Chess in the High Tatras (1/2)

10/29/2014 – Dating back to 1952, the Tatry Open, held in Slovakia, is a tournament that has adapted and survived in spite of a fairly low profile. It has achieved this by bringing in solving competitions, blitz events, and more, but its magic lies in the beautiful scenery of the High Tatras, with rounds held in the evening to allow one to make the most of the breathtaking landscape.

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By Adam Jarmula

It all dates back to 1952 when the first Tatransky Pohar was played in Novy Smokovec, in the heart of Slovakia's High Tatras. Over the next 40 years the tournament continued as a round-robin with ten to sixteen players contending in the High Tatras villages of Stary Smokovec (26 times), Novy Smokovec (nine times), Tatranska Lomnica (four times), Strbske Pleso (once) and Poprad (once). The formula changed as of 1994, when the first open tournament involving 64 players was organized in Tatranska Lomnica. The next years saw a growing number of participants, with a tournament record of 257 competing in 2002 in Tatranske Zruby.

In this period, the tournament visited Tatranska Lomnica (four times) and Tatranske Matliare (once) before eventually settling in Tatranske Zruby, where it has been played fifteen times in a row since 2000. Besides the main events, the villages have also hosted side events such as solving contests in 1994 and 1996-2004, blitz tournaments, and even GM and IM round-robin tournaments. In its entire history since 1952, it has only failed to be organized three times: in 1961, 1993 and 1995.

High Tatras mountains in early autumn

The detailed statistics shows the overall number of participants in the tournament history (1952-2014) to equal 4198, including 49 GMs, 328 IMs, 204 FMs, 9 WGMs, 17 WIMs and 10 WFMs. On the starting lists containing the names of players from 40 countries, the strong majority comes from Slovakia (2306 participants in all) and the Czech Republic (1209), while other most represented countries include Poland (107), Russia (52), Ukraine (37), Hungary (34), France (30), Germany (26), Austria (23) and former Yugoslavia (23).

The 2014 LX Tatry Open

The LX OPEN Tatry tournament was held in Hotel Granit in Tatranske Zruby from September 28 to October 5, 2014. Bearing in mind Lukasz's slightly disappointing performance in the LIX Tatry Open tournament played in the previous year (he took 32nd place with 5.5/9; his older brother, Pawel was 29th), we headed to this year's tournament with a strong desire to improve on this.

The starting list included 243 players from fifteen countries, with a top-seeded quartet of players rated above 2400: IM Richard Biolek, IM Pavel Cech and IM Stanislav Jasny from Czech Republic and an unexpected winner of the International Championship of Slovakia 2013, IM Tomas Krnan from Canada.

Held in the Horsky Hotel Granit in Tatranske Zruby, the next round is about to begin...

With his 2314 FIDE rating, 16-year old FM Lukasz Jarmula from Poland was ranked fourteenth on the starting list, two places above another talented junior, fifteen-year-old Martin Najhebaver from Slovakia. The time control was 90 minutes for 40 moves and fifteen minutes until the end of the game plus an increment of 30 seconds per move. Since most of the rounds started at 6 PM, there was quite a lot of free time before the evening rounds, which we spent mostly by indulging ourselves in the beautiful sceneries of the High Tatras mountains, observed both on the mountain trails and from the quiet villages at the feet of the High Tatras.

Arbiter FA Jan Murin was responsible for live broadcast of seventeen games in every round.
It worked very well, and he is to be congratulated.

The first round brought some first surprises with losses of IM Tomas Krnan and IM Alois Lanc to players rated 200 Elo less. Lukasz had the black pieces against Slovakian FM Emil Klemanic and there ensued a Closed Sicilian game led to an unclear position. The resulting complications forced the opponent to sacrifice a piece in an attempt to build an attack. However, no successful follow-up was apparent and Lukasz easily converted his material advantage.

The second round brought a big surprise when top seed IM Richard Biolek (2432 FIDE) lost to Slovakian FM Norbert Zambor (2279 FIDE), despite being better while his opponent also fell into serious time-trouble as early as move twenty.

[Event "OPEN Tatry 2014"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.09.28"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Zambor, Norbert"] [Black "Biolek, Richard"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "2279"] [BlackElo "2432"] [Annotator "Jarmula,Lukasz"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/pp1b1pp1/4r2p/8/2pP1P2/2B3KP/PP4P1/4R3 b - - 0 28"] [PlyCount "54"] [TimeControl "600"] {A Tarrasch Variation of French Defence led to huge simplifications, resulting in this relatively dull position. It seems that the game will inevitably end in a draw. However, in chess everything is possible!} 28... Rg6+ $5 {0 It is not not clear to me what Biolek tried to achieve with this move.} ({After} 28... Rxe1 {0} 29. Bxe1 {3 the players would have soon agreed upon a draw.}) 29. Kf2 Rf6 30. Ke3 (30. Re7 {was more natural, and after} Rd6 {the position would have remained equal. However, White doesn't hide that a draw satisfies him and again invites his opponent to exchange rooks.}) 30... h5 $2 {In response, Black commits a really strange mistake} 31. d5 $1 Rg6 32. Re2 {Now it transpires that White is suddenly better. He intends to continue with Kd4 and then penetrate to the 7th rank with his rook.} b6 33. Kd4 Bb5 34. Re7 Rxg2 $2 {Black cracks under pressure} (34... a6 {was a crucial move, to maintain the bishop on its excellent position, from where it defends a6 and c4 pawns and controlls white's d pawn.}) 35. Rxa7 {Now a4 is a threat and also the b6 pawn is vulnerable.} Re2 36. Rb7 f6 37. Rxb6 Bd7 38. h4 $1 { White doesn't give his opponent any counterplay. The rest is a formality.} Bf5 39. a4 Re4+ 40. Kc5 Rxf4 41. a5 Rf1 42. a6 Ra1 43. Rb8+ Kf7 44. Kb6 g5 45. a7 Be4 46. Rb7+ Kg6 47. Ba5 c3 48. bxc3 Rb1+ 49. Bb4 Ra1 50. c4 gxh4 51. Rb8 Bd3 52. a8=Q Rxa8 53. Rxa8 h3 54. Bd6 Bxc4 55. Kc5 1-0

Another upset on the top boards was the loss of IM Ladislav Langner (2363 FIDE) to his compatriot FM Vladimir Belunek (2226 FIDE). In his game with white against untitled Austrian Bruno Steiner (ELO 2212) Lukasz outplayed his opponent positionally in the Ruy Lopez. Black's position was strategically lost by move 25 but his stubborn defense prolonged the game for another 30 moves without changing the outcome.

Panoramic view of Strbske Pleso. The structure slightly to the left is a ski jump.

We met this attractive animal on a path from Tatranske Zruby to Novy Smokovec

The third tournament day was the toughest one as two rounds were in the schedule, meaning twice more battle at the chess board and much less free time. Being accommodated in Novy Smokovec, we usually went to Tatranske Zruby by Tatra Electric Railway (TER). It was a kind of disadvantage in days with morning rounds, when Lukasz had to get up early enough to catch up the 8:02 train in Novy Smokovec to arrive on time for the round beginning at 9 AM. Strange, as the train travel lasted only a few minutes... However, the next train was to depart from Novy Smokovec one hour later, at 9:02 AM, which would mean arriving late.

The Tatra Electric Railway is the basic transportation system in High Tatras. Soon Lukasz
(in the foreground) and I will get in the train seen in the background to return to our place
in Novy Smokovec from the trip to Tatranska Lomnica.

Further representatives of the Tatranska fauna

The third round saw the next victory of FM Norbert Zambor, who managed to win with black against the number two seed Czech IM Pavel Cech while untitled 19-year old Slovakian Martin Pagerka (2297 FIDE), only ranked 18th on the starting lis, continued to surprise with his third consecutive win beating IM Sergej Berezjuk (2371 FIDE) with black. On board two Lukasz had the black pieces against FM Zoltan Zambo (ELO 2382) whom he beat after some dubious opening play by his opponent.

The late start of the rounds meant there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy Strbske Pleso

Round four saw few surprises, and in the fifth round, while FM Norbert Zambor continued his excellent run by winning convincingly with white against FM Tomas Vojta, on board two still. Lukasz had the black pieces against IM Leonid Kernazhitsky. White's harmless opening choice in the Exchange Ruy Lopez allowed Black to take over the initiative and fully use the potential of the bishop pair.

[Event "OPEN Tatry 2014"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.10.01"] [Round "5.2"] [White "Kernazhitsky, Leonid"] [Black "Jarmula, Lukasz"] [Result "0-1"] [WhiteElo "2298"] [BlackElo "2314"] [Annotator "Jarmula,Lukasz"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/2B4p/p7/1k6/8/2P5/KNb4P/2b5 w - - 0 47"] [PlyCount "40"] [TimeControl "600"] {I'm proud to show you this wonderful picture - the bishops completely paralyse White's king and knight in quite an unusual way! But it's not the end yet ...} 47. Be5 Kc5 48. c4 h5 49. h4 Be3 50. Bf6 Kb4 $4 { After this horrific move my giant advantage slips away!} (50... Kc6 $1 {0 was the right path, to which I returned later in the game}) 51. Be7+ Kc3 (51... Bc5 {doesn't win due to} 52. Bxc5+ Kxc5 53. Ka3 a5 54. Na4+ $1 Kxc4 (54... Bxa4 55. Kxa4 Kxc4 56. Kxa5 {and the pawn endgame is elementary drawn}) 55. Nb6+ {and White inevitably sacrifices the knight for the h pawn, saving a draw}) 52. Ka3 $4 ({White could have saved the day by} 52. Bf6+ Kd2 (52... Kb4 53. Be7+ { leads nowhere}) 53. Be7 {intending to play c5. Black doesn't seem to have anything better than} Kc3 54. Bf6+ {with the move repetition}) 52... Kd4 $1 { Returning with the king to its right place.} 53. Bf6+ Kc5 54. Be7+ Kc6 {Uff! Now I'm winning again} 55. Na4 Bc1+ 56. Nb2 a5 57. Bf6 Bd2 58. Be7 Kd7 {The winning motif - White's bishop cannot defend both b4 and h4 squares} (58... Be1 {,with the same idea, was also winning}) 59. Bc5 ({It's already too late for White's knight to join the game.} 59. Bf8 Be1 60. c5 Bxh4 61. Nc4 Bg3 62. Nxa5 h4 63. c6+ Kc7 64. Bc5 h3 65. Bg1 h2 66. Bxh2 Bxh2 {and after White's c pawn falls, we enter a theoretically won two bishops vs. knight edngame!}) 59... Be1 60. Bb6 Bb4+ 61. Ka2 a4 $1 {The imprisoned knight is finally sentenced to death!} 62. c5 Kc6 63. Bd8 Kxc5 64. Be7+ Kb5 65. Nxa4 Kxa4 66. Kb2 Bf5 0-1

After round five, FM Zambor and FM Jarmula led with 4.5/5 trailed by three players with 4.0/5 in their account: Pagerka, IM Berezjuk and Najhebaver.

The rocks, the lake and landscape were always a source of pleasure

To be continued...

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wlk1977 wlk1977 10/30/2014 09:58
Mr. Jarmula, thank you for advertising High Tatras Chess Open in such a nice way. Organizers really deserve it for their exceptional endurance.
For those, who likes autumn Tatras views, you can see more on
This hike was performed exactly on the day when tournament started.
Merlinovich Merlinovich 10/30/2014 04:28
The comment runs "It is already too late for the knight to enter the game" however that line enters the N vs. 2B endgame which was once considered a theoretical draw. I am sure this was indeed the best chance to draw. The tablebases now show us it is winning, sometimes in up to 78 moves to mate (meaning the 50 moves rule would surely save a draw) and the zugzwang motifs that are necessary to win this endgame are far from obvious. I doubt Black would have managed it within the 50 moves limit. This endgame was drawn in 13 games out of 30 were it emerged in my database, showing the considerable practical challenge.
KevinC KevinC 10/29/2014 12:57
Vipera berus, aka the European Adder.