Untitled Xiu Deshun of China played sensational chess to win the Thailand Open Chess Championship 2009 again, with 8/9 points, ahead of a strong field of 9 grandmasters including GM Nigel Short. Iranian GM Elshan Moradiabadi was second with 7.5, followed by Short with 7 points. 8 players were “thaied” for 4th place. FM Wisuwat becomes the new local champion with 5.5/9 points. IM norms were acheived by Shen Siyuan and M S Thejkumar, plus a WGM norm for Zhou Guijue.
7th BCC Open, Phuket Thailand. Report by Ian Rogers.
The Bangkok Chess Club Open is arguably the world’s best open tournament.
That definition can be readily challenged – the Aeroflot Open has hundreds more Grandmasters, the Pardubice Open attracts thousands more players and the World Open has far higher prize money.
However the BCC Open, held in various cities around Thailand over the past six years, has a number of features which few other tournaments can match.
Primary among them is the playing hall, always a spacious and lavish ballroom in a five star hotel. The organisers provide water and sometimes peanuts or other snacks for the players and, most importantly, the games are always played within 50 metres of a swimming pool.
The 2007 BCC Open was held on the island paradise of Phuket at the end of March. Phuket was badly hit by the tsunami two years ago but has more or less fully recovered, the only signs of the tragedy were frequent signs advising the best escape path in the case of a new tsunami.
Casting fears of a tsunami aside, 109 players from 30 countries arrived in the luxurious Graceland Resort and Spa for the tournament, among them four GMs. The event boasted a long list of sponsors, including Thailand’s oldest bank, the Siam Commercial Bank, and the Thai tourist authorities, who organised the visit of a baby elephant to the tournament to promote the event.
With the temperature well above 30 degrees every day, the pool or the beach less than 150 metres away from the games – became an essential stop between rounds and, among the Europeans, sunburnt faces soon outnumbered normal pale chessplayers. In particular, Ukrainian Grandmaster Dmitri Komarov’s lobster-like appearance indicated that the second seed was not spending too much time in his room preparing for games.
After nine rounds it was an IM, Australia’s David Smerdon who dominated the tournament, defeating top seed Rogelio ‘Joey’ Antonio in the fifth round and conceding only three draws, to the other GMs, in the nine rounds.
Antonio recovered from his defeat to finish second while most of the other top seeds finished tied for third, including Komarov, Smerdon’s main rival for the first half of the tournament, Indian GM RB Ramesh tournament leader and this writer.
In the final round Smerdon needed only a draw for his second GM norm, but a win would give him outright first place and the 36,000 Baht first prize. Fortunately Smerdon exhibited nerves of steel in the decisive game below.
Otherwise Black succeeds in exchanging his light-squared bishop without penalty usually an achievement in the Modern Benoni.
#9…Bxf3 10.Qxb7 Nbd7 11.gxf3 Bg7 12.Qb3#
Smerdon had pleasant memories of this line; in the last round of the 2006 Torino Olympiad he beat Peru’s rising star Emil Cordova after 12.Qc6 0-0 13.Qxd6 Nh5 14.f4 Re8 15.Bg2 Ra7 16.a5 Qh4 17.Ne2 Rc8! 18.e5 Bf8 when White’s queen was trapped.
Here Smerdon realising that he was walking into his opponent’s preparation and not exactly playing a safe line , offered a draw, immediately declined.
Tirto’s new idea.
#13…Qh4 14.Ne2 Rb8 15.Qf3! 0-0#
Not 15…Bxb2 16.Bxb2 Rxb2 17.Qc3!.
Now Smerdon realised that his position was hanging by a thread. After long thought he found an inspired way to achieve counterplay.
#16…f5!! 17.Nxh5 fxe4! 18.Qh3 Qxh5 19.Qxh5#
19.Qxd7? would be met by 19…Qf3 20.Rg1 Bd4! 21.Rg2 Bxb2 with a crushing attack.
#19…gxh5 20.Bxa6 Bxb2 21.Bxb2 Rxb2 22.Bb5?#
Finally White starts to go astray, allowing the Black knight to gain activity. 22.a5 was necessary after which the White a pawn will be insurance against any problems.
With most Thais preferring Thai chess to international chess, it has always been an uphill struggle for the organisers to attract large numbers of local players to the BCC Open. However the recent appointment of a senior diplomat, the enthusaistic Dr Kantathi Suphamongkhan, as head of the Thailand Chess Association is likely to help chess in Thailand considerably. Suphamongkhan’s first jobs will be to encourage international chess among juniors and to find an experienced coach willing to come to work in Thailand both tasks which have defeated Thai administrators in the past.
The top Thai player, Wisuwat Teerapabaisit, enjoyed some success in Phuket but was unlucky to miss out on a high placing by losing the following endgame in the final round.
(W Kb3, Rg5, Ph4, a4
B Ke3, Rh2, Ph2)
#47.a5 Kf2 48.a6?#
The natural move, but it seems to lose by force. After the immediate 48.Rxg2+! Black’s king is one tempo too slow in returning to stop the a pawn.
Now the White king is cut off from defending the a pawn if it advances too far.
55.Rf5+ was perhaps a better try but after 55…Kg4 56.Rf7 Rg8! White is helpless.
#55…Rxa7! 56.Rxa7 g1Q#
and Black, aware of the problems which some top players have had with queen versus rook in recent times Svidler and Morozevich spring to mind and therefore having subjected the endgame to some extra study, converted the queen versus rook without difficulty.
International open tournaments have taken many years to gain popularity in South-East Asia but are now becoming a common occurrence. Already in 2005, Brunei and Thailand have held international opens while in the next seven months, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand will all hold big open tournaments.
The arrival of discount airlines in Asia has been a big factor in the rise of the international opens, with airlines such as Air Asia and Tiger Air making it cheap and easy to travel between most South-East Asian cities. As a result, top players from the region are beginning to compete against each other on a regular basis, rather than just at Olympiads or Zonals.
The Bangkok Chess Club Open is probably the best organised of any of the Asian tournaments. Every second event is held outside Bangkok, at a Thai beach resort. This year the tournament moved to Cha-Am, a city 200kms south of Bangkok in a region which has been popular with past and current Thai kings and has many palaces and temples to prove it.
The spectacular playing hall at the Cha-Am Regent Hotel was the type of venue usually reserved for Category 20+ tournaments in Europe, with the bonus that between rounds players could, if they wished, enjoy a swim in the Gulf of Thailand, 50 metres from the playing hall.
The main disappointment for the organisers was the last-minute withdrawal of the entire contingent of players from Burma. The Burmese regularly hold massive internal tournaments, which has resulted in hugely inflated ratings for the best Burmese players, but are rarely permitted to travel to foreign tournaments. The Bangkok Open had usually been the exception, but a series of bombings in Rangoon in early May had led the government to withhold passports for foreign travel.
The tournament featured a large number of young Thai players, an encouraging development since it had previously been the case that most youngsters take up Thai chess and only convert to international chess later in life. One of the Thai juniors almost caused a major upset in the first round in Brahmawong/Rogers!
In the end, the foreign players outdistanced the locals, with Olympic veteran Wisuwat Theerapappisit finishing on 6 points. However the best Thai performance was probably given by Kannapon Srivachirawat, who was paired against three of the four GMs in the tournament and scored his first ever half point against a GM.
At the top of the table, the tournament turned into a three-horse race between the top three seeds. In the end, Singapores Wu Shaobin conceded one draw too many and finished third behind Filipino veteran Eugene Torre and this writer.
Torre, a former World Championship Candidate and the dominant Asian player of the 1970s, admitted that he had come to the tournament mostly to enjoy a beach holiday but he showed that he still had the desire and energy to outplay his opponents in important games. This writer had some nervous moments see the game above but did manage to pull off enough tricky finishes to take the Bangkok CC title on tiebreak.
BCC Open, Cha-Am, Thailand, leading final scores: =1.GM Rogers(Aus), GM Torre(Phi) 7.5/9; 3. GM Wu Shaobin(Sin) 7; =4.IM Shetty(Ind), GM Bakre(Ind), IM Nadera(Phi), Barbosa(Phi), Essing(Ger) 6.5.