A big festival comprising three round-robin tournaments took place in Helsinki last week, with the financial support of FIDE and the sponsorship of ROSATOM: one for juniors (U20), one for junior girls, and one for seniors (S65). These all tournaments were 10-player round-robins, where the players invited came from all Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Faroe Islands), Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) and from St Petersburg, Russia, totalling 10 countries represented in the event. The playing venue was the 4-star hotel Crowne Plaza Hesperia, in the centre of Helsinki.
For the first time in many years, a local chess event was covered in the main Finnish newspapers. This was in good part due to the visit of the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov, who still is a very mediatic figure wherever he goes. Anatoly gave a lecture and a chess simul in Helsinki, activities funded by FIDE that had a record attendance. The lecture was held at the Chess Arena last Friday and lasted for two and a half hours, in which Karpov analyzed his games against Spassky, Korchnoi and Kamsky, and answered in detail over 20 questions from the enthusiastic chess audience. In the simul, played on Saturday at the Library Oodi, Karpov faced 15 young Finnish players. It took Karpov almost 3 hours to win 14 of the games, conceding just 1 draw. The happy half-point grabber was Ilkka Koota, who had travelled from Turku some 160 km just for this game.
These promotional activities were followed by a dinner with Karpov, FIDE's Director-General Emil Sutovsky, and representatives of all the Nordic countries. The next day, they all held a two hours long meeting, and later on, Sutovsky also held five one-to-one separate meetings with each one of the officials representing the Nordic Federations. The particular situation of each country was analyzed, looking for ways in which FIDE could offer them support.
The other highlight of the festival was probably the senior tournament, named "Heikki Westerinen 75 year jubilee tournament", to honour Finland's first-ever grandmaster. The legend himself was one of the participants and, eventually, he became the winner. The other GM participant was 70-year old GM Yrjo Rantanen, and the next two strongest by rating were the familiar faces in Finland, IMs from St Petersburg Karasev and Mishuchkov. The Estonians WGM Tatiana Fomina and last-minute reserve Kalle Peebo completed the field.
GM Westerinen started carefully with four draws, but after that, the old machine pulled up the steam and Westerinen won the next four rounds just to secure shared first with a short last round draw. GM Rantanen had a more aggressive start but also settled for a draw in the last round to share the top prize. After these two short last round draws the interest was focused on the encounter between IM Kestutis Kaunas and IM Nikolai Mishuchkov. In the case of Kaunas winning, he would rise to share the top laurels, in case of losing IM Mishuchkov would gain the 3rd place. The latter actually happened, and the player from St Petersburg got the bronze medal.
The junior tournament was dominated by the top seed FM Toivo Keinänen from Finland, who had secured his final IM norm just the previous Sunday in Riga Technical University RTU tournament. He was simply unstoppable despite some bad positions and scored 8½/9, finishing 2½ points clear from FM Marat Askerov from St Petersburg. The third position was for FM Ilja Semjonovs from Latvia.
The top-seed in the girls' tournament was WIM Mai Narva from Estonia. Mai started the event with an upset, losing a rook ending in the first round to Estonia's WFM Margareth Olde. But she reacted to this defeat by winning her remaining eight games, taking the first prize with 8/9 and one point ahead of Margareth Olde (EST) and Ekaterina Diakonova (RUS).
Official website: www.shakkiliitto.fi/helsinki-chess-festival
Photos courtesy of Panu Olavi Laine.