Yuliya Shvayger and Alon Greenfeld are the new Israeli Champions

by Yochanan Afek
12/29/2018 – The end of the year saw Israel organising its national championships in Maalot Tarshiha. In the open section, 54-year-old Alon Greenfeld won his second national title after having received the trophy for the first time back in 1984. He tied on 6½ points with Evgeny Postny, but was declared winner on tie-breaks. Amongst the women, rating favourite Yuliya Shvayger (pictured with Moshe Slav, chairman of the Israel Chess Federation) finished on top after edging Marsel Efroimski on Sonneborn-Berger score. | Photos: Dr. Mark Livshitz

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A veteran regains the trophy

The 32nd edition of the Israel Championships for men and women were held on December 12th-20th for the first time in Maalot Tarshiha, a Jewish-Arab city situated at the northern side of the country, only a few kilometres away from the Lebanese border.

Thirty players qualified to the open section, including ten Grandmasters and five International Masters. Though seven out of the first ten highest rated players were missing, still five former champions were among the participants: GMs Yehuda Gruenfeld (1982, 1990), Alon Greenfeld (1984), Gad Rechlis (1988), Ilia Smirin (1992, 2002) and Victor Mikhalevsky (2014). The eldest in the group was 62-year-old Yehuda Gruenfeld, while the youngest participants were Or Globus and Elisha Lukin, both 15.

The nine tense Swiss rounds ended in a tie between GMs Alon Greenfeld and Evgeny Postny on 6½ points — both are members of the top Beer Sheva Club.  The title was awarded to Greenfeld on tie-break criteria (the first being their direct encounter). The game between the two, early in the tournament, ended in Postny's single defeat throughout the entire event. Greenfeld grabbed the key win in a rook endgame:


The bronze medal went to GM Ilia Smirin, the only player to finish on 6 points. Six players shared fourth place: GMs V. Mikhalevsky, S. Dvoirys, G. Rechlis & Y. Gruenfeld and IMs E. Zanan & J. Bakalchuk, with 5½ each. The arbiter was FA Yaron Linik.


Evgeny Postny | Photo: Official site

For Alon Greenfeld, 54, it was his second national title 34 years after winning it for the first time! Being the most prominent pupil of the legendary Elyahu Levant, he won the National U20 Youth Championship twice, when he was only 14 and 15 years old. He finished second in the U17 World Cadets Championship in 1980 and was vice-champion of Europe (U20) two years later. In 1983 he was awarded the International Master title, and a year later, at just 20, he became the youngest player ever to win a National Championship.

Alon was awarded the grandmaster title in 1989. He represented Israel in five Olympiads as a player but had his greatest Olympic achievements as a captain and trainer, when he led the national men's team to the silver medal in Dresden 2008 and to the bronze medal in Khanty-Mansiysk 2010. As a highly esteemed trainer, he worked with many young talents both in Israel and outside its borders. He is still quite an active player both in the local and the international scene. 

On his recent achievement, he responded with typical humour: "I started preparing for the upcoming National Youth Championship…" 


Moshe Slav awards Alon Greenfeld who received a similar award 34 years ago! | Photo: Dr Mark Livshitz

Final standings - Open (top 15)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Greenfeld Alon 6,5 1,0
2 Postny Evgeny 6,5 0,0
3 Smirin Ilia 6,0 0,0
4 Mikhalevski Victor 5,5 0,0
5 Zanan Evgeny 5,5 0,0
6 Bakalchuk Johnatan 5,5 0,0
7 Dvoirys Semen I. 5,5 0,0
8 Rechlis Gad 5,5 0,0
9 Gruenfeld Yehuda 5,5 0,0
10 Steinberg Nitzan 5,0 0,0
11 Galburd Yan 5,0 0,0
12 Bronstein Or 5,0 0,0
13 Baron Tal 5,0 0,0
14 Iliaguev Nisim 5,0 0,0
15 Zhizmer Yuri 5,0 0,0

All available games - Open


Favourites prevail in the women's section

Fifteen participants took part in the women's championship, including former champions Shlomit Vardi (1986) and Michal Lahav (2016). Top-seeded IM Yuliya Shvayger and WGM Marsel Efroimski tied for first on 7 points, with Yuliya (24) winning her first national title on tie-breaks. 

Marsel lost a single game in the second round against the outgoing champion Michal Lahav, but managed to catch up in the penultimate round — she gave up material to get the initiative and managed to beat Anzhelika Nesterovskaya after 39 moves:


Third was IM Masha Klinova, with 6½, ahead of WFM Michal Lahav on 6 points.  The youngest participant ever, Noga Orian (11), scored 4 points. Tournament arbiter was WIM (and FA) Ilana David Glaz, herself Israel's former ladies' champion (1980) and current director of the leading Beer Sheva Club, in which both new champions have grown up.


Marsel Efroimski almost mounted a comeback | Photo: Dr. Mark Livshitz

The new champion, Yuliya Shvayger (24), was born in Ukraine and immigrated to Israel at the age of 14. Shortly afterwards, she became a member of the Beer Sheva Club, where she was coached by GM Mark Tseitlin. She has represented Israel in four Olympiads and is currently the country's number one player. In 2014, she married Azeri GM Arkady Najditsch and moved to Germany, where she plays for the women's team of the Deizisau Club. Last year she was awarded both the WGM and the IM titles and won an international women's tournament in Metz (France).

Noga Orian

11-year-old Noga Orian | Photo: Official site

Final standings - Women

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Shvayger Yuliya 7,0 35,50
2 Efroimski Marsel 7,0 34,75
3 Klinova Masha 6,5 27,25
4 Lahav Michal 6,0 27,75
5 Nesterovskaya Anzhelika 5,5 25,00
6 Reprun Nadejda 5,5 23,75
7 Katkov Michelle 5,5 20,25
8 Haitovich Avital 4,5 15,50
9 Levitan Ronit 4,5 13,25
10 Vardi Shlomit 4,5 13,25
11 Buzukashvili Sofia 4,0 11,00
12 Orian Noga 4,0 9,50
13 Shaul Zeidner Lyad 3,0 9,50
14 Ovechkin Lilia 2,5 7,75
15 Brusilovski Lena 2,0 5,00

All available games - Women



Yochanan was born (1952) and grew up in Tel-Aviv, and now lives in Amsterdam. He has been involved in nearly every aspect of chess, both as a professional and a volunteer, for the last 50 years, and remains an active player, composer, writer, organizer, trainer and commentator. He is an International Master and International Arbiter for chess as well as International Grandmaster for chess composition, and the author of Extreme Chess Tactics (Gambit 2017) and Practical Chess Beauty (Quality Chess 2018).


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