Edmonton: Ganguly Does A Caruana, Shankland Wins

Edmonton: Ganguly Does A Caruana, Shankland Wins

| 9 | Chess Event Coverage

Surya Ganguly of India achieved "a Caruana” at the Edmonton International in Edmonton, Canada, but it was U.S. grandmaster, Sam Shankland, who emerged as the winner on tiebreak.

Photo courtesy Alberta Chess Association.

“It's very rare to see a player start with 7/7 in an all-play-all and lose the lead after a loss in round 8,” Mark Crowther of The Week in Chess tweeted last weekend. That's what happened at the Edmonton International, the annual round robin in the capital of Alberta, Canada.

Surya Shekhar Ganguly won his first seven games but not the tournament. In round eight, he lost to Sam Shankland, who overtook him in the standings after scoring impressively too. Shankland started with 6.5/7 and improved to 7.5/8 with the win over Ganguly. In the final round, Ganguly caught Shankland in first place, but the latter won the tournament based on mutual score.

This was the 11th Edmonton International Chess Festival. It took place at the Edmonton Chess Club June 17-26, and, as always, the main event was a 10-player round robin with players of quite different levels. The festival also included side events such as an open section, a blitz tournament, a lecture, and a simul.

The participants in the top group were GMs Alexei Shirov (LAT, 2682), S.P. Setuhuraman (IND, 2653), Sam Shankland (USA, 2646), Surya Ganguly (IND 2654), Bator Sambuev (CAN, 2540), IM Richard Wang (CAN, 2341), Bitan Banerjee (IND, 2341), Belsar Valencia (PHI, 2277), FM Ian Findlay (CAN, 2257) and FM Dale Haessel (2234). 

Yes, that's indeed a mixture of high and much lower Elo ratings, with a range of 448 points! That's hardly seen in round robins, but for the Edmonton tournament, it's tradition. Norm opportunities for local players is the primary reason to hold the tournament.  

Ganguly has been a very active grandmaster ever since he stopped working for Vishy Anand. The six-time Indian Champion, who won this year's Bangkok Open, returned to Edmonton where he tied for second place last year.

This year he was bound to finish first after starting with seven straight wins! No player had done that since Fabiano Caruana at the 2014 Sinquefield Cup. The achievement is hardly comparable otherwise, as five of Ganguly's opponents were rated below 2400, but a winning streak is always nice.

Ganguly's strongest opponent in that streak was his compatriot S.P. Sethuraman, who made a strange decision after the opening. He might have been worried about his king, but there was no reason not to take back the pawn.

Ganguly achieved "a Caruana.” | Photo courtesy Bangkok CC Open

As said, Shankland had scored 6.5/7, but unlike Ganguly, he had already played against Alexei Shirov. That was in the second round, and the game ended in a draw. Shankland answered his opponent's Sveshnikov with a well-known piece-sac-for-three-pawns. The choice proved to be a good one, and the critical moment arrived on move 23.

Shirov had started his tournament with a petite combinaison — a.k.a. small fireworks.

Not too difficult, but still a nice move to play: 22.Rxb5!
Photo courtesy Alberta Chess Association

However, these days things can go terribly wrong for Shirov. The legendary Latvian tends to be especially vulnerable in the opening. The reason is that he continues to play very principled lines, repeating stuff from earlier games, which makes it relatively easy to prepare against him. Sethuraman had probably seen most of the following game on his laptop and didn't have to come up with many moves at the board. Shirov blundered before the game even started.

The key game in the tournament was Shankland vs. Ganguly in round eight, where the theme was material imbalance. For starters, even grandmasters don't always which what is better: two minor pieces or a rook and two pawns. Ganguly allowed this trade, but thanks to his strong center, White seemed better. The next trade was another pawn for an exchange. For those keeping track, Shankland was now playing with three pawns for a piece. Perhaps it was a draw objectively, but practically speaking, it was more difficult for Black.

The win versus Ganguly was crucial to Shankland's victory in Edmonton. 

In the final round, a draw was enough for Shankland to clinch first place as the first tiebreaker was mutual score. The American grandmaster did acquiesce to a draw against Wang, but Ganguly beat Shirov and finished on the same number of points. That game was another Sveshnikov, and again, the Latvian didn't fully equalize in the opening.

2016 Edmonton International | Final Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Shankland, Sam 2646 2803 chesspawn.png 1 ½ 1 1 1 ½ 1 1 1 8.0/9 32.50
2 Ganguly, Surya 2654 2802 0 chesspawn.png 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 8.0/9 29.00
3 Shirov, Alexei 2682 2559 ½ 0 chesspawn.png 0 1 ½ 1 1 1 1 6.0/9
4 Sethuraman, S.P. 2653 2520 0 0 1 chesspawn.png 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 5.5/9
5 Sambuev, Bator 2540 2493 0 0 0 1 chesspawn.png ½ 1 ½ 1 1 5.0/9
6 Bitan, Banerjee 2341 2476 0 0 ½ ½ ½ chesspawn.png ½ 1 ½ 1 4.5/9
7 Wang, Richard 2341 2355 ½ 0 0 0 0 ½ chesspawn.png 1 1 0 3.0/9
8 Haessel, Dale 2234 2270 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 chesspawn.png ½ 1 2.0/9 4.50
9 Valencia, Belsar 2277 2266 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ chesspawn.png 1 2.0/9 4.25
10 Findlay, Ian 2257 2125 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 chesspawn.png 1.0/9 hasn't been able to confirm this yet, but it looks like Banerjee Bitan scored an IM norm. Bitan has now confirmed he got an IM norm, and that it was his fourth. He needs a 2400 rating, not another norm. 

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