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21st World Senior Championship report
Craig Pritchett of Dunbar, Scotland’s first native born IM, finished 9th= (tie break 19th) of 201 players with 7.5/11 points in the World Senior Championship in Croatia. Phil Giulian (Giffnock) made a successful senior debut in 20th position (tie break 40th) with 7/11. The title was won by Vladimir Okhotnik (France) with 9/11.
Tournament report by Craig Pritchett
This year’s world seniors champion was the French (ex-Ukraine) IM, Vladimir Okhotnik. The women’s title was taken by WIM Galina Strutinskaya (Russia). The event was played in the beautiful, north Adriatic coastal resort of Opatija (Croatia). The sun shone every day, the wind was light and the temperature averaged a mild 15-17 degrees or so. The old Austro-Hungarian emperors certainly knew a thing or two about its healthy climate when they established Opatija’s earliest expansive hotels and private villas in the nineteenth century and used it as their own select playground.
Two Scots, Philip Giulian and myself, competed. Philip felt rusty but hopes to get many more games in now that he’s retired from teaching. He scored an eminently acceptable score of 7/11 in what was his debut in seniors’ chess. Due to the vagaries of the Swiss system, Philip’s ELO rating performance for the event fell just short of his actual 2296 rating, but I am certain that he is soon likely to be scoring regular above 2300 performances on this form and he told me that he was more than pleased with the outcome.
I scored 7.5/11 and even won a small cash prize for my share of 9-19th places (18th on tie-break). Like Philip, however, I had slightly lower than expected average ELO opposition. I made a 2369 ELO performance, which was lower than my 2400+ performance in last year’s world championship, where I scored a half-point less, but against rather stronger opponents. I battled hard in Opatija but made far too many unforced errors to do other than gain five or so FIDE rating points. I did, however, have the satisfaction of winning the first of the two side Blitz tournaments.
In the circumstances, I don’t think that any of my games are of particularly great interest this year. The editor will no doubt ask Philip about his games separately. Of much more interest, to my mind, are Okhotnik’s games. Born 1950, a newcomer to the event, he was far from being the pre-tournament favourite but this year’s event had great strength in depth and was fairly wide open. Okhotnik perhaps made the fewest unforced errors. His game certainly displayed subtle twists in his opening repertoire, excellent levels of technique and a thoroughly battling spirit.
Okhotnik scored 9/11 (a 2612 ELO Performance). Apart from the honour of winning the gold medal, his prize also includes the automatic award of the grandmaster title. GMs Davorin Komljenovic and Gennadi Timoshchenko (both 8.5) took silver and bronze respectively. 19 GMs and 31 IMs participated (both open and women’s events). Okhotnik set himself up well for his final push for the title with this crisp win against GM Mihai Suba in round 9.
Suba,Mihai - Okhotnik,Vladimir (Rd 9)
1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.g3 g6 5.Bg2 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 7.Rb1 Nc6 8.h4!?
I'm no expert in this particular variation but it strikes me that White expects a lot here by taking time to open the h-file in place of more immediately purposeful queenside and central development. Okhotnik's game is solid, with a good grip on sufficient central space and he doesn't seem unduly fazed by Suba's slightly off-beat approach to a main line.
White probably puts more pressure on Black's opening set-up by playing something like 8.Qa4, and if 8…Qc7 9.Ba3 (or more radically 9.Bxc6+ bxc6, followed eventually by Ba3) 9...e6 10.Qb5 Bd7 11.Qb2 Qa5 12.Nf3 Bg7 13.0–0 0–0 14.d4 b6 15.Rfd1 Rfd8 16.e3 Rac8 17.Nd2, as in B. Larsen-O. Castro, Biel Interzonal 1976, with a pull for White.
8...Qc7 9.h5 Bg7 10.Qb3 Na5 11.Qa3 Bd7 12.d3 0–0 13.hxg6 hxg6 14.c4 Rab8 15.Bd2 b6
Black needn't fear an exchange on a5, after which the power of Black's bishop pair would tell in his favour. White has opened the h-file but he can't seem to do anything with it due to his relatively passive and slightly backward piece and pawn development.
16.Nf3 Nc6 17.Qc1 Ne5 18.Bh6 Ng4 19.Bg5 f6 20.Bd2 Kf7!
In fact, now it's Black who will gain control of the h-file. White has an extra centre pawn but his overall game remains too passive to make anything much of that potential positional trump either. Black now has somewhat the better chances and with his next move, White decides that he has no better than to seek simplifying exchanges.
21.Nh2 Nxh2 22.Rxh2 Bc6 23.Bxc6 Qxc6 24.Qc2?
This slack move, however, is seriously doubtful and may even be the losing move. White should have continued at once 24.Be3, so that after 24...Rh8 25.Rxh8 Rxh8 26.Kd2, he can hope to defend robustly, although I would certainly still prefer Black's chances.
24...Rh8 25.Rxh8 Rxh8 26.Be3 Bh6!
The difference here is that after exchanging of bishops, Black's queen and rook will now be able to penetrate with terrible force on the kingside.
27.Kd2 Qg2 28.Bxh6 Rxh6 29.Qa4
Unable to defend his parlous f-pawn, White is forced into an adventure on the queenside in a desperate bid to maintain at least a material balance.
29...Qxf2 30.Qxa7 Qxg3 31.Qxb6 Qg5+ 32.Kc2 Qe3!
But after this move, White can only defend his e-pawn by getting his king and rook into a desperately passive huddle on the first rank.
33.Re1 Rh2 34.Kd1 g5!
And now it's a deadly pawn race that only Black can win. Black's pawns safely defend his king against any possible attempt by White's queen to save matters at the eleventh hour by delivering perpetual check.
35.Qb8 Qf2 36.a4 g4 37.a5 g3 38.a6 Qxe1+!
But Black must finish precisely. Not, of course, 38...g2??, allowing 39.Qxh2 and White wins.
39.Kxe1 Rh1+ 40.Kd2 g2 41.a7 g1Q
Black threatens ...Qc1 mate. White's king is caught in an inescapable mating net.
42.Kc2 Qd1+ 43.Kc3 Qa1+ 0–1
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the president of FIDE zone 1.1, who nominated me on behalf of the zone for the generous offer by the organisers to fund the hotel costs of one representative from each FIDE zone. I believe that this was at least in part recognition of my having won the gold medal for the best performance on board one for Scotland in last May’s Euro Seniors’ Team Tournament. I’ll be back in the world championship again next year!
The 21st World senior chess championship for men and women is open to all players representing the FIDE Chess Federations, regardless of their title or rating, providing that the male tournament participants were born in 1951 or before, and that the female tournament participants were born in 1961 or before.
Posted on: 13-12-2011