This year the final was especially thrilling as the title had to be decided in the final encounter between the teams of Amay and Wirtzfeld. The latter was hosting the round and the former is my current team. We were leading by a two point margin, but Wirtzfeld had a better tie-break. In Belgium match point system is applied and the winner of an encounter receives two points, while the draw earns one point for each squad. However, individual points are also counted and they are the first additional criterion. Belgians found a clever system to fight the no-show-ups. An individual win is counted as three points for the team, a draw is two points, and loss brings one point. The tricky part is that a player who does not come for the game receives zero points. Thus, a 4-4 result might not always mean equal match as one of the teams might lose a game on forfeit. So far it seems as the system works perfectly and none tries to save on the expenses of foreign players for example.
We did a great season and very few expected our result. I have played for Amay for almost a decade now and saw the team rise from third division to top division and a chance for a title. In the last years the squad was strengthened with young and perspective players, like Giri, Khairulin, van Kampen, Bok, etc. The team atmosphere is great and all of us enjoy our meetings.
As the final clash was approaching, the team bosses tried to propitiate the chess Gods with sacral promises. Jean Marie Gheury from our team promised to run all the way back from Wirtzfeld to Amay (which is about 120-140 km), Victor Schleck promised to walk all the way to the West coast of Belgium (approximately 260 km). Jean Marie is a long-distance runner besides chess player and Victor Schleck already walked to Echternach in Luxembourg after Wirtzfeld’s first title.
While driving to the game we had to climb a slope which our glorious member lbert called the Belgium Mountains. “Is it like 1000 meters above the sea level?” I asked. “No”- he replied with a proud expression- “800 meters!” It was not that funny though once that we almost got stuck some two kilometers before the venue.
I guess that it was not funny at all for Andrey Sumets who had flight delay and managed to pop up for the game just two minutes before the time was over. With a sprint and sigh of relief for all the Wirtzfeld supporters he made the move and pressed the clock. Soon after his game was led to a draw as well were the games on the first three boards. By that time though it seemed as the host team is in control as E. Postny got large advantage straight from the opening against his country man V. Mikhalevski. The time deficit made things worse for the latter; he missed a tactical blow and had to resign.
We had a chance to equalize on board seven where Ilja Zaragatsky had an overwhelming position against Van der Doel, but the Dutchman managed to hold the golden half point. Thus Wirtzfeld won the match and the biggest trophy!
The winning team was represented this day by the Grandmasters Naiditsch, Khenkin, Fridman, Postny, Istratescu, Sumets, der Doel, Winants. This is not their best line up though. Their top seeds Svidler and Ivanchuk are competing at the Candidates at the moment which speaks of the value of the team!
The match for the third place between Eynatten 1 and Fontaine was won convincingly by the many-year’s champion Eynatten who together with the top two teams received the right to represent Belgium at the European Club Cup in Greece in October.
On the bottom of the table two teams met in direct encounter for survival. Zottegem was held to a draw by the team of Deurne and had to part with first division.
Results by tables here