In the middle of January (11-17 January) two interesting events took place in Bulgaria. In Blagoevgrad was played the second Memorial Tournament in honour of GM Nino Kirov, and in Pleven took place the final round-robin tournament from the series Balkan Grand Prix.
Blagoevgrad was not chosen incidentally to be the place for the second memorial, for the GM was born there in 1945, and he is so far the only grandmaster from the town. Nino Kirov achieved the highest chess title in 1974, a year after his first national title. He won again the Bulgarian Championship in 1978, and represented the country in many international events with good results. His bohemian way of living, remarkable sense of humour, as well as his kindness and frankness brought him the nickname “The King”, and he was well known among all the chess society. He passed away suddenly in September, 2008 after short illness, which was a painful shock in Bulgaria’s chess community.
Soon afterwards, in 2009 his son- Kiril Ninov, successful businessman, who is also a strong player, and a chess IM (in the book of Anand’s best games you may see his name in the first game of the future world champion) paid a tribute to his father and sponsored the first Nino Kirov Memorial in January, 2009. Father and son used to travel and play tournaments together, sometimes facing each other. In 1995 the Bulgarian championship was held in a knock-out system, and of course the both players have to face each other at some stage. Routine prevailed against youth, and The King only remarked: “He did not study the King’s Gambit yet.”
This year the tournament is repeated. 56 players from five countries took place in the event, among them were 7 GMs and 11 IMs. From the previous year the regulations claimed, that in case of a tie the first place is awarded to the player with the most wins. Generally, it is a great idea to support the open, aggressive chess, and this also gives a chance for the “underdogs” to win the event. Last year such a player won the tournament, but this one the expectations were that the top seeded Kiril Georgiev should win comfortably. He indeed started quite convincingly, scoring 3/3. In the meanwhile his closest elo-rival Julian Radulski lost in the first two rounds. Normally in such situation I have seen strong players “getting ill” and leaving the tournament. Not that Julian is such a person, but it was also nice that the tie-break system this did not appear too frightening. Scoring 6/6 in the next rounds, Radulski secured at least second place by making a short draw in the last one. His only threat for the first place was his teammate GM Evgeny Janev, who also started poorly, and had 2.5/5. Janev won, and the tie-break roulette awarded him the first place thanks to a better third criterion. Four more players tied for the first, and among them was Georgiev, who suffered his only loss in the penultimate round against his town-mate Grigor Grigorov (which gave a case for the some jokers to call the latter the new champion of Petrich). The same young player did not suffer any loss, but won only four games, and was left at the tail of the crosstable-sixth place.
Best qualified woman was WIM Adriana Nikolova, who scored six points, and left four GMs and many IMs behind her, while the second-qualified woman Stefi Bednikova made her final WIM norm.
Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED Club Pts vict BH. BH. Fide
1 10 GM Janev Evgeni 2461 BUL Plovdiv 6,5 6 32,0 40,5 29,0
2 2 GM Radulski Julian 2577 BUL Lokomotiv2000 Plovdiv 6,5 6 32,0 40,5 27,5
3 1 GM Georgiev Kiril 2672 BUL Sofia 6,5 5 38,0 49,5 36,5
4 5 IM Petrov Marijan 2500 BUL Naiden Voinov Vidin 6,5 5 36,0 46,5 34,5
5 7 IM Drenchev Petar 2477 BUL Plovdiv 6,5 5 36,0 46,0 32,0
6 4 IM Grigorov Grigor 2508 BUL Lokomotiv2000 Plovdiv 6,5 4 38,0 49,0 31,5
Etc. (56 participants).
In the meanwhile in Pleven ten players were playing in a more solid way in category 12 (average rating 2543) event. The first final of the Balkan Grand Prix was under the patronage of deputy Rumen Petkov, and took place in hotel Rostov. The top 5 players from the tournament series around the Balkans were joined by five more personally chosen by their federations. For various reasons not all of the qualified managed to take part, but it was still the second-best international tournament in Bulgaria (after M-Tel Masters). The price fund was 7000 euro, with 1500 for the winner, and 300 for the last place. The quality of the players made them more careful and less willing to risk. The tournament appeared to be an easy walk for the top-rated Bojan Vuckovic from Serbia, who won his first three white games, and with relatively short draws claimed the title. He also won the hand-made wooden cup. Second-fourth place was shared by Constantin Lupulescu from Romania (who decided not to risk in the final round against Vuckovic as black and signed a quick draw), Momchil Nikolov from Bulgaria, and Nikola Sedlak from Serbia. If the number of wins system was used in Pleven, Sedlak would have been second for he was the most fightful player, with four wins and two losses. Momchil Nikolov accomplished a remarkable series of great results in the Balkan Grand Prix tournaments. He qualified first in those series and topped the table, after four tournaments with no defeat and one GM norm, and achieved the grandmaster requirements with his last norm in Pleven (needless to say, he also did not lose a single game here, either).
The second final of the Balkan Grand Prix is already scheduled for December, and it will take place in Belgrade, Serbia.