European Championship: Jakovenko is champion with last round victory

4/1/2012 – It’s never over until it’s over, and the last round of the embattled European Championship merely reiterated this truism. Laurent Fressinet was the clear favorite as he held a half-point lead over the rest, but Dmitry Jakovenko crowned his final sprint to the top with a decisive victory taking the title. Fressinet came second, and Vladimir Malakhov third. Final report with GM commentary.

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The 13th European Individual Championship is taking place in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, from March 20th to 31st, 2012. 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 total prize fund is 100,000 Euros, with the top three taking 14,000, 11,000 and 9,000 Euros respectively.

Round ten – Fressinet takes the lead

French GM Laurent Fressinet (above) became the sole leader, one round before the final, after winning on board three against Vladimir Akopian (2684, ARM). None of the other seven leaders managed to take a full point home. On top board Vladimir Malakhov (2705, RUS) and Dmitry Andreikin (2689, RUS) played rock solid and without taking any extra risks drew in 41 moves.

Dmitry Jakovenko (2729, RUS), who was lagging half a point behind the leaders, beat Mikhail Kobalia (2666, RUS) on board four and reentered the chasing pack. With one round to go Laurent Fressinet (2693, FRA) was leading on 8.0/10, half a point ahead of the main group of nine players on 7.5/10: Dmitry Jakovenko, Vladimir Malakhov, Dmitry Andreikin, Ernesto Inarkiev, Maxim Matlakov, Viktor Bologan, Francisco Vallejo Pons, Sergei Azarov and Andrei Volokitin. Behind them 24 players jad 7.0 points.

Round ten was generally full of dramatic fights, as tension goes high towards the end of the Championship. Not a single game lasted for less than an hour, while only three were drawn within the second hour on move 40.

Round eleven – Jakovenko takes the title


Laurent Fressinet took Silver after a superb tournament

It’s never over until it’s over, and the last round of the embattled European Championship merely reiterated this truism. Laurent Fressinet was the clear favorite as he held a half-point lead over the rivals nipping at his ankles, but as several players poised to become world champion can attest: sometimes that last step can be the hardest.


It was a brilliant last round win that allowed Dmitry Jakovenko to grab the gold

Dmitry Jakovenko was the only player capable of challenging for the crown, since he faced Fressinet, and without a win on his part, no other could even dream of an ineffable tiebreak victory. The opening did not go as planned for the Frenchman, and he emerged with a small but clear minus. In spite of energetic positional play by the Russian, the leader held on, if with difficulty, but a mistake on move 33 was all it took to decisively end resistance, after which it was merely a matter of when, not if.


Vladimir Malakhov took bronze with a 2787 performance

Jakovenko was always in the running, if never actually on board one, and his final sprint of 5.0/6 and three straight wins in the final rounds clinched the title for him, also taking him to world number 13 in the live ratings list. For Fressinet it will have been a bittersweet moment, since he obviously cannot be happy with silver even if it is a superb result in itself. Thirteen players in all shared the score of 8.0/13 and bronze was also decided by tiebreak was Russian Vladimir Malakhov.

Here's the key game from round eleven that decided the championship.

[Event "13th EICC"] [Site "Plovdiv BUL"] [Date "2012.03.31"] [Round "11"] [White "Jakovenko, Dmitry"] [Black "Fressinet, Laurent"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D38"] [Annotator "Ramirez, Alejandro"] [PlyCount "83"] [EventDate "2012.03.20"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. e3 c5 8. dxc5 {This position has been played hundreds of times, and dxc5 is far from the main move. It is however rather interesting. Black must be well prepared to equalize.} Qa5 (8... Nxc5 $2 9. Qd4 $1 {Already shows how bad Black's position can quickly become.}) 9. Rc1 Bxc3+ 10. bxc3 O-O 11. Nd4 {0.04/0 This strong knight on d4 is one of the key points of White's position. He also has the pair of bishops. On the other hand, Black has active pieces all around and targets on a2 and c3.} Qxc5 {0.47/0} (11... Ne4 12. Bf4 Re8 {seems better to me. This was Kramnik's choice last year against Giri.}) 12. Bd3 {0.28/0} Re8 { 0.64/0 It's my opinion that Fressinet gives Jakovenko too much room to play. He should've immediately placed his knight on e4.} (12... Ne4 13. Bf4 Nb6 14. O-O Nc4 $13) 13. O-O {0.57/0} Ne4 {0.52/0} 14. Bf4 {0.61/0} Ne5 {0.76/0} 15. Bxe5 $1 {0.96/0 A hard move for many players, but this is optimal. The knights are eliminated, which allows white to push c4 and get rid of his only weakness. He retains his strong knight on d4 and lots of pressure all around the board.} Rxe5 {0.50/0} 16. c4 {0.52/0} Nf6 {0.85/0} 17. Qb3 {0.96/0} Re7 $6 {0.91/0 Too clumsy} (17... Qb6 $5 {Seems ugly but I like the idea of relieving the pressure. White can't realistically consider taking on b6.}) 18. Rfd1 {0.66/0 It's surpringly difficult to find a good move for Black in this position. The bishop can virtually not be developed anywhere.} Bg4 {1.00/0} 19. f3 {0.65/0} Be6 {1.19/0} 20. cxd5 {1.80/0} Qxd5 {1.07/0} 21. Bc4 {1.35/0 Black's nearly lost in the resulting pawn structure. Jakovenko cleans up nicely.} Qe5 {1.28/0} 22. f4 {1.69/0} Qe4 {1.98/0} 23. Nxe6 {1.42/0} fxe6 {1.31/0} 24. Be2 {1.28/0 Very technical, but the immediate onslaught was also good.} (24. Rd4 Qf5 25. Rd6 Rae8 26. Bb5 Ne4 27. Rd4 $16 (27. Bd3 Nc5 28. Bxf5 Nxb3 29. Bxh7+ Kxh7 30. axb3 $14 {Allows Black to dream too much.})) 24... Nd5 {1.29/0} 25. Kf2 {0.64/ 0 The king is perfectly safe on f2, and it defends the only attackable weakness on the White camp. It's nice when every single one of your pieces does something useful, even his majesty!} Qb4 {0.60/0} 26. Bc4 {0.65/0} Qxb3 { 0.59/0} 27. Bxb3 {1.25/0 This endgame is very ugly for Black. The bishop will eventually overpower the knight and the structure favors White. Not to mention the white rooks already occupy the two open files. It's hard to defend.} Nc7 { 1.31/0} 28. Rc5 {0.88/0} Kf8 {0.61/0} 29. Re5 {0.92/0} g6 {1.03/0} 30. h4 $1 { 0.61/0 GM Technique. White will open new weaknesses and Black can't hold on to all of them.} Kg7 {1.06/0} 31. h5 {0.67/0} Rf8 {0.69/0} 32. g4 {0.72/0} Rff7 { 0.78/0} 33. Rg5 {0.85/0} Rd7 $6 {2.18/0} 34. hxg6 $18 {1.55/0} hxg6 {2.27/0} 35. Bc2 {2.42/0 One pawn falls, and with it, hope.} Kf8 {2.50/0} 36. Rxg6 {3. 31/0} Rxd1 {3.43/0} 37. Bxd1 {2.55/0} Rh7 {2.67/0} 38. Bb3 {2.25/0} Ke7 {3.43/0 } 39. f5 {2.56/0} exf5 {3.10/0} 40. gxf5 {5.33/0 The next few moves were surely played out of inertia.} Ne8 {3.79/0} 41. e4 Nd6 42. f6+ {A very one-sided affair. Two clumsy moves were enough to allow Jakovenko to sweep Fressinet off the board and off of first place. Chess is very unforgiving, as the French star has just learned, surely not for the first time.} 1-0

The intrepid hero of the first half, Englishman Gawain Jones, finished in 15th, the best with 7.5/13, with a last round win, and a 2760 performance. He may not have ended with a medal, but he certainly drew notice to himself and will be a name to watch out for in the future. He also garnered 19 Elo for the next rating list.

Top-seed Fabiano Caruana entered as favorite, but with 98 players rated 2600 and more, and eleven rounds to go, nothing was less clear than a win. His engine never seemed to get into fourth, much less fifth, and a slew of draws, unable to quite clinch a potential win, left him constantly in the trailing pack. The most probable cause is simply fatigue as the young player has been playing almost non-stop and had little chance to rest and recover between his events.


Fabiano Caruana has played almost non-stop these last weeks

A few other players stood out for their extraordinary performances relative to their expected ones. Of the non-GMs, the much talked about Georgian IM Shota Azaladze was the highest performance in spite of one loss and a win by forfeit. His final performance of 2714 was 300 above his rating and was good for 35 Elo. His colleague the untitled Davit Lomsadze (2338) also had an extraordinary result of 2612, facing ten grandmasters (he was one of the infamous Georgian forfeits), also good for 35 Elo. Both scored GM norms.

Still, they were not the greatest Elo winners. The grand prize goes to 14-year-old Israeli FM Avital Boruchovsky (2333), who garnered a GM norm with a whopping 2650 performance, including a last-round win over GM Savchenko (2580). He might seem very far from actually getting the title considering his rating, but this event was good for 65 Elo nonetheless. The other grand Elo winner was 15-year-old Russian FM Kirill Alekseenko (2367) who also achieved a GM norm, and finished with an even higher 2687 performance. He possibly only failed to earn as much rating due to his tenth round forfeit win, though he had already completed a nine-round norm by then. He earned 60 Elo for his efforts.

Top final rankings (after round eleven)

Rk. Ti. Name FED Rtg
Pts.
Perf
1 GM Jakovenko Dmitry RUS 2729
8.5
2832
2 GM Fressinet Laurent FRA 2693
8.0
2800
3 GM Malakhov Vladimir RUS 2705
8.0
2787
4 GM Andreikin Dmitry RUS 2689
8.0
2786
5 GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2695
8.0
2784
6 GM Matlakov Maxim RUS 2632
8.0
2778
7 GM Bologan Viktor MDA 2687
8.0
2768
8 GM Vallejo Francisco ESP 2693
8.0
2765
9 GM Kryvoruchko Yuriy UKR 2666
8.0
2761
10 GM Azarov Sergei BLR 2667
8.0
2759
11 GM Najer Evgeniy RUS 2640
8.0
2756
12 GM Akopian Vladimir ARM 2684
8.0
2754
13 GM Volokitin Andrei UKR 2695
8.0
2745
14 GM Smeets Jan NED 2610
8.0
2685
15 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2635
7.5
2760
16 GM Vitiugov Nikita RUS 2709
7.5
2751
17 GM Bacrot Etienne FRA 2706
7.5
2748
18 GM Dreev Aleksey RUS 2698
7.5
2736
Rk. Ti. Name FED Rtg
Pts.
Perf
19 GM Khismatullin Denis RUS 2656
7.5
2734
20 GM Kobalia Mikhail RUS 2666
7.5
2734
21 GM Durarbeyli Vasif AZE 2543
7.5
2729
22 GM Riazantsev Alexander RUS 2710
7.5
2728
23 GM Jobava Baadur GEO 2706
7.5
2725
24 GM Berkes Ferenc HUN 2682
7.5
2716
25 GM Ragger Markus AUT 2654
7.5
2714
26 GM Balogh Csaba HUN 2664
7.5
2714
27 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2653
7.5
2709
28 GM Nisipeanu Liviu-D. ROU 2643
7.5
2706
29 GM Sokolov Ivan NED 2653
7.5
2705
30 GM Georgiev Kiril BUL 2671
7.5
2703
31 GM Sargissian Gabriel ARM 2674
7.5
2702
32 GM Ivanisevic Ivan SRB 2645
7.5
2698
33 GM Sjugirov Sanan RUS 2610
7.5
2697
34 GM Khenkin Igor GER 2632
7.5
2695
35 GM Efimenko Zahar UKR 2695
7.5
2664
36 GM Grigoriants Sergey RUS 2561
7.5
2647

Links

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