Breaking the Records

This is an article for the German chess magazine Schach which is published in June's issue. I highly recommend you the magazine!

Preparation for the EICCs in Plovdiv started a very long time ago. Good thing was that men, experts in what they are doing were involved in the organization. On the other hand one major drawback was the lack of resources that our federation had. People were just not enough to take care of all details.
Few days before the start of competition from chessbase officially asked to translate the games life on their server playchess.com. This was met with mixed feelings from Bulgarian side-president Stefan Sergiev was positive, while the chief of the transmission GM Venzislav Inkiov was against it. His position was very clear: “Imagine that on the television you see the football match “Bayern” Muenchen- “Real” Madrid from the Champions League. One television has paid the rights for the event, and another one wants to take it for free-do you find it normal?” From chessbase replied that there is no thing like “authors rights” on the internet, and by transmitting the games on their server they are making good image for the championship. Finally the differences were somehow solved, but the questions remained, and I think that this is something that should be debated soon from the professional players and tournament organizers.
With the start of 9-th EICCs few records were broken here. ECU president Boris Kutin gave the suggestion that we may even candidate for Guinness with them: number of participating nationalities- 41, number of GMs participants-186 in the male event and 38 WGM plus 5 male GMs in the female section, number of players rated over 2600-precisely 70. With the latter two Plovdiv championship could be counted as the strongest open tournament ever as well.
Prime-minister of Bulgaria and patron of the event Sergey Stanishev had to open the championship, but due to political problems could not present. Instead Minister of transport Petar Mutafchiev greeted the players, as well as Vesela Lecheva-legendary Olympic Champion in sports shooting and president of State Agency for Youth and Sport, Mayor of Plovdiv Slavcho Atanasov, President of ECU Boris Kutin, etc. Bulgarian folklore music entertained the participants.
Unfortunately some players could not make it in time for the start. Spanish super-GM Paco Vallejo played the final match Dos Ermanas (Spain) against Veselin Topalov just on the previous day, and came late. Nevertheless after a special decision from the referees he was let to play with half point instead of zero for forfeit. The reason for this was the fact that he was number two seeded player, and his participation was highly recommendable. None of the participants protested against the decision, only GM Pavel Tregubov asked for an official statement from the name of ACP.
Many players came late in the night before the first round from German Bundesliga, while some of the participants were tired from the Russian Team Championship.
The main question of the tournament was will there be a player among the ten ex-European champions participating in Plovdiv who would finally double his/her title?
Women part of the tournament started with flashy start from Ekaterina Kovalevskaya from Russia. Experienced player, woman, who understands chess well, she started with four consecutive wins. Unfortunately for her later she failed victim to the pressure, lost her two final encounters and could not even qualify for the World Cup. Except for this mighty start the women tournament was tense, with a constant body of leaders (3-4 at least), a lot of interesting chess, and fight. Our hopes were connected with Antoaneta Stefanova, but she was not in her best shape, lost two important games in rounds 8 and 9 and could no longer take fight for the medals. This made her calm, and she won the last two, thus making it to the qualifiers.
Constantly, among the leaders were Kateryna Lahno, Victoria Cmilyte, Natalia Zhukova, Anna Ushenina and Pia Cramling. The penultimate round appeared to be decisive. By that time these five players were sharing the lead, and played against each other. Two top boards ended peacefully, and the youngest of them Lahno managed to win her most important game against Kovalevskaya, in Sveshnikov line of the Sicilian. In the final game against her compatriot Natalia Zhukova, having half a point lead and White pieces she took a clever decision and secured herself at least a tie-break for the gold after a short draw. For her opponent was left the consolation of the male GM norm that she made. Board two also ended peacefully, and now the only one who could catch with the Ukrainian was Pia Cramling. Alas, the top-rated player from Sweden could not succeed in it and suffered painful defeat against Victoria Cmilyte.
After the finish of the round one thing was clear- Kateryna Lahno wins her second European Championship. One more record has been broken!
Bronze and silver medals had to be decided on the next day, at the tie-breaks. All player on 7.5 points qualified directly for the World Cup, except Elina Danielian, Maia Lomineishvili, Julia Demina and Monika Socko who had to play qualifications for 2 places for the World Cup. The first two succeeded.
I had presented on the last game (sudden death) for the medals between Cmiliyte and Ushenina. Lithuanian played as white and win was a must. For a long time it looked like Black will stand the pressure, she had good position, but little by little problems were arising. It all ended in severe time-trouble when Cmilyte managed to give mate with only 3 seconds left on her clock.
Male part was illuminated by Emil Sutovsky’s five wins at the start. Eager to show good chess and to win Israeli GM was crushing his opponents all the way round. He showed his typical attacking chess, as well as some nice endgame technique.
Despite of his start he could never advance for more than a half point from his pursuers. 322 players is a huge field, many plusses were required. Round six started with another record the shortest resultive game in the history of EICCs was conducted:
Grigoriants,Sergey (2573) - Tregubov,Pavel V (2629) [A34]
9th European Individual Ch (m) round 6 Plovdiv BUL (6.7), 26.04.2008
1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e3 Nf6 5.d4 cxd4 6.exd4 e4 7.Ne5 Bb4 8.Bd2? I do not know what really happened here. Probably Grigoriants simply messed the bishop. Practically everyone plays here: [8.Be2 although Black scores well in the line.] 8...Nxd4 9.Nxe4? I can only imagine what first player’s state of mind here was. It he was a cold-blooded machine he would simply continued with: [9.a3 Ba5 10.b4 Bc7 11.Be3µ pretending that all this was a home preparation.] 9...Qe7 10.Bxb4 Qxb4+ 11.Qd2 Nxe4 0–1
Little by little Sutovsky was caught by other players, although he kept on playing for a win in all his games. Quality chess was shown by the top-seeded player Sergey Movsesian, and many young players like Levan Pantsulaia from Georgia, Rauf Mamedov (Azerbajdjan), Vachier-Lagrave from France, our young hope Valentin Iotov, etc.
Before the final round the leader’s mass grew up to eight players that were paired against each other. The general impression was that they will finish with quick draws, securing places for the World Cup, and postponing the fight for the medals for the next day. Partially this really happened after short draws on first, second, and fourth boards. Thus the central game of the round became the encounter between Sergey Tiviakov and Emil Sutovsky. What can we say about it, fantastic finish of the event. Former Russian and now living in Holland, Tiviakov managed to outplay his mighty opponent in his pet Alapin line after a well prepared novelty. At some moment the Israeli could have safe the game, but missed it. The tradition is kept-we have a ninth different champion in the male tournament.
Pity for Emil Sutovsky. His only consolation became the qualification for the World Cup. Together with Victor Laznicka they were the only players who did not play tie-breaks and qualified directly thanks to their superior Bucholz.
Some players who did not have chances for qualification did not appear for the final round, and lost on forfeit. Another unpleasant thing to be mentioned is the withdrawal from the tournament by Kiril Georgiev, for health reasons. Not everything went smoothly for Albert Muratet from Spain. Chess player and organizer of Banyoles tournament he had to undergo an appendicitis surgery. He was lucky to meet Dr. Assen Zlatarev– a physician who has worked in Mexico for years. In perfect Spanish he broke the language barrier between them, explained the seriousness of the situation, and convinced Albert to undergo the surgery immediately at the same day. Later Albert recovered in the VIP room of the hospital. This is what the Spaniard said:
“I cannot express my gratitude to all the people I inadvertently involved in this drama. Here, at the hospital everyone is very kind and caring, and Dr. Zlatarev often comes by to chat with me in Spanish. The organisers of the Championship surprise me pleasantly all the time with their attention. The tournament director Mr. Nikolay Velchev and the superintendent Mr. Zhivko Zhekov were here on the very day of the operation and have inquired about me ever since. Yesterday I was touched when the manager of the “Nord” hotel where I was accommodated, Mr. Petko Bogoev came in person and brought me some personal necessities, for which I am very grateful. “
The fight for the medals was even tenser than in the women event, since nine players took part. Two more Sergeys met in the final match for second-third place, and the higher rated one-Movsesian prevailed. He won the first game, and his extreme stubbornness provided him the silver in position where he was whole three pawns down in an endgame-he even managed to win on zeitnot. Third Sergey- Volkov completed the podium with bronze. 22 players were faced in direct matches for qualifications for the World Cup. The strangest thing that happened here was Vladimir Akopian’s lost by default against his compatriot Sargissian.
The fact that the quotas for qualifications for the World Cup were leveled this year influenced the strength of Plovdiv EICCs. Turkey withdrew their nomination for host of the next event. Here an important presentation took place on the second day of the championship- representatives from Montenegro promoted Budva as a host city of the next European Championships. Promotion had good success, and it is very likely that next games will be there.
Among the activities here were validations of post stamps and envelopes dedicated to the EICCs, presentation of the book “Anthology of Bulgarian Chess” where all important chess players are presented, etc.
One “novelty” of the championship was the bulletin. We decided to make it only in electronic format, instead of the usual paper one. Efficiency was required, and the bulletin was usually ready in the early hours of the morning.
Tournament site was often visited by chess fans. About the end of the tournament the barrier of 1 000000 unique visit’s was broken.
Players had the opportunity to vote for their King and Queen of the tournament. Queen was not surprise at all-it is not the first time that Antoaneta Stefanova wins such competition. While Bulgarian IM Krasimir Rusev recognition as most attractive player came a kind of unexpectedly.
National Bulgarian Television was showing daily reports with the most important moments of the battle; the tournament was well covered in other Medias, too.
The tournament was very rich in achieved norms. I would like to point two young players-Samvel Ter-Sahakyan from Armenia, and Dariusz Swiercz from Poland. The first one achieved 7 points, and the latter 6.5. Both of them are 14 years old, for both of them this GM norm means title as well. For Dariusz his current trainer GM Alexander Sulypa (he is co-trainer with Arthur Jakubiec) shared that the young talent not only calculates well tactics, but already manages to outplay strong opponents in an endgame, too.
Only female player in the men section was Marie Sebag. She also had reason to celebrate after her final male GM norms. The exceptional French even had a chance to qualify if she had beaten A. Galkin in the final round.
Among the newborn GMs is the writer of the article. I had a very difficult tournament, since I was working for the tournament bulletin. Interviews in the morning, preparation, and immediate play, annotations for the bulletin after the games until late night. The schedule was hard, but at least I had no time for stupidities.
Among the players who achieved successes is youngest participant of the tournament-Alexander Monev. He took first price for categories performance minus rating of a player. He is a gifted twelve years kid, who is not only many-times Bulgarian youth champion, but wins as well Olympiads in Mathematics. Another name to be mentioned from host side is Kiprian Berbatov, cousin of the football player Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham Hotspurs and before that Bayer Leverkusen).
Some small problems appeared during the tournament. First it was not very clear who is waiting at the airport for the arriving participants, in first two days the air-conditions from one of the playing halls went down (and were immediately repaired), but all in all the tournaments were perfectly organized, and most of the players satisfied. This was the first championships where players were not forced to stay in chosen hotels, which is a big plus for all.
Closing ceremony coincided with Nona Gaprindashvili’s birthday. Legendary woman champion was specially invited as honory member of the Appealing Committee. She received a unique chess set as a present by Bulgarian Chess Federation.
I would like to conclude the article with some curious moments from the event:
1. “Kiprian Berbatov wins brilliant game”-headline in a newspaper for Berbatov’s win in the first round (his opponent did not arrive).
2. “Do you remember how you played “Rc1” against me few years ago?”-a question to the astonished Valentin Iotov during his walk in Plovdiv.
3. BBCA (Balkan Beer Chess Association) was created here. The stakes are high-beer and peanuts.
4. Women showed extreme fighting spirit. In one game K and pawn versus K and B endgame appeared. No one offered draw, and the bishop did not capture the pawn; they played for more than 30 moves before draw was agreed.
5. At the closing ceremony chief arbiter Zdravko Nedev re-united the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
6. New kind of chess was created in this game:
Dimitrov,Pavel (2414) - Belov,Vladimir (2571) [C23]
9th European Individual Ch (m) round 8 PLovdiv BUL (8.83), 29.04.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Qf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 f5 4.Bxg8 Nd4 5.Qd1 Qg5 6.g4
Watching the people in the piano bar in the last evening, Armenians dancing next to Azeri, opponents from previous days celebrating together, I could not help but sense the feeling that we are one family.

No comments: