Welcome to the FIDE newsletter

Welcome to the FIDE Newsletter #14. In this issue, we include a brief report on the Saint Louis Champions Showdown Chess 9LX that just finished. We also go through the national championships of Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and Croatia. We introduce you to Handenur Şahin, to whom chess was a great help to overcome her physical disability. And finally, we recap some of the upcoming films and documentaries that just have or are about to be premiered.


Carlsen and Nakamura win the Champions Showdown

Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura shared first place in the Champions Showdown: Chess9LX, a Fischer Random tournament organized by the Saint Louis Chess Club, and played on Lichess.

After winning one game and drawing two in the last day of competition, both Magnus and Hikaru scored 6 out of 9. Contrary to other recent events, the Saint Louis organizers opted for a shared winner rather than deciding the title in an Armageddon playoff. The players split the first prize, bagging a very respectable $31,250 each.

Levon Aronian, who went into Day 3 as the tournament leader, lost to Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in round 8 and barely avoided a defeat against Magnus in the last game, so he had to make do with the third place. Wesley So, the reigning World Champion in Fischer Random Chess, also went into the final round with good chances of victory, but he was defeated by Alireza Firouzja.

"Fantastic event, great games. Looking forward to Rapid and Blitz starting on Tuesday", tweeted Nakamura, referring to the next Saint Louis Chess Club event on September 15-19. “Thanks for an enjoyable, fascinating, and humbling event. Congrats to Hikaru for a great overall performance, guess we're both fine with no Armageddon this time!”, added the World Champion.

The Champions Showdown earned special attention because of the participation of Garry Kasparov. The oldest and only retired player in the field started the tournament defeating the youngest participant, Alireza Firouzja, and then drew against the reigning World Champion, in their first direct encounter since their only game in Reykjavik 2004. Kasparov ended the tournament with 1 win, 3 losses, and 5 draws, totaling 3½/9. "As long as I am having some fun and people are happy, I will keep doing that," said the legendary champion in the interview that wrapped up the live show.

This event marks a new chapter in the development of Fischer Random Chess, a modality of chess that last year gained official recognition by FIDE, with the celebration of the first official FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship in Bærum, Norway.

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David Antón and Sabrina Vega. PHOTO: Ismael Nieto 
David Antón and Sabrina Vega win Spanish Championship

The 2020 Spanish Championship was held in Linares from August 31 to September 8. The nine-round Swiss tournament brought together 139 participants, including 12 grandmasters competing for the title of national champion.

Unfortunately, some players coming from a previous chess event tested positive for COVID-19 right before and during the first days of the championship. This caused understandable alarm among the participants, even though the origin of the infection was not the playing hall, where the Spanish Chess Federation had implemented strict health and security measures. No less than 20 people had to be quarantined, and a total of 30 players withdrew from the tournament.

Before the final round, the defending champion Alexei Shirov was leading the field with an excellent score of 7/8, a half-point ahead of David Antón and Jaime Santos. However, in the last round, 24-year-old Santos defeated the leader with white pieces and overtook him. David Anton also won his game over Manuel Perez, caught up with Santos, and clinched the title thanks to a better tiebreak – both scored 7½/9. Alexei Shirov finished fourth.

This is the first national title for David Antón, a player who is now 25 years old but seems to be still progressing: after a brilliant 5th place at the FIDE Grand Swiss 2019, he also won the Challengers Group in Wijk aan Zee, and next year he will play in the main event.

Sabrina Vega clinched her 7th title as Spanish Women’s Champion, in a tournament that is played under an original format: men and women compete together, and the first female player in the final standings is proclaimed Women’s Champion. The system has strong supporters, who applaud the non-segregated system, and also strong detractors, who point out that a player would be proclaimed women’s champion even if she hasn’t played another woman during the entire event.

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Dinis, mascot of Odivelas European City of Sport 2020
Brief news from National Federations

WFM Patricija Vujnović became the 2020 Women's Champion of Croatia. She scored 7 out of 9 undefeated in a Swiss event that took place in Durdevac and brought together 16 players. This is the first title for Patricija, who managed to outpace the main favorite, WIM Ana Berke, winner of the 2018 and 2019 editions. Before Berke, the Croatian Women’s Championship had been largely dominated by Borka Franciskovic, who won 7 titles between 2007 and 2015.

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The Sri Lanka National/ Women’s National Chess Championship kicked off on Friday, September 11.

The top 14 players in the country in both categories will compete in a round-robin, in a tournament that is expected to be very contested. After five rounds, Ranindu Dilshan Liyanage tops the table in the open event, while Nethmi L Fernando leads the women’s tournament: neither of them has won the championship before, but now they are both firm candidates with a clear 1-point gap over the second place.

Sri Lankan Chess Federation (CFSL) recently held its Annual General Meeting, where Luxman Wijesuriya, former national champion in 1996 and 2000, was elected as President, with Deepthi Hewageegana as Deputy President. Over the past few years, the number of registered players at CFSL has increased to reach 170,000, and this federation organizes around 150 tournaments per year.

The city of Odivelas (district of Lisbon) won the bid for the European City of Sport 2020. Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak ruined most of the plans. Most, but not all: last week the Portuguese Chess Championship became the first sportive event authorized in the country in a very long time.

The women’s tournament, played to the distance of 5 rounds, came to an end yesterday with a surprising winner: 14-year old Sara Soares, from Porto, won the first four games in succession, securing the title with one round to spare. The open championship comes to an end today, with Andre Sousa (6.5/8) and Bruno Martins (6/8) in top position. They both play with Black in the last round, which will be streamed on the Twitch channel of the Portuguese Chess Federation, starting at 14:00 CET.

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Top of her class

Handenur Şahin is a well-known personality in Turkish chess circles. She is one of the best female players in the country, as well as one of the best women in the world among players with disabilities.

She was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a kind of muscular disease that severely affects mobility from an early age. As a consequence, she started using a wheelchair when she was just four years old.

Despite the extra difficulties derived from her physical disability, Handenur’s achievements are not limited to the chessboard. Recently, news broke on social media that Handenur had graduated with a first degree in the Political Science Department, and a second degree in the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences, from Galatasaray University. This is one of the most reputable colleges in Turkey, but it is only natural that Handenur ended up there: she had previously graduated with a first-place from primary school, and then again she was the first on her promotion at high school.

“I have a competitive side that comes from chess, actually”, explains Handenur, who is vivacious and outspoken. This weekend, we had a long interview with her, where she shared with us how it was growing up with a disability, the positive impact that chess made in her life, and her dreams of working in humanitarian affairs at an international institution.

We invite you to read Handenur’s interview on the FIDE website.

Glory to the Queen

A few days ago, a trailer for the new full-length documentary film Glory to the Queen was released. The film celebrates the four women from Georgia who "revolutionized women's chess in the second half of the 20th century and elevated it to the level of men's game”, explain the directors, Tatia Skhirtladze and Ana Khazaradze.

This tribute to Nona Gaprindaschvili, Maia Chiburdanidze, Nana Alexandria, and Nana Iosseliani has been in the works since 2018. Based on a script by Skhirtladze and Ina Ivanceanu, the documentary film got the Best Pitch Award at FEST International Film Festival Belgrade, under the provisional title of “The Encounter”. This title made reference to the fact that, during the filming, the four women reunited for the first time in thirty years.

The two directors worked to obtain archival footage in Georgia and also build relationships of trust with the former world champions before they could use personal stories for the documentary. The result is an 81-minute runtime work that “does not focus on the technique of the sport so much as the metaphor behind it - the struggles on the road towards self-fulfillment and the revolt against a powerful male-dominated system". Nona Gaprindaschvili became the first woman in the world to be awarded the Grandmaster title, in 1978. Maia Chiburdanidze would be the second, in 1984.

“Glory to the Queen is a film about winning and losing on the chessboard and in life, and about rebelling against a powerful male system. A cinematic reflection on how the struggle for independence and freedom experienced by individual women echoes in individual and collective life stories”, explains the producer.

Tatia Skhirtladze, Ina Ivanceanu

Tatia Skhirtladze

Anna Khazaradze

berg hammer film (Karin Berghammer).

Glory to the Queen
Taylor-Joy, as Beth Harmon
More chess coming to your screen

If you like chess and you like films, this is your lucky month, because Glory to the Queen is not the only chess production coming to your screen this fall.

A few days ago, Apple TV Premiered Critical Thinking, a biographical drama based on the true story of Mario Martinez, a Cuban-American teacher, and his chess team at the Miami Jackson High School.

Set in 1998, the film takes us through the story of five children from the toughest ghetto in Miami fighting to make their way into the National Chess Championship. They are guided by an unconventional teacher who will show them how grit and determination can overcome almost any odds. The film stars and is directed by John Leguizamo.

Netflix has also just released a 30-second trailer for a chess-themed series: The Queen’s Gambit, created by Scott Frank and is based on the novel by Walter Tevis.

Queen’s Gambit tells in seven episodes the story of Beth Harmon (Taylor-Joy), who was “abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s”, reads the official synopsis. “There, she discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. Haunted by her personal demons and fueled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, Beth transforms into an impressively skilled and glamorous outcast while determined to conquer the traditional boundaries established in the male-dominated world of competitive chess”.

Queen’s Gambit will be available on October 23.
Queen's Gambit
2015-16 Women's World Champion Mariya Muzychuk

Born in Stryj (near Lviv, Ukraine) on September 21, Mariya Muzychuk was the 2015-16 Women’s World Champion. Her parents, Oleh and Nataliya, are both professional coaches who work at a local sports school, and they obviously did a great job raising two great champions. (Her sister, Anna, is also a Grandmaster).

The Uzbekistani chess prodigy Nodirbek Abdusattorov will celebrate his 16th birthday this week, on September 18. A World Champion in the U-8 category, Nodirbek qualified for the title of Grandmaster at the age of 13 years, 1 month, and 11 days, one of the youngest in history.

Upcoming birthdays also include our Director-General Emil Sutovsky (Sep-19), the Swiss Grandmaster Yannick Pelletier (Sep 22), and two of the members of the American national team, Leinier Dominguez and Alexander Lenderman, who will celebrate their birthday on September 23.

Among the anniversaries we found two of the inaugural recipients of the Grandmaster title from FIDE in 1950: Ossip Bernstein, and Friedrich Sämisch, both born on September 20, but with six years difference.

September 17 also marks the anniversary of the Belgian-born American player George Koltanowski. George set the world's blindfold record on 20 September 1937, in Edinburgh, by playing 34 chess games simultaneously while blindfolded, making headline news around the world.

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