An interview with German Grandmaster Jan Gustafsson, by Alexander J. Klemm
GM Jan Gustafsson won the Bangkok Chess Club Open in 2011. This time he finished with a strong seven points out of nine games, reaching shared 3rd to 5th place. After the tournament he gave an interview, talking about his performance, the website chess24.com, and Vishy Anand’s chances against Magnus Carlsen in the upcoming world championship rematch.
AJK: Congratulations for your achievement. How do you feel now the tournament is over?
JG: Well, I’m tired and [smiling] I blame it on Kai, the tournament director, for starting the last round at 9 am. That’s a tough one for me. I think the jetlag goes away but still I could never manage to fall asleep before 4 am, which is also self-imposed but it’s just hard to change the rhythm. I wish the tournament wasn’t over just yet. I always enjoy coming to Thailand, and I’m not so desperate to go back to work in Germany.
AJK: What was your best game and is there a game with which you were not so satisfied?
JG: That’s hard to tell. I won five games but all against weaker players, and against the four strong players I got unexciting draws. I was unhappy with myself for making too early draws both against GM Marat Dzhumaev and GM John Paul Gomez. If I want to win the tournament I have to try to win these games. Well, I won some games, but those were more business as usual and nothing to brag about.
AJK: What do you think about the overall strength of the competition this year?
JG: I hope it doesn’t get too strong because I also want to have a chance to compete here. The great thing about this tournament is that you see a lot of returning players. This is my fourth year in a row and there are a lot of familiar faces. It’s a strong open. The special situation is that there are 80 or 90 percent foreigners while in most other opens I’ve played there are 80 to 90 percent locals. So it’s interesting for me because I don’t get to play against people from countries such as India or Australia all that often.
AJK: What are your impressions of the playing venue and the overall tournament organization?
JG: I’ve been playing here for four years now – if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t return. The Dusit Thani Hotel is a fantastic venue both here and in Pattaya, and the tournament is very well organized. Kai knows my complaints about double rounds, having the tournament during Songkran, and starting the last game at 9 am, but those are minor complaints. I think it’s a fantastic tournament and recommend it to anybody.
AJK: What are your plans for the rest of the year? Do you have any tournaments or chess projects lined up?
JG: I’m a fulltime employee. I have twenty days of holidays per year and have just taken ten of those, so there won’t be much further travelling for me this year. I work in a company that has a chess project called chess24.com, which we launched just a couple of months ago. I’ll be working on this project providing a lot of content. Now I’m going back to Hamburg to do a live commentary on this super-tournament in Baku. It has a very sad cause: Vugar Gashimov, a very talented grandmaster and beloved guy, died this year at age 27, so they’re having this tournament in his honor. [The Vugar Gashimov Memorial was held in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, 20-30 April 2014, and won by GM Magnus Carlsen.] GM Peter Svidler is going to join me. That should be fun.
And other than that, as boring as it sounds, I’m going back to the office and work. I won’t be playing that much chess. But maybe you could start a second Thailand Open. Then I’d have a good reason to use the remainder of my holidays.
AJK: Please tell me more about chess24.com. How did it start, what is your involvement, and what are the future plans?
JG: It’s quite an ambitious project. I’ve been working for them for two years now. I believe the plans started a bit earlier even. The goal is to create an all-in-one chess platform that offers learning techniques, coaching opportunities for players of all levels, and a zone where you can play games. Then we also have some fancy tools for following tournaments live. That is the part I really enjoy, following and doing live commentaries on big events. That’s pretty much it. I’m quite happy with the site. It’s a serious project with a lot of people working on it. The great thing is that we’re live now and no longer in the planning stage.
AJK: Who are the other people involved in it?
JG: The people you might now are all chess players from around the world. ‘Paco’ Vallejo, the tournament winner, has been working with us. He’s been providing content in Spanish. Vishy Anand and Peter Svidler have also been contributing material. We’re trying to do something high-class, ambitious, and hopefully entertaining in English, German and Spanish.
AJK: Since you have just mentioned Anand. Many people were surprised that he won the candidates …
JG: … everyone was surprised!
AJK: What do you think about his chances?
JG: It’s hard to say. He was basically written off after losing that match against Magnus Carlsen. Actually, ‘written off’ is probably too strong. But many people didn’t believe he could come back so strongly and win the candidates. His chances will be better than last time because first of all by winning the candidates he proved to himself and everyone that he still has it in him to win such a tournament. He will have a lot more confidence, and he has the experience of having played against Magnus. But then again, Magnus isn’t the world number one and dominator for nothing. Against him everybody is an underdog. I think Vishy will have a better chance and we’ll get to see a better match, but I still consider him the outsider against Carlsen.
AJK: Final question. Are you planning to return to Thailand next year?
JG: Yes of course I am. I’m very worried though because Kai looks tired and he’s always teasing he will quit – but I’m always planning to return.
There have been many people returning to the Bangkok Chess Club Open tournaments year after year, from places such as Australia, Denmark, England, Finland, India and Japan. This year we rewarded our regular visitors with a certificate accompanied by a bottle of fine Australian wine or, for the teetotallers, a box of Belgian chocolates.
FM Tim Reilly deserves a special mention, having competed at 11 of the 14 BCC Open Tournaments!
Regular international visitors helping with the running of the tournaments include Chief Arbiter Markku Kosonen and IA Peter Long.
An interview with GM Oliver Barbosa, runner-up of the 14th BCC Open 2014
Interview by Alexander J. Klemm
Shortly after the tournament I sat down with runner-up GM Oliver Barbosa from the Philippines to talk about his great performance and his impressions of the tournament, coming 2nd Place in the main draw and BCC Open Blitz Champion for the second year running.
First, here’s a profile: Oliver Barbosa (b. 1986) is a Filipino chess grandmaster. He earned his International Master title in 2008 and his Grandmaster title in 2011. Barbosa won the 10th Parsvnath International Grandmasters Tournament in New Delhi, with 9.5/11 and an astounding performance rating of 2710. He has trained with Wesley So and John Paul Gomez. Barbosa played in the 42nd Chess Olympiad and scored 7/10, with an overall performance rating of 2668. Fide rating: 2580 (April 2014). Peak rating: 2596 (May 2012). (source: Wikipedia.org)
And here is a key game from the eighth round between GM Barbosa and GM Atalik. Their epic battle was captivating for the viewers and certainly nerve-wrecking for the players.
Oliver Barbosa (Phi, 2580) vs. GM Suat Atalik (Tur, 2562)
1. d4Nf6 2. c4e6 3. Nf3c5 4. d5d6 5. Nc3 exd5 6. cxd5 g6 7. Bf4 Bg7 8. Qa4 Bd7 9. Qb3 b5 10. Bxd6 c4 11. Qa3 Qb6 12. Bc5 Qb7 13. Bd4 b4 14. Ne4 bxa3 15. Nd6 Kf8 16. Nxb7 axb2 17. Bxb2 Nxd5 18. Ne5 c3 19. Ba3 Kg8 20. O-O-O Nb6 21. Nxd7 N8xd7 22. e3 Ne5 23. Rd4 h5 24. h3 Nc6 25. Re4 a5 26. Bc5 Rb8 27. Ba6 Nb4 28. Rxb4 axb4 29. Bxb6 g5 30. Bd4 Bxd4 31. exd4 Rh6 32. Nc5 Rd8 33. Rd1 Rhd6 34. Be2 Rxd4 35. Nb3 Rxd1 36. Bxd1 Ra8 37. Kb1 Re8 38. Kc2 Re1 39. Nc1 Rg1 40. Bf3 g4 41. hxg4 hxg4 42. Bc6 Re1 43. Bd7 g3 44. fxg3 Re3 45. Bc6 Rxg3 46. Bf3 Rg6 47. Nd3 Rb6 48. g4 Ra6 49. Bd5 Rg6 50. Nxb4 Rxg4 51. Kxc3 Rg3 52. Nd3 Kf8 53. a4 Ke7 54. a5 Kd6 55. Bxf7 Kc6 56. Bc4 Rg5 57. Kb4 Rh5 58. Nf4 Rg5 59. Nd5 Rg1 60. Nc3 Rg4 61. Na4 Kb7 62. Kb5 Rg5 63. Nc5 Ka7 64. Bd3 Rh5 65. Kc6 Rh1 66. Ne4 Rd1 67. Bc4 Ra1 68. Kb5 Rb1 69. Kc5 Ra1 70. Kb4Rb1 71. Bb3Ka6 72. Nc5Ka7 73. Ne6Ka6 74. Nd4Rb2 75. Ka4 Rb1 76. Bc4 Ka7 77. Nc6 Kb7 78. Nb4 Ra1 79. Kb5 Rb1 Since his 54th move, white has made some progress, but it is hard to see how he can queen his pawn on a5 any time soon. Atalik’s rook keeps pestering him very effectively. We’re in the fifth hour of the game and both players have little time on the clock. White now attacks the rooks with 80. Bd3, after which black could continue his resistance with 80… Rb3. However, he responded with 80… Rb2??
In this position white has a decisive blow. How did GM Barbosa finish the game? Find the solution after the interview.
AKJ: Congratulations for your impressive achievement. You are the runner-up with the same number of points as the winner GM Vallejo Pons. How do you feel now that the tournament is over? How do you see your performance?
OB: I feel very relieved that this tournament is over because my last four or five games were very long and hard-fought. I was quite tired during these games. I’m happy with the way I played here. I only lost one game against GM Schebler, but I won against compatriots Laylo and Torre, two strong grandmasters from the Philippines. In the penultimate round I won against GM Atalik, which was not a clear win for me until the end. Luckily I won that game. Today in the last game against Vallejo Pons I just tried to equalize. Luckily I managed to do that, and when he offered a draw I readily accepted it. I didn’t play against the second and third seed, maybe that’s why I managed to become co-champion.
AJK: What went wrong in your game against GM Schebler?
OB: I didn’t think that black would be better after some exchanges in the middle game. I thought it was just going to be equal and black has a slight push, but after the exchanges it became very hard for me. That’s when I thought I shouldn’t have exchanged some pieces and noticed I’m in trouble.
AJK: What was your most interesting game?
OB: Maybe the one against GM Atalik in the penultimate round. I’ve checked the game and the engine says it’s equal until the end. I thought the position could be won because I had two pieces and a pawn for his rook. I wasn’t quite sure how to win this, but luckily in the end he made a mistake. It was a very tiring 5-hour game.
AJK: What do you think about the Dusit Thani Hotel, the organization of the tournament, and the overall strength of the competition?
OB: I want to congratulate the organizers for putting together this tournament. I think it’s well organized, and thanks also to the Dusit Thani Hotel for this beautiful venue. There was one minor problem because the lighting was a bit dim, but it was fine with the additional lamps next to the boards. This is a strong tournament with 13 grandmasters and also strong international masters like Liu Quingnan who is over 2500 and a World Cup qualifier. There are three or four 2600s, and Vallejo Pons came down from 2700, so he plays at that level.
AJK: You’ve played in Bangkok this year and last year in Pattaya. Do you have any preference?
OB: I prefer to play near the beach because it’s pretty relaxing. You can walk in the afternoon or evening and get some fresh air.
AJK: What are your professional plans for the rest of the year?
OB: This year we have the national championship in July, which also counts as the elimination for our Olympiad team. I need to reach a top-four spot in order to qualify for the team. Then, I would like to play the Annual Washington International in August but am not sure yet whether I can actually go to the US. And for next year I’m planning to start a chess school in Manila so that I can share my talent with kids.
AJK: Do you intend to come back to Thailand next year.
OB: Definitely. As I’ve already said, it’s a well-organized tournament and an excellent venue.
AJK: Thank you so much for your time and best of luck.
OB: Thanks too.
Bangkok, 19 April 2014
Soon to come: An interview with third-placed GM Jan Gustafsson.
(Solution: 81. Bc2!! traps the rook. 81… Kc7 82. Ka4 1-0. With this win GM Barbosa could be sure of finishing at or near the top.)
An interview with GM Francisco “Paco” Vallejo Pons, winner of the 14th BCC Open 2014
Interview by Alexander J. Klemm
Right after the final ceremony, GM Francisco gave an interview in which he talked about his feelings after having won the tournament, some of his games, his impressions about the playing venue and the strength of the Open, his collaboration with chess24.com, why Thailand feels like home, and much more.
AJK: Congratulations for your great achievement. You are the new champion. How do you feel now that the tournament is over?
FVP: Very happy of course. It’s been a long tournament with lots of games. I’ve played decent chess, so I’m happy about that as well. After all, becoming the champion is something special. I was third when I played here for the first time three years ago [in Pattaya 2011]. I shared first place too but was a little bit unlucky with the tiebreak. This time I’m a bit luckier.
AJK: What was your best game and is there a game with which you were not satisfied?
FVP: Well, there were a couple of strong games. I’ve won against strong players like Suat Atalik and Qingnan Liu. These were quite interesting games. I wouldn’t say they’re the best games of my life, but in order to beat such strong players you have to play a very good game. And about my worst games – this morning at 9am. I played a normal game actually. The position was equal and my opponent [GM Oliver Barbosa] played a solid game, so I couldn’t do much. It was a draw. And especially the game against John Paul Gomez. I really felt like my brain wasn’t working. I didn’t play so badly, but I felt like something was going wrong, so at some point I decided to offer a draw, after about 30 moves. My position may have been slightly better, but my feelings were bad, so I thought it was better to stop it. With this game especially I thought it wasn’t my day.
Chess24.com: Fact or fiction? [The Candidates] is the chess event of the year…
Paco Vallejo: Fiction. Isn’t that the Thailand Open?
AJK: What do you think about the overall strength of the competition in the open section?
FVP: This is a tournament that’s growing year by year. It is more known all over the world now. Of course, this year was a bit inconvenient because of the demonstrations. When I was on the plane I thought that maybe it was dangerous to be coming to Bangkok. I was a bit worried but was already on the plane when I realized I wasn’t going to turn around. Anyway, absolutely nothing has happened. It has been perfectly safe here. As I’ve heard and felt, Thailand is one of the safest places to be. I really feel like at home in Thailand. People are so respectful and so kind. I like it very well here. And back to the strength of the tournament. It’s growing but the political uncertainty didn’t help to encourage more people to come. Without this situation I think there could have been an extra 100 players.
AJK: What do you think about our host the Dusit Thani Bangkok Hotel and the overall organization of the tournament?
FVP: The Dusit Thani Hotel is simply a very good place. The rooms are wonderful and the playing venue is very good too. My only suggestions for improvement are these: to play the last round in the morning is tough for chess players. We’re not used to it. And I’m not so happy about the double-round, but understand it’s a need of the tournament. When I decided to come here I agreed on the schedule too. Playing a double-round isn’t my favorite, but it’s the way it is. And about the playing location: somehow I’ve enjoyed Bangkok much more than Pattaya. It’s much more full of life. Pattaya was a wonderful tournament too. It was beautiful and fun. But here, it’s the big city, it’s more entertaining, and it’s all interesting for me.
AJK: What are your further plans for 2014?
FVP: I actually have many tournaments coming up. First I play a closed tournament in Cuba against top players in the world. For example I will play against Vassily Ivanchuk and Leinier Dominguez, who are world-rated players [Copablanca Memorial Chess Tournament in Havana, 7-18 May 2014. Also invited are grandmasters GM Zoltan Almasi, GM Wesley So, and GM Lazaro Bruzon.] It’s going to be a nice tournament to be in. Then I will play the very strong rapid Leon tournament. [He’s probably referring to the Magistral Ciudad de Leon, Spain, 5-9 June 2014. In a series of short games he will face off against the GM Yifan Hou and the 14-year old GM Yi Wei both from China, and against Spanish GM Ivan Salgado Lopez.] Afterwards, I have the Olympiad coming up as well [Tromso, Norway, 1-18 August 2014] and probably some club competitions.
AJK: Do you have any chess-related projects?
FVP: I’m collaborating closely with this website called chess24.com. It’s been a pleasure to work on it because everyone involved has such a great vision. They have many people working on it and are developing the website constantly. I’ve made lots of videos for them, explaining openings, games, and chess in general. I have never done this before. I have to say during my first few videos I felt a bit strange in front of the camera. I’m alone there and felt a bit stupid. But after a while and a few dozens of videos I started to feel better and to be more confident in front of the camera. I think my work there is improving.
AJK: This sounds like you have a long-term commitment to chess24.com.
FVP: Yes I hope so. It’s a beautiful project. The preparation ran for a year and we came out with it not long ago. We’re still improving lots of things.
AJK: Who else is involved?
FVP: There are many collaborators. Peter Svidler has made amazing videos. Even for a player like me, being ranked 40 to 50 in the world, I enjoy his videos. You can watch them at many levels.
AJK: Now that you have won the title, you have a very good reason to come back to Thailand and to defend it. What are the chances to have you back in the tournament next year?
FVP: I would love to come back. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of my favorite places. I’ve probably been to more than 30 countries and this place is … It feels so good to be here. It’s like home. People are so respectful and kind. Of course there are some bad things too, but being here only for ten or twenty days you don’t realize them so easily. In general I’m a bit tired of Europe. Europe is all the same and I’m a little bored there. I’d love to be in Asia or South America more often. But South America – it’s getting a crazy there. There are so many political issues, so much instability, and the crime rate is high.
AJK: But most top-100 players are based in Europe.
FVP: Yes, because the best tournaments are supposed to be there, but I hope in the future it will move more to the East. China and India already have very good players.
AJK: Sure, but for you to make a living …
FVP: … I don’t actually play that much. I don’t play so many tournaments. I play some team competitions and a few private tournaments. Probably, ten years ago, it was more important to me to be in Europe, but now it isn’t. My family and friends are there, but they’re more important than the tournaments because there aren’t so many of them. Especially in Spain, for example, we used to have lots of tournaments but nowadays we don’t.
AJK: In Thailand, too, there aren’t many tournaments, there are just a handful of FMs, and the overall playing strength isn’t that high.
FVP: That is because there is no tradition here for international chess. Vietnam and the Philippines have a strong tradition though. It’s something that takes time.
AJK: Maybe next year you could combine this tournament with the open in Kuala Lumpur. Many players first play the open there and then come to Thailand to play this one. If you want to play 18 games in a row, that is.
FVP: I’ll think about it. Playing 18 games in a row is quite tiring, but I’ll think about it. In Malaysia, right? That would be a new place for me and that’s something I value. It’s not like I play tournaments just for money. Not at all. I prefer to earn less but to have fun and to enjoy the atmosphere of new places.
Bangkok, 19 April 2014
(Please come back soon to read interviews with runner-up GM Oliver Barbosa and third-placed GM Jan Gustafsson.)
GM Vallejo Pons wins 14th BCC Open 2014, GM Barbosa is runner-up on tiebreak
Report by Alexander J. Klemm
The last round of the 14th Bangkok Chess Club Open 2014 saw the much anticipated clashes GM Oliver Barbosa (7) vs. GM Francisco Vallejo Pons (7) on the first board, and GM Jan Gustafsson (6½) vs. GM Bartosz Socko (6½) on the second. Yet, their games were somewhat anticlimactic, as no risks were taken. The players agreed to strategic draws after two hours, assuring them all top rankings and prize money.
The Spanish grandmaster and tournament number one seed GM Francisco Vallejo Pons wins with 7½ points. Congratulations to ‘Paco’ and many thanks for his return to the BCC Open after his first appearance in 2011. We hope he will come back again next year to defend his title. The runner-up is GM Oliver Barbosa, who also reached an impressive 7½ points. GM Barbosa also won the Blitz tournament for the second year running, against stiff competition. Congratulations to the mighty Filipino for his outstanding performance. GM Jan Gustafsson, IM Qingnan Liu and GM Bartosz Socko all reached a very solid 7 points, putting them in 3rd to 5th place.
Round 9 results at top boards:
- GM Oliver Barbosa (7) ½ – ½ GM Francisco Vallejo Pons (7)
- GM Jan Gustafsson (6½) ½ – ½ GM Bartosz Socko (6½)
- GM Suat Atalik (6) ½ – ½ GM Darwin Laylo (6)
- GM John Paul Gomez (6) ½ – ½ GM Marat Dzhumaev (6)
- GM M.R. Venkatesh (6) 0 – 1 IM Qingnan Liu (6)
Final ranking of top players after round 9:
- 1-2 (7½ pts.): GM Francisco Vallejo Pons, GM Oliver Barbosa
- 3-5 (7 pts.): GM Jan Gustafsson, IM Qingnan Liu, GM Bartosz Socko
- 6-12 (6½ pts.): GM John Paul Gomez, GM Suat Atalik, GM Marat Dzhumaev, IM Aleksandar Wohl, IM Roy Saptarshi, IM Rolando Nolte, GM Monika Socko
A GM norm was achieved by fourth-placed IM Qingnan Liu from China and a WIM norm by Ying Zhu (5 ½), also from China. Best lady player is Polish GM Monika Socko (6½). Best juniors are the Chinese youngsters Yan Liu (6) and Xiongjian Peng (6), as well as Richi Sardana (5½) from Australia. Congratulations to these players for their well-earned successes.
In the Challenger category, this year’s 14th BCC Open champion is Leonardo Alidani from the Philippines. He scored six points, as did his fellow countryman Marvin Ting, who is second based on tiebreak. Thotsaporn Thanatipanonda (THA), Kumar Samuel (IND) and Trong Binh Phan (VIE) scored 5½ points, which puts them on 3rd to 5th place.
Please visit chess-results.com for complete rankings, results and further details about the tournament.
A very big thank you goes to the 210 players from Asia and around the world for their hard-fought games and the many chess fans who followed the action in the playing hall and live online.
We thank our sponsors Thai Bev, Univentures, PYN Fund Management, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Chess4Thai, and the marvelous playing venue hosted by the Dusit Thani Bangkok Hotel. The tournament could not happen without their wonderful and generous support.
Many thanks also to all the members of the dedicated BCC Open tournament team who kept the tournament running smoothly at all times.
Coming soon at www.bangkokchess.com are interviews with some of the top GMs.