Invitational tournaments for top players are common in Europe, but are rare in the United States. Last weekend, one of them wrapped up in Lubbock, Tex., with a four-way tie for first among an all-grandmaster field. The tie was broken using a scoring system.
The tournament was the second Spice Cup, which was organized by Texas Tech University and named after the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, or Spice. The university founded Spice last year to help recruit a chess team, do community outreach and work with academic departments that use chess as a research tool. Polgar, a former women’s world champion, leads the institute.
Texas Tech said the Spice Cup was the strongest invitational tournament to be held in the United States. Based on the ranking system that the World Chess Federation has used since 1970, that could be true. But the two Piatigorsky Cups, held in the Los Angeles area in 1963 and 1966, were stronger. Some of the greatest players of the 20th century competed in the tournaments, which were sponsored by the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. They included Tigran Petrosian, who was world champion for much of the ’60s, Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.
(This is a response to the questions raised by some bloggers: I am not sure why Mr. McClain stated that Texas Tech said that it was the strongest invitational tournament to be held in the U.S. On our official brochure, posters, and press releases, SPICE and TTU have stated that it is the highest-rated 10-player international invitational tournament in U.S. history. The word strongest is subjective and that is why we went with the facts. As some bloggers have pointed out, here are some of the links prior to the SPICE Cup:
There are many more links which show the same but these are just a few examples. Having said that, I do appreciate Mr. McClain covering the SPICE Cup. The 2009 SPICE Cup is expected to be at least at category 16 and perhaps even 17.)
The Church’s Fried Chicken International, held in San Antonio in 1972, was also stronger. In that tournament, Petrosian, the future world champion Anatoly Karpov, and Lajos Portisch tied for first, ahead of Paul Keres, Bent Larsen and Henrique Mecking.
Still, competition at the Spice Cup was formidable. Pentala Harikrishna of India; Alexander Onischuk and Varuzhan Akobian, both of the United States; and Leonid Kritz of Germany tied for first, and Harikrishna took the title using the tie-breaker formula.
Here is the full article with analysis.