European Championship: Safarli, Korobov and Ponomariov on 4/4

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/7/2023 – Three players are sharing the lead at the European Championship in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia. Eltaj Safarli from Azerbaijan is joined by the Ukrainian duo of Anton Korobov and Ruslan Ponomariov (pictured) as the three participants who have scored four victories in as many games. A total of 23 players stand a half point back — Gabriel Sargissian, Boris Gelfand and Alexey Sarana are the highest-rated players in the chasing pack. | Photos: European Chess Union

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Over-performing underdogs

While the three co-leaders in the European Championship are well-known names belonging to the group of 2600+ grandmasters striving to join the elite of the chess world, a few players in the chasing pack are clearly over-performing in Vrnjacka Banja.

After four rounds, Eltaj Safarli, Anton Korobov and Ruslan Ponomariov are the only players who have managed a perfect start in Serbia. A half point back, 23 participants make up the large chasing pack, with Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis (Greece, 2520 Elo), Arsen Kukhmazov (FIDE, 2495) and Giga Quaparadze (Georgia, 2483) the lowest-rated in the bunch.

A few experienced, decorated grandmasters also stand on 3½ points, though — i.e. Boris Gelfand (former World Championship challenger), Etienne Bacrot (2007 Candidates’ participant) and Ivan Cheparinov (5-time World Cup participant) belong to this group.

The top 13 boards in Tuesday’s fifth round will all feature players with 3½+ points.

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Korobov Anton 4   4 Ponomariov Ruslan
Safarli Eltaj 4   Gelfand Boris
Mastrovasilis Dimitrios   Sargissian Gabriel
Pechac Jergus   Sarana Alexey
Brkic Ante   Cheparinov Ivan
Bacrot Etienne   Svane Frederik
Santos Latasa Jaime   Azarov Sergei
Livaic Leon   Nguyen Thai Dai Van
Murzin Volodar   Gledura Benjamin
Nasuta Grzegorz   Abasov Nijat
Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis   Svane Rasmus
Kukhmazov Arsen   Dardha Daniel
Can Emre   Quparadze Giga

...239 boards

Jules Moussard

Jules Moussard (France) was upset by Denis Kadric in round 3, but bounced back with a win over Matthew Wadsworth on Monday

Out of the three co-leaders, Eltaj Safarli was the one who got the most spectacular win in the fourth round. The Azerbaijani got to play a good-looking rook sacrifice in his game with black against Georgian IM Nikolozi Kacharava.


The white king is too exposed on d2. After Kacharave blundered with 29.Qd1, Safarli calculated for 5 minutes before playing 29...Rxf4, and the king hunt began.

30.gxf4 gxf4 31.Qxf4+ Re3 32.Qxd4+ Ke2 33.Qxb2+


White now has to play 33.Kd3, since 33.Kf3 leads to mate-in-six starting with 33...Rf6+, while placing the king on the first rank allows 33...Rc1, grabbing the queen (note that Black already has four pawns for the sacrificed rook).

33...Rc3+ 34.Kd4 c5+


There was no way out for White, though. After the check with the c-pawn, the rook on e3 is lost, and the king is still in deep trouble. Safarli needed seven more moves to force his opponent’s resignation.

While the Ukrainian co-leaders will face each other on the top board in round 5, Safarli will play Gelfand with white on the adjacent board. Gelfand outplayed his compatriot Ori Kobo on Monday, in a complex, tactical struggle.

Standings - Round 4

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Safarli Eltaj 4 0
2 Korobov Anton 4 0
3 Ponomariov Ruslan 4 0
4 Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis 3,5 0
5 Sargissian Gabriel 3,5 0
6 Nguyen Thai Dai Van 3,5 0
7 Cheparinov Ivan 3,5 0
  Nasuta Grzegorz 3,5 0
9 Sarana Alexey 3,5 0
  Mastrovasilis Dimitrios 3,5 0
11 Quparadze Giga 3,5 0
12 Svane Rasmus 3,5 0
13 Pechac Jergus 3,5 0
  Svane Frederik 3,5 0
  Livaic Leon 3,5 0
  Murzin Volodar 3,5 0
17 Santos Latasa Jaime 3,5 0
  Gledura Benjamin 3,5 0
  Dardha Daniel 3,5 0
  Can Emre 3,5 0
21 Abasov Nijat 3,5 0
  Azarov Sergei 3,5 0
23 Gelfand Boris 3,5 0
  Bacrot Etienne 3,5 0
25 Brkic Ante 3,5 0
26 Kukhmazov Arsen 3,5 0

...484 players

All available games - Round 4


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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.