GM Tazbir Wins IBCA European Title

GM Tazbir Wins IBCA European Title

Chess is a game that transcends language and other human differences, but it also lends its equality to those with physical limitations. Such is the case with visual impairment -- with a few small tweaks in the rules, this challenge is easily surmountable in chess. Since we don't report on these events often, let's first discuss some of the basics of blind chess.

The International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) is recognized by FIDE as its own federation and runs events around the world. They compete as though they were a nation at Olympiads; in 2014 IBCA finished 78th out of 172 federations.

Over the course of nine rounds from July 25-August 2 in Lyon, France, GM Marcin Tazbir of Poland won 7.5 to take outright first in the IBCA European Championship.

Tazbir is a "standard issue" grandmaster -- the title was acheived using traditional requirements (there are no special dispensations made for visually-impaired title seekers). However, there are a few rules regarding play that factor in to these tournaments (or indeed any event where a blind player competes).

Players manipulate special chess boards with small holes in the squares and pegged pieces. The dark squares are raised several millimeters and Black pieces have special tops to distinguish them from the White sentries. Participants are allowed to touch the squares and board, and are not bound by touch-move, but by "lift-move." When a piece's peg is out of a square, that's the sighted equivalent of touching the piece.

In tournaments for the visually impaired, players usually use their own chess sets so that they may both be touching the pieces without interfering each other (photo courtesy official site).

Probably the most interesting rules govern the advised method of announcing one's move to the opponent. As E.02 in the FIDE Handbook states, files are given human names (Anna, Bella, Cesar...) and ranks are announced using German numbers (eins, zwei, drei...). Piece names and castling are also spoken in German.

You can see some of the above rules in use by a former Eurpopean champion in this video from round six.

Let's get back to the tournament itself. Tazbir, the lone grandmaster in the field, had also previously represented Poland in the European Team Championship. Experience like that surely made him the odds-on favorite -- although there were several IMs competing, no one was within 150 Elo of him.

GM Marcin Tazbir (photo courtesy official site).

Tazmir won six and drew three. Going undefeated was no small feat as he had to play his final seven games against titled players. One of those games was against fellow Pole and IBCA World Champion IM Jacek Stachanczyk (a draw in round three).

The official poster includes Braille at the top.

He had to play another countryman, and another IM the following round (also a former IBCA European Champion).

In round six Tazmir took on the lone English player, CM Chris Ross. A King's Indian Attack versus the French often means a massive buildup for White on the kingside, but this time play was almost exclusively on the other wing for both players.

Tied with 5.0/6, Tazbir pulled away from his countryman Dukaczewski by winning in round seven. This time, he did get the traditional kingside attack from a King's Indian setup. It "mated" the London bishop, not the king, but that was good enough. The GM correctly evaluated the king and pawn ending to be winning.

A draw in round eight kept him a half-point clear, but left him needing one more win to ensure outright first. He went to the well, or in Polish, "studnia" -- one more King's Indian.

Analysis from FM Sylvain Ravot:

A pretty way to win a title! The only way to stop 40...Bf3 mate is 40. Rf1, but then 40...Be2 and the rook has nowhere to go.

In a large tie for second, FM Stanislav Babarykin of Russia placed on tiebreaks. FM Oliver Mueller of Germany took third.

A picture of the winners (photo courtesy official site).

2015 XXX | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk.   Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 GM Tazbir Marcin POL 2516 7.5 42.5 53.5 6
2 FM Babarykin Stanislav RUS 2357 6.5 40 52 6
3 FM Mueller Oliver GER 2269 6.5 40 52 4
4 CM Ross Chris N ENG 2184 6.5 39.5 50.5 6
5 IM Meshkov Yuri A. RUS 2349 6.5 37.5 48.5 5
6 WIM Zsiltzova-Lisenko Lubov UKR 2224 6.5 35 45 6
7 IM Dukaczewski Piotr POL 2237 6 40.5 52.5 6
8 IM Stachanczyk Jacek POL 2259 6 40.5 52.5 4
9 FM Dimic Pavle SRB 2305 6 38 49.5 5
10 IM Pakhomov Alexey RUS 2346 6 36.5 47.5 4
11 FM Wassin Sergej UKR 2298 6 36.5 46 3
12 FM Pribeanu Mihail-Dacian ROU 2120 5.5 38 48.5 4
13   Mlacnik Franc SLO 2048 5.5 36.5 46 5
14 IM Nizam Rasim BUL 2180 5.5 36 46 4
15 FM Rositsan Boris LTU 2051 5.5 36 45 5
16   Clemente Llamero Roberto ESP 2076 5.5 35.5 45.5 4
17 FM Spinu Evgeny MDA 2210 5.5 33 42.5 4
18   Kasimov Rustam RUS 2196 5.5 28.5 37 4
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