European Women's Ch: Fighting chess

by Antonio Pereira
4/14/2019 – No less than twenty-two players share first place on 2½ out of 3 at the European Women's Individual Championship in Antalya. Curiously, though, only four of the top ten seeds are in the large leading group, as some of the favourites have been having a hard time trying to take down lower-rated opponents. It has been a hard struggle so far, and only fourteen players will get a ticket to the World Cup. Eight rounds are still ahead. | Photo: Kasia Selbes Photography / Official site

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No perfect scores

It seems slightly surprising to see that in a field of 130 participants, no player has managed to finish round three with three straight wins. However, when we take a deeper look, we realize that, for example, second seed Nana Dzagnidze has only managed a 50% score so far and that sixth seed Deimante Cornette is actually on '-1'. Clearly the players have arrived in Turkey with their minds set to give it all for a spot at the upcoming World Cup.

The fighting spirit might also be enhanced by the good conditions given to the players. Natalia Zhukova, in a short interview, had only praise for the organizing team, mentioning how difficult it will be for her to stay fit with such good food on offer. These factors are especially important given the length of the tournament.

European Women's Chess Championship

A nice atmosphere...On to the chess... | Photo: Official site

Round 1

The favourite by rating in Antalya is Aleksandra Goryachkina, who is currently the youngest player in the world's top 10 and still a Junior — she will turn 21 in September. Her first round opponent Mónica Calzetta is known not only for her chess skills but also for her work as a photographer and reporter.

The youngster had the upper hand with the black pieces, until she took the bait put forth by Calzetta:


Calzetta played 44.g5, threatening f7 and leaving her rook en prise on b2. Goryachkina could have continued 44...♞xf4, when her rooks and knight would swiftly coordinate an attack against the white king. Instead, Aleksandra captured the rook with 44...xb2?, and there was no way to avoid a perpetual 45.xf7+ — after 45...g8 46.b7 d3 the rook gives checks from b8 and b7 and the king cannot escape.

Monica Calzetta

Mónica escaped with a draw | Photo: Official site

While the rest of the top seven seeds managed to win, Deimante Cornette fell against Italian IM Elena Sedina on the sixth board. The Lithuanian played a variation of the French Defence used in the past by Alexander Morozevich, but missed the right continuation on move 12 and already gave up three moves later:


Round 2

Already on the second day of action, eight out of the ten top boards finished drawn, and Goryachkina split the point once again, despite out-rating her opponent by over two-hundred points. And they were not short draws, as only Badelka v Khotenashvili on board two did not reach the time control. In fact, upsets were seen in both decisive encounters. Russian IM Evgenija Ovod took down top French player Marie Sebag and the veteran from Scotland Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant got the better of Polina Shuvalova.

Ovod calculated precisely to find the right way to go after Sebag underestimated her attacking chances:


Try your own variations on the diagram above!

Marie had just continued her queenside expansion with 21...b4, failing to notice that it was necessary to defend f7 and e6 with a move like 21...♛f8 or 21...♜e8. Evgenija thought for fifteen minutes before choosing the correct way to start the attack: 22.exf7. After 22...xf7 23.xe6 d8 24.g6 Black managed to stave off the direct threats against her king, but ended up in a miserable ending after having lost way too many pawns:


After having reached the time control, Sebag gave up in this position.

Marie Sebag

Marie Sebag has enough time to bounce back | Photo: Official site

An instructive endgame snippet was seen in the game that faced Russians Anastasia Bodnaruk against Elena Semenova. The general principle of trying to keep your pawns on the opposite colour of your bishop is key in this case:


Bodnaruk closed the deal with 65.h7+ h8 66.g6!, and Black cannot capture the bishop without allowing either the h or f-pawn to queen. Semenova continued with 66...b3, but the white bishop went on to grab the pawns on f7 and e6 to eventually get the full point after 74 moves.

European Women's Chess Championship 2019

All fighting for the fourteen spots at the World Cup | Photo: Official site

Round 3

Eight players had managed to get two straight wins before round three, but they all signed peace treaties when paired against each other — boards one and two did it quickly, while the battles on boards three and four lasted 46 and 65 moves, respectively. 

A couple of curious incidents were the talk of the town on Saturday. First, Ana Matnadze forgot about a basic trick in the Sicilian Dragon against Pia Cramling and was already lost as early as move 9:


9...g4? gives up a piece after 10.xg4 xg4 11.xc6 xd1. Ana could have resigned with a clear conscience at that point, but instead chose to grieve for a while at the board and only gave up after move 30. With this win, Pia joined the leading pack and was paired against Elina Danielan in round four. 

Cramling had it easy on Saturday | Photo: Official site

Those following the game Maria Gevorgyan versus Deimante Cornette live probably thought there was some problem with the broadcasting of the moves or that some strange episode led to the game ending in a playable albeit difficult position for Black. Can you find the way to defend against Black's threats? White to move:


The most logical way to continue is with 24.0-0-0, and that is precisely what Gevorgyan did. The reason this move was not shown on the broadcast, however, is that castling long is an illegal move! White had played 14.b1 and then returned with 16.a1, making it impossible to castle on that side. Sadly for Cornette, she did not realize this was the case and went on to lose the game after a long struggle. Incredible!

European Women's Chess Championship 2019

Eight rounds to go | Photo: Official site

Standings after Round 3 (top 30)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Sargsyan Anna M. 2,5 2444
2 Ovod Evgenija 2,5 2438
3 Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan 2,5 2435
4 Worek Joanna 2,5 2428
5 Abdulla Khayala 2,5 2419
6 Kashlinskaya Alina 2,5 2384
7 Khotenashvili Bela 2,5 2383
8 Cramling Pia 2,5 2366
9 Paehtz Elisabeth 2,5 2361
10 Guichard Pauline 2,5 2357
11 Atalik Ekaterina 2,5 2353
12 Ushenina Anna 2,5 2352
13 Houska Jovanka 2,5 2343
14 Danielian Elina 2,5 2325
15 Pogonina Natalija 2,5 2323
16 Girya Olga 2,5 2322
17 Tsolakidou Stavroula 2,5 2307
18 Osmak Iulija 2,5 2298
19 Gaponenko Inna 2,5 2297
20 Mkrtchian Lilit 2,5 2295
21 Salimova Nurgyul 2,5 2283
22 Buksa Nataliya 2,5 2233
23 Badelka Olga 2,0 2472
24 Gevorgyan Maria 2,0 2460
25 Mammadova Gulnar 2,0 2454
26 Solozhenkina Elizaveta 2,0 2447
27 Sedina Elena 2,0 2434
28 Maltsevskaya Aleksandra 2,0 2423
29 Garifullina Leya 2,0 2399
30 Janzelj Lara 2,0 2392

...130 players

All games



Antonio is a freelance writer and a philologist. He is mainly interested in the links between chess and culture, primarily literature. In chess games, he skews towards endgames and positional play.


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