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Rijeka: Nepomniachtchi, Cramling European champions

by Albert Silver
3/18/2010 – The European Championship ended with a bang, not a whimper, with great games on the top boards. Open section leader nineteen-year-old Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi was victorious against Armenian GM Vladimir Akopian. He took the title alone and with a 2868 performance. Swedish GM Pia Cramling defeated IM Viktorija Cmilyte to become Women's champion. Final report.

This event took place from March 6th to 18th 2010 in Rijeka, Croatia. The championship was an eleven round Swiss tournament with a playing rate of 90 minutes for 40 moves, 30 minutes for the rest of the game, and an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

Round eleven report (final)

By Albert Silver

If the men’s section had seemed anticlimactic in the tenth round, chess aficionados were treated to great games on the three top boards in the eleventh – and this time a single, undisputed champion came forth, as opposed to last year’s crowd.

The trophies for the 11th European Chess Championship in Rijeka

The largest first-place trophy

Board one was the obvious focus of attention, with Russian hopeful, nineteen-year-old Ian Nepomniachtchi in the lead with 8.0/10, playing with white against Armenian GM Vladimir Akopian, a half-point behind on 7.5/9. Akopian’s task was unenviable, as not only was he in a must win situation due to his opponents lead, but to make things worse, if he drew he wasn’t even guaranteed to be in the top three, since four more players had 7.5 and a win would place them ahead. Nepomniachtchi didn’t let this scenario become an issue, as he outplayed his opponent in a Ruy Lopez sideline that Akopian is an expert in. Though Ian had shown unquestionable brilliance in his route to the top, especially with glitzy wins in rounds eight and nine, his nerve and powerplay in the last game must have been particularly gratifying after his heart-breaking last round loss in the Aeroflot Open a month earlier.

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2656) - Akopian,Vladimir (2688) [C77]
11th European Individual Men Chess Cham Rijeka/Croatia (11), 17.03.2010

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 d6 6.c3 g6 7.Nbd2 Bg7

This line is gaining adepts especially after world number one Carlsen played it against Caruana in Wijk Aan Zee this year. Nevertheless, Akopian is an expert in it, having played it as both White and Black. 8.0-0. Though hardly a novelty, the most common plan played by the elite is to delay castling with 8.Nf1 0-0 9.Ng3 (or 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 Ne7 11.Ne3) 9...b5 10.Bc2] 8...0-0 9.Re1 h6 Akopian played this postion as White against Ivanchuk last year, who chose instead [9...Re8 10.Nf1 h6 11.Ng3 b5 12.Bc2 d5 13.Qe2 Be6. 10.Nf1 b5 11.Bc2 d5N 12.Bd2 Be6 13.a4 Qd6 14.b4 Nd7 15.Bb3 dxe4 16.dxe4 Nb6 17.a5 Nc4 18.Ne3 Rfd8 19.Nxc4 Bxc4 20.Bxc4 bxc4 21.Be3

21...Qe6. Black cannot exchange queens as the pawn weaknesses in the endgame would be fatal. 22.Qa4 Rd3 23.Rec1 Bf8. This turns out to be a fatal mistake as Ian will choke Akopian with his a-pawn, as will be seen. Necessary was the immediate 23...f5 24.Ne1 (24.b5 axb5 25.Qxb5) 24...Rdd8. 24.b5 axb5 25.Qxb5 Rb8 26.Qa4 Ra8

27.a6! It was once commented that Tal's passed pawns seemed to advance a lot faster than those of his colleagues. It is quite possible that Armenian GM felt the same in this game. 27...Rd6 28.Qb5 Qc8 29.a7! Qd8 30.Qxc4 Qd7 31.Qb5 Rd3 32.Qb7 Qe8 33.Ra6 Rxe3 34.fxe3 Bc5 35.Rca1 Bxe3+ 36.Kh1 Bb6 37.h3 Kg7 38.Nd2 Nxa7 39.Rxb6 cxb6 40.Rxa7 Rc8 41.c4 1-0. A magnificent feather in the cap of Ian, with a 2868 Elo performance, making him the undisputed 2010 European Champion. [Click to replay]

Congratulations: European Champion 2010: nineteen-year-old Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi

On board two Baadur Jobava played against Russian GM Denis Khismatullin, both on 7.5/9. The Georgian GM had led the tournament the entire way, before colliding into the brick wall called Ian, and despite making a herculean effort to regain his position in round 10, had suffered a great deal, and had been lucky to escape with a draw. This time his efforts were rewarded as he played an excellent game, and overcame his opponent to tie for second-third.

Jobava,Baadur (2695) - Khismatullin,Denis (2657) [D41]
11th European Individual Men Chess Cham Rijeka/Croatia (11), 17.03.2010

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 c5 5.cxd5 Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Bxd2+ 10.Qxd2 0-0 11.Bc4 Nd7 12.0-0 b6 13.Rad1 Bb7 14.Rfe1 Rc8 15.Bb3 Qf6 16.a4 Rfd8 17.a5 Qg6 18.axb6 Bxe4?

19.Ng5! This wins material by force. 19...Bc2. 19...Bf5 20.b7 The reason for this instead of bxa7 is that it forces 20...Rb8 gaining time to play 21.d5! e5 (21...Rxb7? 22.dxe6) 22.d6 Rf8 23.Bd5; 19...Bb7? 20.Rxe6!! fxe6 21.Bxe6+ Kh8 (21...Kf8 22.Qb4+) 22.Nf7+ Kg8 23.Nxd8+. 20.b7 Bxb3 21.bxc8Q Rxc8 22.Rc1 Ra8 23.Nh3 a5 24.Rc7 Nf8 25.Nf4 Qg5 26.Qe3 a4 27.Qf3 Re8

28.g3? There can be no doubt, Jobava saw 28.Rxf7 . Unfortunately, if he didn't play it, it can only be because after 28...Kxf7 29.Nxe6+ Kg8 he missed 30.Qf7+!! (and only saw 30.Qxf8+? Rxf8 31.Nxg5 a3 32.Ra1 where Black is much better.) 30...Kxf7 31.Nxg5+ Kg6 32.Rxe8. 28...Qf6 29.Qb7 Ng6 30.Rc8 Rxc8 31.Qxc8+ Nf8 32.Re5 h6 33.h4 Bd1 34.h5 Qe7 35.Rb5 Bf3 36.Qc3 Qe8 37.Rc5 Bb7 38.Kh2 Qd7 39.Rc7 Qb5 40.Qc5 Qb2 41.d5 a3

42.Re7. Missing 42.Nd3! which would win the piece by force since e.g. 42...Qb1 43.Qe7! leads to mate. 42...Bxd5 43.Nxd5 a2 44.Re8 Kh7 45.Kg2 a1Q 46.Qxf8 Qxf2+ 47.Kxf2 Qa2+ 48.Ke1 Qa1+ 49.Kd2 Qd4+ 50.Kc2 Qe4+ 51.Kb2 Qe2+ 52.Kb3 Qd1+ 53.Kb4 Qd4+ 54.Kb5 Qxd5+ 55.Qc5 Qb3+ 56.Ka5 Qa2+ 57.Kb6 Qb3+ 58.Kc7 Qxg3+ 59.Kd7 Qg2 60.Rb8 Qe2 61.Ke7 Qf3 62.Qc2+ f5 63.Qc8 Qxh5 64.Qg8+ Kg6 65.Qf7+ 1-0. [Click to replay]

In round ten, Timofeev had made the odd decision of agreeing to a quick draw in 16 moves, particularly dubious considering the tournament leader had made an even shorter one on board one, opening the way for trouble. In round eleven, the Russian GM faced Azerbaidjani GM Rauf Mamedov, and redeemed himself with his most inspired game of the event, in which he not only seemed to have all the answers, but where an effort was required to not put too many exclamation marks. The game itself is a gem, but many of the deciding variations are no less beautiful.

Timofeev,Artyom (2655) - Mamedov,Rauf (2639) [B38]
11th European Individual Men Chess Cham Rijeka/Croatia (11), 17.03.2010

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 d6 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Nc2 Rc8 11.Rc1 Be6 12.Qd2 Nd7 13.Rfd1 Nc5 14.b4 Nd7 15.Nd5. Though Timofeev's advantage is obvious, his exploitation of it is spectacular. 15...Nce5 16.Nd4 Bxd5 17.cxd5 Nb6 18.Rxc8 Qxc8 19.Rc1 Qb8 20.Nb5 Ned7

21.a4! a6 [21...Nxa4 22.Bxa7 Qa8 23.Rc7] 22.a5 Na8 23.Na7 f5. 23...Nc7 24.Qc2 Ne8 25.Nc8 Bf6 26.Qa4 Ne5 27.Nb6 Ng7 (27...g5 28.Rc8 Qa7 29.Ra8! It isn't often one sees a queen captured this way.; 27...Nc7 28.f4 and the knight is lost) 28.f4 and the knight has no squares. 24.exf5 gxf5

25.Nc6! Timofeev finds a spectacular solution to the position. 25...bxc6 26.dxc6 Ne5 27.Bxa6. With three passed pawns, backed up by two bishops, a rook, and a queen, do you really have any doubts? 27...Nc7 28.Be2 Kh8 29.Bb6 f4 30.Bxc7 Qxc7

Remember the Rawhide theme song also sung by the Blues Brothers? 31.b5. "Rollin, Rollin, Rollin..." 31...f3 32.Bf1 fxg2 33.Bxg2 Qc8 34.c7 "...though the streams are swollen..." 34...Nf3+ 35.Bxf3 Rxf3 36.b6 "...keep them dogies rollin..." 36...Rf8 37.Qd5 Be5 38.b7 Qf5 39.Qg2 Bxh2+ 40.Kxh2 Qf4+ 41.Qg3 1-0. [Click to replay]

With this victory, GM Artyom Timofeev joins Jobava for a tie for second and 3rd. Tomorrow tie-breaks will be played to determine their exact rankings.

In the women’s section, the game all eyes were watching was board one, between GM Pia Cramling and IM Viktorija Cmilyte. The Lithuanian Cmilyte entered the last round in sole lead with 8.5/10, after three successive victories, including two impressive wins over then tournament leader, Polish GM Monika Socko, and Slovenian IM Anna Muzychuk. Veteran Swedish GM Pia Cramling, had been coming from behind most of the event after suffering a nasty setback in round five against GM Arakhamia-Grant, but was alone with 8.0/10 in the final round. Though the Swede was slightly worse after the transition to the middlegame, her opponent’s multiple imprecisions quickly added up to a decisive tally in her favor.

Viktorija Cmilyte (left) vs Pia Cramling in the final round of the EICC

Cramling,Pia (2523) - Cmilyte,Viktorija (2485) [A37]
11th European Individual Women Chess Ch Rijeka/Croatia (11), 17.03.2010
1.Nf3 g6 2.c4 c5 3.g3 Nc6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.Nc3 e6 6.a3 Nge7 7.Rb1 d5 8.0-0 0-0 9.cxd5 exd5 10.d3 b6 11.Bg5 Be6 12.Na4 h6 13.Bd2 c4 14.dxc4 dxc4 15.Bc3 Qxd1 16.Rfxd1 Rad8 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.Nc3 a6 19.h3 b5 20.Kf1 Bf5 21.Rbc1 f6 22.Ke1 Kf7 23.Nh4 Be6 24.Ne4 Bd5 25.Nc5 Bxg2 26.Nxg2 a5 27.Ne3 a4 28.Nd7 Rh8 29.Rd6 Nb8 30.Rcd1 Nxd7 31.Rxd7 Rxd7 32.Rxd7 Ke6? 33.Rb7 Rc8 34.Rxb5 c3 35.Rb6+ Kf7 36.bxc3 Rxc3 37.Rb7 Rc5 38.Ra7 g5 39.Rxa4 Rc1+ 40.Kd2 Rh1 41.Ra7 Kf8 42.h4 gxh4 43.gxh4 Rh2 44.Ng4 Rxh4 45.Nxf6 Kf7 46.Nd7 Rd4+ 47.Kc3 Rd1 48.Ne5+ Ke6 49.Nd3 Nd5+ 50.Kc2 Rh1 51.Ra6+ Ke7 52.e4 Nf6 53.e5 Ng4 54.f3 Ne3+ 55.Kd2 Nd5 56.Nb4 Nf4 57.Ke3 Ne6 58.Nd5+ Kf7 59.Ra7+ Kg6 60.Nf4+ Kf5 61.Nxe6 Kxe6 62.f4 Re1+ 63.Kf3 Rf1+ 64.Kg3 Rg1+ 65.Kf2 Ra1 66.Kg3 Rg1+ 67.Kh4 Rh1+ 68.Kg4 h5+ 69.Kg5 h4 70.Ra6+ Kd5 71.Rd6+ Kc5 72.Rh6 h3 73.Kf6 h2 74.f5 1-0. [Click to replay]

European Women's Champion GM Pia Cramling, Sweden

With her last round win, punctuating a 5.5/6 sprint in the second half of the tournament, Pia Cramling is once again the Women’s European Champion, her second title after 2003, when she also edged Cmilyte on the podium. As to the Lithuanian IM, this is Viktorija’s 3rd second-place finish, the other two being in 2003, and 2008, and though deserving of the heartiest congratulations, her success is no doubt a bittersweet one nonetheless.

Top scorers in the men's section (after eleven rounds)

# Ti. Name FED RtgI Pts.  TB2   TB3   Perf
1 GM Nepomniachtchi Ian RUS 2656 9.0 63.5 77.5 2868
2 GM Jobava Baadur GEO 2695 8.5 64.5 79.0 2839
3 GM Timofeev Artyom RUS 2655 8.5 61.5 75.0 2801
4 GM Efimenko Zahar UKR 2640 8.0 64.5 78.0 2791
5 GM Lysyj Igor RUS 2615 8.0 60.5 73.0 2752
6 GM Almasi Zoltan HUN 2720 8.0 60.0 73.0 2719
7 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2701 8.0 58.5 71.5 2746
8 GM Rodshtein Maxim ISR 2609 8.0 56.0 67.0 2728
9 GM Salgado Lopez Ivan ESP 2592 8.0 53.0 65.0 2685
10 GM Pashikian Arman ARM 2652 8.0 51.0 62.0 2683
11 GM Mamedov Rauf AZE 2639 7.5 64.5 78.0 2728
12 GM Movsesian Sergei SVK 2709 7.5 63.5 77.5 2726
13 GM Sokolov Ivan BIH 2638 7.5 62.5 76.0 2754
14 GM Maiorov Nikita BLR 2510 7.5 61.5 74.0 2715
15 GM Tregubov Pavel V RUS 2625 7.5 60.5 74.0 2694
16 GM Akopian Vladimir ARM 2688 7.5 60.0 74.0 2725
GM Khismatullin Denis RUS 2657 7.5 60.0 74.0 2695
18 GM Alekseev Evgeny RUS 2700 7.5 60.0 73.5 2722
19 GM Sutovsky Emil ISR 2650 7.5 60.0 73.0 2718
20 GM Kurnosov Igor RUS 2674 7.5 60.0 72.5 2721
21 GM Halkias Stelios GRE 2580 7.5 60.0 72.0 2711
22 IM Hovhannisyan Robert ARM 2498 7.5 60.0 70.5 2670
23 GM Berkes Ferenc HUN 2659 7.5 58.5 72.0 2705
24 GM Vuckovic Bojan SRB 2630 7.5 58.5 71.5 2689
25 GM Potkin Vladimir RUS 2606 7.5 58.5 71.5 2749
26 GM Mastrovasilis Athanasios GRE 2511 7.5 58.5 70.5 2698
27 GM Grachev Boris RUS 2667 7.5 58.0 70.5 2705
28 GM Socko Bartosz POL 2637 7.5 58.0 70.0 2668
29 GM Inarkiev Ernesto RUS 2667 7.5 57.5 72.0 2712
30 GM Nisipeanu Liviu-Dieter ROU 2661 7.5 57.0 70.0 2705
31 GM Zvjaginsev Vadim RUS 2643 7.5 57.0 69.5 2719
GM Vorobiov Evgeny E RUS 2616 7.5 57.0 69.5 2675
33 GM Hracek Zbynek CZE 2615 7.5 57.0 69.0 2681
34 GM Belov Vladimir RUS 2619 7.5 57.0 68.5 2651
35 GM Navara David CZE 2708 7.5 56.5 69.5 2708
36 GM Sargissian Gabriel ARM 2675 7.5 56.0 69.5 2687
37 GM Volkov Sergey RUS 2612 7.5 54.5 67.5 2653
38 GM Howell David W L ENG 2612 7.5 53.5 65.5 2642
39 GM Drozdovskij Yuri UKR 2627 7.5 52.5 63.0 2632
40 GM Babula Vlastimil CZE 2554 7.5 52.0 63.0 2650

Top scorers in the women's section (after eleven rounds)

# Ti. Name FED RtgI Pts.  TB2   TB3   Rp
1 GM Cramling Pia SWE 2523 9.0 61.5 74.5 2677
2 IM Cmilyte Viktorija LTU 2485 8.5 59.5 73.5 2622
3 GM Socko Monika POL 2465 8.0 63.5 77.5 2595
4 GM Kosintseva Tatiana RUS 2524 8.0 63.0 76.0 2595
5 GM Sebag Marie FRA 2506 8.0 60.5 73.5 2555
6 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2492 8.0 60.5 72.5 2556
7 IM Dembo Yelena GRE 2457 8.0 57.0 69.5 2545
8 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2555 7.5 65.5 80.5 2552
9 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2533 7.5 63.5 77.0 2550
10 IM Kosintseva Nadezhda RUS 2554 7.5 61.0 74.5 2540
11 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2444 7.5 61.0 74.5 2550
12 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2434 7.5 60.5 74.0 2526
13 IM Skripchenko Almira FRA 2456 7.5 60.0 73.5 2514
14 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2452 7.5 58.0 70.5 2511
15 IM Rajlich Iweta POL 2459 7.5 56.5 70.0 2477
16 WFM Ziaziulkina Nastassia BLR 2188 7.5 56.5 69.0 2543
17 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina RUS 2438 7.5 53.0 66.0 2457
18 WGM Zawadzka Jolanta POL 2404 7.0 64.5 77.5 2478
19 GM Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 2487 7.0 61.5 74.5 2442
20 IM Moser Eva AUT 2437 7.0 60.5 73.5 2517
21 IM Romanko Marina RUS 2409 7.0 59.5 72.0 2488
22 IM Gvetadze Sopio GEO 2342 7.0 57.5 69.5 2485
23 WGM Savina Anastasia RUS 2391 7.0 56.5 69.5 2484
24 WFM Gunina Valentina RUS 2457 7.0 56.5 69.0 2415
25 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2479 7.0 55.5 67.0 2472
26 WGM Bodnaruk Anastasia RUS 2384 7.0 55.5 65.0 2351
27 IM Gaponenko Inna UKR 2472 7.0 54.5 66.5 2415
28 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2486 7.0 53.5 64.5 2397


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