Erwin l'Ami Wins Rabat Blitz Marathon Ahead Of Top GMs

Erwin l'Ami Wins Rabat Blitz Marathon Ahead Of Top GMs

| 13 | Chess Event Coverage

Just two months after winning the Reykjavik Open GM Erwin l'Ami scored another big success. He won the Rabat Blitz marathon ahead of GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Daniel Fridman, Loek van Wely and Alexei Shirov.

Right after he securd victory with a round to spare, GM Erwin l'Ami called his win in Reykjavik “a once-in-a-lifetime thing.” Only two months later, he is making headlines again.

Last Saturday the 30-year-old grandmaster participated in a one-day blitz tournament in Rabat, Morocco. The field included big names such as Mamedyarov, Fridman, Van Wely and Shirov but it was l'Ami who claimed the first prize.

Held in a big mall in Morocco's capital, the tournament was rightly called a “marathon,” because it was played over 21 rounds on one day. The time control was 3 minutes plus 2 seconds increment. The first prize was a modest 1,000 Euros, but the grandmasters obviously received conditions for participating.

The playing hall inside Rabat's “Mega Mall.” | Photo Youssef Jdidou.

The crucial game of the tournament came as early as round five. Both on 4.0/4, Mamedyarov and l'Ami played on board one. (“In Reykjavik we also played in round five,” — l'Ami.) 

The Dutch grandmaster was gradually outplayed, and was lost in a rook ending thanks to a nasty intermediate check. However, from that point the players were playing “on the increment,” so each time they had about two seconds to make a move. Mamedyarov gave away the win and then even lost:

A crucial early win for l'Ami. | Photo Youssef Jdidou.

Maybe it was the bit of luck he needed, because l'Ami continued with a nice streak: he beat his compatriot GM Loek van Wely, then blitz specialist GM Daniel Fridman, then he drew with GM Alexei Shirov followed by another win against GM Bartlomiej Heberla.

Meanwhile Mamedyarov had scored 5.5/6 after his early loss against l'Ami, and after 11 rounds both were on 9.5 points. The tournament became a race between the two. l'Ami was constantly a point or one and a half ahead because of one crushing loss for the Azerbaijani:

Mamedyarov was always a point or one and a half behind l'Ami. | Photo Youssef Jdidou.

Here's a typical l'Ami win from round 14 against GM Alonso Romero Holmes. l'Ami trusts on his bishops, and eventually wins the endgame:

With only 11 GMs playing, 21 rounds was actually a bit too much. In round 16 l'Ami had played his last grandmaster, Mamedyarov even a round earlier. “After that we only played against locals,” said l'Ami.

Erwin l'Ami in deep concentration. | Photo Youssef Jdidou.

“It was funnny how this went. Shakh was completely crushing all these weaker opponents. He would be finished after two minutes, and was walking around, or looking at my board. I was grinding down my opponents in endgames.”

For example, look at those powerful moves from Mamedyarov, right from the start, against l'Ami's wife Alina:

Alina l'Ami | Photo Youssef Jdidou.

L'Ami, on his turn, avoided tactical positions. For example, he went for 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Be3 Bxd4 6.Bxd4 Nxd4 7.Qxd4 Qf6!? twice.

With one round to go l'Ami was still a point ahead of Mamedyarov. With an 11-move draw against Marc Le Huet (2236) he secured first place.

L'Ami turns out to be a very strong blitz player, but doesn't have a blitz rating yet. The Rabat Blitz marathon wasn't FIDE rated either.

“At the recent Dutch Team Blitz Championship I scored 14/15 and two weeks ago in a tournament in Germany I made 19/21,” l'Ami told “If everything was counted I would probably have something like 2750.”

Since GM Hichem Hamdouchi changed federations to France, Morocco's best players are IMs Mokhliss El Adnani and Ali Sebbar. They finished 18th and 17th respectively.

Two other Moroccon players who are still unrated(!) did even better: Youssef Salaka and Adil Munib, who ended 13th and 14th. It is typical for a country where lots of chess is being played without any FIDE involvement.

“The main organizer, Youssef Iraqui, is not affiliated with the national federation,” l'Ami explained. “But he is very ambitious. The tournament was very well organized, with a spacious playing hall, lots of flags, security. Everybody seemed to have a good time.”

Blitz chess in a great ambiance. | Photo Youssef Jdidou.

The only real problem was the internet. The organizers had flown in New in Chess editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam and GM Nigel Short to provide commentary with streaming video, but sometimes the internet situation forced them to take more breaks than intended. 

On Sunday Short played an exhibition game against GM Fabien Libiszewski where both players, sitting in different rooms, shared their thoughts by speaking out loud during the game. A nice idea reminiscent of the BBC's The Master Game from the 1980s. Unfortunately also on this day a dodgy internet connection spoilt some of the fun.

Another success for Dutch GM Erwin l'Ami. | Photo Youssef Jdidou.

2015 Rabat Blitz | Final Standings

Rk SNr Title Name Eloi Fed Points BH
1 6 GM Erwin L'Ami 2635 NED 18½ 247
2 1 GM ShakhriyarMamedyarov 2735 AZE 18 248½
3 5 GM Daniel Fridman 2637 GER 16 248½
4 4 GM Loek Van Wely 2653 NED 15 249½
5 2 GM Alexei Shirov 2696 LAT 14½ 253½
6 7 GM Bartlomiej Heberla 2556 POL 14½ 250
7 3 GM Sergey Fedorchuk 2657 UKR 14 252
8 11 GM David Larino Nieto 2451 ESP 14 242
9 12 IM Jonathan Dourerassou 2414 FRA 13 252½
10 8 GM Fernando Peralta 2556 ARG 13 251½
11 9 GM Fabien Libiszewski 2531 FRA 13 247½
12 18 Marc Le Huec 2236 FRA 13 234½
13 98 Youssef Salaka 0 MOR 13 214½
14 90 Adil Munib 0 MOR 13 212
15 10 GM Alfonso Romero Holmes 2469 ESP 12½ 249½
16 19 Shukri Adel 2231 MOR 12½ 246
17 14 IM Ali Sebbar 2393 MOR 12½ 242½
18 13 IM Mokhliss El Adnani 2399 MOR 12½ 238½
19 37 Moubarek Rian 1996 MOR 12½ 220½
20 25 Vincent Amarger 2082 FRA 12½ 219
21 27 Becham Khalid 2080 MOR 12 236
22 17 FM Bouhaddoun Osama 2253 MOR 12 228½
23 88 Noureddine Messala 0 MOR 12 227½
24 23 Lissandine Akhrouf 2130 MOR 12 224
25 21 Ouakhir Mehdi 2176 MOR 12 224
26 67 Abderrahmane El Marjani 0 MOR 12 214½
27 15 WGM Alina L'Ami 2381 ROU 12 209½
28 29 Thibaud Steinle 2079 FRA 12 207
29 26 Ahmed Bensaad 2081 MOR 12 203
30 71 Jaouad Fathaoui 0 MOR 12 199
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