European Seniors Team Championship
One of the advantages of getting older, is that you qualify for senior completions. I took the plunge to play in the European Seniors Team Championship. In the past both Korchnoi and Uhlmann have competed. Their individual game two years ago was just as competitive as in the old days.
This year the tournament was held near Sibenik in Croatia, half way up the Adriatic coast, about 50 km North of Split
Teams comprised of either four or five players, with four playing in each round. Most teams represented countries though some represented regions.
The age qualifications were changed. In previous years all players had to be over sixty. Despite some protests, this was changed to be over fifty with one over 65 in four person teams and two over 65s in five person teams.
Nineteen grandmasters including Bojan Kurajica, Lubomir Ftacnik, Heikki Westerinen and Miso Cebalo played. The Russians were top seeds with four GMs in their team including Yuri Balashov. Their second team was headed by GM Evgeni Vasiukov.
The English teams had been planned on the original over sixties qualifications. By the time the age rules were changed, flights had already been booked, It comprised of club players like myself. There was no funding available for any GMs. We had two teams. Scotland and Wales also had two teams.
I played on board four for England 1. We started slowly. A win against a Finnish team was followed by a narrow defeat against a strong Italian team of four titled players. Then disaster. A loss against one of the Welsh teams. They were singing in the valleys
We recovered with two wins against Swedish teames including one 4-0 win. I played the following game.
Round 6 was our best round. We played Austria 1 who outgraded us by over 200 ELO points on each board. Excellent wins by Tony Stebbings and John Quinn gave us the advantage. With our board three in trouble. I agreed a draw from a better position against a 2336 IM which clinched a crucial win for us.
Round 7 England 1 were paired with Scotland I and English 2 with Scotland 2. Several players on both teams, myself included were feeling ill that day. The veal in the hotel was thought to be the culprit. I had a topsy-turvey game where I was initially better and then worse. In time trouble, I escaped by a miracle and we drew 2-2 England 2 defeated Scotland 2 2 ½ - 1½ . There was also a major shock in this round. The Croatians defeated Russia 1. The Russians still led the tournament but only on game points. Who would they play in round eight ?
It was to be Russia 1 v. England 1 in round eight. The Russians played us the complement of fielding their top four GMs. That morning the English team prepared with a trip to Split and a tour of the Diocletian’s Palace. We all touched the good luck charm on the bishop’s statue. Unfortunately the chess Gods weren’t watching and as expected we lost 4-0. I played GM Yuri Balashov who at his peak was ranked number 11 in the world. Everything was fine for twenty moves but after a mistake 22 g4 ?? I was soon lost. It was very instructive how a GM pounces on one error to get a winning position. Tony Stebbings had a good position with black against 2560 GM Semen Dvoirys, but one slight error and he was in difficulties.
The last round was our lucky round. I was playing an Austrian who had been my bridge partner earlier in the week. Unfortunately, he overlooked the earlier starting time, turned up 40 minutes late and was defaulted. Tony’s opponent resigned, when subsequent analysis found a draw and John drew an ending a pawn down. Somehow we won the match 2½ - 1½
The English teams were well organised by Stewart Reuben and the tournament well organised by the Croatians. England 1 finished 8th their highest ever position in European Seniors Team championship. We were the highest team without a GM or IM. Tony Stebbings had an excellent 7/9 performance on top board for us including a black win against an Italian GM. He gained an IM Norm. John Quinn gave an excellent 5/9 performance on board 2. James Scholes fought hard on board three, had one good win and one near win. I had a respectable 4/8 The English results are here
There are several Seniors events coming both team, individual, World, European & British. Keith Arkell recently won the European Individual Seniors Championship in Porto. Even Nigel Short will be eligible next year. There could a boom in Seniors Chess.
Best Wishes Kevin