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CLUB CHESS at the top level is very different from local league

play, with many professionals turning out for a whole variety of teams in different countries. Indeed, chatting recently to one top grandmaster on the Internet Chess Club (ICC http://, I gathered that he plays in no fewer than six different countries - Germany, Holland, Austria, Spain, France and (if I remember rightly) Belgium. That still leaves plenty of untapped European leagues, though, including Croatia (where he doesn't play, but his wife does!).

Like several other nations - though not England, Holland, France or Germany - the Croatians run team championships in a single session like a normal tournament. This year's was on 9-18 September in the same complex in Pula at the bottom of the Istrian Peninsula where England won the European (national) team championships in May 1997.

Ten teams took part in the powerful top league, which included 23 grandmasters among nearly 120 registered players - for, though the matches were over six boards, all the clubs had much larger squads. Mravince (Kozul, Dizdarevic, Kurajica, Kovacevic, Nikolac and Zelic) won the title with 36/54 ahead of Zrinjevac (Morovic, Bogdan Lalic, Shariazdanov, Zelcic, Komljenovic and Sulava) 33 and Pula itself on 31. And you can see the strength in depth from the list of top scorers on each board: 1) Movsesian 6/9, 2) Tkachiev 6/8, 3) Dizdarevich 6/9, 4) Kurajica 7/9 5) Vlado Kovakevic and 6) Sale and Sulava 7/9.

In these two miniatures, very strong players suffer complete disasters. (I don't want to ridicule them - one of the joys of being human rather than a machine is that you are entitled sometimes to make a mistake.)

In the first, the usually super-solid Tukmakov had a complete aberration with 16 ...Bf6?? After 17 Bxd5, he had to resign at once since 17 ...exd5 18 Nxd5! Rxd5 19 Qe8 is mate! While in the second, under pressure from 9 Ne5 onwards, Palac lashed out with 13 ...c4. But Gyimesi calmly took the pawn, then brought his knight back. White's temporary inability to castle was quite irrelevant and the sequence starting 21 Nc7+! was terminal.

White: Mikhail Ulibin

Black: Vladimir Tukmakov

Caro Kann

White: Zoltan Gyimesi

Black: Mladen Palac

Queen's Indian Defence

1 e4 c6

2 d4 d5

3 exd5 cxd5

4 c4 Nf6

5 Nc3 e6

6 Nf3 Bb4

7 cxd5 Nxd5

8 Qc2 Nc6

9 Be2 0-0

10 0-0 Be7

11 Rd1 Qb6

12 Qe4 Rd8

13 Bd3 g6

14 Bc4 Nf6

15 Qe2 Nd5

16 Bh6 Bf6??

17 Bxd5


1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 e6

3 Nf3 b6

4 g3 Ba6

5 b3 d5

6 cxd5 exd5

7 Bg2 c5

8 Nc3 Nc6

9 Ne5 Nxd4

10 e3 Ne6

11 Nxd5 Rc8

12 Bb2 Nd7

13 Qg4 c4

14 Nxc4 b5

15 Ne5 Nxe5

16 Bxe5 b4

17 Rd1 Qa5

18 Bf1 Bb7

19 Bc4 Rd8

20 e4 Bc5?

21 Nc7+ Nxc7

22 Bxf7+ Kxf7

23 Qxg7+