Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2007 arrow May arrow Marcel Earns 1st GM Norm in Miami
Marcel Earns 1st GM Norm in Miami Print E-mail
By Marcel Martinez   
May 4, 2007
Organizer Gilberto Luna II and tournament co-champ Marcel Martinez at the World Chess Hall of Fame

by Marcel Martinez

Most of Miami's top players do not get a chance to play for norms against international competition. That's why the Florida Chess Association International, held April 18-April 22, in Miami was such a special event. For me personally, this was a great opportunity to score my first GM norm, and my second IM norm (first one was in Hawaii's US Masters from 1998) I also had the chance to share experiences and knowledge with strong players. Therefore, I need to thank the Florida Chess Association and Florida Scholastic Chess League commissioner Gilberto Luna II for their dedication to making this tournament a reality. The event turned out to be a complete success, despite some opening fiascos in finalizing the field.

Final Standings

1-2: 6.5 FM Marcel Martinez and GM Magesh Panchanathan
3: 6.0 GM Valery Aveskulov
4: 5.5 IM Renier Gonzalez
5-6: 5.0 GM Julio Becerra and GM-elect Jesse Kraai
7: 4.5 IM Amon Simutowe
8-9: 3.0 FM Daniel Ludwig and IM Blas Lugo
10: 0 Mario Marshall

Here we are having cuban breakfast at Papa Rudy's restaurant (Open 24 hours and specializes in Puerto Rican and Cuban food) Clockwise from left: Blas Lugo, Jesse Kraai, Valeriy Aveskulov, Julio Becerra, Marcel Martinez, Renier Gonzalez, Magesh Panchanathan and Amon Simutowe.

Originally one of the GM's was Eugene Perelshteyn (a dear friend of mine which I admire for his integrity and superb chess strength, I always root for him!) Unfortunately, he did not come to terms or conditions with the organizers and had to be replaced by another strong GM (Valeriy Aveskulov from Ukraine FIDE 2539). Valeriy was great and he is one of the newest acquisitions for US Chess.

Another complication at the beginning of the event was the dropout of recent Dos Hermanas Online Blitz winner Jorge Sammour Hasbun (FIDE 2449) Jorge has been a dear friend to Miami for many years now but after he found out the pairings of the event he went missing in action for two weeks. We only heard from him three days before the event with an e-mail saying that his doctor recommended for him to rest for a couple of weeks or so. This almost destroyed all chances for norms since Jorge plays from the Palestine Federation and we were counting on him as one of the three international players required for norms. We needed a replacement in just a couple of days.

Luckily Mario Marshall from Jamaica came to the rescue. His rating was only 2080 though, so the average rating went down from 2454 to 2419 and players would now need an extra half point for their norms.

I am very happy to report that I tied for first place with GM Panchanathan, a graduate student at UTD (University of Texas at Dallas) We both scored 6.5 out of 9. The best part of all is that scored my first GM norm and second IM norm!! I am very very happy about this result so are all my friends and relatives.

GM Magesh Pachanathan tied for first with Marcel Martinez.

I am very excited but also dead tired from so much work. The event was very tense. To get my norm, I defeated Magesh Pachanathan, Amon Simutowe, but my favorite win was the following game against IM Reiner Gonzalez. I'd like to emphasize that I do not use Fritz when analyzing my games, so none of the comments below come from a computer engine. The way I see it is you can't use Fritz in the tournament game, so annotating a game afterward with Fritz and publishing it doesn't honestly show what I'm thinking during the game.


1.e4 e6
The French Defense was not a surprise at this point since Renier had used this weapon to draw GM Becerra in the first round of the event. In that game Becerra had a long-lasting minimal advantage in an endgame of pair of bishops vs bishop and knight but Renier held his own to draw after a long struggle.
2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Nf3
Becerra played here 5.g3 and also got a nice game but against this line chosen by super-solid IM Gonzalez I had a certain game in mind (Kasparov-Ponomariov) I don't remember which tournament but I thought in that game Gary gave Ponomariov way too much trouble per move which was exactly my idea against a player who handles passive positions very well.
5...Ngf6 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Ne5
I still have not gone over the games in detail but I was able to see that Kasparov played 7.c3 instead of Ne5 but somehow in the game this move order could also have taken place would it not have been for Renier's next move which I considered dubious during the game.I guess aside from the game Kasparov-Ponomariov I somehow got confused with a game Capablanca-Blanco from very long time ago :) 7...a6?!
Definitely something like 7...c5 makes more sense here.
8.c3 Be7 9.Qa4+!
The exclamation mark is based on how I felt during the game. Like I said I still have not gone very deep in details when it comes to this tournament's games but I thought this move could disrupt in some ways black's way to look at the position and also psycologically have an impact on his behaviour after he would start condemning himself after a6
If 9...Bd7 I have the choice of taking the bishop on d7 and achieving a very comfortable game with a pair of bishops or also playing Qb3 improving the queen's position and the bishop on d7 looks funky. The pawn on b7 would be a target which also likely to move would leave lots of weaknesses behind; Also 9...c6 would look really ugly.
Continuing with development of the pieces heading towards central squares and also signaling black against castling because of h7 problems after moves like Qc2 or so... which would eventually lead to even more weaknesses.
Reiner spent way too much time trying to solve the opening issues that not having played c5 caused for black. This eventually led to terrible time pressure which under attack forced Black into a sad ending
11.Bf4 Bd6 12.Bg3 Qe7 13.0–0 b5 14.Qd1
I had the feeling my opponent expected Qc2 here but then the queen would be on the bishop's retreat way to c2 after something like black taking on e5 with the bishop followed by Nc5 or so. I felt the queen is also more flexible on d1 since it could go to g4 as well as I saw later something like this happened in the aforementioned Kasparov-Ponomariov
Already under severe time pressure
15.dxe5 h5 16.h3
This is a very sad position for Black especially enduring time pressure
16...Bb7 17.Qe2 c5 18.c4!
It's a lot harder for the black knight to find the hole in d4 than it is in d5 plus the move c4 loosens up the queenside which is already potentially weak for black and also stops c4-Nc5 type of maneuvers .
After this move I consider Reiner's position as losing
19.Bxc4 a5 20.Rad1 Nb6 21.Bb5+ Kf8 22.Rd6 Ba8 23.Qd2 Kg8 24.Qxa5 Nd5 25.h4 g5 26.Rd7 Qf8 27.a4 c4 28.Qa7 Kg7 29.Qd4 Nb6 30.Rd6 Nc8 31.Bxc4 1–0

I lost the last round to GM Aveskulov but this did not spoil my norm as I went into the round with 6.5 points, already good enough for the norm in itself.

Why did I have a good result now? My opening preparation was very good at the event: the surprises all came to my opponents, not to me. I have been studying Capablanca's annotated games lately after my friend International Arbiter and National Master Jesus Suarez suggested this to me after seeing some of my own games. I worked with my usual training partner, Julio Becerra before the event, and also had some time to study with IMs Blas Lugo and Alejandro Moreno. I am also in a happy space in my life. My marriage of four years is going very well. I have a new job as a district manager for a wine and spirits division for a major beverage distributor. It's enjoyable and the hours are much more sane than when I used to work behind the counter, spending many hours in the store and becoming very bored.
I hope this norm of mine helps inspire my friend Blas Lugo to achieve his last two GM's norms he needs for his title. Perhaps will we do some GM training together!

To close the story of my result, here is my fighting draw from the second round, against GM-elect Jesse Kraai.


The preparations vs GM elect Jesse Kraai before the tournament were easy to swallow since I've been studying lately a little bit of the variation which I thought the game was going to take and indeed this is what happened.

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 Qb6
This was the line I thought Jesse would use. He had just played it (unsuccesfully) vs super GM Gata Kamsky and I was kind of following Kamsky's ideas but the true "mother" game of my whole preparation was some analysis based on the game Timman-Korchnoi from some time ago.
8.Na4 Qa5+ 9.c3 cxd4
9...c4 is known not to be very good. Indeed is been played by GM Bareev among others. I believe after 10.b4 Qc7 11.Nb2 white then gets free hands in the kingside. For a model game on this line check out Ivanchuk-Bareev.
10.b4 Nxb4 11.cxb4 Bxb4+ 12.Bd2 Bxd2+ 13.Nxd2 b6
Without a doubt the strongest move in the position. This is been tested a lot by soviet grandmasters from back in the days. 
14.Bd3! Ba6!
The exclamation marks means these are the best moves in the position to my modest understanding and after checking out the analysis from the game Timman-Korchnoi which I mentioned earlier.Bad is 14...Nc5 15.Nxc5 bxc5 16.0–0 c4 17.Bxc4 dxc4 18.Nxc4+- White is winning.
15.Nb2! Rc8
Probably a novelty and not a very good one I think. Still I did not prove to play the best way. These positions as I had seen in training before.. even with only two pawns for the piece sometimes black is able to draw fairly easily because of the complete control on the c file and the very few pawns left on the board from white. Kamsky-Kraai went a different way.
16.0–0 Bxd3 17.Nxd3 0–0 18.Nb3 Qa4 19.f5
[Maybe 19.Nb2 is better after all.]
19...exf5 20.Rf4 Rfe8 21.Rxd4 Qc6 22.Rc1 Qe6 23.Rxc8 Rxc8 24.Qd2! Nxe5 25.Nxe5 Qxe5 26.Rxd5 Qf6 27.Rd6 Qh4 28.g3 Qe7 29.Rd7 Qe8 30.Rxa7 Rd8 31.Nd4! Qe4 32.Qf4 Qe1+
Here Jesse offered a draw but I thought I was totally winning. Now I don't think is all that easy as was proved in the way but somehow (I still have not managed) feel that white has to be winning somehow.
33.Kg2 g6 34.Kh3
This I believe was the cause of letting the draw fall in. I have not yet analyzed it in detail but my king got into some trouble. Sometimes I thought I was losing after some sequences of moves with my king in this risky position
34...Re8 35.Qc7 Qf1+ 36.Kh4 Rf8 37.Qf4
[It is obvious that if 37.Kg5 f6+ 38.Kh4 g5+ 39.Kh5 Qh3#; If 37.Ne6 I was bothered by the move h6!. Notice that Qe2 is not possible in order to pick up the knight because of the brilliant Qxf7!!!! winning as suggested by GM Aveskulov in the post-mortem neither me or Kraai spotted this during the game. But aside from h6 Qf3 is possible guarding a8
37...Qg2 38.h3
By playing 38.Nf3 I would leave my queen stock to defending the knight and the knight stock to defending h2 so black could just play h6
38...Re8 39.Nxf5
Only move by now and just good enough to draw. I would love to get deeper into this game and delve into what should have been the right way to play for white to win as I think there should be some advantage due to the piece up!!
39...gxf5 40.Qg5+ Kf8 ½–½

Now that I am done sharing my joy for my result, I will recap the results of the other players.

Magesh Pachanathan tied for first with 6.5/9. He just came off of a succesful match victory against Julio Becerra, where he won in a grueling tiebreak blitz match. This probably helped his form in the round robin, where he also beat Julio:


With 6 points was GM Valery Aveskulov from Ukraine (Valery now lives in Omaha, Nebraska together with far-away relatives) showed great strength all throughout the event but at the end lost two games in a row (vs. Gonzalez and vs. Panchanathan) He ended up scoring 6 out of 9 to finish in third place.

I think IM Reiner Gonzalez, together with IM Ben Finegold are two of the strongest IMs in the United States. Reiner got 5.5/9, but was still a full point short of his third and final GM norm. Renier has a very solid style but like many chessplayers nowadays he spends a lot of time playing poker and also teaching chess, which does not keep him fit for his own playing.

IM Reiner Gonzalez with GM Julio Becerra in the background.

GM Becerra whom to all lights seemed like the favorite pre-tournament had one of the worst events of his life to score 5 out of 9. Becerra also been a dear friend of mine and training partner, I must say has not been all that concentrated lately since his grandmother is been in the hospital for the last month or so and our trainings have not been the same. Nobody should have any doubts of Julio's strength as proven before in many occassions and should you bet your money he is going to come back super strong form this small bounce in his career.
With 5 points was Jesse Kraai who fought very hard in all his games but I guess must be very hard to play a tournament right after achieving his third and last GM norm. He seemed to be in the mood to celebrate. I am sure that in future tournaments, he should finish among the winners. It was great meeting Jesse for the first time- he is a really nice guy. It's great to see people like him becoming GM's.

Amon Simutowe

With 4.5 out of 9 was IM Amon Simutowe from Zambia (also a graduate student for UTD). The "Fresh Prince of Zambia" as he was called with love by all the players fell short for his last GM norm as he needed 6.5 to score it. He will continue to pursue his norm in the rest of 2007 and we wish him lots of luck.


Also with 3 points out of 9 was strong Miami local IM Blas Lugo. Lugo started leading the event with 2.5 out of 3 but was only able to score half a point in the following six games. To cut Mr.Lugo some slack since he is a dear friend of mine I should say that he is been very involved in his academy's duties as a coach for most of the talented kids of Miami. He is also expecting his second child sometime this month so you should figure his head was not all there. Many people remember Lugo's outstanding second place ahead of 26 GMs in the New York Open 1996 where he scored his first GM norm.

For Daniel Ludwig this event was also a great experience. He seemed very well prepared in the openings and even though he only got 3 points out of I don't think the score reflects in his play all that well. He had many draws against strong opposition. Ludwig is already proved a very strong FM as his late results recalls. His fide rating right now is 2373 but should be continuing to go up little by little as he shows improvement by the day.

Mario Marshall played this event with a lot of aggressiveness and I am sure to say he learned a great deal. The tournament proved too strong for him as he wasn't able to score.

Thanks for the support to all my friends. Florida Chess Association once again thank you very much for giving us all Floridian this opportunities, Gilberto Luna II, my former high school team-mate served as a great organizer together with the federation and offered the great facilities of the World Chess Hall of Fame of Miami for this great event. Thanks also to Ernier,Mandy,Miguel and Hector from work.

Miami, Florida will be host to a major event with private sponsors in the month of September with a minimum of 30,000 USD in prizes. Blas Lugo will inform you of more of that later when all the details are worked out but we invite everyone to check out Miami and if they are ever here to contact us and we will be more than happy to show them a good time... ask the players!!

Yours truly,

Marcel Martinez

Former U.S. Junior Champion