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PACE AND RICHARDS FINISH JOINT FIRST

The second phase of the Chess Championship Cycle – the Candidates tournament ended with two players Colin Pace and John Richards sharing first place, with Pace winning the competition based on their direct encounter which he won.

Richards – who qualified by winning the Preliminaries earlier this year, was the major surprise of this tournament.

Only seeded 9th at the start, Richards lost his first round game to Pace but then went on a streak of five wins and a final round draw, to qualify for his second ever Finals tournament.

The final two qualifying places were taken by the Zerafa brothers, Robert and Patrick. Patrick could only draw against Richards in the final round and had to depend on other results to confirm the important fourth place.

Robert on the other hand, had a direct encounter with Jake Darmanin. Robert used the Alekhine defence – a surprise, and Darmanin proceeded to launch an attack with his central pawns.

The game was highly tactical and Darmanin managed to win the exchange. However Robert fought back to win back the exchange and win the resulting endgame after a blunder from Darmanin.

Oliver Said was unfortunate in 5th place winning his final round game against Sam Sacco. His loss to Richards in the fifth round proved decisive. Octogenarian Alfred Demanuele had a good tournament beating higher rated opponents to finish in sixth place.

Junior player Cosmin Alexa continued to impress and gained a remarkable 90 rating points. He rounded off his success with a last round draw against ex-Champion Pace.

The final classification:
1-2: Pace, Richards 5.5 pts
3: Zerafa R. 5 pts
4: Zerafa P. 4.5 pts
5-8: Said, Demanuele, Alexa, Darmanin 4 pts
9: Chircop 3.5 pts
10-11: Refalo, Sacco 3 pts
12-13: Sammut, Grech 2.5 pts
14: Azzopardi R. 2 pts
15-16: Licari, Azzopardi A. 1.5 pts
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