European Club Cup: Magnus does not falter

by Antonio Pereira
10/14/2018 – In the second day of play in Porto Carras, the big teams once again took down their opponents with little collateral damage. While the real fight between clubs is only about to start, some individual encounters were in the spotlight on Saturday — Magnus Carlsen defeated Vladimir Potkin from an apparently innocuous position and Peter Svidler opened his tournament with a loss against Aleksandar Indjic. Calrsen's Valerenga will play second seeded AVE Novy Bor in Sunday's round. | Photo: Niki Riga /

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When ratings count

Like we mentioned yesterday, the fact that each match at the European Club Cup is played in six boards makes it very hard for the lower-rated teams to spoil their stronger colleagues' record. On Saturday, we saw some individual upsets, but the teams that started on top of the ratings list maintained their perfect score. In round two, the closest match-up was the one that faced Valerenga (fifth seeds) against Molodezhka (seventh seeds), and the higher-ranked Norwegians ended up winning 4½:1½.

The big star in Greece helped Valerenga get the victory — the World Champion took down Potkin after leaving the opening with a balanced and apparently easy-to-draw position:


Carlsen kept creating small threats until Potkin cracked while trying to find a quick way to simplify into a drawn endgame. The win allowed Carlsen to breathe more comfortably at the top of the live ratings list, as he is now 8.7 points ahead of Caruana. The Norwegian will have a tougher task tomorrow, when he will sit opposite AVE Novy Bor's first board (Wojtaszek, Harikrishna or Navara).

 Wojtaszek might have the difficult task of facing the World Champion on Sunday | Photo: Niki Riga

All eyes on Magnus as the World Championship match approaches | Photo: Niki Riga

Another 4½:1½ was seen in Mednyi Vsadnik-Itaka. The longstanding leader of the team from Saint Petersburg, Peter Svidler, rested on the first day and showed up only to be surprised by Aleksandar Indjic's perseverance from the black side of a Najdorf. Both players spent a lot of time in the early stages, and when things got sharp Indjic was the first one to slip:


The Serbian grandmaster went for the flashy 34...Bc3, as White cannot take the bishop without allowing Black to double the rooks on the b-file, getting a quick mating attack. The computer gives 35.Qg5 as the strongest response, but Svidler's 35.Na4 is also good. After 35...gxf6 36.bxc3, Black's doubling on the b-file is no longer effective — the knight defends b2. 

A typical Svidler pose | Photo: Niki Riga

A complicated sequence followed and Svidler let his advantage slip away during time pressure...but the position remained a mess. By move 41, Black's initiative more than compensated the material disadvantage. Furthermore, White was walking on a tightrope:


Here, Peter played 42.g4, allowing 42...Nb2, which forces a series of simplifications that favour Black. The computers suggest the impossible 42.g3, which saves White with a perpetual check that would only arise after a tricky five-move sequence. The game continued 43.Kxb1 Nxa4+ 44.Qb4 Nxc3+ 45.Kc2 Rxb4 46.axb4.


Indjic needed six more moves to prove the endgame was winning for Black.

Focusing can be hard when the pressure is mounting | Photo: Niki Riga

A lot of players arrived in Halkidiki straight from Batumi, after representing their national teams in the Olympiad. However, there is a player that missed over-the-board action but anyway arrived as a winner from Georgia: Julio Granda. The experienced Peruvian grandmaster was part of Arkady Dvorkovich's ticket and is now a FIDE Vice-President.

In his game against Dennes Abel, Granda smothered White's position by advancing his central pawns, opening lines against the king. After 35...Qxf2, Abel had seen enough:


So far, one team has won all twelve games in Porto Carras: the Czech AVE Novy Bor, which brought Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Pentala Harikrishna in round two, after the 2700+ rated stars had rested on opening day. Meanwhile, Alkaloid and Odlar Yurdu have only given up half a point so far. 

Alkaloid will face the SV Werder Bremen in round three | Photo: Niki Riga

The real struggle amongst the toughest squads starts tomorrow. The pairing system put Magnus' team on first board against the team that has shown the highest level of dominance so far! There will be no lack of media hype, and surprises are to be expected.

Round 3 pairings (top 10 boards)

Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
AVE Novy Bor 4   :   4 Valerenga Sjakklubb
Alkaloid 4   :   4 SV Werder Bremen
Odlar Yurdu 4   :   4 Reykjavik Chess Club
Team Viking 4   :   4 Beer Sheva Chess Club
Mednyi Vsadnik St.Petersburg 4   :   4 KGSRL
Eynatten 4   :   4 Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova
Dunajska Streda 4   :   4 Overtime
E.S. Thessalonikis 3   :   2 Sloven Ruma
DJK Aufwaerts Aachen 2   :   3 CC Gambit Asseco SEE
Schachgesellschaft Solingen 2   :   2 SK Reval-Sport

Games from Round 2


Ugra beats Kyiv in women's section

Since only twelve teams registered in the women's section, the ECU is using a combined format: two groups of six teams have been formed, each group will play a single round robin tournament (five rounds) and two teams from each group will move forward to a knockout finale.

The closest match-up in terms of strength from round two was Ugra against Kyiv Chess Federation (from Group A). Ugra, that has a very evenly distributed line-up with all the players in the 2400-2500 rating range, took down the Ukrainian team 3½:½ with wins by Natalija Pogonina, Olga Girya and Marina Nechaeva. The Russian-based team is sharing the lead in its group with Nona, the Georgian squad — both teams are paired against each other on round three.

Natalija Pogonina is on 2/2 so far | Photo: Niki Riga

The strongest team in Group B is Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo, which defeated Odlar Yurdu 3:1 on Saturday. Anna Muzychuk won her game with a beautiful combination:


Anna uncorked 30.Rf6! and Black cannot take with the pawn due to the queen+bishop mating threats. Gunay Mammadzada found the only way to continue fighting and captured with the rook, but had to resign on move 38, when White was three pawns up in an endgame.

Natalia Zhukova | Photo: Niki Riga

Round 3 pairings

Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
Nona 4   :   4 Ugra
Mulhouse Philidor  1   :   0 AMO Galaxias Thessaloniki
Kyiv Chess federation  2   :   1 Beer Sheva Chess Club
Caissa Italia Banca Alpi Marittime 0   :   3 Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli 
Odlar Yurdu  2   :   3 SSHOR
ZSK Maribor  0   :   4 Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo

Games from Round 2



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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