In the past ten years, Kalithea has become an important part of European chess life, and it is no wonder that the Greeks recently made use of the facilities of the wonderful sea resort, combined with the experienced organizing skills of the Tsorbatsoglu family.
The youth championships were perfectly organized. The access of trainers and parents was forbidden in the venue, while the many arbiters were responsible for the young players. The children themselves were also quite well organized – in case of a conflict or mistake, they raised their hands and waited patiently for the arbiter to come and solve the problem. The top boards of the tournaments were broadcast live on the official site. This year, I was a chief coach for the Kavala Chess Club, and I was left with good impressions of the play of the leading young players.
After seven days of tough fights, these were the champions:
Boys under 8- Evgenios Ioannidis 8.5/9.
Girls under 8- Loukia Pramateftaki 6/7.
Boys under 10- Nikolas Theodorou 8/9.
Girls under 10- Stavroula Tsolakidou 8/9. There was drama in the girls U10, when the long leading Aleksia Moshou lost in the final round, and the title went to her teammate Stavroula.
Boys under 12- Georgios Papadopoulos 8.5/9.
Girls under 12- Elisavet Papathanasiou 8.5/9. Here, Eleni Tsolaki (silver) and Nelli Serefidou (bronze) are also very talented, and you may hear about all three girls soon.
Boys under 14- Emmanouil Kazakos 8/9. Together with Pantaleimon Tsouganakis, Emmanouil seems to be a leader of his generation.
Girls under 14- Eleni Fragkou 5/7. There was a tie for the first three places, with the other two girls being Asimenia Vafiadou and Ageliki Papathanasiou.
Boys under 16- Charalambos Skoulakis 8/9. This age group was a personal triumph for me, since all my students occupied places in the top five. Third was Antonis Pavlidis, fourth was Theodoros Hrisomalis, and fifth was Ilias Kazantsidis. The silver medalist, N. Galopoulos, is also a future Greek hope.
Girls under 16- Ekaterini Pavlidou 8/9. The superiority of Ekaterini was obvious-both by her initial rating, and by her play.
The championship showed that there are many young talents in Greece, and it also showed the relatively good preparation of the young players.
Angeliki Kafetzi, 1644, competing in the Girls U12
Dimitra Vatkali, 1865, competing in the Girls U16
Ekaterini Pavlidou, 2179, who won the Girls U16 with 8/9
Elisavet Papathanasiou, 1638, who won the Girls U12
The champions of the Boys U8 celebrate
The Boys U14 winners are all smiles
The champions of the Boys U16, where facial hair starts to appear
The champions of the Girls U8, celebrating their victory
The Girls U12 winners being given a hand
The champions of the Girls U14, pleased with what they have accomplished
The champions of the Girls U16, ready to face the heat outside
The final four matches of the Greek Cup took place on 30 June and 1 July. The teams that qualified were SO Kavala, OFS Kavala (the second team of Kavala, for which I compete), Kidon Chania and Maro Keravnos (Thessaloniki). As was expected, the Elo favourite, SO Kavala, did not give any chances and won both matches with great ease by 3.5-0.5. Four GMs competed for the team – Kotronias, Papaioannou, Halkias and Skembris, with Kotronias winning both his games playing as black. The actual final for the cup, however, was the quarterfinal between the future champions, Kavala, and last year’s winners, ES Thessaloniki. For the Thessaloniki team, the following GMs competed: Miroshnichenko, D. Mastrovasilis, A. Mastrovasilis, and Zakharian. In this match, I. Papaioannou lost as White for the first time since 2004, on board one, against Miroshnichenko. Nevertheless, Kavala won the encounter by 2.5-1.5, thanks to the lucky win of Skembris (who was a clear exchange and a pawn down).
Here is the time to mention the playing system of the cup- up to the quarterfinals, the so-called Berlin system is used, in which the points on the front boards of the team are more valuable (four points for a win on board one, three for the second board, and two and one, respectively, for the remaining). However, in the case of a tie 2-2, and Berlin tie 5-5, the host team proceeds into the next stage.
In the finals, this system is no longer applied, and, in case of a tie, the teams continue to play blitz matches, until one of them proves to be better. This determined the match strategy of some teams. Thanks to this strategy, the team Maro Keravnos managed to make it to the final and to achieve one of their best successes so far.
GM Vasilios Kotronias, 2613, who won both of his games in winning the Cup
GMs Stelios Halkias, 2564, and Ioannis Papaioannou, 2624, representing OS Kavala
The 37th National Greek Team Championship started on 3 July. 31 teams competed for the medals, and the right to stay among the best. The first ten teams would receive, as a bonus, coverage of their expenses by the Greek Chess Federation, while the last 11 would be relegated from the Master League. Let me remind you that the Greek League is played on 12 boards (five men, one female, two girls under 16 and 18, and four boys - under 18, 16, 14, and 12). The battle for the title was supposed to be between last year’s winner, SO Kavala (with good players on all the boards, strong juniors, and, as a leader, the European Champion Evgeny Tomashevsky), PS Peristeriou (with the incredible Vassily Ivanchuk on board one, B. Macieja, and strong juniors on the back boards), and ES Thessaloniki, also a very reasonable team. However, GM Kotronias decided not to take part in the championship, and it looked like O.S. Kavala was seriously weakened. From the team, a risky decision was taken to include more, partly because they are strong enough, but also because of the university bonus that they might win. Yes, there is such a bonus in Greece for very talented juniors, but it is only for students older than 15 years, and it is only for one team – the winner! That is why the young players do their best when they compete for their club. The extra 10% that they might win almost inevitably secures them entry in a prestigious university.
Kavala left practically no chance for the other teams, after winning the first seven matches, though success did not come easy. The male boards, which usually kept the balance in the previous years, this time fought hard and typically led the team forward. Among them, the best was Antonis Pavlidis, a junior who played on the last male board, and who scored a remarkable 8/8 (and, with the captain’s draw in the last round, finished with 8.5/9 - the best result in the whole tournament), as well as Spiridon Skembris (7.5/9 on board four). Tomashevsky, Halkias and Papaioannou also added valuable pluses (I believe the male boards ended up unbeaten). So, with reasonable support from the female board (Anna-Maria Botsari 6.5/9), and the juniors – they won the title easily.
PS Peristeriou and ES Thessaloniki tied for second place, and the better tie-break gave silver to the players from Athens. Vassily Ivanchuk scored +3 on board one, without losing a game. I had the pleasure of facing the genius, but it did not last long, since he finished me off quite quickly. Nevertheless, Vassily Mihailovich was very kind and accepted my invitation to analyse – the man is a real treasure for the entire chess world. Among the other teams, a fresh impression was made by the team of Kidon Chania. For many years, this team had great financial support and was always fighting for the title, but this year its stability was shaken. Nevertheless, thanks to their good chess school, they continue to have strong teams, with only their final two losses throwing their team to fifth place this year. A chess comeback was also made by one of the most talented Greek females - Maria Kouvatsou.
The best result on board one was showed by Zurab Azmaiparashvili (Kalamata Poseidon) - 7/9.
The pairings for the last round pitted the first and second Kavala teams against each other. O. S. had already secured the title, and we could get a well deserved rest. Even the European Champion, Evgeny Tomashevsky, could afford a glass of red wine, while one of our juniors, Ilias Kazantsidis, entertained us by playing the guitar, with Aggelos Sourgkounis helping him. Meanwhile, Papaioannou kept his promise, and played a game with the German champion under 12, Dennis Wagner (the second foreigner in SO Kavala). Young Dennis was also tested by E. Tomashevsky. The Greeks are a very artistic people, and soon Ilias went to the waiters’ table, where he found more support from the staff. Finally, the guitar was taken by the most experienced musician, S. Skembris, a man who once play in a band.
A lot of players enjoyed the hotel swimming pool...
but WIM Elitsa Raeva, 2236, prefers the Mediterranean
Ani Krumova, 1904, representing OFC Kavala
GM Evgeny Tomashevsky, 2689, current European Champion
GM David Navara, 2687, top Czech grandmaster
WGM Svetlana Cherednichenko, 2347, playing on board one
German U12 Champion Dennis Wagner, 2061, playing blitz with GM Papaioannou
Ilias Kazantzidis, 2106, serenades us