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.


Kalithea's battles

Three important tournaments from the Greek calendar took place in the period 25.06-09.07 in Kalithea, Halkidiki. First, the youth individual championships for all the ages up to 16 years old, secondly-there was the final four matches of the Greek Cup, and finally- the Greek National Team Championship.
In the past ten years Kalithea became an important part of the European chess life, and it was no wonder that the Greeks counted on the facilities of the wonderful sea resort, combined with the experienced organizers skills by the Tsorbatsoglu family.
Youth championships were perfectly organized. In the venue the access of the trainers and parents was forbidden, and there were many arbiters responsible for the young players. The children themselves were also quite well organized- in case that a conflict or mistake happens they were raising their hands, and were waiting patiently for the arbiter to solve it. the top boards of the tournaments were broadcasted live on the official site. This year I spent as a chief coach for the Kavala chess club, and I have good impressions of the play of the leading young players.
After seven days of tough fight champions became:
Boys under 8- Evgenios Ioannidis -8.5/9.
Girls under 8- Loukia Pramateftaki- 6/7.
Boys under 10- Nikolas Theodorou- 8/9.
Girls under 10- Stavroula Tsolakidou- 8/9. There was a drama in this age, when the long leading Aleksia Moshou lost in the final round, and the title went for her teammate Stavroula.
Boys under 12- Georgios Papadopoulos- 8.5/9.
Girls under 12- Elisavet Papathanasiou- 8.5/9. Here also Eleni Tsolaki (silver) and Nelli Serefidou (bronze) are very talented, and you may hear about all the three girls soon.
Boys under 14- Emmanouil Kazakos- 8/9 together with Pantaleimon Tsouganakis seems to be the leaders of their generation.
Girls under 14- Eleni Fragkou -5/7. There was a tie for the first three places, the other two girls are Asimenia Vafiadou and Ageliki Papathanasiou.
Boys under 16- Charalambos Skoulakis- 8/9. This age was a personal triumph for me, since all my students occupied places in the top five. Third is Antonis Pavlidis, fourth-Theodoros Hrisomalis, fifth- Ilias Kazantsidis. The silver medalist N. Galopoulos is also a future Greek hope.
Girls under 16- Ekaterini Pavlidou- 8/9. The superiority by Ekaterini was obvious-both by initial rating, and by the play.
The championship showed that there are many young talents in Greece, and the relatively good preparation of the young players.

The final four matches of the Greek cup took place on 30 June and 1 July. The teams that qualified were SO Kavala, OFS Kavala (the second team of Kavala, for which I compete), Kidon- Chania and Maro Keravnos (Thessaloniki). As it was expected, the elo favourite SO Kavala did not give any chances and won both the matches with great ease by 3.5-0.5. For the team competed 4 GMs- Kotronias, Papaioannou, Halkias and Skembris, and Kotronias won both his games playing as Black. The actual final for the cup however was the ¼ final between the future champions Kavala and the last year’s winners- ES Thessaloniki. For Thessaloniki team competed GMs Miroshnichenko, D. Mastrovasilis, A. Mastrovasilis, and Zakharian. In this match I. Papaioannou lost as White for the first time since 2004 on board one against Miroshnichenko, but nevertheless, Kavala won the encounter thanks to the lucky win of Skembris (who was a clear exchange and a pawn down) by 2.5-1.5. Here is the time to mention the playing system of the cup- up to the ¼ finals the so-called Berlin system is used, in which the points on the front boards of the team are more valuable (4 points for a win on board one, 3 for the second board, 2 and 1 respectively for the remaining). However, in case of a tie 2-2, and Berlin tie 5-5, the host team proceeds into the next stage.
In the finals this system is no longer applied, and in case of a tie the teams continue to play blitz matches, until one of them proves to be the better one. This determined the match strategy of some teams. Thanks to is the team Maro Keravnos managed to make it to the final and to achieve one of their best successes so far.


Afek's Best (5)

2nd Pr. Tidskrift for Shakk , 1972
Among some 200 endgame studies, 100 problems of other genres as welll as thousands of games this one has apparently become my most celebrated and reprinted creation. White's extra piece is in an immediate danger and the logical manner to save it is good enough for just a draw: 1.Ne5? Kxb6 2.Nd7+ Kc6 3.Nxf8 Bxg4 4.Bd3 Bd1 5.Bc2 Bxc2 6.Kxc2 g4=

1.Rxb5+! Kxb5 2.Ne5+! Leashing out a powerful battery! A king move to a dark square is met by a fork leading to the above mentioned ending yet without the b5 pawn which turns it to an easy win. 2...Ka4 3.Nd7 With the triple threat of two mates and one rook. Time to throw in the towel?

3...Be2! 4.Bxe2 Rb8+!

The cat is out of the bag! white is heading for stalemate yet a stunning surprise is awaiting him 5.Bb5+!! Rxb5+ Or 5...Kxb5 6.Nxb8 6.Ka2!

All of a sudden black finds himself in a zugzwang where his rook is entirely dominated by the white knight. 1–0