Favorites lead 2004 Euro Club Cup

10/7/2004 – NAO Chess Club of France is on the road to defending its title as European club champion. Even with its top board Kramnik busy somewhere else, NAO is the favorite and has won all four of its matches. Kasparov lost his first game to Rublevsky and came back to beat Shirov. We have photos and some onsite insight from one of the players.

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The 2004 European Club Cup

While Peter Leko and Vladimir Kramnik duel in Switzerland, most of the world's top players have congregated in Cesme, Turkey for the European Club Cup. After four rounds (of seven), super-power NAO Chess Club of France has taken the clear lead by being the only team to win all of its matches. Four heavyweight teams are a point back and the matches between the leaders are still to come.

You would think that NAO would be vulnerable by the absence of their first board, Vladimir Kramnik. You would think that until you saw the rest of their line-up. Put it this way, Teimour Radjabov is rated 2663 and he's on board six! England's Mickey Adams has taken the mantle of top board. Those two, together with Bacrot and Vallejo Pons, gives NAO the top-rated players from four different countries. (Azerbaijan, England, France, Spain.)

This Real Madrid of the chess world has yet to give up even a drawn match. NAO predictably crushed weaker teams in the first rounds and then continued to crush even the stronger teams. In round four they wiped out the powerful Tomsk 400 led by Alexander Khalifman with a 5-1 score. Tomsk is supposed to have Alexander Morozevich on board one, but the mercurial Russian hasn't shown up in Cesme. He has a history of late drop-outs and his exciting chess will be missed.


A local open? No, the world's best packed in side by side.

Many eyes have been on the world's top ranked player, Garry Kasparov, who is leading the Max Ven Ekaterinburg team, which has the second-highest average rating. Last year in this event Kasparov stormed out with four straight wins before a shocking blunder and loss to Huzman. This year he started out with a loss, losing to Rublevsky in a rook and pawn endgame.


Maybe it was the shirt? Rublevsky beat Kasparov in round two.

Kasparov got back on track in the next round thanks to one of his favorite customers, Alexei Shirov. We've applied the mercy rule and stopped counting how many losses for Shirov that makes against Kasparov without a win. Let's just say it's over a dozen.


Just what Kasparov needed after a loss: white against Shirov.

Postcard from a real chess tourist

Before the third round we received an email with a unique onsite report from one of the players. Instead of boring Grandmaster game analysis, we got interesting tidbits from Jonathan O'Connor, the second board of the 35th-ranked (of 36) Dublin Chess Club, where he is also the Secretary. It shouldn't surprise that Jonathan's eyes were on the collection of chess stars he was suddenly playing with as much as on the board. He even got an autograph from Kasparov after his loss and lived to tell the tale. (Jonathan also wrote an interesting article for ChessBase last year.)

Well, I'm a real chess tourist playing for Dublin CC here in Turkey. It's absolutely wonderful that ordinary club players like myself can play in the same competition as players like Kasparov.

Yesterday, of course, was not a good day for Garry. I watched the end of the game behind a wall of people crowding the edge of the room. Garry was shaking his head. More to shake off tiredness than saying his position was bad. In the last few minutes, Rublevsky kept glancing at Kasparov, trying to see when Garry would accept his position was lost. Once he played Rf5, Garry resigned immediately, his hand shooting across the board. Score sheets were signed, and he left the playing hall at high speed.

Later, he ate in the restaurant with all the other players. According to my team mate, Eddie O'Connor, he seemed jovial enough. However, an hour later I found myself standing beside him at the notice board, looking the standings, and he was furious. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I got him to autograph a chess book I had in my hand. He did it, but he never said a word. I don't feel particularly good about this.

You should also have a look at the game Pinter-Shirov. The times on the clocks were Pinter 30 minutes, Shirov 90 seconds. Shirov had the 2 bishops against B+N. [With pawns. -ed.] And he played to win. Amazingly he succeeded. He looked pretty happy about it too, when he signed the scoresheets.

As for my own games, Ivanchuk said I played perfectly in yesterday's game Agopov-O'Connor. I think I'll frame that comment! And I was quite pleased with my win today. Not bad for a tourist!

BTW, No sign of Morozevich.
Ciao, Jonathan O'Connor

We'll add to Ivanchuk's praise. O'Connor played a brilliant attack to win with black against a player rated 200 points higher in his trouncing of Agopov. First he sacrificed the exchange to crash through and here finished things off with a splendid series as White's heavy pieces look on helplessly.

Agopov-O'Connor after 22.Kc1

22...Rd3! 23.cxd3? Allowing a quick end. [23.Qg4 Qxc3 24.Ra2 (24.Kb1 Re3 The pawns will triumph quickly.) 24...Qd2+ 25.Kb1 Re3-+] 23...Qxc3+ 24.Kb1 Qb3+ 25.Kc1 c3 26.Rb1 Qxa3+ 27.Kd1 [ 27.Kc2 Ba4+ 28.Rb3 Qb2+ 29.Kd1 Qd2#] 27...Qa2 0-1 [ 27...Qa2 28.Ke1 Qxb1+ 29.Kf2 c2]

Replay and download selected games from rounds 1-3

Player photo gallery

 
Alexander Khalifman – Teimour Radjabov


Boris Gelfand – Sergey Movsesian


Joel Lautier


Svetlana Matveeva

About

The 2004 European Club Cup is being played in Izmir Cesme (Smyrna) in Turkey. A total of 36 men's and 10 women's teams from 22 countries are taking part.

Looking at the list of participants we have counted a total of 86 GMs and 41 IMs. Remarkable there are 38 players rated over 2600. The star, of course, is Garry Kasparov, playing for the Max Ven Ekaterinburg, together with Vaganian, Aleksandrov, Beliavsky, Motylev, Rustemov and Shariyazdanov. The Elo average of 2682 is second to the NAO Chess Club, with Adams, Grischuk, Bacrot, Vallejo Pons, Lautier, Radjabov, Fressinet and Nataf, with an average of 2698. The lowest average is 1717, held by the team Minatori Mitrovice.

All pictures from the official tournament page

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