Pictures from Plovdiv

10/25/2003 – Just a few days ago the European Team Championshipended, with 37 four-player men's teams and 31 two-player women's teams. The event took place in the historical Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, from where our correspondent Pufichek (a.k.a. Diego Garces), sent us a report and a large number of player portraits.

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European Team Championships

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The European Chess Championships were held in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, for the second time in history (in 1983 the final of the European Team Championship also took place there). Plovdiv is Bulgaria's second largest city (about 340,000 inhabitants), after Sofia.

It is a city which is more than 6000 years old, and quite pictoresque, with its river Maritsa and three main hills surrounding the city.

It was always quite important as a strategic geographical standpoint (crossroads from West to East and North to South, the hills providing ideal locations for fortified castles), and so it was the target of many conquerors, including Philipp II of Macedonia in 432 B.C., the Celts in centuries III-I B.C., the Romans in the 1st century, the Slavs and the Bulgarian Khan Kroum in 815.

Then in 1365 the town fell under the Turkish yoke, and in 1878 finally liberation to become part of Bulgaria, followed in 1989 by the fall of communism, and in 2007 Bulgaria should become a part of the European Community. Even Lamartine visited Plovdiv and wrote his novel "Voyage en l'Orient" in 1833.

Now back to chess. The participants of the European Chess Championships were met by big buses at the Sofia airport, in a quite organized way, and brought to their respective hotels. While the hotels and the food did not always correspond to the number of stars they had, we must say that it was clear that the organizers were making an effort to please all players. The weather on the first days of the event was magnificent, and allowed the participants to make very pleasurable walks around the town or along the banks of the river.


The inauguration ceremony was quite impressive at the city's ancient Roman amphitheater, complete with singing, dancing, and even some fireworks (for those who stayed till the end it was quite cold in the evening and we were not warned that the ceremony will be outside).

37 men's team and 31 women's teams started competing for the titles of European Champions. I will not write here about the men's competition, in which the Russian team formed by Svidler, Bareev, Grischuk, Morozevich, and Khalifman was head above the rest and won convincingly.


The Russian women's team arrive in good spirits: Alexandra Kosteniuk, Svetlana Matveeva and Alisa Galliamova, with captain Yuri Yakovich.

The women's championship was a totally different story, due mostly by the fact that the teams were composed of only two players and one reserve player, which in my opinion is absurd, since you can hardly call a team of two persons a team. The result of one player is too significant to the team's result, and being in good form or on the contrary out of form is significant and will lead the team either to boom or bust.


Match Romania-Russia, 0.5-1.5

This rule was in effect in the times when there were very few women who played chess and the cost to the federations was too high for many federations to send a women's team. Now the number of competent female chess players has significantly risen, and the cost factor is a little less prevalent, and so a vote was taken, and it is now official: for the next women european team championships, the composition of women teams will be just like men teams (like in any other sport) 4 players (+ 1 reserve).


Svetlana Matveeva and Alexandra Kosteniuk waiting for their opponents

But for this championship the teams were of two players. Russia, who missed the last championships in Leon two years ago, were back in force with Galliamova on the first board, Matveeva on the second, and vice-champion of the world Alexandra Kosteniuk on the reserve. Other teams were quite good too, including Georgia (with Khurtsidze, Dzagnidze and Lomineishvili), Bulgaria 1 (with Stefanova on first board), France (with Skripchenko but without Sebag due to illness).

The most significant event of that round was not the result but the unfortunate "ring" of Ponomariov's cell phone (probably someone calling him to wish him a happy birthday that day), which prompted an arbiter to make him lose the game immediately (participants were warned and so he really could not complain). At least the good thing about this is that on following days everybody was very careful about not bringing their cell phones to the playing hall.

After three rounds there were only two teams with six match victories, Russia and Bulgaria 1, so in round four they played together. Alexandra Kosteniuk did her part and won convincingly on board two, while quite unexplicably Galliamova, in what was a few moves before a totally equal endgame, lost on time to Stefanova, so the match was drawn at 1-1 and Armenia joined Russia and Bulgaria 1 in the leadership of the championships.

After round five Russia emerged as only leaders by beating England 2-0, while Armenia drew against Bulgaria 1. In round six Armenia played Russia, and two draws in both games allowed Poland (who won against Bulgaria 1) to come and share the lead with the Russians, leaving Ukraine and Armenia one match point behind.

Round seven left to the spectators no doubt, Russia smashed Poland 2-0, giving them a two-match-point lead over five teams, Ukraine, Armenia, Hungary, Poland, and England. It seemed like just a formality for Russia to win the Championship title, but round eight made everything more complicated, when the Russian team lost 0.5.1.5 to Hungary, and incredibly four teams got back into the lead with 12 match points (Russia, Armenia, Hungary, and Poland).

So all was to be decided in the last round. Armenia got the upped hand by winning against Poland, and the Georgians unexpectedly lost to Hungary 2-0, which allowed the Hungarians to get silver. The Russian team, with only a draw in the last match, got bronze.


The top three womens teams: Armenia, Hungary and Russia

So the winners of the competions were in order Armenia, Hungary and Russia. More prizes were given out for best result at each board, which Danielian (Armenia) won on board one, Matveeva (Russia) won on board two (Svetlana Matveeva also had the highest performance result in the tournament – 2720!), and Alexandra Kosteniuk won a medal for best result (reserve player).

Portraits


Peter Svidler, Alexander Morozevich, Russia


Svetlana Matveeva, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Russia


Boris Gelfand, Ilya Smirin, Israel


Elizabeth Pähtz, Jessica Nill, Germany


Viktor Kortschnoi, Yannik Pelletier, Switzerland


Corinne Roelli, Monika Seps, Switzerland


Taimur Radjabov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Azerbaijan


Zeinab Mamedjarova, Turkan Mamedjarova, Azerbaijan


Antoaneta Stefanova, Emilia Djingarova, Bulgaria


Harriet Hunt, Jovanka Houska, England


Sophie Milliet, Almira Skripchenko, France

All pictures were supplied by Pufichek by courtesy of www.kosteniuk.com. You will find a lot of additional fine portraits on the special Plovdiv European Team Championship page.

Diego Garces

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