time!
Despite the high drawing percentage (the most prevalent result in closed events among players of relatively equal strength) most of the games were well fought out.
The Philippines number one player Wesley So, second seed in the event, failed to win a game to the disappointment of his many followers. The number of hits in Susan Polgar's blog showed his games and results were the most sought after by internet users.