Croatia unlikely Euro Teams leader

by Macauley Peterson
11/2/2017 – Who would have guessed that Croatia would be in the sole lead at the European Team Championship heading into the rest day? They beat Germany, while Hungary and Armenia played to a 2-2 tie. Russian and Poland are also a point off the pace. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov turned in a scorching win over David Navara and broke 2800 on the live rating list. Highlights from Rounds 4 and 5 including extensive game annotations from GM Daniel Fernandez. | Photos:

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Croatia rocking the boat

They came in as the fourteenth seeds but Croatia, the most recent addition to the European Union, finds itself at the top of an impressive list, with 9 match points on the tournament's only rest day. Only sixth seed Armenia has nicked a match point off their total, after a 2-2 tie in Round 3. Croatia then dispatched fifth seed Israel and ninth seed Germany in the last two matches to bring themselves to clear first place in the standings.

Croatia has been helped by the seventh seeded team, Hungary, which scored a crucial upset match win over Russia in Round 4, then split the match with Armenia in Round 5 leaving all three teams a point behind the leaders. Eighth seeded Poland, has recovered from its "Swiss gambit" draw with 28th ranked Slovakia from Round 1, to stay in contention with eight match points.

Croatia vs. Armenia

Croatia-Armenia was all draws including Ivan Saric vs. Levon Aronian | Photo:

Round 4

After holding Armenia, Saric and company faced Israel, which outrated them by about 70 Elo points on every board. Not surprisingly it was a close match, which hinged on the game Maxim Rodshtein vs. Marin Bosiocic — GM Daniel Fernandez's pick for game of the round.


Winning against the Grünfeld

The Grünfeld is a highly dynamic opening in which Black's position often seems to hang together by a single thread; and yet, this apparently precarious equilibrium appears to be enough to make it entirely viable — up to the highest level.

You might be forgiven for overlooking this game as it was being played live, due to the surprising upset which unfolded over on the first table. Russian board two Ian Nepomniachtchi's win the day before against the Czech republic saved that round for the top seeds, but in Round 4, playing the black side of a symmetrical English line in which the queens came off by move 7, he fell victim to "pitch-perfect technical chess" by Hungary's Viktor Erdos.

Viktor Erdos and Peter Leko

Viktor Erdos (left), beside Hungarian top board Peter Leko, facing Russia | Photo:


The English Opening Vol. 1

Williams main teaching method behind this set of two DVDs is to teach you some simple yet effective set ups, without the need to rely on memorising numerous complicated variations.

Top results of Round 4

Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
Russia 6 : 5 Hungary
Germany 5 2 : 2 5 Poland
Israel 5 : 5 Croatia
Armenia 5 : 5 Netherlands

Poland yielded its second draw, with the young guns Jan-Krzysztof Duda (age 19) and Kacper Piorun (25) exchanging wins with their German counterparts, Georg Meier (30) and Matthias Bluebaum (20). Duda's win over Meier featured a nice technical rook ending.


Chess Endgames 8 - Practical Rook Endgames

Rook endings are amongst the most frequently encountered endgames there are, and so your training effort will be quickly repaid in the form of half and full points. Knowing even a few rules of thumb and key methods makes life a great deal easier and provides a guiding light even in complex positions. This DVD focuses on the important themes which are to be found in common rook endings.

Rounding out the top four matches of the fourth round was Armenia vs. the Netherlands, which saw three decisive games. Only Aronian-Giri was drawn. Gabriel Sargissian, known for turning in impressive team performances for Armenia, has the hot hand of the first half, with three wins and two draws, which is among the best in the tournament (Rauf Mamedov has 4½ / 5 for Azerbaijan, but faced weaker opposition).


Play out the moves on the live diagram!

Gabriel SargissianSargissian's 26.Bxb4 was more than enough after 26.Rc1+ 27.Kg2 Qd8 28.Bxf8 Qxf8 29.Qxa6.

But 26.Qe8 would have won in style. White is threatening Rd7, and after 26...Rc1+ 27.Kg2 f5, trying to cover the bishop from f6, 28.Bxb4 Qf6 29.Rb8 is lights out.

Sargissian has been a stalwart for the Armenian national team, playing in every biennial Chess Olympiad competition since 2000, a span in which they won three times. (Armenia was notably absent from the 2016 Baku Olympiad due to geopolitical tensions with Azerbaijan). His individual career has seen several notable open tournament wins, including two wins at the Chicago Open, but his rating peaked in 2015 at 2702, when he briefly broke into the world's top 50.

As Sargissian has excelled, Movsesian has struggled, with just 1½ / 5 thus far. His loss to Erwin l'Ami featured a "gutsy exchange sacrifice" from the Dutch number four, playing board two. After Anish Giri, Loek van Wely serves as captain and Robin van Kampen is studying in Canada this Autumn.


The Art of the Positional Exchange Sacrifice

The positional exchange sacrifice is one of the most powerful and fascinating strategic weapons in chess. On this DVD Sergey Tiviakov explains why the positional exchange sacrifice is such a strong weapon and how to use it.

Round 5

After a fairytale start for Italy, upsetting the strong Azerbaijan quad, the 22nd seeds were brought back down to earth in the fifth round, roundly defeated by Ukraine 3½ : ½. On board two Ruslan Ponomariov has had the same nearly flawless record as Sargissian, and netted his third win against the 27-year old Danyyil Dvirnyy.


Azerbaijan's loss to Italy was compounded by a 2-2 tie with Spain in the third round, but the tournament's second highest-rated team may be finally getting back on track after brushing past the Czech Republic 3 : 1. Shakrihyar Mamedyarov has played four decisive games since that first round upset during which he was benched. He demolished Czech number one David Navara to improve his personal score in the tournament to 3 : 1 as well, and has boosted his live rating above 2800 for the second time, but now as unofficial world number two.

Mamedyarov and Radjabov

Mamedyarov looking confident against Navara | Photo:


Power Play 20: Test Your Attacking Chess

Grandmaster Daniel King presents ten exemplary attacking performances. At key moments he stops and asks you to play a move. King then gives feedback on the most plausible continuations. It’s the next best thing to having your own personal trainer!

Top results of Round 5

Team MP Res. : Res. MP Team
Hungary 7 2 : 2 7 Armenia
Croatia 7 : 6 Germany
Poland 6 3 : 1 6 Belarus
Russia 6 : ½ 6 Turkey
Azerbaijan 5 3 : 1 5 Czech Republic

Additional highlights selected by GM Fernandez


Click on a game in the list to see additional highlights

Round 6 is shaping up to be a pivotal one — will see matches between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Hungary and Croatia, and Poland against Russia among the top boards.

Top pairings of Round 6

Team MP : MP Team
Armenia 8 : 7 Azerbaijan
Hungary 8 : 9 Croatia
Belarus 6 : 6 England
Poland 8 : 8 Russia
Ukraine 6 : 7 France
Germany 6 : 6 Turkey
Georgia 5 : 5 Italy
Romania 7 : 7 Israel
Spain 6 : 6 Slovenia
Netherlands 5 : 5 Czech Republic

Live games and commentary starts at 14:00 CET (Europeans set their clocks back already last weekend) / 9:00 AM EDT.


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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