European Championship Rd5: Swings and surges

by Elshan Moradiabadi
6/4/2017 – The 4th and 5th rounds of the European championship saw expected, yet exciting developments. After five rounds, four players stand at the top with 4.5/5: Cheparinov, Melkumyan, Kuzubov, and Fridman. All got there in slightly different ways, but all playing strong gritty chess. They are trailed by a huge pack of 27 players with 4.0/5, but with six rounds to go, the tournament is barely at the midway point. Report and analysis by GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

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As every fairy tale has an end, Artashes Minasian’s fantastic start faced bitter back-to-back losses with an important impact on the standing so far: Kuzubov’s victory over Minasian made the Ukrainian the only player with a 100% score after the 4th round. Kuzubov then went on to draw an uneventful game against German-Azeri Arkadij Naiditsch to ensure a share of the lead after the 5th round with 4.5/5.

The talented young GM Kovalev from Belarus was the second player to defeat Minasian, in round five, and is at 4.0/5

After round four, no fewer than 18 players were tied with 3.5/4, hoping to catch up with the new leader, of which three successfully completed this mission. The most notable and somewhat surprising result among these three decisive games on top board was Friedman’s victory over Fedoseev. The young Russian GM, who just recently joined the 2700 club, has been on fire for quite some time in the past few months. Known for his uncompromising and aggressive style, Fedoseev essayed an early f4 and piece sacrifice which gave him a promising attack. However, with a lot of complications present on the board, it was Fedoseev who first went astray and his attack fizzled soon after. Once the queens were off the board, Friedman played a perfect game to bring home the bacon. The German has shown a great deal of fighting spirit and clarity in winning positions which makes him a strong candidate for a great finish in this event, should he continue to play with the same resilience.

Vladimir Fedoseev vs Daniel Fridman

[Event "European Individual championship "] [Site "Minsk, Belarus"] [Date "2017.06.03"] [Round "5"] [White "Fedoseev, Vladimir"] [Black "Fridman, Daniel"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C24"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "90"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2017.06.03"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.06.03"] {Fridman won a very tough battle against 'On Fire' Fedoseev. In a complicated battle Fedoseev played very enterprising chess, sacrificing a piece for the attack, but a mistake at a crucial moment cost him his advantage and left him a bit worse, after which Fridman never gave him a chance to come back.} 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Nf6 3. d3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. Bb3 Bd6 {This line is not as fashionable as it used to be. I wonder what Fedoseev had prepared against the typical Italian set-up.} 6. Nc3 dxe4 7. Nxe4 (7. Ng5 O-O 8. Ncxe4 Nxe4 9. Nxe4 Bf5 10. Qf3 Bxe4 11. dxe4 Nd7 {is considered equal, as Black's edge in development compensates for the bishop pair.} 12. O-O Nc5 13. Be3 Nxb3 14. axb3 Qc7 15. Rfd1 a6 16. Bb6 Qxb6 17. Rxd6 Rad8 18. Qd3 Rxd6 19. Qxd6 Rd8 20. Qxe5 Qd4 21. Qxd4 Rxd4 22. Re1 Rd2 23. Rc1 Re2 24. Kf1 Rxe4 25. Rd1 Kf8 26. Rd7 Re7 27. Rd8+ Re8 28. Rd7 Re7 29. Rd8+ Re8 {1/2-1/2 (29) Ponomariov,R (2729)-Wang,Y (2691) Poikovsky 2012}) 7... Nxe4 8. dxe4 h6 {A rare choice but I am sure Fridman would know this move as his wife IM and four times US-champion Anna Zatonskih employed it against Vallejo in 2010! Nevertheless, I am a bit skeptical about this move in general. Black gives up a valuable tempo which could give White a very dangerous initiative in return.} 9. O-O (9. Be3 { is what 'Paco' Vallejo played but I guess Fridman had a different move order in mind:} Qe7 (9... a5 10. Qd2 a4 11. Bxf7+ (11. Bc4 Qe7 12. O-O-O Bc7 13. a3 b5 14. Ba2 Nd7 {and Black has already made huge improvement on the queenside.}) 11... Kxf7 12. O-O-O Bc7 13. Nxe5+ Bxe5 14. Qxd8 Rxd8 15. Rxd8 Nd7 {could have been a probable endgame that I am sure both players have studied thoroughly.}) 10. Qd2 Nd7 11. O-O-O Bc7 12. Qc3 Bb6 13. g4 Bxe3+ 14. fxe3 Nf6 15. Nxe5 O-O 16. Ng6 Qxe4 17. Nxf8 Bxg4 18. Rhg1 Rxf8 19. Rd4 Qf3 20. Rf4 Qh3 21. Qd2 h5 22. Rg3 Qh4 23. a4 Re8 24. Kb1 Ne4 25. Bxf7+ Kh8 26. Qg2 Nxg3 27. Bxe8 Nf5 28. Bg6 Qe1+ 29. Ka2 Qa5 30. Qe4 {1-0 (30) Vallejo Pons,F (2705) -Zatonskih,A (2466) Caleta 2010}) 9... Qe7 10. Be3 (10. Nh4 {was an interesting choice as well.}) 10... Nd7 11. Nh4 g6 12. f4 $1 {This is the move called for!} Bc5 13. Bxc5 Nxc5 14. Bxf7+ $1 {A must for this kind of position and not one that Fedoseev would hesitate to play!} Qxf7 $2 {But this is really dubious!} ({Instead Black needed to play} 14... Kxf7 $1 15. fxe5+ Kg7 16. Rf6 Nxe4 17. Qd3 (17. Rxg6+ Kh7 18. Rf6 {[#]} Rf8 $1 (18... Nxf6 $2 19. Qd3+ {leads to unnecessary complications where Black is still winning though.}) ) 17... Nxf6 18. Qxg6+ Kf8 19. Rf1 Rh7 {Could this be the 'missed move' in Fridman's calculations?} 20. Rxf6+ Rf7 21. Qxh6+ {worthy of consideration and that was definitely better than Fridman's choice.} Ke8 22. Qg6 {and now Black can either try to make a draw with Kf8 or tries his chances for a win with Qf8.}) 15. Qd6 $1 {an important tempo-winning move.} Ne6 16. Qxe5 $2 {Alas! This throws away most of White's advantage.} (16. fxe5 Qc7 17. Nxg6 Qxd6 18. exd6 Rh7 19. Rf6 {would have given White a very unpleasant initiative in this queenless middlegame.}) 16... O-O 17. f5 gxf5 18. exf5 Qg7 $1 {Fridman plays accurately. Any other move could have led to an immediate loss.} (18... Qc7 $2 19. Qe2 Ng5 20. Ng6 {and white is much better.}) (18... Nc7 $4 {loses to} 19. Ng6) (18... Ng5 $2 19. Ng6 Qf6 20. Qe3 Rf7 21. Rae1 Bxf5 22. Ne7+ Rxe7 23. Qxe7 Qd4+ 24. Kh1 { leads to a very difficult (nearly losing) position.}) 19. Rae1 $2 { Unfortunately the queen exchange is unavoidable.} (19. Qe3 Qd4 20. Rae1 Qxe3+ 21. Rxe3 {hardly any better.}) 19... Qxe5 20. Rxe5 Nc7 21. Rd1 Re8 $1 {Fridman masterfully exchanges pieces and isn not afraid to hold a passive position up a piece!} 22. Rxe8+ Nxe8 23. g4 $2 {I wonder if Fedoseev was playing for a win or if this was just a tactical oversight.} (23. Rd8 Kf7 24. Ng6 {seems necessary and more or less forced.} Nf6 25. h3 {and White should be able to draw.} ) 23... Nf6 $1 {Fridman is accurate and takes advantage of every little mistake.} 24. Rd8+ Kg7 {much better than Kf7 which avoids the check on f8.} 25. Ng6 b6 26. h4 Nxg4 $1 {Thorough calculation and understanding from Fridman.} 27. Ne7 Bb7 28. Rd7 Ba6 $1 {This is the idea behind Nxg4. The discovered check does not yield more than a pawn!} 29. Nxc6+ Kf6 30. b3 Bc8 {Fridman wants to exchange as many pieces as possible.} (30... Kxf5 {I would have gone for this pawn!}) 31. Rd8 Bb7 32. Rxa8 Bxa8 33. Nxa7 Ne5 34. Kf2 Kxf5 35. Kg3 Nd7 { The position is winning but it requires a great deal of care and accuracy. Black has one big advantage: the h-pawn's promotion square is the same color as his bishop. Thus, exchanging knights would lead to a simple win.} 36. Nb5 Ke5 37. c4 Nf6 38. b4 h5 39. a4 Ne4+ 40. Kh3 Nd6 $1 {We were just talking about it!} 41. Na3 Kd4 42. c5 bxc5 43. Nc2+ Kc4 44. bxc5 Nf5 $1 {Master class for fans: The pawns are considered gone! Black restricts White's knight and queen before grabbing the pawns!} 45. Ne1 Be4 (45... Be4 46. Ng2 {[#] This line has a great lesson:} Bxg2+ 47. Kxg2 Kxc5 48. Kf3 Nxh4+ 49. Kf4 Ng6+ $1 { Always use the knight to support your pawns from behind!}) 0-1

The other two victories to allow Cheparinov and Melkumyan respectively to join the lead were surprisingly one-sided matches, in which white prevailed by employing the Catalan defense.

Thus after five rounds four players share first with 4.5/5 while a pack of twenty-seven players trails them by just half a point with 4.0/5. Every one of them is a GM except for one: IM Toms Kantans (2490, and 23 years old) from Latvia who also has four points. The Latvian has played four 2600+ GMs in the past four rounds and has scored 3.0/4 without any losses.

Alexander Riazantsev, who is also the reigning Russian Champion, is at 4.0/5

Ukrainian GM Ruslan Ponomariov in a good mood

Anton Guijaro vs Bortnyk

[Event "European Individual Championship"] [Site "Minsk, Belarus"] [Date "2017.06.03"] [Round "5"] [White "Anton Guijaro, D."] [Black "Bortnyk, O."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A50"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "57"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2017.06.03"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.06.03"] 1. d4 {This game has a great lesson for all of us. Do not go for material if your opponent is in a romantic mood! In a match between two young and strong GMs it was the Spaniard who rolled over his Ukrainian colleague.} Nf6 2. c4 b6 3. f3 Bb7 4. e4 e6 5. Nc3 Bb4 {This is already a risky line. White has scored more than 65% in it.} 6. Bd3 O-O 7. Nge2 d5 8. cxd5 exd5 9. e5 Nfd7 10. a3 Be7 11. Qc2 $146 {A novelty in a position where White has 3.5/4!} h6 12. Nf4 $6 (12. O-O c5 13. f4 {would have been the way I would have tried to handle this game. It seems that Anton Guijaro only wants blood!}) 12... Bg5 13. O-O c5 14. Nfe2 $6 {Change of plan or change of heart?!} cxd4 15. f4 $5 { Change of plan! Not heart!} dxc3 16. fxg5 cxb2 17. Bxb2 {The position is extremely volatile. White has two strong bishops and a huge lead in development. Pawns really don't count when the smell of checkmate is in the air!} Qxg5 18. Nf4 (18. e6 fxe6 19. Qc7 {looks very dangerous} Ba6 20. Rxf8+ Nxf8 21. Bxa6 Nxa6 22. Qb7 Rd8 23. Qxa6 e5 24. Rf1 Ne6 {with a very unbalanced position where White should have the upper hand.}) (18. Rf3 Rc8 19. Qd1 Nxe5 20. Rg3 Qh5 21. Qf1 Nbd7 {looks also very dangerous but I cannot see any concrete path for White while one should start counting pawns: Black is up three of them!}) 18... Qe7 $4 { hard to understand. Black could not really go back after spending so much time taking the material. Black should have taken on e5! When you do not see anything don't be afraid of ghosts!} (18... Nxe5 19. h4 Qe7 20. Rae1 Nbc6 { and I do not see anything concrete for White. Black should be fine or even winning here.}) 19. Bh7+ Kh8 20. e6 $1 {Now White is all over Black!} Rc8 21. Qf5 Nf6 22. exf7 Qxf7 23. Bxf6 gxf6 (23... Qxf6 24. Ng6+ Kxh7 25. Nf8+ Kg8 26. Qh7+ Kxf8 27. Rxf6+ gxf6 28. Re1 {and mate is inevitable}) 24. Ng6+ {The rest is simple.} Kg7 25. Ne5 {just too many pieces.} Qe8 26. Rae1 Nc6 27. Qxf6+ Kxh7 28. Nxc6 Rxc6 29. Re7+ {White's 'Blitzkrieg' paid off and Black is lost due to colossal material loss.} 1-0

13-year-old Bibisara Assaubayeva, born in Kazakhstan, now living in Russia, has had a very strong start with 3.0/5 and a 2580 performance. She has faced 3 GMs and suffered no losses.

The following rounds will be decisive for many players in different ways. Players on +1 or +2 scores, will try hard to score in order to climb the rungs, while players with +3 or +4 are more likely to play a bit more cautiously to maintain their position, while seeking chances to score without too much risk. The reason us that there is more at stake than just the top prizes, there are also the qualifying spots for the World Cup, a prize in their own right.

Standings after five rounds

Rk SNo   Name Fed Rtg Pts rtg+/-
1 16 GM Cheparinov Ivan ECX 2688 4,5
2 72 GM Melkumyan Hrant ARM 2613 4,5
3 52 GM Kuzubov Yuriy UKR 2637 4,5
4 79 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2605 4,5
5 10 GM Rodshtein Maxim ISR 2698 4,0
6 34 GM Kovalenko Igor LAT 2657 4,0
7 9 GM Naiditsch Arkadij AZE 2700 4,0
8 5 GM Matlakov Maxim RUS 2714 4,0
  45 GM Zhigalko Sergei BLR 2643 4,0
10 32 GM Riazantsev Alexander RUS 2659 4,0
11 105 GM Mastrovasilis Dimitrios GRE 2580 4,0
12 109 GM Bocharov Dmitry RUS 2574 4,0
13 104 GM Jojua Davit GEO 2581 4,0
14 189 IM Kantans Toms LAT 2473 4,0
15 31 GM Dubov Daniil RUS 2660 4,0
16 59 GM Demchenko Anton RUS 2629 4,0
17 30 GM Anton Guijarro David ESP 2660 4,0
18 68 GM Kozul Zdenko CRO 2617 4,0
19 83 GM Bosiocic Marin CRO 2603 4,0
  84 GM Pashikian Arman ARM 2603 4,0

Click for complete standings


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Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.
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