2014 European championship starts in style

by Albert Silver
3/3/2014 – In many ways, it is the greatest open of the year, with over 120 grandmasters, many vying for one of the most important titles of the calendar, and a 20 thousand Euro first prize. Others come for a chance to play against elite competition, the likes of which they are unlikely to find elsewhere. The event is taking place in Yerevan, Armenia, and was launched with a breathtaking ceremony.

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The championship is an eleven-round Swiss system in accordance with the ECU Tournament Rules and FIDE Laws of Chess. and is held in Yerevan, Armenia from March 2 (day of arrival) until March 15 (day of departure) 2014. The tournament is held at the Elite Plaza Business Centre.  The rate of play is 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move, starting from move one.

The tournament does not allow players to draw before the 40th move, and the controversial zero-tolerance rule will be in effect. In case of pre-arranged results the Chief Arbiter can decide that the result of the respective game is 0 - 0. If a prize-winner is absent during the closing ceremony, then the money prize will be reduced by 20%.

The total prizefund is 160 thousand Euros, with 20 thousand for first place, 16 thousand for second, down to 1000 for 25th place. There are also prizes for the best overperformer, meaning the player who performs highest over his rating.

The European Individual Championship 2014 is a qualification event for the next World Cup. According to FIDE regulations and the decision of the ECU Board, 23 players will qualify.

Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremony of the European Individual championship was nothing short of spectacular. No surprise considering it is the national sport in Armenia, but the affair was sumptuous and included the very highest dignitaries in the country

Judit Polgar, who is playing, tweeted her enthusiasm

In front of a huge audience, including the president of Armenia...

... the opening ceremony unfolded.

Unsurprisingly, there was a tribute to the great Tigran Petrosian, the former
world champion. In fact, his name has inspired other namesakes, and there are
two grandmasters playing whose names are also Tigran Petrosian.

Here chess pieces don't just dance, they fly

The production values are worthy of a Broadway blockbuster

The queen has her say

A live chess battle with an aerial twist

The bishop with grace

In honor of the many nations represented...

... the pieces wave the flags.

The diginitaries enjoyed the grand spectacle

Round one

The tournament is easily one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, since not only does it bring in a horde of top players to fight for one of the most prestigious titles, but contrary to the world championship, which involves a complicated qualification cycle, here any player can join so long as their inscription is sent by their federation.

The result is that in the open section 258 players came, of whom 203 are titled, including fifteen players rated 2700, 39 from the Top 100, and over 120 grandmasters. Since there is no limit to the number of players a federation can submit, and no rating cutoff, it also means that while the top-rated player Etienne Bacrot is rated 2739, the lowest rated is 1794.

One would think this would mean the first round was a formality and massive killing field, but there were surprises from the getgo at all levels and Elos. For the most part, the Elo favorites performed as expected since the ratings difference on all boards ranged from 300 to 400 Elo, but not all. In fact, the few female players who came were the source of several unexpected results. On board three, IM Lilit Mkrtchian (2465) held third-seed Dmitry Jakovenko (2723) to a draw, while her sister-of-war Meri Arabidze (2388) beat Ivan Saric (2661). By a curious coincidence, top-female GM Judit Polgar (2693) was paired against Russian hopeful Alexandra Goryachkina (2424) in round one, but Judit overpowered her younger opponent as expected.

Judit Polgar showed why she is still the queen of queens (@GMJuditPolgar)

2013 champion Alexander Moiseenko (2712) was one of the first round casualties as he failed to beat IM Asaf Givon. However the biggest upset was unquestionably by 12-year-old Aram  Hakobyan (2103) who beat GM Mastrovasilis (2554).

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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