Success in Groningen

Pictures by Bart Beijer and Dejan Bojkov
I have always enjoyed playing in Netherlands, and this was my fifth visit in Groninen. The city is one of the most beautiful in the country, with the famous Martini tower, Grote Markt place, the many picturesque channels with the ships and boats on them. This is an exceptional place where the environments is taken care of, and even in the cold winter that we had to face most of the people prefer to use their bikes rather than cars. It is also a place where fifty thousand students come each year to study in the second oldest University in Netherlands. One of his graduates is Jan Werle, whose game opened the festival, but Groningen is also proud to have Sipke Ernst, Sergey Tiviakov (you saw his pictures already, did not you), and Ivan Sokolov as citizens.
This year the event was organized again by Jan Colly, but there was a huge group of chess enthusiasts who help with everything they possibly do.
What is it that makes this chess festival so famous, and well known? I believe that the answer in that question is the number of young players, who regularly take part in the event. Therefore, the report starts with the norms claimed in the event.
Three players achieved IM norms. One of them is the youngest chess author ever Daniel Naroditsky from USA. The Indian player Shiven Khosla is less known, however I understood that he is a very talented and ambitious player, who is coached by the Ukrainian GM Goloschapov. His third and final norm would not become true, if the arbiters in Groningen did not show their creativity and bald interpretation of the chess rules. In the penultimate round the Indian was paired against Oleg Romanishin. However, at the end of tournament many participants got sick and could not complete the event. One of them was the legendary Ukrainian. Shiven was supposed to lose his norm without a fight if the arbiters were blindly following “the book”. Instead they paired him at the very last moment with the resting player Peter Ypma (rated 2080) who did not mind playing a game. An easy win for Shiven? No, the game was a fightful draw, but both the players got satisfaction out of the battle, and the Indian had the chance he needed to succeed in the final round. A remarkably wise decision! The third player to achieve a norm is from Armenia. Vahe Baghdasaryan started furiously with wins against Mark Bluvshtein and IM David Lobzhanidze and a draw as Black against the top seeded Vladimir Baklan. Only shortly before our game I understood that the 17-old-man has already 2 GM norms, despite his rating of only 2311. An original player, and obviously a good advertisement of the Armenian school of chess talents.
Three players achieved GM norms, and all of them tied for the first players. The Dutch Daan Brandenburg is a very solid player, and his third norm is obviously coming in the near future. Only good words can be said about Robin van Kampen, and extremely sharp and talented juniour who I believe will soon represent Netherlands on highest chess forums. However, the breaking news from the tournament came from Ukraine, when Illya Nyzhnyk became the youngest GM in the world (at the moment) after scoring his last norm within a spare round at the age of 14. Let me just add that Illya scored his second norm, with an overall title claim a year ago in Groningen again! There were also many local young players, who were prepared by both IM Erik Hoeksema and WGM Jozefina Paulet.
The B tournament saw the “local” Croatian Bruno Jelic repeating his usual exercise from 2008 by scoring 7/7 and securing the overall victory with two spare rounds. His overall result was 8.5/9; one wonders how his manages to keep his rating low with such play. C group was won by Fred Steggink-7.5/9.
In Groningen there is also a four-group compact tournament, for those who cannot free themselves before Christmas, or simply prefer to stay at home with their families for the holidays. It is a five-round event that starts on 26 December. The strongest A group of this competition was won by FM Floris van Assendelft, who also won the blitz tournament and IM Vishal Sareen, who is the trainer of the Indian flock in Groningen.
When talking about Groningen, we cannot pass through the famous Café Atlantis. Lambertus van den Marel, the humble owner of the Café, composer and organizer was again preparing various side events in his place. One of them was a night of study miniatures by IM Yochanan Afek, on which presented the GMs Nijboer and Ernst. In his usual entertaining style the Israeli master explained the ideas behind the studies, and how those are born. The picture that I chose for the report though shows another delightful moment in the Café- wine degustation with GM Ivan Sokolov. I would like to use the occasion to thank Bert for his Atlantis tournament this summer due to which received my invitation for Groningen Chess Festival.
As for me, I believe that I played well, and could have won even more points prior to the positions that I had throughout the tournament. I was winning against Nyzhnyk on at least a couple of occasions, had stable advantage against Brandenburg, and could not convert an extra piece against Rotstein, as he found an amazing fortress.
Happy and Successful New Year to all!

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