Euro Teams: Ukraine take gold, Firouzja crosses 2800

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/22/2021 – Thanks to a final-round victory over Armenia, Ukraine got their first gold medals at the open section of the European Team Championships. France came second after beating Azerbaijan, with Alireza Firouzja beating Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to climb to second place in the world ranking and become the youngest ever player to cross the 2800-rating barrier. Poland finished in third place. | Photos: ECU Press

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Undefeated

The Ukrainian team, led by Anton Korobov and Andrei Volokitin, defeated Armenia in the final round to grab gold medals at the open section of the European Team Championships. The seventh seeds remained a bit under the radar throughout the tournament, as they did not get blowout wins and only joined the shared lead in round 7. However, they remarkably finished the event undefeated, both in matches and individual games!

Ukraine arrived in Slovenia without the likes of Pavel Eljanov, Vasyl Ivanchuk and Yuriy Kryvoruchko, but nevertheless presented a strong, experienced team, with four players aged over 30 joined by 19-year-old Kirill Shevchenko, who came from winning the strong Lindores Abbey Blitz Tournament in Riga.

None of the Ukrainian representatives had a particularly stellar performance (three of them in fact lost rating points), but good team strategy and enviable consistency ended up giving them the gold medals. The strongest performer in the squad was Volokitin, who scored 6 out of 8 points in Terme Čatež.

This is Ukraine’s first-ever gold medal at the European Team Championship. They had twice won bronze and twice won silver. In 2019, they finished in second place behind Russia.

Andrei Volokitin

Ukraine’s Andrei Volokitin

The eventual champions got off to a great start on Sunday, as Korobov obtained a 23-move win over Armenia’s Gabriel Sargissian on top board.

 

Sargissian’s offer to exchange queens with 19...Qa4 was the losing mistake, as it allowed White to decisively activate his pieces on the kingside after 20.Qxa4 Nxa4 21.Bf6 Rc2 22.h4

 

White’s dark-squared bishop and rook on the h-file create a devastating threat on h8 against the vulnerable king. Sargissian played 22...g4, trying to keep things closed, only to see the other rook join the action with 23.Rd4, and if Black wants to avoid a quick attack, he will need to give up his knight on a4 — Sargissian resigned.

Volokitin also finished the tournament with a win, as he outplayed Haik Martirosyan in a sharp struggle on board 2.

Ukraine vs. Armenia

 

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Firouzja crosses 2800, France get silver

Ukraine’s victory was not certain until the very end of the tournament, as they tied on points with France after Alireza Firouzja beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov to give the French team match victory. The first tiebreak criterion favoured the Ukrainians, which meant France got to return home with silver medals.

While it was all about consistency in Ukraine, France had more ups and downs during the nine days of competition. They lost to Hungary and Armenia in rounds 3 and 5 respectively, but managed to make a comeback with four consecutive victories after the rest day.

Alireza FirouzjaThe individual performances in the French team were also rather uneven, with four out of their five representatives losing Elo points at the 9-round event. The one that did gain rating points, though, was the star of the tournament — Firouzja scored 8 out of 9 points for a stratospheric 3015 tournament rating performance!

Firouzja’s incredible performance follows his triumph at the Grand Swiss in Riga, which granted him a spot in the next Candidates Tournament. Moreover, now that he gained 33.8 rating points in these two events, there is a real chance that he will play the Candidates as the rating favourite, as he climbed to second place in the world ranking and became the youngest ever player to cross the 2800-rating barrier — Magnus Carlsen had surpassed that threshold at 18 years, 11 months and 2 days, while Firouzja will do it at 18 years, 5 months and 13 days!

We all kind of knew a while back that the Iranian-born grandmaster was destined for greatness, but the youngster has more than delivered — and quicker than expected! 

[Photo: Vladimir Jagr, Prague Masters]

France vs. Azerbaijan

 

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Bronze medals for Poland

Two teams won in round 9 to end the event a point behind the leaders — Spain and Poland. While Spain took down the Netherlands thanks to a win by David Anton, Poland got the better of Georgia, scoring a commanding 3½-½ victory with wins by Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Radoslaw Wojtaszek and Wojciech Moranda.

The massive win ended up granting Poland a better tiebreak score than their Spanish colleagues. Duda and Moranda had the strongest performances for the Polish team.

The Spanish squad should be happy with their showing in Slovenia, though, as they were the only team other than Ukraine to finish the event undefeated. On top boards, Alexei Shirov and David Anton had strong performances, with both coming from having a good tournament in Riga — combining both events, Shirov and Anton climbed 25 and 21 places in the live ratings list, respectively.

European Team Chess Championships 2021

The Polish squad


Final standings - Open

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

...39 teams


All games - Round 9

 

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Russian women cannot stop winning 

Despite securing tournament victory with a round to spare, the Russian women’s team finished the event with yet another win, beating Poland by a 2½-1½ score thanks to the full points achieved by Kateryna Lagno and Alina Kashlinskaya.

Similarly, Georgia, which had secured second place after Saturday’s eighth round, finished the tournament with a win.

With seven teams going into round 9 tied on 10 points, the most intriguing question in the women’s tournament was which team would end up getting bronze medals. In the end, it came down to tiebreaks, as Ukraine and Azerbaijan won their matches to finish the tournament on 12/18 points — Azerbaijan had a better Sonneborn-Berger score and thus finished on the third step of the podium.

European Team Chess Championships 2021

A perfect 18 out of 18 score gave Russia their fourth consecutive European title | Photo: Artem Pugachev


Final standings - Women’s

Rk. Team  TB1 
1 Russia 18
2 Georgia 15
3 Azerbaijan 12
4 Ukraine 12
5 Germany 11
6 Serbia 11
7 Poland 10
8 Netherlands 10
9 Italy 10
10 France 10
11 Armenia 10
12 Hungary 10
13 Greece 10
14 Romania 9
15 Slovakia 9

...31 teams


All games - Round 9

 

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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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KIva78 KIva78 11/24/2021 03:36
Jon Speelman beat me to it. I'm sure he's aware that Danny King pointed this out in his YT video to the game, that the ending with occurred in Teichmann-Alapin, Prague 1908 - Alapin found ...Rf3! and drew.
Bill Alg Bill Alg 11/23/2021 12:49
@Revealingknighty I for one have definitely noticed. He has not lost a single game neither in this tournamemt on the first board for Spain nor in the Grand Swiss. And after Adams' loss a couple of days ago, there is now only one player in the world who is both older and higher-rated than Shirov.
Revealingknighty Revealingknighty 11/22/2021 08:47
All focus is on Firouzja at the moment, and rightly so. However have people noticed another promising young talent who has just crossed 2700 on the live rating list at the sprightly age of 49? Perhaps not for the first time...😊
Revealingknighty Revealingknighty 11/22/2021 08:39
@Fritzpa GM Speelman, I was hoping that you might have a look at this one. There might be a race with GM Mueller though!
Fritzpa Fritzpa 11/22/2021 03:35
Just to say that in Firouzja v Mamedyarov if you look at a tablebase then you'll see that 48...Rf3! 49 Re8+ (the pawn ending is a draw) 49...Kd4 or Kd5 (but not Kf5 which loses) is a draw. by the skin of Black's teeth.

I may use this in the next (non-Agony) column but of course anybody else is welconme to do so first.

Cheers,

Jon
malfa malfa 11/22/2021 10:53
@Denix

The word "resurgence" inplies some previous "decline". When exactly, given MVL's outstanding performances and the persistent achievements of international titles by many French players in the last years?
Denix Denix 11/22/2021 07:08
This tournament is more about Firouzja 's performance than anything else IMHO. Congratulations for crossing the 2800. I can see in him the next World Champion in the making. His immigration to France put the Federation in a win and win situation. I hope to see big resurgence in chess activities in this beautiful country.
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