The Llobregat Open Chess Tournament melting pot of cultures

The chess tournament El Llobregat Open Chess Tournament held at Can Massallera, in Sant Boi, attracts 210 players from group A and another 77 players from group B. The Indian GM Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan wins the fourth edition of the open.

The Llobregat Open Chess Tournament is much more than a chess tournament: it is a melting pot of cultures that makes the Baix Llobregat region proud. In this edition, held at Can Massallera (Sant Boi de Llobregat), the Indian grandmaster Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan won. Group B was won by Frenchman Robin Coles. The architect? Xavier Pérez Llorca, editor of the newspaper El Llobregat and passionate chess player.

A few weeks have passed since the IV El Llobregat Open Chess Tournament took place, which is the strongest in Spain and one of the main ones in the world. Put this way, in a couple of lines, it seems simple, but the organizational effort to carry out an event of such magnitude is outstanding. To get an idea, let’s put some significant figures in black and white: two groups, 51 grandmasters and countless international titlists in the A and 57,300 € in prizes. The list of participants was headed by the Slovenian Vladimir Fedoseev (2675). A total of… 14 master standards were achieved!

Major logistical effort

But do we value things only quantitatively? Among the great attractions of the event held in Sant Boi de Llobregat were the presence of Vaishali Rameshbabu, qualified for the Candidates Tournament, Paco Vallejo (2668), Sara Khadem (2481), Alexei Shirov (2668), Daniil Yuffa (2600) and Alan Pichot (2650), among other talents of the game-science, whose presence alone illuminates the boards. In addition, in a major logistical effort, the first 55 tables were broadcast, with the renowned GM José Carlos Ibarra Jerez (@GmSpiderIbarra), very popular with his space “Jaqueando” in the Marca newspaper, and Venezuelan WMI Tilsia Varela (@tilsiava) as commentators.

Are you attracted to the ceremonial character of chess? In this edition of the Llobregat Open Chess Tournament has been incorporated a bell ringing that precedes the start of each round of play. Did you know that the coat of arms of San Boi features a bell? Chess and heraldry go hand in hand, just as history and tradition do.

Presence of personalities

The personalities who honored us with their presence to ring the bell throughout the IV El Llobregat Open Chess Tournament form a heterogeneous and at the same time significant group of the social fabric: José Antonio Carcelén, first deputy mayor of Sant Boi; the representatives of the company Aigües de Barcelona Felipe Campos (CEO) and Manel Giraldo Vera (director of institutional relations); the eight times Spanish champion and editor of the chess magazine Peón de Rey Miguel Illescas; Miguel Ángel Grima, president of Sant Boi Empresarial; Lazizjon Kayumov, representative of the Uzbekistan delegation; journalist Leontxo García; Josep March, representative of the Secretaria General de l’Esport i l’Activitat Física a Barcelona; the presidents of the Spanish and Catalan chess federations, Francisco Javier Ochoa de Echagüen and Pepo Viñas Racionero; Jesús Lozano (CEO of the national and international freight transport company Lotrans) and the Argentinean IM Marcelo Panelo, director of the tournament.

The great sporting events, the ones that are close to our hearts, are those that, in addition to accommodating the elite players, offer parallel activities. In this regard, I would like to highlight three of a sporting nature and two of a cultural nature.

Star Sara Khadem

The first activity, which was more cultural than sporting, was led by the star Sara Khadem, who fled Iran after refusing to wear the veil and recently became a Spanish citizen. As a preamble to the IV El Llobregat Open Chess Tournament he gave a session of simultaneous games in the municipal sports center Podium (Viladecans), in which he defeated 25 opponents.

The first sporting activity was the Blitz Masters, a fast chess tournament with €20,000 in prize money, which was won by the Indian Narayanan. It was a warning of destiny, of his spectacular moment of form. Among the Spaniards, Marc Narciso impressed (6th). The referees were also outstanding: it takes a thousand eyes and a very solid criterion to control so many tables of play while the moves are happening at a dizzying pace.

Women’s Blitz

The second consisted of the women’s Blitz, which was won with an iron fist by Canarian master Sabrina Vega (2180), winning a prize of 500 € out of a purse of 3,150 €.

The third was the 2nd U16 School Chess Tournament, which was played in the same rooms where the main competitions took place. There were in fact two tournaments, one for young federates (41) and the other for beginners (65), with the presence of María Antonia Barragán, Sports Councilor of the City Council of Sant Boi, who informed us of her personal support to the implementation of chess as an educational resource in the city of Sant Boi. Ani Vardanyan (1st), from C. E. Peona i Peó; Mateu López (2nd), from C. E. Tres Peons and Narek Danielyan (3rd), from Associació Cultural Armènia, completed the podium in the federated group. In the non-federated group, Jan (1st) and Enric (2nd) Valera, followed by Leo Ruiz de Adana (3rd), all from Col-legi Joan Bardina. The outstanding refereeing team was led by the president of the Catalan referees, the Latinist Guillem Cintas Zuazua.

250 years in check


And, as a climax, the second cultural activity was the conference “Chips and neurons: 250 years in check”, by Leontxo García, who showed the strong links between chess and the development of computer science, as well as its connection with AI.

The sporting development of the IV El Llobregat Open Chess Tournament followed a trend that, seen in perspective, has a lot of logic, as the talented Indian Narayanan won from start to finish: it was no coincidence that he won the Blitz, fate was on his side from the beginning to the closing of the tournament at a classical pace.

Measuring forces with the eyes

The chess players, who came from all over the world, approached the start of the competition by measuring their strengths with their eyes. The tense silence could only be treated with the faint sound of the players composing some pieces on the board, turning the horses to orient them to their liking. Each round, the tolling of the bell, like the mischievous waters of the river, announced the moment everyone was waiting for.

Throughout the days of play there were several names that shone with their own light. Among them, I am going to take the license to start with two very young chess players who, although they have not yet reached their peak of playing strength, do not stop giving us joy, as happened in the Llobregat Open Chess Tournament: Javier Habans Aguerrea from Navarre and Álex Villa Tornero from Catalonia. Habans started with devastating strength, achieving good results against players of over 2600 Elo (Puranik, Shirov…), until he had to bow his king against a very sharp English Opening variation of the charismatic Italian player Andrea Stella. As for Villa, who could not play the first round, he arrived with options to get IM standard to the final round and, although finally it could not be, the promising talent sponsored by El Llobregat showed his class.

Gala ovation

Vaishali Rameshbabu was recognized by her peers with a warm standing ovation at the beginning of the second round, as she had just received the title of grandmaster. A dream year for the talented Indian player, as she had recently qualified for the FIDE Candidates Tournament, from which she will be the challenger for the women’s world title against China’s Ju Wenjun, the current champion. It so happens that Vaishali’s brother, Praggnanandhaa, qualified shortly before to compete in the Candidates, with the aim of snatching the crown from China’s Ding Liren. Will we have a China-India double-header for both world crowns? Will we have two brothers as undisputed kings of the game-science? The future looks mysterious… and exciting.

Sara Khadem (2481) scored a brilliant victory over one of the favorites for the title, India’s Sethuraman (2603), knocking him out of the top spots.Narayanan: not just for winning, but for how he did it. Especially in round 6, entering the final stretch of the tournament. I remember that that afternoon the eyes of all present were on the game he was to play on the first board against his compatriot Aravindh. A long, marathon game was expected… or a grandmaster draw to save strength. However, Narayanan won in a few moves thanks to a lethal preparation in the opening. The highly educated Sunilduth Lyna Narayanan had not come to Catalonia for sightseeing: his form is exceptional. Something similar happened in his final game, against Vladimir Fedoseev, as he won the half point that earned him the title by using his strength in the preparation of the openings.

Large delegation from Uzbekistan

Special mention should be made to the large delegation from Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks, from their tour of the West, had high praise for the tournament. They were accompanied by the audiovisual media UzChess and, with the daily videos they shared on their social networks, they spread the good name of the Llobregat region around the world. In sporting terms, Fedoseev was runner-up. The tie-breakers left Chithambaram Aravindh as the third-place finisher of the tournament. Daniil Yuffa (16th) was the first Spaniard. In Group B, Robin Coles won with authority, but the runner-up was Javokhir Bozorov, with Islombek Sindarov completing the podium. The first Spaniard was Luis Herrera Mellado (20th).

We propose you to solve a position that was seen in the tournament, commented at the end of this chronicle by the super talented Paco Vallejo. White has just played Ce5, what would you do with the black pieces? The good work of the participants in the IV El Llobregat Open Chess Tournament deserves a special mention: if the duty of King Arthur’s knights was to defend Camelot, the duty of the people who play chess is to honor the history and the good name of our game.

The awards ceremony was attended by prestigious guests, such as the mayoress of Sant Boi de Llobregat, Lluïsa Moret, and the president of the FEDA, Francisco Javier Ochoa de Echagüen, among other personalities.Narayanan said in statements to the magazine Peón de Rey: “The preparations have gone well for me. It is an important part of the training process, which has given me extra confidence in my path as a professional chess player (…) The Llobregat Open Chess Tournament is one of the best tournaments at the organizational level in which I have competed”.

SOLUTION TO THE POSITIONGM Paco Vallejo: “I played c5. I hardly considered eating Ce5. As the d4 pawn supports the white structure, the position called for dynamiting the center. Then it is convenient to calculate to check the variants. All my pieces were active, in their ideal positions. It was a pity to touch anything, I was pleased to be able to bring this new element: dynamite the center. It is the move that the body asks for, before my opponent’s pieces are coordinated”. III

L’Ateneu Barcelonès, luxury collaborator

The fourth edition of El Llobregat Open Chess held the last round of the tournament and the awards ceremony on December 8. However, the activities had two important highlights: on the 9th in the theater room of Can Massallera the First Iberoamerican Quick Match Tournament was held, sponsored by the Iberoamerican, Spanish and Catalan chess federations. A total of 150 players from Portugal, Spain, Andorra and different countries of the American continent participated. The winner was the Argentine GM, resident in Spain, Tomás Sosa, who beat in the last round the always brilliant GM Alexéi Shirov, of Latvian origin, nationalized Spanish.

The following day, December 10, El Llobregat Open Chess organized in collaboration with l’Ateneu Barcelonès a simultaneous session offered by the most outstanding player who participated in this fourth edition of the tournament: WGM Sara Khadem. L’Ateneu, a cultural association with more than 150 years of history, has been and continues to be the main center for the dissemination of culture and debate in Catalonia, a driving force for intellectual activity. The event was held at its headquarters, the magnificent Palau Savassona, close to the Rambla (Canuda street, 6). The players gathered in the elegant Pompeu Fabra room, one of the jewels of the palace.

The Iranian player is the current number 15 in the women’s world chess ranking and champion of Spain (where she recently applied for political asylum and was granted her nationality, in view of her human rights activities and her sporting relevance).

Sara Khadem faced 20 players (8 women and 12 men) of different levels representing ten chess clubs and ten Catalan municipalities: Barberà Club d’Escacs, Castelldefels Club d’Escacs, Constantí Club d’Escacs, Gramenet Club d’Escacs, Salarius Club d’Escacs (from Salou), Sant Boi Club d’Escacs, Club d’Escacs Tres Peons (from Barcelona), Sitges Prado, Club d’Escacs Gavà i Ateneu Barcelonès. Of all of them, only three managed to win the game against the Grandmaster: Ximena Cortes, from Club Tres Peons, Edu Verdú, from l’Ateneu Barcelonès, and the young Xavier Escoriza, from Club d’Escacs Gavà. The day was very satisfactory for all the players and for the public that came to l’Ateneu to watch the matches. III

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