Euro Teams: Russian women grab title with a round to spare

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/21/2021 – An eighth win in as many matches gave Russia tournament victory at the women’s section of the European Team Championships with a round to spare. This is Russia’s fourth consecutive title and the seventh in the last eight events. Meanwhile, in the open section, four teams go into the final round tied for first place — Armenia, France, Azerbaijan and Ukraine. | Photos: Mark Livshitz

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A fourth title in a row

There was no stopping the Russian women’s team at the European Team Championships in Slovenia. The clear rating favourites won all eight of their matches so far to grab their fourth consecutive title with a round to spare. Moreover, the Russians have won seven out of the last eight European events, getting silver medals the one time they did not win the event, in 2013.

In a commanding performance, the champs scored 26½/32 board points, losing only one individual game throughout the event. All five representatives had great tournaments, with Polina Shuvalova (6½/7) and Alina Kashlinskaya (5½/6) the highest scorers of the squad.

Three out of the five Russian players were part of the team in all four tournaments they won consecutively — Aleksandra Goryachkina, Kateryna Lagno and Valentina Gunina.

Kateryna Lagno

Kateryna Lagno

In round 8, Russia scored a 3-1 victory over Ukraine, with wins by Gunina and Kashlinskaya on boards 2 and 4 respectively. In a long game full of ups and downs, Kashlinskaya defeated Inna Gaponenko with the white pieces. The Russian had to work hard to get a 79-move win, after missing a chance to get the work done much earlier.

 

The natural attacking move 39.Qf8 is winning here, threatening mate on h8. With the time control approaching though, Kashlinskaya most likely decided to avoid a potential perpetual check by Black, which might have arisen after 39...Qd1+ 40.Kh2 Nf3+. She missed that the white king can escape with 41.Kg3 (not 41.gxf3)

 

Now Black runs out of checks after 41...Qe1+ 42.Kxf3 Qd1+ 43.Kg3 Qe1+ 44.Kh2.

On the first diagram, the Russian played 39.Ra8, which led to an equal position according to the engines. It was never going to be easy for Black, however, and Gaponenko could not find the machine-like defensive manoeuvres needed to keep the balance.

European Team Chess Championships 2021

Board 4 is somewhat socially distanced at the playing hall in Terme Čatež

Round 8 also saw Georgia beating Greece by a 3½-½ score, which secured them second place with a round to spare. Below the favourites, however, no fewer than seven teams are tied on 10 points, so we expect to see a tense fight for bronze on Sunday, with the squads keeping an eye on neighbouring boards to adjust their play appropriately.


Standings after round 8

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Russia 16
2 Georgia 13
3 Poland 10
4 Azerbaijan 10
5 Ukraine 10
6 France 10
7 Netherlands 10
8 Hungary 10
9 Greece 10
10 Serbia 9
11 Slovakia 9
12 Germany 9
13 Lithuania 9
14 Italy 8
15 Armenia 8

...31 teams


All games - Round 8

 

Replay all games at Live.ChessBase.com

France beat Russia, join the lead

The man of the hour, 18-year-old Alireza Firouzja, is not only having a great tournament himself, but thanks to a French victory over Russia in round 8, he might also help his new team to get medals in Slovenia — Firouzja has been representing France since July this year

After scoring five consecutive wins to reach an incredible 2798.9 live rating, the Iranian-born grandmaster drew Alexander Grischuk from the black side of a Ruy Lopez. His teammates Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Etienne Bacrot also drew on boards 2 and 3, while Maxime Lagarde got the all-important full point in his white game against Andrey Esipenko.

 

Black needs to be very accurate here to keep the balance. However, instead of the correct 35...Qg5, gaining a key tempo against the rook on c1, Esipenko played 35...Qe6, which allowed an immediate 36.c7 — there followed 36...Qc6 37.Qe5

 

This position is already winning for White, although the way to convert it is by no means trivial. Lagarde managed to find the right path, getting the win that allowed France to join the lead with one round to go.

Alexander Grischuk, Alireza Firouzja

Russia versus France

Azerbaijan and Ukraine, which were sharing the lead after round 7, signed four quick draws on Saturday. Besides France, they were also joined in first place by Armenia — the 3-time Olympic champions obtained a commanding 3½-½ victory over Serbia.

In Sunday’s last round, France will face Azerbaijan and Ukraine will play Armenia. Thus, potentially we will get to see a sharp struggle between Firouzja and the ever-fighting Shakhriyar Mamedyarov!


Standings after round 8

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

...39 teams


All games - Round 8

 

Replay all games at Live.ChessBase.com

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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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jakaiden jakaiden 11/22/2021 06:42
No, there is no danger! With a 99% survival rate, how many of these young chess players died from Covid? These mask rules are stupid. The virus doesn't float over the chess board but everywhere else in the tournament hall, right? And at Tata Steel they have 5-year olds wearing masks, WTF!
lajosarpad lajosarpad 11/21/2021 04:45
Yes, but there are dangers. Ushenyina was tested positive and since she didn't wear a mask, others were more exposed to the virus.
elmaestro1967 elmaestro1967 11/21/2021 05:44
Love to se our chess friend playing our beloved chess game with out mask... FREEDOM!!!! LOVE IT!!!
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