Jerusalem Hosts the National Cup Games

by Yochanan Afek
7/12/2017 – National Cup games, in chess and in other sports, are usually run in a “knock out” system with half of the remaining competitors eliminated in each round. For already more than a generation, Israeli chess has been adopting a more innovative and dynamic method to run this traditional enterprise. At the end of the league season, 40 teams from the top divisions regroup for a day of real fun: A five-round rapid Swiss competition with almost all the country’s top players taking part.

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Photos by Ritvo Photography

This is the second year in a row that the cup games are held in Jerusalem. Last year the Cup games were held in the area of the city’s first railway station; this year at the Meirsdorf Conference Centre, overlooking the "Mount Scopus" summit, with its spectacular and inspiring view.

The chief organizer and director was Lior Aizenberg (left); the chief arbiter was Lior Gal

The Tournament

The main natural favourites were the leaders of the preliminary rankings: the champion team of Beer Sheba and 2015 winner Ashdod Ilit. Nevertheless the results of the last two rounds confounded expectations. The encounter between the two in the fourth round ended in a 3:2 win in favour of Beer Sheba but the decisive drama took place in the closing round. "Feldklein" Rishon Letzion (with its young stars led by veteran GM Boris Alterman) beat Ashdod 4:1 while Herzliya stunned the proud champion from Beer Sheva 3.5:1.5. The unexpected result was that both early favourites were surprisingly eliminated from the medal winners' stage.

Here are the ten leading teams in the final rankings (in brackets — average ratings):

1. "Feldklein" Rishon Lezion (2581) 20.5

From right to left: Adi Lahav (official) GM Boris Alterman, Minister Zeev Elkin, FM Yevgeny Zanan, GM Tal Baron, IMs Ori Kobo and Israel Caspi

2. Herzliya (2434) 17.5

Herzliya — smiles from coast to coast. From right to left: GM Dov Zifroni, FM Yehonatan Bakalchuk, IM Tal Haimovitz, Minister Zeev Elkin, Captain Shlomo Kandelshine, GM Dan Zoller and Idan Lavi (official)

3. Elitzur "Dov" Petah Tikva (2418) 17.5

Right to left: Minister Elkin, Danny Kalisky (captain), IM Eyal Deutsch, Pinkhas Kantraji, Konstantin Mastropov and GM Avigdor Bikhovsky

4. Beer-Sheba A (2584) 16
5. Ashdod Illit (2593)
6. Hapoel Kfar Saba (2533)
7. Hapoel Kfar-Saba B (2382)
8. Ashdod B (2220) 15.5
9. Tzafrir Rehovot A (2393) 14.5
Maccabi Haifa Carmel B (2225)

At the prize giving trophies were also awarded to teams that excelled in the top division. The champion team for the season just ended is Beer Sheba.

The event was honoured by the presence of the Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Heritage and Environmental Protection Zeev Elkin, an avid chess enthusiast, who congratulated the participants, awarded the prizes and even demonstrated his playing strength.

Alik's simul

Just like last year the cup games were accompanied by a series of popular events. The main one was simultaneous exhibition by GM Alik Gershon, twice former youth world champion and former Israel champion. Gershon (37) was also a Guinness record holder when he played in Tel-Aviv against 523 opponents for 18 hours and 30 minutes. He won 454 of them; lost 11 and drew 58 for an 86% total.

You can read about this historic event in the article from 2010

This time, Alik was confronted just by a few dozen opponents, among which were best of the country's blind chess players and two other record-holders in their own right: the oldest participant was David Brauner, a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor and the youngest participant, Yarden Drori is just 4.5 years old.  Alik, who was happy with his performance, lost one game against young Yair Hoffman and drew against minister Elkin. “A well deserved hard fought draw” said Gershon.

Alik Gershon vs. Minister Zeev Elkin

The Best Players

Two grandmasters ended up with a perfect score of 5/5. Tal Baron, on the third board of the winning team from Rishon Lezion, was in excellent shape defeating all three GMs among his opponents: Alex Khuzman (Beer Sheva), Avital Boruchovsky (Kfar Saba) and in the final round, Emil Sutovsky (Ashdod).

Tal Baron ("Feldklein" Rishon LeZion) vs Emil Sutovsky (Ashdod Ilit)

[Event "Israel national cup Jerusalem "] [Site "Minsk"] [Date "2017.06.30"] [Round "5"] [White "Baron, Tal"] [Black "Sutovsky, Emil"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C11"] [Annotator "Yochanan Afek"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2b1k2r/R3bppp/p3p3/q2pPP2/2rB4/2N5/P1P2QPP/1R4K1 w k - 0 21"] [PlyCount "17"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {White obtained a winning position in quite an early stage of the game.} 21. f6 $1 gxf6 22. Rxe7+ $1 Kxe7 23. Qxf6+ Kd7 24. Bb6 ({White has a choice of easy wins e.g.} 24. Qxf7+ Kc6 25. Qe7 $18) 24... Qa3 25. Qxh8 Qe7 26. Ne2 Rxc2 27. Nd4 Rc4 28. Rf1 Rb4 29. Bc5 1-0

Tal Baron

Dov Zifroni, on the fourth board of the runner-up from Herzliya, also beat all his five opponents. In the third round he scored the only point in his team's loss against Ashdod:

Yehuda Gruenfeld (Ashdod Ilit) vs Dov Zifroni (Herzliya)

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.06.30"] [Round "?"] [White "Y.Gruenfeld"] [Black "D.Zifroni"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C12"] [Annotator "Yochanan Afek"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r3k1r/p2b1pp1/4p2p/qp1pPn1N/2pP3P/P1P4Q/2P1BPP1/R2K3R w - - 0 19"] [PlyCount "58"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] 19. g4 Nxh4 $5 20. Kd2 ({After} 20. Qxh4 Qxc3 21. Rc1 Qxd4+ 22. Ke1 Qxe5 $15 { black has picked up 4 pawns for his sacrificed piece}) 20... Ng6 21. f4 Ne7 22. Rhf1 g6 23. Nf6 Bc8 24. Rh1 Ng8 25. Qe3 Qd8 26. Nxg8 Kxg8 27. Rh2 $2 ({Correct is} 27. f5 exf5 28. Rxh6 Rxh6 29. Qxh6 Qf8 30. Qh4 $11) 27... Bd7 28. Rah1 Qf8 29. f5 exf5 30. Bf3 fxg4 31. Bxd5 h5 32. Rf2 Bf5 33. e6 Qh6 34. exf7+ $2 (34. Qxh6 Rxh6 35. e7 $11 {was necessary}) 34... Kh7 35. Rf4 Rbd8 $1 {with seconds on the clock} 36. Bc6 Rd6 $1 37. d5 Rf8 $19 38. Be8 $2 Rxd5+ 39. Kc1 Rd6 40. Kb2 Re6 41. Qd4 Qg5 42. Rhf1 g3 43. Rh4 Re2 44. Rc1 g2 45. Rh2 Qxc1+ 46. Kxc1 Re1+ 47. Kd2 g1=Q {Zifroni: "unfortunately,This hard fought win didnt prevent Ashdod team to beat our team 4-1 in the 3rd round. However, in the final round we manage to recover and beat sensationally the strong Beer Sheeva team 3.5-1. 5 clinching the 2nd place. I managed to win with black pieces again with 9 seconds on the clock against Viktory Mikhalevsky due to a giant blunder made by him in a drawn endgame"} 0-1

Dov Zifroni


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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