Howell & Vujatovic Triumph in Pro-Biz Cup​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

 

 

The London Chess Classic’s 2018 Pro-Biz Cup was won for the third time by Rajko Vujatovic, this year partnered by English GM David Howell in a prestigious pairs event charity fundraiser.

 

The Pro-Biz Cup is a chess tournament like no other – the world’s best grandmasters competing alongside leading businesspeople in a meeting of minds – all in the super-cool surroundings of Deep Mind’s offices at Google HQ near King’s Cross in London.

 

Alcoves and corridors around the Google offices – with its whizzing lifts and cool gadgetry like a kind of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for techies – are abuzz with the chatter of chess opening preparation as the world’s best players give last-minute coaching tips to their playing partners – all to the sounds of a PA system piping out Freddie Mercury and Queen’s up-tempo single, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now!’

 

The event raises funds for Chess in Schools and Communities, and also provides opportunities for talented schoolchildren to receive Masterclasses from leading Grandmasters.

Rajko Vujatovic (left) and David Howell, delighted winners of the 2018 Pro-Biz Cup (photo Lennart Ootes)

When the Pro and Amateur players aren’t discussing the latest GM wrinkles on the Leningrad Dutch or the Caro-Kann, the talk is all about the latest games by AlphaZero, the revolutionary self-learning programme developed by DeepMind that has seemingly taken chess to an unheard-of level, combining brute force calculation with ground-breaking neural networks learning.

 

Among the players were DeepMind’s CEO, the former chess prodigy Demis Hassabis who hosted the event. His company, the world’s leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) research firm, is rewriting the rules – not just for games like chess, but potentially for a whole range of fields of scientific research and endeavour.

 

Deep in thought at the board were players such as the legendary World Champion Garry Kasparov, here partnering entrepreneur Terry Chapman. Their opponents in Round 1 were Vujatovic and Howell, who broke through with a kingside attack to win Kasparov and Chapman’s queen for rook and knight.

 

Rajko manages the risks

In the next rounds, Howell and Vujatovic drew with super-GM Lev Aronian and Justin Baptie, and then defeated GM Gawain Jones and IM Nigel Povah. Howell and Vujatovic were then equal first with Aronian and Baptie, and Vujatovic won a playoff blitz match versus Baptie to take the 2018 Pro-Biz title.

 

 

Vujatovic is a model risk consultant who also has the distinction of being a three-time gold medallist in the World Chess Diving Championship – where thinking time is limited by how long you can hold your breath underwater.

 

The games were played on a rapid time limit of 20 minutes plus 5 seconds per move, and also players are allowed to take two 1-minute timeouts to consult with each other.

 

At this point, the clocks are paused, and the Grandmasters and their amateur partners huddle in a corner of the room near the electronic display boards, dispensing and receiving animated advice on which move to play next, or where to start an attack on the king.

 

For the top four grandmasters here – World Championship challenger Fabiano Caruana, his fellow American Hikaru Nakamura, France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Armienia’s Levon Aronian, it was a gentle warmup for the main event that starts tomorrow - the London Chess Classic, the final leg of the Grand Chess Tour 2018, which will be decided by knockout semi-finals and a final.

 

But for the entrepreneurs, it’s a pretty nerve-wracking affair – like doubles tennis or Pro-Am golf. Imagine stepping in to take a penalty for Lionel Messi, or returning serve to Roger Federer..

 

And while it’s generally fairly light-hearted compared to more serious chess tournaments, you can tell that Kasparov, for some years now retired from full-time chess, just like the other Grandmasters – simply does not want to lose.

 

The Teams

 

Pair 1

- Fabiano Caruana, World Championship Challenger
- Chris Flowers, Chairman and CEO of J.C. Flowers & Co. LLC, an investment firm specialising in financial services
   

Pair 2

- Matthew Sadler, two-time British Champion
- Demis Hassabis, CEO and Co-Founder of DeepMind
   

Pair 3

- Garry Kasparov, former World Champion
- Terry Chapman, entrepreneur and former Chairman and CEO of Terence Chapman Group PLC
   

Pair 4

- David Howell, England No. 2
- Rajko Vujatovic, model risk consultant and three-time gold medallist in the World Diving Chess Championships
   

Pair 5

- Levon Aronian, Grand Chess Tour semi-finalist 2018.
- Justin Baptie, Managing Director of Insight Strategic Associates, a firm of accountants dealing with the SME and HNW market.
   

Pair 6

- Mickey Adams, England No. 1 and reigning British Champion.
- Natasha Regan, a Director at RPC Consulting and Women’s International Master.
   

Pair 7

- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Grand Chess Tour semi-finalist 2018.
- Gilles Betthaeuser, President of global real estate company Colliers International for France, Belgium, Spain, Morocco and Switzerland.
   

Pair 8

- Gawain Jones, two-time British Champion.
- Nigel Povah, an advisor to US firm PSI and an International Master.
   

Pair 9

- Hikaru Nakamura, Grand Chess Tour semi-finalist 2018.
- Karina Vazirova, Head of Product and Implementations at ClauseMatch, a London-based RegTech firm, and a Women’s International Master
   

Pair 10

- Ali Mortazavi, former CEO of Silence Therapeutics and an International Master.
- Shreyas Royal, 9, currently the top English Under 12 and ranked second in the world for his age.
   

Final standings:

David Howell & Rajko Vujatovic 2½/3 (& 1-0 in blitz playoff)

Levon Aronian & Justin Baptie 2½/3 (& 0-1 in blitz playoff)

Hikaru Nakamura & Karina Vazirova 2/3

Mickey Adams & Natasha Regan 2/3

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave & Gilles Bettheauser 1½/3

Fabiano Caruana & Chris Flowers 1/3

Garry Kasparov & Terry Chapman 1/3

Matthew Sadler & Demis Hassabis 1/3

Gawain Jones & Nigel Povah 1/3

Ali Mortazavi & Shreyas Royal ½/3

 

     
 Round 1      

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave & Gilles Betthaeuser

½-½

Gawain Jones & Nigel Povah

 

David Howell & Rajko Vujatovic

1-0

Garry Kasparov & Terry Chapman

 

Matthew Sadler & Demis Hassabis

0-1

Levon Aronian & Justin Baptie

 

Fabiano Caruana & Chris Flowers

½-½

Ali Mortazavi & Shreyas Royal

 

Hikaru Nakamura & Karina Vazirova

0-1

Mickey Adams & Natasha Regan

 
       

Round 2

     

Levon Aronian & Justin Baptie

½-½

David Howell & Rajko Vujatovic

 

Mickey Adams & Natasha Regan

0-1

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave & Gilles Betthaeuser

 

 Garry Kasparov & Terry Chapman

1-0

Matthew Sadler & Demis Hassabis

 

Gawain Jones & Nigel Povah

½-½

Fabiano Caruana & Chris Flowers

 

Ali Mortazavi & Shreyas Royal 

0-1

Hikaru Nakamura & Karina Vazirova

 

 

     

Round 3

     

David Howell & Rajko Vujatovic

1-0

Gawain Jones & Nigel Povah

 

Matthew Sadler & Demis Hassabis

1-0

Ali Mortazavi & Shreyas Roya1

 

Hikaru Nakamura & Karina Vazirova

1-0

Garry Kasparov & Terry Chapman

 

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave & Gilles Betthaeuser

0-1

Levon Aronian & Justin Baptie

 

Fabiano Caruana & Chris Flowers

0-1

Mickey Adams & Natasha Regan

 

 

     

Playoff

     

Justin Baptie

0-1

Rajko Vujatovic

 

 

 

The Pro-Biz Cup is part of the London Chess Classic and supports Chess in Schools and Communities

 

   

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