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Wednesday, 17 Mar 2021 18:31
Mikhalevsky and Shvayger are 2021 Israeli Champions

The Israeli men and women Championships were concluded last Monday at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel in Haifa with a solemn closing ceremony in the presence of the host mayor, Dr. Einat Kalish-Rotem and senior officials of the chess federation and supporting partners. The championships were mainly sponsored by the National Lottery (Mifal Hapais) and the prize fund was 100,000 NIS with a 20,000 first prize in the open section.

Open section

The open section was a 9-round Swiss event, officiated by IA Almog Burstein and NA Oded Ross, with 32 players taking part (including 10 GMs and 6 IMs). The rating favorites Tamir Nabaty (2638), Ilya Smirin (2614) (both former champions), Evgeny Postny (2605), Nitzan Shteinberg (2553) and Victor Mikhalevski (2552) were considered to be the main contenders for gold. A large number of young talents that qualified from the preliminaries had a real chance to gain invaluable experience and even title norms. Two members of the Olympic ladies’ team, WGM Marsel Efroimsky, and WIM Michal Lahav chose to compete in the open section.  

Victor Mikhalevski, Beer Sheva club player, took a somewhat slow start with 2.5 points in four rounds before winning four consecutive games against, among others, the early leaders Nabaty and Borukhovsky. He then drew his last round encounter with Kobo and finished undefeated scoring 7 points out of 9 and clinching his second national title.

The most pleasant surprise of the event was a performance delivered by 18-year-old Ido Gorshtein (pictured below), a member of the Kfar Saba Club. The youngster took the silver medal with 6½ points and achieved his first grandmaster norm! 

Tamir Nabaty (29), Beer Sheva club player and twice former champion, was the main favourite but following his defeats against both Gorshtein and Mikhalevski he eventually had to settle for the bronze.

Avital Boruchovsky, a player of the Kfar Saba club, was in the leading group during the decisive stage to finish in the respectable fourth place after beating Evgeny Postny in the last round - a nice gift for his 24th birthday celebrated on the very same day! Kudos to 70-year-old IM Nathan Birnboim, from Ashdod club, the eldest participant and 3-time former champion, who finished seventh with 5½ points after fighting in the last round (though losing eventually) for a GM norm.

Final standings open:

1. Victor Mikhalevski – 7
2. Ido Gorshtein – 6½
3. Tamir Nabaty – 6½
4. Avital Boruchovsky – 6
5. Ori Kobo – 6
6. David Gorodetsky – 5½  
7. Nathan Birnboim – 5½  
8. Yair Parkhov – 5½  
9. Ilya Smirin – 5½  
10. Evgeny Postny – 5

The new champion was born in 1972 in Belarus and immigrated at the age of 19 to Israel with his parents and older brother and his first coach, IM Alex Mikhalevski. He became GM in 1996 and was crowned Israeli Champion for the first time in 2014. He was a member of the national team at the 2006 Turin and 2010 Khanty Mansysk Olympiad.

Women's section 

Yuliya Shvayger (26), Beer Sheva club’s player, defended her title comfortably scoring 8 points and suffering a single defeat. Her victory, 2 points ahead of the field, came as no surprise after none of her national teammates was there to compete with the champion. Nadejda Reprun (50) from the Rishon Lezion club, on 6 and young Michele Katkov (17) from the "Tzafrir" club in Rehovot scored 5½ each and earned the medals. The latter was the only one to defeat the champion.

Final standings women:

1. Yuliya Shvaiger – 8
2. Nadejda Reprun – 6
3. Michelle Katkov – 5½
4. Adi Federovski – 5½
5. Noga Orian – 5
6. Dana Kochavi – 5
7. Marina Lian – 5
8. Noam Gadasi – 4½
9. Alina Golovchanskaya – 4
10. Avital Haitovich – 3½

The 2021 champion was born in Vinnytsia, Ukraine in 1994 and immigrated to Israel at the age of 14. Since 2012 she is a member of the Israeli Olympic team and since 2016 on its first board.

The women’s tournament was supervised by WIM Ilana David, herself the Israeli champion in 1980 and currently the director of the Beer-Sheva club whose members dominated both championships.

The longest game record

A unique record was set in the last round of the open section. The game between Eytan Rozen, the youngest Israeli IM, and WGM Marsel Efroimsky was 233 moves long, lasted seven and a half hours and ended an hour after the end of the prizegiving. This is, as far as is known, the longest official classical game ever held in Israel and arguably also the third longest one in the history of official competitive chess.

Text: Yochanan Afek

Photo: Dorit Ritvo Wolfovitz