The cream starts to rise in Rethymnon

by ChessBase
9/30/2003 – In the first few rounds of the European Club Cup the pretenders meet the contenders with predictably devastating results. There were few GM vs GM games in the first round as the favorites demolished teams that had trouble fielding six rated players. NAO is the favorite with three top tenners and Kasparov was in action for Ladya Kazan. Early highlights and games here.

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The real fighting begins in the Euro Club Cup

The top professional teams from all over Europe are in Rethymnon, Crete to battle for the title currently held by Bosna Sarajevo. The small Greek town greets local clubs represented by amateurs, powerhouse teams of mercenaries, and everything in between. Six boards face off in each round of a seven-round Swiss system tournament. We'll be providing regular reports on the standings and games.

Beautiful Rethymnon harbor.

Most of the world's top twenty are here, three of the top ten on the same team! Svidler, Grischuk, and Adams man the first three boards of the NAO club from Paris. Defending champs Bosna Sarajevo count on Shirov and Bareev to lead the way, with Ivan Sokolov as an enviable board three. And you can never count out the powerful Russian teams, all four of which are loaded with 2600 talent. (And unlike most other top teams, the Russian teams rely on local talent.)

Joel Lautier (right) explains something to NAO Paris teammate Paco Vallejo before the start of round one. (Photo from official site.)

The Ladya Kazan team upgraded its first board at the last minute with the addition of none other than Garry Kasparov. The world #1 played his first classical game since Linares in February, wiping out the 2600 Chuchelov in the first round. Kasparov last appeared for a pro team back in 2000 when he played a game for the "Club Kasparov" team in the Israeli league.

Casual in Crete. It's rare to see Kasparov playing in anything other than a suit, but the relaxed atmosphere and warm island weather make you toss off your tie. (Photo from official site.)

The big boys usually don't meet up until round two, and this year we've already had a mild upset. In the second round, defending champs Bosna narrowly lost to the St. Petersburg team led by Sakaev and Korchnoi. The other favorites fared better, although NAO gave up three draws to the Bremen team led by Luke McShane. Board points will be critical if teams are tied on match points.

Much like the early rounds of the Olympiad, these team events are a chance for mortals to play David to the Goliaths of the chess world. It's hard to call the accomplished Chuchelov, now living in Belgium, a David at 2600, but he was giving up over 200 points against his opponent on Sunday. Kasparov played for direct kingside attack and offered a speculative piece sacrifice on move 19.

Replay all selected games online. They include a sharp little attacking win by Khalifman.

Kasparov has just played 19.Bf1-d3, offering the f4 bishop. It's a little hard to imagine what it's like sitting there against Kasparov and he offers you a bishop and takes aim at your king. Chuchelov decided that either Kasparov wasn't bluffing or that it was a good enough bluff!

White has so many long-term attacking prospects that it's hard to look at just one line after 19...exf4. 20.Bxh7+ Kh8 21.Rhe1!? is a good start, but Black seems to have good defensive possibilities.

What we know for sure is that Black resigned seven moves after declining the bishop sacrifice with 19...e4 20.Be2 h6 21.Nd6 Bxd6 22.Bxd6.

Now, after declining the bishop, Chuchelov mistakenly grabs the knight. 22...hxg5? (22...Ne7) 23.hxg5 Nh7 (diagram).

Kasparov finished off prettily with 24.Rxh7! Kxh7 25.Bxf8 Qxf8 26.Qxe4+ Kg8 27.Qd5+ 1-0

White gets his piece back with a few pawns worth of interest after 27...Qf7 28.Qxf7+ Kxf7 29.Rxd7+ Kg6 30.Rxb7.

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