Afek's Best

At the end of the year I met again the remarkable chess composer Yochanan Afek. He shoed me some of his beautiful samples, and I could not stand the temptation and asked him for some of more for the blog readers. Enjoy!
Yochanan Afek
1st Pr. Israel Ring Tourney , 1975

Black intends to put an end to white pretentions by giving away his Rook for the last pawn thus the key move is pretty obvious. 1.b7 Bc5! The most stubborn defense while two other tries would be met by sharp and forceful blows [1...Re6 2.Nc7! or; 1...Rc6 2.b8N+!; 1...Ra6+ is simply answered by 2.Ba7] 2.Bxc5 [2.b8Q? is premature in view of 2...Ra6+ 3.Kb7 Rb6+; while 2.b8N+? Kc8 3.Bxc5 d4 leads to a mere theoretical draw] 2...Rh8+ 3.Ka7 [Again 3.b8Q? Rxb8+ 4.Kxb8 Kc6 leads nowhere] 3...Kc6 4.Bd4! [Solvers usually try 4.Nd6? first, however after 4...Kxc5 5.Nc8 Rh7 the fish seems to have escaped once again] 4...Rh7
Straightforward! No time for modest actions such as [4...Rf8 5.Ka6; or 4...Rh2 5.Ka8 now It finally does look that white is really helpless against the double attack yet chess is full of resources] 5.Bg7!! A stunning interference decoying the black rook into a deadly fork! 5...Rxg7 6.Nd4+ with the unpleasant choice between 6...Kd6 [and 6...Kc5 7.Ne6+] 7.Nf5+ 1–0


The Greek Youth Individual Championships

The Greek Juniour championship under 18 and 20 years took place n Athens between 2-8 January. Almost all best juniours competed for the medals, the right to represent Greece at the World and European championships, and for some extra university bonuses. The Greek educational system states that if a player qualifies in the top three in one of these championships he/she receives extra points for the university exams. This is very important for the players, since the educational system in Greece is rather difficult, and any additional advantage in the struggle for the university is welcomed.
There are qualification tournaments for the under 18 section in all Greek chess centers, while under 20 everyone can participate without qualification, but must pay for his stay. However, there is a bonus for the top five-they receive their expenses back by the Greek federation.
The elo favourites in the female section performed more than convincingly. Both Zoi Iordanidou (G-18) and Ekaterini Pavlidou (G-20) secured their titles with a spare round. While the first one preferred to make a short draw in the last round, the latter won her last game. Both girls are established players. Zoi’s trainer is the national women player WIM Vera Papadopoulou, while Ekaterini is trained by the former Greek national trainer GM Slavoljub Maranovic. The Serbian now lives and works as a trainer in the second largest city- Thessaloniki. The silver medal under 18 is for G. Sirnioti, bronze for A. Hristodulaki. Under 20 these medals went for M. Ikonomopoulou and A. Paganoglou respectively.
The boys section saw a less predictable fight for the medals. The under 20 section was convincingly won by George Kanakaris, who scored 7.5/8, and had a clear 1.5 points advance before the last round. Runner-up is N. Aggelis, third is G. Panagiotakopoulos. The elo-favourite Anastasios Pavlidis (Ekaterini’s brother) ended only sixth.
The most interesting was the under 18 group. Three players could win the gold in the last round. However, the luckiest of all appeared to be Sebastian Filippas, who edged N. Galopoulos and E. Kourousis. Fourth remained another very talented player- Antonis Pavlidis, who lost in the last round.
Among the other trainers who could be met in the playing hall were the seven-time (already) Greek champion GM Christos Banikas, former top-ten player GM Igor Glek (who now lives and works in Crete), national women trainer Nikolaos Gavrilakis, GM Ioannis Papaioannou and many others. Banikas showed me one of his best students- I. Stathopoulos, young talent who did well under the twenty section.
Currently the top chess centers in Greece are the two biggest cities- Athens and Thessaloniki, and Crete Island and Kavala, where I live and work.
Greece enjoys a nice organization of the championship. The tournament site was immediately updated with pairings, cross-tables, games, and nice pictures from the event. In the lobby of the venue all the parents enjoyed refreshments and sweets for free, while waiting for their children, and chat each other peacefully.
After the protests against the tragically killed young boy in Athens now the situation looked relatively calm. However protests against the Israeli embassy was organized during our stay, and there was a serious danger of a Metro strike. Fortunately for us the latter was postponed.
Athens is remarkable city to be seen. Everywhere you can touch pieces of history (even at the Metro stations!), interesting people. Life is hectic and exuberant in the city. The main attraction here of course is the Acropolis (literally means city on the edge), which is one the most significant ancient monuments remained. There are other acropolises in Greece, but this one is the most important one and is simply called the Acropolis. But do better let the pictures speak for it…


Quiz Groningen

I believe that two questions from the Cafe Atlantis Quiz competition will be interesting for you:
1.) What is the Indian theme in composition?

The Indian theme was named after a composer from England published a problem in an Indian newspaper in 1845. The winning idea of the problem is to stalemate one of our own pieces.
Loveday, H. - The Indian theme
Mate in 4, 1845
1.Kb2 b4 2.Bc1 b5 3.Rd2 Kf4 4.Rd4# 1–0
2.) How should this position end?

White wins- Unnamed Autor - Quiz
1.h4 Kc7 2.h5 Kb6 3.h6 Ka5 4.h7 a6 5.h8N! b6 6.Ng6 fxg6 7.f7 g5 8.f8N! g4 9.Ne6 [9.Ng6 g3 10.Ne5 g2 11.Nc6#] 9...g3 10.Nd8 g2 11.Nc6# [11.Nb7#] 1–0


The Tradition is Coming Back in Groningen

Who were the participants of the Staunton World Championship in 1946 in Groningen? Where the tournament was held? Who from the participants is still alive and composing?
This is one of the questions that you will find in the quiz of the Atlantis Café in Groningen. The answers you will find bellow, but now I would like to ask you for some patience. It has to do with the tournament that is in progress at the moment- the Groningen open had reached its 45-th editions. “And we intend to make it 50” stated the organizer Jan Colly in his opening ceremony’s speech.
“The tournament has seen better and worse times too”, informed me the strong Dutch GM Ervin L’Ami, who I met in the train of my way for Groningen. The Netherland’s Olympic player was on his way back home after a productive training session with V. Chuchelov. “The last few years were not as successful as in the 90-ties when more than 500 players took part in the tournament, but the tradition is coming back to life”, continues L’Ami. This year the organizers managed to strengthen the average rating of the “A” tournament. 9 GMs take part in the event, as well as many strong, young, and hopeful youngsters. There is also a “B” group, a compact group (that starts later, on 26 December). In the train I hear a girl explaining that she will play chess tomorrow. Funny, I think to myself, how small the world is- I should know this girl. I look around, but I see no familiar faces. On the next day I recall a familiar face from the train-it is Carla Heredia Serrano and she is travelling all the way from Ecuador! There are fourteen nations at “A” the tournament. At the Groningen station I meet in addition Yochanan Afek from Israel. We share a taxi, and speak about the chess in Holland in general. “I know that you live here for some year. Why?” I ask the Jewish IM. “I needed to grow old somewhere. And I found that Netherlands is the best chess country for it!”
The pearl in the crown is the match between two Jan- the current Dutch champion Jan Smeets, and the winner of the recent European Community Championship- Jan Werle. The latter is a student at the Groningen University where the tournament takes place. Jan uses his free time to have a look at the games, and to support his girlfriend. “I am getting prepared for the match. It is not only question of prestige, but it will also be counted for rating, so I am very eager to win at home.” The first game saw an uncompromised battle, in which Werle sacrificed a piece for two pawns, but Smeets defended well and the game was eventually drawn.
Jan Colly tells me that in the next five years there will be five more matches. The opponents of course will not be the same, but the sponsorship of the Groningen University is already assured.
The organization is on very high level. Every detail is a fine piece of work. The venue is spacious, there is enough space for the spectators, and air for the players, an analyzing room (actually a hall), a special hall for the spectators, a daily quality bulletin, professional photographers, etc.
When we speak about the tournament in Groningen we cannot pass nearby the famous Atlantis Café. On the 21-st of December it celebrated its third birthday. The owner of the Café is Bern Van der Marel, a keen chess enthusiast, and a good chess composer. He is also a sponsor of the summer Atlantis round-robin tournament, in which I had already the pleasure to play twice.
The Café is an excellent place, where you can play not only chess, but various mind games, like darts, cards, etc. and to have a drink or two while playing. You can also do play blitz, or take part in the study sumultaneous, try to solve the chessquiz, or participate in the AfterChess with IM Hans Böhm. If I try to imagine how the Café did Regance looked like in the past, probably I will see the Atlantis Café.
I take a look at a Dutch book of the first Groningen tournament back in 1946. This was the first chess tournament after the Second World War. It is written by the fifth World Champion Max Euwe. Then I start to recall some stories of the event-how Alexander Kotov beat his compatriot Botvinnik, how later he returned the favour by stopping Euwe in the final round, and how he was called Robin Hood by the local audience for his habit to beat the strongest and to give points to the weakest (Kotov finished the tournament on the modest tenth place), and how Mikhail Botvinnik saved a desperately-looking rook endgame against the same Max Euwe in a game that he considered decisive for the whole world cycle in 1948, and the decision to create a match-tournament for the best five players.
In the Café I learn some new stories about the Groningen Festival. Fifty years later, in 1996 the seven still living GMs from the first edition in 1946 met again for an honorary tournament. At the closing ceremony Migeul Najdorf on behalf of the participants thanked to the organizers about the opportunity to see his old rivals again, and added that it would not be bad if they have done the tournament for the twenty-fifth anniversary instead. The nine year old Fritz Rietman have just started to play the Najdorf Defense at this time, and when his mother heard that Don Miguel is here she asked him to play a game with her son. Najdorf was white, and after the moves 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Fritz failed into a deep thought. “I was terrified to choose the opening that the old Grandmaster created. What if I do something wrong, he might get angry…I wanted desperately to deviate and to choose the Dragon (I also used to play that one, too). However, after a lot of hesitation I finally choose 5…a6, Najdorf “blundered” some pieces later, and let me win. You chose a very good opening, was his comment at the end.”
We reach the answer of our question at the beginning- the only living player from Staunton tournament in 1946 is Vassily Smyslov. The competition took place at the very same hall-Harmony at the Groningen University. Twenty players took part in the event that was won by Botvinnik, who scored 14.5, followed by Euwe, who had half point less, and Smyslov.