European Club Cup: Alkaloid grab key win

by Antonio Pereira
10/16/2018 – Ding Liren inflicted Peter Svidler's third straight loss to give Alkaloid a critical victory over fourth seeded Mednyi Vsadnik. The rating favourites now share the lead with Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova, which barely beat the over-performing Dunajska Streda. Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen drew Alexander Donchenko and lost 2.9 rating points, but his team Valerenga Sjakklubb grabbed a clear win to stay one point behind the leaders. | Photo: Niki Riga / eurochess2018.com

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Two streaks collide

On first board of the most important game of the round, two players that arrived from very different places faced each other: Ding Liren, who has not lost a single classical game in over fourteen months, and Peter Svidler, who came from losing two consecutive games against lower-rated opposition in Porto Carras...and Ding Liren had the white pieces.

With that in mind, it is no surprise that a brave Ding Liren confidently grabbed the initiative and took calculated risks against a depleted Svidler. On move 25, the Chinese grandmaster showed he was ready to go for the kill:

 

Ding Liren weakened further his king's position with 25.g4!, trusting that his central pawns and initiative on the kingside should be enough to compensate for his scattered structure. Svidler chose to seek the exchange of queens with 25...Qb6+ 26.Kh1 Qd4 27.Qe4. White was left with a passed d-pawn in a materially balanced position. However, the decisive factor was Black's knight's unfortunate placement:

 

Svidler had just taken the pawn on a2, but White's 39.Bd2 left the piece completely devoid of movement. After 39...b5 40.b4 Kf7 41.Rd3 Peter resigned, as there is no way to save the knight. The streaks continued — Ding Liren has gone 91 games undefeated and Svidler's Greek nightmare continues.

Opposite fortunes for Svidler and Ding Liren | Photo: Niki Riga

The other decisive games of the match were seen on the last two boards: Alkaloid's Pavel Eljanov defeated Maxim Rodshtein and Kirill Alekseenko scored for Mednyi Vsadnik against Yuriy Kryvoruchko.

Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova also arrived in the round with a perfect score and were paired against the fifteenth seeded Dunajska Streda, a Slovakian team that features a line-up with 2400-rated players. The favourites scored first with a win by Paco Vallejo, but were soon hit by Wang Hao's unexpected loss on board one against Miklos Nemeth. The Hungarian IM took full advantage of his kingside initiative:

 

Nemeth played the lethal 42...Ra6 and Wang Hao resigned. The rook is going to g6 and coordinates perfectly with Black's queen, knight and central rook. A sample variation: 43.Rg1 Rg6 44.Qh4 Rxh3+! 45.gxh3 Rxg1 46.Kxg1 Qb1+ 47.Kf2 Qa1.

Luckily for the Italian team, David Alberto took down Attila Csonka on board five, and now are the only squad besides Alkaloid with a perfect score. 

Sabino Brunello is on 2½/3 for Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova | Photo: Niki Riga

The Azeri Odlar Yurdu brought back Shakhriyar Mamedyarov after two rounds of rest, but could not defeat the Israeli Beer Sheva Chess Club. The key win for the underdogs was obtained by Alexander Huzman, who defeated Eltaj Safarli and, by doing so, obtained his fourth straight win in Halkidiki. In a favourable position, Huzman decided that giving up his knight to give strength to his attack was called for:

 

The time control had just passed and the Israeli grandmaster went for 41...Nxf2, creating huge practical problems to his rival. There is no direct mating attack but Safarli lasted only fourteen more moves before resigning in the face of Black's strong initiative. 

Beer Sheva Chess Club vs. Odlar Yurdu | Photo: Niki Riga

The other match-up that attracted massive attention was Valerenga vs. DJK Aufwaerts Aachen, as the Norwegian team included Magnus Carlsen in its line-up. In the game, the World Champion gained the initiative, but his opponent, Alexander Donchenko, defended actively and pushed Magnus to go for a perpetual check:

 

In the final position, Carlsen, playing White, checked the black king three times from a4 and b4, as Black is an exchange up and has two heavy pieces lined up on the h-file. The computer shows a complicated line that would have given Carlsen an advantage in the middlegame, but it is the kind of variation that pretty much can only be found by machines.

Wins on the last four boards gave Valerenga a clear 5:1 win.

Carlsen is not one to enjoy draws against lower-rated opponents | Photo: Niki Riga

There will be two clearly prominent match-ups in round five: Alkaloid and Obiettivo Risarcimento will see if either team can keep a perfect score, and Odlar Yurdu will face Valerenga, with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Magnus Carlsen — world's number one and three — most likely playing against each other on first board. 

Round 5 pairings (top 10 boards)

Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova 8   :   8 Alkaloid
Odlar Yurdu 7   :   7 Valerenga Sjakklubb
AVE Novy Bor 7   :   7 Beer Sheva Chess Club
Mednyi Vsadnik St.Petersburg 6   :   6 Schachgesellschaft Zurich
Dunajska Streda 6   :   6 Eynatten
Molodezhka 6   :   6 Echiquier Amaytois
Itaka 6   :   6 KGSRL
Reykjavik Chess Club 6   :   6 Nordstrand Sjakklubb
Schachgesellschaft Winterthur 5   :   5 E.S. Thessalonikis
CC Gambit Asseco SEE 5   :   5 BSG

Games from Round 4

 

Second place up for grabs

The women's section will have a decisive round on Tuesday, as the final round of the round-robin qualifiers will take place. Nona and Cercle d'Escacs de Monte-Carlo practically secured first place in both groups with four match wins, but second place is still up for grabs in both sections. 

Kyiv and Ugra are tied on six points in Group A — the Ukrainian team will face Nona in round five, while Ugra will have the supposedly easier task of playing against the French Mulhouse Philidor.

Anna Ushenina is playing board one for Ugra | Photo: Niki Riga

In Group B, three teams can still qualify: SSHOR from Russia has six points, Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli has five and Odlar Yurdu has four. The last two will play each other, while SSHOR will go against the strong Cercle d'Escacs de Monte-Carlo.

Pia Cramling plays for Cercle d'Escacs de Monte-Carlo and is on 4/4 | Photo: Niki Riga

Standings - Group A

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Nona 8
2 Kyiv Chess federation 6
  Ugra 6
4 Mulhouse Philidor 3
5 Beer Sheva Chess Club 1
6 AMO Galaxias Thessaloniki 0

Standings - Group B

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo 8
2 SSHOR 6
3 Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli 5
4 Odlar Yurdu 4
5 ZSK Maribor 1
6 Caissa Italia Banca Alpi Marittime 0

Games from Round 4

 

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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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