Hungarian Championship 2010: Berkes breaks opposition

9/17/2010 – The 2010 Hungarian Championship, missed out on by elite players Peter Leko and Zoltan Almasi, was won by elo-favorite Ferenc Berkes (2678), who won both stages after overcoming a disappointing lackluster start. The event took place in Szeged, Hungary, considered its most beautiful city, once home to legend Geza Maroczy, and now to Peter Leko. Diana Mihajlova brings us her intimate report.

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The 2010 Hungarian Championship

by Diana Mihajlova 

The Hungarian Individual Championship that took place at the beginning of July in Szeged, Hungary, was composed of two groups of 12 players:

(Group A) – GM Ferenc Berkes (2670), GM David Berczes (2551), GM Jozsef Pinter (2519), IM Gabor Kovacs (2500), GM Robert Ruck (2560), and IM Tamas Banusz (2529);

(Group B) – IM Gabor Papp (2545), GM Zoltan Medvegy (2522), GM Zoltan Gyimesi (2598), GM Viktor Erdos (2592), GM Richard Rapport (2534) and FM Tamas Fodor (2452).  

After the preliminary round robin tournaments, the two winners from each group qualified for the finals: Ferenc Berkes and Zoltan Gyimesi would compete to decide the 1st and 2nd place and David Berczes and Zoltan Medvegy would fight for the 3rd and 4th place.

I attended the final two days and witnessed an anguished fight that evolved in the four-star Forras Hotel, with Berczes’s clock coming precariously close to running out of time, and eventually costing him the game.


Zoltan Medvegy facing David Berczes

First-place winner, Ferenc Berkes pointed to the worrisome signs: "David Berczes is a very good player but with his time-trouble problems he cannot go too far. He plays beautiful games, has good ideas, but with one minute on your clock it is impossible to go on for a long time.

And he pointed out other very good players who were also unable to reach their potential because of this same impediment, such as Reshevsky in the past and Grischuk today. 


The four finalists at the analysis session of Gymesi v Berkes game. The young lad
lurking between them is a Szegedi chess resident, 15-year-old Csaba Tesik (2258),
who has been eagerly following the games and attentively following comments of his
older and more experienced counterparts.

In the corridor, I met a delightful chess family, also residents in Szeged: Rita Revesz, Joszef Herpai and their children WIM Petra Papp, Mateya and Joszef. 


WIM Petra Papp and her family. Mateya is receiving his first instructions in chess
by his older sister.

WIM Petra Papp (2246) is hailed as one of the fastest up-and-coming female Hungarian chess players. She had just returned from Greece where she brought 5.5/7 to her team Ioanina in the Greek team championship and held GMs Stefanova and Barsov to a draw. Her stepfather, Jozsef Herpai (2226), teaches mathematics and chess in the primary schools in Szeged, and actively promotes chess among the youngsters by organizing youth tournaments. “Kids love chess. They have lessons twice a week and they would never skip a class.

I was fascinated to discover how many chess players, past and present, lived in Szeged. It was the hometown of the legendary Geza Maroczy (1870 – 1951), and is also home today of GM Peter Leko. Peter had just left the city to attend the super tournament in Dortmund.


The Klauzal ter, one of many ‘piazza’ style squares with outdoor cafés and restaurants.

Szeged is the third largest city in Hungary, and with its Mediterranean feel is considered the most beautiful. Situated in the southernmost open plain, close to the Serbian border, Szeged is also called the ‘City of Sunshine’ due to annually high number of hours of sunshine. 


The Szeged City Hall

During the intensive two days in the company of Hungary’s chess elite, I managed to have a short tour of the city and was treated to a delicious Szegedi speciality: a fish soup.


Diana Mihajlova and the traditional Szegedi fish soup

For the first time I was met with a new restaurant accessory: a baby bib to guard off the big, varied fish chunks in a rich paprika sauce. Szeged is known as the home of ‘paprika’, a typical Hungarian spice made from red peppers. I was reassured that the fish is freshly caught in the river Tisza that runs through Szeged.


Dinner time. (from left clockwise) Dora Huszar (Gabor’s girlfriend), IM Gabor Papp
(Berkes’ second), Zoltan Gyimesi, Zoltan Medvegy, David Berczes and Ferenc Berkes.

At dinner, the competitors forgot for a moment the chess troubles. Talking leisurely we spoke about Hungary’s youngest grandmaster, 14-year-old Richard Rapport, who was included in the Championship but was eliminated earlier with only 2 points. What is noteworthy about Richie is that his results show either a win or a loss – and no draws.


GM Richard Rapport, the youngest GM, does not like draws

Berkes, who was closest to me at the dinner table, volunteered his verdict: “He is still very young and his opponents are waiting to capitalize on his weaknesses. But he is very talented. I would not be surprised if in two years  he were to join the Olympic team, but for now, he still has weaknesses: he needs to strengthen his strategic play, and also needs to learn to accept a draw. Many of his young predecessors who were also initially reluctant, eventually understood that a draw is sometimes a wiser option. Still, he is a chess fanatic, the good kind of fanatic, and is bound to go far.”


The 2010 Hungarian champion, Ferenc Berkes (2678)

Berkes’s high rating of 2670 Elo had already secured him a place among the four best Hungarians for the forthcoming Olympiad, but he has further strengthened his credentials by winning the 2010 Hungarian Individual Championship. In a brief, frank interview, Berkes expressed his feelings about winning the tournament.

Sometimes it is important to show, particularly to your country’s players, that you have not just a good rating but that you can justify it in a tough tournament. I tried to do my best. After the third round, I did not believe this could happen. I started the tournament very badly. I was fighting very hard but I could not win. My first three games ended in a draw. I had very bad positions and if I did not lose, it was only because of my high rating. I am number four in my country and my opponents were afraid of me. So… I was feeling very low. After watching a football game with Peter Leko, he told me that he had been in the same position in Dortmund, at the World Championship qualification matches. He had started very badly, with only draws and no real chances to win, but he had applied a philosophy, which is difficult to explain… when you stop thinking that you must win, and seek to just see things objectively, everything starts working for the better. He advised that if I could avoid beating myself up after these three unlucky games, and just remain objective, it would be positive for me. I followed his advice and in the following six rounds scored 5.5 points.”
 
His second, IM Gabor Papp contributed to Berkes’ victory, and not only because of his indefatigable nightly analysis.  


Ferenc Berkes (right) with his second IM Gabor Papp and Gabor's girlfriend, Dora Huszar

A second is a great help, but he has to be more than just a helper who shows you variations and ideas; he needs to also be a good friend who can help you to ‘come back’ after a difficult game. After my  game yesterday with Zoltan, where he stole a draw from a perfectly winning position, I was in a state of shock for a long time afterwards. I was extremely tired and nervous; I could not bring myself to analyze the game. My second, Gabor, and his girlfriend found a way to relax me with some gentle company, and good stories… and that is very important to me.


The Hungarian national TV was waiting to interview the champion.

After a short but very pleasant stay in the company of beautiful people in love with the beautiful game, on my way back to Budapest sharing a car with the two Zoltans (Medvegy and Gyimesi), among other curiosities about chess in Hungary, I also learned about the largest chess family in Hungary.  


The two Zoltans are not only good friends; they are also related. 

Zoltan Gyimesi is married to IM Dr Nora Medvegy (2336) who is a sister of Zoltan Medvegy who is married to WFM Emese Medvegyne Balog (2085); the younger Medvegy sister, Judit (2037) is engaged to yet another IM, Janos Konnyu (2382). And with the latest addition, Nora and Zoltan’s eldest son Peter, who at 9 years old is 1494 Elo, they boast the highest number of players and rating points (15454 Elo total) found in a single family. 


FM Zsolt Korpics (left) and GM Gabor Kallai

Back to Budapest - in the offices of the Hungarian Chess Federation in the leafy Falk Miksa street by the Hungarian Parliament, I met its general secretary Mr Zsolt Korpics and the PR representative Mr Gabor Kallai. “Chess in the schools’ and youth tournaments are the Federation’s special concern.  Recently, they have also established an Internet chess school that has already 6,000 students, including children who cannot read yet.
 
Next year the Hungarian Chess Federation will be 90 years old. 
 
This year’s greatest expectation is the forthcoming Chess Olympiad for which the Federation has provided their representation with extensive residential training sessions at some of the best resorts in Hungary. Olympic gold is no stranger to Hungarian chess. Hungary won the first two Chess Olympiads, in London, 1927 and in The Hague, 1928, led by Geza Maroczy, and again in Buenos Aires, 1978 led by Portisch. They have also won silver six times.


The back cover of the book ‘Silver Shines Again’, written by the
captain GM Gabor Kallai, chronicling the Hungarian team’s latest
success - winning silver in Bled, 2002 with Peter Leko, Judit Polgar,
Zoltan Almasi, Zoltan Gyimesi, Robert Ruck and Peter Acs.

The women’s team led by the three Polgar sisters won the gold in 1988 and 1990. 

Perhaps this time the gold is not out of reach again to Peter Leko, Zoltan Almasi, Judit Polgar, Ferenc Berkes and the reserve Chaba Balog. The Polgar sisters being long gone, the current women’ s team will be composed of Hoang Than Trang, Mádl Ildikó, Vajda Szidónia, Rudolf Anna and Gara Tícia. Sok szerencsét! (Good luck!)


About the author

Diana Mihajlova is a chess player and artist who has been exhibiting internationally (under the name Yana Mitra) since 1988. She was born in Macedonia (former Yugoslavia). A linguist by profession she started her working career as a university lecturer, which took her to extensive studying and working sojourns in various countries around the world. In 1989 after finishing a three-year lecturing contract in Perth, Australia, she decided to abandon her academic career and to dedicate herself to a full-time painting while still free-lancing in the languages field. She first started exhibiting while still in Australia where after winning some important national art prizes her work received a quick recognition and was included in important exhibitions and collections. After her return to Europe she continued her painting career by exhibiting in galleries in Paris, where she lived the following two years. Since 1993 she settled in London where she currently lives and works. You can see her paintings at the Yana Mitra web site.

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