Plovdiv: Movsesian and Sutovsky lead

4/27/2008 – Two players, Sergei Movsesian of Slovakia and Emil Sutovsky of Israel, are in the lead, each having conceded just one draw in the first six rounds of the European Individual Championships 2008. In the women's section three IMs share the top slot. The event is taking place in Plovdiv, a town that is older than Rome, Carthage or Constantinople. Big photo report by Diana Mihajlova.

The IX European Individual Chess Championship is taking place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, from April 21st to May 3rd 2008, with one free day, on Monday, April 28. The tournament halls are in the Novotel Plovdiv. The championship is an 11 round Swiss, playing time is 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move, starting from move one. The total prize fund in the men's section is 92,200 EUR (first 15,000, 2nd 10,000, third 8,000, fourth 6,500, fifth 5,500 etc.) and in the women's section 34,500 EUR (first 6,000, second 5,000, third 4,000, fourth 3,000, fifth 2,000, etc.). According to Bulgarian law all prizes are taxable (10%).

Round six report

After six rounds of the European Individual Championship Sergei Movsesian has caught up with Emil Sutovsky, both having conceded just one draw so far. They will be playing each other on Sunday in round seven. Half a point behind the leading pair there are three players, and then 21 with 4.5/5.

Top standings after six rounds (total 337 players)

1 GM Movsesian Sergei 2695 SVK 5.5
2 GM Sutovsky Emil 2630 ISR 5.5
3 GM Mamedov Rauf 2617 AZE 5.0
4 GM Tregubov Pavel V 2629 RUS 5.0
5 GM Pantsulaia Levan 2617 GEO 5.0
6 GM Volkov Sergey 2633 RUS 4.5
7 GM Stevic Hrvoje 2571 CRO 4.5
8 GM Werle Jan 2581 NED 4.5
9 GM Macieja Bartlomiej 2599 POL 4.5
10 GM Berg Emanuel 2601 SWE 4.5
11 GM Iotov Valentin 2531 BUL 4.5
12 GM Efimenko Zahar 2660 UKR 4.5
13 GM Kurnosov Igor 2593 RUS 4.5
14 GM Kovacevic Aleksandar 2616 SRB 4.5
15 GM Tiviakov Sergei 2634 NED 4.5
15 GM Laznicka Viktor 2578 CZE 4.5
17 GM Kokarev Dmitry 2579 RUS 4.5
18 GM Motylev Alexander 2666 RUS 4.5
19 GM Khalifman Alexander 2628 RUS 4.5
20 GM Grachev Boris 2610 RUS 4.5
21 GM Pavasovic Dusko 2595 SLO 4.5
22 GM Papaioannou Ioannis 2566 GRE 4.5
23 GM Popov Ivan 2594 RUS 4.5
24 GM Caruana Fabiano 2620 ITA 4.5
25 GM Vachier-Lagrave Maxime 2632 FRA 4.5
26 GM Lupulescu Constantin 2558 ROU 4.5

In the women's section Lithuanian IM Viktorija Cmilyte leads together with IMs Anna Ushenina, Ukraine, and Ekaterina Kovalevskaya of Russia. Behind them

Top standings after six rounds (total 159 players)

1 IM Cmilyte Viktorija 2466 LTU 5.0
2 IM Ushenina Anna 2474 UKR 5.0
3 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina 2421 RUS 5.0
4 IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2413 ARM 4.5
5 GM Stefanova Antoaneta 2538 BUL 4.5
6 IM Peptan Corina-Isabela 2415 ROU 4.5
7 IM Muzychuk Anna 2486 SLO 4.5
8 GM Lahno Kateryna 2479 UKR 4.5
9 IM Danielian Elina 2479 ARM 4.5
10 WGM Zhukova Natalia 2450 UKR 4.5
11 GM Cramling Pia 2539 SWE 4.5
12 WIM Batsiashvili Nino 2304 GEO 4.5
13 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2449 GER 4.5
14 WGM Pogonina Natalija 2470 RUS 4.5
15 IM Javakhishvili Lela 2466 GEO 4.5
16 WGM Golubenko Valentina 2253 CRO 4.5

Impressions from Plovdiv

By Diana Mihajlova


Veronika Minina (RUS) and WGM Anna Sharevich (BLR)


WGM Valentina Golubenko (CRO)


WIM Lilit Galojan (ARM)


GM Bartosz Socko and IM Monica Socko


Szymon Socko has just finished his meal. As long as he gets his chicken nuggets he doesn’t mind accompanying his parents Polish GMs Monica and Bartosz Socko on chess tournaments around the globe.


GM Petar Velikov with his protégé Alexander Monev

Twelve-year-old Alexander Monev is the youngest participant. And he is the future Bulgarian star. Four times in a row he has won the first place in the Bulgarian Individual Championship for boys and girls under 10 and 12 years. Last year in the World Youth Chess Championship in Antalya he got the fourth place for boys under 12. He hopes to achieve a better result this year in Vietnam. Alexander lives in Sofia and goes to a special mathematics and physics school. His father points out: "Chess and mathematics – that’s all he wants to do, all the time." Alexander trains four hours, twice weekly, with GM Petar Velikov. Although he would like to play chess even more, he likes mathematics as much and would not abandon his school where he obtains only top marks.


Leila Dimitrova, Chief of the Press Centre

GM Ventzislav Inkiov (BUL), Chief of the Internet & Online performance team. Ventzislav represented the Bulgarian team six times at the Chess Olympiad. Now he has replaced his enviable chess career with Internet chess programs and his chess web site. At the current tournament he is responsible for the Bulletin and the on-line games. He says:

"There are always problems at this type of big tournaments. But luckily, and unbelievably, no major hiccups so far. Plovdiv has become a chess centre in Bulgaria. The Plovdiv Chess School has produced many GMs including the veterans Bobotsov, Tringov, Padevski and the currently active GM Kiril Georgiev. In cooperation with the hotel Novotel, which provides excellent conditions, it has been hosting GM tournaments for more than thirty years, since about 1975, including two Team Championships, in 1983 and 2003. I hope everything will finish as it has started - on a high professional level."


The bulletin and on-line performance team at work

Srdja Dragashevic, President of the Chess Federation of Montenegro and the Montenegrin chess legend GM Bozidar Ivanovic.


Beer and chess: IM Jovanka Houska (ENG) GM Peter Wells (ENG) and GM Gawain Jones (ENG)


Just beer, no chessboard: GM Attila Czebe, WGM Anita Gara and GM Zoltan Almasi

Plovdiv historical and contemporary

While the tournament is unfolding, let’s take a tour of Plovdiv, the city host to the 9th European Individual Chess Championships. Situated along the banks of the river Maritza, in the Southern/Central part of Bulgaria, Plovdiv is the second largest city in the country. It is nicknamed ‘the city of the seven hills’ because it is constructed on seven picturesque hills, some which are 250 m. high.


Panorama of the city as seen from one of the hills

Built in the 12th century BC, Plovdiv is considered to be one of the first cities in Europe, contemporary of Troy and Mycenae, and older than Rome, Carthage or Constantinople. During the reign Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, (4th century BC) it was called Philippopolis or the "City of Philip".


Round turret from the acropolis fortress wall of Philippopolis (4-6 BC)

The ancient Amphitheatre, built by the Romans. It is the best preserved antiquity, uncovered relatively late, only in the sixties. The incredible acoustics are apparently of such quality that needs no additional sound system. It is an excellent venue for concerts and theatre plays.

While wandering around the Old Town on the first day I was lucky to meet Agop Srentz, a very knowledgeable history and culture enthusiast. Physicist by profession and lecturer at the Physics department at the Plovdiv University, he became my local guide for the morning. Here he is on the hill in front of the original foundations of the first house, built 600 years BC. Agop is a living example of the cultural and ethnic mixture that is Plovdiv. Armenian by birth, his predecessors arrived in Plovdiv around 1915 escaping the Turkish oppression. Today in Plovdiv living side by side we find Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religions that arrived over centuries from various countries in the turbulent Eastern Europe and the close Orient. The majority of the 350,000 inhabitants are orthodox Slavs and speak Bulgarian – a Slav language that uses a Cyrillic alphabet.

During its 8000-year-old history many cultures have left a trace behind and the mixture of Roman, Trace, Ottoman and traditional Bulgarian architectures are still visible today. The 500 years of Ottoman rule has made however the greatest impact.

My first impressions are captured from my balcony on the morning after my arrival at the Plovdiv Guesthouse in the Old Town. A thick walled fence built with bricks and covered with roof tiles encloses a stone paved courtyard. Such a fence ("avlija" in Turkish) was a typical and obligatory part of the architecture during the Ottoman Empire.

A small balcony is a usual feature as well as the tiny wood framed windows covered from inside by neatly positioned white curtains.

The outside façade and ornamental frieze of the oldest church in Plovdiv, St Constantine & Elena, dedicated to King Constantine and his mother Elena who first spread the Christianity during the Byzantine times.

The bells of the same church still resound powerfully every day, at 8 a.m. on the dot. As it is situated next to my hotel I have no option but to start my day early, which is proving quite useful.


The local priest gracing the very old, narrow, cobblestone-paved streets

Precious space is gained by protruding wall and window extensions that hang over the narrow street.

Streets are sometimes so narrow one can look inside the opposite side neighbours’ homes. Windows are positioned in a lateral zigzag, which makes easier for the sunlight to reach them.

In 1833 the French poet Alfonse Lamartine stayed in this house. He made the stopover in Plovdiv on his journey to the Orient, and he wrote one of the first travel books Voyage en Orient. The owner of the house was a rich Greek merchant and the town was under a Turkish government. The Bulgarians from Plovdiv heard of the poet’s presence in their town and his intentions to present some facts to the West and got worried that he might get things wrong. Dressed in their national costumes they staged a demonstration in front of the house. They wanted to make a simple statement: this is a Bulgarian town where Bulgarians – Christian people – live. The message did not escape the poet’s observant mind, and he reported the situation correctly in what was to be the first journalistic report to the west.

The inhabitants of Plovdiv managed to obtain the first glimpse of democracy in 1868, when the sultan Abdul Aziz gave in and allowed children in this school to learn in both Turkish and Bulgarian languages. The decree was written in both languages and engraved on adjacent wall plaques. Today it is the Academy of Music.

Houses are often decorated with ornamental frescoes. Many of them are today beautifully and freshly restored.

If not decorative ornamentations than the facades are painted in simple geometric forms; never in plain monochromes.

The colours are usually bright red or pink magenta, orange or golden yellow.

Late in the night the Old Town gets transformed into a mysteriously peaceful village. Streets are almost completely deserted and there are hardly any street lights. Occasional a pale brightness coming from homes or restaurant windows. Treading carefully on the cobblestone pavements one is transported back into olden times. Dogs start barking from behind heavy portals and wall-fences as soon as you come close by. Charmingly spooky.


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 has 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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