Sunburn, Elephants and Chess

7th BCC Open, Phuket Thailand. Report by Ian Rogers.

The author faces Thailands strongest player
The author faces Thailand's "strongest" player

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.

Phuket 2007

White: Tirto

Black: D.Smerdon

Opening: Benoni

#1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.e4 a6 8.a4 Bg4!? 9.Qb3

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.

#22…Nb6! 23.Bc6?! Nc4 24.0-0 Nd2 25.Rfd1 Rxf4 26.a5#

26.Bd7 also loses to 26…e3!.

#26…Nf3+ 27.Kg2#

If 27.Kf1, Rg4! forces checkmate.

#27…Rg4+ 28.Kh3 Ng5 Mate!#

Smerdon’s luckiest break came in the first round, playing against one of the tournament’s sponsors, Martin Crichton  the Irishman who helped four other Irish players come to Phuket.

Phuket 2007

White: D.Smerdon

Black: M.Crichton

Opening: Caro-Kann

(Diagram of position after 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.Be3 e6 8.h3 Bxf3 9.Qxf3 Be7 10.cxd5 Nxd5 11.Bc4 Nxe3 12.fxe3 0-0 13.Rd1 Qb6 14.0-0 Rad8 15.Qe4 Qxb2 16.Rc1 Qb4 17.Ne2 Qd6 18.Rf2 Na5 19.Bd3 g6 20.h4 Rc8 21.Rcf1 Nc4 22.Bxc4 Rxc4 23.Qxb7 Rc7 24.Qe4 Qd5 25.Qg4 h5 26.Qg3 Qd8)

White has been in trouble for some time but Smerdon has prepared a surpise for his opponent.

#27.Rxf7!! Rxf7 28.Qxg6+ Rg7 29.Qxe6+ Kh7?!#

29…Kh8, here or next move, should hold.

#30.Rf5! Qe8? 31.Nf4! Rc6 32.Qe4!?#

32.Rxh5+ Qxh5 33.Qe4+ would win Black’s queen but might not be enough to win, so Smerdon gambles that Black will again not retreat his king.

#32…Rc1+ 33.Kh2 Qc6? 34.d5 Qd6 35.Rf6+ Kg8 36.Rxd6 1-0#

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.

Phuket 2007

White: W.Teerapabaisit

Black: I.Rogers

(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.

#49.Rf5+ Kg3 50.Rg5+ Kh2 51.a7 Rh8 52.Kc4 Ra8! 53.Rh5+ Kg3 54.Rg5+ Kf3 55.Rg7#

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.

#57.Rf7+ Ke4 58.Re7+ Kf5 59.Rd7 Ke5 60.Re7+ Kd6 61.Re4 Qc1+ 62.Kd3 Kd5 63.Rd4+ Kc5 64.Re4 Qd1+ 65.Ke3 Kd5 66.Rf4 Qe1+ 67.Kf3 Ke5 68.Rg4 Qf1+ 69.Kg3 Kf5 70.Kh2 Qf2+ 71.Rg2 Qh4+ 72.Kg1 Kf4 73.Rf2+ Kg3 74.Rd2 Kf3 75.Rg2

The key position in this endgame. If Black can lose a move, White will be forced to move his rook too far from the king

#75…Qd4+ 76.Kh2 Qh8+ 77.Kg1 Qh4 78.Ra2 Qg5+ 79.Kh1 Qh6+ 80.Kg1 Qg6+ 0-1#

BCC Open

Phuket, Thailand

Leading final scores:

1. D.Smerdon(Aus) 7.5;

2. R.Antonio (Phi) 7;

=3. I.Rogers(Aus), R.Ramesh(Ind), M.Haag(Ger), D.Komarov(Ukr), S.Ansell(Eng), C.Van Dongen(Ned) 6.5.