March 27th 2021
20 players turned up for the Online March Rapid tournament. As he did in the Blitz, Robert Novak won the tournament – this time by winning all his games. In 2nd place, Jack Mizzi kept his consistency with 5 pts. Positions 3-6 all achieved 4 pts and only tie-breaks separated them. The positions were taken by Matteo Stagno (3rd), Milena Stagno and Matthias Gatt (both 4th) and Christian Schembri (6th).
There were no surprises in the first round as every result went more or less as expected. It was great to have Christian Schembri back to chess. Schembri last played when he was a junior player and hopefully this is the first step for a return to chess.
The second round also went according to “rating” plan. The only surprise – if you can call it one – was Tonio Zarb’s win against Conrad Thake. Zarb – one of Malta’s top players in the 80s – seems to be closing off the “holes” that appear when one stays out of the game for a long period of time. Zarb play well in the middle-game winning a piece in the process. Ex-Malta Champion Thake fought back and after some scary moments with the Queen on f6 and pawn on h6 and a mating net, Zarb managed to get his king to safety and win the game.
In the third round, while Robert Novak and Jack Mizzi won their games against Matteo Stagno and Nina Thornton respectively, Milena Stagno caused the first major surprise by beating Duncan Vella. Stagno immediately reacted well to poor move by Vella to win a pawn. Vella tried to complicate matters but Stagno remained composed to end up 5 pawns ahead that eventually led to Vella’s resignation. Worth mentioning is young Hayley Thornton’s draw against Neil Spiteri. Thornton is improving and it’s only a matter of time until her good play will be converted to points.
On the top boards of round 4, Robert Novak beat Tonio Zarb and Jack Mizzi beat Conrad Thake. Matteo Stagno beat Christian Schembri while Matthias Gatt registered a good win against Nina Thornton.
Round 5 saw the main clash between the 2 leaders Jack Mizzi and Robert Novak. With Mizzi playing white, Novak replace to the queen’s gambit by accepting the pawn on c4. Mizzi played well in the middlegame forcing doubled pawns on f7 and f6 for Novak’s pawns. In the resulting rook endgame Novak managed to achieve an active rook against Mizzi’s passive one. It was a great match to follow with both players known for their good endgame play and will to win at any position. At the end, Novak managed to queen his passed e-pawn and ultimately won the game. Matteo Stagno beat Tonio Zarb while Milena Stagno beat Matthias Gatt.
Robert Novak confirmed victory in the last round by beating Milena Stagno. Jack Mizzi beat Matteo Stagno while another major surprise saw Christian Schembri beating Duncan Vella. Jacob Zammit achieved a good result by drawing against Tonio Zarb.
In the overall Grand Prix classification, Jack Mizzi (28pts) lead by 10 points over 2nd place Robert Novak (18pts) who played one less tournament. In 3rd place, Conrad Thake (10pts) is 2 points ahead of 4th place Jake Darmanin (8pts).
Overall Rapid Grand Prix Points