Evgeniy Najer’s victory over Pavel Eljanov was the only decisive result as Legacy Square Capital beat defending European Club Cup Champions Alkaloid in the big upset of Round 2. Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk were again rested by top seeds Globus, but Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won a brilliant game against Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu as the team scored a 4.5:1.5 victory. The other top teams also won, while in the women’s section favourites Batumi Chess Club struggled again and this time fell to defeat.
The sun was out in Turkey for Round 2 of the European Club Cup…
…where the match-ups were suddenly much tougher (click on a result to open that game with computer analysis, or hover over a player's name to see his or her results so far):
The tightest match on paper also proved to be so in practice, as second seeds Alkaloid failed to make their powerful line-up of five 2700+ grandmasters count against strong opposition from 5th seeds Legacy Square Capital. With five draws it all came down to Najer-Eljanov, which turned on one moment of madness from Pavel Eljanov:
Any capture on c4 is playable, as are various queen moves, but instead Eljanov went for 20.a3?, forcing the knight to go where it wanted with 20…Nd3. Pavel then took over 8 minutes to react, suggesting he might simply have forgotten that Black could win the exchange. Evgeny Najer is a fearless tactician, and after 21.Qc2 Nxc1 22. bxc4 he finished with a flourish: 22…Nc3! 23.Nxc3 Qxc3! If White captures the queen the 24…Ne2+ fork will win it straight back. Pavel had seen enough and resigned.
The only hope to level the scores was Yu Yangyi in the final game, but in the Chinese player's attempts to push for a win against Boris Grachev he found himself on the verge of defeat and was only saved by the fact a draw confirmed match victory.
The 1st and 3rd seeds, meanwhile, both powered to comfortable wins. Globus again chose to rest Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk, though Kramnik may have had mixed feelings as he watched Shakhriyar Mamedyarov score a second win in a row to bring his rating gain in Antalya to 5.7 points. Those would have been precious points for Vlad in his quest to qualify for the Candidates Tournament by rating, though it should also be noted that his record against Mamedyarov’s opponent Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu is three draws in three Dortmund games.
Mamedyarov, meanwhile, made it look easy, with a truly explosive victory. It seems something must have gone wrong in the opening for his opponent, since the known position after 13.Qa1, with very direct threats against a6 and g7, is not what you want against as good an attacking player as Mamedyarov.
Nisipeanu managed to defend a6 tactically for a while, but then took the bait when Shak pushed e4 to blow open the position. After 23…Bxf3 things completely fell apart with the devastating zwischenzug 24.Rg5+!:
After 24…Kf7 25.Rg7+ Ke8 26.gxf3 White had a king hunt with material level and the white pieces coordinating perfectly. The end came swiftly after 26…Qc6 27.Rc1 Nd3 28.Rg8+ Kd7:
29.Ne5+! Nxe5 30.Rxd8+! Black resigns
Dominant wins for Korobov and Khismatullin on the bottom boards meant Karjakin, Giri and Nepomniachtchi could all afford to take draws.
Peter Svidler made his debut in this year’s event for Mednyi Vsadnik (Bronze Horseman) and it couldn’t have gone much better. He was facing Croatia’s Hrvoje Stevic and commented, “Somewhat unusually for me I was quite well prepared in a line he plays a lot”. Svidler was able to blitz out moves while, with the tide turning against him, his opponent decided to sac an exchange, something Peter described as, “an interesting try, but it doesn’t quite work”. He explained that it should be a straightforward technical win, since Black trying to hold on to the b-pawn would lead to an abrupt end:
Stevic was down to under a minute when he made a final blunder in a hopeless position with 27…b3?, allowing his queen to be trapped with 28.Ra5:
That early finish was good news for chess fans as Svidler then joined Bartlomiej Heberla in the studio. You can watch that appearance here, though currently the recorded video seems to have an audio lag. Peter also gave a quick interview:
As you could watch on the live show, Peter foresaw a fine finish for Vladimir Fedoseev against Maxime Lagarde on board 2:
33…Rxg2+! 34.Nxg2 Rg8 35.Re2 e3! 36.d5 Bxd5 37.Qf1 Rg4! 38.Rd1 Rg4 39.Rxe3 Qh2+ White resigns
It looked like more decisive games would follow, but instead the other four games were drawn.
At one point it seemed 3rd seeds AVE Novy Bor would have to accept a disappointing draw against Beer Sheva Chess Club, but after the top five boards ended peacefully Mateusz Bartel managed to bamboozle Alon Greenfeld on the bottom board.
The day’s most heroic decisive game came from Daniele Vocaturo, who won an exchange on move 25 but seemed to be faced with an unbreakable fortress until he finally managed to beat Slovakian IM Tamas Petenyi in 141 moves.
Naiditsch-led 6th seeds Odlar Yurdu comfortably beat Riga Technical University, but it was a special day for 2325-rated WGM Laura Rogule, who claimed the scalp of 2647-rated GM Gadir Guseinov. She had been doing well but got a huge helping hand when Gadir played the calamitous 31…Rd6??:
32.Bc7! skewered the black rooks and Laura went on to win smoothly, including accurately calculating at the end that she could allow her opponent to queen a pawn first.
Finally, in the open section, it’s hard to resist mentioning a curious game for Ireland’s 2081-rated Kieran O’Driscoll. The day before he’d drawn and almost beaten a strong grandmaster, but after his team White Rose lost that match 5.5:0.5 he found himself on the bottom board of the bottom match in Round 2, facing an unrated Turkish girl born in 2004. She lost a piece on move 11, but wasn’t going to let that dampen her spirits. Kieran should perhaps have resisted the urge to grab the last of White’s army on move 34 when mate-in-3 was on offer, but he probably didn’t think the game would last much longer!
It continued, though, with Sila spending over 5 minutes on
one move and over 10 on another (perhaps she didn’t want to be the first player
to resign in her match) until checkmate finally followed on move 43!
The women’s section couldn’t have been much more hard-fought:
Russian teams UGRA and Legacy Square Capital traded wins in a 2:2 draw, while Natalia Zhukova held a bad position against Elisabeth Paehtz to see her team Bossa Nova defeat a Romanian team including Mihaela Sandu.
The sensation of the round, though, was Azerbaijan’s Odlar Yurdu beating the rating favourites Batumi Chess Club Nona. It was a continuation of Batumi’s problems from the day before, but even wilder. Salome Melia lost badly with White to Khanim Balajayeva and although Nino Batsiashvili eventually won her game it was an epic clash. First Gulnar Mammadova launched a correct piece sacrifice with 18.Nxg7!:
Then she had an advantage until 27.Qa4? suddenly lost on the spot (she had to sacrifice her queen either for the black rook or knight):
Here Nino could have ended the game instantly with 27…Rf1+!, when 28.Kxf1 Ng3# is mate, as is 28.Kh2 Bg1+ 29.Kh1 Nf2# Instead she played 27…Ng3 and after 28.Qh4+ Kg7 29.Qe7+ Rf7+ Gulnar sacrificed her queen and the game went on, though fortunately for Nino’s sanity she nevertheless won in 57 moves.
There was no such happy ending for Nana Dzagnidze in a game where it seems both players were in severe time trouble. This is the position after 31.Qc5:
Nana had already missed an easier win previously, while here 31…Bh5! and e.g. 32.Re3 Bf3!! would have been devastating. Instead after 31…Bf5!? 32.Rce1 Bd3? (32…Bxh3!) Black’s edge had gone and Zeinab Mamedjarova was completely winning by the time control. A good day for the Mamedyarov siblings!
That left Harika Dronavalli needing to win an ending where she had the slim advantage of the bishop pair against a bishop and knight. She came very close, but one slip and the chance had gone, with Ulviyya Fataliyeva thrilled both to have drawn the game and won the match for her team:
For Round 3 Kramnik and Grischuk have finally joined the action, as Globus take on 4th seeds AVE Novy Bor:
Martin Bennedik is continuing to keep us updated on the race to Candidates qualification by rating:
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