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Sklenka, Steve

Battle of Alberta

Battle of Alberta - Team South
Preparation
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For me the Battle of Alberta started sometime in May when I offered Omid Malek help with the organization of the tournament. Gathering historical results going back to 1996 uncovered that North and South each won nine events until 2013, followed by a run of five consecutive wins by team North. Team North, in fact, has utterly dominated the entire last decade.

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My lofty if not impossible goal was to bring the Cup back to Calgary. Step one was to sign up two of our strongest players and Battle of Alberta faithfuls FM Gary Ng and FM Ian Findlay. Unfortunately neither was available due to prior commitments. FM Alex Yam on the other hand, in spite of a long period of inactivity, agreed to join the team over a cup of coffee.

The now famous and long-running Kings vs Princes competition at the Calgary Chess Club further yielded brothers Robert and Fred South, although other strong Masters including Andrew Lapides and Knut Neven also weren't available on the Battle of Alberta weekend.

It is possible to trace by way of last winter's Tournament of Legends Blitz event and the Kings vs Princes competition that followed it, the return of several very strong Masters to active play. Some have done so after decades of inactivity, and their success at the Battle of Alberta provides ample proof that new programs at the Calgary Chess Club are paying dividends. Calgary chess legend Branimir Brebrich for example, now aged 85, convincingly won his match in Red Deer!

It is possible to trace by way of last winter's Tournament of Legends Blitz event and the Kings vs Princes competition that followed it, the return of several very strong Masters to active play. Some have done so after decades of inactivity, and their success at the Battle of Alberta provides ample proof that new programs at the Calgary Chess Club are paying dividends.

Ever so slightly outrated overall by a margin of just 11 Elo, 2219 vs 2208, team South for the first time in many years was able to field a competitive team against our adversaries from the north. The final line-up then consisted of Ian Zhao, Alex Yam, Robert South, Fred South, Omid Malek, Dale Haessel, Branimir Brebrich, Georgi Kostadinov, Anand Rishi Chandra, Maxim Vasic, Hemant Srinivasan and Aditya Raninga. If our four Calgary Chess Club legends could perform to their ratings then the result would be close.

Round 1

Team North quickly sprinted into the lead by winning the first two games to finish, but then Aditya Raninga and Fred South both drew their games and Georgi Kostadinov scored our first win to stabilize the board points. Then Branimir Brebrich also won, and Maxim Vasic posted a draw.

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The next few results weren't encouraging, as further losses came thick and fast, with only Alex Yam able to defeat his opponent. By the end of the round, team North enjoyed a comfortable 7.5-4.5 lead, and yours truly felt discouraged by the prospect of yet another disappointing Battle of Alberta loss. But the next round would bring a reversal of fortune and a nail biting finish in a single remaining and decisive game...

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Round 2

This time we managed to reverse the bad start from round one, as Maxim Vasic and then Hemant Srinivasan registered victories. The latter's comeback against Arniel Frialde, who at one time was Edmonton's second ranked player and outrated our youngster by 90 Elo, was especially surprising.

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The running score total was suddenly 6.5-7.5, putting team South within reach of team North. A quick check of clock times around the room found 9 out of 11 boards with more remaining time for our player, which can more often than not be an indication of an advantage on the board as well. On closer inspection, team South looked like winning on two of the remaining boards, with no discernable advantages to team North.

Soon enough Aditya Raninga and Fred South won, while Alex Yam and Branimir Brebrich both drew. That left team South in the lead with 9.5-8.5. Then came wins by Dale Haessel and Omid Malek, who both avenged losses in the first round. Meanwhile Robert South extracted a huge half a point from Rafael Arruebarrena. The score now stood at 12-11 with one game to go.

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Then came wins by Dale Haessel and Omid Malek, who both avenged losses in the first round. Meanwhile Robert South extracted a huge half a point from Rafael Arruebarrena. The score now stood at 12-11 with one game to go.

The last game remaining was that between Georgi Kostadinov and Fort McMurray's Ico Van Den Born. Georgi's position looked grave, and the desired miracle we needed to secure match victory did not materialize in spite of a long brave fight. Ico thus saved team North from losing the Battle of Alberta match for the first time in six years.

And so for the first time in the history of the Battle of Alberta competition the result was a 12-12 tie. Team North gets to keep the trophy for another year as the reigning champion, but team South can be proud of winning or drawing on 9 out of the 12 boards. A huge accomplishment!

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