The last year has been smiling to Israeli chess in the international arena. The historic silver medal at the Dresden Olympiad, Boris Gelfand’s achievements in the Grand Prix circuit, hosting a super-tournament at the Maccabia Games and a string of individual victories in big opens, highlighted by Boris Avrukh sharing first in the Politiken Cup and Zurich-200 tournaments, might hopefully help to change the heart of the sportive and cultural establishment in Israel and mark a new trend following difficult years of relative stagnation and economical crisis. After all, how many sport and culture domains are able to boast a steady third-fourth place in the world’s rankings (based on the average rating of a country’s best ten players, currently just behind Russia and Ukraine!) for such a long period?
Last week we received again a heart warming approval of the deep and persistent hard work continuously done on the national and club level (periphery and chess centers alike) with the youth when two of the most gifted country’s youngsters treated us to special new Jewish year presents by winning two gold medals in the European Youth Championships in Fermo, Italy: IM elect Gil Popilski and WFM Marsel Efroimski have become the fresh U-16 boys and U-14 girls champions of the continent.
IM elect Gil Popilski, 2415, European U-16 Champion 2009
What both young champions also share is that they study in the same Tel-Aviv high school which combines general studies and attending a chess academy. The success story of Shevah-Mofet school and its chess academy run by GM Boris Alterman and his wife Luba was already told here in special photographed reports (see links below).
WFM Marsel Efroimski, U-14 Girls European Champion 2009
Both champions also regularly enjoy training sessions by worldwide renowned trainers and international competitive opportunities within the chess federation’s Yoel Geva project for gifted young chess players. Gil’s personal trainer is GM Alterman who is also his teammate in the club of his hometown of Rishon Letzion, recently led by Boris Gelfand to win the bronze medal in the recent Israeli Team Championship. In the club’s chess school some 500 kids get chess lessons, and a big project is now run to instill regular chess lessons as part of school program in elementary schools and kindergardens all over the city.
Marsel at the World Junior Championship in Gaziantep, Turkey, in 2008...
... and winning the U-14 European Youth Championships in Fermo, Italy, this year
Marsel is individually trained by GM Alex Khuzman, known to be the personal coach of Boris Gelfand. For years she had been trained by national master Igor Nor (known also as the co-author of the awarded book on San Luis 2005 World Championship) with whom she won the world championship for girls U-12 some two years ago in Turkey. She has been playing for her hometown club in the city of Kfar-Saba since she was seven, helping its teams to win several national youth titles. Having no serious competition among the local girls she took part last year in the national women championship and assisted the Olympic team to share the ninth place in Dresden Olympic Games.
Popilski,G (2392) - Javakhadze,Z (2309) [B75]
XIX EYCC Boys U16 Fermo ITA (7), 07.09.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 a6 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 b5 10.Nc6. White takes a game out of the main line 10.0-0-0 10...Qc7 11.Nxe7!? Bb7. After 11...Kxe7 12.g5 White wins the piece back, and Black's king will be stuck in the center for a while. 12.Ned5 Nxd5 13.exd5. A bit risky. White gets a slightly better game after 13.Nxd5 Bxd5 14.Qxd5 +/=. 13...b4 14.Ne4 0-0 15.0-0-0 Rfc8 16.Qf2 Qa5 17.Bd4 Qxa2? In this sharp position Black had to keep tension: 17...Ne5! with an unclear game. 18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.Qd4+ Kg8. Despite the fact that White's king seems to be in danger, the strong centralized pieces paralyze Black's attack. 20.Nxd6 Rc7
21.Bc4! b3 22.Kd2! Now its becoming clear White soon will start the decisive counterattack. 22...Qa4 23.c3 Nc5
24.Nxf7! The winning shot 24...Rxf7 25.d6. A passed pawn should be pushed! 25...Qc6 26.Bxf7+ Kxf7 27.Rhe1. White's advantage now decisive 27...Qd5 28.Qxd5+ Bxd5 29.Re5 Bxf3 30.Rf1 1-0.
Previous ChessBase reports on the Shevah-Mofet Academy
||President Peres at the Shevah-Mofet Chess Academy
03.06.2009 – It is not often that the head of state drops in at a chess school or club. Last week Shimon Peres, the ninth and current President of the State of Israel, who visited the Chess Academy, where he was briefed on the aims and goals of the programme by GM Boris Alterman, former student and advisor of Garry Kasparov. Pictorial report from Tel Aviv.
||Chess in Schools – the Shevah-Mofet Academy in Tel-Aviv
08.01.2009 – In many countries the education system is in crisis, with academic scores dropping. Some schools are discovering that chess lessons dramatically change the attitude of students, and develop intuition and experience in modulating most practical solutions for similar tasks in their real lives. An elite school in Israel has set up a Chess Academy run by a grandmaster. Boris Alterman reports.