Euro Club Cup: Four co-leaders, big matches coming

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
10/5/2023 – The favourites keep on winning in the open section of the European Club Cup, as the four top seeds share the lead with 8/8 match points going into the fifth round. On Thursday, Vishy Anand’s Superchess is set to face MVL’s Asnieres, while Magnus Carlsen’s Offerspill will play against Vincent Keymer’s Novy Bor. In the women’s section, TAJFUN SK Ljubljana lead the standings as the only team with a perfect score. | Photo: Niki Riga

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Winning by a small margin

While most matches on the top boards finished with clear victories for the favourites in previous rounds, all four top encounters on Wednesday saw the winners getting 3½-2½ victories (i.e. wins by the smallest of margins).

Nonetheless, the co-leaders continue to be the favourites by rating average: Superchess (2713), Novy Bor (2670), Asnieres (2656) and Offerspill (2649).

The top performers for each team:

  • Superchess: Jorden van Foreest (3½/4, 2817 TPR)
  • Novy Bor: Vincent Keymer (3½/4, 2860 TPR)
  • Asnieres: Haik Martirosyan (4/4, 3384 TPR)
  • Offerspill: Magnus Carlsen (3/3, 3369 TPR)

In what is likely to be another round featuring hard-fought matches on Thursday, Superchess (Richard Rapport, Vishy Anand) is set to face Asnieres (Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Haik Martirosyan), while Offerspill (Magnus Carlsen, Raunak Sadhwani) will play against the defending champions Novy Bor (Vincent Keymer, David Navara).

Vincent Keymer, Alexander Donchenko

Vincent Keymer (Novy Bor) and Alexander Donchenko (Turkish Airlines Sports Club) signed a draw in the all-German matchup | Photo: Niki Riga

A notable game from round 4 was Kirill Shevchenko’s (Superchess) victory over Sergey Fedorchuk (Viernheim 1934). A Nimzo-Indian with 4.f3 quickly turned into a sharp tactical struggle. By move 13, it was clear that Shevchenko, playing white, was much better prepared than his opponent, as he had close to a 30-minute advantage on the clock.

13...Qb6 was an imprecision (13...g6 was stronger), since it allowed the forcing 14.Be3, either prompting the queen to return to d8 or inviting 14...Bc5, as seen in the game. The problem for Black is that after 15.Bxc5, he is all but forced to recapture by 15...dxc5, since grabbing with the queen would give way to Qd1-d4, with a massive positional edge for White.

The capture with the pawn also had its drawbacks, though.

White has a mobile pawn centre, while Black is lacking development and his potential counterplay on the queenside looks very slow.

Shevchenko’s handling of the advantage was exemplary, as he did not shy away from pushing his pawns to make the most of his position’s dynamism. By move 24, three white pawns stood side by side on the fourth rank.

After 24.f4, Black cannot play 24...Nxe4 due to 25.Rxe4 (or 25.Qxe4) Bf3, and the rook on a8 falls. Fedorchuk went for a counterattack with 24...b4 instead, but after 25.e5 all tactical continuations favour White.

At this point, Fedorchuk had 2 minutes to Shevchenko’s 7, with 15 moves to go before 30 minutes would be added to the clocks. 25...bxc3, as played by Black, is the engine’s first suggestion, but it still loses to 26.bxc3, with a discovered attack against the queen.

White will grab the knight on f6, and will find himself with a strong initiative plus an extra pawn. Fedorchuk resigned.

Standings - Round 4

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Offerspill Sjakklubb 8
2 Asnieres - Le Grand Echiquier 8
3 Novy Bor 8
4 Superchess 8
5 C' Chartres Echecs 7
6 Vugar Gashimov 6
7 Schachclub Viernheim 1934 e.V. 6
8 TAJFUN SK Ljubljana 6
9 Turkish Airlines Sports Club 6
10 Sentimento Ajka BSK 6
11 Gokturk Chess Sport Club 6
12 Rishon Lezion A 6
13 SV Werder Bremen 6
14 Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova 6
15 Beer Sheva Chess Club 6

...84 teams

All available games - Round 4

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Women’s: Ljubljana sole leaders

In the women’s section, meanwhile, TAJFUN SK Ljubljana emerged as sole leaders after beating Garuda Ajka BSK in round 4. The Slovenian team won all four of their mathces in Durrës, with Ukrainian IM Nataliya Buksa excelling on the second board — Buksa is, in fact, the only players with a perfect 4/4 score in the tournament.

SP Gaz Ukraine stand in sole second place, a match point behind. The fourth seeds have an extremely solid lineup, with experienced, successful players on all four boards: i.e. Anna Ushenina, Lela Javakhishvili, Deimante Daulyte-Cornette and Natalia Zhukova.

Sharing third place with 6/8 match points are Superchess (Nino Batsiashvili, Dinara Wagner), Garuda Ajka (Bella Khotenashvili, Hoang Thanh Trang), MSK Centar Asseco See (Stavroula Tsolakidou, Mai Narva) and SK Crvena zvezda Data Driven Lab (Elina Danielian, Jovana Rapport).

Stavroula Tsolakidou, Antoaneta Stefanova

MSK Centar Asseco See (left) beat Teuta 2½-1½ in the fourth round | Photo: Niki Riga

Nataliya Buksa (Ljubljana) found the most efficient and elegant way to finish off Hoang Thanh Trang (Garuda Ajka) in round 4.

29.Nxe6 allows Black to capture the bishop with 29...Qxd2, but after 30.Qd8 there is no way to stop White’s mating attack without making major material concessions.

After 30...Nxf4 31.Qxc7+ Ka6, Buksa played the lethal 32.Nc5+

In fact, 32.Qc8+ leads to a quicker mate, but the text move is surely more attractive — after 32...bxc5, White wins with a queen against a queen and two knights (which are, incidentally, very far away from the action)!

There followed 33.Qc6+ Ka5 34.Qxc5+ Ka6 35.Qc6+ Ka5 36.b4+

In an individual tournament, Hoang would have probably resigned at this point, but since this is a team event she continued with 36...Qxb4, and only threw in the towel four moves later.

Standings - Round 4

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 TAJFUN SK Ljubljana 8
2 SP Gaz Ukraine 7
3 Superchess 6
4 Garuda Ajka BSK 6
5 MSK Centar Asseco See 6
6 SK Crvena zvezda Data Driven Lab 6
7 Monte Carlo 5
8 Schachgesellschaft Solingen 5
9 Gokturk Chess Sport Club 5
10 Asnieres - Le Grand Echiquier 5
11 Wood Green 4
12 Teuta 4
13 Panevezys 4
14 Offerspill Chess Club 4
15 ASD Pedone Isolano 4

...26 teams

All available games - Round 4

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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.