Start of the European Championship in Skopje

by ChessBase
3/20/2019 – The European Championship got underway in Skopje on Monday. The defending champion Ivan Saric is back — as the fifth seed — but Russian players are the top three Elo favourites. Being highly rated does not mean an easy time in a tournament like this, however, as Ukrainian GM Pavel Eljanov found out in round one. Two rounds in, 39 players still have a perfect score. | Photos:

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Two down, nine to go

Over the next two weeks, some 360 players will fight out the title of European Champion over 11 rounds. Not only is the title and ample prize money of EUR €100,000 up for grabs, but also 22 qualifying places for the 2019 World Cup — a 128-player knockout tournament which will, in turn, determine two spots in the Candidates Tournament of 2020.

The starting list contains many strong grandmasters, led by rising Russian star Vladislav Artemiev. The only 21-year-old from Omsk is undoubtedly one of the greatest junior hopes of Russian chess. He gained international notoriety in January by sensationally winning the Gibraltar Masters with a score of 8½/10, leaving behind many well-known stars, including his vanquished opponents Hikaru Nakamura, David Navara and Yu Yangyi.

First move of the first round

Norwegian IM Benjamin Haldorsen was no trouble for Artemiev in Round 1 | Photo:

The first question in the early rounds of a big open is always: Who made a fool of the favourites? There were a few upsets in round one, among them, Rauf Mamedov and Pavel Eljanov who suffered losses at the hands of Paulius Pultinevicius and Goran Todorevic, each about 250 points lower rated. Evgeny Tomashevsky, Ivan Saric, Francisco Vallejo-Pons, Anton Korobov, Ruslan Ponomariev, Alexey Dreev or Eltaj Safarli got nicked for draws. 

On the top board, 19-year-old Benjamin Haldorsen from Norway put up a good fight against Artemiev. The following position arose in the extremely trendy Caro-Kann variation with 4...f6 5.xf6 exf6 and 9...h5.


White is certainly no worse, not even after Artemiev's flashy 23...xh3. There followed 24.h1 c8 25.xc7 xc7 26.d4 (26.d6!?) and after 26...e5 White bravely grabbed two pieces for the rook with 27.xe4 xe4 28.f3. However, the endgame with queen, rook and two bishops against queen and two rooks required great precision and in this regard, Artemiev showed his class.


Black won this complicated endgame 

Artemiev continued his strong play in Tuesday's second round, defeating Aeroflot Open winner Kaido Kulaots, whom we recently interviewed.


White has a number of good options, but Artemiev went for the intimidating 18.g4 d7 19.xf7! xf7 20.xe6 xe6 21.e1+ e5 22.dxe5 f7 23.xe6 xe7 24.xd5 and curiously, after Kulaots gave the rook on a8 we get a similar material balance to the game above. Once gain Artemiev handled the rook better — of course it helps to have three extra pawns! 


At number two on the starting list, with an Elo of 2705, is Evgeny Tomashevsky, a player who has been in the business a bit longer. Exactly ten years ago, Tomashevsky was once able to win the European Championship. Now 31 years old, he's known for his calm, positional playing style and was part of the Russian Olympic team in Baku in 2016. But in the first round he dropped a half point to IM Max Warmerdam. Tomashevsky was unable to gain any advantage with the white pieces against the 18-year-old from the Netherlands and finally offered a draw on almost full board draw.


Tomashevsky rebounded in the second round, however, getting a black win. 


Tomashevsky (right) analysing with IM Juraj Druska | Photo:

IM Lawrence Trent reviewed the losses by Eljanov and Mamedov in his Weekly Show yesterday: 

Lawrence is live most Tuesdays at 18:00 CEST / 5 pm BST time / 12 Noon EDT

The Belarussian battle of round two resulted in another 2700 upset, as Andrey Zhigalko took down Vladislav Kovalev (who won the Tata Steel Challengers in January) after the latter when for an adventurous kingside attack that came up short.


23...f4 was needed her to keep the pressure on, but Kovalev's 23...h2 allowed Zhigalko to launch a counter attack: 24.f4 xf4 25.f1 h4 26.xe5 dxe5 27.g4 when White is firmly on top. He won in 48 moves.

That win leaves Zhigalko nominally in the lead, one of 39 players with a perfect 2/2 score.

Standings after Round 2 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Zhigalko Andrey 2,0 2703
2 Van Foreest Lucas 2,0 2657
3 Baron Tal 2,0 2635
4 Arizmendi Martinez Julen Luis 2,0 2631
5 Zajic Milan 2,0 2616
6 Golubka Petro 2,0 2603
7 Belyakov Bogdan 2,0 2593
8 Janik Igor 2,0 2580
9 Artemiev Vladislav 2,0 2544
10 Grandelius Nils 2,0 2537
11 Cheparinov Ivan 2,0 2535
12 Rodshtein Maxim 2,0 2529
13 Berkes Ferenc 2,0 2525
14 Melkumyan Hrant 2,0 2521
15 Gelfand Boris 2,0 2515
16 Fressinet Laurent 2,0 2513
17 Alekseenko Kirill 2,0 2511
18 Kobalia Mikhail 2,0 2504
19 Piorun Kacper 2,0 2496
20 Rakhmanov Aleksandr 2,0 2490
  Paravyan David 2,0 2490
22 Indjic Aleksandar 2,0 2485
23 Vocaturo Daniele 2,0 2483
24 Chigaev Maksim 2,0 2478
25 Svane Rasmus 2,0 2468

All games


Marco Baldauf and Andre Schulz contributed to this story


Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register