Chess in a Casino: Melkumyan Wins in Graz

Chess in a Casino: Melkumyan Wins in Graz

| 6 | Chess Event Coverage

Earlier today Hrant Melkumyan won the first edition of a new open tournament in Austria: the Casino Graz open. The Armenian grandmaster finished on 7.5 points, a full point ahead of GMs Markus Ragger of Austria, Li Chao of China, Andrei Istratescu of France, Kivanc Haznedaroglu of Turkey, Zdenko Kozul of Croatia and IM Ankit Rajpara of India.

All photos @ Marija Kanizaj courtesy of the Casino Graz open

The Casino Graz Open took place February 14-21 in Graz, the capital of Austria's province of Styria. With about 250,000 inhabitants it is Austria’s second-largest city.

Many chess players are also poker players, and so some of the participants of the Casino Graz Open must have felt at home while playing their games inside the casino! It was an elegant venue for a chess event, and although the participants even got some free poker lessons on the first evening, in the end it was all about chess. 

The first edition attracted 145 players (88 in the A group and 57 in the B group) from 30 federations, including 10 GMs and 11 IMs. The top seed was Li Chao of China, who also played in the recent Gibraltar event, followed by Andrei Istratescu and then local hero Markus Ragger.

Austria's top male and female: GM Markus Ragger & IM Eva Moser

The latter started very well, and could be found at the top of the leaderboard from the very start. After four rounds, he was the only player left with a 100% score. One of his wins was against Yago de Moura Santiago, an IM from Brazil who seemed to be on top of recent Grünfeld theory, but after the opening things quickly went wrong for White.

Markus Ragger watching another game

But in round 5 the fun was over. Ragger lost to Indian GM Parimarjan Negi, who thus took over the lead. White seemed well prepared for this particular sideline in the Caro-Kann, and won a very convincing game:

In round 6 Negi played the white pieces again, and faced Li Chao. The opening was a Petroff - an opening that has a drawish reputation, but may great games have been played in this opening, including this one! Taking such a pawn on a2 is alway a gamble and perhaps the Chinese was inspired by the surroundings? A few moves later not one but two bishops were “caught” on the queenside. White ended up winning one of them, but not the game.

After six rounds there were five leaders on 5.0/6: GMs Parimarjan Negi, Emre Can, Hrant Melkumyan, Markus Ragger and Axel Bachmann. Melkumyan was the only one to win his game on Wednesday, on top board. Apparently Ragger didn't feel like defending his slightly worse pawn structure and instead went for a middlegame with a rook and a pawn for two minor pieces, but as soon as the bishop on b2 got into play, White got a decisive advantage.

In the penultimate round, Negi and Istratescu played a very interesting draw. In a well-known position of the Accelarated Dragon (Update: Negi told that something went wrong with the move-order, and so White was one tempo down from normal positions), the French grandmaster sacrificed his queen for just two minor pieces, similar to the recent game Kramnik-Ezat, World Team Championship 2013 (analyzed deeply by IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering in the January issue of The Master's Bulletin). Negi couldn't find a good way to play for a win (if there is one!) and had to accept a quick move repetition.

Check out the many wonderful photos of the tournament here - many in 1970s style!

Melkumyan increased his lead to a full point thanks to the following endgame grind:

In the final round Melkumyan managed to keep his one-point lead; he drew with IM Ankit Rajpara but board two, between Li Chao and Ragger, was also drawn. Negi fell out of contention for the main prizes as he lost to Zdenko Kozul:

And so in the end best Indian player was not Negi, but IM Ankit Rajpara. And there was a third participant from the country of Vishy Anand who also attracted attention: 14-year-old Veerappan Aravindh Chithambaram. He became known when, just after turning 14, he won the Chennai Open, held alongside the Anand-Carlsen match in November.

In Graz the young FM scored 6.0/9 and a 2498 performance

Besides the main event, there were a number of “social events”. On the evening of the first round (Valentine's Day!), all participants were invited by the Casino Graz to a sparkling wine reception and as mentioned earlier, everyone who was interested could play, or get an introducion, to poker. On Tuesday a free one-hour tour through the city of Graz was organized, and there were several “Player's Nights” in a local bar. All in all, this event sounds like a lot of fun!

Casino Graz Open 2014 | Final Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Title Naam FED RtgI Pts. TB1 Rp rtg+/-
1 5 GM Melkumyan Hrant ARM 2589 7,5 2706 2706 13,6
2 3 GM Ragger Markus AUT 2646 6,5 2644 2644 2,9
3 13 IM Rajpara Ankit IND 2455 6,5 2622 2622 20,8
4 1 GM Li Chao b CHN 2697 6,5 2613 2613 -5
5 2 GM Istratescu Andrei FRA 2671 6,5 2601 2601 -4
6 15 GM Haznedaroglu Kivanc TUR 2437 6,5 2573 2573 17,4
7 6 GM Kozul Zdenko CRO 2588 6,5 2534 2534 -2,3
8 4 GM Negi Parimarjan IND 2633 6 2646 2646 4,4
9 9 GM Can Emre TUR 2520 6 2576 2576 8
10 21 FM Veerappan Aravindh Chithambaram IND 2381 6 2498 2498 14
11 8 GM Felgaer Ruben ARG 2569 6 2494 2494 -5,9
12 19 FM Baldauf Marco GER 2396 6 2485 2485 11,4
13 7 GM Bachmann Axel PAR 2577 5,5 2538 2538 -2,2
14 23 Lei Tingjie CHN 2346 5,5 2498 2498 27,8
15 11 IM Barbosa Evandro Amorim BRA 2459 5,5 2451 2451 0,4
16 17 IM Berchtenbreiter Max GER 2421 5,5 2407 2407 -0,1
17 12 IM Diermair Andreas AUT 2459 5,5 2397 2397 -5,5
18 14 IM Santiago Yago De Moura BRA 2451 5,5 2394 2394 -4,9
19 45 Nguyen Thai Dai Van CZE 2175 5,5 2385 2274 31
20 25 WGM Ohme Melanie GER 2330 5,5 2366 2366 7,9
21 18 FM Handler Lukas AUT 2398 5,5 2337 2337 -5,7
22 16 IM Froewis Georg AUT 2437 5,5 2329 2329 -10
23 10 IM Schreiner Peter AUT 2487 5,5 2297 2297 -19,1
24 27 FM Hauge Lars Oskar NOR 2310 5,5 2294 2294 -2,3
25 29 FM Perhinig Robert AUT 2273 5,5 2292 2292 6,4
26 51 Dragnev Valentin AUT 2145 5,5 2290 2290 25,2
27 30 IM Prosviriakov Vladimir USA 2268 5,5 2279 2279 1,4
28 22 FM Schnider Gert AUT 2378 5,5 2232 2232 -21,3
29 37 FM Huber Martin Christian AUT 2232 5 2308 2308 15,3
30 43 WIM Bjerke Silje NOR 2181 5 2296 2296 22

(Full final standings here)

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