Reports Oct 9, 2017 | 6:27 AMby Colin McGourty

Euro Club Cup 1: Who needs Kramnik?

Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler sat out the first day of the 2017 European Club Cup in Turkey, but that couldn’t stop their teams going on to score 6:0 victories. World Cup runner-up Ding Liren was held to a draw by 17-year-old Italian IM Lorenzo Lodici, but the only match upset in the open event was Jon Ludvig Hammer’s Oslo Schakselskap drawing a local side on the 15th table. A forfeit loss on the bottom board there didn’t help. There were no match upsets in the women’s section, but favourites Batumi Chess Club only scraped a 2.5:1.5 win over local side Anatolia.    

Round 1 of the 2017 European Club Cup in full swing | photo: David Llada, official website

The 2017 European Club Cup is taking place from the 8th to the 14th October in the Avantgarde Resort Hotel in Göynük, a coastal town about 40 km south of Antalya in Turkey:

  • Avantgarde Resort Hotel

The event is a 7-round sprint, with 2-4 club teams from each European Chess Federation allowed to take part in the open section. Each team is represented by 6 players a round, with the top seeds, Globus from Russia, managing a stunning 2772 average on their top six boards:

1. Globus (RtgAvg:2772 / TB1: 2 / TB2: 0) Captain: Maletin, Pavel
1GMKramnik Vladimir2794
2GMMamedyarov Shakhriyar2791
3GMGrischuk Alexander2785
4GMKarjakin Sergey2765
5GMGiri Anish2762
6GMNepomniachtchi Ian2733
7GMKorobov Anton2652
8GMKhismatullin Denis2628

2nd seeds are the reigning champions Alkaloid, who average a “mere” 2724:

2. Alkaloid (RtgAvg:2724 / TB1: 2 / TB2: 0) Captain: Jacimovic, Dragoljub
1GMDing Liren2772
2GMEljanov Pavel2720
3GMAndreikin Dmitry2705
4GMYu Yangyi2743
5GMJakovenko Dmitry2710
6GMKryvoruchko Yuriy2692
7IMPancevski Filip2489
8GMNedev Trajko2479

Peter Svidler’s Mednyi Vsadnik are the other team to average over 2700 (2711), while Radek Wojtaszek’s AVE Novy Bor are just under at 2698. Between them those four teams have won the event in four of the last six years, with the missing winners SOCAR from Azerbaijan, who were the top seeds in 2015 (Topalov, Giri, Caruana, Adams, Radjabov, Mamedyarov) but haven’t played the event since.

Sergey Karjakin gets some help with his first move from Turkish Chess Federation President Gülkız Tulay and ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili | photo: David Llada, official website

Overall there’s been a decline in the participation of top players, with 33 2700+ players in 2015, 25 in 2016 and “only” 19 in 2017, while the 36 teams this year compare to 62 in 2016 and 50 in 2015. One of the most notable differences is that the Italian OR Padova team this year features only Italian players, while last year it included MVL, Levon Aronian, Boris Gelfand, Peter Leko and Etienne Bacrot. Apart from mere finances that may also be with an eye on the European Team Championship that starts on Crete in under three weeks’ time.

The same loss of star power can be witnessed in the women’s section, where defending champions and last year’s top seeds Cercle d’Echecs Monte-Carlo are missing. That team, featuring Hou Yifan and the Muzychuk sisters, won all seven of their matches. In total there are just 12 women’s teams, 4 of them Turkish, with all but 3 of the teams including only 4 players, so that their players will have to play all 7 rounds.

Enough talk about the participation trends, though, since we’re left with enough top players for two or three supertournaments! In Round 1 the favourites largely made easy work of the outsiders (click on a result to open a game with computer analysis):

Top seeds Globus got off to a particularly fast start. Jon Arni Halldorsson’s 12…Nd6? was instantly punished:

Denis Khismatullin spotted 13.Nxd5!, when after 13…exd5 14.Qxd5 Black can only save the a8-rook at the cost of a piece e.g. 14…Nd7 15.Qxd6. The computer would play on with 13…Na6 and try to ignore the loss of a key pawn, but Jon took the understandable decision to resign. There was some suggestion in the live commentary that it was a strange decision in a team competition, but it’s fair to say half a point was never going to make a significant difference to Icelandic team Fjölnir Chess Club’s chances of success.

Denis Khismatullin got the favourites off to a flying start | photo: David Llada, official website

Nepomniachtchi crashed to victory in 20 moves, Korobov in 24 and Karjakin in 25, in a game where he just waited for his opponent to self-combust in time trouble (at the end Oliver Johannesson had under a minute while Karjakin had over an hour). Giri was richly rewarded for playing a super-sharp Najdorf, with the path to victory requiring finding a key move here:

20…Rh3! The pin along the 3rd rank is a huge thorn in White’s side, and even if Giri didn’t always find the computer-approved solution he won very convincingly all the same.

Anish Giri about to play 20...Rh3! | photo: David Llada, official website 

"Draw me" deserves to find its place on a T-shirt!

On top board Mamedyarov played the Philidor Defence and also did some pinning and winning to beat GM Hedinn Steingrimsson and gain 2.3 rating points. Given the race for Candidates qualification by rating it could be classed as a surprise that Vladimir Kramnik didn’t play from the first game, but on the other hand, he skipped the first two rounds in both 2016 and 2015, and playing seven games without a break would be unlikely to boost his chances of success.

The other top teams were similarly convincing, with quick crushes mixed in with some nice demonstrations of technique:

There were some minor tragedies. Estonian IM Olav Sepp was just about holding his own against Maxim Matlakov until he defended the h5-pawn with his queen on move 40: 

The c6-knight had previously been unable to move due to the threat of mate-in-1 with Rc8, but 40...Nd4+! of course won the queen and game with check. 

Ding Liren had a tough return to normal chess action after his World Cup heroics | photo: David Llada, official website

There were isolated heroes: English FM Adam Ashton drew Vladimir Malakhov, untitled Kieran O’Driscoll from Ireland gave Azeri GM Azer Mirzoev a real scare and in particular 17-year-old Italian IM Lorenzo Lodici managed to hold the World Cup runner-up Ding Liren to a draw with Black. It wasn’t just the result but the way he did it, catching his opponent out in the opening and playing a tricky ending well:

Here after 23…Nb6 24.d6 c4 25.R1h6 Ba3+ the players started repeating moves and drew, though Black might even have been better after 23…Na3!?

Lorenzo was delighted to have seized his chance (you can find the full Day 1 livestream, including a long interview with Lorenzo, here):

Perhaps the most enjoyable game of the day in the open section was Norwegian IM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen’s loss to David Navara. The position on the board was unique by move 6 and was soon wildly double-edged – it would be an understatement to say that both kings soon became exposed. This is the position after 22.Rxf7+:

At times it seemed Navara had lost control of the position, but with time short he managed to navigate the complications better and help his team to a 6:0 victory. 

Harikrishna beat 18-year-old Aryan Tari on top board | photo: David Llada, official website 

It wasn’t a great day for the Norwegian teams at the event, with Jon Ludvig Hammer's Oslo Schakselskap being held to a draw by Turkish side Karaman Belediyesi Spor Kulübü the only match upset of the whole round.

Jon Ludvig Hammer was held to a draw by Azeri IM Ulvi Sadikhov | photo: David Llada, official website

In the women’s section the surprises were again players being held to draws:

Things went wrong for Olga Girya, but Natalia Pogonina and her other teammates ensured the match was comfortably won | photo: David Llada, official website

The one exception was Olga Girya, who suddenly slipped by allowing Black to infiltrate with her queen on e1. French WFM Cecile Haussernot made no mistake in what followed:

46…Bf3+! 47.Rxf3 Rg1+! 48.Kh3 Qf6! and Girya resigned with mate coming next move. That had no influence on the match, though, which 2nd seeds UGRA from Russia won 3:1 against France's Mullhouse Philidor.

The real shocker was how tough a day the top seeds Batumi Chess Club NONA had against the local team Anatolia. 

Nana Dzagnidze had to defend a 4 vs. 3 pawn ending against Ekaterina Atalik, Betul Cemre Yildiz impressively forced a draw against Harika Dronavalli and only Bela Khotenashvili managed to win an ending with equal material against Khayala Isgandarova. 

Salome Melia had some moments when she might have wished the ground would swallow her up | photo: David Llada, official website

The weirdest game of the match, though, saw 2001-born WFM Cagil Arda go from better to dead lost in the space of two moves against Salome Melia. 31.Qxf7 fell for some Tactics 101:

31…Rd1+! won the queen for a rook and should have been game over, but perhaps Melia had already notched up the win in her head and relaxed too soon. A mere ten moves later it was objectively drawn, with the position after 43.Rgf7 as follows:

The g-pawn and the control of the 7th rank meant Black had little choice but to force a draw by perpetual check to avoid an even worse outcome.

We can expect some more competitive matches in Monday’s Round 2, with Kramnik-Nisipeanu and Ding Liren-Inarkiev among the potential clashes. Tune in to watch all the games live, with video commentary, here on chess24 from 14:00 CET onwards: Open | Women

You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps:


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