Robert Zerafa from Marsaxlokk is Malta’s 86th chess champion. The 32-year-old has won the title for the fifth time in his career after winning it from 2016-2019.
This year’s Finals was held among five players – 2020 champion Jake Darmanin, Colin Pace, Jack Mizzi and John Richards. Held as a round robin, each player played each other twice – once with white, and once with black pieces.
Making his debut in this championship was 15-year old Jack Mizzi. Mizzi had a very positive tournament collecting 3.5 points and managing to draw against Zerafa, Pace and beating Darmanin and Richards.
Outgoing champion Darmanin had a good first half beating Mizzi and Pace. However, he lost the first two games of the second round and had to retire from the tournament.
Veteran player Richards as expected had a tough tournament but held his own and obtained 1½ points.
Eight-times champion Pace had a slow start in the beginning but recovered in excellent fashion by winning all his second round games and ended with the same number of points as Zerafa (6 points).
A tiebreak was held between Zerafa and Pace.
The first tiebreak was a classical match of two games. Pace won the first game in convincing fashion. In the second game, in a must win to draw the match, Zerafa won a long game.
Two rapid games (25 mins + 10 sec) were then played.
This time Zerafa prevailed in the first game with the black pieces and drew the second game by claiming a position repetition.
Zerafa and Pace both qualify for next year’s championship.
6pts: Zerafa, Pace; 3½pts: Mizzi; 3pts: Darmanin; 1½pts: Richards.
Tie break Zerafa – Pace 1-1; Rapid: 1½ – ½