English Girls in Norway!

– article by IM Jovanka Houska, pictures by Doug Neil / Alan Price
It was way back in November when a father of one of my students approached me to ask whether some English girls would like to play in the Norwegian Girls championships – he told me that traditionally foreign girls were invited and this year they wanted English Girls to play….So that’s how it came to pass that on the 1st February, five girls (along with their parents) came to visit Bergen for the weekend to lock chess horns with the best Norway has to offer! Those five girls were: Phoebe Price, Jennifer Neil, Eleanor Hapeshi, Anna Purvis and Eva Ressel and they were supported by group leaders: Sabrina Chevannes and Lawrence Cooper.

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Lawrence Cooper, Alan Price, Phoebe Price, Eleanor Hapeshi, Eva Ressel, Julie Hapeshi and Jennifer Neil enjoying the view at Fløyen

Bergen is famous for two things: it’s the gateway to the majestic fjords (in fact the city is surrounded by seven mountains) and that it never stops raining! So after arriving to the airport on Friday morning, the group found time to enjoy the sights the: crooked Hanseatic houses on the Bryggen wharf and a trip on the Funicular to see the most spectacular view in Bergen.

The Norwegian Championships for Girls were held in the newly built Fauskanger School in Askøy, an island located forty minutes outside of Bergen. Even getting to the school was an outdoor adventure, as the group (minus Sabrina, Anita and Anna Purvis who safely took the bus directly from the centre) decided to get into the Norwegian Spirit and take the local boat and then catch the bus to the school. However our intrepid explorers suffered a minor setback when they discovered that the bus did not stop at the boat terminal during peak hours! However they made it to the school just on time to play the first game of chess.

The Chess:

The tournament atmosphere was cosy small but great fun, the girls all had a great time socialising with their Norwegian counterparts who luckily are all rather fluent in English. In Scandinavia, a big emphasis is also put on the social aspect so as well as the chess, the girls are encouraged to form friendships and to do everything together from sleeping in the same room, eating meals, playing in the gym of course play chess!

Group A (Kadett and Ungdom merged)

Eleanor, Jennifer and Phoebe competed in the top FIDE rated section which saw two sections merged together Ungdom (Under 26)/Kadett (13-17). Nearly all of the Norwegian girls in this section are seasoned internationals having competed in several World and European Junior Events and two of them – Line Jin Jorgensen and Erle Hansen have represented Norway at the Chess Olympiad! With the star of Magnus Carlsen in the ascent, chess is becoming more and more popular – Magnus is a big idol and is seen on the front page of the newspapers nearly every week. Now, with the Tromso chess Olympiad 2014 within sight, many of the young girls are in serious training to be able to get in the National teams and compete on home territory!

Jennifer Neil analysing her game with IMs Lawrence Cooper and Jovanka Houska

Jennifer Neil analysing her game with IMs Lawrence Cooper and Jovanka Houska

In light of this, the competition for the girls was very strong. Jennifer played very calmly and actively impressing local IM and trainer Kjetil Stokke with her mature style. She only lost to the top two seeds Olympiad internationals- Erle and Line Jin. With a few tweaks here and there, Jennifer could easily have scored much more, something that is very promising for the future!

The youngest participant in the top Group, Eleanor, getting ready to unleash the Grand Prix attack!

At thirteen years old, Eleanor was the youngest participant and raced to 2/2 defeating two of Norway’s young hopes Edit Machlik and Maud Roedsmoen quite spectacularly (with the English speciality the Grand Prix attack of course!). Eleanor plays with a pleasing raw energy here is a position from Eleanor playing white in the second round against Maud Roedsmoen:

Eleanor has rather speculatively sacrificed a rook for a menacing and most probably unsound attack however her older opponent Maud does not sense the danger and carelessly recaptures the white knight with 16…cxd4 (16….Qxd4 was essential and the Queen can be used along the a1-h8 diagonal to protect its king)

Can you guess what followed?

17.f5! a devastating blow! Now Blacks position is hopeless

17..Kh8 18.fxg6! Rg8

at too late a stage her opponent realises that 18..fxg6 is not possible because of 19.Qe5+ winning from now on Eleanor is relentless.

19.Rxf7 Rg7 20.Qe5 Bf8 21.hxg7+ Kg8 22.Nf6+ Qxf6 23.Qxf6 Bd6 24.Rf8+ Bxf8 25.Qxf8#

1–0

Phoebe had a tough time and came 4th in the highest category however she actually played a lot of girls who are very experienced competitors – which made the event a fun but valuable chess lesson.

Phoebe (second left) receiving her 4th prize

Phoebe (second left) receiving her 4th prize

Final scores from our girls in Section A were:

Jennifer : 3.5/6 (fourth in the Kaddett)
Eleanor: 3/6 (seventh in the Kadett section)
Phoebe on 2.5/6 (fourth in the Ungdom section)

Lilleputt section

Eva winning first place on the podium, Anna is on the far right

Eva winning first place on the podium, Anna is on the far right

We had two girls competing in the Lilleputt section (girls under 13) Anna Purivs and Eva Ressel who were ranked third and fourth respectively. Favourite and top seed was Ingrid Greibrokk, who had defeated Eva at the U12 World Youth Girls and also held England’s Akshaya to a draw. However, the event despite promising to be quite closely fought quickly descended into the Eva show. When I first walked into the tournament hall on a late Saturday morning the first person I saw was Eva, rosy cheeked with a big smile on her face dashing around, “How did you get on?” “Oh I won” she replied before she continued on her travels. In the words of my room-mate Victoria (who is an incredibly strong player) a happy relaxed chess player makes a successful player!

Having trained Eva at the World Youth, I gave her the nickname “Endgame Queen” as she won most of her games in the endgame. In Norway, endgame or middle game, it didn’t matter, Eva won them all and finished with six points out of six! Eva’s regular coach Sabrina Chevannes has worked incredibly hard with Eva these last few months and their work together is paying off in dividends. I look forward to following her progress.

Eva won second prize in the beauty prize for the following game –

(1370836) Ressel,Eva (1462) – Lorem,Helene (1044)
Norgesmesterskapet for jenter Fauskanger – Askøy (2), 01.02.2013

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.e5 Nfd7 6.Bxe7 Qxe7 7.f4 0–0 8.Nf3 a6 9.Qd2 [9.Bd3 is more commonly played forcing Black to do something about his king 9…f6 (as 9…c5 loses to 10.Bxh7+ Kxh7 11.Ng5+ Kg6 12.0–0 with the idea of playing Rf1–f3–g3 embarrassing the king further 12…f6) 10.exf6 Nxf6 11.Qd2 c5 12.dxc5 Qxc5 13.0–0–0 Nc6 14.Kb1 b5 15.Ne2 b4 16.Ned4 Nxd4 17.Nxd4 Bd7 18.Rde1 Rfe8 19.Rhg1 a5 20.g4 Kh8 21.Qe3 a4 22.g5 Ne4 23.Bxe4 dxe4 24.Qxe4 a3 25.Rg3 Kg8 26.Rh3 g6 27.Qe5 Qb6 28.Rxh7 1–0 (28) Ibragimov,I (2565)-Murthy,P (2165) 10th Open, King’s Island USA 2001]

9…c5 10.0–0–0 Nc6 11.Qf2 Nb4?! [interesting but I don’t think its quite good enough] [starting the pawns rolling is more to the point. In these positions with opposite side castling, the person who gets going more often than not is the person who wins! 11…b5 something like the following could be a plausible continuation 12.h4 b4 13.Na4 c4 14.h5 c3 15.h6! (15.bxc3 would be a bad positional move as suddenly the black Queen has access to the White king. Only computers are allowed to get away with moves like this! ; if 15.b3 the typical french pawn break looks quite good. 15…f6 16.h6 g6 17.Qe3 f5) 15…cxb2+ 16.Nxb2 g6 17.g4 Nb6 18.Bd3 Na5 19.f5 Nac4 20.Rdf1 with a complicated position]

12.a3 Nc6 13.Bd3 h6 [13…b5 loses to 14.Bxh7+ Kxh7 15.Ng5+ Kg6 16.Qh4 and black loses]

14.dxc5 Nxc5 15.g4!? Nxd3+ 16.Rxd3 f6! 17.Qe3 [17.Re1 is more accurate. Black will not get to exchange queens and will instead have to suffer uncomfortable pressure in the centre. 17…fxe5 18.Nxe5 Nxe5 19.Rxe5 Qf6 20.Rf3 Bd7 21.h4 looks very pleasant and harmonious]

17…Bd7 18.h4 fxe5 19.Nxe5 Nxe5 20.Qxe5 Rf7?? [not a good move, Black hands the iniative on a plate to White] [20…Qf6! the best defensive try, a good defensive rule is to exchange off the attacking pieces. Since Black’s king is beginning to look a little hot under the collar, black would be well advised to seek refuge in the endgame 21.Qxf6 Rxf6 22.f5 exf5 23.Nxd5 Rf7 24.g5 still looks more comfortable for white as after 24…h5 (24…Bc6 25.gxh6 gxh6 26.Rg1+ Kh7 27.Nf4) 25.g6 wins]

21.g5! 21…Raf8 [if 21…h5 Eva has the absolutely stunning 22.Nxd5 exd5 23.g6! Rff8 24.Qxh5 mating; 21…Rf5 also fails to the tactic 22.Nxd5 Rxe5 23.Nxe7+ Kf7 24.fxe5 winning]

22.Rf3? [missing 22.Nxd5 exd5 23.g6 and black loses the exchange]

22…hxg5?? [handing White a ready made attack down the h-file] [22…Rf5 and black is back in the game]

23.hxg5 Bc6?? [the final mistake] [23…Rf5 24.Qe2 (24.Rfh3 does not work because after 24…Rxe5 25.g6 black has the desperate 25…Re1+ winning) 24…Qd6 25.Qh2 Kf7 and black can still grovel on]

24.Rfh3 Rf5 25.g6 [and its mate]

25…Rxe5 26.Rh8# 1-0

Anna scored 3.5 points and finished in fourth place – it was a useful learning experience for Anna and one of her personal highlights was defeating the top seed Ingrid A.Greibrokk, in a well-played endgame. If one thing she learn’t my chess motto – “Mrs Safe and then push those pawns!”

Final scores:

1. Eva Ressel 6/6
2. Sara Naess 4/6
3. Regina Forsaa 3.5/6
4. Anna Purvis 3.5/6
5. Elise S. Jacobsen 3.5/6

Anna and her opponent Regina Forsaa won third place in the beauty prize for their encounter.

I consider this tournament an outstanding success for our girls, not only did the group really act as a team supporting each other and making valuable new friendships and experiences. From swinging on the ropes with their newfound Norwegian friends, hunting the Northern lights to standing on a podium with a huge chess trophy. Very importantly in chess terms it also gave them valuable international experience something that they can use to arm themselves when they all go on to play in the World and European events. I would also like to give my deepest thanks to the organisers who so very kindly allowed our girls to grab this opportunity and also to the John Robinson Trust Fund who made this trip affordable for the girls. Finally, I would like to mention the efforts of Sabrina and Lawrence who not only are amazing chess coaches but who also were of invaluable help on my very first role as an Organiser!