European Teams: Three leaders per section

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/27/2019 – Three squads in each section, open and women's, have won all their matches so far at the European Team Championships in Batumi. Armenia, Ukraine and Netherlands are on 6 out of 6 in the open, while Georgia, Russia and Italy have won all their matches among the women. We look at some of the highlights of rounds two and three, including Anish Giri's back-to-back attacking victories. | Photo: Official site

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Giri on the attack

The open section has Armenia, Ukraine and Netherlands sharing the lead. While Armenia had no problems dispatching their first two opponents, Ukraine and Netherlands kicked off the event with 2½:1½ victories. Moreover, the Dutch team got all three of his wins by the slightest of margins. Jorden van Foreest was the sole winner of round one, Anish Giri did the same in round two, and both of them scored full points against Spain to counter Paco Vallejo's win in round three.

Giri has been frequently criticized for using a risk-free strategy that leads to an inordinate amount of draws. For quite a while now, however, the Dutchman has been proving his detractors wrong. In Batumi, notably, he scored two straight wins in which the world number four punished his opponents' inaccuracies with devastating attacks. His first victim was Ioannis Papaioannou from Greece:

 

White's pieces are mostly located in the centre and the queenside, while Black has built up a strong contingency close to the opposite king. Now came 38...g3 — if White stands still, Black will capture the bishop and bring the b8-rook to the attack via b5, while after 39.hxg3, as played in the game, there follows 39...hxg3+ 40.e3 h2 41.c1 and the killer shot 41...h3. Black's g-pawn will become a passer and White will need to give too many concessions if he wants to prevent mate. Papaiannou resigned.

Anish Giri, Erwin l'Ami, Jorden van Foreest

The Dutch team during their match against Spain | Photo: Official site

Next in line was David Anton, who came from having a remarkable performance at the Grand Swiss. This time Giri had the white pieces:

 

Black's last three moves were 20...c5, 21...a6 and 22...h8, while White did not hide his intentions by going 20.h4, 21.g3 and 22.h5. At this point, the Dutchman noticed he needed to bring all his pieces to attack and played the sneaky 23.c1. White is going for it, fast. The game continued 23...g8 24.df3 f8:

 

And now it's easy, especially for a player of Giri's calibre. The game came to and end after 25.xh6 g6 26.xg6+ fxg6 27.h4 (calmly, keeping the queen on the h-file) ♞h7 28.g5, and resigns. 

European Team Chess Championships 2019

The all-important Azerbaijan versus Ukraine match-up | Photo: Official site

In round three we saw the first clashes that might be determinant to deciding the winner of the event. Spain's loss against the Netherlands was already mentioned; Armenia defeated Czech Republic, who came from upsetting Poland; and Ukraine got an all-important victory over the defending champions of Azerbaijan. 

The Ukrainians have plenty of their stars missing — Ruslan Ponomariov and Anton Korobov, just to name a couple — but they both have a deep bench and living legend Vassily Ivanchuk on board one. 'Chuky' turned 50 in March but is still going strong, winning two and drawing one so far in Batumi. In fact, in round three, he was a pawn to the good against world number seven Shakhriyar Mamedyarov — the Azerbaijani knew how to defend the theoretical drawn endgame, however.

The hero for Ukraine against the defending champions was Yuriy Kuzubov, who patiently converted a technical position against Arkadij Naiditsch on board two.

 

The remaining co-leaders, from Armenia, so far have their best performers on the bottom boards, with Haik Martirosyan and Arman Pashikian on a 2½ out of 3 score.

The same can be said about the Turkish squad, as their lower-rated players, Emre Can and Vahap Sana, have collected the most points for the team. Turkey arrived as the 17th seeds but are now sharing fourth place after winning twice and drawing once. In round three, both Cam and Sana scored full points to inflict a second straight defeat on Poland — on Friday, the Polish lost against the Czech Republic.

European Team Chess Championships 2019

The Armenians are known for having a great team spirit | Photo: Official site

The key Armenia v Ukraine match-up will be Sunday's main attraction, while the Netherlands will be facing England. Russia won both matches after surprisingly drawing with Denmark in round one and were paired up against Turkey, while Azerbaijan will have a tough task in trying to recover from their third round loss, as they will face an in-form Czech team. 


Standings after Round 3 (top 10) - Open

Rk. Team Team
1 Armenia ARM
2 Ukraine UKR
3 Netherlands NED
4 England ENG
5 Russia RUS
6 Turkey TUR
7 Switzerland SUI
8 Azerbaijan AZE
9 Germany GER
10 Georgia GEO

...40 teams

All games - Open

 

Italy the big surprise among the women

The top two seeds in the women's section, Russia and Georgia, are currently sharing the lead with the 11th seeds from Italy. The team led by Marina Brunello have scored 2½:1½ victories over Ukraine and France in consecutive rounds  — in both cases despite losing a game on board three. Daniela Movileanu, on board four, has so far won her three games in Batumi. In round one, she effectively took advantage of a poor decision made by Switzerland's Nathalie Pellicoro:

 

Black has just faltered with 20...d5. Although this might look like a simple exchange of minor pieces after 21.gxf5 dxe4, the key factor becomes apparent when White transfers his rook to the attack with 22.g3. Black tried to protect her king with 22...h7, but now came the lethal blow:

 

23.xg7+ xg7 24.g1, bringing the remaining rook to the open file, 24...h7 25.f6 and Black resigned.

Aleksandra Goryachkina, Kateryna Lagno

The strong Russian women's team | Photo: Official site

The Italians will be facing Hungary on Sunday, while most eyes will be on the big clash between Russia and Georgia. The locals have yet to lose a game in Batumi, while Valentina Gunina and Alina Kashlinskaya of Russia have already suffered defeats.


Standings after Round 3 (top 10) - Women

Rk. Team Team
1 Georgia GEO
2 Russia RUS
3 Italy ITA
4 Armenia ARM
5 Hungary HUN
6 Spain ESP
7 Romania ROU
8 Ukraine UKR
9 Serbia SRB
10 Turkey TUR

...32 teams

All games - Women

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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