The Bulgarian Team Championships took place in Albena between 27 May and 2 June. The tradition to organize the competitions at nice resorts was maintained, as one of the greenest sea resorts hosted the event. Albena is situated on the northern part of the Black sea, near Romania. Although the weather was rainy on some days, most of the players managed to have a nice rest at the beach and the swimming pools.
The women's section saw eight teams competing for the medals. The first place though seemed to be an easy task for the team of CSKA (V.Cmilyte, E. Zaiats, S.Collas, E.Djingarova, R. Gocheva) who won all their matches more than convincingly. As many of the chess players observed, this team might be even better than the Bulgarian female national team. Five out of seven matches ended with a “dry” score, including those against the future silver and bronze medal winners. CSKA lost only 1.5 points on all boards throughout the championship, and became the indisputable champion.
Their leader- Victoria Cmilyte proved her name by winning all her games. Here is a typical sample of her play:
White has an enormous positional advantage, and she calmly prepares the final tactical blow: 42.g4 b5 43.Ng6+ hxg6 44.hxg6+ Nh6 45.g5 1-0
Runner up was the young and promising team of Lokomotiv 2000 (A. Nikolova, I. Videnova, D. Sirkova, M. Janeva, N. Kalcheva). They made a great championship, and won 12 match points in total (only one loss, against you know whom). Third was the experienced team of Lokomotiv Plovdiv (M.Voiska, Sv.Yordanova, R.Genova, P. Chilingirova). From the top division the teams of “Krakra Pernishki” and “Mikhail Tal”-Cherven Briag were relegated to the second division for next year. Quite curious was the situation in the second division where there was a severe fight for the first two places between…two teams. Somehow they both got promoted.
The male section saw more suspense. Until the final round there was no clear favorite to claim the title, and the right to take part at the European Club Cup in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) this year. Two teams (CSKA-Sofia and Naiden Voinov-Vidin) made strong showings. The team from the capital, with strong financial support, managed to attract K.Georgiev, K.Lupulescu, V. Spasov, A.Kolev, Kr.Rusev (all strong GMs), as well as the young I.Enchev, who did very well in the last championship. My team Vidin had at its disposal A.Delchev,V.Iotov, A.Kogan, M.Nikolov, M.Petrov, D.Bojkov, all GMs. We were younger, they were more experienced, and the eternal question which advantage would prevail had to be answered throughout the seven days.
We are playing the Sofia rules in Bulgaria, and draws cannot be offered until move thirty. This makes the championship full of decisive results.
The decisive match was bound to be played in the third round. We started with a short draw on board four. Then I brought a win for our team:
20.Ne5! Temporarily sacrificing the knight. However the forced play will cash back three valuable pawns for it: 20...Bxe5 21.dxe5 cxb3 22.Bxh6 Re8 I thought that it was more stubborn to sacrifice an exchange, but to keep the strong passer on b3: [22...Nb7 23.exd5 Nc5 24.d6 Ng8 25.Bxf8 Rxf8 26.Bc6; Although this is still very close to winning for White.] 23.exd5 Rc8 24.Rxb3 The material balance is restored, but the strong duo in the center decides the issue. 24...Rc5 25.Rd3 Ng8 26.Bg5 Qc8 27.h3 Bf5 28.Rd4 Rc4 29.Qf4 Rxd4 30.Qxd4 Kg7 31.g4 Be6 32.Rc1 Qd7 33.d6 1-0
At the moment when I finished my game a second draw was agreed on board one:
29...g6 White is a healthy pawn ahead, but his knight is excluded from the game. Delchev knew that it was a draw. "We could have signed the peace treaty already here" he explained. 30.h3 e5 31.g4 hxg4 32.hxg4 Ra1 33.Kg2 Ra2 34.Kf3 f5 35.gxf5 gxf5 36.Kg2 e4 Neither letting the knight out, nor the king. 37.Kg3 Bd6+ 38.Kg2 Bc5 39.Rg8 f4 40.Kg1 fxe3 41.Nxe3 Bxe3 42.Rg7+ Ke8 43.fxe3 Rxa6 44.Kf2
At this moment it seemed that CSKA would suffer an utter defeat, as on each of the remaining three boards we had an extra pawn. However, the seemingly impossible happened. First Iotov could not convert his extra material against Lupulescu:
38.Qd7+ Iotov spent all his remaining time here, and decided to force a draw. Frankly speaking, this seems to be a fair result as in the line: [38.d7 Qf5! 39.Qxa6 Rxa2! 40.d8Q Rxa6 41.Qc7+ Kh6 42.Qc1+ Qg5 43.Qc8 Ra7 Black holds. Still, Lupulescu had to find these moves over the board, with less than a minute on his clock...] 38...Kh6 39.Qh3+ Kg7 40.Qd7+ Kh6 41.Qh3+ Kg7 42.Qd7+
Then Petrov blundered his opponent’s only threat and lost:
42...Nc3?? Both players were practically playing on their thirty seconds increment from a long time. With his last move 42.Kf4-e5 White created the only possible threat in the position, and Black failed to see it! 43.Ke6 Ne4 44.f6 Nc5+ White promotes his pawn, Black resigned.
And finally Kogan missed his chances against Spasov:
40...Rxb4 41.Rxa7 Rb7 42.Ra4 Kc7 [42...Rd7!? cutting the king away from the white pawn gives decent winning chances.] 43.Rh4! h6 44.Rg4! Kd6 45.Rg6+ White found his best set-up and managed to exchange the kingside pawns to draw. 45...Kd5 46.h4 c5 47.Kd3 Rc7 48.Kc3 Ke4 49.Kc4 Kf5 50.h5 Kf4 51.g4 With the black pawn on c4 this would be won for Black, as White will fall in zugzwang. Now the white king can attack the opponent's rook with Kb5-b6 in case of need. 51...Ke5 52.g5 hxg5 53.Rxg5+ Kf6 54.Rg4
3-3! everything had to start again from the beginning, and both teams had not only to win their matches, but to do so with the biggest possible margin, so as to win on game points. In the next part, you'll hear the result of this competition!