European Club Cup: Nothing yet settled as four teams lead

by Antonio Pereira
10/17/2018 – A day filled with close matches at the top left four teams tied for first at the European Club Cup in Porto Carras. Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova held Alkaloid to a draw — and even could have won — while Valerenga and AVE Novy Bor edged Odlar Yurdu and Beer Sheva Chess Club by the closest margin. Therefore, two exciting rounds await with many top teams yet to play each other. In the women's section, Ugra and SSHOR qualified to the final knockout phase. DANIEL FERNANDEZ annotated six key games of the round. | Photo: Niki Riga /

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Close calls

In the clash of co-leaders, we saw Alkaloid's Ding Liren and Dmitry Andreikin get rather quick draws with Black — Ding Liren's streak continues! On board two, Yu Yangyi and Peter Leko took longer to split the point but the game was balanced throughout. Wins by Daniele Vocaturo (Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova) and Yuriy Kryvoruchko (Alkaloid) — both with White — cancelled each other out, so the game that could have tipped the balance in the Italian team's favour took place on board four.

Dmitry Jakovenko (Alkaloid) arrived in Halkidiki after having a subpar Olympiad and faced an inspired Julio Granda with the white pieces. Granda's handling of the opening was modest but effective, and he got the bishop pair before move 20. When the time control was approaching, the computer evaluated the position as clearly favourable for Black, but there was no clear winning shot. Granda was a pawn up on move 36:


Jakovenko had been defending effectively for many moves, and he kept doing so from this point on. Soon enough, he took Black's extra pawn and the draw was signed on move 44. Alkaloid 3:3 Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova.

FIDE Vice-president Julio Granda could not convert his advantage | Photo: Niki Riga

The tie on the top table allowed other teams to join the lead.

The big individual encounter of the day was, of course, the one that faced Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Magnus Carlsen. A 30-move draw left Carlsen exactly four rating points above Caruana with two rounds to play — Magnus will almost certainly play both games, as his team has strong chances of getting first place.

Thus, the match Valerenga vs. Odlar Yurdu was to be decided on a lower board. The decisive game ended up being Gadir Guseinov vs. Borki Predojevic. Valerenga's Predojevic accepted an exchange when it was offered to him — Guseinov should have saved his rook in the following position:


The Azeri grandmaster took with 22.fxg5 and allowed 22...Nxf1, confident that his bishop pair and initiative on the kingside would compensate for the material disadvantage. However, Predojevic quickly returned the exchange in a favourable situation and went on to grind a 69-move win. Valerenga 3½:2½ Odlar Yurdu.

Odlar Yurdu vs. Valerenga Sjakklubb with two superstars on board one | Photo: Niki Riga

After being held to a draw by Valerenga in round three, AVE Novy Bor went back to the fray with a win over Beer Sheva Chess Club. They started with a quick win by Vidit Gujrathi, who took advantage of a sloppy handling of the opening by Michael Roiz to score his fourth straight win in Greece. AVE Novy Bor extended his lead in the match with a victory by Radoslaw Wojtaszek, who used his queenside pawns to overwhelm Zahar Efimenko:


There is material balance in the position, but White's advanced queenside pawns give him a clear edge. Wojtaszek took about four minutes to decide it was time to give his pawns an open path to promotion with 32.Bxc7! — it was clearly a good decision, as Efimenko resigned five moves later. 

Yuriy Kryvoruchko got a consolation win on board six for the Israeli squad. AVE Novy Bor 3½:2½ Beer Sheva Chess Club.

Harikrishna looks on as Wojtaszek dominates on the queenside | Photo: Niki Riga

Peter Svidler's nightmare continues in Halkidiki. He added a fourth loss to his tally after losing against Christian Bauer in the most painful manner — he lost a clear advantage with a one-move blunder and was soon forced to resign:


Svidler, with White, is three pawns up and — as long as Bauer does not get an attack going on the kingside — should easily win in the long run. The priority, therefore, was to prevent Black's knight from reaching d3, which was easily achievable with 41.Qb1. Instead, Peter went for 41.Bc3? and resigned after 41...Nd3 42.Kh1 Nf3 43.h4 Nxh4. Black actually has mate-in-4 in the final position:


That was Mednyi Vsadnik's only loss against Schachgesellschaft Zurich. The Russian team won the match without difficulty 4½:1½.

Bauer's went from having a losing position to almost mating the white king | Photo: Niki Riga

After facing Mamedyarov, Carlsen will most likely go against the other 2800-player in the field — and one that has not lost in ages —, as Valerenga is paired against Ding Liren's Alkaloid in round six. AVE Novy Bor vs. Obiettivo Risarcimento is the other co-leaders match-up.

Nobody wants to miss a chance to see the World Champion in action | Photo: Niki Riga

Games annotated by GM Daniel Fernandez


Round 6 pairings (top 10 boards)

Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
AVE Novy Bor 9   :   9 Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova
Valerenga Sjakklubb 9   :   9 Alkaloid
Molodezhka 8   :   8 Itaka
Nordstrand Sjakklubb 8   :   8 Mednyi Vsadnik St.Petersburg
Dunajska Streda 7   :   7 Odlar Yurdu
Beer Sheva Chess Club 7   :   7 E.S. Thessalonikis
Eynatten 7   :   6 DJK Aufwaerts Aachen
BSG 6   :   6 Echiquier Amaytois
KGSRL 6   :   6 KC Deloitte
CC Gambit Asseco SEE 6   :   6 Rehovot Chess School

Games from Round 5


Russian squads go through in women's section

The two Russian teams that are participating in the women's section of the European Club Cup qualified to the final knockout stage after round five. Ugra and SSHOR will play against favourites Cercle d'Echecs de Monte Carlo and Nona, respectively, in Wednesday's semi-finals.

In order to get there, Ugra defeated Mulhouse Philidor 3:1. On board four, Baira Kovanova pushed her opponent Salome Neuhauser to resign — after the latter had suffered for over 35 moves — in a clear case of opposite-coloured bishops working at different speeds:


White is up a pawn and the exchange, but it is the queen-and-bishop battery the factor that scares the most. Natalija Pogonina and Marina Nechaeva also won for Ugra.

Ugra's Olga Girya and Marina Nechaeva | Photo: Niki Riga

The story was very different in Group B, where SSHOR qualified despite losing in round five. The Russians lost against the strong Cercle d'Escacs de Monte Carlo and were caught up in the standings by Odlar Yurdu, which defeated Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli. However, the tiebreaks favoured the team led by Anastasia Bodnaruk.

Marina Brunello from Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli | Photo: Niki Riga


Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
SSHOR 6   :   9 Nona 
Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo  10   :   8 Ugra

Standings - Group A

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Nona 9
2 Ugra 8
3 Kyiv Chess federation 7
4 Beer Sheva Chess Club 3
5 Mulhouse Philidor 3
6 AMO Galaxias Thessaloniki 0

Standings - Group B

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo 10
  Odlar Yurdu 6
4 Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli 5
5 ZSK Maribor 2
6 Caissa Italia Banca Alpi Marittime 1

Games from Round 5



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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