European Championship: Sarana, Shevchenko and Dardha on the podium

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/14/2023 – Alexey Sarana became the 2023 European champion after signing a 7-move draw with co-leader Kirill Shevchenko. That draw meant both players had secured at least shared first place, but still had to wait to see if someone else would join them on a final 8½/11 score. Out of the chasers, only Daniel Dardha managed to catch up with the leaders. Tiebreak criteria were used to decide the final placements. In the end, Sarana grabbed gold, Shevchenko took home silver and Dardha was awarded the bronze. | Photos: European Chess Union

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Korobov goes all-in

The 2023 edition of the European Championship came to an end on Monday in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia. Three players aged 25, 20 and 17 reached the podium, with Alexey Sarana (Russia), Kirill Shevchenko (Romania) and Daniel Dardha (Belgium) grabbing gold, silver and bronze respectively, after eleven gruelling rounds with no rest days in the schedule.

Sarana and Shevchenko entered the final round as co-leaders, and safely decided to sign a 7-move draw. Similar short draws were seen on 7 out of the 10 top boards. For the co-leaders, it was a matter of waiting to see who out of the twelve players who entered the round a half point back would manage to catch up with a final-round win.

When all was said and done, only Daniel Dardha managed to collect a full point to tie for first place with 8½ points. Dardha defeated long-standing sole leader Anton Korobov with black after the latter overpushed in a balanced position. The Ukrainian player, a fighter at heart, had the best tiebreak score among the large group of players who finished on 7½/11, a full point behind the winners.

Twelve players ended the event on 8/11. Alexander Donchenko (Germany) and Ediz Gurel (Turkey) were the two participants who joined this group by winning their games on Monday. Gurdel, an IM born in 2008 and rated 2454, upset Velimir Ivic on board 16 to become the lowest-rated player who finished with 8 points. The youngster remarkably qualified to play in this year’s FIDE World Cup.

Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis

Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis (Greece, 2520 Elo) finished fourth and gained 33 rating points

Special prizes

Top juniors (under 20)

  1. GM Daniel Dardha (BEL, 2610), 8.5 points
  2. IM Ediz Gurel (TUR, 2454), 8 points
  3. GM Volodar Murzin (FIDE, 2554), 7 points

Top seniors (over 50)

  1. GM Boris Gelfand (ISR, 2674), 7.5 points
  2. GM Vasyl Ivanchuk (UKR, 2664), 7.5 points
  3. GM Michele Godena (ITA, 2446), 6.5 points

Top women

  1. WGM Jolanta Zawadzka (POL, 2391), 6.5 points
  2. IM Irina Bulmaga (ROU, 2438), 6.5 points
  3. GM Aleksandra Goryachkina (FIDE, 2576), 6 points
  4. IM Aleksandra Maltsevskaya (POL, 2388), 6 points
  5. WIM Adela Velikic (SRB, 2329), 6 points
  6. IM Eline Roebers (NED, 2362), 6 points

Vasyl Ivanchuk

Vasyl Ivanchuk beat Mahammad Muradli to finish on 7½/11

Korobov had an extra pawn against Dardha in a position with queens and opposite-coloured bishops. However, he also had the more vulnerable king.


Black is threatening to build a strong battery — with his queen in front of the bishop — on the c7-h2 diagonal. Thus, this is high time for White to prioritize safety by forcing a queen swap via 33.Qe4 Qd6 34.Qe8+ Kg7 35.Qe5+.

Instead, Korobov went for 33.Be4, which is not a losing move but one that leaves White struggling to find ways to defend against his rival’s dark-squared dominance. The Ukrainian lost the thread soon after, and his 17-year-old opponent took his chance to reach the podium of the championship.

Daniel Dardha

Daniel Dardha

Donchenko also won with black, as he saw his opponent Constantin Lupulescu misplaying a King’s Indian Defence early in the middlegame. White resigned in the following position.


29...Qg3 was the elegant final move of the game. The white queen has no place to go, as the rook is now attacking her from h8, while after 30.Qxg3 Nxg3 there is no way to prevent checkmate on h1.

Alexander Donchenko

Alexander Donchenko

Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Sarana Alexey 8,5 0
2 Shevchenko Kirill 8,5 0
3 Dardha Daniel 8,5 0
4 Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis 8 0
5 Bacrot Etienne 8 0
6 Nguyen Thai Dai Van 8 0
7 Santos Latasa Jaime 8 0
8 Esipenko Andrey 8 0
9 Kuzubov Yuriy 8 0
10 Dragnev Valentin 8 0
11 Paravyan David 8 0
12 Janik Igor 8 0
13 Anton Guijarro David 8 0
14 Gurel Ediz 8 0
15 Donchenko Alexander 8 0
16 Korobov Anton 7,5 0
17 Abasov Nijat 7,5 0
18 Predke Alexandr 7,5 0
19 Svane Frederik 7,5 0
20 Nasuta Grzegorz 7,5 0
21 Azarov Sergei 7,5 0
  Gumularz Szymon 7,5 0
23 Grandelius Nils 7,5 0
24 Gledura Benjamin 7,5 0
25 Vocaturo Daniele 7,5 0
26 Brkic Ante 7,5 0
27 Pechac Jergus 7,5 0
28 Gelfand Boris 7,5 0
29 Ponomariov Ruslan 7,5 0
30 Yilmazyerli Mert 7,5 0

...484 players

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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.