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Snowdrops vs Oldhands Report

User Rating: / 2
Written by Administrator   
Tuesday, 27 December 2011

by Natalia Pogonina for her Tuesday column

The Snowdrops vs Oldhands match has been taking place in the Czech resort Marianski Lazne for fourt years in a row. The name of the event is connected with a movie which was quite popular in that country. There are two teams of 4 players each: male legendary veterans (Oldhands) and rising female stars (Snowdrops). Each person gets to play every member of the opposing team twice. Colors change each round, i.e. either all your teammates have White, or all Black. The time control is standard, no zero tolerance rule, no Sophia rules. It is worth mentioning that the latter factor didnt ruin the fighting spirit of the tournament.

Marianski Lazni has a great chess history. In 1925 a round robin featuring such stars as Nimzovitch, Rubinshtein, Marshall, Reti, etc. took place. A few times the city hosted FIDE zonal tournaments and other prestigious events. As a result, the city has been visited by many top grandmasters.

The Oldhands vs Snowdrops matches started in 2008. In the first edition the veterans prevailed, while the next two events were won by the girls. Among the participants were such renowned players as Karpov, Korchnoi, Timman, Koneru, Cmilyte, Lahno. The best performance was demonstrated by Vlastimil Hort in 2008 6.5/8.

This year the players were Mariya Muzychuk, Natalia Pogonina, Tania Sachdev, Eva Kulovana & Robert Huebner, Rafael Vaganian, Boris Gulko (who replaced Dragoljub Velimirovic) and Vlastimil Hort. You can find the information about all the players here. The captain of our team was IM Michal Konopko, while in the mens team Hort was a playing captain. After having lost the last two matches, the Oldhands were taking the event very seriously and aimed at winning. While being greatly outrated (the average rating of our opponents was 2541 as compared with our 2409), we were still motivated to fight to the very last shot.

The beginning was nice for us. In the first round we had 4 Blacks and managed to draw the formidable veterans. Muzychuk defeated Vaganian, and Hort struck back against Kulovana:


The position is interesting and too complicated to play in time trouble. Black has to understand that she should be playing for a draw, since the powerful White bishops outweigh the passed pawn.  

35...e1Q?! [After the correct 35...Kg8 36.Bc4 Kh7 37.Bd3+ Kg8 38.Bc4= the game ends in a draw by move repetition] 36.Bxe1? [The right way to play is 36.Rh5+ Kg8 37.Rxe1 Rxe1 (37...Nxe1?? 38.Bc4+ Rf7 39.Rf5+-) 38.Bc4+ Kf8 39.Bb4+ Ke8 40.Bxe1 Nxe1 41.Re5+ Kd7 42.Rxe1 Rxc2 and Black should be able to save the game] 36...Nxe1?? [36...Rxe1 37.Rxe1 Nxe1 and White will be looking for a draw] 37.Rh5+ Kg8 38.Bc4+ Rf7 39.Rf5 Re3 40.Rxf7 Kh7 41.Rxb7 Nf3 42.Rd1 Ne5 43.Bd3+ Kh6 44.g5+ Kxg5 45.Rxg7+ 10


Vlastimil Hort vs Eva Kulovana

Photo: Martin Chrz

In the second round the Oldhands had all Blacks. They drew three games and won one.


Here Robert Huebner demonstrated his incredible technique (although making a few oversights in time trouble). He transferred the king to the queenside, blocked the pawn on a5, deflected one of Whites rooks by attacking the a5-pawn with a queen from d8, played g5, and eventually won.


Indian beauty Tania Sachdev and Dr. Robert Huebner

Photo: Martin Chrz 

In the third round we went down 3-1. Kulovana lost to Hort, while Vaganian launched a great home-prepared attack against me:


19...f5?? [A position with mutual chances would have occurred after a rather straightforward 19...cxd3 20.Rxd3 Ba6 21.Rg3+ Qxg3 22.fxg3 Bd3+ and the bishop gets transferred to the critical b1-h7 diagonal] 20.g4 f4 21.Bxh7+ Kh8 22.Bf5+ Kg8 23.Qh7+ Kf8 24.Bxe6 10


Rafael Vaganian has prepared a tricky opening variation against Natalia Pogonina

Photo: Martin Chrz 


So, after three rounds the score was 7.5-4.5 in the Oldhands favor. In the following two rounds we were to get White, and were planning to regain some of the points.


Round 4 was a draw. Muzychuk won again: Boris Gulko forgot a forced line, and the young WGM took advantage of it. Huebner restored the balance by overcoming Kulovana in a dramatic struggle:

Muzychuk,M (2460) - Gulko,B (2535) [B64]

Snowdrops vs Oldhands Prague CZE (4), 06.12.2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 Be7 8.000 00 9.f4 h6 10.h4 Nxd4 11.Qxd4 hxg5 12.hxg5 Ng4 13.Be2 e5 14.Qg1 exf4 15.Bxg4 Bxg4 [The alternative is 15...Bxg5] 16.Qh2 f5 17.g6 Bh4 The key move in this line 18.Rd4


18...Bh5? Boris remembered Bh4, but forgot what to do next and played the wrong move.  [He should have started by playing 18...fxe4 19.Rxe4 Bh5 20.Qxh4 Qxh4 21.Rxh4 Bxg6 with a more or less equal position] 19.Qxh4 Qxh4 20.Rxh4 Bxg6 21.Rxd6 White got an advantage and quickly converted it into a win Bh7 22.exf5 Rxf5 23.Nd5 Re5 24.Rd7 Rg5 25.Ne7+ Kh8

26.Rd1 g6 27.Rdh1 Rh5 28.Nxg6+ Bxg6 29.Rxh5+ Bxh5 30.Rxh5+ Kg7 31.Rf5 10


Muzychuk-Gulko and Kulovana-Huebner 

Photo: Martin Chrz 


Before the 5th round was a rest day. While previously the weather was sunny and warm, now it all of a sudden started snowing. Hence we had to spend most of the time in the hotel. However, this day we had a chance to taste the famous waffles Colonada, a proprietary product of Marianski Lazni since the 19th century.


Consuming waffles. Pogonina, Muzychuk, Kulovana.

Photo: Natalia  Pogonina

The 5th round failed our expectations, and the Oldhands won again. Hort defeated Kulovana, who was fighting rather desperately in each game, but often got into time trouble, not to mention being generally outclassed. Muzychuk and Vaganian played an interesting game:


14...b3! 15.axb3? [White should have taken with a different pawn 15.cxb3 Nxd3+ 16.Qxd3 Nb4 17.Qb1 a5 =+ White will put knights on c3 and d4, defending stubbornly] 15...Nb4 16.Ned4 [No good is 16.Ne1 a5 17.Kb1 Ba6 with a strong initiative for Black] 16...Ncxd3+ 17.cxd3 a5 18.Nc2? [It was time to run with the king 18.Qe3 a4 19.Kd2 axb3 20.Ke2=+] 18...d4?! This interesting move opens up access to d4 and d5 and gives the bishop more space. However, much stronger was 18...Rb8  followed by B6 and Rfc8, where White would be under tremendous pressure 19.Nfxd4 Bb7 20.Qe3?! [Here White had a chance to stabilize the position by 20.Kb1 as Black needs time to play a4, and White will create counteplay with f5] 20...Bd5 [A better idea was to bring the rook into the game - 20...Rfc8] 21.Rd2 [The king cant leave the fortress yet: 21.Kd2 Nxc2 22.Nxc2 Bxb3 23.Rc1 Rfd8] 21...a4 22.bxa4? I guess by this point both players were in time trouble, as they started making serious blunders [Must-play was 22.Nxb4 Qxb4 23.Kd1 axb3 24.Ke2=+] 22...Rxa4? [Winning was 22...Nxc2 23.Nxc2 (23.Rxc2 Rxa4+) 23...Rfc8 24.Kd1 Bb3+] 23.Kd1 Ra2? [Keeping up the pressure was 23...Rc8 24.Ke2 (24.Na3 Bb7 25.Qf2 Ba6 26.Rh3 Qd7=+24...Bxg2 25.Rg1 Bb7=+] 24.Ke2 Rxb2 25.Nxb4 Qxb4 26.Nf3 White has a solid position, so Black doesnt have any real winning chances 26...Ra8 27.Rhd1 Rxd2+ 28.Rxd2 Ra4 29.g3 h6 30.Ne1 Qb1 31.Kf2 g6 32.Rc2 Kg7 33.Qc1 Qb4 34.Qd2 Qb6+ 35.Qe3 Qb1 36.Qc1 Qb6+ 37.Qe3 1/2


Muzychuk and Vaganian analyzing. WGM Yulia Kochetkova is also taking part

PhotoMartin Chrz  


So, we were down four points 12:8. After the 6th round it was basically over. The Oldhands crushed us 3.5-0.5. Huebner won against Sachdev, Vaganian defeated Kulovana, and I lost to Gulko. Unfortunately, we didnt put up much of a fight in this round.


26.Rxd5simple and flashy dxe5 [26...exd5 27.Bxd5+ Kh8 28.Ng6++-] 27.Rdxe5 Qf7 28.R1e2 Rd6 29.Qb3 Ne7 30.Rxe6 Rc8 31.h3 Kh8 32.Rxh6+ 10


Hort walking past the demonstration boards

Photo: Martin Chrz 


Now our goal was to win at least one round. Apart from two victories by Muzychuk, none of our players had won a single game.

Nonetheless, in round 7 and 8 we werent able to attain our goal. In round 7 Gulko deafeated Kulovana, while other games were drawn.


25.Qxh5? Strangely enough, this spectacular move is a blunder. White is winning a pawn, but losing most of the advantage. [After 25.h4! and then g4 White would have been seriously better] 25...f5 26.Qd1 f4 27.Ng4 Nhf6 Black has stabilized the position and drawn 1/2


Sachdev, Smekail and Konopko analyzing Tanias game against Hort.

Photo: Martin Chrz 


On the final day, the Oldhands won 3-1, so the score of the match became 21-11. Huebner beat Kulovana, and Vaganian won vs Sachdev. I had a commanding advantage against Hort, but blundered a few times and let him escape with a draw.

Heres a nice tactical shot from the 8th round:

19.Qxh5! 10


Photo: Martin Chrz 


So, just as expected, this time the Oldhands won the match and restored the parity: 2-2. While the score looks devastating, many of the games were quite intense and close. In fact, we missed a couple of chances. I doubt it was realistic to win overall (as the mathematical expectancy for our performance was 10.24 points; we got 11), but we might have kept the intrigue intact for a longer period of time. However, this time, unlike the previous editions, the veterans were all very well-prepared and in good chessic and physical shape.

Robert Huebner was the best player of the Oldhands team with 6/8, while among the Snowdrops Mariya Muzychuk got 5/8.



Photo: Martin Chrz 


It was a great pleasure to face such renowned grandmasters over the board, communicate with them and analyze games together. Each of our veteran opponents was willing to share experience, and that is a great opportunity for young players such as us.

I would also like to say special thanks to the team of organizers headed by Pavel Matocha. The tournament was held in a beautiful city and a wonderful atmosphere. The place was quite cozy, there was nothing to worry or complain about. Each day the spectators could watch the games live with commentary by David Navara, Sergei Movsesian (both rated 2700+!), Jan Smejkal, and Michal Konopko. A simul and book presentation by GM Genna Sosonko also took place. All the participants were glad to taste water from special mineral springs and the famous Czech beer. Overall, I wish the tournament further successes and a long history.

A few more photos:





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Comments (2)
1. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 08:46 27 2011 .
hi Im Gonzalo and id like to share y
1. e4 c5 2. c3 Qa5 3. Bc4 Nc6 4. Ne2 e6 5. d4 b5 6. Bb3 Ba6 7. Bd2 Qb6 8. Be3 Nf6 9. dxc5 Bxc5 10. Bxc5 Qxc5 11. Nd2 O-O 12. Rc1 Bb7 13. c4 b4 14. Ng3 Nd4 15. Ba4 Qa5 16. b3 Qe5 17. O-O Nxe4 18. Ndxe4 Bxe4 19. f4 Qf6 20. Nxe4 Nf3+ 21. Rxf3 Qf5 22. Ng3 1-0
2. Written by This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it on 11:14 19 2012 .
hi Im Gonzalo and id like to share y
Very nice article, I enjoyed it:) Great photos also.

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