Russia wins the IBCA World Team Championship

by Aditya Pai
8/29/2018 – The VIII IBCA World Team Chess Championship for the blind and visually impaired took place in Sofia, Bulgaria from July 20th to 31st, 2018. The event was played in a novel format and witnessed some really exciting games all the way through. At the conclusion of an intensely fought final round, Russia emerged on top of the field by beating Poland by a razor-thin margin. | Photo: Sagar Shah

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VIII IBCA World Team Championship

The world team championship for the blind and the visually challenged was organized by the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) from July 20th to 31st, 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria. With sixteen participating federations, the tournament was played in a rather unique format, which was somewhat similar to the one used in football or cricket world cups.

The teams were divided into two groups of eight. Round-robins were held to select top two teams from each group which then battled in the semi-finals for the top places. The winners of semi-finals battled for the first place in the final while the teams that lost fought for the third place.

Unlike the Football World Cup format, however, the event saw all other teams participating in the semi-finals and the finals as well. Teams placed third in each group played the fourth-placed team of the other group. The winners of these matches then played each other in the final round for the fifth place while the losers played for the seventh spot. Similar pairings were made on lower boards as well so that every team could be assigned a placing in the final standings.     

The rate of play for the games in the group stages was 90 minutes for the entire game with a 30-second increment from move 1. In the semi-finals and the finals, players received 2 hours for the entire game along with 30 seconds per move increment from the first move.

Hotel Marinela was the host of the event in Sofia, Bulgaria | Photo: Sagar Shah

View from the room on 17th floor | Photo: Sagar Shah

This video gives you a feel of the environment of the 10th IBCA World Team Championship and also the venue | Source: ChessBase India Youtube Channel

Russia and Poland were clear favourites to win the tournament and these were the very teams that battled for the title prize in the finale that turned out to be a nailbiting one. After the dust of the battles had settled, the match had finished in a 2-2 draw.

Russia was the first to strike. On board two, FM Stanislav Babarykin scored a lightning fast win in just 15 moves to pocket the full point against Adam Czajkowski. If you’re still not impressed, he did this from the black side of a Ruy Lopez Exchange! 


The exchange variation of the Spanish is not quite the line that leads to sparkling games these days. But every now and then we find a pleasant exception. The position above is well known. White avoided an exchange of queens with the move 8.Nbd2 here and soon the following position was reached.


We are still not in unknown waters. White just has to ensure he doesn’t succumb to the temptation of hacking off the g4 bishop and take on e5. Czajkowski, however, took the bishop and this spelt doom. After 11.hxg4 hxg4 12.Nh2, Babarykin ripped open the white king with 12…Nxg2! Now there is just no defence. It was lights out just three moves later.


The top board game between Alexei Smirnov and Marcin Tazbir had ended in a quick draw. On board four, Jacek Stachanczyk tried very hard to make something of his two bishops but after a 68-move-marathon, had to content himself with half-a-point.

Poland’s big breakthrough came on board three where Piotr Dukaczewski got the better position against fellow veteran Yuri Meshkov after the latter fumbled in the early stages of the game and dropped a piece.


The game was fairly balanced until this point when Meshkov went for 13.Na4, allowing the deadly 13…c4. After 14.dxc4 dxc4 15.Rxc4 b5 White was a full piece down.


Having gathered two pawns for his piece, Meshkov fought hard and even came close to a draw. In the position above, after 29.Rxc8 Rxc8 white could have kept things under control with 30.Qc7. Black, of course, could not take on c7. And after 30…Nd8 31.exf6 Nd5 32.Rxg7+ Kh8, black will be able to take on f6 but white would still have three pawns for the piece. Instead, Meshkov took on f6 immediately and went on to lose eventually, leaving the match in a 2-2 deadlock.


As per the tie-break rules of the event, the team which had scored a win on the higher board was to be declared the winner. The Russian team, with their win on the second board, therefore, took the title prize.

Russian Team taking their prize at the IBCA World Team Championship

Russia drew against Poland in the final round. But because Babarykin won on second board, they were able to take home the title | Photo: Sagar Shah

"The Russian Olympiad team should learn from us" — Yuri Meshkov in his interview with IM Sagar Shah | ChessBase India Youtube

Polish team receiving their prize at the closing ceremony of the IBCA World Team Championship

Poland won almost all the board prizes but had to settle for the silver medal | Photo: Sagar Shah

IM Sagar Shah in an interview with the Polish Team | ChessBase India Youtube 

The clash for third place between Ukraine and Germany was also surprisingly close. Ukraine ended up winning but the German team did not go down without a fight. In fact, until the very end, it seemed the Germans were on the brink of winning the match.

While the third board saw a quick draw in the match, blows were exchanged on the top two boards.

On board 1, the Fianchetto variation of the Gruenfeld Defence went terribly wrong for IM Oliver Mueller in his game against Sergey Grigorchuk. Mueller was in a difficult position very early in the game and ended up dropping a piece on his 25th turn.

Winning against the Grünfeld

The Grünfeld is a highly dynamic opening in which Black's position often seems to hang together by a single thread; and yet, this apparently precarious equilibrium appears to be enough to make it entirely viable — up to the highest level.


The Germans sought revenge for their first board loss on board two. Mirko Eichstaedt mounded up a strong queenside initiative with the black pieces against Vladislav Kolpakov. By move 40, Eichstaedt was two healthy pawns up in a queen endgame and had no problems converting.


The game that decided the fate of the match was the fourth board encounter between Igor Shelepov and Frank Schellmann. Schellmann had dominated the game almost all the way through the middlegame and was clearly winning in the rook endgame that ensued. 


Black was winning until this point. But here, Schellmann decided to go after the g3 pawn with 63…Rg2. Play continued 64.Ra1+ Kf2 65.Ra2+ Kxg3. Schellmann got the pawn he was after but Shelepov had a sneaky trick up his sleeve. Can you find how white managed to hold a draw?


With this stunning draw, the match finished in a 2-2 draw. And again, the tiebreaks had to be used to resolve the deadlock. Due to their win on the higher board — board 1 — Ukraine was awarded the third place while the Germans had to be content with the fourth place.

Ukraine taking the third place trophy at the IBCA World Team Championship

Ukraine finished third after narrowly escaping defeat against Germany in the final round | Photo: Sagar Shah

Interview with Ivan Yanev, the organizer of the event, who ensured that everything was done in the best possible manner | ChessBase India Youtube

IBCA President, Charudatta Jadhav

Charudatta Jadhav, the IBCA President was recognized for the work that he has done one year into his presidency | Photo: Sagar Shah

The German team | Photo: Sagar Shah

The Romanian Team | Photo: Sagar Shah

Team Venezuela | Photo: Sagar Shah

The English Team | Photo: Sagar Shah

Team India | Photo: Sagar Shah

Final standings    

Rank Team
1. Russia
2. Poland
3. Ukraine
4. Germany
5. Serbia
6. Venezuela
7. Romania
8. India
9. Spain
10. Macedonia
11. Turkey
12. Bulgaria
13. Great Britain
14. Bulgaria 2
15. Slovenia
16. Italy

Two Important videos:

How do blind chess players write their scoresheets, IM Sagar Shah presents in this video | Source: ChessBase India Youtube Channel

How to blind players communicate moves to each other | Source: ChessBase India Youtube Channel


Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.


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