It was probably the successful experience that Bankia had the last year which suggested the organization of yet another mass chess match. Or maybe it was the natural desire of the people to see each other in person rather than play on the net?
Anyways, the little town which is situated just seven kilometers away from the capital Sofia hosted the match between the capitals of Bulgaria and Croatia. Zagreb is much further than Belgrade and the event also coincided with the big Albena open in Bulgaria and the Mitropa Cup (true, the latter starts on 30-th of May, but some of the players decided to stay and prepare for the event). Therefore the number of the boards were reduced- “only” fifty compared to the hundred from the previous match against Belgrade.
This should not fool you though as the Croatians brought their heavy artirelly headed by the reigning champion Mladen Palac, the former World Youth Champion Hrvoje Stevic, the living legend Krunoslav Hulak and three more strong GMs- A. Brkic, A. Jankovic and R. Zelcic.
The Sofia squad was even more impressive with twelve GMs and three WGMs. The team was headed by top GM Kiril Georgiev and the tenth world women champion Antoaneta Stefanova.
The start of the match was delayed for about an hour. We were waiting for the Sofia mayor Y. Fandukova to open the event. Sofia suffered earthquake and floods these days and as a bridge felt down she had more important things to care about that day. Still, as her colleague, the Zagreb mayor M. Bandic stayed at the opening ceremony-everything is repairable as long as there are no victims. The politicians combined the nice with the useful and after the symbolic start of the event 1.e4 (Fandukova) 1…e5 (Bandic) went on to sign some important contracts for co-operation between the capitals. I wonder when our mayor will start to play the Queen’s gambit at last…
The top six boards were relayed online and saw uncompromised battle. The time limit predisposed such play and was twenty five minutes per game and additional ten seconds per move. K. Georgiev won first with a little but elegant combination against Palac and the last game to finish was Stefanova-Stevic in which the Croatian GM had to act like a real gentleman. We won here 4-2 and the overall match 30-20. A friendly match but a thrilling one!
A special guest of the event was Veselin Topalov and most of the participants used the chance to chat with him or to make a memorable photo. Soccer was represented by the prominent football player of Levski Sofia H. Yovov (a regular guest of all the chess events).
ECU president Danailov was naturally there too and used the case to announce the Mega match on 1000 boards Sofia-Belgrade on November!
Trio Soprano entertained the participants at the opening ceremony and the official lunch ad both the teams received cups and souvenirs from the officials.
After seventy years Sofia took revenge for the defeat in the friendly match Croatia-Bulgaria J