Malta Chess Federation

John Richards wins Preliminaries

Mar 05, 2023

Veteran John Richards dropped just half a point on his way to win the Preliminaries – the first phase
of the National Championship. Richards who last won the Preliminaries in 2015, showed his
intentions immediately by winning all his first 5 rounds against Gabriel Grech, Alfred Azzopardi,
Leonardo Zangrilli, Karl Saliba and Andrea Abela. Ayman Ibrahim who ended 2nd drew against
Richards and was the only other player who ended the tournament unbeaten. Ibrahim beat Mark
Fleri, Joseph Gatt, Adam Buckle and Karl Saliba while he drew against Abela, Ron Sammut and

Play in the final two rounds were very interesting with players trying to get the important top 8
positions which would enable them to play in the 2nd phase of the Championships – the Candidates.
Joseph Gatt and Ron Sammut took 3rd and 4th place respectively by gaining 5 points. It was a sweet
return for Sammut who last played a few years ago.

One of the surprises was young Noah Cauchi’s 5th place gaining 4.5points. Cauchi who is unrated (he
will achieve an International rating in the next rating list update), beat Andrei Dobbin, Isaac Grima
Bongailas, Keshav Reyansh and Adam Buckle while he drew against Leonardo Zangrilli.

The last three qualification places were taken by Andrea Abela, Karl Saliba and Ian Refalo. They all gained 4 points.
Abela beat Manuel Cutajar Lofaro, Refalo and Dobbin while he drew against Ibrahim and Gatt. Saliba
beat Buckle and Cauchi and drew against Sammut and Refalo. Saliba played with the intention to win
in each game and was unfortunate to lose to Richards and Ibrahim where in both games, he gained
very good positions but then suffered in time trouble. Refalo took the last qualifying place after
beating Stephen Busuttil Naudi, Mario Haber and Cauchi and drawing against Gatt and Saliba.

Also on 4 points but with an inferior tie-break score, Dobbin and Haber are in 9th and 10th place
respectively. They shall be the next in line to participate in the Candidates should any of the qualified
players not participate.

Young Leonardo Zangrilli was one of the players who showed vast improvement in this tournament.
He was very unlucky in two of his losses where he gained promising positions. His concentration and
very good management of time confirms Zangrilli’s recent rating increase and it shall be only a
matter of time for him to become a Candidate player.

Final positions:

6.5pts: John Richards
5.5pts: Ayman Ibrahim
5pts: Joseph Gatt; Ron Sammut
4.5pts: Noah Cauchi
4pts: Andrea Abela; Karl Saliba; Ian Refalo;
(Above qualified players)

4pts: Andrei Dobbin; Mario Haber
3.5pts: Leonardo Zangrilli; David Gauci; Filipina Thornton; Mark Fleri
3pts: Adam Buckle; Alfred Azzopardi; Gabriel Grech; Alfred Azzopardi; Gabriel Grech; Isaac Grima Bongailas
2.5pts: Keshav Reyansh
2pts: Paul Cassell; Manuel Cutajar Lofaro
1pt: Hayley Thornton; Stephen Busuttil Naudi

Alfred Azzopardi vs Kerhav Reyansh: Age doesn’t matter in chess