14 August 2016

Reviving Old Traditions

Mikhail Botvinnik Cup in the review of Eteri Kublashvili.

The Moscow hotel "Cosmos", well known to many national and foreign chess players, accommodates yet another event dedicated to the 105th birth anniversary of the 6th World Champion - Mikhail Botvinnik Cup, an international junior tournament.

The competition is held by the Association of Chess Federations with the support of the Intergovernmental Foundation for Educational, Scientific and Cultural Cooperation of the CIS member states (IFESCCO) to a very interesting format: rather than facing each other, children are faced off against opponent team captains in a clock simul. Points scored by same team members (children and a captain) are added together. The tournament format is similar to the famous old competition "Pioneer Palace Tournament."  

The Cosmos hotel is honored by presence of teams from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.  Strong and seasoned players take up as team captains.

The Russian team contests the prize medals in the following lineup: Grandmaster Alexander Galkin – captain, Alexey Geshko, Aleksandra Maltsevskaya, Adel Zhafyarov, and Gleb Dudin. 

There have been played five rounds at the tournament.

Specifics of the Mikhail Botvinnik Cup are disclosed to us by the tournament director, RCF President's adviser Alexander Grigorjevich Bach:

- The idea of organizing a team competition similar to the "Pioneer Palace Tournament" came to life more than four years ago. It has always been my point of view that we should honor such an outstanding chess player as Mikhail Botvinnik, never forgetting the amount of time contributed by him to the children's chess. Therefore, a most appropriate thing to do is to honor his memory by way of organizing a children's tournament.

However, nowadays an ordinary junior event has long since outlived itself as a novelty, so to speak, whereas the format that we have opted for is by far more challenging from the technical point of view. It is not an easy task both for referees and for a secretary since the tournament table is of a complex nature. Nevertheless, the Cup is of extreme interest both for chess federations and for children... For the majority part of forty children who arrived here it has been a first-time experience facing a grandmaster in an over-the-board game. This is, of course, a great chess holiday and they do look happy.

The conditions that we managed to provide for them are comfortable; the hotel is a good one - you can even say a "chess" one, because all recent "Aeroflot" tournaments have been staged here. This said, the hotel gives us a warm reception.

It is a pity that it happened very difficult from the financial standpoint and it took almost four years to implement this idea into practice. However, we have just been in time for the 105th birth anniversary of Mikhail Moiseevich.

- The tournament program so intense so that children play as many as two rounds per day. What is the rest day program?

- All in all, players are to play nine rounds. We have three days with tandem rounds and three days with single rounds per day. We decided to squeeze a day off in between rounds five and six to allow children paying a visit to the Novodevichy cemetery, which is quite an interesting site in and of itself, but the most important thing, of course, is to get them to the tomb of Mikhail Botvinnik to pay him their respects.

On the other hand, since the Central House of Chess also bears Botvinnik's name, we agreed with the Russian Chess Federation that the Novodevichy cemetery visit would be followed up by bringing children into the unique Museum of Chess. I do not think the world has many museums like this one.

In the second half of the day children will be free to do as they please.

As for the tournament race itself, unstoppable is the team of Belarus, headed by Sergei Zhigalko. The kids and their captain have put together as many as 27 points.

The Armenian national team, guided by grandmaster Samvel Ter-Sahakyan, lags behind our western neighbors by 2.5 points.

Closing the triumvirate of leaders with 23 points is the Azerbaijani team headed by grandmaster Azer Mirzoev.

The Russian team is on the sixth place with 20,5 points under her belt.

It goes without saying that the majority of match points are pulled off by team captains, although it should be admitted that victories are not just some easy walks in the park for them; however, the outcome of many matches is sealed through success of young players.

Let me offer our readers a few creative achievements of children from rounds four and five, which were played on August 11:

Round six of the Mikhail Botvinnik Cup, scheduled to take place after the rest day, features the following matchups:

Tajikistan - Uzbekistan, Armenia - Georgia, Kazakhstan - Moldova, Kyrgyzstan - Russia, and Azerbaijan - Belarus.