European Teams: Russian squads climb to the top

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/29/2019 – After five rounds at the European Team Championships in Batumi, Russia and Ukraine are sharing the lead in the open section, while the Russian female squad is in sole first place with a perfect score in the women's category. Slovenia and Germany are one match point behind the leaders in the Open, while Georgia, Azerbaijan and Serbia are sharing second place among the women. Tuesday is the sole rest day of the tournament. | Photo: Official site

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Ukraine also on 9 out of 10

Since we last reported after round three, Russia rose through the ranks in the open section with wins over Turkey and Armenia. Ukraine, in the meantime, lost their perfect score by drawing with Armenia in round four, but immediately rejoined the leading group with an important victory over the English team. 

Sharing third and fourth places are Slovenia and Germany. While Slovenia upset Georgia and defeated Switzerland in rounds four and five, Germany first beat Greece and then inflicted a second consecutive loss on the Dutch team. Both squads have challenging tasks on hold, as they will be facing Azerbaijan and Armenia after the rest day. 

Wednesday's sixth round will also see the direct clash between co-leaders Russia and Ukraine.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Arkadij Naiditsch

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Arkadij Naiditsch from Azerbaijan | Photo: Official site

European Team Chess Championships 2019

Rasmus Svane, Daniel Fridman and Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu from Germany | Photo: Official site

Everything worked out well for Russia in round four, as co-leaders Armenia and Ukraine drew while England defeated the Netherlands, the only other team with a perfect score until round three. The Russian squad faced the 17th seeds from Turkey, who had a strong start but failed to offer resistance against the rating favourites, losing 3½:½ in a clearly lopsided match.

The all-important match-up between Ukraine and Armenia, two fairly recent Olympic gold medallists, saw draws on boards one and two, while both Hrant Melkumyan and Vladimir Onischuk got full points with White to keep the score tied. Onischuk got an edge against Haik Martirosyan after the latter wasted a key tempo on move 24:

 

You can try your own variations on the diagram above

At this point, Black's best way forward was to exchange everything on f5 with 24...♞xf5 25.♘xf5 ♝xf5 26.♗xf5 ♜xf5, alleviating the pressure against his king. The Armenian instead chose 24...f6, giving White a chance to further activate his knights with 25.h5 f7 26.eg3. Onischuk now had the initiative, a fact he accentuated by offering an exchange sacrifice with 26...g8 27.e5. From here on, the Ukrainian showed great technique until getting a 42-move win.


Armenia vs. Ukraine - Round 4

 

Ukraine lost their perfect score with that draw, but promptly restored their winning ways against England. The hero from round four, Vladimir Onischuk, lost against Gawain Jones — who later described this game as the first time he played proper chess in a while — but that was not enough for the Englishmen. Andrey Volokitin beat David Howell with White and Yuriy Kuzubov got the better of Luke McShane, who came from winning three in a row. 

In a sharp position out of a Caro-Kann, McShane faltered on move 22. Later on, the fearless Londoner created a mess by pushing his g-pawn, but Kuzubov knew how to put a stop to the threats against his king:

 

29...xe3 and now White does not even have the chance to give consecutive checks on h7 and c5. Resignation came two moves later.


Ukraine vs. England - Round 5

 

Vladimir Onischuk, Alexander Moiseenko, Yuriy Kuzubov

Ukrainians Vladimir Onischuk, Alexander Moiseenko and Yuriy Kuzubov | Photo: Official site

Meanwhile, Russia obtained a crucial 2½:1½ victory over Armenia. The only win was seen on board four, where Daniil Dubov defeated Arman Pakishian with the black pieces. Dubov has scored three wins and a single draw so far, and will most likely be in the line-up against Ukraine despite having arrived in Georgia as the reserve player — a clear illustration of Russia's strength; let us not forget that they did not take any of their four top rated representatives to Batumi, excluding retired former world champion Vladimir Kramnik.

Pakishian lost the thread on move 26, when he miscalculated a forcing line:

 

White is already in trouble, but here it was imperative to play 26.g4, preventing Black from advancing the g-pawn himself. The Armenian opted for 26.e4, entering a losing variation — there followed 26...g4 27.xe7+ h6 28.xd7 xf3+ (the e-pawn is pinned) 29.g1 xg3+. Dubov doubled his rooks on the second rank and won after 39 moves.

Russia was up in the score board, but they had to wait quite a while until their victory was confirmed, as Gabriel Sargissian missed a couple of chances to convert a slightly favourable queen endgame against Nikita Vitiugov.


Russia vs. Armenia - Round 5

 

Standings after Round 5 (top 10) - Open

Rk. Team Team
1 Ukraine UKR
2 Russia RUS
3 Slovenia SLO
4 Germany GER
5 Armenia ARM
6 Azerbaijan AZE
7 England ENG
8 Croatia CRO
9 Georgia GEO
10 Netherlands NED

...40 teams

Games from Rounds 4 and 5

 

All games available at Live.Chessbase.com

Russia beat Georgia in the Women's

The only squad that still has a perfect score in Batumi is the Russian women's team. Led by Aleksandra Goryachkina, they defeated the second seeds from Georgia in round four and Hungary in round five. By now, the leaders and defending champions have used a straightforward strategy to decide their line-ups: to give Olga Girya the black pieces and Valentina Gunina the white pieces in all instances.

In the key match-up against Georgia, both Kateryna Lagno and Girya failed to convert favourable positions, but Gunina came to the rescue, beating Meri Arabidze on board four. The players exchanged queens early in the game, and the Russian gained a pawn on move 24. Later on, Gunina correctly transferred from a four-rook endgame to a simple rook ending with pawns on both flanks:

 

A pair of rooks was swapped after 39.be4 and Gunina needed no fewer than 21 more moves to get the win.


Georgia vs. Russia - Round 4

 

Valentina Gunina

Valentina Gunina | Photo: Official site

Georgia bounced back with a 2½:1½ victory over Armenia and are now sharing second place with Azerbaijan and Serbia. The Serbians upset the third seeds from Ukraine in round five and will try to take down the locals after the rest day. 


Standings after Round 5 (top 10) - Open

Rk. Team Team
1 Russia RUS
2 Georgia GEO
3 Azerbaijan AZE
4 Serbia SRB
5 Poland POL
6 Georgia 2 GEO
7 Hungary HUN
8 Italy ITA
9 Armenia ARM
10 Ukraine UKR

...32 teams

Games from Rounds 4 and 5

 

All games available at Live.Chessbase.com

Links




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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