Breaking fast in Skopje (1/2)

by Alina l'Ami
4/16/2016 – After an unusually long period away from competition, Alina L'Ami explains she broke her fast from tournament play with a flurry of events one after the other, starting with the Karpos Open held in the charming and culturally rich city Skopje in Macedonia. Whether enjoying the unique partying on April 1st, or the many sites to see, there was never a dull moment.

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Over the past months I have crossed a rather unusually long (at least for my standards) period of hibernation, both in the proper meaning of this word (yes, it is quite cold in the Netherlands) and in the figurative one – I almost forgot when I played my last tournament game.

When I received the invitation to play the Karpos Open in Skopje, it clearly smelled like (time) trouble, which you may understand if I mention that I am writing these lines in Jersey, where I traveled to immediately after returning from Macedonia. More about this in a later article but sometimes there are offers you just can't refuse, so the answer was quite obvious: put an end to my chess winter, head in first and deal with the consequences on the go. I was partially inspired by a famous comment of Romania’s greatest football player ever (though apparently not the strongest logician) Gheorghe Hagi: “It is impossible but achievable!”

When in doubt, just do it!

So here I am, in Skopje - feels like my kind of setting: suitcases, missing home and lots of shoes to help me...

…deal with the massive walks. Even though I wouldn't have minded another pair of legs...

… the Macedonian capital was worth the 'trouble'! Besides, the city's vibes gave me enough
endorphins to later cope with a rough chess event.

I was badly missing the atmosphere of a strong tournament with a rapidly growing tradition, (the Karpos Open has reached its sixth edition) and in hindsight I can confirm that my adventurous move on my over-crowded calendar could not have been more inspired!

Enchev - L'Ami

[Event "Karpos Open 2016"] [Site "Skopje, MKD"] [Date "2016.04.05"] [Round "7.12"] [White "Enchev, Ivajlo"] [Black "L'Ami, Alina"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E99"] [WhiteElo "2470"] [BlackElo "2348"] [Annotator "Alina L'Ami"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "r1bq1r1k/pppnn1bp/3p2p1/3Pp3/2P1PpP1/2NN1P2/PP1BB2P/R2Q1RK1 b - - 0 13"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "2016.04.01"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "MKD"] {I'm usually a bit shy to show my own 'masterpieces', but in Skopje I particularly enjoyed my game in round seven, where I won with my beloved King's Indian! It happened that on the 5th of April, when round seven was played, my husband and my father were celebrating their birthdays, as they are both born on the same date. Perhaps I tried to bring them a chess present from afar?!} 13... Bf6 14. b4 Bh4 15. Be1 Bxe1 16. Qxe1 g5 {Having gotten rid of the bad bishop is a big achievement for Black. Now some typical regrouping starts, White will be making progress on the queenside, Black will be trying to do the same on the kingside.} 17. c5 Nf6 18. b5 h5 19. h3 Kg7 {Making way for the rook. It's all about the h-file!} 20. c6 bxc6 21. bxc6 hxg4 22. hxg4 Rh8 23. Kg2 Ng6 24. Rh1 Nh4+ 25. Kf2 a5 $1 ({I was very happy with this move. Next is Ba6, followed by the annoying queen maneouver Qb8-a7. Note that} 25... Ba6 {is not working well because of} 26. Nxf4 $1) 26. Rb1 {Stopping my queen from coming to a7.} Ba6 27. Nc1 $6 ({Although optically I like Black's position, I haven't found a convincing plan against} 27. a4 {followed by Nb5.}) 27... Qc8 $1 {setting up a whole range of tactical ideas.} 28. Qf1 (28. Bxa6 Qxa6 {followed by Qa7+ is just lost, so is}) (28. a4 Bxe2 29. Qxe2 (29. N1xe2 Nxf3 $1) 29... Nf5 $3 (29... Nxf3 $5) 30. Rxh8 Qxh8 31. exf5 (31. gxf5 Qh4+ 32. Kf1 Qh1+ 33. Kf2 g4 $1) 31... Qh4+ 32. Kf1 Qh1+ 33. Kf2 e4 $1 34. Nxe4 Rh8 35. Qf1 Nxe4+ 36. fxe4 Rh2+ 37. Ke1 Qxe4+ {with a mating attack. Finding this is quite a challenge though!}) 28... Nxf3 $1 {Now it all collapses.} 29. Bxa6 Rxa6 $6 {Trying to save time, I quickly played what I calculated beforehand and assesed as being much better for Black. I should have thought just 30 seconds longer...} (29... Qxg4 {was much stronger!}) 30. Rb7 ({And here} 30. Rxh8 Kxh8 31. Qh3+ {was a better defence, though Black should slowly win after} Nh4) 30... Rh2+ $1 31. Rxh2 Nxg4+ {some nicely dancing knights!} 32. Ke2 Nfxh2 33. Qh3 f3+ 34. Kd2 f2 35. Nb5 f1=Q {White resigned.} 0-1

The main role in the tournament was clearly played by Dmitry Svetushkin but...

… he had to watch out for the competition, as Georgiev Kiril is a tough egg to crack.

Svetushkin - Dvirnyy

[Event "Karpos Open 2016"] [Site "Skopje, MKD"] [Date "2016.04.05"] [Round "7.1"] [White "Svetushkin, Dmitry"] [Black "Dvirnyy, Danyyil"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C65"] [WhiteElo "2562"] [BlackElo "2555"] [Annotator "Alina L'Ami"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "4rrk1/p1p1bqpp/1pn5/2p1Pp2/P1N2P2/1P1P3Q/1BP4P/4RRK1 w - - 0 23"] [PlyCount "22"] [EventDate "2016.04.01"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "MKD"] {Dmitry Svetushkin is known for his creative attacking chess and this fragment is the perfect example.} 23. e6 Qg6+ 24. Kh1 Nd4 ({Can Black play} 24... Qg4 { ? It seems so!} 25. Rg1 Qxh3 26. Rxg7+ Kh8 {And although White does win back the queen with} 27. Rg3+ {after} Bf6 28. Bxf6+ Rxf6 29. Rxh3 Rfxe6 {the position is about equal.}) 25. Rg1 Qf6 26. Qg2 Bd6 {Black seems to have managed to organize some sort of defence but the Moldavian GM has an ace up his sleeve...} 27. c3 $1 Nxe6 28. Nxd6 cxd6 29. Rxe6 $3 Rxe6 30. c4 {The point! The monster on b2 has come alive.} Qg6 31. Qb7 Rf7 32. Qa8+ Rf8 33. Qxa7 Rfe8 ({and Black resigned, not waiting for 34.Rxg6. A better try was} 33... Rf7 34. Qa8+ Rf8 35. Qd5 {and Black will have to give up heavy material. Despite this loss, the Italian GM kept calm and played good chess, finishing the tournament on a positive note: third place!}) 1-0

The top seed, the Serbian GM Ivan Ivanisevic, was surely hoping for a better end of the tournament: 6.5/9 and 11th place.

It is not always easy to constantly spoil the audience with dynamic and kind of crazy chess, as this is Ivan's trademark. Karpos Open was not his tournament but I will always remember his games, since one of my coaches was completely in love with his style. Ivanisevic (above) doesn't know but he actually inspired the Romanian chess and I grew up learning from his games too

The 2nd seed, Markus Robert, finished the tournament on a good note: shared second with 7.0/9

Chess tradition in Skopje goes far beyond the Karpos Open. The city hosted the European Club Cup recently, decades ago super tournaments took place here and the 1972 chess Olympiad was organized in the Macedonian capital too. Little wonder that the 2016 edition was a success despite some financial problems experienced by the organization in their own “chess game “ with the sponsors and politicians. Oh, and a little birdie brought the rumors into my ear that, fifty years after the 1972 Olympiad and the famous Fischer-Spassky match, there is a chance that the 2022 Olympiad will once again be held in Skopje.

If we will come here for the 2022 Olympiad or not....I cannot tell right now, but I certainly
wouldn't mind strolling on those streets again.

Number four on the starting list, the Russian GM Evgeny Romanov, was not too happy with his
play but he did share second place with 7.0/9! Maybe the Skopje's horses inspired his own chess
pieces for a better second half of the event.

And then again...they keep getting younger and younger!

Chess has this tremendous power to reunite people

The Karpos mayor, Stevco Jakimovski, who is not only a karate specialist but also a chess aficionado, confessed that he admires the sportive spirit of the 70's, when he had the chance to meet the chess titans. His excellency also conquered my respect when enthusiastically speaking about Romania and pointing out beautiful places I hadn't had the opportunity to visit yet!

And yet, I kind of felt like home, as this photo could be taken in Romania as well

Not this one though; Skopje is in fact quite an interesting cocktail of Baroque, Byzantine and...

… Ottoman architecture, which could prove enjoyable for the chess tourists too.

The tournament was played at the Aleksandar Palace luxury hotel, as if suggesting that the chess kings and queens deserve the very best. I experienced some problems with the double rounds though. I hate mornings as they start so early! After all, my nights are for overthinking and my mornings for oversleeping!

Clearly we all needed to carry heavy metal, to be able to face the double rounds

Being a superman would have surely helped too - These photos were taken on the 1st of April,
when the Macedonians don't play nasty tricks on each other but rather have fun!

The tournament hall was ready for the early birds...

… but the 'birds' needed just a bit more time to fully wake up, particularly for the 09:30 morning games.

Sundararajan Kidambi in deep concentration

Chess is a tough affair indeed

This time I was a bit wiser than before and, following the example of many experienced players I took a bye... This offered me the opportunity to visit the city and present you the tournament from the touristic perspective, too.

To be completely honest, I came to Skopje to play the tournament and to see a... bridge

You might think I was joking above, but the Stone Bridge is actually quite special, and dates back to the 15th century

If you thought Paris is the city of love... Skopje would be a good competitor – a clear sign that
life can be lively, lovely and peaceful in the Balkans.

To be continued...

Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.
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abdb abdb 4/20/2016 08:11
Excellent article and amazing pics. All the best for future tournaments.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 4/16/2016 12:30
"After all, my nights are for overthinking and my mornings for oversleeping!"

Great thought.
sidbis sidbis 4/16/2016 04:47
Congratulations for the article. Beautiful pictures and very good quality. And beautiful game against Enchev!