Sofia-Zagreb, the "bloody friendship"

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

Sofia defeated Zagreb with 30-20 points in a friendly chess match over 50 boards between the two capitals. GM Dejan Bojkov reports on the match that was held on Monday, May 28th at the “Bankya Palace” hotel in Bankya, Bulgaria. With this result, seventy years after the first match between the two capitals, the Bulgarians took their revenge.

By Dejan Bojkov

It was probably the successful experience that Bankya had 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 away than Belgrade and the event also coincided with the big Albena open in Bulgaria and the Mitropa Cup (true, the latter starts on the 30th of May, but some of the players decided to stay and prepare for the event). Therefore the number of boards was 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 artillery headed by reigning champion Mladen Palac, former World Youth Champion Hrvoje Stevic, living legend Krunoslav Hulak and three more strong GMs – Ante Brkic, Alojzije Jankovic and Robert 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's Champion Antoaneta Stefanova.

The start of the match was delayed for about an hour. We were waiting for the Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova to open the event. Sofia suffered an earthquake and floods these days and as a bridge fell down, she had more important things to care about that day. Still, as her colleague, the Zagreb mayor Milan 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 uncompromising battles. The time limit predisposed such play and was twenty five minutes per game and an additional ten seconds per move [the same as in the rapid games between Anand and Gelfand tomorrow - CV].

Kiril Georgiev was the first to win with a petit 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, Hristo Yovov (a regular guest of all the chess events).

Hristo Yovov and Antoaneta Stefanova

Naturally, ECU president Silvio Danailov was present as well and used the opportunity to announce a Mega match on 1000 boards between Sofia and Belgrade in November!

Trio Soprano entertained the participants at the opening ceremony and the official lunch and 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.

Selection of games

PGN file

We received the following additional material from Boyko Hristov, Press Officer of the European Chess Union (ECU):

In the presence of the Mayor of Zagreb, Mr. Silvio Danailov gave official certificate to Yuri Valev, owner of the Bulgarian racehorse Ching van Berkenbroeck and father of his rider Christian Valev, stating that the elite horse was chosen for the official mascot of ECU. The former World Chess Champion Veselin Topalov had the opportunity first among all European chess players personally to verify the excellent riding qualities of the mascot of the European chess.

Topalov's knight jump

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