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Tigers hit the heights with record European cup points haul

Record-breaking Celtic Tigers reached new peaks by returning home from the European Club Chess Cup in Austria with their best ever points haul.

Despite being seeded as one of the lowest of the 70 teams in the competition, the Tigers won three and lost four of their games during the eight-day tournament in the Alpine resort of Mayrhofen. Club stalwart Ryszard Maciol was fittingly the team’s star performer during the tournament, scoring 4/6 for a rating performance of 2222 – some 100 points above his own FIDE rating. Board two Hendrik Hoffmann returned the highest rating performance of all the Tigers, with his 3.5/6 at 2324.

The Tigers finished the tournament on six points for a share of 40th place – some achievement when considered the squad was seeded 61st and competing against some of the crème of Europe.

The Tigers squad in Mayrhofen for the European Chess Club Cup.

It was also a time for creating tremendous memories – including sharing social drinks with world champion Magnus Carlsen and his Norwegian Offerspill team following round two.

On their second venture into Europe following a record high sixth-place finish in last season’s Four Nations Chess League, the Tigers started out with a tricky assignment against the strong German outfit Schachgesellschaft Sollingen. A brave battle resulted in a 4.5-1.5 defeat, with Maciol defeating Andreas Peschel on bottom board and Alistair Hill – “on loan” from Cambridge University for the tournament – drawing with FM Oliver Kniest on board four.

Another 4.5-1.5 defeat followed in round two – this time against Finnish outfit Vammalan Shakkikerho. Marco Gallana, Fedja Zulfic and Maciol all picked up draws.

The evening spent in the company of Carlsen and his friends appeared to have a galvanising effect on the tigers – while Magnus took the following day off, the Tigers claimed their first victory. Cercle des Echecs Dudelange of Luxembourg were seen off 4.5-1.5 thanks to wins for Hoffmann, Zulfic, Maciol and John Quinn and a draw for captain Chris Skulte.

Another Luxembourgese (?!) team lay in wait in round four – but this time CE Le Cavalier Differdange had too much horsepower as they won 4-2. Hill, Skulte, Macio and Quinn drew on the bottom four boards but Gallana and Zulfic lost on boards one and two.

But the Tigers returned to winning ways in round five by narrowly defeating Kosovan team Dreytesia 3.5-2.5. Hoffmann, Skulte and Maciol picked up the all-important victories and Hill drew his game on board three.

The Tigers in action in round three, when they picked up their first victory. From left (in the foreground facing the camera) are John Quinn, Ryszard Maciol, Chris Skulte, Fedja Zulfic, Hendrik Hoffmann and Marco Gallana.

An English derby lay in store in round six – but the Tigers ended up on the wrong end of a 4-2 scoreline against 4NCL rivals Blackthorne. Hoffmann was the lone Tigers winner on board two defeating IM Andrew Ledger, while Gallana drew with IM Simon Ansell on top board and Hill drew with FM Dave Ledger on board four.

But the team finished with a flourish with victory over Swedish side Team Pelaro Alingsas SS in the final round. A 4.5-1.5 triumph was secured thanks to wins from boards three to six for Zulfic, Hill, Skulte and Quinn and a draw for Hoffmann on board two. Sadly the legendary GM Ulf Andersson, who was in the Swedes’ squad as their highest-ranked player, did not feature.

The tournament was won by Czech side Novy Bor, which had squad of eight grandmasters led by Indian duo Pantala Harikrishna and Gujrathi Vidit Santosh and won all seven of its games.

Former Tiger GM Matthieu Cornette was part of the French Asnieres squad that finished fourth - his teammates included super GMs Maxine Vachier-Lagrave and Sergei Mosvesian.

Report by Peter Kitchen

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