NATO Chess Championship: A special victory

by Ulrich Bohn
10/12/2019 – The victory in this year's NATO chess championships had a special significance for the German team. For one, the team was not the favourite this time, and they missed a teammate, IM Lorenz Drabke, who tragically died in an accident. ULRICH BOGN reports.

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A very special victory for the German team

The 30th NATO Chess Championship was something special in several ways, especially from the German point of view. As with previous round number anniversaries, Germany hosted the tournament. The city of Berlin proved to be the ideal venue for the Championship, which took place from September 16th to 20th: Firstly, Vice-Admiral Rühle, Deputy Inspector-General and patron of the event reflected on the road to German unity in his opening speech considering the parallel that here, 30 years ago, the Berlin Wall fell.

On the other hand, it was certainly due to the attractiveness of the city that a total of 114 players from 17 NATO nations participated in the championship — a new record for the tournament.

But the tournament well attended this year not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of playing ability. Some nations were much more represented than in the years before. Greece was nominally the favourite, ahead of the young, strong team from Poland, who had come as defending champions. Only behind them in third place in the starting list was the German team. But also other nations, especially Italy, the USA and Hungary could be regarded as co-favourites.

The German team (from left to right):
Marco Sauer, Ulrich Bohn, Christian Marquardt, Ewald Fichtner, Elijah Everett, FM Mark Helbig, Hans-Christoph Andersen, Guido Schott | Photo: Bundeswehr

The German team has often won the team competition in the past. In recent years, however, Poland in particular had twice taken home the trophy, the bronze statue of the Nordic King Knut.

The German team was especially hard hit by the loss of IM Lorenz Drabke, who tragically died in a traffic accident last year at the age of just 33. In the past, Lorenz — the team's strongest player — contributed significantly to the very good team positions. And not only in a sporting sense, but especially in terms for camaraderie, the absence of Lorenz hurt a lot. This is true not only for the German team, but for the entire "NATO chess community" as was clear in many conversations and many gestures. Part of the opening of the tournament included a minute's silence in his honour.

In addition, the team had to do without Oliver Nill, who had achieved an outstanding fifth place at the tournament in Lubbock, Texas USA last year and had to cancel for official reasons.

To the competition itself: The championship is held as a seven round-robin with team pairings. Eight players can be registered for each nation, six of them in the national team and two players on NATO teams. For each team, the best four players in the individual standings are considered for the team ranking.

The German team was in bad shape after four rounds: Greece were already two points ahead of Poland, Hungary and Germany in the team ranking. However, by the final round, Greece had fallen two points behind the leading team of Poland and one and a half points behind the German team, which put in a powerful "intermediate sprint" in rounds five and six.

In a thrilling final round, Germany ended up with a half-point lead over Poland in the very last match of the tournament thanks to a hard-fought draw by FM Mark Helbig, thus once again securing the title of NATO Chess Champion. Against the background of the circumstances described above, and given the course of the tournament, this victory was a little surprising. The German team was all the more pleased by the great result and dedicated this title to their departed teammate, Lorenz.

Team final standings

Rank Country Teampoints Buchholz
1. Germany 21,5 115
2. Poland 21 118,5
3. Greece 19 119,5
4. Italy 18 112
5. The Netherlands 18 109
6. Denmark 18 102,5
7. USA 17,5 116
8. Hungary 17 115,5
9. Slovenia 16,5 108,5
10. Belgium 14 100
11. NATO Team 1 13,5 103
12. Latvia 13,5 99
13. NATO Team 3 13,5 84
14. NATO Team 5 13,5 83
15. NATO Team 2 13 92,5
16. United Kingdom 12,5 105
17. NATO Team 4 12,5 96
18. Estonia 12,5 92,5
19. Lithuania 11 87,5
20. Canada 10,5 92
21. Luxembourg 5 48

Decisive for the success of the German team was certainly the excellent result of Elijah Everett in the individual classification. With 6½ points from seven games he was able to win the championship title with a full point ahead of the competition. In the last round he defeated the number one on the starting list, the Greek IM Anastasios Pavlidis, who won the individual ranking last year, coincidentally via a last round draw against Everett.

In part, Everett was able to win his games in impressive fashion, as illustrated by his two victories in the sixth and seventh rounds.

With 5½ points followed the two young players, Eigen Wang (USA) and Damian Graczyk (Poland), as well as Hans-Christoph Andersen from the Bundeswehr team.

Individual standings

Cl Title Name Country Elo Name Club P.Tot. Perf Buch B Med1
1   Everett, Elijah ger 2187 Germany 6.5 2488 28.50 21.00
2   Wang, Eigen usa 2193 United States of America 5.5 2320 32.00 23.00
3   Graczyk, Damian pol 2133 Poland 5.5 2384 30.00 22.00
4   Delfino, Luigi ita 2235 Italy 5.5 2241 29.50 21.50
5   Sypien, Mateusz pol 2243 Poland 5.5 2300 28.50 20.50
6   Andersen, Hans-Christoph ger 2201 Germany 5.5 2250 28.00 20.00
7 IM Pavlidis, Anastasios gre 2338 Greece 5.0 2266 33.50 24.00
8   Papasimakopoulos, Alexandros gre 2218 Greece 5.0 2274 32.00 22.00
9   Kedzierski, Slawomir pol 2163 Poland 5.0 2277 31.50 22.50
10 FM Wantiez, Fabrice bel 2225 Belgium 5.0 2233 29.50 21.00
11   Bohn, Ulrich ger 2157 Germany 5.0 2252 29.00 21.00
12   Casteleijn, Diederick ned 2079 The Netherlands 5.0 2256 29.00 21.00
13   Werksma, Arie ned 2197 The Netherlands 5.0 2212 28.50 21.50
14   Cichy, Kamil pol 2106 Poland 5.0 2170 28.50 20.00
15 WIM Pavlidou, Ekaterini gre 2178 Greece 5.0 2194 27.00 20.00
16   Pietruszewski, Marcin pol 2215 Poland 5.0 2220 27.00 19.50
17   Sycz, Dariusz pol 2215 Poland 5.0 2140 25.00 17.50
18 FM Pedersen, Finn den 2305 Denmark 5.0 2184 24.50 18.50
19 FM Binder, Tamas hun 2261 Hungary 4.5 2217 30.50 22.00
20   Kersic, Matej slo 2122 Slovenia 4.5 2211 30.50 22.00

114 Players

The placings of the German players in detail:

On the afternoon of the last competition day, the nations could once again compete in a blitz tournament. Four teams competed against each other in nine rounds under the Swiss system, with the board points being decisive for the ranking.

The Greek team lived up to its role as favourites and won in front of the teams Poland 1 and Germany 2.

All information on pairings and results of the 30th NATO Chess Championship can be found on the website natochess.com.

The fact that this championship remains a memorable event for all participants has certainly ensured not only the exciting competitions and the supporting program, but also the excellent organization of the tournament. Responsible for this was the Catholic Working Group for Soldiers Support eV (KAS) and especially Karl Koopmeiners with his team. After he had already steered the destiny of the German team as team captain in the past decades, he said goodbye to the bravura orientation of this tournament from the official field of NATO chess. As part of the opening ceremony, he was honoured by Vice Admiral Rühle for his services to the German NATO chess.

Once again, this NATO chess championship has shown that this is not just a chess tournament, but a sporting competition among friends, a fair showdown within the NATO chess family; this is true to the motto of the World Chess Federation of FIDE "Gens una sumus" (Latin for "We are a family")!

So they said goodbye with the promise to see each other in 2020 in the context of the then 31st championship in Belgium. Thanks to the support of the KAS, the German team will of course start again at this tournament.

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