The idea of the Balkan Grand Prix was in the air for quite a long time. The primary negotiations took place during the EICC in Plovdiv in 2008. However, the contract was signed on February this year, while the Topalov versus Kamsky match was in progress. Five countries will take part in the project- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania and Bulgaria. The event is without any doubt profitable for the involved countries. Not only for creating connections between the Balkan countries, but also for strong players – with different styles, and coming from different chess schools - from these neighbouring countries to meet.
Chief Arbiter Jasna Sakotic, with a fellow delegate, at the EICC in Plovdiv.
In each country, one tournament has Grand Prix status - Sarajevo in Bosnia, which took place in May, was the first one from the circuit; Cetinje, Montenegro, that just finished, was the second. To follow are the tournaments in Iasi, Romania, which is in progress at the moment, Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, at the beginning of September and Obrenovac, Serbia in October. The top fifteen qualified participants in every tournament receive points for the circuit. The points awarded are determined by the tournament coefficient for the separate events, which depends on the prize fund of the tournament. For example, if the prize fund is 10,000 Euros, the coefficient is 1 and the points won by the player are multiplied by it, if it is, let us say, 9,500 Euros (as in Cetinje), then the Grand Prix points are multiplied by 0.95.
Set in a beautifully rugged mountainscape, Cetinje played host to the second leg of the Baltic Grand Prix.
The five best players from the Grand Prix qualify for the final round robin event, and will be joined by five personally invited participants from each country. This event has minimal requirements: a prize fund of 10,000 Euros (1,000 Euros from each federation, and the other 5,000 Euros provided by the host federation), and a requirement that the tournament should be conducted at the end of the year, or at the beginning of 2010.
An expressive player, IM Djordjie Kontic, 2364, is vying for qualification to the final round
robin. In his hand? Not Chess Informant 40, but simply the bulletin for the previous round.
I have never been in Montenegro and went there quite curious. I knew that it is a small, mountainous country, with not many inhabitants (I discovered that their number is approximately 650,000). Of course, my high expectations were pleasantly confirmed. Not only was the area wonderful, but the organization was perfect too. The first people that I met were the arbiters, Jasna Sakotic and Veselin Balshic, whom I already knew from the EICC in Plovdiv.
Two arbiters intensely focusing on their assigned task.
Going forward a bit, the organizers and arbiters did a great job, and there was not a single problem throughout the whole event. The accommodation was in the best hotel in town – Hotel Grand - and we enjoyed single rooms, with excellent food. The venue was also spacey and well illuminated, with a special place for the audience at a respectable distance from the players. All of the seats in the audience were usually occupied at the end of the fourth hour, when the most dramatic events were in progress. The bar waiters appear after the first fifteen minutes, giving the players the opportunity to order refreshments during the game. What I really liked in Montenegro, however, was the dress code. According to the Montenegrin rules, you cannot appear for a game in slippers, vests and shorts - respect for us all.
One of many snappy dressers in this tournament, GM Miso Cebalo, 2476
Of course, dressing nice sometimes has its perks, like the red carpet treatment. Just
try to avoid bumping into the guys with the swords prior to entering the building.
Cetinje is the old capital of Montenegro and was founded in the 15th century. It is surrounded by the Black Mountain, from which the country takes its name. Currently, the population of the town is less than 20,000 people, and it is an important historical center for the locals. In the past, the town was under constant siege by the Turks and the Venetians, with the architecture being highly influenced by the latter.
Perhaps we have the Venetians to thank for this wonderful view.
Our hotel was situated in a green park, and some meters away from it the main central street began. At its start, you can see a blacksmith dancing to the sound of rock and roll music, while preparing his horseshoes and other souvenirs. He is the local attraction. On the left of his souvenir shop, the old monasteries start, with the Court Church, many museums, and the Cetinje Monastery. In the latter, you can see the arm of Saint John the Baptist, with his two fingers missing. Brother Yaakov explained to us that there are altogether more than 70 monasteries in Montenegro. The predominant religion is Orthodox Christianity.
This blacksmith is a local attraction, dancing to rock and roll music, while hammering
away on his anvil. Should visitors be issued danger pay?
As a testament to the Orthodox influence in the region, the Cetinje Monastery stands prominently.
Another symbol of the area's religious roots, the Court Church is also a popular attraction.
To the right of the blacksmith, the main road starts. It is relatively empty during the day, and overcrowded in the evening, when the decibels from the bars reach their max, while people enjoy cold drinks on the street, or simply walk on it. I was quite lucky that my compatriot, Momchil Nikolov, did not let me get too lazy in the hotel. We had some nice walks in the mountains, from where we enjoyed beautiful views.
The main street, which stands largely empty during the day.
Conquerer of men and mountains, GM Dejean Bojkov.
These walks were profitable for us both. I started badly, but with an enormous bit of luck, I won my second game, after being a piece down. Later, I did better, and managed to score 7.0/9. The same result was achieved by the local, GM Nikola Djukic. The Bucholz tiebreak was applied, producing a slim half-point difference in my favour. In sole third, achieving a second GM norm was Momchil Nikolov with 6.5 points. He probably played the best chess, without blunders, and was never in danger of losing.
GM Bojkov receives the spoils of victory, thanks to a marginally superior tiebreak.
Third place with a GM norm, IM Momchil Nikolov's cardiovascular training paid off,
and his 2517 rating didn't hurt either.
The best female was WGM Jozefina Paulet from Romania, while the best senior player was GM Dusan Rajkovic from Serbia.
Top female competitor, WGM Jozefina Paulet, 2327, of Romania
Another tough female competitor from Romania, WIM Ioana-Smaranda Padurariu, 2238
Top senior, GM Dusan Rajkovic, 2477, of Serbia
In conclusion, I would like to add that it was a pure pleasure for me to face
such legendary players like Miso Cebalo and Bozidar Ivanovic, who are extreme
fighters, and by whose games I used to study chess in my youth.
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