Oldhands win by a big margin in Marianske Lazne
The grandmasters Hübner, Hort, Gulko and Vaganian proved to be too strong for the female team in the Snowdrops vs. Oldhands Czech Coal Chess Match 2011. The match became a one-sided affair in its second half. After the grandmasters won 3.5-1.5 in the sixth round, it became just a matter of score. The final result: Oldhands vs. Snowdrops 21-11.
Photos & report by Martin Chrz
After two years the legendary grandmasters won the match again, and equalized the historic score of the matches to two wins for each team. The best individual participant this year was GM Robert Hübner from Germany, once nr. 3 in the world who won four games and drew the other four. IM Maria Muzychuk from Ukraine was in good form and with an undefeated 5 points out of 8 games she was the best female player. Another undefeated player was GM Vlastimil Hort from Germany, although some games were difficult for him (see below).
Hort, once the strongest Czechoslovak chess player and among the best ten players in the world, scored 5 out of 8, as did GM Rafael Vaganian (Armenia) and GM Boris Gulko (USA). In the women's team, IM Natalia Pogonina from Russia scored 3 points, IM Tania Sachdev from India 2.5. WGM Eva Kulovaná from the Czech Republic achieved just one draw.
IM Michal Konopka, the Snowdrops' team captain, offered an explanation: “Eva is a positional player and in this kind of game, the experienced grandmasters simply outplay her.” Especially Hort and Hübner are known for their strong positional play. Konopka continued: “WIM Tereza Olšarová from the Czech Republic participated last year. Although, objectively speaking, she is not stronger than Eva, her sharp attacking style was a far more effective weapon against the grandmasters.”
Another reason for the female team’s big defeat was probably that the very experienced male players chose various openings throughout the match, thus eliminating the Snowdrops’ preparation many times. Konopka, who also commented on the games, could only state in the 7th round: “The last time, when Robert Hübner played the Scandinavian, was in 1982!” For sure, this shows the grandmasters’ confidence in their strength, if they dared to play openings which don’t belong in their usual repertoire.
Missed chances for the Snowdrops
As we mentioned above, Vlastimil Hort sometimes had to defend his positions very tenaciously. He played the Caro-Kann against Eva Kulovaná in the fifth round and came under an attack on the queenside.
But Kulovaná made a mistake with 23. dxc6? (better options were 23. Qc5 or 23. Nd4) and her attack came to an end, she lost material and later the game.
Hort played rather defensive and positional openings as White. In his game against Natalia Pogonina in the last round, he chose 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. g3 etc, and Pogonina got the initiative in the middlegame. But at the decisive moment she did not choose the best moves. E.g. after 31. Nf3
Black played 31. ... Nxf3. Better chances gave 31. ... Rxe4! - Black does not have to be afraid of 32. Nxd4 because of 32. ... Rexd4 33. Bd5+ Kh8 34. Bxc4 Rxd2+. Pogonina was a pawn up, but was unable to win a rook + pawn against rook endgame.
In the 7th round, also against Hort, Tania Sachdev got a promising position.
She won a pawn with 25. Qxh5! but after Black’s 25. ... f5 and 26. Qd1 f4 27. Ng4 Nhf6 etc. both players got into a time trouble and there were chances for both sides. Eventually, Sachdev had to save the game by a perpetual check.
In the second half of the match, the female team did not win a single game and lost in all rounds. They were able to draw only two rounds in the first half. The Oldhands won some rounds convincingly (the 3rd round 3-1, the 6th round 3.5-0.5 and the 8th round 3-1), and the overall score of the match was 21:11. We’ll see if there will be a better team on the women’s side next year!
Tal and Other Essays
GM Genna Sosonko, once a Soviet citizen who emigrated to and lives in The Netherlands, came to Marienbad to present his new book published in Czech. It is called Tal and Other Essays, and it is Sosonko's third book in the Czech language. The author also gave a simultaneous display on Saturday, December 3rd. He played against 14 opponents and scores 11.5-3.5. Sosonko and his wife stayed throughout the whole tournament in Marianské Lázně (Marienbad).
Other chess players who came to the tournament were GM David Navara, GM Sergei Movsesian and a strong Czechoslovak player from the 70s and 80s GM Jan Smejkal. All of them commented on the games in one round.
Besides, there was a presentation of Raindrop chess on Sunday, December 4. In this variant of chess, players start with an empty board and draw cards to decide what piece comes to the chess board. It brings an element of luck to chess. But one has to have a good strategy, too, as Pavel Englický showed when he won his simultaneous play. Raindrop chess is something that kids might like as it is quicker than normal chess and is more fun for some.
On the whole, the Snowdrops vs. Oldhands Czech Coal Chess Match 2011 was another successful event organized by Pavel Matocha and the Prague Chess Society, after the extraordinary Chess Train that went through five middle European countries in October 2011.
Games rounds 5-8
The Oldhands team – Rafael Vaganian, Boris Gulko, Robert Hübner, Vlastimil Hort
The Snowdrops team – Maria Muzychuk, Eva Kulovana, Tania Sachdev, Natalia Pogonina
Referee Pavel Votruba starts the 6th round – the game Hort vs Muzychuk
GM Robert Hübner achieved the best result in the tournament (6/8)
Maria Muzychuk vs Boris Gulko
IM Natalia Pogonina
Boris Gulko vs Maria Muzychuk; Natalia Pogonina and referee Pavel Votruba in the background
IM Tania Sachdev
GM Boris Gulko
IM Maria Muzychuk achieved the best result for the women’s team (5/8)
GM Vlastimil Hort
Natalia Pogonina, a photo from a birthday party on the screen
GM Rafael Vaganian
Analysis of the game Sachdev – Gulko.
Analysis Muzychuk – Vaganian
Tania Sachdev came to the commentator’s room after her dramatic game with Hort to check other possibilities. The game ended in a perpetual check.
The commentator’s room
Rafael Vaganian in the commentator’s room. GM Jan Smejkal, an excellent Czech player of the 70s and 80s and IM Michal Konopka commenting
GM Jan Smejkal, GM Genna Sosonko, Pavel Matocha
IM Jana Jacková who beat Anatoly Karpov in a miniature game at this tournament two years ago. Will she ever play chess again?
Pavel Englický presented Raindrop chess
Pavel Matocha congratulating the winners – the Oldhands team
Banquet at the closing ceremony
Boris Gulko wearing a yarmulke
GM Genna Sosonko was the tournament’s guest the whole time
The winners‘ prize – "Chess-piece-eating snowdrop" from a glassworks from Nový Bor, Czech Republic
Eva Kulovaná and Pavel Matocha
See you next year!
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