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The 44th Lebanese Individual Championship

Antoine Kassis did it again

Before embarking on reporting on the championship, a word of apology must be addressed to my dear readers, for not covering the event round by round, due to some circumstances that were out of control. At least I succeeded in taking some revenge by attending the last round, and then I understood that I missed a lot of things.

In 1995, at the age of 23, Antoine Kassis won the title of the 22nd edition of the Lebanese Individual Championship. Since then, he always reserved an honored place in the final standing of every edition of this prestigious competition. Till yesterday, after (another!) 23 years period, by conquering the top podium he did it again with a round spare.

Arriving at the last round with the title in the pocket makes a lot of pressure on the player, especially if he is going to face the top seeded player, Faisal Khairallah. The later was in a nearly must-win situation in order to secure the second place, otherwise it will be Ahmad Najjar’s. And Faisal did it with the black pieces. By adopting the imbalanced semi-correct (Kasparov’s opinion) Alekhine defense, Faisal reached his goal. Although most of the times Tony kept a static edge, a black out at the critical moment costed him dearly, missing the only counter-play from his opponent, that Faisal was searching for. Faisal profited from this opportunity to win a pawn, then another, securing the second place in the tournament.

The defending champion, Amr ElJawish, had a slow start after conceding some many draws. Losing to AbdelAziz ElMahmoud and Tony put him out of the race in search for a place in the podium and had to be satisfied by the 4th place behind the unbeatable Ahmad Najjar.

Tarek Moudallal, who took the 5th place in the final standing, didn’t disappoint his supporters. His fighting and creative play were always center of attention. Adopting a more cautious strategy could improve his results and standing.

The same can be said about AbdlAziz ElMahmoud who occupied the 6th place. May be Tarek and AbdelAziz were more attracted by the trend of their games so they forgot that the time control is 2 periods, not one (90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes to finish the game), or possibly playing too much blitz games before the tournament could be another (logical) reason.

Jumping to the second half of the cross table, the new comers could do much better from what they did. It seems that Marc Nassar was in a fighting mood all times, as it is clear from his results: he and Faisal were the only players who didn’t score or know what half point means. Kill or be killed. Of course the experience has its word in this type of event.

The lack of preparation of opening phase and the issuing middle game plan were very clear in the games of Mohammad Al Salman and Gio Kaloust. Although the later was short noticed and the former had enough time to prepare (the qualification phase finished end of last August), the lack of practical play and good training were very obvious in their game. (Is it their fault?!).

Mahdi Kaoury’s 9th place was a shock for a lot of people. Is it lack of motivation or some personal reason(s) that put him out of form? Only Mahdi can answer this question.

The fatigue is the main reason for the poor result of Ghassan Homsi. It is nearly impossible to play good chess after 2 hours driving from Tripoli to Beirut, then back again, which for sure would exhaust any player’s energy and even his will to play.

Unfortunately for Elie Asmar, the health problem that occurred to him before the start of the first round was a bad news for organizers, the players, as well as his fans. As everyone knows, Elie’ s games, with full respect to the other players, are always full of life and well-shaped from the theoretical point of view.

Final Standing:

Rk. Name Rtg FED 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Pts.
1 FM Kassis Antoine 2159 LBN * 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 + + 9.5
2 FM Khairallah Faisal 2274 LBN 1 * 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 + 9
3 FM Najjar Ahmad 2210 LBN ½ 1 * ½ ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 ½ + 8.5
4 FM El Jawich Amro 2260 LBN 0 1 ½ * 1 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 + 7
5 Moudallal Tarek 2027 LBN 0 0 ½ 0 * 0 1 1 + 1 1 + 6.5
6 CM Abdulaziz Mahmoud 2108 LBN 0 0 0 1 1 * 0 0 1 + 1 + 6
7 Nassar Marc 1889 LBN 0 0 0 0 0 1 * 1 0 1 1 + 5
8 Al Salman Mohamad 1939 LBN 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1 0 * - 1 + + 5
9 CM Al Kaoury Mahdi 2127 LBN 0 0 0 ½ - 0 1 + * 0 + + 4.5
10 Kaloust Giorgio 1822 LBN 0 0 0 ½ 0 - 0 0 1 * 1 + 3.5
11 Houmsi Ghassan 1852 LBN - 0 ½ 0 0 0 0 - - 0 * + 1.5
12 Asmar Elie 2016 LBN - - - - - - - - - - - * 0


There were several aspects that distinguished this edition of the championship. The live commentary of Fadi Eid of the games in progress was a great step in putting the organizing of the event on a higher level. Add to this the comments and the post-mortem analysis of the players themselves who joined the audience after finishing their games, were very impressive, especially the comparison of the joined analysis of Fadi and the audience with the ones of the players themselves.

Although for just 4 or 5 rounds, the live transmission of the games of those rounds was a good step that I am sure the Lebanese Chess Federation (LCF) will make it to the full number of rounds in the next edition of the championship.

The well-organized tournament, which was hosted by the (AUL) university under the supervision of the arbitrating team is a good achievement of the LCF calendar.

Some regrets: the media coverage of the championship was no existence (which should be a strong point for the most prestigious event), the quantity of forfeited games was too high in comparison with the previous editions, due most probably to the occupation of some of the players in one hand and/or the transportation in Beirut in another one. Organizing the 2018 edition in 2019 was somewhat perplexing, but most probably the LCF was applying the (better late than never) proverb.

Also, As Elie Asmar didn’t play any game, it was technically better to remove his name and results (??) from the official lists, and keep the pairing as it was announced, obtaining in this way a clearer and more appropriate presentation of the official and technical reports.

Dear Tony, Congratulations for winning the championship. Please try not to let us wait for another 23 years to do it again. Life is too short.

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