European Championship Rd8: And then there was one

by Elshan Moradiabadi
6/8/2017 – Round eight of the European Championship finally brought the first sole leader of the event: English GM David Howell. One might have expected a cagey draw between the two leaders of round seven, but the two players battled it out, and Spanish GM Anton Guijarro fell. Now tied for second and third are Bulgarian GM Cheparinov and Russian GM Demchenko. Report and analysis by GM Elshan Moradiabadi.

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The eighth round of the European Individual Championship saw a drastic development which may become crucial in the final standing of this event. The clash between co-leaders, Spaniard David Anton Guijarro and David Howell was anything but an uneventful draw. After a not so great opening, Anton Guijarro found himself in an unpleasant middlegame with white where his bishop was worse than Howell’s knight.

Instead of trying to accept matters and plan for a long defense, the Spanish GM tried a tactical adventure with his queen which did not end well. The young Spaniard ended up with an awkwardly placed queen on a7, his reward for chasing a pawn, and his king remained exposed to a series of threats orchestrated with a combination of knight, rook and queen maneuvers. Howell’s 20…Ng4! In particular was a key factor that uncorked an attack on white’s king. Overwhelmed by Black’s threats, Anton Guijarro gave up an exchange to build a fortress with his queen and bishop, however, Howell’s accuracy was impeccable and he played nearly perfect to earn a crucial win with black. This victory has put the Englishman on a stellar 7.0/8 (with 6 consecutive wins) and excellent chances to win the European championship. Were he to do so, it would be the first European title by any British since the event was created in 2000.

Anton Guijaro vs Howell

All was not that bad for yesterday’s heroes as IM Arman Mikaelyan showed how ‘easy’ it is to play the King’s Indian defense and had young Russian GM Danill Dubov on the brink of losing with white. The game ended up being drawn, which secured the GM norm for the Armenian. The funny thing is how Caissa brought two people together, since round nine sees Mikaelyan has white against Guijarro!

The third board was also dominated by the black pieces. European chess federation representative (!), Bulgarian GM Ivan Cheparinov got the better of his strong opponent GM Ivan Ivanisevic from Serbia. Known for his aggressive style, Ivanisevic essayed a short castle form of Velimirovic-Sozin style attack, one of Fischer’s weapons against the Sicilian, but his early pawn push and central pieces placement did not seem to pose any danger to black. Gradually losing ground, Ivanisevic was forced to give up a pawn due to tactical trouble along the h2-b8 diagonal and eventually lost the endgame to Cheparinov’s accurate play.

It was not all about black pieces though. Russian Anton Demchenko played very enterprising chess against Latvian Igor Kovalenko on the white side of Sicillian. The Russian essayed 6.a3 to prevent Bb4 threats, a move that is gaining popularity these days, and went on to castle early on the queenside. White then essayed an immediate attack with g4, against which, Kovalenko decided to react immediately in the center with d5. Things never seemed pleasant for Black, and White’s pieces were faster in occupying crucial squares in the center. Kovalenko tried his best to complicate matters but Demchenko kept his cool and ensured a match on board one against the current leader David Howell.

Demchenko vs Kovalenko

[Event "EICC 2017"] [Site "Minsk"] [Date "2017.06.07"] [Round "8"] [White "Demchenko, Anton"] [Black "Kovalenko, Igor"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B40"] [WhiteElo "2629"] [BlackElo "2657"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "55"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventCountry "BLR"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 1. e4 {(0)} c5 {(4)} 2. Nf3 {(0)} e6 {( 04)} 3. d4 {(1:03)} cxd4 {(3)} 4. Nxd4 {(4)} Nf6 {(4)} 5. Nc3 {(10)} Nc6 {(3)} 6. a3 {(05:36)} d6 {(3:41)} 7. Be3 { (37)} Be7 {(50)} 8. Be2 {(56)} O-O {(1:21)} 9. Qd2 {(3:04)} a6 {(33:27)} 10. O-O-O {(1:54)} Na5 {(11)} 11. Kb1 {(06:50)} Qc7 {(19:15)} 12. g4 {(5:51)} Nc4 { (2:36)} 13. Bxc4 {(2:17)} Qxc4 {(2)} 14. Rhg1 {(8:40)} d5 {(17:13)} 15. exd5 { (5:21)} Rd8 {(3:15)} 16. Bg5 {(13:34)} exd5 {(10:58)} 17. Rge1 {(13:24)} Be6 { ( 01:12)} 18. f3 {(4:53)} Rac8 {(54)} 19. Nf5 {[#] (8:24) White looks faster in his attack and in complete control of center. Kovalenko decides to complicate matters.} Bxa3 {(1:46)} 20. Bxf6 {(3:26)} gxf6 {(2)} 21. Qh6 {(28)} Bf8 {(3)} 22. Qxf6 {(9) The position looks lost for Black. However, White needs to remain focused and control matters.} Qc7 $2 {(1:48) This makes White's task much easier.} (22... d4 23. Re4 h6 $1 {and it is not easy to find a straightforward win for White specially when computer suggests a move like Rg1 in this position!}) 23. Re5 $1 {(2:41) g-file will be penetrated and thus the game will be concluded soon.} h6 {(25)} 24. Nxh6+ {(3:41)} Bxh6 {(8)} 25. Rde1 $1 {(5) Accurate play by Demchenko.} Bf5 {(1:03) A funny move but White has two rooks for the g-file!} 26. gxf5 {(04:16)} Rd6 {(2:29)} 27. Re8+ {(28)} Bf8 {( 13)} 28. Rxf8+ {(29) and mate is inevitable.} (28. Rxf8+ Rxf8 (28... Kxf8 29. Qh8#) 29. Rg1+ Kh7 30. Qg7#) 1-0

Speaking of Swiss gambits, most of the top-rated players are not even among the leaders. While Navara and Andreikin are sitting on a ‘respectable’ but rather modest +3 with almost no chance of winning the tournament, some legendary figures, like ex-world championship finalist, Peter Leko is only on +1 after the latter lost a much better position to Russian Dmitry Bocharov.

Bocharov vs Leko

[Event "EICC 2017"] [Site "Minsk"] [Date "2017.06.07"] [Round "8"] [White "Bocharov, Dmitry"] [Black "Leko, Peter"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B51"] [WhiteElo "2574"] [BlackElo "2703"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "125"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventCountry "BLR"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 1. Nf3 {(0)} c5 {(1:59)} 2. e4 {(0)} d6 {( 09)} 3. Bb5+ {(28)} Nd7 {(13)} 4. O-O {(1:02)} a6 {(2:03)} 5. Bd3 {(1:35)} Ngf6 {(12)} 6. Re1 {(56)} e6 {(28)} 7. c3 {(2:30)} b5 {(45)} 8. Bc2 {(1:11)} c4 {(1:09)} 9. b3 {(3:17)} Bb7 {(04:24)} 10. bxc4 {(5:10)} bxc4 {(9)} 11. Na3 {(14)} Rc8 {(7:31)} 12. Rb1 {(3:21)} Ba8 { (1:29)} 13. Qe2 {(8:51)} d5 {(11:39)} 14. Nd4 {(40:37)} Nxe4 {(27:53)} 15. Bxe4 {(3:00)} dxe4 {(1:18)} 16. Nxc4 {(01:46)} Qc7 {(11:48)} 17. Ne3 {(1:23)} Qa7 { ( 19)} 18. Qh5 {(4:04)} e5 {(12:49)} 19. Ndc2 {(10:03)} Bc5 {(36)} 20. Ba3 { (3:43)} O-O {(49)} 21. Rf1 {(02:44)} g6 {(3:49)} 22. Bxc5 {(31)} Rxc5 {( 27)} 23. Qh4 {(42)} f6 {(1:28)} 24. h3 {(1:44)} Kg7 {(01:23)} 25. Rfd1 {(46)} Rc7 { (3:10)} 26. Nb4 {(01:51)} Nb6 {(1:42)} 27. d4 {(37)} exd3 {(2:51)} 28. Rxd3 { (42)} Rff7 {(1:18)} 29. Rd6 {(54)} a5 {(27)} 30. Ng4 {(34)} Nd7 {(26)} 31. Qh6+ {(31)} Kg8 {(11)} 32. Nd5 {(28)} Bxd5 {( 18)} 33. Rxd5 {(8)} Rc8 {(34)} 34. Qd2 {(31)} Kg7 {(22)} 35. Rd6 {(33)} Qc7 {(1:12)} 36. Rd1 {(17)} Nf8 {(32)} 37. Qh6+ {(46)} Kh8 {( 01)} 38. Nxf6 {(49)} Qxc3 {(5)} 39. Qg5 {(18)} Qb2 {(1:25)} 40. Ng4 {(0)} Rf5 {(31)} 41. Qe7 {(06:13)} h5 {(15:04)} 42. Rd7 {(21:47)} Nxd7 {(2:19)} 43. Rxd7 {(7)} Qc1+ {(20)} 44. Kh2 {(12)} Qf4+ {(10)} 45. g3 {(14)} Rf7 {(5)} 46. gxf4 {(01:15)} Rxe7 {(5)} 47. Rxe7 {(9)} hxg4 {( 04)} 48. fxe5 { (1:15)} gxh3 {(2:23)} 49. Kxh3 {(1:17)} Rc2 {(1)} 50. f4 {(37)} Rxa2 {(7)} 51. Ra7 {(1:19)} Kg8 {(45)} 52. Kg4 {(7)} Rg2+ {(22)} 53. Kf3 {[#] (6) After a great opening, super-GM Peter Leko started to making one bad move after another until he got this very hard endgame. It is hard to say whether Black is lost or he can make a draw with just one look at the board. However, I tend to believe that Leko could save this position.} Ra2 $4 {(32) Definitely not with this move His last hope is to give up the a-pawn so his king can leave the back rank so that his rook can use side-checks and behind checks as a mean to prevent White from making progress.} (53... Rb2 $1 54. Rxa5 Kf7 55. Ra7+ Kf8 {and I do not see how White can improve his king.} 56. Kg4 Rg2+ 57. Kf3 (57. Kh4 Rg1 (57... Kg8) 58. Rb7 Rg2) 57... Rb2 58. Ke4 Rb4+ 59. Kd5 Rxf4 60. Kd6 Rd4+ 61. Ke6 Rb4 {there are otherways to make a draw but I love side-check method!} (61... g5 62. Rf7+ Kg8)) 54. Kg4 $4 {(1:44) Bocharov returns the favor once!} Rg2+ {(2)} 55. Kf3 {(5)} Ra2 $4 {(4) Leko gives a second chance to Bocharov.} 56. e6 $1 {(29) The Russian does not miss it! Now White's king marches safely to f6!} Kf8 {(5)} 57. Ke4 {(19)} Rf2 {(11:32)} 58. Ke5 {(49)} Rf1 {(13) This prevents immediate loss but the king will finally gets to f6.} 59. Rxa5 {(26)} Ke7 {(14)} 60. Ra7+ {(12)} Kf8 {(10)} 61. Rf7+ {(28)} Kg8 {(24) } 62. f5 $1 {(1:18) Beautifully done! Bocharov creates a shelter for his king!} gxf5 {( 33) Ke4} (62... Rxf5+ 63. Rxf5 gxf5 64. Kd6 f4 65. e7 {And Black is out of luck since he is short of number of tempi!}) 63. Kf6 {(8) Now mate is inevitable.} 1-0

However, the Gambit does not seem to have flamboyant Baadur Jobava from Georgia out of contention. Baadur, whose entertaining style and colorful personality have earned him a lot of fans and friends in the chess community, scored his fifth consecutive win against ‘in shape’ Greek Dmitrios Moastrovasilis to reach +4 in spite of a disastrous start with only 1.0/3! This was not one of those crazy positions we are used to seeing in Jobava’s games. The game started slow and the Georgian got nothing out of the opening. In fact, Mastrovasilis was so confident, he began probing ways to seize the initiative. In a safe but slightly complicated queen endgame, the Greek fell  prey to the drama of  ‘any check is a good check’ and ended up losing as White’s passed pawn turned uncontrollable!

Jobava vs Mastrovasilis

[Event "EICC 2017"] [Site "Minsk"] [Date "2017.06.07"] [Round "8"] [White "Jobava, Baadur"] [Black "Mastrovasilis, Dimitrios"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A22"] [WhiteElo "2713"] [BlackElo "2580"] [Annotator "GM Elshan Moradiabadi"] [PlyCount "101"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [EventCountry "BLR"] [SourceTitle "playchess.com"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceQuality "1"] [TimeControl "40/5400+30:1800+30"] 1. c4 {(1:37)} e5 {(58)} 2. Nc3 {(25)} Nf6 {(12)} 3. g3 {(2:09)} c6 {(27)} 4. Nf3 {(2:05)} e4 {(44)} 5. Nd4 {(7)} Qb6 {(50)} 6. Nc2 {(04:10)} d5 {(21:44)} 7. Bg2 {(54)} dxc4 {(2:29)} 8. O-O {(56)} Be6 {(1:42)} 9. Nxe4 {(1:18)} Nxe4 {(48) } 10. Bxe4 {(5)} Nd7 {(57)} 11. Bg2 {(34)} h5 {(7:39)} 12. d4 {(1:43)} cxd3 { (3:08)} 13. Qxd3 {(6)} O-O-O {(1:24)} 14. Be3 {(2:03)} Bc5 {(2:32)} 15. Qc3 { (1:10)} Bxe3 {(7:21)} 16. Nxe3 {(07)} Nf6 {(24)} 17. Rfd1 {(10:30)} Rxd1+ { ( 08:18)} 18. Rxd1 {(5)} Rd8 {(33)} 19. Rxd8+ {( 05)} Qxd8 {(16)} 20. a4 { (5:37)} Qd6 {(6:05)} 21. Bf3 {(48)} Bh3 {(7:39)} 22. a5 {(5:12)} a6 {(2:44)} 23. Bg2 {(2:45)} Be6 {(1:05)} 24. h4 {(1:53)} Kb8 {(2:39)} 25. Bf3 {(30)} Kc7 { (2:20)} 26. Kg2 {(10)} Kd8 {(58)} 27. Nf1 {(6:20)} Ke8 {(2:47)} 28. e4 {(4:34)} Qe7 {(2:27)} 29. Nd2 {(4:54)} g6 {(03:19)} 30. Be2 {(35)} Nd7 {(2:56)} 31. f4 { ( 04:42)} Qd6 {(1:28)} 32. Nc4 {(10:30)} Bxc4 {(2:56)} 33. Bxc4 {(6)} Nc5 { (2:00)} 34. e5 {(2:16)} Qd1 {(38)} 35. Bxf7+ {(2:38)} Kxf7 {(7)} 36. Qxc5 {(03) } Qd2+ {(2:31)} 37. Qf2 {(8:13)} Qxa5 {[#] (51) Black is in complete control and White cannot really pushes his pawn. This feeling of safety made Mastrovasilis to relaxed and he got to this dangerous zone of 'every move should do it'!} 38. g4 $5 {(5) Jobava complicates matter in his opponents time pressure.} Qd5+ {(59)} 39. Kg3 {(4)} hxg4 {(23)} 40. Kxg4 {(0)} Qd1+ {(31)} 41. Qf3 {(24)} Qg1+ {(20:45)} 42. Kh3 {(4) The position is sitll equal but there is only one drawing move, which Mastrovasilis failed to find in time pressure.} Qd4 $4 {(1:35)} (42... Qb1 {would have stopped h5.} 43. Qb3+ Kf8 44. Qb4+ Ke8 45. Qd6 Qh1+ {and Black has perpetual.}) 43. h5 $1 {(50) Now White's pawns are unstoppable.} Qxb2 {(1:12)} 44. hxg6+ {(1:07)} Kxg6 {(7)} 45. f5+ {(51)} Kf7 { (3:37)} 46. Qh5+ {(02:40)} Kf8 {(31)} 47. Qh8+ {(19)} Ke7 {( 07)} 48. f6+ {(39) } Ke6 {(4:12)} 49. Qg8+ {(4)} Kf5 {(1:03)} 50. Qg4+ {(14)} Kxe5 {(8)} 51. f7 $1 {(01) Fairly accurate.} (51. f7 Qa3+ 52. Qg3+ {and White promotes.}) 1-0

Round 9 will bring us a lot of action as players put together their utmost effort and energy to squeeze the most out of their chances!

Standings after eight rounds

Rk SNo   Name Fed Rtg Pts rtg+/-
1 18 GM Howell David W L ENG 2684 7,0 15,3
2 16 GM Cheparinov Ivan ECX 2688 6,5 13,1
3 59 GM Demchenko Anton RUS 2629 6,5 13,9
4 10 GM Rodshtein Maxim ISR 2698 6,0 8,2
5 79 GM Fridman Daniel GER 2605 6,0 17,8
6 19 GM Artemiev Vladislav RUS 2682 6,0 7,2
7 30 GM Anton Guijarro David ESP 2660 6,0 10,2
8 12 GM Tomashevsky Evgeny RUS 2696 6,0 6,7
9 31 GM Dubov Daniil RUS 2660 6,0 7,7
10 36 GM Jones Gawain C B ENG 2654 6,0 7,7
11 5 GM Matlakov Maxim RUS 2714 6,0 7,4
  46 GM Shimanov Aleksandr RUS 2642 6,0 8,3
13 216 IM Mikaelyan Arman ARM 2444 6,0 27,3
14 124 GM Aleksandrov Aleksej BLR 2559 6,0 17,7
15 61 GM Salgado Lopez Ivan ESP 2627 6,0 4,3
16 28 GM Motylev Alexander RUS 2665 6,0 5,6
17 6 GM Jobava Baadur GEO 2713 6,0 -1,4
18 54 GM Romanov Evgeny RUS 2636 6,0 5,1
19 104 GM Jojua Davit GEO 2581 5,5 13,4
20 109 GM Bocharov Dmitry RUS 2574 5,5 14,0

Click for complete standings

Links

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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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