Boris Chatalbashev wins Pirc Memorial

by ChessBase
7/22/2015 – Vasja Pirc (19. December 1907 – 2. June 1980) was a strong grandmaster and name-giver of the Pirc Defence, who lived most of his life in Maribor. His club ZSK Maribor regularly remembers the grandmaster with strong tournaments. The 19th Pirc Memorial was part of the Maribor Games Festival and was won by Boris Chatalbashev with a convincing score of 8.0/9.

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Vasja Pirc Memorial in Maribor

Text: Adrian Mikhalchishin

Every chessplayer knows the “Pirc Defence” but only few know that Vasja Pirc (19. December 1907 – 2. June 1980) was a Grandmaster from Yugoslavia who in the middle of the thirties belonged to the world’s top ten.

Vasja Pirc (left, with White) at the beginning of a game against the
Hans Bouwmeester. Max Euwe is about to make the first move.

But World War II stopped his way to the very top. However, during the occupation of Ljubljana by the Italians (1941 to 1943) and the Germans (1943 to 1945), Pirc met every Tuesday with GM Milan Vidmar to play a number of casual games. Pirc estimates that they played around 1000 (!) games and claims that the score was about equal. It is a pity that no games from this long and unique Grandmaster match were recorded!

In his career Pirc won a number of strong international tournaments, became five times Yugoslavian Champion, and was part of the Yugoslav team that won gold at the Olympiad 1950 in Dubrovnik – it was the first Olympiad after World War II and the Soviet Union did not yet take part in Olympiads. Pirc also was editor of a Yugoslavian Chess Magazine and wrote a number of books.

After the end of his playing career Pirc became director of a grammar school in Ljubljana. One of his pupils was future Junior World Champion Bruno Parma. In one team event they had to play against each other and Parma tried for a long time to win the endgame rook and bishop against rook against his teacher. Pirc managed to hold the draw but and during Parma’s final exams he tested him quite thoroughly.

A couple of years ago the Slovenian post issued a stamp to remember Pirc’ 100th anniversary. Only a few countries celebrate their players in this way – if one does not count the various commercial stamps from small countries. Apart from Pirc only Keres, Petrosian, Capablanca, and the national teams from Georgia and Bosnia were remembered with an official stamp.

Pirc played most of his career for Maribor and the club has regularly organized strong Grandmaster tournaments in his memory. But this year the club decided to try another format and thus the 19th Pirc Memorial became part of the Maribor games festival, which also featured tournaments in Sudoku, Bridge and other card games, Rubik’s cube competitions, etc.


The new Maribor games festival is part of the traditional Summer Lent Festival that takes places on the banks of the river Drava. Andrej Fištravec, the mayor of Maribor, was invited to the opening of the festival and expressed his belief that this kind of festival would be very welcome in Middle Europe.

Matej Tomazin, President of the ZSK Maribor (left) and Andrey Fistravec (Mayor of Maribor)

The opening ceremony took place in the center of Maribor, at the central square that is named after Leon Štukelj, Olympic gold medal winner in gymnastics. Laura Unuk, the U16 World Champion from Slovenia, gave a fantastic simultaneous exhibition.

Laura Unuk

Laura Unuk during her simul

There were three events: the A-, B-, and the Junior-Open. 128 players took part, eight of them GMs. The main tournament was played in the nice High Civil Engineering Gymnasium.

The playing hall

The Maribor Chess club was founded 80 years ago and is by far the strongest club in Slovenia. Since 1991 the club has won the National team Championships 20 times and it regularly organizes strong competitions – one highlight was the World Youth Championship in 2013 that was considered to be very well organized.

In the main group the Grandmasters Matej Šebenik, Boris Chatalbashev and Emir Dizdarevic were leading from the start. But then Šebenik spoilt two promising positions and lost two games in a row while Chatalbashev accelerated. In the end he won the tournament with 8.0/9.

Tournament winner Boris Chatalbashev happens to be a Pirc Defence expert.

Place two went to IM Igor Jelen, who narrowly missed a GM norm.

Final Standings

Rk. SNo     Name FED RtgI Pts.  TB1  Rp
1 1
GM Chatalbashev Boris BUL 2545 8.0 46.0 2749
2 9
IM Jelen Igor SLO 2419 7.0 45.0 2535
3 4
GM Cvitan Ognjen CRO 2495 6.5 46.0 2537
4 2
GM Dizdarevic Emir BIH 2541 6.0 48.5 2516
5 5
GM Tratar Marko SLO 2476 6.0 42.0 2389
6 6
GM Drazic Sinisa SRB 2468 6.0 39.0 2397
7 7
GM Akesson Ralf SWE 2428 6.0 37.0 2300
8 11
IM Manea Alexandru ROU 2383 5.5 49.5 2489
9 3
GM Sebenik Matej SLO 2512 5.5 45.5 2442
10 10
FM Tomazini Zan SLO 2401 5.5 44.0 2405
11 8
GM Naumkin Igor RUS 2421 5.5 43.5 2381
12 14
FM Kokol Peter SLO 2370 5.5 43.5 2360
13 19
MK Janzelj Tim SLO 2312 5.5 42.5 2380
14 18
FM Tomazini Aljosa SLO 2314 5.5 40.0 2358
15 17
FM Stajner Samo SLO 2349 5.5 39.0 2288
16 16
FM Podkriznik Gregor SLO 2358 5.5 38.0 2287
17 13
FM Markoja Boris SLO 2372 5.5 37.0 2300
18 22
FM Simic Dragan SLO 2245 5.0 42.0 2309
19 48
I Brinovec David SLO 1991 5.0 40.0 2297
20 25
WFM Goossens Hanne BEL 2206 5.0 39.5 2234
21 30
MK Skuhala Jernej SLO 2163 5.0 38.5 2281
22 12
IM Mencinger Vojko SLO 2372 5.0 38.0 2296
23 15
FM Spalir Jernej SLO 2361 5.0 37.5 2270
24 23
MK Kosmac Blaz SLO 2223 5.0 35.0 2175
25 27
MK Brinovec Dusan SLO 2193 4.5 43.0 2260

Source: chess-results

Three selected games


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