Faustino Oro, Levy Rozman Narrowly Miss Norms In Madrid

IM Levy Rozman and FM Faustino Oro, two of the world’s most popular chess players, have met for the first time in a tournament. It took place at the 2024 Madrid Chess Festival, which ran June 10-15 and featured two closed tournaments and one open. Several streamers came in search of norms, and they were so hungry that the six grandmasters in action failed to make the podium. 

Rozman, one of the organizers of the festival alongside IM David Martinez and GM Pepe Cuenca, was close to achieving a grandmaster norm, while Oro was close to earning the international master title. The 10-year-old Argentinian still has time to become the youngest IM in history.

Those who did achieve their goals were the Spanish players FM Dani Tabuenca (15 years old) and IM Julio Suarez (25). As well as earning his second grandmaster norm, the latter also won the A Group. The Venezuelan FM Pedro Martinez (32), who won the B Group, earned his third norm and the IM title.

Final Standings: A Group

Final Standings: B Group

Final Standings: Open (Top 12)

A Group: Grandmasters Eclipsed

In the first of the closed tournaments, the winner was Suarez, who also earned his second grandmaster norm. The turning point was his victory against Rozman in the penultimate round, where he had to come back from a worse position. While the American is dividing his time between chess and content creation, the Spanish player is even less of a chess professional, since he’s moved away from chess after starting to study mathematics.

Julio Suarez and Levy Rozman reset the pieces after finishing their game. Photo: Federico Marin Bellon/Chess.com.

“It was a very complicated feeling because I’d been watching all of Levy’s videos for two months, and my flatmates are big fans of his,” said Suarez after winning the tournament. “He’s a person I haven’t met much, but I like him a lot. If the game had been more one-sided, I wouldn’t have felt so bad, but I knew that he was devastated.”

I’d been watching all of Levy’s videos for two months, and my flatmates are big fans of his.

—Julio Suarez

Rozman himself, who left the playing hall like a zombie, “on autopilot,” seemed to have recovered after the last game, which he played against Tabuenca, another of the winners. “When I got up from the table, my knees were shaking. Then I was devastated for 30 minutes, sad for two hours, but now I’m fine,” he said. 

When I got up from the table, my knees were shaking. Then I was devastated for 30 minutes, sad for two hours, but now I’m fine.

—Levy Rozman

That was far from the only critical game. In order to lose the chance at a grandmaster norm in the finishing straight you first have to play very well. GothamChess played the best chess of his life in Madrid, as he said himself, and had a brilliant start that began with victory over GM Tomas Sosa. Levy finished off the Argentine with a very accurate endgame, which he nevertheless almost ruined with a single mistake which wasn’t punished. 

Also noteworthy is the game the young Tabuenca won against IM Aaron Alonso, who had the courtesy to keep playing until mate, with two white queens on the board. The final position is not something you see every day. 

Tabuenca, who is 15 years old, lost only against Sosa, while he won against Alonso and Cuenca. After his win against the latter, he still had the chance of earning a GM norm. To do that he needed to win his last two games. He didn’t manage, but he did take the first step toward becoming an IM.  

Daniel Tabuenca was one of the three players who earned norms in Madrid. Photo: Federico Marin Bellon/Chess.com.

There were three grandmasters in the tournament, and none of them played well. Cuenca managed to end on 50 percent, but GM Lelys Martinez and Sosa occupied the last two places. “Don Pepe” admitted before the first day that he was “in very bad form,” but he’s a resourceful player. In the third round, he saved half a point against Alonso despite having the saddest bishop in history. 

Among the young Spaniards, IM Diego Macias also stood out. In the following game, Cuenca was unable to save himself against the accurate play of his opponent, who sacrificed the same bishop twice. According to “El Divis” on the Spanish broadcast, the kid is “the present and future” of Spanish chess. 

On Wednesday, June 12, Rey Enigma visited the playing hall, situated in the chess club Ajedrez con Cabeza, and then joined a party held that night, where he faced players from the festival, including WFM Anna Cramling. 

Rey Enigma and Anna Cramling, two very popular content creators, play at the party that took place in a Mexican restaurant on Wednesday evening.

In round seven, Rozman continued to lead, but he was beginning to show signs of fatigue. Against Alonso he dropped two pawns in a single move, but his opponent failed to finish him off. Tragedy struck that afternoon: Suarez beat Rozman and simplified his path to the finish line.  

B Group: Faustino Steals The Spotlight

The other closed tournament of the Madrid Chess Festival was won by Pedro Martinez, who finally achieved the IM title, six years after his last norm. The Venezuelan player living in Spain dedicates most of his time to teaching. Among his pupils are blind chess players, work that he considers very rewarding and that he carries out for ONCE (Organizacion Nacional de Ciegos Espanoles—Spanish National Organization for the Blind). “I’d like to take this opportunity to send them my regards because they motivate me a lot,” he said after finishing his last game. 

The game between Faustino Oro and the tournament winner, Pedro Martinez. Photo: Federico Marin Bellon/Chess.com.

Martinez ended undefeated and, as he admits, the most difficult moment was his encounter with Oro, the prodigy who continues to amaze wherever he appears. “Fausti played very well, and I had to work extra hard,” he adds. The draw by repetition just before move 30 showed mutual respect. “I was the one who was more afraid,” the Venezuelan admitted. 

Fausti played very well, and I had to work extra hard. I was the one who was more afraid.

—Pedro Martinez

Tied on points with the winner was IM Eric Rosen, another streamer present in Madrid. The American began with a loss, the only day when he went on the attack. “I played aggressively and riskily, and it backfired,” he admitted. Then he returned to his usual style and began to gain confidence and points.  

Eric Rosen at the award ceremony, with Pedro Vicente, of the Club Ajedrez con Cabeza, and David Martinez. Photo: Federico Marin Bellon/Chess.com.

Rosen explains why his game against Faustino was too short: “I feel bad about making such a quick draw because I really wanted to fight for the win. I had very good preparation, and he entered directly into it, but then I mixed up the move order. I felt very disappointed with myself when I realized the mistake. There was really nothing to be done anymore. A draw is a draw, but I was expecting a longer fight.”

Meanwhile, the “Messi of Chess” didn’t lose a single game and showed that he already has the strength of an international master at the very least. In Madrid he crossed the 2400 Elo barrier, but he’s so competitive that he wasn’t too proud of his achievement. Midway through the tournament, when he still hadn’t won a game, you could find him disappointed at the end of games. “I have to win two!” he said. In the end, he managed to beat GM David Larino in round six, but then he was unable to finish the job and get the IM title. It won’t take long to come. 

Faustino Oro, a 10-year-old with a supernatural talent. Photo: Federico Marin Bellon/Chess.com.

Oro is now planning to play another closed tournament, in Barcelona. It will be his last chance to achieve a historic record, but his family has always tried to take the pressure off him. “The important thing is that he’s happy and continues to improve,” say his parents. He himself points to his quick victory over Larino as his best game of the tournament.  

The grandmasters also failed in the second closed tournament, although with a smaller points gap than in the A Group. The only female player, IM Sabrina Vega, had a good event and improved her rating, despite a painful defeat in her last game against Rosen after an avoidable endgame mistake.   

It’s worth noting that Larino, despite his struggles, won a spectacular attacking game in which he spent only a few minutes. On move 53, when IM Alex Garrido resigned, “El Fo” (Larino) had used just two and a half minutes, thanks to the increment. It was an Exchange Spanish where the former professional chess player born in Galicia relentlessly punished the dubious path chosen by his opponent’s knight. The white queen went on a round-the-world trip before leaving the board with everything already decided.      

Despite suffering here, Garrido showed himself to be the most combative player in the tournament with three wins, three losses, and three draws.

Open: Paolo Ladron De Guevara Wins On Tiebreaks

47 players took part in the Madrid Chess Festival Open, including Spanish GM Ibragim S. Khamrakulov and four IMs. The biggest draw, however, was the streamer Cramling, who has just crossed a million subscribers on YouTube. Another well-known content creator was FM Andres Guerrero, who ended half a point behind the leaders.

Anna Cramling, queen of streaming. Photo: Federico Marin Bellon/Chess.com.

Cramling began with three consecutive losses. After that she didn’t lose any more games, but she couldn’t avoid losing 15 rating points in Madrid. Perhaps her lowest point coincided with one of her most brilliant moves, in the first round. After sacrificing a rook, the capture of which would have led to stalemate, she relaxed too soon and was caught in a mating net to the relief of her opponent, CM Angel Jesus Marquez. The Venezuelan ended the tournament in second place. 

Angel Jesus Marquez can’t believe the stalemate resource that Anna Cramling found: the rook can’t be captured. Photo: Federico Marin Bellon/Chess.com.

The tournament winner was IM Paolo Ladron de Guevara, who had better tiebreaks than the other three players who ended on 6.5 points. The bronze medal went to IM Jesus Martin Duque, and among the biggest upsets was the victory of local player Pablo Tierraseca over IM Marcos Lianes, who withdrew from the event shortly afterward.

Overall the festival made an excellent impression, with some minor flaws, in a city that hasn’t had the tournaments it deserves for too many years. Many participants were playing in the Spanish capital for the first time, and the overwhelming majority of those surveyed said they would love to come back. 

You can play through all the games from the Madrid Chess Festival here: A Group | B Group | Open. 

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