The line-ups for the 2018 European Chess Club Cup — to take place from 12-18 October in Chalkidiki, Greece — have been announced. Magnus Carlsen will participate in this tournament but not in the Olympiad, so, since Fabiano Caruana will not go to Greece, another pre-match encounter between the two seems highly unlikely. Besides Carlsen, the players' starting rank list includes Mamedyarov, Ding Liren, Giri, Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi and Grischuk.
This will be the 34th edition of the European Chess Club Cup. This year, the event will take place at the Porto Carras Grand Resort in Chalkidiki, Greece. The format will be the same one used in previous years, a rather short 7-round Swiss tournament. The Open section has 58 teams listed by now, while the Women's includes 12.
The biggest highlight is the participation of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who will play in Chalkidiki three weeks before his match against Caruana. The American, on the other hand, withdrew from the Isle of Man Open — understandable, since that event will finish on October 28th. Fabiano will represent the U.S. in the Olympiad, however, certainly a longer and more stressful event, in September.
Magnus will make his debut for the sixth seeded Valerenga Sjakklubb squad. The Norwegian team has strengthened its line-up remarkably, as they only had three titled players last year. Carlsen will be supported by David Howell, Nils Grandelius, Evgeny Romanov, Borki Predojevic and his compatriots Aryan Tari, Kjetil Lie and Johan-Sebastian Christiansen. In such a short event, it would not be a big surprise for this line-up to finish on the podium.
Five teams are higher rated than Valerenga. Let's take a brief look at each one of them:
1. Globus: Giri, Karjakin, Nepomniachtchi, Grischuk, Wei Yi, Khismatulin
The defending champions have lost their two first boards — Kramnik will not participate and Mamedyarov will play for Odlar Yurdu — but they're still the highest-rated team. So far, in the official line-ups, they have only six players listed, so it's possible for them to include Kramnik or some other strong player in the future. Chinese prodigy Wei Yi is substituting Anton Korobov, who only played three rounds last year.
2. Alkaloid: Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Jakovenko, Kryvoruchko, Andreikin, Eljanov, Nedev, Panceski
The winners from 2016 have kept the same line-up from previous years. The Macedonian team has strongly relied on using the six higher-rated players, although they usually include the "locals" in the first rounds. It's worth noting that they have the two strongest Chinese players, while Jakovenko is having a very good year — he will actually be part of Russia's team in the Olympiad, a controversial decision given the fact that Grischuk and Svidler did not make the cut despite their ratings.
3. Odlar Yurdu: Mamedyarov, Radjabov, Naiditsch, Mamedov, Safarli, Guseinov, Durarbayli, Abasov
Basically the national Azerbaijan team with three strong replacements! All five players who will go to Batumi are now included — Mamedyarov and Radjabov are this year's reinforcements. Naturally, their performance in the Olympiad will have a big impact on how they do in Chalkidiki.
4. AVE Novy Bor: Navara, Harikrishna, Wojtaszek, Vidit, Ragger, Sasikiran, Laznicka, Bartel
This is another team that does not change its composition. Last year, they finished shared second (with Alkaloid and Odlar Yurdu) on match points, but ended up fourth on tiebreaks. The team is made up of very strong and motivated players that have not quite made it into the elite but are capable of upsetting any of their higher-rated colleagues.
5. Mednyi Vsadnik: Svidler, Vitiugov, Fedoseev, Matlakov, Rodshtein, Alekseenko, Goganov
The well-known team from Saint Petersburg will try to improve on their fifth place from 2017 (they finished 2nd in 2016). Curiously, out of the six — very strong — Russian players, only Vitiugov will play in the Olympiad. Hence, we will see a rested team, at least in comparison to some of their rivals in Greece. In this edition, Alekseenko will substitute Khairullin in their line-up.
7. Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova: Wang Hao, Vallejo, Leko, Granda, Vocaturo, David, Brunello, Dvirnyy
Just like the sixth seeded Valerenga, this Italian team has reinforced its line-up remarkably. The four strong Italian representatives that played on the first four boards last year will occupy the last boards in Greece, as the team has brought a group of strong and experienced players to lead the squad. It will be very interesting to see how Wang Hao, Vallejo, Leko and Granda do, as we have not seen them very frequently in top events this year. They might well take gold!
The Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo will return to the fray after missing last year's tournament, played in Turkey. They won in 2016 with Hou Yifan on top board — this year the Chinese star will not take part, but Anna Muzychuk will make for a great replacement. However, that is not enough to arrive as first seeds, as defending champions Nona have a higher rating average. The team from Batumi does not include Harika Dronavalli this time, but they will have four out of five players from the Georgian team that will participate in the Olympiad.
Three other teams have a rating average higher than 2400: Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli from Italy (led by Gunina), Ugra from Russia (led by Pogonina) and Kyiv Chess Federation from Ukraine (led by Mariya Muzychuk).
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