European Teams: Ukraine catches Russia

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/1/2019 – With one round to go at the European Team Championships in Batumi, Russia and Ukraine are sharing the lead on 13 match points in the open section. The deciding final day of action will see Ukraine facing Croatia and Russia playing against the third seeds from Poland. Meanwhile, among the women, Russia did manage to reach the final round in the sole lead, which means a victory over Turkey will be enough to secure the gold. The final round starts four hours earlier than usual. | Photo: Official site

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England still with a chance

Four matches will decide which squad takes home the gold in the open section of the European Team Championships. Ukraine and Russia are sharing the lead on 13 points, while England are on sole third place with 12. Armenia, Germany and Croatia still have a theoretical chance of sharing first place, as they stand two match points behind the leaders and the final round pairings make it possible — albeit highly unlikely — for 13 points to be the winning score.

Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
Ukraine 13   :   11 Croatia
Russia 13   :   10 Poland
Germany 11   :   12 England
Armenia 11   :   10 Greece

At first glance, it seems like Ukraine have it easy, as they face the 15th seeds from Croatia while Russia are paired up against the 3rd seeds from Poland. Nonetheless, we must point out that the Polish team did not have a great run in Batumi, only making up for lost ground in the last two rounds after a haphazard performance throughout. At the same time, finishing the event with a win over the favourites would be a great way to redeem themselves...and maybe even get a place in the podium.

On the other hand, the Croatian team should not be underestimated, as they have collected wins over France and Spain, and have drawn the defending champions from Azerbaijan. Also, the squad led by Ivan Saric was the only one capable of taking down Israel, who drew six out of their eight matches in Batumi so far.

Finally, on board three, two of the teams that have impressed the most in the tournament will fight to reach the podium. Germany only lost their undefeated run in round eight against Ukraine, while England beat Armenia and drew Russia in their last two outings. It must be noted that the experienced leaders of both teams — Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu and Michael Adams — have been showing great poise on board one.

European Team Chess Championships 2019

Azerbaijan are out of contention, while Armenia still have a chance | Photo: Official site

Since we last reported after round six, Daniil Dubov played what GM Daniel King suspects to have been the game of the year. The Russian faced Germany's Rasmus Svane, and out of a Queen's Gambit Declined used a bold novelty on the eighth move:


8.0-0-0 signals White will be looking for an attack on the kingside! And that is precisely what Dubov did. The amount of astounding manoeuvres the Russian found are almost uncountable. While a rook down, the 23-year-old chased the king from its post on the kingside all the way to a3! This is how the game came to an end:


Dubov had to see beforehand that the nice-looking 36.b3 wins here, as any other move would give Black a large advantage. White has mate-in-five in fact, and Svane allowed his rival to show it over the board — the game concluded with 36...d7 37.c1+ xb3 38.c2+ a3 39.a2#.

Grandmaster Daniel King analysed the game in full:

This victory was not enough for Russia to take down Germany, as Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu showed great tactical alertness to defeat Nikita Vitiugov on board one. This meant Ukraine and England were now a point behind the Russians, as both teams got deserving wins over the Czech Republic and Armenia in round seven.

Germany vs. Russia - Round 7


In the penultimate day of action, the top two seeds — Russia and England — were finally paired up against each other. On board two, Vitiugov bounced back from his loss against Nisipeanu with a victory over Luke McShane, but Mickey Adams saved the draw for the Englishmen as he inflicted Dmitry Andreikin's first loss of the tournament. Adams used his trademark patient style to get into a rook ending a pawn to the good, and duly converted it into a full point:


Andreikin's 55...e4 was the last decisive mistake. After 56.fxe4 xg4 Black's king is cut out from the action by the rook on f8 and White's passer on the e-file is unstoppable. 

England vs. Russia - Round 8


In the meantime, Ukraine got the better of Germany. This match-up could have ended in a draw, however, as Svane lost a second sharp game in a row, although this time he had a considerable advantage before the tables turned in Vladimir Onischuk's favour:


Try your own variations on the diagram above!

Once again the German youngster is a rook up in a crazy struggle. The only winning move in the diagrammed position was 34.♕e3, but we cannot blame Svane for not being able to assess — with the clock ticking down shortly before the time control — that Black's attack after 34...♜h3+ is not winning. The key variation after the check went 35.♔g2 ♛g3+ 36.♔f1 ♜h1+ 37.♘g1 ♝h3+ and 38.♔e2, with no mate for Black.

Instead, White opted for 34.e2 and after 34...g4 faltered decisively with 35.f1. Onischuk quickly played 35...xf3+ 36.xf3 xf3 37.d2 f1+ with mate-in-two on the board.

Ukraine vs. Germany - Round 8


Standings after Round 8 (top 10) - Open

Rk. Team Team
1 Ukraine UKR
2 Russia RUS
3 England ENG
4 Armenia ARM
5 Germany GER
6 Croatia CRO
7 Poland POL
8 Greece GRE
9 Czech Republic CZE
10 France FRA

...40 teams

Games from Rounds 7 and 8 - Open


All games available at

Russia still ahead in the Women's

Much like in the open section, the Russian women's team is the only undefeated squad in its category. The winners of the last two editions continued with their strategy of letting Olga Girya play all her games with Black while making sure that Valentina Gunina always has the white pieces when in the line-up.

In round seven, the team led by World Championship challenger Aleksandra Goryachkina (currently on 5½ out of 8 and undefeated) got a commanding 4:0 victory over Poland. The next day, however, they were down on the score board against Armenia, as Anna Sargsyan took down Gunina on board four. Kateryna Lagno came to the rescue though, as she converted an ending with rook and bishop versus rook against Siranush Ghukasyan:


The Armenian had defended this theoretical endgame for almost thirty moves, but faltered in the diagrammed position. She needed to play 107...♚e8 instead of 107...c8. Lagno did not let this opportunity go to waste and forced her opponent's resignation five moves later: 108.d6 b8 109.b7+ c8 110.a7 b1 111.g7 b6+ 112.c6 1-0.

Armenia vs. Russia - Round 8


Naturally, Russia are the favourites to win it all, as they will face the tenth seeds from Turkey in the last round. On second board, the two local teams — Georgia and Georgia 2 — will face each other, while Azerbaijan and Armenia will also be fighting to reach the podium.

European Team Chess Championships 2019

Georgia beat Azebaijan in round seven | Photo: Official site

Standings after Round 8 (top 10) - Women's

Rk. Team Team
1 Russia RUS
2 Georgia GEO
3 Azerbaijan AZE
4 Armenia ARM
5 Turkey TUR
6 Georgia 2 GEO
7 Ukraine UKR
8 Netherlands NED
9 France FRA
10 Romania ROU

...32 teams

Games from Rounds 7 and 8 - Women's


All games available at


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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