Valentina Gunina is European Champion

by Macauley Peterson
4/20/2018 – Valentina Gunina won the European Championship 2018 with a full point lead. Nana Dzagnidze and Anna Ushenina top the list of second on eight points. The top fourteen players qualify for the next World Championship tournament. | Pictured: Gunina with tournament director Eva Repkova and chief arbiter Ivan Syrovy (right) | Photo: europchess.org

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Third European Championship title 

Going into the final round with a full-point lead, the Russian grandmaster needed only a draw to guarantee clear first place and the first prize of 11,000 euro. Her opponent Ekaterina Atalik was glad to oblige as the draw gave her a ticket to the next Women's World Championship tournament. Nana Dzagnidze and Anna Ushenina each drew and had the best tiebreaks among the seven players with 8 points. The top 14 places were awarded qualification spots to the World Championship, and so all players who reached at least 7½ points made it.

Gunina, now 29 years old, gains 19 rating points to 2526 and once again breaks into the top ten in the world rankings among women. Her peak rating is 2548 from the summer of 2015.

Dzagnidze, Gunina and Ushenina

Dzagnidze, Gunina and Ushenina | Photo: European Chess Union

Given the qualification prize, several of the games at the top of the standings were played only proforma, but on boards just a bit lower down, players were still fighting to advance. The Elo favourite Mariya Muzychuk has a disastrous final game, going down in flames against Polina Shuvalova.

 

Castling short 18...O-O would have left Muzychuk with an equal position after 19.Qxe6+ Kh8, but by going the other way — 18...O-O-O — she set herself up for a world of hurt. 19.Qxe6+ Rd7 (19...Kb8 fails to 20.Qxc6; 19...Kc7 tees up Rec1 with a winning attack) 20.Ne4 and Black was very vulnerable. She went further wrong immediately 20...Nd8 21.Qh3! Black's position is hopeless.

 

Can you find the finishing blow?

Shuvalova

Polina Shuvalova | Photo: Oleksandr Martynkov / ewcc2018.eu

Shuvalova cashed in with 24.Rxb7! cleaning up. With the win, she also qualified for the Women's World Championship tournament. Muzychuk, by virtue of having the best tiebreaks in the 7 point group, grabs the fourteenth and final qualification spot. A nice consolation prize she could not have counted on going in.

Final standings (top 20) 

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Gunina Valentina 9,0 0,0
2 Dzagnidze Nana 8,0 0,0
3 Ushenina Anna 8,0 0,0
4 Atalik Ekaterina 8,0 0,0
5 Stefanova Antoaneta 8,0 0,0
6 Paehtz Elisabeth 8,0 0,0
7 Kulon Klaudia 8,0 0,0
8 Shuvalova Polina 8,0 0,0
9 Goryachkina Aleksandra 7,5 0,0
10 Mammadzada Gunay 7,5 0,0
11 Osmak Iulija 7,5 0,0
12 Javakhishvili Lela 7,5 0,0
13 Szczepkowska Karina 7,5 0,0
14 Muzychuk Mariya 7,0 0,0
15 Sebag Marie 7,0 0,0
16 Unuk Laura 7,0 0,0
17 Girya Olga 7,0 0,0
18 Schleining Zoya 7,0 0,0
19 Kashlinskaya Alina 7,0 0,0
20 Gaponenko Inna 7,0 0,0

Only the top 14 finishers qualified to the World Championship tournament in 2019

Poland's Klaudia Kulon ended a great tournament with a win against Diamante Cornette, and also reached 8 points. 

 

White's position is squeezed by the advancing black pawns and Kulon now busted through with 30...Nxg2!

On board two, Stefanova had considerable pressure against Dzagnidze but didn't find the most accurate way to prosecute her attack.

 

Stefanova's 22.Raf1 is a perfectly fine move, but time is of the essence and direct action would have brought better winning chances. 22.Rh5 (threatening Qg4+) 22...Qf8 23.Rh4! and Black doesn't have a suitable defence against the threat of Rg4+.

After manoeuvring around for nearly 30 moves, Stefanova finally took a pawn, but it wasn't enough to win.

 

Draw agreed six moves later.

Top results of Round 11

Name Pts. Result Pts. Name
Gunina Valentina ½ - ½ Atalik Ekaterina
Stefanova Antoaneta ½ - ½ Dzagnidze Nana
Paehtz Elisabeth ½ - ½ Ushenina Anna
Shuvalova Polina 7 1 - 0 7 Muzychuk Mariya
Goryachkina Aleksandra 7 ½ - ½ 7 Javakhishvili Lela
Osmak Iulija 7 ½ - ½ 7 Szczepkowska Karina
Cornette Deimante 0 - 1 7 Kulon Klaudia
Milliet Sophie ½ - ½ Kashlinskaya Alina
Mammadzada Gunay 1 - 0 Semenova Elena
Sebag Marie 6 1 - 0 Antolak Julia
Badelka Olga 6 ½ - ½ 6 Batsiashvili Nino
Schleining Zoya 6 1 - 0 6 Pogonina Natalija
Girya Olga 6 1 - 0 6 Ovod Evgenija
Ziaziulkina Nastassia 6 0 - 1 6 Bodnaruk Anastasia
Mamedjarova Zeinab 6 1 - 0 6 Zawadzka Jolanta

All games

 

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Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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