Croatia are the surprise sole leaders of the European Team Championship after Marin Bosiocic ruthlessly punished a blunder by Matthias Bluebaum to give the Croats a narrow win over Germany in Round 5. Previous co-leaders Hungary and Armenia drew, allowing Poland and Russia to join them in second place after wins over Belarus and Turkey. One of the games of the day, meanwhile, saw Shakhriyar Mamedyarov climb to world no. 2 on the live rating list after hunting down David Navara’s king. Russia lead the women’s section by a full point after another match win, this time over Spain.
After the mayhem of the day before there were no big team upsets
in Round 5, but that didn’t mean any lack of action:
6th seeds Hungary and 7th seeds Armenia are both unbeaten so far on Crete, and the co-leaders didn’t spoil each other’s records. Leko-Aronian was a Berlin that it was soon hard to imagine would end in anything other than a draw, and sure enough when the required 30 moves had been made hands were shaken.
Melkumyan-Berkes managed one more move on the bottom board, and while Hungary pressed hard with Viktor Erdos and Richard Rapport they couldn’t avoid all games ending in draws.
That was a chance for co-leaders Croatia, but one it seemed unlikely they’d take when Germany’s Matthias Bluebaum looked to be on the verge of his fourth win of the event, this time with White against Marin Bosiocic. That all changed on move 35, though, when Matthias shuffled his king to f1 rather than h1:
White is up an exchange, but suddenly the black bishops were unleashed with tremendous force: 35…Be6!! and since 36.Rxc7 allows 36…Bh3 mate White had to play 36.fxe3, when the other bishop joined the party with 36…Bd8! There’s no way to avoid losing not just an exchange but a whole rook, with 37.e4 Bh3+ 38.Kf2 Bh4+ 39.Kf3 Bg2+ 40.Ke3 Bxe1 following. White had two pawns for a piece and Bluebaum came close to saving the game, but in the end Bosiocic grabbed the win that took him to 3.5/4 and made Croatia the leaders by a point with four rounds to go. They meet Hungary in Round 6.
Russia bounced back from their loss to Hungary to overwhelm Turkey 3.5:0.5, with Maxim Matlakov settling nerves by gaining a big advantage right out of the opening. He went on to win confidently, while Alexander Grischuk and Daniil Dubov eventually ground down their opponents. Russia now play Poland, who overcame Belarus 3:1 with draws for Radek Wojtaszek and Jan-Krzysztof Duda (playing his 4th game of 5 with the black pieces) while Kacper Piorun and Jacek Tomczak won on the lower boards.
Azerbaijan, meanwhile, warmed up for their grudge match with Armenia in Round 6 by beating the Czech Republic 3:1. Rauf Mamedov beat Vojtech Plat on the bottom board, but the star of the show was Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who sacrificed a pawn in the opening against David Navara and eventually built up a huge attack:
Black has recovered the pawn, but his king is about to go on a long walk off a short plank. 29.Bxf7!! now is given as best by computers, with 29…Kxf7 met by 30.R1d6!, targeting e6 and g6 if the bishop moves. Mamedyarov went for the less flashy 29.R7d6, but that also left Black in deep trouble, and after 29…Rc7 30.Qf3! Bh4 31.Rd7 there was no defending f7. The rest was easy for a guy like Mamedyarov, who drove the black king into the centre of the board and was a couple of moves from delivering mate when Navara resigned:
Mamedyarov had already climbed to third after beating Markus Ragger then dropped to fifth after losing to David Anton in Round 2, but this latest win took him one rung higher to world no. 2, making him the only player other than Magnus currently in the 2800 club.
That could all change, of course, since we can expect Aronian-Mamedyarov in Round 6. In a recent interview Levon talked about how he approaches matches against Azerbaijan:
Regarding stress, I’d like to ask one more question, which I’m sure will interest many chess fans. When you play against Azeri chess players do you feel any additional stress?
Levon Aronian: At the start of my chess career playing against Azeri players probably brought some extra stress with it, but currently I don’t feel stress and try to cope. When you think a lot about how you have to win the opposite happens.
And do they feel the same stress?
It’s been known. I’ll tell a story, not naming names. In 2003 or 2004 I was playing in the European Championship and at 1:30 am the father of one of the Azeri players phoned me. He asked for the game between myself and his son to end in a draw, since it was important for them. I refused, since I don’t like such things. The next day the game went badly for me and I was on the verge of defeat, though ultimately it ended in a draw (laughs).
Some star-packed teams have been struggling on Crete. 4th seeds England are currently in 14th place, three match points off the lead, and although wins for Mickey Adams and Gawain Jones gave them a 2.5:1.5 win over the Greek 2nd team, Andreas Kelires claimed the scalp of Nigel Short:
It’s mayhem with both sides short on time, but Nigel could have clarified matters with the completely forced 30…Nxd7 31.Rxd7 Qxf2+! 32.Qxf2 Rxf2 33.Kxf2 fxg5 34.Bxg5, and Black has an extra outside passed pawn. It would be hard to win, but impossible to lose.
Instead in the game we got 30…R2e5? 31.R1d6 Rf5 32.Rxb6 (32.Qe2! and other moves also win) 32…Rxf3:
It looks like this is just a harmless exchange operation (one rook each is under attack), but there’s a devastating sting in the tail: 33.Re7! If the rook is taken the other rook gives mate-in-2, but otherwise the f3-rook is simply lost for nothing. Nigel resigned, and wasn’t too thrilled with his outing:
At least England won. The Netherlands lost for a 2nd day in a row, despite playing one great game each day. This time it was Anish Giri’s turn to shine. His Romanian opponent Constantin Lupulescu had lured White into taking a knight on c6 in turn for trapping the white queen:
Was a move repetition about to follow? Not exactly! 27.Ra1! coolly left the queen en prise, but after 27…Rxa8 28.Rxa8 Bc8 there was the even cooler 29.Bg2!, when it turns out White is in no rush to win any material. After 29…Kh7 30.Nd5 Nc6 31.h4 Giri was enjoying his position:
The rest was utterly one-sided and the whole game was explained in detail by Giri, who also shared some reflections on how chess has changed since the days of Botvinnik:
The Netherlands were undone by losses for Jorden van Foreest to Vladislav Nevednichy and Erwin l’Ami to Mircea-Emilian Parligras. Since it had been established that he who tries to beat or draw Erwin l’Ami in an equal ending is doomed to failure, Parligras kept the queens on the board and went for a mating attack instead!
In the women’s section, meanwhile, Spain put up a great fight against Russia, but couldn’t stop the runaway leaders. 17-year-old Marta Garcia achieved a promising position against Kateryna Lagno, but was gradually outplayed after she went for a pawn sacrifice to try and open up the black king. Aleksandra Goryachkina also ground down Mairelys Delgado with the black pieces, while Ana Matnadze won a piece but couldn’t convert against the always tricky Valentina Gunina.
Russia’s next opponents Poland are perhaps one of the few remaining teams with the firepower to beat the reigning champions, though they were held to a disappointing 2:2 draw against Italy to join Georgia, Ukraine and Turkey two points behind the leaders.
Round 5 was a good day for the local Greek team, with Greece 1 beating Serbia after a single win for WGM Stavroula Tsolakidou, with the 17-year-old former Under 14, 16 and 18 Girls World Youth Champion having a brilliant tournament:
She’d let Jovana Eric escape until 42…Re8? gave her another chance to strike:
43.Bf4+! and it turns out there’s no way Black’s king can keep defending the minor pieces on d5 and d7. Eric thought for 24 minutes and eventually decided on a pretty conclusion to the game: 43…Kc6 44.Na5+ Kb6 45.Rxd5 Be6 46.Rd6+ Kxa5 47.b4+ Ka4 48.Rxa6#
Jan Gustafsson and Fiona Steil-Antoni will be back commentating live on Friday from 14:00 CET, while you can watch every game with computer analysis here on chess24: Open | Women. You can also follow the games in our free mobile apps: