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European Club Cup

Lawrence Cooper reports on Hilsmark Kingfisher at the European Club Cup in Kemer, Turkey


1.432Hilsmark Kingfisher ½ - 5½4Bosna Sarajevo 
1GMArkell Keith C24790 : 1GMIvanchuk Vassily2787
2IMGreet Andrew N24410 : 1GMAlmasi Zoltan2691
3IMHouska Jovanka24040 : 1GMMovsesian Sergei2670
4 Tavoularis Nicholas22460 : 1GMSokolov Ivan2673
5 Briscoe Chris2273½ : ½GMShort Nigel D2649
6WIMAndersson Christin22090 : 1GMPredojevic Borki2645

England’s sole representatives, Hilsmark Kingfisher, had a daunting first round draw. We were drawn against Bosna Sarajevo who were led by Vassily Ivanchuk and also featured Nigel Short on board 5! Despite the huge rating differences we were looking forward to the challenge. Keith was facing the world number two, whilst the rest of the team were facing GMs rated below 2691 and 2645.

The board 1 tussle was a g3 Kings Indian with Ivanchuk varying from Arkell-Karajkin from Hastings Premier 2002 by playing 11…Bg4. Possibly the critical moment came on move 14 when Keith could have played Qxf3 giving him a slight edge and a position that black would have found very hard to play for a win. Instead after Bxf3 he came under pressure and despite putting up strong defence he eventually lost a pawn and lost on time as his position became critical.

On board 2, Andrew faced Almasi rated 2691 with black. Andrew obtained a solid position in a Bogo-Indian and as the time control approached one could tell Almasi was unhappy with his position. Sadly Andrew appeared to go astray after declining to take an exchange in an unclear ending and his position quickly fell apart. Although I haven’t had a chance to analyse the game I thought Andrew stood well and was the one looking to win.

On board 3 Jovanka was white against Movsesian rated 2679. After declining an unclear queen sac Jovanka appeared to have the better position and entered an ending a pawn up. Sadly the position turned and she eventually lost. Aside from the moves played on the board, one had to admit that Movsesian facial expressions made him a very difficult opponent to sit opposite.

On board 4 Nick faced Ivan Sokolov with black. Although he appeared to have a reasonable position from the opening his pawn sacrifice didn’t yield sufficient compensation and he was eventually ground down.

The result of the day was Chris Briscoe’s draw with Nigel Short on board 5.Short equalised comfortably from the opening and appeared to be the player pressing in the middle game, particularly as Chris was running short of time. However, Chris kept his nerve and managed to create enough counter play to force a repetition in a double rook ending where Chris had sacrificed a pawn but obtained a lot of activity. Indeed it was Chris who considered playing for a win at the end before agreeing to Short’s draw offer. A fine result and I was especially pleased with the way he handled the critical part of the game after a lacklustre opening.

On board 6 Christin faced a 2645 GM named Predojevic. After a fairly equal opening she tried to become active at the wrong moment and her pawn sacrifice was easily refuted and her activity proved insufficient. Once the queens came off her position quickly fell apart.

In conclusion, although I felt the score was harsh I was pleased we had the chance to play such a strong side and felt that with the exception of boards 4 and 6 we had chances in all the other four games. Keith was punished for one or maybe two inaccuracies and Andrew and Jovanka both had good positions before going astray around the first time control. I certainly think the experience of playing such a match would help in the future when taking on such strong opposition.

Lawrence Cooper
Kemer 4/10/07


2.1834Matinkylan Shakkekerho Espoo 1½ - 4½32Hilsmark Kingfisher 
1IMMaki-Uuro Miikka2399½ : ½GMArkell Keith C2479
2FMLehtivaara Petri23760 : 1IMGreet Andrew N2441
3FMPulkkinen Kari23300 : 1IMHouska Jovanka2404
4FMHentunen Asko23521 : 0 Tavoularis Nicholas2246
5FMEbeling Mika23540 : 1 Briscoe Chris2273
6 Salimaki Janne21810 : 1WIMAndersson Christin2209

There was inevitably a slight sense of anti-climax in round 2 after the honour of playing a team of 2600-2700s the day before. However, we were still narrowly outrated and so to win 4.5-1.5 against a solid Finnish side was an outstanding result. We had the edge on rating on the top 3 whilst we were outrated on the bottom 3. Bearing this in mind, Keith’s opponent was determined to use the white pieces to swap off all the pieces and neutralise our GM. A slight gain maybe for them but at least it left us with 3 whites on the bottom 5 to try and win the match.

Andrew produced a typically smooth display to grind down Lehtivaara in a Lopez transferring a slight space advantage into an ending where his better pieces, pawn structure and active king were sufficient to win in 57 moves. A typically smooth performance.

Jovanka also won but in a more tactical struggle. A well-timed pawn sacrifice opened the position to her advantage and her opponent chose to sacrifice the exchange for insufficient compensation rather than allow her to win the pawn back with advantage.

Nick secured an advantage from the opening after good preparation but was unable to convert it into anything clear cut and after his opponent freed his position with exchanges Nick drifted into a worse position and eventually lost two pieces for a rook.

Chris built on his excellent result against Short by defeating a 2354 with black. He had no problems from the opening and gained an active position. White sacrificed a pawn to try and leave Chris’s queen out of play and managed to restore the material balance before blundering a piece after which the result was never in doubt.

Christin’s game was a topsy turvy affair. After achieving no advantage from the opening she drifted into a passive middle game. However she deserves credit for turning the position around and her pressure led to her winning a pawn just after the time control. Perhaps due .to tiredness she actually blundered the pawn back when on the verge of winning a second pawn in the rook ending. Fortunately she stayed calm and actually won rook & pawn each when her opponent overlooked a trick which won her a rook and left her enough time to stop her opponent’s pawn.

An excellent team performance and a great boost to confidence after the first round.

Lawrence Cooper
Kemer 5/10/07


3.1723Cercle d'Echecs de Strasbourg 4½ - 1½32Hilsmark Kingfisher 
1GMRozentalis Eduardas2581½ : ½GMArkell Keith C2479
2GMDoettling Fabian2541½ : ½IMGreet Andrew N2441
3IMRoos Louis23701 : 0IMHouska Jovanka2404
4GMKallai Gabor24641 : 0 Tavoularis Nicholas2246
5FMReinhart Emmanuel2295½ : ½ Briscoe Chris2273
6IMRoos Jean-Luc23241 : 0WIMAndersson Christin2209

After the elation of the previous day’s fine team performance round 3 was something of a disappointment. Although we were facing a strong Strasbourg team with 3 GMs to our 1 I still felt we had chances to cause an upset. Sadly we didn’t even come close.

Keith achieved an excellent result on board 1, holding GM Rozentalis to a draw with black although he had to play accurately to neutralise a nagging white initiative in a 4…Nd7 Caro. Despite getting short of time he was able to find an exchange sacrifice that defused white’s initiative and forced white to repeat moves.

On board 2 Andrew was super solid and mass exchanges led to a 14 move draw against a 2541 rated GM.

Sadly we were outgunned on the bottom 4 boards with only Chris drawing. Jovanka appeared to have a fairly equal position for most of the game but blundered and eventually had to give up a piece to stop her opponent’s passed b pawn.

Nick’s misfortune continued on board 4 where despite his opponent equalising and gaining a comfortable middle game Nick seemed to be gaining an edge before a blunder where he sacrificed a piece but missed a vital queen check which left him a piece down for no compensation.

Chris appeared to have the better of a tactical Najdorf with opposite castling. His well timed exchange sacrifice on c3 gave him a strong initiative and white was eventually forced to giver the material back. Black still appeared to be better but white was able to escape to a Q&R ending. Allowing an exchange of rooks probably ended his winning chances as he was unable to make progress in the Q&P and subsequent K&P ending due to his doubled a pawns.

Christin was unable to build on her round 2 victory and after achieving a slightly unusual opening a tactical sequence led to a better position for black and her black squared weaknesses around her king led to her dropping an exchange and she was unable to recover.

A disappointing result but the test now is for the team to bounce back against a lower rated but unpredictable Turkish side in round 4.

Lawrence Cooper
Kemer 6/10/07

Round 4:

4.1932Hilsmark Kingfisher 3½ - 2½37Turk Hava Yollari 
1GMArkell Keith C24791 : 0IMHaznedaroglu Kivanc2468
2IMGreet Andrew N24411 : 0IMErdogdu Mert2440
3IMHouska Jovanka2404½ : ½IMCan Emre2436
4 Tavoularis Nicholas2246½ : ½FMAri Zeki2177
5 Briscoe Chris2273½ : ½ Erbis Baris2023
6WIMAndersson Christin22090 : 1 Kursuz Gokhan1942

Round 4 proved to be one of the most dramatic matches I’ve been involved in. Although we outrated them heavily on the bottom three boards it was actually at the top where we secured the points to win us the match.

Keith registered his first win with a smooth game to secure Hilsmark’s first win on board one in the two years we have played. A quiet opening led to a position where Keith had a queenside majority in a Q&N ending and he won the ending with ease.

Andrew won with black in a Ruy Lopez. Initially the position was blocked but white sacrificed his d-pawn to open up the position. Andrew remained calm and was able to repel the white counterplay and emerged a piece up with a clever tactic.

Jovanka played a nice game without securing the full point. Her pressure in a 3 Bb5 Sicilian forced the win of the exchange but, somewhat fortunately, her opponent seemed to emerge with compensation. Despite Jovanka returning the exchange in favour of an extra pawn she was unable to make progress and had to agree to a draw.

Nick finally had some luck and saved an ending an exchange for a pawn down. The early game saw Nick temporarily sacrifice a pawn in a Benoni/Benko type position which he eventually regained before sacrificing an exchange to emerge with R, N + 5 versus 2 Rooks + 3. Swapping one pair of rooks was possibly a mistake, which led to a R+3 v N+4 ending where white quickly made progress and the win seemed only a matter of time. However, Nick managed a miraculous escape in what was the final game of the match and therefore the winning half. Finally his luck appears to have turned.

After his impressive start Chris had a quick draw with white. The Turks are unpredictable players and despite his opponent being 250 points below Chris he had drawn with a GM the day before. Possibly this played on Chris’s mind and the game ended in a repetition of moves as early as move 16 in a 4 Qxd4 Sicilian.

Christin had a disappointing day. An unclear Slav opening where black tried to hold onto an extra pawn turned in white’s favour as he gained the material. Black had a difficult task with a weak pawn structure and a blunder from Christin lost a rook as her pawns were about to start dropping off. One thing was clear, her opponent looked far stronger than his 1942 rating.

Lawrence Cooper
Kemer 7/10/07

Round 5:

5.1632Hilsmark Kingfisher 2 – 426Schachfreunde Reichenstein 
1GMArkell Keith C24791 : 0IMRiff Jean-Noel2474
2IMGreet Andrew N24410 : 1IMVolke Karsten2472
3IMHouska Jovanka2404½ : ½IMDrabke Lorenz2411
4IMCooper Lawrence23050 : 1IMKuehn Peter2426
5 Tavoularis Nicholas2246½ : ½IMWeindl Alfred2356
6 Briscoe Chris22730 : 1 Heimann Andreas2350

Keith continued where he left off in round 4, utilising his double white to grind down another helpless IM opponent. Black’s early activity led to nothing and Keith soon emerged with an improved minority attack, which he transferred into a winning rook ending. Following this win Keith moved to +1 against a 2542 field.

Andrew lost a tough battle with black in a long game where white’s R&B proved to be stronger than black’s R&N in the ending despite the knight’s strong outpost on c5. Despite black creating counterplay white retained control and his passed d pawn eventually forced the win of material.

Jovanka had a short draw on board 3 with white in a Sicilian Kan against the talented young German IM Lorenz Drabke. White appeared to have some initiative but by the time the position was agreed drawn a clear-cut plan to play for an advantage was hard to find. Given the frustration of the day before it’s easy to understand why Jovanka accepted her opponent’s draw offer.

My 2007 debut was something of a baptism of fire as I unwittingly played into a line that my opponent had analysed in depth and not knowing the mass of theory required to steer the game into a level ending I ended up in a passive position where my opponent’s doubled h and b pawns were more than compensated for by his two bishops and space advantage. I failed to come up with a satisfactory defence and lost material although I battled on more in hope than expectation after losing an exchange.

Nick’s change in fortune continued as he overcame the early blunder of a pawn to create some counterplay and when black grabbed a second pawn he obtained sufficient play for his opponent to return one pawn with a draw offer. After some thought Nick accepted. The position remained unclear, black was short of time and Nick had some chances but after his early error I was pleased to see him emerge unscathed.

Chris lost in a tough battle on board 6. An unclear opening and middle game ended in a tense time scramble and when the smoke had cleared Chris had the worst of a rook ending. Somewhat unfortunately his opponent had a strong move at the end of a long sequence, which left him a pawn up in a rook ending that he was able to convert. A good battle and I think Chris can count himself unlucky to have suffered his first loss.

Lawrence Cooper
Kemer 8/10/07

Round 6:

6.1840Cuna de Dragones – Ajoblanco 2½ - 3½32Hilsmark Kingfisher 
1GMKhamrakulov Ibragim S2604½ : ½GMArkell Keith C2479
2IMLlanes Hurtado Miguel24591 : 0IMGreet Andrew N2441
3 Delgado Palomeque Marco A22210 : 1IMHouska Jovanka2404
4 Escobar Felix Eduardo21530 : 1 Tavoularis Nicholas2246
5 Garcia-Ortega Jose M21900 : 1 Briscoe Chris2273
6 Sanchez Silva Luis Agapito21071 : 0WIMAndersson Christin2209

After our scare against the Turks in round 4 I was somewhat apprehensive about playing a team who we out-rated on the bottom boards. We again came under pressure but finally prevailed in unlikely style.

Keith had a potentially tough black on board 1. However, his 2604 opponent turned up late and proceeded to play an indifferent opening which gave Keith at least equal chances and probably an edge. There was plenty of play in the final position but white was probably the more relieved to take the draw as black had the better structure and long term prospects.

Possibly partly influenced by a gruelling loss the day before Andrew had an off day although the result can mainly be attributed to his dubious 16th move when Bxc6 probably gave him an edge. After losing a pawn the result was never really in doubt although he battled hard to try to salvage something.

I find it hard to write about Jovanka’s game without smiling. After white achieved nothing from the opening black appeared to be slightly better after white exchanged off his white squared bishop. However, in avoiding the exchange of queens twice white allowed the black queen to help construct a mating net around the white king. The mating net was well constructed and the final position shows the white pieces in a sorry looking state. It’s something of an understatement to say white should have agreed to the queen exchange and try his luck in the ending.

Nick’s game was also somewhat amusing from our side. Carefully nurturing a slight edge in a position where his opponent had an isolated d pawn he allowed an unusual tactic where black was able to play d4 and win a piece due to a back rank trick. Lesser players than Nick may have crumbled but he fought on and was rewarded when his opponent got his pieces so tied up he had to lose material. Even then he failed to find the best way to return material and headed into a rook ending a pawn down which white was winning due to his activity and space advantage. Had he found 34…Rb3 then he would have retained a material advantage although I hesitate to say this would have been converted.

Chris won fairly smoothly in a Queen’s Indian. Although white had a space advantage in the early middle game an unfortunate sequence of moves by white led to him losing an exchange for a pawn and after that he swapped off pieces to make Chris’s task much easier. Credit to Chris though for making the win look simple and not allowing any counterplay.

Christin’s campaign came to a disappointing end as she gained no advantage from the opening and then drifted into a worse and then lost position which cost her a piece. Her opponent temporarily gave us hope by blundering material back but sadly still had enough pawns to win the ending.

Round 7:

7.1319Reykjavik Chess Club 5 – 132Hilsmark Kingfisher 
1GMStefansson Hannes25741 : 0GMArkell Keith C2479
2GMNataf Igor-Alexandre25461 : 0IMGreet Andrew N2441
3GMThorhallsson Throstur2448½ : ½IMHouska Jovanka2404
4IMKristjansson Stefan2458½ : ½IMCooper Lawrence2305
5IMGunnarsson Jon Viktor24271 : 0 Tavoularis Nicholas2246
6FMBergsson Snorri22981 : 0 Briscoe Chris2273

The last round was a disappointing end to a fairly successful tournament. Although we were heavily out-rated the scoreline was worse than I expected although probably a fair reflection on the match.

Keith lost his 2600+ performance losing a slightly worse position that was tenable until he chose the wrong redeployment of his rooks in the ending. However, he still played a good tournament and barring his double black finish would have finished with a plus score and a 2600+ performance. If he can reproduce this level then he should be in contention for an Olympiad place next year.

Andrew finished with his third loss in a row and will be disappointed with his final score. However, despite losing to GM Nataf with white in a London System where white got his rook entombed on b3 he can still take great heart from his early form. He stood well against Almasi in round 1 and was in contention for a GM norm until his round 5 defeat. He continued to battle hard in every game and I’m sure his finish is a mere blip as he continues his rise towards 2500.

Jovanka equalised easily and her GM opponent offered an early draw. She seems far more at home playing stronger opponents and this event on a high board clearly suits her. She too was unlucky in round 1 and but for a surprise defeat in round 3 played well throughout and was unlucky not to win in round 5 which would have earned her a plus score.

For the second time we played our joker on board 4, with me stepping in for Christin. At least I managed to trouble the scorers this time although having lost an optical advantage in the early middle game and embarking on one planned pawn sac and then an unintentional one due to a miscalculation I can’t say it was a smooth performance. Fortunately my opponent ran short of time and my activity was sufficient for him to return the pawns into a clearly drawn ending.

Nick lost what looked like a theoretical Richter-Rauzer in round 7. I say looked because I am totally ignorant as to the theory but initially Nick seemed to stand well when he exchanged queens and had a temporary extra pawn. White unexpectedly conjured up numerous threats though and black had to limp to a worse rook ending that he eventually lost. As captain though I have to commend Nick for recovering from his 0/3 start to gain us the decisive draw in round 4 to win us the match and also his unlikely victory in round 6 that also secured us victory. He was very unlucky in the games he lost and so the small amount of luck in those two games was the least he deserved. With this year’s experience under his belt I’m sure he’ll start far better next time.

Chris was faced by the Arkell-Khenkin variation of the advanced Caro but black quickly regained his pawn and as is often the case therefore obtained the better position. Although Chris went on to lose and therefore scored 0/2 on board 6 but 3.5/5 on board 5 he can be pleased with his debut performance. A draw with Short in round 1 was obviously the highlight but he played well throughout and was particularly unlucky in round 5 which was one of those epic battles where the result can be the difference between a good and great tournament. Despite playing his first ever tournament abroad he handled the pressure well and looks set to continue his progress towards the IM title.

Although Christin will be disappointed by her score I was impressed by her fighting spirit despite being off form. It’s also worth pointing out that unlike some team events there are no easy games on bottom board and often the opponents are under rated and have very few games to look at beforehand. She also had the handicap of me helping her to prepare which may in part explain her under par performance! Anyhow, she was a great team member and I’m sure this event was a one off and she’ll bounce back when she next plays.

Final scores as follows: Keith 3.5, Andrew 2.5, Jovanka 3.5, Nick 2.5, Chris 3.5 all out of 7 and Christin 1/5 and myself 0.5/2. Thanks to all who played and to Mark and Jacques Tivillier for their support at the end of the tournament although next time they join us they may wish to check their flight tickets beforehand to ensure they travel to the right airport which would have saved them a mad scramble from Gatwick – Stansted arriving only 8 minutes before the end of check-in on the Friday night! One final point, contrary to an earlier report Christin is not Ulf’s wife and the surname Andersson is quite popular in Sweden. (Sorry Mark, I couldn’t resist mentioning the last two points!)

Division 1

Pride and Prejudice
Barbican 4NCL 1
White Rose 1
Guildford-A&DC 1
Cambridge Univ. 1
The ADs
Barbican 4NCL 2
Oxford 1
Pandora's Box Grantham
S. Wales Dragons
Guildford-A&DC 2
Poisoned Pawns 1
Jutes of Kent

Division 2

Sambuca Sharks
Warwickshire Select 1
e2e4.org.uk 1
Barbican 4NCL Youth
AMCA Dragons
Kings Head
Poisoned Pawns 2
Anglian Avengers
Wessex 1
Celtic Tigers 1
Bristol 1
White Rose 2
Brown Jack
Guildford-A&DC 3
FCA Solutions 1

Division 3

Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg
Sambuca Black Sheep
Cambridge Univ. 2
Wessex 2
Warwickshire Select 2
KJCA Kings
FCA Solutions 2
The Full Ponty
Sussex Smart Ctls.
e2e4.org.uk 2
Nottinghamshire 1
Nottinghamshire 2
Oxford 2
AMCA Rhinos
Braille Chess Assoc.
AMCA Hippos
Glos. Gambits
Bristol 2
KJCA Knights
Guernsey Mates
Bristol 3
e2e4.org.uk 3
Beauty and the Beasts
Celtic Tigers 2
Oxford 3
Guildford-A&DC 4
AMCA Cheetahs