Kamsky Wins 2016 Cappelle-la-Grande Open

Kamsky Wins 2016 Cappelle-la-Grande Open

In my recent blog I mentioned that I'd be playing four (!) consecutive open tournaments in Europe, starting with the ultra-strong Gibraltar Chess Festival toward the end of January. After a week's rest in Paris, my next tournament was the 32nd edition of the Cappelle-la-Grande Open.

This next leg took place February 13 - February 20 in the small town Cappelle-la-Grande, located in Northern France. While the tournament did not exactly have the star power of Gibraltar, it did have a total of 538 players, including more than 50 grandmasters, with several dozen countries represented by the participants.

"50 Pays" -- the tournament flier expected around 50 nations to be represented.

The tournament continued its tradition of being one of the largest and strongest opens all year, and was one of the most professional and best organized events I've ever played in.

Top seed GM Gata Kamsky ended up taking clear first place with 7.5/9. After being nicked for two draws in the first four rounds, Kamsky won four games in a row before drawing the last round to clinch his first place finish.

Kamsky's critical win came in Round 8, when he showed the power of the two bishops in a nice endgame grind against GM Mikhail Gurevich, a former top-ten ranked player:

Kamsky was in good form as he prepares for the upcoming U.S. Championship (Photo: Chess & Strategy).

In Round 9 Kamsky drew with Black against GM Andrey Vovk of Ukraine, securing at least a share of first. Other than Vovk, the only two players who could catch Kamsky were former World Championship Candidate GM Artur Yusupov and newcomer IM Mhamal Anurag, who earned a GM norm for his fantastic performance. Yusupov had some pressure but could not crack Anurag's defenses:

A former candidate, GM Artur Yusupov continues to play at a very high level (Photo: Chess & Strategy).
Their draw meant they would both finish with 7/9, along with Vovk, and four other players who caught up with a win in the final round. Earning the top places on tiebreaks were GM Eduardo Iturrizaga (second) of Venezuela and GM Christian Bauer (third) of France. Both won their last round games in completely different fashions!

Itturizaga played extremely provocatively against Gurevich, looking to create winning chances with Black in the final round, though he had to take on far too much risk, in my view: 
GM Eduardo Itturizaga's huge last round gamble paid off nicely (Photo: Chess & Strategy).

Bauer had White and thus an easier time against IM Jules Moussard, who had a superb event (drawing Kamsky in Round 2) and just narrowly missed a GM norm:
2015 French Champion GM Christian Bauer (Photo: Chess & Strategy)

Also worthy of mention is IM Anurag's key win in Round 8 against his compatriot GM Abhijeet Gupta:
Full standings for the 2016 Cappelle-la-Grand Open can be viewed here.

For me, my tournament score was a solid 5.5/9. It started well with an upset draw against Vovk, but then I lost in Round 2 to GM Murtas Kazhgaleyev and drew Round 3 against a lower ranked master.

In Rounds 4-6 I won three games in a row against players rated around 2100, followed by a loss to GM Tigran Gharamian which effectively killed my norm chances for the event. After another win in Round 8, I slipped up and drew a winning endgame in the final round, which would have given me 6/9 and excellent chances for the Top U2400 prize. But that's how it goes sometimes!

My current roommate and travel buddy, NM Thomas Riccardi, had a more successful event. He came in quite underrated at 2086 and pulled off a series of upsets to finish with 5/9. Despite a last round loss he still managed to win the Top U2100 prize on tiebreaks! I have to say he had excellent help with his preparation. Now taking place is the 2016 Cannes Chess Festival, on the very opposite end of France.

I'm currently on 2/3 heading into the fourth round tomorrow. Kamsky is playing here and is once again the top seed. If we wins this one, he will go into the U.S. Championship with at least two tournament wins in 2016, just like old rival GM Hikaru Nakamura.

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