European Championship: Korobov grabs the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/8/2023 – Anton Korobov won the all-Ukrainian matchup against Ruslan Ponomariov to take the lead at the European Championship in Serbia. Korobov is the only player to have won his five first games at the extremely competitive event. Four players, including two underdogs, stand a half point behind. | Photos: European Chess Union

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Still perfect

One player still has a perfect score after five rounds at the extremely competitive European Championship in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia. Anton Korobov defeated Ruslan Ponomariov with the white pieces to become the first sole leader of the competition. A creative player, Korobov is a 4-time Ukrainian champion and an Olympic medallist — in 2018 he won the individual gold on the reserve board, while in 2016 he was part of the silver medal-winning Ukrainian team.

Four players stand a half point behind the leader. Besides Eltaj Safarli, who was sharing first place before the fifth round and drew Boris Gelfand on Tuesday, three players scored full points to join the chasing pack — Tha Dai Van Nguyen (Czechia), Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis (Greece) and Giga Quparadze (Georgia).

Kourkolos-Arditis and Quparadze defeated much higher-rated opponents in round 5. Seeded 101st and 132nd respectively, they are the clear underdogs among the players with 4½ points.

The European Championship is a long tournament, though, and a gruelling one as well. Six rounds are still left to be played, with no rest days in the schedule. A total of 38 players stand on 4/5 points, including the likes of David Navara, Boris Gelfand and Andrey Esipenko.

Boris Gelfand

Boris Gelfand drew Eltaj Safarli with black on Tuesday

Out of a Ragozin Defence, Korobov played a novelty, grabbing a knight on d2 with his king instead of with his f3-knight.


11.Kxd2 is not a make-or-break move, but it did prompt Ponomariov to spend quite a bit of time on moves 12-14. As the game progressed, White focused his attention on the queenside while Black struggled to find a way to both defend that side of the board and create counterplay on the opposite flank.

Black’s decisive mistake came on move 26.


White is threatening to play Qc5-d6, penetrating, so Black needed to be very precise to get enough counterplay with his queen on the kingside. The right way to proceed was with 26...f4, when White is forced to reckon with his opponent’s threats (for example, via 27.Nf3, removing the knight from its great central outpost).

Instead, Ponomariov’s 26...Qxh2 turned out to be too slow. After 27.Qd6 Qg1+ 28.Ke2 Qxc1, Korobov got to play the good-looking 28.Rxc6


The rook cannot be captured due to the threat of Qd8#! Black is lost. Ponomariov tried 29...Qb2+ 30.Kf3 Rf7, but after 31.Rc7 he blundered mate-in-two with 32...Rxa6. Or perhaps it was his way to resign the game?


33.Rxc8+ put an end to the game.

Korobov will play black against Nguyen in Wednesday’s sixth round, while boards 2 and 3 will see underdogs Kourkoulos-Arditis and Quaparadza again facing tough opposition in Safarli and Navara, respectively.

Ruslan Ponomariov

Ruslan Ponomariov will try to bounce back in his white game against Romanian grandmaster Mircea-Emilian Parligras on Wednesday

Standings - Round 5

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Korobov Anton 5 0
2 Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis 4,5 0
3 Safarli Eltaj 4,5 0
4 Nguyen Thai Dai Van 4,5 0
5 Quparadze Giga 4,5 0
6 Ponomariov Ruslan 4 0
7 Saric Ivan 4 0
8 Sargissian Gabriel 4 0
9 Cheparinov Ivan 4 0
10 Gelfand Boris 4 0
11 Kadric Denis 4 0
12 Navara David 4 0
  Predke Alexandr 4 0
14 Grandelius Nils 4 0
  Azarov Sergei 4 0
16 Mastrovasilis Dimitrios 4 0
  Murzin Volodar 4 0
18 Nasuta Grzegorz 4 0
19 Kozak Adam 4 0
20 Sarana Alexey 4 0
  Dardha Daniel 4 0
22 Svane Frederik 4 0
23 Abasov Nijat 4 0
24 Pechac Jergus 4 0
25 Moussard Jules 4 0

...484 players

All available games - Round 5


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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.