Huge Surprise At Inaugural Grenke Chess Open
The first edition of the Grenke Chess Open saw a huge surprise. Not GMs Li Chao, Nikita Vitiugov, Richard Rapport or any other big name won the A group, but German GM Matthias Blübaum instead.
Photo Georgios Souleidis.
The well known Neckar Open, always held in Deizisau (Germany) during the Easter weekend, was transformed this year into a new event with a bigger prize fund: the Grenke Chess Open. This way GrenkeLeasing continues its generous support of chess in Germany — they've sponsored the Bundesliga team OSG Baden-Baden for many years, and also financed a super GM tournament in 2013: the Grenke Classic, won by Vishy Anand.
The first Grenke Chess Open was held 24-28 March in Karlsruhe in southwest Germany and immediately broke records. With 940(!) participants it was bigger than the Neckar Open by more than 200 participants. The A group consisted of 600 players and more than 200(!) title holders. A large attraction was the impressive first prize: 10,000 Euro ($11,390). Not bad for a weekender!
The top seeds were Li Chao (China), Nikita Vitiugov (Russia) and Richard Rapport (Hungary) but many more big names participated, such as Gata Kamsky (USA), Alexei Shirov (Latvia), Arkadij Naiditsch (Azerbaijan), and Loek van Wely (Netherlands).
But none of these players emerged as the winner. No, the first edition of this huge event was a surprising name. The young German grandmaster Matthias Blübaum, who will turn 19 in two weeks from now, was declared the winner. The 25th seed edged out Vladimir Fedoseev (Russia), Nikita Vitiugov (Russia), Milos Perunovic (Serbia), Ni Hua (China) and Paco Vallejo (Spain) after all had finished on 7.5/9. Blübaum took home 7,375 Euros ($8,400).
Blübaum started with four wins against lower rated players, drew twice and then beat another weaker player. He scored an important victory in the penultimate round with black against Shirov, where his king was always surprisingly safe:
A solid draw with strong Austrian GM Markus Ragger in the final round was good for 7.5 points, and at the end of the day Blübaum had the best Buchholz. Vallejo and Perunovic had decided to not risk anything, and played an 11-move draw. The other three grandmasters reached the top group by winning their last-round game.
Fedoseev defeated top seed Li Chao as Black from a Nimzo/Queen's Indian hybrid. Nimzowitch would have been proud of Black's simple play that won the game due to the c4 weakness (not even mentioning the blockading knight on d6):
Vitiugov played a wonderfully quiet, positional game in a Russia vs Ukraine clash:
Ni Hua's round nine game was instructive as well. J.H. Donner once pointed out a big advantage of the bishop pair (vs two knights): at the right point you trade a bishop for one knight, and you're still left with a bishop vs a knight!
2016 Grenke Chess Open | Final Standings (Top 30)
|6.||GM||Vallejo Pons, Francisco||2677||ESP||6||3||0||7.5||50.5|
|22.||GM||van Wely, Loek||2653||NED||4||5||0||6.5||53.5|
(Full final standings here.)