European Championship: Calculated risk

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
3/11/2023 – Anton Korobov continues to lead the standings at the European Championship in Serbia. Korobov signed an 8-move draw with white against Benjamin Gledura, who was in sole second place going into Friday’s eighth round. Gledura is now joined in second place by Alexey Sarana, who defeated Yuriy Kuzubov on board 4. Twenty-seven players stand a half point behind Gledura and Sarana. | Pictured: Marina Gajcin | Photos: European Chess Union

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The real motivation

Although a €20,000 first prize is up for grabs at the European Championship in Vrnjacka Banja, players understandably are more focused on qualifying to the FIDE World Cup by finishing among the top 23 in the standings. Taking unnecessary risks in such a competitive field might lead to a downward spiral, which, even if short, might leave anybody out of the qualifying spots. Thus, with three rounds to go, many participants who had a strong start are switching to a safety-first approach.

Sole leader Anton Korobov, true to his style, played fighting, creative chess until round 7. In Friday’s eighth round, however, he signed an 8-move draw with white against Benjamin Gledura, securing his spot atop the standings. Now on 7/8, Korobov needs three draws in the final rounds to end the event with as many points as 2022 winner Matthias Bluebaum.

A more contentious fight is expected among the players looking to reach the 7½-point mark by the end of the event. Last year, the top 31 in the final standings had 7½ points or more. Although 23 spots are at stake, there are other paths to reach the World Cup — thus, if someone who finishes among the top 23 already qualified by a different path, the spot is passed down to the next player in line.

Find a full list of European players who have already qualified for the World Cup in this article published by the European Chess Union. Among the players in the list who are also doing well in this year’s championship are Alexey Sarana, Ruslan Ponomariov, Ivan Cheparinov, Vitaliy Bernadskiy and Jaime Santos.

Etienne Bacrot

Currently on 6/8 — Etienne Bacrot reached the quarterfinals at the 2021 FIDE World Cup

Now sharing second place with Benjamin Gledura is Alexey Sarana, who did not take long to gain an advantage in his game with white against Yuiry Kuzubov. After displaying excellent strategic understanding, the Russian GM reached a comfortably superior position. Kuzubov tried to untangle by giving up an exchange, but Sarana rejected the sacrifice to maintain full control over the position.


Engines give 34.Bxc4 as best for White here, but leaving the rook temporarily stuck on b4 after 34...dxc4 is not something a human is willing to accept readily. Sarana spent almost 15 minutes before deciding on 34.Rxc4, which nevertheless keeps his advantage. His bishop pair is stronger than Black’s knight and restricted light-squared bishop.

The showcase of deep positional understanding by White continued until move 62, when Kuzubov decided to call it a day.

Alexey Sarana

Alexey Sarana

Among the 27 players on 6/8 points is Nils Grandelius, Sweden’s highest-rated player. Grandelius scored a 28-move victory on Friday, as his opponent, Klementy Sychev, overloaded his queen after grabbing a central pawn on move 27.


27...Qxe5 fails immediately to 28.Re4, and the queen cannot both escape the attack and continue defending the rook on b8. Sychev resigned.

Nils Grandelius

Nils Grandelius during the sixth round

Standings - Round 8

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Korobov Anton 7 0
2 Gledura Benjamin 6,5 0
3 Sarana Alexey 6,5 0
4 Nguyen Thai Dai Van 6 0
5 Kourkoulos-Arditis Stamatis 6 0
6 Ponomariov Ruslan 6 0
7 Predke Alexandr 6 0
  Subelj Jan 6 0
9 Svane Frederik 6 0
10 Cheparinov Ivan 6 0
  Abasov Nijat 6 0
12 Grandelius Nils 6 0
13 Bernadskiy Vitaliy 6 0
14 Gelfand Boris 6 0
  Bacrot Etienne 6 0
16 Santos Latasa Jaime 6 0
17 Brkic Ante 6 0
18 Esipenko Andrey 6 0
19 Parkhov Yair 6 0
20 Svane Rasmus 6 0
21 Vocaturo Daniele 6 0
22 Gumularz Szymon 6 0
23 Shevchenko Kirill 6 0
24 Dragnev Valentin 6 0
25 Bjerre Jonas Buhl 6 0

...484 players

All available games - Round 8


Replay games from all rounds on


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.