The picturesque Austrian town of Mayrhofen - where blood will be spilt on the chess board...
Celtic Tigers have unveiled their squad for their second campaign in the European Chess Club Cup.
An ambush of seven Tigers will travel to the Austrian ski resort of Mayrhofen for the tournament, which will feature some of the continent’s elite players.
They will include reigning world champion and world number one Magnus Carlsen (pictured below left), who will compete for Norwegian outfit Offerspill in the event, which will run from October 2 to 10.
And while the icy temperatures of the Tyrol region aren’t usually a tiger’s idea of a favourable climate, the squad will be looking to warm the cockles with some positive results in such exalted company.
Those named in the travelling party are Marco Gallana, Hendrik Hoffman, Fedja Zulfic, John Quinn and Ryszard Maciol. The squad is completed by captain Chris Skulte (pictured below) and new signing Alistair Hill.
They fittingly cover a range of nationalities, with two Englishmen, two Aussies, an Italian, a German and a Pole. And those playing will hope to improve on the Tigers’ sole previous appearance in the competition, when the team finished 64th out of 66 teams with one win and one draw from seven matches in Montenegro in 2019.
They will be up against fellow 4NCL outfits The Sharks and Blackthorne (also representing England) and Gonzaga (representing Ireland). Another Irish team – Ennis – has also entered.
The Tigers, who are seeded 55th out of the 69 teams competing this year, qualified for this season’s competition after recording their highest ever finish – sixth – in division one of the Four Nations Chess League.
Such a high league finish for Celtic Tigers 1 was secured thanks to a superb final weekend in Daventry in June that saw the team win both of their matches.
Despite naming a considerably stronger side featuring Norwegian GM Frode Olav Olsen Urkedal, IM Ritvars Reimanis and WIM Klaudia Kulon, the firsts still had to fight hard to pick up the results they needed to secure a division one berth for the new season.
A nervy 4.5-2.5 win over Alba was achieved thanks to a win for Urkedal on top ard and a bottom board default from the opposition.
This was followed up by a fine 5-3 win over Wood Green Youth in a match where both sides’ average ratings were above 2300 – and saw the Tigers field IM Malcolm Pein on board seven. Urkedal won again – this time on board two with Reimanis promoted to top board – and further victories for Jonathan Pein and Carsten Pedersen on boards six and eight did the job.
Meanwhile, Celtic Tigers 2 ended a disappointing season in division three south in fine style with two thumping wins in Milton Keynes.
Despite having almost no chance of gaining a place in division three for 2022/23 after a dreadful run of four straight defeats, the seconds had a weekend to remember.
Five of their six players fielded – Maciol, Marios Kouis, Peter Kitchen, Andrew Macleod and Matthew Perchard – won both of their matches. For captain Kitchen it was the first time he had achieved the feat after first playing in the 4NCL for the Tigers 17 years ago, while both of Perchard’s games were bizarrely over within half an hour as he capitalised on errors by his opponents.
Hackney Returns were swept aside 5.5-0.5 on the Saturday, while a Sussex Martlets 3 side featuring a number of promising youngsters was seen off 5-1 on the Sunday.
The seconds finished the season in 17th place out of 33 teams, and while the thirds couldn’t raise a team for the final weekend they still finished 28th. Both teams will compete in division four in the new campaign.
Report by Peter Kitchen