SO Kavala-still the best in Greece
The 37-th National Greek Team Championship started on 3 July. 31 teams competed for the medals, and the right to stay among the best. The first ten teams would receive as bonus coverage of the expenses by the Greek Chess Federation, while the last 11 would relegate from the Master League. Let me remind you that the Greek League is played on 12 borads (5 men, 1 female, 2 girls under 16 and 18, and four boys- under 18, 16, 14, and 12). The battle for the title was supposed to be between the last year’s winners- SO Kavala (with good players on all the boards, strong juniours, and as a leader- the European Champion Evgeny Tomashevsky), PS Peristeriou (with the incredible Vassily Ivanchuk on board one, B. Macieja, and strong juniours on the back boards), and ES Thessaloniki- also a very reasonable team. However, GM Kotronias decided not to take part in the championship, and it looked like that O.S. Kavala are seriously weaken. From the team a risky decision was taken to include more juniors in the team- partly because they are strong enough, but also because of the university bonus that they might win. Yes, there is such a bonus in Greece for very talented juniours, but it is only for students older than 15 years, and it is only for one team- the winner! That is why the young players do their best when they compete for their club. The extra 10 % that they might win almost inevitably secure them enter in a prestigious university.
Kavala left practically no chance for the other teams after winning all the first seven matches. The success did not come easy, though. The male boards which usually were keeping the balance in the previous years this time fought hard and usually led the team forward. Among them the best was Antonis Pavlidis, a juniour who played on last male board, and who scored remarkable 8/8 (and with the captains draw in the last round finished with 8.5/9- best result in the whole tournament), as well as Spiridon Skembris (7.5/9 on board four). Tomashevsky, Halkias and Papaioannou also added valuable pluses (I believe the male boards ended up unbeaten), and with reasonable support from the female board (Anna-Maria Botsari- 6.5/9), and the juniours won easily the title.
PS Peristeriou and ES Thessaloniki tied for the second place, and the better tie-break gave the silver to the players from Athens. Vassily Ivanchuk scored his +3 on board one, without losing a game. I had the pleasure to face the genius, but it did not last long, since he finished me off quite quickly. Nevertheless, Vassily Mihailovich was very kind, and accepted my invitation for analyses- the man is a real treasure for all the chess world. Among the other teams fresh impression made the team of Kidon- Chania. For many years this team had great financial support and was always fighting for the title, but this year his stability was shaken. Nevertheless thanks to the good chess school they continued to have strong team, and only the final two losses threw their team on fifth place. Comeback in the chess events made one of the most talented Greek females- Maria Kouvatsou.
Best result on board one showed Zurab Azmaiparashvili (Kalamata Poseidon)- 7/9.
The pairings for the last round met the first and the second Kavala team. O. S. had already secured the title, and we could get a well deserved rest. Even the European Champion Evgeny Tomashevsky could afford a glass of red wine, while one of our juniours- Ilias Kazantsidis was entertaining us by a guitar play. Aggelos Sourgkounis was helping him. In the meanwhile Papaioannou was keeping his promise, and played a game with the German champion under 12 Dennis Wagner (the second foreigner in the S O Kavala). Young Dennis was also examined by E. Tomashevsky. Greeks are very artistic people, and soon after Ilias went on the waiter’s table where he found more support from the stuff. Finally, the guitar was taken by the most experienced- S. Skembris, a man who used to play in a band once.