World Chess’s reporter-on-the-scene gives a rundown of the World Seniors Championships and the four champions who were crowned.

On Nov. 30, five World Champions were crowned. Most people’s attention was focused on New York, where Magnus Carlsen retained the undisputed title by beating Sergey Karjakin after nearly three intense weeks of competition.

But thousands of miles away, and a few hours earlier, in Mariánské Lázně in the Czech Republic, four other players had wrapped up World Championships in senior divisions. Giorgi Bagaturov of Georgia won the over-50 title; Anatoly Vaisser of France won the over-65 division on tiebreaks (his fourth World Senior Championship); Tatiana Bogumil of Russia won the over-50 title for women; and Nona Gaprindashvili of Georgia (who was the overall Women’s World Champion from 1962 to 1978) easily won the over-65 division for women (for the third time in a row and fifth overall).

There were a record 470 entries from 50 countries in the competition, including 22 grandmasters, 44 international masters and many masters. Though there were also many lower-rated players, that was a bit misleading. Many of the untitled players had once been rated over 2200 and had even represented their countries in Olympiads, so on any given day they can still play very strongly.

Age is the only qualification to enter and many of the competitors, particularly those in the over-65 groups, had come partly for a holiday and to meet old friends. One player was born in 1929 and a special presentation was made to Mihail Davydov of Germany (born 1933) who was competing in his 22nd successive World Seniors.

Each tournament was 11 rounds, with the exception of the women’s over-65, which with only 18 entries, was cut to nine rounds. (Andrzej Filipowicz of Poland, the chief arbiter, explained that with only 18 participants it was not possible to have eleven rounds “in good shape.”) In 2014 the two women’s tournaments had been combined to prevent this happening. This year, some women preferred to play in the open tournaments and there is certainly a case that in future the women’s championships should not be separate tournaments – though the norms for women and separate prizes should of course be kept.

The most closely contested section ended up being the over-65 open, in which five players tied for first with 8.5 points apiece. With more than 250 players in the section, such a result was not really a surprise. Aside from Vaisser, the other four tying for first were, in order of finish based on their tiebreakers, Vlastimil Jansa of the Czech Republic; Evgeny Sveshnikov of Russia; Vladimir Zhelnin of Russia; and Clemens Werner of Germany.

Four players finished with 8 points, including, in order of finish, Boris Maryasin, of Israel, Craig Pritchett of Scotland, Nils-Gustaf Renman of Sweden, and Vladimir Okhotnik of France.

Okhotnik, the 2015 World Senior Champion over 65, was fortunate to do so well as he should have lost a game that he ultimately won in Round 3 against Philip Giulian of Scotland. The game had an extraordinary finish.

Giulian, Philip M vs. Okhotnik, Vladimir
26th WSCC 2016 Open 65+ | Marianske Lazne, Czech Republ | Round 3.18 | 21 Nov 2016 | ECO: A41 | 0-1
1. d4 d6 2. c4 e5 3. Nc3 exd4 4. Qxd4 Nc6 5. Qd2 Nf6 6. b3 g6 7. Bb2 Bg7 8. g3 O-O 9. Bg2 Re8 10. Nf3 Bg4 11. h3 Bf5 12. Nh4 Be6 13. O-O a5 14. f4 Nh5 15. f5 Nxg3 16. fxe6 Rxe6 17. Nf3 Qf8? 18. Rfe1 Rae8 19. e3 Black should not have enough compensation for being down a piece.
19... Bh6 20. Nd5 Ne4 21. Qd1 Rc8 22. Nd4 Nxd4 23. Qxd4 Bg7 24. Qxg7+ Qxg7 25. Bxg7 Kxg7 26. Bxe4 Rxe4 27. Rad1 f5 28. Rd4 Re5 29. Kf2 Kf7 30. e4 c6 31. Nc3 Rd8 32. exf5 Rxf5+ 33. Kg3 Rg5+ 34. Kf3 Rd7 35. Rf4+ Kg7 36. Re2 Rg1 37. Kf2 Rg5 38. Rd2 Rh5 39. Rf3 Re5 40. Re2 Rh5 41. Kg2 Rg5+ 42. Kh2 Rh5 43. Rd2 Re5 44. Rfd3 Re6 45. Rd4 Re3 46. Ne4 d5 47. Nc5 Rf7 48. cxd5 cxd5 49. Rxd5 Rff3 50. Nxb7 Rxh3+ White's exposed king position and remote knight mean that his extra piece is devalued but engines say the ending is winnable for White.
51. Kg2 The first step in the wrong direction.
51. Kg1 was more precise, to be able to answer a later rook check by Rg2.  )
51... a4!? This is a practical move to offer White an additional confusing choice.
52. bxa4 Stockfish prefers 52 b4, but evaluates White with a big advantage after the move that was played.
52... h5 53. a5!?
53. Nc5 also came into consideration as the knight is more valuable when centrally placed. White committed to the pawn race but miscalculated.  )
53... h4 54. a6 Reg3+ 55. Kf1 Rh1+ 56. Ke2 h3 57. a7? White will now queen first, but he loses unless he finds a study-like resource.
57. Rd7+! Is the only winning move, forcing Black to choose a new home for the king, after which White can react accordingly. Stockfish also suggests various other moves that would hold the draw, including 57. Rd8 Rg2+ 58. Ke3 and 57. R5d4 Rg2+ 58. Kd3.
57... Kf6 58. a4! Not an easy move to spot, but the point is that the rear a-pawn can shield the more forward one from rook attacks along the file.
...  Rh2+ 59. Kd1 Rh1+ 60. Kc2 Ra1 61. Nc5 and wins.  )
57. Nc5? is too slow after
57... h2 58. Nd3 Re1+! The rook sacrifice to clear the queening square will be a recurrent theme.  )
57... h2! Now White needed to understand that he could no longer win and that he had to fight for a draw. There are two study-like solutions on the same theme. He needed to sacrifice a rook in order to prevent promotion for one tempo and expose the opposing king to queen checks.
58. Rd1?? Failing to see the danger, the Scottish master allows mate in nine.
58. Rd7+! Kh6 59. Rh7+!! The point is to free the d2-square for the king.
59... Kxh7 Black must accept as otherwise it is he who gets mated.
60. Rd7+ Kh6 61. a8=Q Rg2+ or
...  62. Kf3 Rf1+ 63. Ke3 Rg3+ 64. Ke2 h1=Q (Black can also keep checking.)
65. Qh8+ Kg5 66. Qe5+ or 66 Qd8+.  )
58. Rh5!? A study-like move to expose Black to more checks, e.g.
58... gxh5 59. Rd7+! Wherever the king goes, White promotes a pawn to a queen on the next move and White has enough play to draw - as long as he does not capture on the first rank!
59... Kh6 60. a8=Q Re1+ 61. Kd2 h1=Q 62. Qf8+ Kg5 and now both 63. Rg7+ Kh4 64. Qf6+ and
63. Qd8+ Kg4 64. Rd4+ (Or Rg7+)
64... Re4 65. Qd7+ should lead to a draw if White plays correctly afterward.  )
58... Rhg1

A clever escape by Okhotnik but he later lost two games and fell out of contention.

In the women’s over-65 division, Gaprindashvili’s only serious rival was Elena Fatalibekova, a Russian women’s grandmaster, who had won the women’s senior title three times in the previous decade (when it was an over-50 tournament). In Round 4, they played each other, with Fatalibekova having White. She was unable to obtain any advantage against Gaprindashvili’s Owen’s Defense (1. e4 b6) and agreed to a draw after 17 moves. After that, Gaprindashvili outscored Fatalibekova the rest of the way and Fatalibekova had to settle for second place.

Bogumil was the surprising winner in the women’s over-50 division as she was the ninth seed at the start and only a woman FIDE master. That is no longer true as one bonus for winning the championship is that she earned the women’s grandmaster title. 

The following win by Bogumil in Round 8 against Elvira Berend, the top seed from Luxembourg, turned out to be critical as they ended up tied for first, with the first tiebreaker being their head-to-head record.

Bogumil, Tatiana vs. Berend, Elvira
26th WSCC 2016 Women 50+ | Marianske Lazne | Round 8.1 | 27 Nov 2016 | ECO: A35 | 1-0
1. Nf3 c5 2. c4 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 g6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. Nb3 d6 7. e4 Nf6 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O Be6 10. Be3 b6 11. Nd4 Bd7 12. Nxc6 Bxc6 13. f3 Rc8 14. Qd2 Bb7 15. Rac1 Nd7 16. b3 Nc5 17. Rfd1 Qe8 18. Bh6 Bxh6 19. Qxh6 Kh8 20. Qe3 f6 21. b4 Nd7 22. Qd4 Ne5 23. Nd5 Qf7 24. f4 Nc6 25. Qb2 e5 26. Bg4 Rcd8
26... f5 is the engine recommendation to go for active counterplay but to the human eye it looks wrong to weaken the b2-h8 diagonal.  )
27. c5! White seizes the chance to open the game herself.
27... dxc5 28. bxc5 h5 29. Bf3?! The engine sees a tactic missed by Black; the bishop should have retreated to h3 or e2.
29... bxc5 Here or on the next move Black should have played Nd4 as the knight can later take the bishop with check in key variations.
30. Rxc5 Ba8? 31. Rdc1 White now has firm control of the c-file. Black tries to solve her problems tactically.
31... Nd4 32. Rc7 Rd7 33. Rxd7 Qxd7 34. Qb4 Rc8 35. Rxc8+ Qxc8 36. fxe5 Nxf3+ 37. gxf3 Bxd5 38. exd5 Qc1+?! After
38... fxe5 the queen ending is not a simple win for White, because it is harder for her to advance the passed pawn.  )
39. Kf2 Qc2+ 40. Ke3 Qc1+ 41. Ke2 Qc2+ 42. Qd2 Qc4+ 43. Kf2 Kg7 44. d6 Qh4+ 45. Kg2 fxe5 46. d7 Qd8 47. Qd6 Kf7 48. a4 a5 49. h4 g5 50. Qd5+ Kf6 51. hxg5+ Kxg5 52. Qxe5+ Kh6 53. Qe6+ Kg7 54. f4 Qa8+ 55. Kf2 Qa7+ 56. Ke2 Qa8 57. Qe7+ Kh6 58. Qg5+ Kh7 59. Qxh5+ 59 d8=Q would mate in nine moves.
59... Kg7 60. Qe5+ Kh7 61. Qe7+ Kh6 62. d8=Q Qg2+ 63. Kd3 Qf3+ 64. Kc2 Qc6+ 65. Kb3 Qf3+ 66. Kc4 Qc6+ 67. Kd4 Qxa4+ 68. Ke5

In the over-50 championship, Bagaturov trailed the first week after a loss to Henrik Danielsen of Iceland in Round 4 and a draw against an untitled Frenchman rated 2245. But Bagaturov won his last six games, finishing with a score of 9.5 points, a point clear of Alexander Reprintsev of Ukraine and Zurab Sturua of Georgia, who placed second and third respectively. Bagaturov, with Black, eliminated England’s Keith Arkell from contention in Round 9, before decisive wins in the last two rounds against Nikolai Vlassov of Russia in Round 10 and then Reprintsev.

The following really was the crunch game of the tournament. A draw would probably have meant first place and the grandmaster title for Reprintsev, so Bagaturov needed to win with Black.

Reprintsev, Alexander vs. Bagaturov, Giorgi
26th WSCC 2016 Open 50+ | Marianske Lazne | Round 11.1 | 30 Nov 2016 | ECO: B20 | 0-1
1. e4 c5 2. b3 Seniors tournament games are rarely decided by sharp theory battles and several of the more successful competitors avoid main lines. Reprintsev had played 2 b3 earlier against Keith Arkell of England and in two of his games he opened 1 Nc3.
2... e6 3. Bb2 b6 4. Nc3 Bb7 5. Qf3 a6 6. Qg3 Nc6 7. O-O-O Nge7 8. f4 Qc7 9. Nf3 Ng6 10. e5 Nge7 11. Ne4 Nf5 12. Qe1 O-O-O 13. g4 Nfd4 14. Nfg5 d5 15. exd6 Bxd6 16. Nxd6+ Rxd6 17. c3 Nb5 18. Bg2 Rd7 19. Qg3 h6 20. Nf3 Rd3 Despite White's strange play, and the invasive rook on d3, engines assess this position as about equal if White now played 21. Rhe1 followed by Re3. Also 21 f5!? to exchange queens might be playable. Instead, White opened lines for his opponent.
21. g5? Ne7 22. gxh6
22. c4 Nf5  )
22... gxh6 23. Rhf1 Rg8 24. Qf2 Now a little combination wins two pieces for a rook.
24... Rxg2! 25. Qxg2 Qc6! 26. Qg7 Rxf3 27. Qxf7 Rxf1?!
27... Kd7 28. f5 Rxf5 29. Rxf5 exf5 30. Re1 Qd6 Was the most precise continuation, though White can still fight on.  )
28. Rxf1 Kd7 29. Re1 Qd6 30. Qf6!? Possibly both players were short of time at about this point.
30... Nf5 31. Qf7+ Qe7 32. Qg8 Nbd6 33. c4 Nd4 34. Bxd4 cxd4 35. Qh8 Nf5 36. Qb8 Kc6 37. Qe5 Bc8 38. Kb2 Qd6 39. Qe4+ Kc7 40. a3 Qc6 41. Qxc6+ Kxc6 42. Rg1 h5 43. Rg8 Bb7 44. Rh8 h4 45. Rh7 Bc8 46. b4 Kd6 47. Kc2 Bd7 48. Kb3 a5 49. c5+ bxc5 50. bxc5+ Kc6 51. Kc4 Bc8 52. Ra7 h3 53. Rxa5 Nh4 The ending has reached a very tense phase and White now made a fatal miscalculation.
54. Ra8?!
54. Ra7 was the safest route to a draw:
54... e5 55. fxe5 Nf3 56. Re7 Nxd2+ 57. Kxd4 Nf3+ e.g.,
58. Kc4 Nxh2 59. e6 Ng4 60. Re8 Kc7 61. e7 Be6+ 62. Kd4 h2 63. Rh8 Bf7 holds the draw.  )
54... Kb7 55. Ra4? It was probably still possible to save the game:
55. Ra5! Nf3 56. d3! with some very unclear possibilities. If
...  Nxh2 Stockfish 8 finds a very complicated alternative in which both sides promote pawns to queens:
...  57. c6+ Kxc6 58. Rc5+ Kb7 59. Rh5 e5 60. fxe5 Ng4 61. Kxd4  )
55... Nf3 White seems to be lost.
56. f5 exf5 57. Kd5
57. Rb4+ Kc7  )
57... Bd7! This is presumably what White had overlooked at move 55.
57... Nxh2 58. c6+ Kb6 59. Ra8 Kc7 transposes
60. Kc5 Nf3 and now engines find
61. Ra7+ Kd8 62. Rh7 h2 63. a4 d3 64. Kd6 Threatening mate.
64... Ke8 65. Kc7 Ba6 66. Kb6 Bc8 67. Kc7 Drawing by repetition of position!  )
58. Rb4+ Kc7 59. Rb6 Nxh2 60. Rh6 f4 61. Kxd4 f3 White cannot stop two passed pawns.
62. Rf6 Bc6 63. Rf7+ Kd8 64. Rf4 Ng4!
64... Ng4 White resigned, because of
65. Rxg4 f2 66. Rf4 h2 67. Rf8+ Kc7 68. Rf7+ Bd7  )

Though Vlassov came up a bit short, finishing fifth on tiebreak, he did beat Danielsen with  an opportunistic attack in Round 5. This game was Vlassov’s fifth consecutive win to start the tournament:

Vlassov, Nikolai vs. Danielsen, Henrik
26th WSCC 2016 Open 65+ | Marianske Lazne, Czech Republ | Round 5.1 | 23 Nov 2016 | ECO: B06 | 1-0
1. e4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. h4 c5 4. h5 Nc6 5. Nf3 d6 6. Bc4 Nh6 7. d3 Bg4 8. Bxh6?! This led to a spectacular finish but objectively there were several better moves.
8... Bxh6 9. hxg6 hxg6 10. Qc1 g5?? Danielsen explained to me later that he suffered "tunnel vision" in this position. He was aware of the Bh5 motif blocking the open file in other opening variations, but it failed to occur to him at this point. There were now a few possibilities, only one of them really playable:
10... Bh5 White presumably intended
11. Ng5 but Black is better after
11... e6  )
10... Bxc1?? Would, of course, lose a piece after
11. Rxh8+ Kd7 12. Rxd8+ Rxd8 13. Rxc1  )
10... Bg7 was another possibility that Danielsen saw, when after
11. Rxh8+ Bxh8 12. Bxf7+ Kxf7 13. Qf4+ and White wins a pawn.  )
11. Qxg5
11. Qxg5 Black resigned in view of
11... Bxg5 12. Rxh8+ Kd7 13. Rxd8+ Rxd8 14. Nxg5 with an extra piece. Or  )
11. Qxg5 Bxf3 12. Rxh6 Rxh6 13. Qxh6 Bxg2 14. O-O-O with an imminent crushing attack. Or  )
11. Qxg5 Bxf3 12. Rxh6 Rxh6 13. Qxh6 Bg4 14. Bxf7+ Kxf7 15. Qf4+ coming out two pawns ahead  )

My own tournament was much more satisfying than in 2015 when I had nine draws. Though I was disappointed not to equal my 2014 score, I faced more titled opponents this time and had the better of a draw with an Israeli international master. In the game below I obtained revenge against a FIDE Master who had beaten me in the World Team Championship in July, in a game with some interesting points and a nice finish.

Haubt, Georg vs. Harding, Tim D
World Seniors 65+ | Marianske Lazne | Round 6.34 | 24 Nov 2016 | ECO: A46 | 0-1
1. d4 e6 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bf4 c5 4. c3 Qb6 5. Qb3 As I had lost to my opponent in the World Team Championship in July, I was especially keen to obtain revenge. Conscious that we were on a "live" board, I now thought for about 20 minutes to build my concentration and check the consequences of queen exchanges on b3 or b6 and possible White knight invasions via b5.
5... d5 6. Na3 Bd7! 7. Ne5?! Presumably White underestimated Black's reply.
7... cxd4 8. e3!? This pawn sacrifice was half-expected but is inadequate. It was probably better to play 8. Nxd7 and then plan according to the reply, although all three recaptures seem more than adequate for Black.
8. Nxd7 I wasn't sure how to recapture but if possible I wanted to develop so
8... Nbxd7 9. Qxb6 axb6 10. cxd4 Bxa3 11. bxa3 Rxa3  )
8... dxc3 9. bxc3 Nc6 10. Nxd7 Kxd7 11. Bd3 Qxb3 12. axb3 Bd6 13. Bg5 a6 During the next phase Black probably missed some superior moves but maintained his extra pawn and better position.
14. Nc2 Rac8 15. f4 Ne4 16. Bxe4 dxe4 17. O-O-O f6 18. Bh4 Rhd8 19. Kb2 h6!? 20. g4 Ke7 21. Bg3
21. f5 looks tempting but concedes control of the e5-square.  )
21... Bc5
21... Kf7 22. Nd4 Nxd4 23. cxd4 g6 would be a more technical approach.  )
22. Nd4 Bxd4 23. exd4 Rd5 Now White obtains a passed pawn but his counterplay proved illusory; the transformation of the position brings Black closer to victory.
23... f5?? 24. Bh4+  )
23... Kf7!? Stockfish  )
24. Bf2 f5 25. Rhg1 Kf7 26. c4 Else ...g6 secures the pawn chain.
26... Rd7 27. gxf5 exf5 28. d5 Nb4 29. Bd4 g6 Of course not
29... Nd3+?? 30. Rxd3 exd3 31. Rxg7+ Ke8 32. Rg8+  )
30. Rdf1? If
30. Be5 Black proceeds as in the game.  )
30... Nd3+ 31. Ka3? Not
31. Kc2? Rxd5 so  )
31. Kb1 was the least of all evils.  )
31... b5 32. Rg2 bxc4 33. Rc2 Rxd5 34. Be3 Ra5# This is almost what problemists call a "pure mate" - except that b3 is both occupied and attacked.

At the closing ceremony, Vaisser said the championships were “fantastically well organized, particularly by comparison with last year in Italy.” Regular competitors in these competitions fully agreed with him and the Italians, who are due to host next year’s championships in the same venue as 2015, will now have to raise their game to a whole new level if they want to match this year’s event.


Dr. Timothy Harding, who has a PhD in history from Trinity College Dublin, is a senior international master of correspondence chess who has written many books on the game. His most recent, “Joseph Henry Blackburne: A Chess Biography,” published by McFarland, has received favorable critical reviews. 

Dr. Harding is on on Twitter (@TimDHarding). He has a Web site and a list of his books can be found at GoodReads.