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  • 11 / 24 / 2006

 41st Capablanca Tournament

By Miguel Ernesto Gómez Masjuán

The events history, the chess players interest along with the leaders perseverance succeeded and the oldest tournament in Latin America will be held again. The halls of the Habana-Riviera Hotel will host the 41st edition of the Capablanca Memorial Tournament, featuring FIDE XVII category.

This time the competitive program of the competition will differ from the previous edition. It maintains an Elite Group, made up by six players, who play a double round robin. The difference lies in the other group, given it will be a two-round Open now, through the Swiss system. Its foreseen that around 50 players will attend.

A bit of history

The first edition of the Capablanca Memorial Tournament was held in Havana in 1962 with the participation of several of the best chess players of the time. The victory went to Argentine Miguel Najdorf. For several years, the tournament only had the participation of a group where the champion emerged from; but it was necessary to include other groups so that those interested in taking part did not stay out; then event was divided according to the level of the players.

During the economic crisis experienced by Cuba in 1990s, the quality of the contest decreased, though it was not cancelled. In the middle of the said decade, chess leaders began the revitalization of the Capablanca. The structure underwent a change in last years edition, when the Elite Group only included seven players, thus securing a higher category for the event.

In 2005, the ELO rating was 2619 points; while for this year the figure increases to 2670, a new record that has led many to describe the upcoming Capablanca as the strongest of all times, an affirmation that does not convince many and the explanation is simple.

In 1970, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) established the system to qualify the tournaments according to the ELO of their participants. Then, how could we evaluate the level of the previous tournaments? For example, the first editions of the Capablanca were attended by the best players of the time, above all the members of the so-called "soviet school". Chess players such as Vasili Smislov (World champion), Víctor Korchnoi, Boris Gulko and others of the reputation of Robert Fischer, Bent Larsen and Ulf Andersson enhanced the Capablanca.

None of these players had ELO and therefore, we cannot determine today the category of the first editions numerically, we just trust the quality of the men that participated in them. To affirm that the 41st edition of the Capablanca will be the best of all times is an oblivion of the history of the oldest tournament in Latin America; although one can actually ascertain that it will be the strongest of the last 30 years.

What can we expect from the 2006 Capablanca?

The tournament fulfills all the requirements to be very exciting and to be dominated by combativeness. The list of the players that will make up the main group is amazing. Undoubtedly, the main player and attraction is Ukrainian Vasili Ivanchuk, with an ELO of 2741 that places him sixth in the world. Ivanchuk decided to return to Havana after his brilliant performance last year, when he won the event with 9.5 points.

The other foreign figures boast excellent level too. Rusian Evgeny Bareev will first play in Cuba and his 2683-point ELO constitutes his best letter of introduction. Bareev eliminated Cuban GM Lázaro Bruzón at the 2005 World Chess Cup. Polish Kamil Milton (2638) and Argentine Rubén Felgaer (2591) complete the foreign quartet.

The two Cubans reach the event in different situations. Leinier Domínguez (#52 worldwide and 2655) will attend in excellent shape after playing in Barcelona, Spain, his best tournament ever. In the said Spanish contest, Leinier edged Ivanchuk in the last round. The two points bagged in Barcelona allow the outstanding player to be the first Cuban in surpassing the 2680-point barrier. If he achieves a good performance at the Capablanca he may fall close to 2700.

But Lázaro Bruzón has a completely different situation, since he has had a pretty instable 2006. His last tour through Spanish lands was a real disaster and he might lose around 20 points that will further distance him from the national first spot, currently held by Leinier.

Bruzón is a very combative player and this characteristic has led him to great victories and several setbacks. His performance in the last few times has been dominated by the setbacks.

Should we only take the strength of a player according to his ELO as a meter, then everybody would distinguish Ivanchuk as the definite winner of the contest; but chess is a sport of ups and downs. Bareev and Leinier are in a good sporting moment and appear to being Ivanchuks strongest rivals; although the three other players might give a surprise. Its little likely that a chess player escapes from the others, as Ivanchuk did last year. The Capablanca Memorial Tournament promises emotions until the last date.

The inside of the Capablanca Tournament

- The only world champion that has won in a Capablanca Tournament was Russias Vasili Smislov, who was crowned in 1965 and 1973.

- The first time that Capablanca competed outside Havana was in 1972, when Cienfuegos province housed the ninth edition of the competition.

- The first Cuban that won a Capablanca Tournament was the late Villa Clara GM Guillermo García, who took it in 1977. He repeated his victory three years later.

- The only player that has participated in a Capablanca Tournament without being physically present was the controversial US Robert Fischer, who played in the tournament in 1965 via the teletype, because the North American government denied him the travel permit.

Source: CubaSi

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