Women's Super-tournament in Istanbul

by ChessBase
3/10/2008 – The Turkish Chess Federation, together with the country's largest bank, is staging a spectacular international women's event in the center of Istanbul. Round one is on Tuesday. The reason for this tournament: to promote women's chess in Turkey and prepare talented girls for a serious medal bid in future Chess Olympiads. An unrealistic goal? Well watch out, here come the Young Turks of tomorrow.

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İş Bankası - Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament

The tournament, announced in December last year, will take place from March 10th (arrival) to March 21 (departure) 2008. The following players will take part (world rankings are given in the second column):

Name Title Country Rating B-Year
 Cramling, Pia  GM  SWE  2531  1963
 Zhu Chen  GM  QAT  2531  1976
 Zhao Xue  WGM CHN  2530  1985
 Hou Yifan  WGM  CHN  2502  1994
 Ushenina, Anna  IM  UKR  2486  1985
 Harika, Dronavalli  WGM  IND  2480  1991
 Krush, Irina  IM  USA  2475  1983
 Javakhishvili, Lela  IM  GEO  2474  1984
 Atalık, Katerina  IM  TUR  2404  1982
 Betul Cemre Yildiz  WIM  TUR  2220  1989

The venue is the İş Bankası Towers Complex, which has a total area of 225,000 square meters. It is the largest of its kind on the European continent.

Rarified hights: the 41st storey of the İş Bankası towers overlooking Istanbul


Monday March 10 Arrival  
Tuesday March 11 14:00h Opening Ceremony, Round 1
Wednesday March 12 16:30h Round 2
Thursday March 13 14:30h Round 3
Friday March 14 14:30h Round 4
Saturday March 15 14:30h Round 5
Sunday March 16 14:30h Round 6
Monday March 17 14:30h Round 7
Tuesday March 18 14:30h Round 8
Wednesday March 19 Free day Excursion to Dolmabahçe Palas
Thursday March 20 10:30h Round 9
Friday March 21 Departure  

Chess training in Turkey

Portrait of the Young Turks at work

In a recent interview the man behind this event, Turkish Chess Federation president Ali Nihat Yazici, told us why this tournament, which is not a one-time event but planned as a yearly fixture, is being staged. One of the reasons he gave was that the Turkish Chess Federation wants to create a dream team for women in future. "Like China, Georgia or India, we want to be on the top in women's chess," he said. "This is more realistic and easier than for the men's team. We want to win the Gold Medal in the 2012 Chess Olympiad, which will be held in Antalya." When we asked him for names he mentioned IM Ekaterina Atalik, 24, but also the native players WIM Kübra Öztürk, WIM Betül Cemre Yildiz, WIM Zehra Topel – and a host of children, currently around 80, who are big talents.

During two visits to tournaments in Antalya – e.g. the recent World Youth Chess Championship in Kemer – we were able to see some of these young Turkish stars, coached by some of the best youth trainers in the world. Here are a few pictorial impressions.

A typical training session, with two grandmasters working with young talents. Seated on the left are GMs Adrian Mikhalchishin and Efstratios Grivas, on the right is TCF press officer Özgür Akman, who jumps in with translation of what the GMs are saying, if help is needed. The three pupils are Ayca Fatma Durmaz, Yesim Patel and Volkan Sevgi. Standing are Özgür Solakoglu (see below) and Faruk Sahin from Ultra Tourism, which assists the Turkish Chess Federation in the international organizations like European Club Cup, FIDE Presidential Board meetings, World Youth Chess Championships, and the like.

Adrian Mikhalchishin is the chief trainer of the young Turkish players. Adrian hails from Ukraine, moved to Slovenia and now works in Turkey. He is well loved by all the kids he looks after. During the World Youth Championship last November he worked with them in the press center, and we attended a number of lessons (learning quite a bit in the process). Work usually began after breakfast, sometimes before then. Often his pupils would bang on his door to wake him up so they could start with their training.

Adrian working with two Yesim Patel and Ayca Fatma Durmaz, whon we introduce in greater detail below.

There is always a lot of laughter during the training sessions. One can feel how intensely these children love chess.

The star: Kübra Öztürk attending a training session with the others (she too is introduced below)

Young talents: Burcu Sasmazel, Yesim Patel and Ayca working with their grandmaster trainer. In the above picture they are solving a suit of tactical problems from a magazine. At some stage each will look up and nod – got it. Afterwards all three compare results.

It is inspiring to see Yesim Patel working one-on-one with GM Adrian Mikhailchishin

Yesim Patel (the first name is pronounced "Yeshim") is ten years old, from Manisa and the Turkish Under 10 Girls’ Champion. She was hyperactive and she broke her arm twice, before the doctor advised her to start playing chess. In every national team camp and tournament she carries a notebook with her, not the electronic kind, to write down the analyses and interesting studies she sees. In Antalya she lost it for a couple of hours and with it almost her mind. Great were the celebrations when it was at last located.

Yesim working with Özgür Solakoglu (surname pronounced "Sola-kooloo"), a dedicated Board member of the Turkish Chess Federation. He is also the manager of the national teams. Özgür is responsible for the national teams at every level. He organizes the schedules of the teams including the tournaments and national camps. He also has the FIDE Master, International Arbiter and FIDE Trainer titles.

Burcu Sasmazel (pronounced Bur-joo Shash-mazel) is 12, and one of the players who passed Frederic Friedel’s talent test. She is not just good at chess, but deeply interested in mathematics, science and especially astronomy. Burcu won the right to attend special mathematics courses given by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey for the Mathematics Olympiad. Smart kid, you better believe it.

One-on-one training for Burcu with GM Mikhailchishin

Burcu during a game at the World Youth Chess Championship 2007

Ayca Fatma Durmaz ("Ai-cha") is twelve and from Antalya, the city where the Youth World Championship 2008 was organized. She learned how to move the pieces at the age of three, but his chess career started developing after she started working with Serkan Kose and IM Baris Esen. She is the reigning Turkish champion in her age group. She misses her family so much when she is away from them since she cannot stop herself from calling them many times a day.

WIM Betul Cemre Yildiz, 18 years old, started playing chess at the age of eight. She has three elder brothers, all of whom play chess. Betül and her brothers are now run a chess center in Izmir, the largest one in Turkey. Betül is a very intelligent girl who got her education by winning a chess scholarship in high school. She is studying both law and management at two different universities. Once a prodigy in Turkey, she won the Turkish title in her age group just one year after she started playing chess. Betül has won five Turkish Women’s championship titles in a row, between 2001 and 2006.

At the World Youth Championship Betül scored with 8 out of 11 sharing 3rd-5th places in the Under 18 Girls, but won the bronze medal with the better tie-break.

WFM Kubra Ozturk (actually Kübra Öztürk) is 16 and already one of the sports celebrities of Turkey. She won two consecutive European titles in the Under 16 section, which attracted wide media attention. She was also a candidate for best sportswomen of the year. She started playing chess at the age of seven. She says that it was a very instructive experience to go abroad for the first time in 1999 World Youth Championship in Under 10.

At the World Youth Championship 2007 Kübra shared the first place in four way tie, with 8.5 points out of 11. However she missed a medal since she was fourth after the tie-breaks.

Kübra is basically a serious person with flashes of humour and a charming personality.

Hasan Kiliçaslan (pronounced Hassan Kilichaslan) has an IM title and one of the most prominent trainers in Turkey. He is the head trainer of the Youth National Team, lives in Istanbul. Hasan played an interesting game against GM Baadur Jobava at the 4th European Individual Chess Championship, back in 2003 in Istanbul. He sacrificed two pieces, which was refuted in the analysis after the game, but it was then not easy a task for even the Georgian grandmaster during the game.

Volkan Sevgi: This young man, one of half a dozen great young male talents, is from Ankara, Turkey – we will talk about the others on a separate occasion. Volkan won the bronze medal at the European Championship under eight in Batumi last year. He learned chess from his father, who was playing chess on the Internet. Volkan got his elder sister to create a Playchess account and then started to play against his father, who thought he had made a new Internet friend without being aware of what was going on. When Volkan won his first game, after three months, he ran into his father’s room yelling “I won! I won!” That was how Volkan’s father found out whom he had been playing against.

Pictures by Frederic Friedel and Özgür Akman


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