Euro Teams: Ukraine beat Russia, Firouzja wins again

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/20/2021 – Azerbaijan and Ukraine are sharing the lead after seven rounds in the open section of the European Team Championships. While Azerbaijan defeated the Netherlands on Friday, Ukraine inflicted Russia’s first loss of the event. The best individual performer in Slovenia, Alireza Firouzja, scored his sixth win of the tournament and is now 1.1 Elo points away from reaching the 2800 rating barrier. In the women’s section, the defending champions of Russia still have a perfect score. | Photos: ECU Press

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Azerbaijan and Ukraine share the lead

It has been a tight competition in this year’s open section of the European Team Championships. As many as six teams were tied atop the standings two days ago, with Russia getting the sole lead on Thursday thanks to a victory over Hungary. The defending champions could not keep up the pace, though, as they lost in round 7 to Ukraine allowing their rivals to climb to shared first place. Azerbaijan have as many points as the Ukrainians thanks to a round-7 victory over the Netherlands.

Russia’s defeat gave new hopes of winning the tornament to a number of teams, as no fewer than six squads are now a match point behind the leaders — Spain, Armenia, Poland, France, Serbia and, of course, Russia.

David Anton

Spain’s David Anton is having a good tournament — he has an undefeated 4½/7 score on second board

Ukraine’s all-important win was spearheaded by Kirill Shevchenko, who defeated Kirill Alekseenko on board 3. Shevchenko arrived in Slovenia right after winning the Lindores Abbey Blitz Tournament in Riga, where he outscored a host of elite grandmasters.

The Ukrainian played enterprisingly from the get go, entering a sharp line he had used against Ivan Ivanisevic earlier this year.

 

Alekseenko was ready to face this line as he quickly responded with 10...0-0, a novelty (Ivanisevic had grabbed the pawn and drawn a lengthy, sharp struggle). Two moves later, the contenders began to invest plenty of time on each of their decisions.

Shevchenko stuck to his guns and continued to play for the initiative on the kingside, eventually castling long to bring a second rook to the attack.

 

White was better in the sharp middlegame according to the engines, but it was clear there was plenty of fight left in the position — Alekseenko’s 21...f5, however, was not the best defensive alternative. Shevchenko captured en passant and soon enough transferred his queenside rook to the g-file.

Despite swapping queens and getting rid of White’s dangerous dark-squared bishop, Alekseenko found himself on the wrong side of a lethal attack.

 

The Russian resigned after 30.Ngxf5. The unstoppable threat is 31.Ng6+ or 31.Rg7 first, with Black’s queenside pieces unable to assist in defence.

Kirill Alekseenko

Kirill Alekseenko

Azerbaijan also won thanks to a single win, in their case by Nijat Abasov on board 4. The Dutch team could have drawn the match, though, had Max Warderman found a winning manoeuvre in a double-edged rook endgame.

 

With four rooks on the board and three passers per side, it is difficult to criticize the Dutch grandmaster for not finding the most precise continuation in this position. The 21-year-old grabbed the pawn with 45.Rxe6, which led to a 56-move draw.

The winning continuation was 45.Re4, attacking g4 — in case of 45...Rg2, White immediately starts advancing his b-pawn, while Black will need more preparations to push his connected passers on the kingside due to a potential check from h7. It can be extremely difficult to calculate accurately in double-rook endgames!

Teimour Radjabov

Azerbaijan’s Teimour Radjabov has drawn all six of his games in Slovenia

Firouzja’s astounding run continues

An enticing subplot is developing at the tournament: Alireza Firouzja continues his rapid ascent up the rating ladder coming from a remarkable victory at the Grand Swiss in Riga. The youngster has scored 6½ out of 7 points in Slovenia, which following his 8/11 performance in Latvia has gained him a total of 28.9 rating points.

Firouzja is now the third highest-rated player in the world, as he stands only 0.1 points behind Ding Liren and 1.1 points away from reaching the astronomical 2800 Elo rating!

On Friday, the 18-year-old defeated the ever entertaining Baadur Jobava with the white pieces.

 

Given the players’ styles, it is not surprising that this was a sharp battle. Firouzja got the upper hand in the late middlegame and continued to up the pressure until ending the game with a flourish: 46.Qxd8+ prompted Jobava’s resignation, as 47.Nf6+ is coming next move, grabbing the queen while keeping White’s attacking chances intact.


Standings after round 7

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

...39 teams


All games - Round 7

 

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Russia almost there, Ushenina tests positive

After scoring seven wins in seven matches, the Russian women’s team goes into the last two rounds only needing two points to secure a fourth consecutive triumph in this championship — since each match victory grants two points, the Russians will win the event with a round to spare if they manage to beat Ukraine on Saturday.

Valentina Gunina and Polina Shuvalova won their games in round 7 to beat Azerbaijan 3-1. While Gunina is on 4 out of 5 in the tournament, Shuvalova continues her perfect run in Slovenia, having grabbed her sixth win in as many games against Govhar Beydullayeva.

Valentina Gunina

Valentina Gunina

The second seeds from Georgia are in sole second place, with Ukraine and Greece standing a point behind in the fight for medals. 

On Thursday it was announced that a player had tested positive for Covid-19. The organizers informed that the player had been isolated and that “everyone who was in contact was examined and had already two additional tests — all the tests including rapid and PCR tests were negative”.

The next day it was clarified that the player that tested positive had been Ukraine’s Anna Ushenina, who, according to the regulations in Slovenia, can be replaced by one of her compatriots — in this case by Anna Muzychuk.


Standings after round 7

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

...31 teams


All games - Round 7

 

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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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Somewhat Experienced Somewhat Experienced 11/20/2021 03:47
"46.Qxd8+ prompted Jobava’s resignation, as 47.Nf6+ is coming next move, grabbing the queen while keeping White’s attacking chances intact."
There was no more attack going on after the exchange of Queens and Rooks -- Firouzja was winnig a piece!
ChrisHolmes ChrisHolmes 11/20/2021 01:33
Nice round figures be damned !

Elsewhere I've read : "Firouzja remains in the race for the youngest player ever to reach 2800".

He is already the youngest player ever to reach 2798.9 !!!
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