Snowdrops vs Oldhands

Snowdrops vs Oldhands

| 32 | Chess Players

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 didn’t 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 men’s 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+ 1–0


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 White’s 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 1–0


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 8.0–0–0 0–0 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 1–0


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

What would we taste in round 5? Revenge or Despair?? Find out next week...

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