European Club Cup- an Inside Look

The European Club Cup took place in Ohrid, Macedonia on the beautiful lake with the same name near the Albanian border between 4-10 October.
I was there as a trainer of the former Women World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova. Eti invited me to work with her at the end of August, and before the Inventi tournament in Antwerpen we had our first camp.
She plays for the team of Spartak Vidnoe, together with sisters Nadezhda and Tatiana Kosintsevi, Ekaterina Lahno and Evgenia Ovod. The team is a real bunch of European champions, but they were the second-seeded team after the last two-time champions from Monte Carlo. The expectations were that these two teams would fight for the title.
The Russian players have great organization. They did not save money for trainers-Yury Dokhoian, the legendary trainer of Garry Kasparov (and current second of Sergey Karjakin) was here to take care about the Kosintsevi sisters. They both scored well, winning individual silver medals on boards 1 and 3 respectively. Dokhoian is a remarkable trainer, who takes to his heart any lost game of his students. However, when the game is over, he becomes a completely new man, with great sense of humour, and exact evaluation of what had happened. Robert Fontaine was also here to support and prepare his wife Katya. Last, but not least, we had our captain- WGM Elmira Mirzoeva- famous chess journalist, and incredibly cheerful person, who was always where the girls needed her.
The tournament went smoothly for our team. It all started more than convincingly with a 4-0 win against the solid team of “Mika”- Erevan. Then two draws followed against “Economist” and the “Samaia”- Tbilisi. The second one was a piece of bad luck, since we managed to repel both our blacks and could not profit from the good positions of the white colours. After this match, the ladies found their rhythm and won three matches in a row. Especially valuable was the one in the sixth round against one of the best teams- “T-com”- Podgoritsa- 3.5-0.5. Before that round, the team was discussing the strong performance of Ekaterina Kovalevskaya- the fourth board of the Montenegrin team. “However, we have another Katya on board four”-remarked Dokhoian. Indeed, our Katya proved stronger, and brought a “black” victory for “Spartak”. The lost of the Montenegrin team forced them to rest in the last round, and at the end, they were only a mere half point short to the bronze medals. Rather weird destiny for a medal contender. As a whole, the format of the event- seven rounds for eleven teams was predisposing some odd situations. For example, the team of Monte Carlo drew their first match, but had the luck to be paired on the next day against the underdogs from” Vandoeuvre”, and after a 4-0 win immediately went back into the lead. While the last round pairings did not oppose the leader “Spartak” against the third in the table Monte Carlo due to the impossible parings of the tournament “tail”. At the same time at the men’s section, it was very strange to me to discover that the team of “Baden-Baden” who lost only 5 points in total in the first five matches does not have even theoretical chances for the title, due to their minimal defeat against “Mika” (the match where Naiditsch blundered a whole rook in a much better position).
Back to the sixth round of the women event- this became in fact the decisive round of the tournament, since it secured the title for the Russian team. By that moment we had the same match points with the Georgian team, and Monte Carlo was a point behind. The expectations were that everything will be decided in the final round, but…First the team from Tbilisi gave rest to their leader Maya Chiburdanidze, and lost their match. Moreover, Monte Carlo could not deal with “Mika” drawing yet another match. “Spartak”- Vidnoe became champions within a spare round!
The success was a result of the convenient play of all the players. Except the silver individual medals for Nadya and Tanya Kosintsevi the team took two golds- for Eti on board two, and Katerina Lahno on board four. Katya also had the best overall performance in the women section with her 5.5/6- 2772.
I did not have a lot of time to observe the men section, since they were playing in another hotel- INEX Goritsa. The general impression was that the young team of Saratov won quite convincingly. Probably the match that they were is most dangerous situation was…the first one. However, the fact that they won all their matches (even though most of them with a minimal margin) speaks for itself. It is hard to point out their best player; they performed excellent as a team. From the individual performances, the play of Levon Aronian looked quite impressive, even though he lost his final encounter against Mamedyarov. Remarkable chess was definitely shown by Peter Svidler. He took silver medal on first board, but showed the best overall performance in the open section- 2920! While the golden medal on first board went to Vladimir Georgiev, the former trainer of Eti. He scored 5/6 for his KSH Llamkos (Kosovo). The most points achieved Michael Adams (Baden-Baden) and Artur Zarka (Roskovec), both 6.5/7.
The organization of the event was on a very good level. Especially delightful was the service, and the attitude towards the players. There were some extraordinary events- like the chess game under the water. The event was richly covered on the national television, and the results of the local Alkaloid closely followed. It is a pity for them that they could not develop they start of five wins. Nevertheless, one of them showed once again great performance, eight years after his first visit in Ohrid. Andrey Volokitin won the third board with convincing 6/7, and what was the surprise- he won some elegant rook endgames instead of his “common” sharp games.
Eti had one free day in which we visited the monastery of St Naum which was established back in 905. Naum- one of the students of Cyril and Methodius (the creators of the Cyrillic alphabet that is now used in Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia) lived some twenty kilometers away from Ohrid. Peacocks are living comfortably in the church area. The monk on the front desk taught us what to do for luck. We just made a wish, while touching the Saint’s grave, and with the right ear, we tried to listen to his heart.
I could not hear it, but I hope that my wish will come true.


How “Vodovod” promoted into first Serbian division and what happens in Serbia

In Vrnjacka Banja took place the 1-st League of Central Serbia between 18-26 Septembers. Practically, this is one of the second divisions of the country, but do not be mislead by that fact. Among the 12 participating teams competed eight GMs, many IMs and FMs, and even at the back fifth and sixth boards players with ratings 2300-2400 could be met. The best team qualified for the Highest Serbian Division, while the last one was relegated from the group.
Twelve teams play each other in a round-robin tournament, each teams contains six boards. The system is match points. Just like in the football, the winner is awarded with 3 points, draw is equal to a point, while losing means zero.
It appeared that two teams competed for the promotion after their powerful starts. Both the elo favourites from “Vodovod”- Kragujevac and “Jelica”-Goracici were leading after seven rounds with only one drawn match each. The former team was impressively effective, winning all its matches by a minimal margin 3.5-2.5. However, their clash in round eight turned into a total triumph for “Vodovod”. Relatively easily they scored four wins, and managed to save the two remaining bad positions to close the match in impressive score- 5-1. After that the discouraged team of “Jelica” switched to a “silver programme”, in which they succeeded easily. Third became the team of “Sloboda”- Uzice. For the champions competed the GMs Dragisa Blagojevic from Montenegro (as a foreigner), Miroslav Tosic, Nenad Ristic (the selector of the national women team), IM Slobo Vratonjic, FM Boroljub Zlatanovic, Dragoljub Lazic and Slavisa Milosevic.
One of the most colourful participants is IM Radovan Govedarica. He is always everywhere, knows all the positions, and immediately after someone ends, he appears to give a competent advice of how he had to play. Although he did not do very well in the tournament (he even lost one game due to a phone ring forfeit), he was showing his potential in blitz games, obviously enjoying every second of chess.
Chess is a magical word in Serbia. Whenever I pass the boarder, I always say, that I am a chess player. This saves me a lot of time, and unnecessary baggage search, since all the chess players are highly respected in Serbia. Sometimes I start a chat with the customers on the past glorious times with Gliga (Gligorich) and Ljuba (Ljuboevic) being the main heroes. A few years ago, due to the great restriction that the Serbians had chess was suffering, since almost all the Serbians had to stay at home. This was the period when they were permitted to play in all the Leagues, and this decision kept their fighting spirit. Lately, our sport is coming back to respect. Those of the players who achieved good results, and won medals from European Competitions and Olympiads, as well as their selectors receive support from the government-salaries that are quite adequate to the economical situation, and that give them the chance to live well.
Vrnjacka Banja is the most famous Serbian spa resort. “Banja” is Serbian means bath, but could also mean a spring. There are altogether seven springs of mineral water in the town, warm in their majority. Their healing effect is known from the ancient Romans, who used the springs very long time ago. Vrnjacka Banja is situated in the foot of the Gosha Mountain, and is an extremely green town, with great clean air. One of the attractions of the town, and its symbol is the sparrow Gochko, and another important sight is the “Bridge of Love”. Its history in short is that the schoolmistress Nada and the officer Relja fell in love for each other, and gave a promise to them in the dawn of the First World War. However, Relja went to war in Greece, felt in love with a Greek woman, married her, and broke the engage with Nada. Nada faded away day after day, and finally died, young and miserable. Since then the girls started to write down the names of their beloved men on padlock, in attempt to lock their love forever. These pads can be seen nowadays on the Nada’s and Relja’s favourite place-a bridge that is now called “The Bridge of Love.”


Afek's Best (5)

Yochanan Afek
2nd Prize Moscow congress ,2003 (V) , 2003

White has four optional captures out of which just one is sound. 1.Nxg6! 1.Kxg7? Nxf8 is obviously wrong while both after 1.Nxh7? b5 2.Kxg7 b4 3.Ng5 b3 4.Ne4 g5 or 1.Kxh7? g5 2.Kg6 g4 3.Kf5 g3 4.Ng6 Kd1 5.Nf4 b5 6.Kg4 b4 7.Kxg3 b3 8.Nd3 Kc2 9.Ne5 Kc3! the black pawns are unstoppable. 1...Nf8! A surprising counter attack forcing the White knight to cope on his own with two remote passed pawns. 2.Nxf8 g5

With a cornered and passive king, how will the limping knight handle the black pawns? well, simply one at the time... 3.Nh7! g4 4.Nf6 g3 5.Nh5! g2 6.Nf4 g1Q! [Since 6...b5 7.Nxg2 Kd2 8.Nf4 b4 9.Nd5 b3 10.Nb6!= draws] 7.Ne2+ Kd2 8.Nxg1 Ke3!

One pawn has been successfully grounded yet chasing the remaining one still requires high precision. 9.Nh3 b5 10.Ng5 b4 11.Nf7! b3 12.Nd6! [Attention! 12.Ne5? Kd4! 13.Nf3+ Kc3 and it's all over] 12...Kd3 13.Nb5 b2 14.Na3=

The White knight has amazingly completed a pawn hunt over the entire board.Both black pawns have nearly committed a full journey from their initial to their promotion square. The problemists call such pawn journey "Excelsior" then it is a double Excelsior alright. 1/2