General Feb 25, 2021 | 10:35 AMby FM Joachim Iglesias

13-year-old Marc Maurizzi scores 2nd GM norm

It's been a tough year for chess prodigies, but 13-year-old Corsican Marc'Andria Maurizzi is one good result away from the grandmaster title after finishing unbeaten on 6.5/9 in the Barcelona GM Tournament held from 16-24 February. That saw him take 2nd place behind 2016 French Champion Matthieu Cornette, who was also unbeaten on 7/9. French FM Joachim Iglesias reports on the event, highlighting some of the best combinations involving French players. Test yourself if you can find them!

Soon to be the youngest French Grandmaster? | photo: Lennart Ootes, Sunway Sitges International Chess Festival 2020

Maurizzi and Cornette star

Matthieu Cornette and Marc'Andria Maurizzi dominated the field in Barcelona, finishing as the only unbeaten players, a full 1.5 points clear of the tie for 3rd place. You can click on any result in the table below to go to the game, or hover over a player's name to see all their results.

Marc'An has therefore scored his 2nd grandmaster norm at the age of just 13 and looks well on course to become the youngest French grandmaster of all time, despite the time lost to the pandemic.

The youngest French GMs ever are currently:

1. Etienne Bacrot, 14 years, 2 months (in 1997)
2. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, 14 years, 4 months (in 2004)
3. Joël Lautier, 16 years, 10 months (in 1990)


Matthieu commented:

We were privileged to be able to play chess again. I'd prepared seriously for the tournament and was very motivated. I'm satisfied with my level of play. I'm very happy that Marc'An has made his 2nd norm - he's full of surprises! :) 

Of the ten participants in the GM tournament, four were French, if we include the dual national Bilel Bellahcene, who plays under the Algerian flag. While only Matthieu Cornette and Marc'Andria Maurizzi could be fully satisfied with their events, the French were all able to show their tactical acuity! I suggest putting yourself in their place and trying to find their combinations. The solutions are at the end of the article.

The exercises

Ayats vs. Cornette, Round 1


Position after Ra7

Matthieu played 30...Rxf2 and his opponent believed he could trap him with 31.Ra7?, which seems to force 31...Qb8 32.Rac7 Re8 33.Qxd5= The French Champion had, however, prepared a surprise!

Bellahcene vs. Serarols, Round 2


Position after 26...e3

Many moves win, but only one forces resignation - that was the move Bilel found!

Cornette vs. Serarols, Round 4


Position after 21...Ncxe5?

The win is neither long, nor difficult to calculate, but many captures are possible.

Gines vs. Maurizzi, Round 4


Position after 47.h3??

With a two-pawn advantage, White's win should have been "a matter of technique", but the Spanish IM's last move 47.h3?? was a blunder, allowing Marc'An to save the draw in a very nice way! 

Valenzuela vs. Cornette, Round 5


Position after 23.Nf4?

With the queenside closed, White found himself without a plan and started to play on the wrong wing, the kingside. His last 4 moves created weaknesses where Black in any case wanted to attack: 20.h4? 21.g3? 22.Kg2 23.Nf4? How can you finish things off?

Perez vs. Maze, Round 6


Position after 30.Ra5?

Sébastien Maze found a very nice idea here, which his opponent fell right into. It seems hard to ask for more, but there was something stronger and still more beautiful!

Mazé played 30...Nxc3!, after which his opponent blundered with 31.Bc5??, reaching this position, which the former French team captain finished off nicely:


After 30...Nxc3! 31.Bc5?? (as in the game)

But after 30...Nxc3! White could have resisted with 31.Re1! Qxa3 32.Qh4 and Black only has an extra pawn. That's why he should have played 30...Nxe3!!, after which 31.fxe3 is simply positionally lost, so the only move we'd have to check is 31.Qxe3, which permits a magnificent combination!


Position after 30...Nxe3 31.Qxe3 (analysis)

Garcia Ramos vs. Maurizzi, Round 6


Position after 54...Kh7!

In a desperate position 3 pawns down, Marc'An sets up one last trap into which his opponent falls by playing 55.Bxe6?? How does Black save the draw?

Due to this theme, the win was no longer trivial. For example, 55.Qe3?? would allow another draw - how? Can you find a clear win for White after 54...Kh7?

The solutions

Ayats vs. Cornette, Round 1


31...Rf1!! The threat of Rh5 forces 32.g4 and Black won the rook endgame after 32...Qb8! 33.Rac7 Re7 34.Qxf1 Rxc7 35.Qf4 Rb7 etc.

Bellahcene vs. Serarols, Round 2


27.Qxd7! 1-0

It would be mate after 27...Nxd7 28.Rh8#

Cornette vs. Serarols, Round 4


22.Nxe5! Bxg5 23.Nxf7! Qf6 24.Nxg5 1-0

After 22...Nxe5 White could avoid the complications of 23.Qxe5 Bf6! by playing 23.Nxe6! fxe6 24.Qxe5 and the threat of Qxe6+ followed by Bxb8 wins.

Gines vs. Maurizzi, Round 4


47...Rxf4!! 48.Qxf4 Qxh3+ 49.Qh2 Qf3+ with a well-known perpetual check mechanism: 50.Rg2 Qd1+ 51.Qg1 Qh5+ and the draw was agreed.

White could have tried to play on with an extra pawn by not taking the rook, but with such a weak king winning the game would be too much to hope for. 

The idea of 47.h3??, giving the king the h2-square, was good, but White should have played 47.h4! to protect the pawn and avoid the combination.

Valenzuela vs. Cornette, Round 5


23...Nxg3! 24.fxg3 Nxe3+ 25.Kg1 Bxf4 26.gxf4 Qxf4 and 0-1 on move 29.

Perez vs. Maze, Round 6


31...Bxg2! 32.Bxg2 Nxb1! 0-1 because 33.Bxe7 would run into 33...Rd1 mate.


The same theme could have arisen here: 31...Bxg2! 32.Bxg2 Qb7!!

Garcia Ramos vs. Maurizzi, Round 6


The game ended 55.B‌xe6?? Qa3+!! and the desperado queen forced stalemate after a nice dance with the white king: 56.Kc4 Qb4+ 57.Kd5 Qd6+ 58.Ke4 Qf4+ 59.Kd3 Qd2+ 60.Kc4 Qb4+ 61.Kd5 Qd6+ 62.Kxd6 Draw

55.Qe3??, with the idea of 55...Nc5+?? 56.Qxc5!, would also have been no more than a draw after 55...Nd4+! 56.Qxd4 Qa3+! 

White needed to play a more precise queen move like 55.Qd5! in order to meet 55...Nd4+ with 56.Ka2! and Black has no more checks and can resign.


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