European Championship: Seven on 7

by Macauley Peterson
3/28/2019 – With an Elo rating of 2736, Vladislav Artemiev is the top seed at the European Championships in Skopje. And after a convincing attacking victory in round eight, he drew in the ninth round, along with the other players with 6½ points, resulting in a seven-way tie on 7 points together with two other young Russians — Andrey Esipenko and Grigoriy Oparin (pictured) — plus Kacper Piorun, Maxim Rodshtein, Nils Grandelius and David Anton. GM DANIEL FERNANDEZ examines the highlights. | Photo: Patricia Claros

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Artemiev on the Attack

The quintet of players with 6½ out of seven rounds drew on Wednesday, allowing two more players from the 6-point group — Grigory Oparin and David Anton — to catch up and join the lead.

Vladislav Artemiev, playing on board one, has celebrated one success after another in recent months: in December 2018 he became European Blitz Champion, in January 2019 he won the Gibraltar Masters, one of the strongest open tournaments in the world, and in March he played a pivotal role in Russia's gold medal at the World Team Championship.

Now Artemiev, who also celebrated his 21st birthday on March 5th, has his eyes set on the title of European Champion. In the eighth round he underlined his ambitions with a nice attacking victory against Zbynek Hracek. With this victory, "the new Vlad" was in 13th place in the live world rating list, ahead of fellow Russians Sergey Karjakin and the recently retired Vladimir Kramnik.

Artemiev vs Hracek

Artemiev vs Hracek | Photo: Patricia Claros

GM Daniel Fernandez takes a look at this fascinating game and other highlights of the eighth round:

 

Click or tap a game in the list to switch games

The other top pairings of the eighth round all ended in draws leaving five players with 6½ points at the top of the standings.

Results of Round 8 (top 10)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Grandelius Nils 6 ½ - ½ 6 Piorun Kacper
Rodshtein Maxim 6 ½ - ½ 6 Esipenko Andrey
Artemiev Vladislav 1 - 0 Hracek Zbynek
Gledura Benjamin ½ - ½ Alekseenko Kirill
Pantsulaia Levan ½ - ½ Anton Guijarro David
Zvjaginsev Vadim ½ - ½ Ter-Sahakyan Samvel
Korobov Anton 5 1 - 0 5 Erdos Viktor
Cheparinov Ivan 5 ½ - ½ 5 Lupulescu Constantin
Predke Alexandr 5 ½ - ½ 5 Berkes Ferenc
Gelfand Boris 5 ½ - ½ 5 Deac Bogdan-Daniel

The World Cup spots are going to be in the back of the minds of many of the players in Skopje, and we will see who's really trying to win the title versus prioritising qualification. 

Andrey Esipenko adopted the fashionable 6.b3 in the Sicilian against Nils Grandelius with the idea to meet 6...c6 7.e3 e6 with 8.g4:

 

This idea has been seen already in Skopje in earlier rounds (e.g. in Valsecchi vs Semjonovs, round five). White claims that ♘b3 is more useful than the alternative h3 preparing g4. In this game, however, Grandelius had no trouble equalising and mass-exchanges in the middlegame led to a 28-move draw, the first among the leading group to finish.

Grandelius

Grandelius with his girlfriend Ellen Kakulidis | Photo: Patricia Claros

Artemiev showed he's not trying to avoid a fight in the ninth round on the top board as Black against Kacper Piorun. Piorun met Artemiev's Sicilian with 3.b5+, but later transposed into an Open Sicilian Maroczy setup.

 

After 12.ac1 Artemiev passed up playing ...♜xc4, although it was possible to do so. 13.♘b3 ♛a6 14.e5 looks a bit scary but Black has 14...♞e4 (14...dxe5 15.♘c5 is great for White) and the position remains level. Instead, after thinking it over for 16 minutes he castled 12...O-O and returned the knight to d7: 13.b3 bd7 leaving White with a pleasant position.

A few moves later, Piorun employed a typical trick to force the exchange of queens and pressurise the black d-pawn:

 

19.d5 xd2 20.xf6+ xf6 21.cxd2 — but even with a slight plus, Piorun was unable to make serious headway in the face of Artemiev's defence and by the time control he was able to solve most of the problems, liquidating into a rook and knight ending with a pawn less but a holdable position. 

Piorun did miss one golden opportunity to play for a win, however:

 

Here, 48.f4 allowed Artemiev to equalise with 48...d4+ forcing the king back 49.g3 e4+ winning the g5 pawn because 50.g4 fails to ♞d6+, ♜xh4 and ♞f5+.

Instead 48.♔g4 aims to meet 48...♜d4+ with 49.♔h5! winning. E.g. 49...♜d1 50.♞f4+ ♚f8 51.g6. Otherwise 48...♞d7 49.♖e8 is also very strong for White.

In any case, the draw keeps both players in shared first place.

GM Daniel Fernandez takes a close look at this game, as well as other key battles from round nine:

 

Click or tap a game in the list to switch games

Artemiev vs Piorun

Artemiev vs Piorun | Photo: Patricia Claros

Maxim Rodshtein continued his strong play in Skopje, this time against Anton Korobov. The Ukrainian number two thought that move 9 was already a good time to lash out with g5!? — played after a 10-minute deliberation:

 

There followed 10.hxg5 h4 (played after a further 7 minutes of consideration) 11.xh4 xh4 12.gxh4 f5 and here Rodshtein found a clever idea which is the best way to maximize White's advantage: 13.d2! xh4 14.h1!

The Israeli hung on to the extra pawn and manoeuvred patiently, eschewing a couple of entreaties to repeat moves. When he reached move 40, however, he seemed to hit a wall.

 

Rodshtein's 41.d2 c4 42.d4 (42.♔a1 ♝xd5 43.exd5 ♞f4! 44.♕xf4 c3! results in a queen and pawn ending) ♞e7 allowed Korobov to win back his pawn and a draw was soon agreed.

But 41.♕b3 was the way to keep the game going — the main point being that 41...♛xb3 42.axb3 ♜xb3 is good for White after 43.♘c7+ and 44.♘xe6. Despite the material equality, White's g-pawn is dangerous and his bishop is more useful than Black's knight.

Korobov

Korobov, who only had 6 points, remains a half point back | Photo: Patricia Claros

Results of Round 9 (top 10)

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Piorun Kacper ½ - ½ Artemiev Vladislav
Esipenko Andrey ½ - ½ Grandelius Nils
Rodshtein Maxim ½ - ½ 6 Korobov Anton
Alekseenko Kirill 6 0 - 1 6 Oparin Grigoriy
Anton Guijarro David 6 1 - 0 6 Bindrich Falko
Can Emre 6 ½ - ½ 6 Zvjaginsev Vadim
Lysyj Igor 6 ½ - ½ 6 Pantsulaia Levan
Ter-Sahakyan Samvel 6 ½ - ½ 6 Gledura Benjamin
Aleksandrov Aleksej 6 ½ - ½ 6 Bosiocic Marin
Christiansen Johan-Sebastian 6 ½ - ½ Tomashevsky Evgeny

Standings after Round 9 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Piorun Kacper 7,0 2613
2 Rodshtein Maxim 7,0 2609
3 Artemiev Vladislav 7,0 2591
4 Grandelius Nils 7,0 2585
5 Esipenko Andrey 7,0 2563
6 Anton Guijarro David 7,0 2558
7 Oparin Grigoriy 7,0 2496
8 Ter-Sahakyan Samvel 6,5 2618
9 Christiansen Johan-Sebastian 6,5 2615
10 Cheparinov Ivan 6,5 2596
11 Berkes Ferenc 6,5 2592
12 Aleksandrov Aleksej 6,5 2588
13 Can Emre 6,5 2575
14 Gledura Benjamin 6,5 2565
15 Lysyj Igor 6,5 2560
16 Pantsulaia Levan 6,5 2558
17 Nisipeanu Liviu-Dieter 6,5 2556
18 Zvjaginsev Vadim 6,5 2551
19 Ponomariov Ruslan 6,5 2551
20 Korobov Anton 6,5 2539
21 Lupulescu Constantin 6,5 2532
22 Movsesian Sergei 6,5 2505
23 Bosiocic Marin 6,5 2477
24 Hracek Zbynek 6,0 2615
25 Alekseenko Kirill 6,0 2599

...361 players

All available games

 

Commentary webcast

Commentary by GM Ivan Sokolov and GM Adrian Mikhalchishin | European Chess TV on YouTube

Johannes Fischer contributed reporting

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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