Friday, December 21, 2012

Podebrady retrospect: Averbakh, Prague and Snowdrops in the snow

Snowdrops and Old Hands – Czech Coal Match 2012

From December 7th to 16th the spa city of Poděbrady hosted a match between a rising generation of female chess players and chess legends of the 20th century. The former was represented by IM Valentina Gunina (Russia, rated 2517), IM Tania Sachdev (India, 2400), WGM Alina Kashlinskaya (Russia, 2344) and WIM Kristýna Havlíková (Czech Republic, 2310). They were trained by team captain GM Sergei Movsesian. The "Old Hands" were GM Oleg Romanishin (Ukraine, 2530), GM Fridrik Olafsson (Iceland, 2419), GM Vlastimil Hort (Czech Republic, 2455) and GM Wolfgang Uhlmann (Germany, 2319). The games were played at Hotel Zámeček in Poděbrady, the rate of play was 90 minutes for 40 moves, 30 minutes for the rest, with an increament of 30 seconds per move.

Yuri Averbakh

Yuri Lvovich Averbakh, born February 8, 1922, in Kaluga, Russia, of a German Jewish father (originally named Auerbach) and a Russian Eastern Orthodox mother.

Averbakh's first major success was first place in the Moscow Championship of 1949. He became an International Grandmaster in 1952, and in 1954 won the USSR Chess Championship ahead of players including Taimanov, Korchnoi, Petrosian, Geller and Flohr. In the 1956 Championship he came equal first with Taimanov and Spassky. His other major tournament victories included Vienna 1961 and Moscow 1962. He qualified for the 1953 Candidates' Tournament and also for the 1958 Interzonal at Portorož. Averbakh is also a major endgame study theorist. He has published more than 100 studies, many of which have made notable contributions to endgame theory.

At ninety years of age Yuri Averbakh is the oldest living grandmaster of the world. He is still in great condition, able to travel, e.g. as a guest of the match Snowdrops and Old Hands, and even hold a lecture on the free day. In it he spoke about the Art of Chss, in the audience were GMs Vlastimil Hort and Fridrik Olafsson (in front row left in the picture above).

Averbakh signing books for chess enthusiasts
After short chess history review, Averbakh presented some of his wonderful endgame studies, which he placed on the board by memory, without books or notes, and he was often rewarded with big spontaneous applaus after finishing the studies.

GM Jurij Averbach and arbiter Pavel Votruba during the lecture
One of the studies Yuri showed the audience was by the great composer Henri Rinck (1870-1952), who was extremely prolific – producing nearly 1670 studies – and especially brilliant at using two rooks to create a theme. The following example, according to Averbakh, makes use of the Art of Dance on the chessboard.

Snowdrops in Prague

The city of Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, is just a stone's throw – actually 60 km or 37 miles – from Poděbrady, where the tournament was held.

View Larger Map
On the free days two of the participant Snowdrops, together with their trainer and a friend, visited the historical city which was not only the capital of the Czech state, but also the of the Holy Roman Empire. Prague has remained the political, cultural, and economic centre of central Europe, with waxing and waning fortunes, during its 1,100-year existence.
Scroll to the right to view this panorama from Wikipedia
Russian IM Valentina Gunina and WGM Alina Kashlinskaya on the Charles Bridge, which you can see in full in the panorama picture above. The tradition says that if you rub one of the bronze plaques, especially the ones depicting St John of Nepomuk, you will one day return to Prague. The fact that these plaques are shiny gold prove that a lot of people want to do so.

Alina and Valentina delighted that the magic ritual will bring them back to Prague

Snowdrops Alina and Valentina above the city of Prague...

... and joined by their deeply respected trainer GM Sergei Movsesian

At the winter market in Prague the two chess GMs share some...

... (correct us if we are wrong) delicious Czech beer

A Snowdrop in the snow

The Russian player were in Prague, but Indian IM Tania Sachdev decided to try her hand (legs?) at skiing. On the free day she went to the ski resort of Pekelský vrch in Krkonoše to make her very first contact with snow.

It's called "snow", Tania, and it's cold and falls from the sky in these regions

And this is a ski slope. People strap wooden boards to their feet and...

Wait, you are not going to try it?? It's really quite hard...

Yes she is. First time in snow, first time on skis

After an hour of instructions Tania was was able to manage the downhill slope safely

... and can now list skiing as one of her accomplishments

(Source: ChessBase)