The final round of the 2023 World Senior individual championships was played yesterday in Terrasini, Sicily. The two Open titles were decided by tiebreak at the end of eleven long rounds.
We are now able to finalise this report, starting with a roll-call of the medallists.
Open 50+: 1. Michael Adams (England) 8.5/11; 2. Suat Atalik (Serbia) 8.5 pts.; 3. Maxim Novik (Lithuania) 8.
Open 65+: 1. John Nunn (England) 8.5; 2. Lubomir Ftacnik (Slovakia) 8.5; 3. Nikolai Legky (France) 8.
Women's 50+: 1. Monica Calzetta Ruiz (Spain) 8.5; 2. Masha Klinov (Israel) 7; 3. Marina Makropoulou (Greece) 7.
Women's 65+: 1. Galina Strutinskaia (Russia) 8; 2. Brigitte Burchardt (Germany) 6.5; 3. Tatiana Bogumil (Russia) 6.5.
Congratulations to all the new champions, especially both English grandmasters!
This was a great result for the multiple British Champion Michael Adams who wins a world title for the first time after being in the world elite since the late 1990s. He was never in any danger in his games.
John Nunn was not at his best in his tournament but managed to retain the title he won at the first attempt last year. His great experience and calculating ability saw him survive a couple of crises which are always likely to arise due to his sharp opening repertoire.
You can still find the detailed results on three separate tabs at the chess-results website. You can also read the regulations (PDF in English) provide full details of the conditions and there was also a not very informative official website.
The top games in these tournaments were live on chess24 (with delay) and (apparently with no time delay) on Lichess, perhaps on other sites also. Anyone watching the final rounds on chess24 was missing the fun. Some results appeared on chess-results before the end of the games were shown on chess24.
The details of what happened in the last round can now be read below, tournament by tournament.
After Friday's high drama, the players with chances to win the 65+ title were more cautious on Saturday and the top three games in round 10 were drawn. The overnight leader, Argentinian GM Daniel Campora, took a quick draw with the 2019 champion Rafael Vaganian (Armenia).
FM Terry Chapman (who had had a great tournament until his unfortunate loss to Ftacnik in round 9 from a probably winning position) drew with Nunn. On board 3, Ftacnik (Black against GM Knaak) spoiled a winning position and ended up in an opposite coloured bishop ending where his extra pawn was useless.
The crucial last round pairings were as follows: Ftacnik (7.5) v Campora (8); Nunn v Madeira (both 7.5); Vaganian v Knaak (both 7.5); Legky (7.5) v Renman (7); Reprintsev (7) v Chapman (7); Petran (7) v Roos (7).
All the top games were well contested in the final round. Campora probably needed only a draw to win the tournament, because he had beaten Nunn earlier, but he got into difficulties early on, lost a pawn and resigned in a lost rook endgame. The competition at the top was so tight that Campora finished out of the medals.
Nunn, who had met most of the top players earlier (except Ftacnik), had a favourable pairing with White against a much lower-rated Fide Master and his experience gradually told. Shortly after the top board game ended, he won a piece and the game. There were still games continuing on boards 3 and 4 where some players could have tied first had they won, but eventually they were drawn.
The calculation of the tiebreak, which could only be done after the completion of every game, showed Nunn well ahead. Ftacnik had lost in round four to Norwegian FM Ole Christian Moen (who also beat Balashov but lost to Nunn and finished on 7 points) and this cost Ftacnik in the end.
Five players finished on 8 points and it was GM Nikolai Legky who took the bronze medal on tiebreak. Knaak was placed fourth, Campora fifth, Vaganian sixth and Reprintsev (who beat Chapman in the last round) was seventh.
Chapman is probably disappointed to finish on 7 points but he gained FIDE rating points. English IM John Pigott also scored 7 but had not featured on the top boards. IM Nigel Povah scored 6.5 points. FM Tony Stebbings, who had a good first week, finished on 6. Brian Hewson, another regular in these events, scored 50% with a par rating result.
In this tournament, too, the player who led by half a point overnight also failed to win the tournament, though for a different reason.
The crucial last round pairings were as follows: Atalik (8) v Godena (7.5); Mrva (7) v Adams (7.5); Dlugy v Stefansson (both 7); Novik v Paschall (both 7); Morovic Fernandez (6.5) v Vinter-Schou (7).
The game between Dlugy and Stefansson was agreed draw in six moves. These two had very different tournaments. The American went through unbeaten but drew seven games. The Icelandic GM started disatrously, blundering a rook in round one against an opponent rated 2109. He then scored a run of 7/8 before losing a complicated game to Atalik on Saturday.
It was surprising that the overnight leader GM Suat Atalik made no attempt to win and agreed a quick draw with GM Godena. Perhaps he had wrongly assumed that tiebreaks would favour him. Atalik paid for his caution because the tiebreak favoured Adams who had most of the top players already and had a fairly easy win on board two against the lower-rated GM Mrva despite playing Black.
Agreeing the quick draw was perhaps also unwise for Godena, who finished fourth. His tiebreak was undermined by losing in the first round to a player rated 2071. His score of 8/11 was equalled by Novik and it was the Lithuanian who took the bronze medal on tiebreak. Novik was 16th seed in the initial standings but had played five of the top eight finishers, losing only to Stefansson. In the last round he had White against an IM rated 2329 and cashed in.
There is a lesson there for players who choose not to fight when big honours are at stake. If either Dlugy or Stefansson had won, they too would have been in the tie on 8 points.
IM David Cummings of Canada finished eighth with a very respectable 7.5 points and gained a few rating points. His only loss was to Adams. Neil Farrell of Scotland scored 6 and Joanathan Grant, also Scotland, finished on 50%.
The women's championships (with both age groups in one tournament for the first time since 2014) were decided effectively in round 10. Indeed after their round 9 victories, the identity of the new world champions was almost certain. They both took quick draw sin the last round.
The new 65+ world champion WGM Galina Strutinskaia of Russia (playing under the FIDE flag) finished in second place, half a point behind the winner, but probably just because she was satisfied to draw her way to the title. In the second week she beat the only 65+ opponent she met in the second half and that clinched the title.
The 50+ category looked wide open from the start because WGM Elvira Berend of Luxembourg elected not to defend. (She has won the event four times and maybe would have won more had the event not been cancelled in 2021 and 2021 because of Covid.) So who would emerge from the pack?
It turned out to be Spanish WGM Monica Calzetta Ruiz (Spain), who not only won the 50+ title but the overall tournament. She had an extraordinary fighting performance, taking no draws until the final round when she had the event won. Calzetta lost in the first round to 1861-rated Polina Ni of Latvia and again in round six to Strutinskaia, but she won eight games. Crucially she defeated her three closest rivals for the 50+ title, mostly in complicated games.
Yesterday, as we half-expected, both champions showed little interest in fighting for outright first (for which there was perhaps no extra prize). Calzetta Ruiz drew with Brigitte Burchardt of Germany and Strutinskaia drew with Tatiana Bogumil of Russia, probably to the relief of the opponents who had medal hopes of their own.
The champions' margin of victory was convincing. The chasing group in the 50+ category finished on 7 points, a point behind Strutinskaia and 1.5 behind Calzetta.
Thanks to the last round quick draws, the positions for second and third in the 65+ did not change. Burchardt won the silver medal and Bogumil the bronze. The only two other 65+ women who could reach 6.5 points with a win did not manage to do so.
In the 50+ there was a battle for the lesser medals, with top seed Masha Klinova taking silver and Marina Makropoulou the bronze. Sopio Tereladze and Elena Krasenkow were the two missed out.
Ingrid Lauterbach of England won her last game to finish on 6.5; Helen Milligan of Scotland scored 5/11.
It was of course sad to see legendary octogenarian GM Nona Gaprindashvili finish outside the medals for the first time and we wonder will she return next year. Happily she won her last round game to finish on 6 points but after four draws in the first week she was never really in the hunt for gold.
Nona had a lucky escape with Black early on against Bogumil. The game began 1 e4 g6 2 d4 c6 3 Be3 d5 4 e5 Nh6 5 h4!? Nf5 6 h5 Nxe3 7 fxe3 Bh6 8 Qf3 Bf5?! (Here or next move, ...Qb6! would have been awkward to meet.) 9 Bd3 Qd7?? 10 hxg6 hxg6. White now played 11 Bxf5? and therafter the game was always roughly equal, but instead 11 Qf4!! would have been crushing. Black cannot take the queen because of mate in one by Rxh8, while after 11...Bg7 12 Rxh8+ Bxh8 13 Qh6 the bishop is lost. Bogumil missed this shot and the game eventually ended in a draw.
Gaprindashvili was beaten by Makropoulou in round six and then in round 10 she lost to WIM Sopio Tereladze in an extraordinary game where age and tiredness finally took their toll. Playing Black, Nona sacrificed three pieces for six pawns in a remarkable stream of tactics. This was perhaps the result of some miscalculation, and the engines show the concept was unsound, but it was certainly brave play reminiscent of her best years. It certainly rattled Tereladze who eventually allowed simplification to an objectively drawn endgame with a bishop for two pawns, along with a rook, knight and an another pawn each.
After the first time control, Gaprindashvili went wrong again, more than once, but her opponent failed to take advantage and eventually the drawn endgame of rook and knight versus rook with no pawns appeared on the board. Both players must have been getting tired and short of time. Finally at move 96 the diagram position appeared on the board.
Black to play and draw; can you see how? The solution is at the end of this article. Unfortunately Nona played 96...Ra1?? allowing 97 Rg5 mate.
In a curious echo of this, the very last game of the whole championships to end was also in the women's tournament, and also featured rook and knight against rook. Long after the Open sections had finished, Krasenkowa v Folkova still continued.
At move 145 Black blundered a mate in 3 but the opponent didn't see it. So Black gave her another opportunity next move and this time it was taken.
It is certainly rare for the player with the extra knight to win this ending; for it to happen twice in the same tournament may be unprecedented.
FIDE announced a provisional decision during August about the venues for its 2024 World Senior Individual Championships. These were made at the August FIDE Council meeting and published in the FIDE website recently, but the decision still remains to be confirmed. To quote:
CM2-2023/21 To award World Senior Chess Championships 2024 to Constanta (Mamaia), Romania, subject to the successful inspection.
If we go by what was said in the bid documents published earlier on the Events Commission website, the Romanian bid was the only one to host the individual world seniors, so that event is likely to be at Constanta, on the Black Sea, from 5-15 September. Those dates suggest this would be only a 9-round tournament instead of the usual 11. (See below on the revised regulations.)
Did you find the drawing move that Gaprindashvili overlooked in the position above? Black can save the game by stalemate thanks to the "mad rook": 96...Re6+! If White does not take the rook then 97 Kf7 Rf6+! or 97 Kg7 Rg6+! leaves her no option.
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