Chess in the land of dried apricots (1/2)

by Alina l'Ami
9/4/2015 – The title could hardly be more fitting, as the 3rd International Golden Apricot tournament took place in Malatya, Turkey, a region that literally produces nearly 70% of the world's dried apricots. Although this is its obvious claim to fame, it is also the home of the UNESCO World heritage site, the mausoleum of Antiochus I (69–34 B.C.). We bring you a large illustrated report.

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It's quite funny how day-by-day nothing seems to change, but when you look back, everything is different. Caught in the daily hallucinatory chess whirls, I even forgot how it felt back in those days when adjournments still existed (yes, I did catch the era of the “dinosaurs”!) or when as a 14-year-old I had to play long and exhausting games lasting up to seven hours.

The beautiful new mosque in the central square of Malatya, built in 1912

If not for the many minarets in the background, I could have easily said the photo
was taken in the Netherlands or maybe Spain? A very modern and pretty town indeed

The new mosque...

...perhaps the only one in Turkey as I have been told...

...that features three minarets.

To fall in step with the need for speed of modern times, aiming to make the life of chess players a bit less brain consuming than before or to promote the game as an exciting and thrilling board adventure, soon enough, the time control has undergone a few makeovers, to finally reach one of the most common FIDE formats: 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move for the whole game.

[Event "3rd Golden Apricot 2015"] [Site "Malatya TUR"] [Date "2015.08.25"] [Round "1.2"] [White "Cam, Vedat"] [Black "Volkov, Sergey1"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D30"] [WhiteElo "1872"] [BlackElo "2589"] [Annotator "l'Ami,Alina"] [PlyCount "40"] [EventDate "2015.08.25"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "TUR"] [SourceDate "2015.08.31"] {The first round in an Open event is never as easy as some would think. One can be the much higher rated player according to the papers but tiredness, over confidence, lack of concentration or just not being in the zone, do play a role and accidents are bound to happen. Not for Sergey Volkov though, the 2nd seed in the tournament, who showed his strength in a flawless game, a model illustrating how a professional player can outplay a less experienced opponent.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 c6 4. e3 Bd6 5. Nc3 f5 6. Bd3 Nf6 7. Bd2 O-O 8. O-O Ne4 9. c5 Bc7 10. b4 a6 11. a4 Nd7 12. b5 Qf6 13. b6 {To someone not familiarized with this type of position, optical reasons may induce a mistaken evaluation, resulting into an even worse continuation, as is the case with White's last move. At first sight, it is quite natural, aiming to make Black's pieces claustrophobic on the queen's side but, at the same time, b6 is also killing White's perspectives on the very same wing. Things would be different if White could play f2-f4, in this case he would play with an extra rook and bishop. But since there is no time for it, Black will continue undisturbed his business on his territory, the king's side.} Bb8 14. Rc1 e5 { Breaking the center is the typical approach.} 15. Ne2 Nxd2 16. Nxd2 e4 17. Bb1 Qh6 18. g3 Nf6 19. Kg2 f4 {Blowing up the vulnerable white king's redout. The huge dynamic potential handed by White before, has been fully taken advantage of by Volkov, who could win the game even without his rook from a8, used in the game only for design...} 20. exf4 Qh3+ {the light squares are simply too weak and White had to resign.} 0-1

Daily scene, where the tournament poster is perfectly integrated in the very heart of the city!

Probably this is the first time I could say about the
poster of a chess tournament that looks...delicious

Obviously, change is inevitable, but any change, even one for the better, is accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. In our case, the shortened time control makes for even crazier battles, bringing chess closer to sports and all the drama surrounding it, but in a way it backfired too. Like mushrooms after rain, more and more tournaments embrace the idea of double rounds, since the number of chess hours per day is actually double, and sometimes it is not just one or two days with double games but the entire event. Some countries go the extra mile, organizing tournaments with three rounds a day (it goes without saying I am not talking about blitz or rapid), meeting the needs of all devoted chess fans, who are ready to show and challenge their skills at this non-stop pace.

Conversations without tea are like...

..."a night sky without the moon" - Turkish folk saying.

Danger alert: Turkish delights!

They provide a unique visual

For me, staring at all these spices and unknown products from exotic shops is like a stroll
in a fairy tale from 1001 nights!


Sergey in paradise

"Giant Fennel Root Water" - can someone explain what I am supposed to do with these?!

This certain type of cheese, forgive me for not knowing the exact name, is one of my favourite
products that I tasted during my stay in Malatya

Normally I would say this is not for me, I need my time to rest, to explore, to prepare or whatever I might invent as an excuse. On the other hand, I came to realize that limiting my challenges will not help me grow (although it does “help” my rating drop) and maybe I should move to another angle, the one that will challenge my limits!

Time for more experiments: as I was gazing at the man's golden thing from his back, I was
suddenly invited to have a cup and join the party. Such an offer I couldn't refuse, as I was not
very fresh and I sort of expected tea or coffee. It turned out to be licorice root drink which I
will skip next time, bBut I heard it is very good for throat pains and for health in general.

Quiz question: guess the product. I thought it is some fish thing, or something used to catch fish,
along these lines...Sergey thought it comes from a plant, but we couldn't reach an agreement.

It is chewing gum!

Drying clothes in the same fashion is more common; but drying peppers I personally never tried. Must be good.

Spices are essential in any cuisine

Fair enough, so why would I avoid playing a third tournament in a row, with the same double-round schedule each day? Besides, the location and the hidden promise of an intriguing chess venture fully convinced me to take the plunge and participate in the 3rd International Golden Apricot chess tournament, held in Malatya, Turkey.

Street view

Friendly and expressive people

The art of baking bread

Enjoying the waterfalls park...

...and the beautiful panorama.

[Event "3rd Golden Apricot 2015"] [Site "Malatya TUR"] [Date "2015.08.27"] [Round "4.1"] [White "Benidze, D."] [Black "Tiviakov, S."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A05"] [WhiteElo "2469"] [BlackElo "2611"] [Annotator "l'Ami,Alina"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "b3k2r/2q1bpp1/1nn1p2p/2p1P2P/2P2BN1/P3RNP1/5PB1/3Q2K1 w k - 0 34"] [PlyCount "35"] [EventDate "2015.08.25"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "TUR"] [SourceDate "2015.08.31"] {One of the crucial games in the tournament came in R4, in the 2nd game of the day, when the players, most probably, were not at the highest peaks of their energy levels. Nevertheless, given the circumstances, the huge time trouble and the rather unclear position (true, Black is down a pawn but c4 is hanging too and it is not so easy for White to increase his advantage), Benidze pulled a rabbit out of his hat with:} 34. Nf6+ $1 {This daring horse will remain taboo for a long sequence; and in fact, the moment Black will take it, is also the beginning of his end.} Kf8 35. Rd3 Nxc4 36. Qa4 N4a5 37. Nd2 {Very nice coordination and huge pressure in Black's camp with such White domination. Hoping to get some help from the time trouble, the last card had to be played with:} gxf6 {but it won't work, given the vulnerability of Black's king.} 38. exf6 e5 39. fxe7+ Kxe7 40. Qe4 Kf6 41. Be3 Nd4 42. Qh4+ Ke6 43. Qg4+ Ke7 44. Qg7 Rd8 45. Bxa8 Ne6 46. Qh7 Rxa8 47. Bxh6 c4 48. Rf3 Kd6 49. Rxf7 Qb6 50. Rd7+ Kc6 51. Qe7 {Not a good start for the number one player in the tournament but an excellent one for the Georgian player, who reached a perfect 4/4 with this game and continued his march undefeated, until claiming the 1st place.} 1-0


Life is good

As expected, it was...tough, very tough in fact, when facing 1900 Elo opponents that were clearly under rated, making incredibly good moves and posing problems whenever given the opportunity. In fact, I was told to add a minimum 200 rating points, to come a bit closer to their real strength, although even that may not be sufficient. I shouldn't have been surprised though, since the Turkish players are writing their chess history as we speak.

Resting between the games

Traditional Turkish house

A beautiful cafe to rest and watch endlessly the sunset and the cityscape

Even though the tradition of playing chess doesn't go as many years back as other countries, it is clear to me that the harvest season is coming, thanks to all the efforts made in promoting and supporting the chess culture on the Turkish territory. In Malatya the tournament drew a lot of attention, from media to officials, from parents to children, transforming the city into a chess enclave and the event into a prestigious but difficult competition.

We had an afternoon free, which was used at the maximum by yours truly,...

...thanks to an amazing trip to Nemrut Mountain.

Special congratulations go to Faruk Özer Ömer and Yasin Hür, who both shared first place with 7.0/9, “in spite” of their relatively modest ratings of just over 2000, outrunning mercenaries like Sergey Tiviakov, Valeriy Neverov or Azer Mirzoev! And of course, kudos for the winner, the Georgian GM Davit Benidze, who succeeded to strategically keep his energy level all-round the event and, when the crucial moment came, to win a hair rising time troubled game, against the top-seed and fellow globetrotter, the Dutch GM Sergey Tiviakov.

Nemrut Mountain (2134 m high), notable for the summit where a number of large statues are erected around...

...what is assumed to be a royal tomb from the 1st century BC. You can read more on the UNESCO page.

[Event "3rd Golden Apricot 2015"] [Site "Malatya TUR"] [Date "2015.08.29"] [Round "8.2"] [White "Bagaturov, G."] [Black "Volkov, Sergey1"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D15"] [WhiteElo "2399"] [BlackElo "2589"] [Annotator "l'Ami,Alina"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "8/2r3k1/4R3/2pp3R/3r2p1/6P1/5PK1/8 w - - 0 53"] [PlyCount "52"] [EventDate "2015.08.25"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "TUR"] [SourceDate "2015.08.31"] {Small exercise for you: how would you continue as White?} 53. Rd6 {This was played in the game, and it is not immediately losing of course. It actually keeps the game within the drawing territory, but it did make life a bit more difficult for White.} ({Instead,} 53. Ree5 {would have drawn on the spot, since the only way for Black to avoid endless checks is to enter a rather easy to draw rook endgame.} c4 54. Rhg5+ Kf8 55. Rgf5+ Rf7 56. Rxd5 Rxd5 57. Rxd5 Rc7 58. f3 $11) 53... c4 54. Rdxd5 Rxd5 55. Rxd5 c3 56. Rd1 Kf6 57. f3 {Seems similar with the previous line but here Black is a lot of tempi up and can pose a bit trickier questions further on.} c2 58. Rc1 Ke5 59. fxg4 Ke4 60. g5 Ke3 61. Kh3 Kd2 62. Rg1 Rc4 63. g6 Rc6 64. Kg4 Rxg6+ 65. Kf4 Rf6+ 66. Ke4 Re6+ 67. Kf5 Re1 68. Rg2+ Re2 69. Rg1 Rf2+ 70. Ke5 {I will not enter into all the details, since analyzing rook endgames can occupy 100 pages, so I will just say that White put up a fight, defended well and almost achived the dreamed result: a draw. However, the Russian GM proved he knows how to confuse his opponents by finding a last attempt for a full point with} Kc3 $1 {Another challenge for you: find the draw for White!} 71. Rh1 {This was played but, just like in the first quiz above, it allows Black to gain additional tempi, by bringing first the king to a worse position.} (71. g4 $2 {Doesn't work in view of} Rg2 {the reason why Black played Kc3 before}) (71. Rc1 $1 {Was the way through, where} Kd2 72. Rxc2+ Kxc2 73. g4 {is just in time to draw, since the white king is able to support his pawn, while the enemy is far away.}) 71... Rg2 $1 72. Kf4 Rd2 73. Rc1 Rd1 74. Rxc2+ Kxc2 75. g4 Kd3 76. Kf5 Kd4 77. g5 Kd5 78. Kf6 Kd6 {This ending confirms the huge importance of one tempo, just a single only one (!) is in chess.} 0-1



The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 13 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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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