2011 European Championship: First casualties

by ChessBase
3/23/2011 – The 2011 Individual European Championship just started with 172 grandmasters, making it the strongest Swiss open of the year, qualifying 23 players to the 2011 World Cup. This year the Women's event will be held in May in Tbilisi, Georgia, though this hasn't prevented some from playing here as well. As expected, some heads rolled ... even at the very top. First round report.

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The 2011 European Individual Championship (Mixed) is currently underway, and will run from March 21st to April 3rd in Aix-Les-Bains, France. The first round is on March 22nd, and the last on April 2nd, with no tie-break matches to decide the final places. Besides determining the title of European Champion, the top 23 finishers also qualify for the 2011 World Cup.

Prizes: place 1-25 (113,700 €): 20,000 €, 15,000 €, 11,000 €, 8,000 €, 7,000 €, 6,000 €, 5,500 €, 5,000 €, 4,500 €, 4,000 €, 3,500 €, 3,000 €, 2,500 €, 2,200 €, 2,000 €, 1,900 €, 1,800 €, 1,700 €, 1,600 €, 1,500 €, 1,400 €, 1,300 €, 1,200 €, 1,100 €, 1,000 €
Special Prizes (perf - rating): 6,300 €: 1,000 €, 800 €, 700 €, 600 €, 500 €, 450 €, 400 €, 350 €, 300 €, 2 x 250 €, 2 x 200 €, 2 x 150 €
Tourney system: Swiss system, 11 rounds
Time control: 90 minutes/40 moves + 30 minutes + 30 seconds/move starting with the first move
Game start: all rounds, everyday 15:00
Rest day: 29th March

The official tournament poster

This year's championship, also the world's strongest swiss open, brought 393 players from 54 nations, of which 172 are grandmasters. Though this might seem a reduction from last year which had 441 players and 196 grandmasters, it is worth mentioning that this does not include the Individual Women's European Championship, which will be held separately in Tbilisi later this year, from May 6 - 19. This isn't to say that women cannot play here, as the event is officially described as the Mixed European Individual Championship, and assuredly, aside from the incomparable Judit Polgar, a number of WGMs and other titled female players decided to knock heads with the men.

Judit Polgar, one of the stars of the European Championship,
suffered a slight setback in the opening round with a draw.

The top 50 boards will be broadcast live over the Internet at the official website and for the first time on the website of France’s most popular sports daily, L’Equipe TV, a historic first.

The event is always host to an incredibly strong field with nine players rated over 2700, including top-seed Peter Svidler, a permanent fixture in the world's Top 20, as well as 2010 European champion and 2010 Russian champion, Ian Nepomniachtchi. There are then no fewer than 76 players rated 2600 and above, so we can expect many a great bloody battle.

Round one

In the first rounds, the accelerated pairing system favoring Darwinian results, featured a few surprises such as draws by top seeds Svidler (2730), Jobava (2702), and Vitiugov (2720), all against players rated roughly 300 Elo below. Then there was the remarkable draw by Navara (2722) against Colin (2427), who faced so many ways to lose, he was probably playing more out of the principle of fighting to the end than anything else. When his lower-rated opponent finally liquidated into a tablebase win, his only hope lay in his opponent's technique, or lack thereof, and he escaped by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin, when the latter faltered and let him off with a fortress.

David Navara, the third seed with 2722, had to be counting his
lucky stars with his draw, after losing count of how many times
his opponent could have beat him.

Navara,D (2722) - Colin,V (2427) [B38]
12th ch-EUR Aix-les-Bains FRA (1), 22.03.2011

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3 d6 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Bd7 10.Nc2 Rc8 11.f3 a6 12.Qd2 Ne5 13.Na3 Re8 14.h3 Bc6 15.b4 b6 16.Rac1 Ned7 17.Nc2 Bb7 18.Bf4 Nh5 19.Bh2 Ne5 20.Ne3 Nc6 21.f4 Nf6 22.a3 e6 23.Rfd1 d5 24.e5 Ne4 25.Nxe4 dxe4 26.Bg3 f6 27.Qe1 Nd4 28.Bh4 g5 29.exf6 Qxf6 30.Bxg5 Qg6 31.Ng4 e5 32.c5 exf4 33.Bxf4 h5 34.Bc4+ Kh7 35.Kh1 bxc5 36.bxc5 e3 37.Bxe3 Bxg2+ 38.Kxg2 Qe4+ 39.Kg3 h4+ 40.Kxh4 Nf3+. 40...Bf6+! 41.Kg3 Be5+ 42.Nxe5 Qxe5+ 43.Kg2 Qe4+ 44.Kh2 (44.Kg3 Rg8+) 44...Nf3+ was crushing. 41.Kg3 Nxe1 42.Rxe1 Rf8 43.Bf2 Rf3+ 44.Kh2 Qf4+ 45.Kg2 Rf8 46.Rc2 Rxa3 47.Bd5 Kh8? Perhaps a case of nerves, but the basic principle of exchanging pieces when ahead was certainly valid here. 47...Bd4! 48.c6 Bxf2 49.Rxf2 Qg3+ 50.Kf1 Qxh3+ 51.Bg2 Qd3+-+ 48.c6 Rc3 49.Rxc3 Bxc3 50.Re3 Qd4 51.Bf3 Qc4 52.Bg3 Rxf3 53.Rxf3 Qxc6 54.Ne5 Qd5 55.Ng6+ Kh7 56.Ne7 Qe4 57.Nf5 a5 58.Bd6 Be1 59.Bg3 Bxg3. 59...Qe2+ 60.Bf2 Bxf2 61.Rxf2 Qe4+ 62.Kg3 a4 and it is over. 60.Nxg3 Qd5 61.Ne2 a4 62.Nc3 Qd2+ 63.Kg3 a3 64.Rf7+ Kg6 65.Rf6+ Kg7 66.Rf3 Qe1+ 67.Kg2 Kg6 68.Kh2 a2 69.Nxa2 Qe2+ 70.Kg3 Qxa2

This position is a tablebase win and ends in a mate for Black in 39 moves, however there are clearly fortress ideas present, and Black has to navigate it carefully. 71.Rf4 Qa3+ 72.Kg2 Kg5 73.Rg4+

73...Kf5?? Alas! This blunder allows White to escape. Black had to play 73...Kh5. For example 74.Kh2 Qf3 75.Rg3 Qe2+ 76.Rg2 Qe5+ 77.Kg1 (77.Rg3? Kh4) 77...Kh4 and the h-pawn is lost, after which it becomes a classic K+R vs K+Q win. 74.Kh2 Qb2+ 75.Kg1 Qe2 76.Kh1 Qf2 77.Rg2 Qe1+ 78.Rg1 Qe4+ 79.Kh2 Qc2+ 80.Rg2 Qc7+ 81.Kh1 Kf4 82.Kh2 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Still, if Navara escaped with a miracle draw, Jakovenko (2718) also found himself facing a mating attack, and despite a few chances, was not so lucky.

Unfortunately for Dmitry Jakovenko (2718), there were no miracles
in his game.

Jakovenko,D (2718) - Smirnov,Arte (2425) [E32]
12th ch-EUR Aix-les-Bains FRA (1), 22.03.2011

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 0-0 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.Qxc3 Ne4 7.Qc2 f5 8.Nf3 b6 9.g3 Bb7 10.Bg2 Nf6 11.0-0 Be4 12.Qc3 Qe8 13.b3 d6 14.Bb2 Nbd7 15.Rfd1 Qh5 16.Qd2 Rae8 17.Rac1 h6 18.b4

Although this is a Classical Nimzo-Indian by definition, in many ways it is also the dream of any Dutch player with control over the e4 square by the bishop no less, and every piece aimed at the enemy king. 18...g5! 19.a4 Ng4 20.h3 Ngf6 21.c5 Nd5 22.cxd6 cxd6 White is already in big trouble, and it is not clear he can objectively defend this against best play. Still, as seen by Navara against Colin: never say never! 23.Bf1 N7f6 24.Nh2 g4!

25.e3. A casual onlooker might ask why not try and lock up the kingside with 25.h4? but it doesn't work, and Black would just bludgeon through with 25...f4 26.Re1 fxg3 27.fxg3 Qg6 followed by Nh5 and Nxg3. 25...gxh3 26.b5 Ng4 27.Qe2

27...Bg2? A mistake that might have let Jakovenko back into the game. The correct follow-up was 27...Qg6 28.Bxh3 Ngxe3! 29.fxe3 Qxg3+ 30.Bg2 Nxe3 31.Rd2 Qxg2+ 32.Qxg2+ Nxg2 33.Rxg2+ Bxg2 34.Kxg2 Rc8 and the rook and three pawns for the two pieces easily decides it. 28.Ba3 Rd8 29.Rc6 Rf7 30.Rdc1 Bxf1 31.Rxf1 Rfd7 32.e4 Ndf6 33.d5? Dmitry was clearly rattled after finding himself facing certain death, and is unable to recover his equanamity. 33...exd5 34.exf5 Qxf5 35.Bb2 Re8 36.Qc2 Qe4 37.Qxe4 dxe4 38.f3 exf3 39.Bxf6 f2+ 40.Kh1 Nxf6 41.Rxf2 Ne4 42.Rfc2 Nxg3+ 43.Kg1 Ne2+. 44.Kh1 (44.Kf2 Rf7+ 45.Ke1 Nd4+) 44...Rg7 threatening Rg1 mate. 45.Nf3 Rg2! and the threat of Ng3 mate ends all resistance. 0-1. [Click to replay]

Rounding off the reversals was Russian junior Sjugirov (2643) who succumbed to Nuri (2314).


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