Stupak, Nikolov and Bernadskiy win the 10th Paleochora Open 2017

by Sagar Shah
7/31/2017 – ChessBase authors Sagar Shah and Amruta Mokal are on their European journey, which they usually undertake in the summer each year. This time the first tournament they visited was the Paleochora Open in the island of Crete south of the Greek mainland. The small peninsula is perhaps the most picturesque spot you can imagine for a chess tournament. The event was a strong one with 15 grandmasters fighting for the first prize of €1800. Kirill Stupak, Momchil Nikolov (below right) and Vitaliy Bernadskiy (center) won the event with 7.5/9. Part one of our report. | Photos: Amruta Mokal

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Chess life on the Libyan sea

For nearly twelve years of my life I have been an extremely active chess player, indulging in more than 100 FIDE rated games every year. Life as a chess player has its own charms. But, since the last year or so, I have had to cut down on playing tournaments mainly because of my work related to the swiftly growing company co-founded by Amruta (my wife) and me — ChessBase India. Towards the end of June 2017, we were invited by the Georgian Chess Federation to cover the World Cup 2017, Tbilisi, to be held in September. Amruta and I decided, this was the perfect time for both of us to spend a month or so in Europe before the World Cup and re-ignite our love for playing chess! And we started our trip with the 10th edition of the Paleochora Open in Greece.

Paleochora is a small town on the Island of Crete located around 77 kilometers south of Chania (which is also the nearest airport) and occupies a small peninsula 400 meters wide and 700 meters long! The town is set along 11 kilometers of coastline bordering the Libyan Sea. The population of the place is less than 2000!

Google Maps show you exactly where Paleochora is located

A video created by Amruta Mokal which gives you an overview of the 10th Paleochora Open

We will come to the story of how chess developed in Paleochora, which is one of the most southern points of Europe, in the second part. For now I would like to focus on the tournament. The 10th edition of the event attracted 224 players from 27 different countries. A total of 47 titled players took part including 15 grandmasters and 15 International Masters. Zbyněk Hráček with a rating of 2618 was the top seed.

The strength of the event was particularly high because of the eastern European GMs from countries like Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria and others, who had not only come to play in the tournament, but to enjoy the Mediterranean climate!

All the players were made to feel special as flags of different countries adorned the tournament hall

Daniel Sadzikowski of Poland finished fourth and gained nine precious Elo points.

Daniel Sadzikowski took the early sole lead as he raced to 5.0/5on his way, he beat two strong players: his Polish friend Radoslaw Barski and Russian IM Vladimir Minko. Usually in a nine round event when you take an early lead, the chances are pretty high that you will run away with the tournament. Hence, the sixth round was especially important for the group of seven players on 4.5/5. GM Kirill Stupak had the responsibility of stopping Sadzikowski and he did that to perfection, playing a nice game from the white side of the Benko Gambit.

[Event "10th International Open"] [Site "Paleochora"] [Date "2017.07.23"] [Round "6.1"] [White "Stupak, Kirill"] [Black "Sadzikowski, Daniel"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E60"] [WhiteElo "2570"] [BlackElo "2563"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "77"] [EventDate "2017.07.19"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "GRE"] {This was an important game for both the players. Daniel Sadzikowski was leading the event already with 5.0/5. Stupak Kirill was half a point behind.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. g3 c5 $5 5. d5 {Usually White players avoid playing d5, because it gives Black an option of going into the Benko or the Benoni. While the fianchetto variation with g3 is quite potent against the Benko, I think Benoni players would be very happy seeing the move d5.} b5 $5 ( 5... e6 {transposing to Benko was also an option.}) 6. cxb5 Qa5+ 7. Bd2 Qxb5 8. Nc3 Qb7 (8... Qxb2 9. Rb1 Qa3 10. Nb5 $18) 9. e4 $1 {Adjusting to the new scenario. It is true that g3 has been played, but the bishop will stand well on c4.} O-O 10. Bc4 d6 11. O-O Bg4 12. Rb1 Nfd7 (12... Nbd7 {There was nothing wrong with the normal development followed by Rfb8 and typical Benko like play. }) 13. Be2 a5 14. Bf4 Na6 15. Kg2 Rfc8 16. Qd2 Nc7 (16... c4 $5 {was a move that should have been looked into by Black.} 17. Nd4 Bxe2 18. Ncxe2 Nac5 19. f3 Nd3 20. Nc6 Nb8 $11 {And Black has a good position.}) 17. Rfc1 a4 18. h3 Bxf3+ 19. Kxf3 $5 {The king comes out for a small outing. He will be sent back home pretty soon!} c4 $6 {Taking with the king worked as Sadzikowski was tempted into this risky pawn advance. The pawn on c4 is pretty weak now.} 20. Kg2 (20. Bxc4 $2 g5 $1 {And with Ne5+ coming up, it is pretty bad for White.}) 20... Ne8 (20... Nb5 21. Nxb5 Qxb5 22. b3 $1 $16) 21. g4 Ne5 22. g5 Nc7 23. Be3 Na6 $2 { Black just blunders the pawn and Stupak picks it up.} (23... e6 $5 $16) 24. Nxa4 $18 {White is a pawn up and has a clearly better position. A knight fork looms large on b6 and f4 is coming up. The rest was not at all difficult for the Belarussian GM.} Nb4 (24... Nc5 25. Nxc5 dxc5 26. b3 $18) 25. Nb6 $1 Ned3 26. Nxc8 (26. Rxc4 $1 Rxc4 27. Nxc4 $18) 26... Nxc1 27. Rxc1 Nxa2 (27... Rxc8 28. Bxc4 $18 {is just two extra pawns.}) 28. Nxe7+ Qxe7 29. Rxc4 Qe5 30. Bf4 Qe7 (30... Qxb2 31. Qxb2 Bxb2 32. Bxd6 $18) 31. Qc2 Be5 32. Bd2 Qb7 33. b4 Ra3 34. b5 Qd7 35. Bd3 Kg7 36. Ra4 Rxa4 37. Qxa4 Nc3 38. Qb3 Qc8 39. b6 {A very nice game by Stupak Kirill, who won by making simple and logical moves.} 1-0

The Benko Gambit with g3

The search continues for a refutation of the Benko (a.k.a. Volga) Gambit, and White is quite happy if he can achieve a slight advantage. According to the Icelandic grandmaster Henrik Danielsen, to get this White should accept the gambit and go on to fianchetto his king's bishop. The key move is 10.Rb1 — meaning that at any point White is prepared to play b3. And the key game is Kramnik-Topalov from Wijk 2003 — since then the Bulgarian has never again played the Benko. With his video series the author provides a complete repertoire for White against this gambit which still remains very popular with club players.


Kirill StupakOnce Stupak got the lead, he kept it right until the very end and won the tournament with a score of 7.5/9 and a superior tie-break over Nikolov and Bernadskiy. Although Paleochora is known for its beach, Kirill did not step into the water even once during the seven days of the tournament. Was he preparing hard for the games? It seems so, but he also mentioned that he spent quite some time at the bar. The band-aid on his forehead (picture at right) attests to some of the late night adventures that Stupak had during this event! When he was asked for his favourite game from the tournament, Kirill was confused. He thought for a long time and replied, "None!" He wasn't particularly happy with any of his games, but he added that from the competitive point of view and tournament standings, his game against Sadzikowski was very important as the Polish player had a half point lead over him and the other players.

One of my favourite chess books is Jonathon Rowson's 'Chess for Zebras'. In it Rowson mentions the importance of 'doing and being' in chess. Many chess players are often simply obsessed with doing something in a position. But sometimes, it is just enough to be. Not do anything stupid. This was shown perfectly in the game between Momchil Nikolov and Zbynek Hracek, where the Bulgarian GM didn't do much apart from not making any bad moves! If you ask me, that's a really difficult art to master.

[Event "10th International Open"] [Site "Paleochora"] [Date "2017.07.25"] [Round "8.3"] [White "Hracek, Zbynek"] [Black "Nikolov, Momchil"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C42"] [WhiteElo "2618"] [BlackElo "2561"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "116"] [EventDate "2017.07.19"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "GRE"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 {Playing the top seed in the all important penultimate round, Nikolov decided to play it steady with the Petroff.} 3. Nxe5 d6 4. Nf3 Nxe4 5. Nc3 Nxc3 6. dxc3 Be7 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Bd3 (8. Qd2 {Followed by 0-0-0 is the more common approach by White.}) 8... Be6 9. Qe2 Qd7 10. O-O-O O-O { The opposite side castling makes the situation extremely interesting.} 11. h3 Rae8 12. Rhe1 a6 13. Kb1 Bd8 14. Qd2 Bf5 15. c4 Bf6 16. g4 Bxd3 17. Qxd3 Qc8 ( 17... Ne5 18. Nxe5 Bxe5 19. f4 $16) 18. c3 g6 19. Nd2 Bh4 20. Nf3 Bf6 21. Nd2 Bh4 22. Qd5 {White surely looks slightly better and Hracek decides to play on.} Re6 23. Nf3 Bf6 24. h4 Re7 25. Bg5 $6 {An overambitious move by Hracek.} (25. Rg1 {White seems to have made progress on the kingside, but Black's central play is enough to keep the balance.} Ne5 $1 26. Nxe5 Rxe5 $11) 25... Bxg5 26. Qxg5 Rxe1 27. Rxe1 Re8 $1 {Simply play by Nikolov. He simply exchanges the rooks and tells White that he has simply overextended his position.} 28. Re3 ( 28. Rxe8+ Qxe8 29. Qe3 (29. Qf4 Qe2 $19) 29... Qxe3 30. fxe3 Kg7 $17 {Black has a clear advantage in this endgame.}) 28... Rxe3 29. fxe3 (29. Qxe3 Qxg4 { is not advisable.}) 29... Qe6 {This is the true strength of Petroff. Black has excellent structure and well centralized pieces. All that White is left are weaknesses and weak pawns.} 30. Qf4 Ne5 31. Nxe5 dxe5 (31... Qxe5 32. Kc2 $15) 32. Qe4 c6 (32... f5 33. Qxb7 (33. gxf5 Qxf5 $19) 33... fxg4 $19 {should be winning for Black.}) 33. Kc1 f5 34. gxf5 Qxf5 35. Qg2 Kg7 36. c5 h5 37. Qg3 g5 $1 {In queen endgames it is very important that you try to create outside passed pawns. Now the h-pawn is a real trump for Black.} 38. hxg5 Kg6 39. Kd2 Qxg5 40. Qh3 Qg4 {Although material is even, Black seems to have an extra pawn because of White's doubled pawns on the queenside.} 41. Qh2 Qe4 42. Qg3+ Kh6 43. Qg8 h4 44. Qe6+ Kg5 45. c4 Qf5 46. Qe7+ Qf6 47. Qxb7 h3 {The h-pawn marches on.} 48. Qh7 Qf2+ 49. Kc3 h2 {In such positions it might seem that White will have lot of checks, but the checks end at some point and the black king finds safety behind the white pawns.} 50. Qg7+ Kh4 51. Qe7+ Kh3 52. Qe6+ Kh4 53. Qe7+ Kg4 54. Qe6+ Kf3 55. Qf5+ Kxe3 56. Qh3+ Kf4 57. Qh6+ Kg3 58. Qg6+ Kh3 {One can argue that Momchil did nothing special in this game. But not making bad moves is also an art! As Jonathon Rowson puts it, being in chess is just as important as doing!} (58... Kh3 59. Qh5+ Kg2 $19) 0-1

Nikolov had a great tournament. He performed at an impressive 2689 Elo and gained 15 rating points. He beat some strong players like IM Harsha Bharathakoti, and GM Vitaliy Bernadskiy in addition to top seed GM Zbynek Hracek.

The look says it all. Top seed and experienced GM Zbynek Hracek, who has represented the Czech team in innumerable Olympiads, didn't have a great event as he finished 21st.

The joint winners of the tournament: Kirill Stupak (first on tiebreak) and Vitaliy Bernadskiy (third)

Bernadskiy is a young dynamic player from Ukraine. His games were filled with energy and fireworks. One of his combinations that especially caught my attention was against Maria Gevorgian in round three. Bernadskiy had not only seen the piece sacrifice, but also calculated all the way upto mate. Can you calculate as accurately as him?


[Event "10th International Open"] [Site "Paleochora"] [Date "2017.07.20"] [Round "3.12"] [White "Bernadskiy, Vitaliy"] [Black "Gevorgyan, Maria"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C28"] [WhiteElo "2543"] [BlackElo "2256"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "63"] [EventDate "2017.07.19"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "GRE"] {This was Bernadskiy's favourite game from the tournament.} 1. e4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Nf6 4. d3 Na5 {If you can win the important bishop, why not?!} 5. Nge2 Nxc4 6. dxc4 c6 7. O-O Be7 8. b3 O-O 9. a4 a5 10. Ng3 Bb4 11. Qf3 d6 12. Bg5 h6 $6 (12... Bg4 {was an interesting move.} 13. Bxf6 (13. Qe3 h6 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 $15 {gives Black a clear edge.}) (13. Qd3 {is relatively the best allowing the bishop to retreat when attacked with h6.}) 13... Bxf3 14. Bxd8 Bxc3 {Two bishops hanging, one white rook on a1. What exactly is going on? Well, Black is better here.} 15. Be7 Rfe8 16. Bxd6 Bxa1 17. Rxa1 Bg4 18. f3 Be6 $15) 13. Bxf6 Qxf6 14. Qxf6 gxf6 15. Nd1 $1 {The f5 square is juicy and the knights turn their attention to those squares. The bishops are pretty useless in this position.} Kh7 (15... Bc5 {stopping Ne3 doesn't work as after} 16. Ne3 Bxe3 17. fxe3 $16 {Black loses the f6 pawn.}) 16. Ne3 Be6 17. Rad1 Rad8 18. Rd3 Rd7 19. f4 $1 {Typical play. The weakness on d6 has been created. It's now time to attack on another front.} exf4 20. Rxf4 Kg6 21. Ngf5 $6 (21. Nef5 {was more accurate, because it keeps the option of the other knight going to h5.} h5 22. Nxh5 $1 Bxf5 (22... Kxh5 23. Rh4+ Kg6 24. Rg3#) 23. Rxf5 $18) 21... Bc5 22. Kf1 Re8 (22... Bxe3 {It would have been better to eliminate this knight. Maria had not seen her opponent's next move.}) 23. Nd5 $1 {A very strong move. It opens the third rank for the d3 rook and launches a mating attack against the black king.} cxd5 (23... Bxd5 24. Rg3+ Kh7 25. Rh4 $18) 24. Rg3+ Kh7 25. Nxh6 $1 { Credit must be given to Bernadskiy for believing in his attack. It's true that Black has the move and the extra piece, but he is simply helpless against the white rook moving to the h-file and delivering the mate.} (25. Rg7+ Kh8 $19 { is just winning for Black.}) 25... Be3 {The only defence.} (25... dxe4 26. Rh4 $18) 26. Rxe3 Kxh6 27. Rg3 $1 {Once again the rook cuts the king off and threatens Rh4#.} Kh5 28. cxd5 {The bishop is trapped on e6.} Bxd5 29. Rf5+ Kh4 30. Rg7 $1 {Very clinical. The threat is g3 followed by Rh5#} Re5 31. g3+ Kh3 32. Rh7+ {An excellent game by the young Ukrainian.} (32. Rh7+ Kg4 33. Rh4#) 1-0

Alberto David and Hristos Banikas

David Alberto (left) finished fifth. It must be mentioned that the Italian GM simply loves Paleochora. He is the only grandmaster who has attended all the ten editions of this tournament right from 2008 to 2017! Greek grandmaster Hristos Banikas (right) was sixth.

Three Bulgarians: Momchil Nikolov, Sveta Galunova and Ivajlo Enchev (seventh)

Ivajlo Enchev finished seventh and was unbeaten throughout the event. One game of his that caught my attention was his last round win over Radoslaw Barski. The game is very interesting from a strategic point of view. Usually White plays on the queenside in the King's Indian and Black plays on the opposite wing. But here things were completely different. Enchev castled short and hurled his pawns down the board with g4 and h4. While this is normal for any player who has studied the King's Indian opening theory, for someone who is not initiated to this system, this game could be quite a revelation. Hence, I have annotated it like an amateur, who is simply unable to understand what the white player wants to achieve in the game!

[Event "10th International Open"] [Site "Paleochora"] [Date "2017.07.26"] [Round "9.5"] [White "Enchev, Ivajlo"] [Black "Barski, Radoslaw"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "E99"] [WhiteElo "2477"] [BlackElo "2402"] [Annotator "Sagar Shah"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2017.07.19"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "GRE"] {Usually I annotate games in order to explain what is going on in the position in a specific game. I am going to take some time off from that role and annotate this game merely for fun and enjoyment. I will be annotating this game as an amateur who understands chess not so deeply. So let's get the ball rolling.} 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 {The Classical Variation of the King's Indian! Well, I have seen this happening in countless games and I know that Black goes for an attack on the kingside and White plays on the queenside. Usually leads to a very interesting game.} e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. Ne1 {This move makes complete sense to me. The knight is going to move to d3 in order to bolster the centre and prepare c5, and when Black is going to attack with f5, White can easily meet it with f3.} Nd7 10. f3 {I would have played Nd3, but this might just transpose.} f5 11. g4 $5 { What?!! The first real shocker for me! Wsn't white supposed to play on the queenside? What is this move g4 all about? I do not understand it at all.} Kh8 12. h4 $5 {Now this is going too far! Wasn't there a saying that side shouldn't move pawns on the side of the board where he is weaker. Also not to move pawns in front of your king! White seems to be abusing many principles and rules at the same time. Also what is the point of this move. It's not that you are going to launch an attack on the black king, with your king stuck on g1.} Nf6 13. Nd3 c6 $1 {I like Black's play. He has played logical moves and now tries to blast the centre.} 14. a4 $5 {Enchev is not tired of moving his pawns! He has already move seven of them, and six moved two squares ahead on the first move! Somehow Black to should find a way to punish all of these moves.} b6 15. Nf2 (15. b4 $5 {I was expecting the Bulgarian to go for this!}) 15... a6 16. Qb3 Rb8 17. Be3 f4 {Black closes the centre and pushes the bishop off the best diagonal.} 18. Bd2 {Let's take stock things here. White's pawn moves which seemed really crazy at first, don't look so crazy anymore! He has more space and Black is at a loss for a plan. The pawns on g4 and h4, instead of being weak are actually limiting Black's pieces. Was it some sort of a great plan by White?} Nd7 (18... b5 $1 {I think this move should have been tried by Black.} 19. axb5 axb5 20. cxb5 cxd5 21. exd5 Bb7 $13 {And to some extent Black has succeeded in opening up the position.}) 19. Kg2 Nc5 20. Qc2 a5 21. Rh1 h5 22. g5 {The pawns on h4 and g5 take away space from the black pieces. The only way in which they could be a weakness is if Black can sacrifice a piece soon on g5, but that is not happening.} Qd7 23. Rab1 Ba6 24. b4 axb4 25. Rxb4 {With the kingside closed, all the action shifts to the queenside, where White opened up the position with b4 and now has a weakness on b6 to attack.} Rfc8 26. Rhb1 Qa7 27. Be1 Re8 28. Qb2 Rb7 (28... Nd7 29. Nfd1 $16 {The bishop comes to f2 and it is going to force c5, when Black would be very passive.}) 29. Rxb6 Reb8 30. a5 {White has won a pawn and is well and truly on his way to wining the game.} cxd5 31. cxd5 Nc8 32. Rxb7 Rxb7 33. Qc2 Bf8 34. Bxa6 Qxa6 35. Rxb7 Qxb7 36. Nd3 Qa6 37. Nxc5 dxc5 38. Qa4 {Excellent play by Ivajlo. There is not one mistake that you can find in the moves he has made in this game.} Nd6 (38... Qd3 39. Qe8 $18) 39. Bf2 Nc4 40. Qe8 Kg7 41. Nb5 (41. Qc6 Qxa5 42. Qf6+ Kg8 43. Qxg6+ $18) 41... Qxa5 42. Qd7+ Kh8 43. Qf7 (43. Qc8 $18) 43... Qxb5 (43... Bg7 {would have survived longer. White has to find} 44. Nc7 Qa7 45. d6 Nxd6 46. Qe7 Nc4 47. Qe8+ Kh7 48. Nd5 $18 {And with Ne7, White is winning.}) 44. Qxf8+ Kh7 45. Qh6+ Kg8 46. Qxg6+ Kf8 47. Qf6+ Kg8 48. g6 Qb7 49. Bxc5 Ne3+ 50. Bxe3 fxe3 51. Qf7+ {I was sitting on the board next to this game. The amateur within me learnt a lot of things. The main one being, it is not so bad to push pawns in front of your king and space advantage does count for a lot in the game of chess! The analysis were more from fun point of view and not so objective, but I would say that Ivajlo really played a fine game!} 1-0

Final standings (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Stupak Kirill 7,5
2 Nikolov Momchil 7,5
3 Bernadskiy Vitaliy 7,5
4 Sadzikowski Daniel 7,0
5 David Alberto 7,0
6 Banikas Hristos 7,0
7 Enchev Ivajlo 7,0
8 Morozov Nichita 7,0
9 Zinchenko Yaroslav 6,5
10 Dobrov Vladimir 6,5
11 Sheng Joshua 6,5
12 Kharitonov Alexandr 6,5
13 Rakotomaharo Fy Antenaina 6,5
14 Livaic Leon 6,5
15 Malikentzos Sotirios 6,5
16 Boruchovsky Avital 6,5
17 Reshef Omer 6,5
18 Kelires Andreas 6,5
19 Sagar Shah 6,5
20 Rychagov Andrey 6,5

Joanna Worek of Czech Republic scored 6.0/9 and was the best woman player of the event

WIM Tsveta Galunova botched up many winning positions, yet managed to score 6.0/9 and win the second prize in women 

The top three women players: (From left to right) Mengjie Qiu (third), Sveta Galunova (second) and Joanna Worek (first)

Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean. It is the fourth largest island in the world filled with a lot of biodiversity. But when it comes to the development of chess, it is lagging behind quite significantly. However, there is one young boy....

...Fy Antenaina, who is the highest rated player from Madagascar. He is an IM with an Elo of 2424. Although he now lives France, he learnt chess in Madagascar and still represents it at the Olympiad. We caught up with him and asked about the chess scene in Madagascar and what his future plans are:

Short chat with Fy Antenaina

The participation of woman players was quite high at the event, and so was the style quotient!

Continue to Part II of the 10th Paleochora Open 2017. It contains the story of how chess developed in this small town and how it was able to host such a huge event. Also you will be able to see some beautiful pictures of the place and decide for yourself if you really want to miss out on the 11th edition of the Paleochora Open in 2018!


Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant and would like to become the first CA+GM of India. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder of the ChessBase India website.
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