World Senior Championship won by IM Vladimir Okhotnik

12/4/2011 – The World Senior Championship is more than simply a title, it is an event that draws chess aficionados from all around the globe for a chance to meet others, play chess, and even enjoy a bit of R and R. Players and spouses came from Brazil, Singapore and Australia, among other places, sometimes enduring trips of up to 23 hours. Enjoy this extensive illustrated report by Adolivio Capece.

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2011 World Senior Championship

By Adolivio Capece

The 21st World Senior Chess Championships were held in Opatija, Croatia, from November 14th to November 27th.


Google Maps view of Opatija, Croatia

The Championships were organized by the Chess club "Rijeka" in agreement with Croatian Chess Federation, under the auspices of the Mountain-litoral County, the City of Rijeka and the City of Opatija.


The Opatija Yacht Club


A view of the Adriatic Sea


Could this be Stonehenge in Opatija!?

The 21st World Senior Chess Championship for men and women was open to all players representing the FIDE Chess Federations, regardless of their title or rating, providing that the male tournament participants were born in 1951 or before, and that the female tournament participants were born in 1961 or before.


A map of the locale


On the wall are the faces of roughly 20 famous people: Einstein, Mahler, Isidora Duncan, etc


Among whom is Vladimir Nabokov, the author of "The Defense"


Classical music 'temple' (music is played all day long)


The violinist in the music temple


The fountain

The opening ceremony

Many political authorities come and made their welcome speeches at the opening ceremony. They congratulated the organization and the Rijeka Chess Club. A great ovation was given to the 'legendary' Nona Gaprindashvili, then the first speech was made by Boris Golubovic, president of Rijeka Chess Club. The ceremony lasted about half an hour, then the games started.


The mayor of Opatija, Ivo Dujmic, and Nona Gaprindashvili


The vice mayor of Rijeka, Miroslav Matesic


The President of the Croatian Chess Federation, Styepan Sturlan

Interview with Nona Gaprindashvili

Nona Gaprindashvili is considered a 'chess legend'. She was the Women's World Chess Champion for 16 years (1962-1978). She won the title defeating Elisabetta Bykova (world champion 1953-1961) and lost the title to Maya Chiburdanidze.


Nona with her book "selected games"

Nona is the current Women's European Senior Champion and she won the Women's World Senior Championship in 2009 (in 2010 she lost the title owing to a worse tiebreak). She was the first woman to become a full International Grandmaster.


Q – Is this the first time you play in Opatija?
A – No. It is my first tournament here, but when I was young, after playing in Belgrade and Zagreb, I came here to the coast to play simul and exhibitions; and beside some other places, I was also here in Opatija and in Rijeka. Moreover I played the Olympiads in Skopje and Novi Sad. I have to say that I always considered the former Yugoslavia as my second country; every year I came here to play and I always had a warm welcome by organizers and chess fans. And I have to say that this time also the Rijeka Chess Club had a great affection for me which made me very happy and I would like to thank them and all the people in Opatija.

Q – When did you learn to play chess?
A – I was a little girl and I was learning to play looking at my four brothers. Honestly, I have to say that I did everything that my brothers did. So I played football, I played ping-pong, I played billiards (I am still very good), and I am a great supporter of Barcelona and Arsenal football clubs, as my whole family; I like to follow games and I appreciate good football players - I can say that I 'understand' football!


Nona at the opening ceremony

Moreover with my brothers I played chess! But I played my first important tournament when I was only thirteen years old, and it happened almost by chance. A team event was organized in Tbilisi and each team was supposed to have a female chessboard. My brother played on the first chessboard for the team and he proposed me; so I had my beginning in an official event. I played very well and the club proposed to my parents a coach for me; I lived in a town far from Tbilisi, but I had an uncle there. So my parents send me to live with my uncle in Tbilisi. I started to study chess with a coach and in a couple of years I became the first Georgian women champion, and then the women champion of USSR (1956).

Now I am trying to teach chess my nephew Nicholas (5 years old); my son David and my other nephew Lary (16 years old) do not play chess.

Q – You were the first woman to get the Grandmaster title. How did you feel when you achieved this goal?
A – You can say the title 'male' Grandmaster! In the seventies, when I played tournaments (usually round robin tournaments, with 10, 12 or 14 players - at that time there were few Swiss tournaments) all the men fought hard against me, because I was a woman. In almost equal positions they went on and adjourned the game, one or even two times, while against a man they would have drawn. For me it was not easy. In any case I gained the Grandmaster title in the tournament of Lone Pine (USA) in 1977, where I played beautiful and interesting games. I remember for example my win against GM Peters. After this tournament all the players regarded me differently, though this did not change my style of play: I always play to win!

Q – Among your games, do you remember any one in particular?
A – It might be the game against Velimirovic in Bela Crkva 1984; I played with black and it was really a hard fight with continuous upsets, sacrifice and counter sacrifices. A lot of people were around the table looking at the game and when we agreed for a draw at the end they applauded both of us for a few minutes.

Q – And tournaments?
A – Oh, there are many. By the way I can mention Reggio Emilia 1982-83. I won the tournament (all the other players were men) and I played a very good game against Kapengut.


Nona at the beginning of the round


Nona enjoys a friendly chat before the games

Q – Back to the world championship here in Opatija: 40 women are participating, it is a record! What do you think about that? And what's your goal in the tournament?
A – I think that the number of women in the Senior Championship will increase in the next few years, also because for women it is enough to be 50 years old. I think that it is a positive thing. As far as this tournament is concerned, I am confident - I am playing well, I feel good. In any case, as I told you, I always play to win, I never look to the opponent, I always look to the position!

Q – Your opinion about the playing time?
A – It is not a problem; in fact it is the same for all the players. I cannot say that it was better before; there were adjourned games and one game could last even ten to twelve hours and we were supposed to have tough nerves! Now it is different, but surely it is better for organization!

Q – What about those new girls and women coming from China and India? Do you think that the traditional domination of female chess players from Georgia is finished or not?
A – Yes, female players from China and India are growing up, above all from China that always had good players. The problem is that after Xie Yun, the top player changed every year. Now there is young Hou Yifan: we will see if she can keep the world title for a few years. In my opinion she can improve, but I think that she has not yet found the right coach.

As far as Georgia is concerned, we dominated the world's women chess for around 40 years! We won everything, both individual and team events! It is normal that after such a long time something changes. In any case Georgia won the female Olympiad in 2008, so surely the Georgian tradition is not yet finished.

Thank you very much GM Nona Gaprindashvili! You will always be in the heart of chess fans!


The rest day


There were six players from Brazil whose trip lasted about 17 hours. In the photo are
David Borenzstain and IM Herman van Riemsdijk (who was on 4.0/5 at this point).


Christmas table in the hotel


Three players came from Australia. (left to right) Slobodan Krstic, Mirko Rujevic, Lachlan Benson
Their trip from Australia to Zagreb took 23 hours.

Lachlan Benson lives in Brisbane; he was junior champion when he was about 17 years old and he has already played in Europe though this is his first time in Croatia. Krstic attended the schools in Rijeka, then emigrated and now lives in Melbourne. Rujevic, born in Serbia, played in Opatija in 1951; then in 1963 he played the Yugoslav Junior championship (in the same tournament with GM Cebalo). He lives in Melbourne and this year won the Oceanian championship.


The title of the World Senior Champion remains in the French possession as IM Vladimir Okhotnik defeated the earlier leader GM Bojan Kurajica in the last round and took a clear first place with 9 points from eleven games. Last year champion was GM Anatoly Vaisser, also from France.

According to the Championship regulations, Okhotnik will be awarded with the Grandmaster title following the next FIDE Presidential Board.


Outside the building of the playing hall is a plaque in tribute to Einstein


The Russian female player Bogumil made Croatians happy with this t-shirt


The top two boards during round seven

The local GM Davorin Komljenovic snatched a silver medal after edging GM Gennadi Timoshenko from Slovakia on better tie-break. Timoscenko took the bronze medal home.

In the Women Senior Championship WIM Galina Strutinskaya from Russia takes the winner’s trophy after finishing clear first with 8.5 points. Another fine result for the competitors from Georgia as WFM Nino Melashvili won a silver medal, while WGM Ludmila Saunina takes the bronze.

The total prize fund was 15.000 EUR.


Interview of IM Boris Golubovic, the tournament director, with Croatian TV


Boris Golubovic, president of the Rijeka Chess Club with his daughter Lana


Impressions by the players


Christian Mantero Martinez from Santiago, Chile

"It took more than 20 hours for me to arrive in Opatija. When I started in my country it was almost summer (23-24 degrees): here it is almost winter. Moreover I like astronomy (I am only an amateur) and I noted that the stars in the sky of Opatija and in the sky of Santiago are quite different."


Mathias and Mira Kierzek

Mira is playing the World Senior female championship, Mathias the open championship. They married 34 years ago. Mira was born in Macedonia (her family name is Velevska) and once she went in Fulda (Germany) to met her sister living there; she was a good chess player and went and see the local chess club, where she met Mathias … and love arose.

Now they live in Fulda (a very important town, where there is a yearly meeting of the Bishops – of the church, not of chess...). According to both, Mathias is strongest than is wife. One of his best results was a first place in Dortmund that qualified him for a round robin GM tournament.

Mira won female championships in Macedonia, either when this country was part of former Jugoslavia and now that it is a Republic. This is the third senior championship they play together: twice in separate group, like here; once in the same tournament (Courmayeur, Italy, European Senior Ch.) but they did not play together.


Shirchin Battsengel – Mongolia

She came from the capital of her country, Ulan Bator and only took eight hours to arrive in Opatija.


Mark Choong – Singapore

"This is my first Senior World Championship and this is also my first time in Croatia. To arrive in Opatija from Singapore I travelled seventeen hours: thirteen by plane and four by train, but it was worth it! Everything is really ok and I like the event."


Emili Simon Padros – Spain playing with black against the Italian G. Valenti

Simon played the World Junior championship in 1965; and has won both Spanish Junior championship and the Spanish Senior Championship.

"This is my 4th Senior World Championship. I like the organisation here in Opatija, but it was very nice also when I played in Italy, at Arco di Trento. I have only one regret, that my wife could not come with me, so this time I am alone."


Antonio Rosino – Italy

Rosino, from Venice, is the Italian Senior Champ and has won the title five times. It is worth mentioning that he also won the Italian Junior (Under 20) championship three times!

"This is my 6th Senior World Championship. Moreover I played many European Senior Championship and also the European Team Senior Championship. I am very happy to play in Opatija also because the town remember me my family. In fact my grand-mother, who was born in Parenzo, come in Opatija for her wedding travel. Furthermore, my grand-father was the director of the elementary schools in Istria up 1936 and I remember that he was also teacher in Albona."

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