European Championship: Kourkoulos-Arditis stuns Safarli, shares the lead

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/9/2023 – Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis, the 101st seed at the European Championship, is sharing the lead with Anton Korobov after beating Eltaj Safarli with the black pieces. The 25-year-old IM from Greece will again get the black pieces in his seventh-round encounter against Korobov. Eight players, all on 5/6 points, make up the chasing pack. | Photos: European Chess Union

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Two leaders at halftime

With five rounds to go, two players are sharing the lead at the European Championship in Vrnjacka Banja. Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis (rated 2520) defeated a 2600+ player for the third time in the tournament to join Anton Korobov atop the standings. The Greek IM beat Eltaj Safarli with the black pieces in Wednesday’s sixth round.

Kourkoulos-Arditis was one of four players who entered the round with 4½ points, and the only one who scored a win. Thai Dai Van Nguyen signed a quick draw with Korobov on the top board, while Giga Quaparadze survived a bishop endgame a pawn down against David Navara.

Out of the big group of players who had 4 points before Wednesday’s round, Frederik Svane, Alexey Sarana, Ruslan Ponomariov, Benjamin Gledura, Nijat Abasov and Vitaliy Bernadskiy were the ones who collected victories to close the gap with the leaders to a mere half point.

A highlight of round 7 will be the game between Aleksandra Goryachkina and Boris Gelfand on board 11. Goryachkina is one of 40 women players participating in the open championship, while Gelfand is one of 51 players aged 50 or older in the event.

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Aleksandra Goryachkina

Out of a Ruy Lopez, Safarli and Kourkoulos-Arditis entered a position with opposite-side castling by move 10. Amid a sharp struggle, Safarli chose the wrong piece to capture a pawn in the middlegame.


White must decide how to capture the f6-pawn, as he could grab it with his knight, which otherwise has no place to go but to c3, or with his rook, which gains a tempo by attacking the queen. Safarli opted for the latter, as the game continued with 24.Rxf6 Qe8 25.c5 cxd5 26.exd5


The Azerbaijani has three pawns and a strong centre for the sacrificed knight, while Black still has his rooks doubled on the g-file. As the Greek IM demonstrated in the game, starting with the direct 26...Bg4 27.Nxg4 Rxg4, Black has more than enough to deal with White’s active play in the centre, and his extra piece is certainly an asset in the long run — so much so that Safarli resigned the game six moves later.

If we go back to the first diagrammed position, though, the Azerbaijani could have kept the battle going with 24.Nxf6, when Black must respond by 24...Bxe3, removing the defender of the g2-pawn. The forced line continues 25.Nxg8 Bf4 26.b5


Since the knight is trapped on g8, White will end up with an extra exchange for Black’s pair of bishops in a highly dynamic position. The game was doubtlessly rich in strategic ideas, and this potential tactical continuation makes it all the more worthy of an in-depth analysis.

European Chess Championship 2023

ECU President Mr. Zurab Azmaiparashvili taking a look at the board-2 game between Eltaj Safarli and Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis

Standings - Round 6

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Korobov Anton 5,5 0
2 Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis 5,5 0
3 Nguyen Thai Dai Van 5 0
4 Bernadskiy Vitaliy 5 0
5 Ponomariov Ruslan 5 0
6 Quparadze Giga 5 0
7 Svane Frederik 5 0
8 Sarana Alexey 5 0
9 Abasov Nijat 5 0
10 Gledura Benjamin 5 0
11 Navara David 4,5 0
12 Nasuta Grzegorz 4,5 0
13 Mastrovasilis Dimitrios 4,5 0
14 Kadric Denis 4,5 0
15 Sargissian Gabriel 4,5 0
16 Azarov Sergei 4,5 0
  Murzin Volodar 4,5 0
18 Cheparinov Ivan 4,5 0
19 Safarli Eltaj 4,5 0
20 Predke Alexandr 4,5 0
  Bacrot Etienne 4,5 0
  Santos Latasa Jaime 4,5 0
  Pechac Jergus 4,5 0
  Kozak Adam 4,5 0
25 Grandelius Nils 4,5 0

...484 players

All available games - Round 6


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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.