Lázně Poděbrady
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Chess history of Poděbrady

Snowdrops and Oldhands - Vršanská uhelná chess match 2013


A significant contribution was brought due to cozy town Poděbrady into the rich chess history of Czech and Slovak spa towns. Small town, nowadays with more than thirteen thousands of inhabitants, hosted several great events in the past. Great masters of the past, headed by the fourth World Champion in chess Alexander Alekhin, Gedeon Stahlberg or Vasya Pirtz, seconded by great names of domestic chess history and present: Salo Flohr, Karel Opočenský, Věra Menčíková, David Navara, Viktor Láznička or Zbyněk Hráček, have sat above the chessboards there.


Undoubtedly the greatest chess event had taken place in Poděbrady just before the war in 1936. In pursuance of the fourteenth congress of the Central Unity of Czechoslovak chessplayers (ÚJČS) several tournaments took place in here, out of which the one with the international hallmark welcomed three of the greatest phenomenons of that time in the region of Central Bohemia. In time of the tournament of former World Champion Alexander Alekhin, first Woman World Champion Věra Menčíková and the best Czech chess player Salomon Flohr. One of the most valuable tournament books in Czech chess literature was published about this tournament.

„Rightly, we can assign the congress to the most valuable ones, which we have experienced, since the establishment of the Unity 31 years ago. Pleasant spa environment couldn't stay without influencing the mood of the participants, which was also necessarily reflected in the quality of performances, which were extremely good in all of the tournaments,“ this was written about the results of the tournament in contemporary press and about activity of individual games, they add: „The pecularity of the Poděbrady tournament is the fact, that organizers were lucky with the set up of the list of participants from mostly young players, out of which several went to the international public for the first time. This was also a proof, that such aspect in the selection is much more better than a hunt for the formerly well-known names, which won't show in a tournament nothing more than a routine, with which end in tie more than a half of the games. “

Salomon Flohr won in spite of a weak start in the beginning, when an overwhelming performance decided of his primacy in the second half of the tournament. Another pleasant finding made in Poděbrady was a performance of the Ostrava master Jan Foltys, who made it to the third place of the final chart due to his ferocious game. The excitement about his performance was expressed also by Czechoslovak chess, when he wrote in the tournament commentary, on the address of Jan Foltys: „What we mostly appreciate about this discovery of a new talent, is the distinctive style of young master. Foltys doesn't follow beaten and comfortable path of positional technical routine, after which a sizeable part of our young generation proceeded, but he is an overt partisan of combative chess, who paves his way from Russian and Germany into international chess still more powerfully. „Safety first“ isn't the alfa and omega of the arts of chess for him, on the contrary, he builts his game from the very beginning on attack, plot and combination.“


Another strong tournament took place in a Central Bohemia spa town twenty years later. In 1956 twenty prominent domestic chess players came together here to compete for the title of Champion of Czechoslovakia. 29-years old Ladislav Alster became the winner of the tournament, who was at the peak of his powers that time. Master František Zíta gained silver and bronze with eleven and a half points out of nineteen possible was divided between Karel Opočenský and Miroslav Herink. Out of famous names of later period appeared in 1956 behind Poděbrady chessboard e.g. Brno's master František Blatný or Slovak representatives Julius Kozma, Ján Šefc and Maxmilián Ujtelky.


Last of the great chess contests was held in Poděbrady last year. From 20th to 22nd of April, three final rounds of the Extraleague of chess teams 2012 took place in local congress and culture centre Lázeňská kolonáda.

Confluence of the last three extraleague rounds to one place and one date motivated clubs to bring their greatest stars to Poděbrady, so it was able to see there duels of several players belonging to prominent chess society with rating above 2700 points. The top rated was Ukrainian former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomaryov (2758) playing for Lysá nad Labem. It was the chess players from Nový Bor, who managed the best in spa environment, headed by the best Czech chess player David Navara. They lost only two points in three matches and their win in ratio 7,5:0,5 and one 7:1 hasn't anyone left in doubt, that the title of Champion of the Republic is in the right hands.

Also the category of individuals was dominated by chess players from Nový Bor. Three points of three games were gained by grandmasters of Nový Bor Radoslav Wojtaszek (2704), Viktor Láznička (2701), Krishnan Sasikiran (2689) and Petr Hába (2502). One hundred percent success was gained also by IM Pavel Šimáček (2462) of Grygov team and Jiří Kočiščák (2318) from Ostrava.


Hotel Zámeček hosted the traditional match Snowdrops and Oldhands, in which legendary grandmasters (Wolfgang Uhlmann, Fridrik Olafsson, Oleg Romanishin and Vlastimil Hort) beated the incoming generation of women chess players (Valentina Gunina, Tania Sachdev, Alina Kashlinskaya and Kristýna Havlíková) 17 : 15. The honorary host of match was the oldest living grandmaster Yuriy Averbakh.

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