Oldhands lead in match against Snowdrops after first half

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Four young female players – the Snowdrops, and four experienced grandmasters – the Oldhands meet in Marienbad (Marianske Lazne) in the Czech Republic again. From December 3 to 11, 2011, they compete in a closed two-rounds Scheveningen match. Taking place for the fourth time, it is becoming a tradition.

EventSnowdrops vs Oldhands 2011PGN via TWIC
DatesDecember 2nd-11th, 2011
LocationMarianske Lazne, Czech Republic
System8-player, Scheveningen system
PlayersRobert Hübner, Boris Gulko, Rafael Vaganian, Vlastimil Hort (Oldhands) vs Tania Sachdev, Maria Muzychuk, Natalia Pogonina, Eva Kulovana (Snowdrops)
Rate of play90 minutes for 40 moves with additional 30 minutes till the end of the game plus 30 seconds for each completed move.

Photos & report by Martin Chrz

The Oldhands have a strong team this year. The living legend of the Czechoslovak chess Vlastimil Hort is the only player who has participated every year so far. The German grandmaster Robert Hübner was once Nr. 3 in the World. GM Boris Gulko is the only chess player who has won the national championships in both superpowers – the Soviet Union and the USA. The Armenian GM Rafael Vaganian has won many international tournaments and competed in the Chess Olympiads for the Soviet Union and for Armenia.

The female team seems to be the underdog this year, with their average Elo of 2409. There's the Indian young lady IM Tania Sachdev, the youngest of the four IM Maria Muzychuk from Ukraine, IM Natalia Pogonina from Russia is 26 years old and is the oldest among the Snowdrops. The last member of the team is WGM Eva Kulovana, the strongest Czech female player (since Jana Jackova quit chess two years ago).

The spectators saw a draw 2:2 in the first round. In the game Hort – Kulovana, the players started a slow tactical battle. Both players went into a time pressure and the advantage was on Hort’s side. He made a few imprecise moves, though, and after 36. Bxe1

[FEN "4r2k/pp4p1/1b6/3R4/6P1/P2B3P/KPP2rn1/2R1B3 w - - 0 36"]

Black played 36. ... Nxe1?. Kulovana should have played 36. ... Rxe1 and could have saved the game. After a deadly sequence 37. Rh5+ Kg8 38. Bc4+ Rf7 39. Rf5 +- Black played a few more moves, but had to resign.

In the second round, the Oldhands took the lead. IM Tania Sachdev (white) and GM Robert Hübner played the Nimzo-Indian, which developed into a very closed position. After a few mistakes by Sachdev, Hübner managed to find a way to break into the defense of the Indian player. After 25. ... Nxd3

[FEN "r4rk1/ppqnB1p1/3p4/P1pPpb1p/2P1N2P/2Pn1P2/2QK2P1/R6R w - - 0 26"]

Sachdev played 26. Qxd3? The defence is difficult after this take. She should have chosen the variation 26. Bxd6 Qd8 27. Bxf8 Nf2 28. Rhf1 Nxe4+ 29. fxe4 Bh7 30. Bd6 Nf6, which would have given her better chances. After Sachdev‘s 35. Ke3?

[FEN "5k2/pp3r2/3p1rp1/P1pPp2p/2P4P/2P1KPPq/5R2/1Q4R1 w - - 0 35"]

Hübner played 35. ... Rg7? and overlooked the winning move: 35. ... e4! White cannot take (36. Kxe4 Rxf3! 37. Rxf3 Qg4-+ or 36. Qxe4 Re7 -+) and needs to play 36. f4. But after 36. ... Rxf4 37. Rxf4 Rxf4 38. Kxf4 Qg4+ 39. Ke3 Qf3+ 40. Kd2 Qf2+ and after the exchange of the queens black has a winning pawn endgame.

After some maneuvering

[FEN "3q4/kp3r2/p2p2p1/P1pPpr1p/2P4P/2P1QPP1/4KR2/R7 w - - 0 47"]

Hübner played the decisive opening 47. ... g5! -+. White can’t defend her weaknesses anymore. 48.hxg5 Rxg5 49. Rg2 Rgf5 50. Rh2 Qg8 51. Rf2 Qxg3 52. Raf1 Qh4 53. Qd3.

[FEN "8/kp3r2/p2p4/P1pPpr1p/2P4q/2PQ1P2/4KR2/5R2 w - - 0 53"]

Now Hübner didn’t miss 53. ... e4! anymore. Sachdev resigned after five more moves. (Original analysis by Petr Haba, courtesy of nss.cz, simplified and translated by the author.)

After the game, Robert Hübner said that he didn‘t like the position at all and is not going to play it ever again! But thanks to his win the grandmasters won 2.5 : 1.5 in this round. The best Czech player David Navara commented on the games on Sunday.

The third round has been the worst so far for the Snowdrops. GM Rafael Vaganian surprised IM Natalia Pogonina with a fast and effective attack on the king’s side and the game became a miniature. Boris Gulko beat Eva Kulovana and added another point. The other two games ended in draws and thus the Oldhands won this round 3:1.

In the fourth round the Snowdrops missed a chance for a win in the round. Two games were drawn. Maria Muzychuk managed to win over Boris Gulko in a rare and sharp variation of the Sicilian defense. GM Gulko did not play the best moves, came under pressure, lost a pawn and the game, too. Robert Hübner had a favourable position against Eva Kulovaná. She played patiently and equalized her position. GM Hübner complicated the game with a queen sacrifice, WGM Kulovana made a mistake in a complicated position and lost. It was an unlucky loss for her and she came to the analyzing room with tears in her eyes.

The team of the experienced grandmasters is leading by 9.5 to 6.5 after the first half. The best individual results are: Hübner 3/4, Muzychuk 3/4. You can follow the results here and see photos from this interesting event in an extensive photo gallery.

Games rounds 1-4

PGN file

Marienbad (Marianske Lazne), Czech Republic

The Colonnade in Marienbad

The Opening – IM Tania Sachdev from India draws her starting number

GM Vlastimil Hort, the legend of Czechoslovak chess has participated in all four Snowdrops vs. Oldhands matches

IM Tania Sachdev (India)

GM Rafael Vaganian from Armenia

IM Natalia Pogonina from Russia

Analysis. L – R: Maria Muzychuk, Genna Sosonko, Boris Gulko, Rafael Vaganian, Tania Sachdev

IM Maria Muzychuk from Ukraine is the most successful in the Snowdrops team after the first half

GM Boris Gulko has won the Soviet and American national championships

GM Robert Hübner from Germany in an interview for Chess Weekly

Special tournament’s guest GM Genna Sosonko gave a simultaneous display on Saturday, Dec 3

GM Sergei Movsesian (born in Georgia, lives in Prague, has represented Slovakia, now a member of the Armenian team) commented on the games on Tuesday, Dec 6

Pavel Matocha, the tournament’s director celebrated his 39th birthday

Snowball fight in front of the bar at 2 am

Two of the Snowdrops – Natalia Pogonina and Maria Muzychuk

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