Euro Teams: Russia in the sole lead, Firouzja closing on 2800

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/19/2021 – After six rounds, the Russian teams are sole leaders in both sections of the European Team Championships. In the open, a victory by Daniil Dubov on board 2 allowed them to defeat Hungary, while the women’s team easily defeated Greece. Meanwhile, France’s top board Alireza Firouzja has collected 5½ out of 6 points so far in Slovenia, and is now less than 4 points shy from crossing the 2800 rating barrier. | Photos: ECU Press

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Firouzja grabs fifth win

With three rounds to go at the European Championships in Slovenia, the rating favourites are leading the standings tables in both sections — Russia in both cases.

Meanwhile, the highest-rated player participating in the open (according to the players’ live ratings) is having an outstanding tournament. Alireza Firouzja, currently rated 2796.3, won his fifth game of the event, which means there are good chances that he will finish the tournament as the number two in the world ranking — and perhaps the only player other than Magnus Carlsen to have a 2800+ rating in FIDE’s official list for December.  

On Thursday, the 18-year-old beat Greece’s Dimitrios Mastrovasilis with the white pieces. The Greek grandmaster faltered on move 39.

 

Black is two pawns down and his bishop is currently under attack, but he also has plenty of counterplay with his central pawns and active king. At this point, Mastrovasilis had a powerful recourse in 39...Rh7, giving up the bishop but entering a forced sequence that would lead to a draw. Most likely under some time pressure, the Greek opted for 39...Be8, which resulted in a winning position for Firouzja.

In the line that led to a draw, after 39...Rh7 40.Rxb5, Black needs to play 40...Rh1+ 41.Kd2 e3+ 42.Kd2 Rh2+ 43.Kf1 followed by the precise 43...Ke4

 

Now it is White who needs to find an only move to draw the game — 44.Nc6, which would be followed by a perpetual check with the rook.

Interestingly, the point behind 43...Ke4 instead of the immediate 43...Rh1+ is that after the latter White can allow Black to promote his e-pawn, in fact getting a better position — 44.Kg2 e2 45.Kf3

 

Promoting to a queen with 45...e1Q loses to 46.Nb3 Kc4 47.Rc5#. Black can promote to a knight though, but after 45...e1N+ 46.Kf2 Nxc2, he will need to defend a tough rook and knight endgame two pawns down. A most interesting imbalanced endgame position!

European Team Chess Championships 2021

Following the sanitary protocol

Six teams were sharing the lead after round 5, but only Russia scored a win on Thursday, with Azerbaijan drawing with Armenia and Ukraine drawing the Netherlands.

All these four teams are now a point behind the sole leaders, much like Spain, which obtained a 2½-1½ victory over Romania thanks to Alexei Shirov’s second win of the event — not surprisingly, he got it in an entertaining tactical fight against Bogdan-Daniel Deac.

All games - Round 6

 

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Standings after round 6

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Russia 10
2 Azerbaijan 9
3 Ukraine 9
4 Spain 9
5 Armenia 9
6 Netherlands 9
7 Hungary 8
8 Georgia 8
9 France 8
10 Serbia 8
11 Poland 8
12 Romania 7
13 Germany 7
14 Norway 7
15 England 7

...39 teams


Shuvalova’s perfect score

After getting close wins in rounds 4 and 5, the Russian women’s team continued their perfect run in Slovenia by getting a clear 3½-½ victory over Greece. Given the round-6 results in the open section, there is now a real chance that the Russians will repeat their double gold from the 2019 Championships in Batumi.

While Aleksandra Goryachkina and Alina Kashlinskaya have very impressive 4½/5 scores so far in the tournament, it is fourth board Polina Shuvalova who has the best performance of the team, having won all five of her games, four of which were played with the white pieces.

Against Ekaterini Pavlidou on Thursday, Shuvalova got a devastating position on the kingside. Pavlidou resigned on move 35.

 

35.Bxh6 was game over.

Polina Shuvalova

Polina Shuvalova

Georgia are in sole second place, two points behind the Russians, after beating Poland by the smallest of margins in round 6. Azerbaijan and Armenia are sharing third and fourth places after also winning their matches by a 2½-1½ score. Azerbaijan will get a chance to take down the favourites in round 7.

The 28th seeds from Lithuania are having a great tournament, as they come from beating three higher-rated teams in a row, and all by 2½-1½ scores. Curiously, none of their representatives has scored more than 3½/6 points, but somehow the squad has been finding ways to get just the necessary wins to accumulate match points for the overall standings table.

All games - Round 6

 

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Standings after round 6

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Russia 12
2 Georgia 10
3 Azerbaijan 9
4 Ukraine 9
5 Greece 8
6 Lithuania 8
7 Italy 7
8 Poland 7
9 Romania 7
10 Netherlands 7
11 Hungary 7
12 Germany 7
13 France 6
14 Armenia 6
15 Slovakia 6

...31 teams


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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.
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lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/19/2021 12:59
While I am happy that Hungary did not lose against Germany, Gaál's game was very interesting. She had a draw due to the 50-move rule 1 move before she was mated... In the Open section Russia had a deserved win against Hungary. But the bright side for the losing team is that it was a win with a minimal margin. And the Hungarian team lacks Lékó, Polgár, Almási Rapport.
calcomar calcomar 11/19/2021 12:17
@malfa - Thanks for pointing out! The move order is now fixed in the article.
malfa malfa 11/19/2021 09:15
@Bill Alg,
the move count is wrong and some plies are missing: the complete sequence is 39...Rh7!! (instead of 39...Be8 as in the game) 40.Rxb5 Rh1+ 41.Kd2 e3+ 42.Ke2 Rh2+ 43.Kf1 Ke4!
Bill Alg Bill Alg 11/19/2021 07:55
In the analysis of Firouzja - Mastrovasilis it is not clear to me how Black can play 42...Ke4, his pawn is on e4 on the diagram and it hasn't moved.
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