Reports Sep 15, 2014 | 3:07 PMby Colin McGourty

European Club Cup 1: Off to a rocky start

With the combined efforts of the European Club Cup and the Bilbao Masters only Magnus Carlsen is lacking for the full world Top 10 to be in action in Bilbao. On the first day, however, the coverage didn’t exhibit the same star quality. Pairings were late, games were hard to watch and it turned out some sensations never happened, although former World Championship contender Peter Leko was indeed torpedoed by Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom.

Alexei Shirov is playing for third seeds Malakhite | photo: official website

Tarjei J. Svensen is in Bilbao and sent us the following notes:

The event started with a bang – from an organisational point of view – as it was a minor disaster. There were major technical difficulties and the official website went down just hours before the pairings were to be published.

Eventually a limited backup site was set up and the organisers did their best to try and notify people through social media, but even during the round the live games were almost unreachable and it was difficult to get any preliminary results from the European Club Cup.

In addition, it seems the moves/names in some of the live games couldn’t be trusted. An example is in the Ladya - Werder Bremen match, where Gata Kamsky apparently lost after a shocking blunder. However, the results page suggests the opposite.

Some unusual looking clocks were brought into service in the playing hall | photo: Tarjei J. Svensen

The planning before the event could also apparently have been better. The organisers reportedly found out the day before the start of the event that they were short of clocks and had to ask local chess clubs for help. There are several types of clocks in use, and in some of the matches they differed from board to board – not something we’re used to seeing in a top event and a few of the players were unhappy.

In any case, the "first round syndrome" has become the norm for major chess events, and it's clear the organisers will work hard to improve in the next few days.

Photographic evidence suggests the weather has taken a turn for the better - a fact enjoyed by the local wildlife... | photo: Tarjei J. Svensen

On a positive note, the playing hall is spacious and nice and will provide a fine backdrop for some great games. Bilbao is also a wonderful city, even though I’m personally disappointed by the rainy weather on the first two days.

Fortunately for the sanity of the chess world, there wasn’t too much missed on the first day – at least in the open event. The 7-round Swiss format saw the favourites paired against the underdogs, and the results weren’t hard to predict:

1RtgSOCAR Azerbaijan (1)5.50.5SK Team Viking (27)Rtg
1.12752Adams, Michael½½Agrest, Evgenij2579
1.22758Giri, Anish10Lindberg 1984, Bo2403
1.32717Radjabov, Teimour10Westerberg, Jonathan2414
1.42730Wang, Hao10Sagit, Rauan2358
1.52673Korobov, Anton10Pettersson, Anders 19912271
1.62655Safarli, Eltaj10Vaarala, Eric2244
2RtgKSK Rochade Eupen-Kelmis (28)06Obiettivo Risarcimento (2)Rtg
2.12434Glek, Igor01Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime2768
2.22446Fluvia Poyatos, Jordi01Bacrot, Etienne2729
2.32373Kalka, Arkadius Georg01Fressinet, Laurent2712
2.42294Coenen, Michael01Georgiev, Kiril2626
2.52278Meessen, Rudolf01Vocaturo, Daniele2585
2.62255Ahn, Martin01Dvirnyy, Danyyil2522
3RtgMalakhite (3)51En Passant (29)Rtg
3.12789Grischuk, Alexander10Nijboer, Friso2528
3.22734Leko, Peter01Bosboom, Manuel2424
3.32701Shirov, Alexei10Vedder, Henk2382
3.42696Malakhov, Vladimir10Peng, Zhaoqin2392
3.52686Motylev, Alexander10Vedder, Richard2286
3.62684Lysyj, Igor10De Graaf, Dick2205

And so on.

The most eye-catching team in the event is the new Italian powerhouse, Obiettivo Risarcimento, which stars St. Louis hero Fabiano Caruana. The other players aren’t too bad either:

91Caruana, FabianoGM20200092801
102Nakamura, HikaruGM20161922782
113Vachier-Lagrave, MaximeGM6235392768
124Bacrot, EtienneGM6055062729
135Fressinet, LaurentGM6087422712
146Georgiev, KirilGM29000172626
157Vocaturo, DanieleGM8131922585
168Dvirnyy, DanyyilGM8175702522

After Caruana was rested for their 6:0 opening win Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave admitted the team is “built to win the event”:

They’re not the top favourites, though. That honour once more goes to the team sponsored by Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR:

11Mamedyarov, ShakhriyarGM134013192756
22Topalov, VeselinGM29000842784
33Adams, MichaelGM4000412752
44Giri, AnishGM241160682758
55Radjabov, TeimourGM134009242717
66Wang, HaoGM86028832730
77Korobov, AntonGM141057302673
88Safarli, EltajGM134021292655

They let Fabiano Caruana slip through their fingers, and team owner Mair Mamedov admitted to Extratime that he was disappointed:

Unfortunately our line-up doesn’t include Fabiano Caruana. He’s an extremely strong player who has worked on his game tirelessly together with a brilliant coach. In recent years he has, of course, made an enormous leap and moved to a completely new level. It was nice that he played in our team and I hope that we can keep cooperating with him in future.    

Mamedov also made a familiar complaint about the seven-round format for Europe’s premium team event:

Once again we have to note the incomprehensible format of the European Cup – a disproportionately high number of boards and a low number of rounds. For years the leaders of the European Chess Union, including Boris Kutin and Silvio Danailov, promised to change the rules. Now the ECU’s current head, Zurab Azmaiparashvili, is looking at options. In any case, six players and two reserves for seven rounds is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut – an ungodly waste of effort and resources. In my view there should be no less than nine rounds, with four players and two reserves. At the Chess Olympiad teams play 11 rounds with four players and one reserve, while at the European Cup it’s six players and two reserves in seven rounds. A theatre of the absurd! Nevertheless, it’s an event we’ve won once and finished among the medals in on numerous occasions.

By far the chess story of the first round was the loss of Peter Leko (2734) to Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom (2424):

1. c4 ♘f6 2. ♘f3 e6 3. g3 d5 4. ♗g2 ♗e7 5. 0-0 0-0 6. ♕c2 b6 7. cxd5 ♘xd5 8. a3 ♗b7 9. d4 ♘f6 10. ♘c3 c5 11. dxc5 bxc5 12. ♖d1 ♕b6 13. ♗g5 ♖c8 14. ♖ac1 ♘a6 15. e4 ♗f8 16. ♗xf6 gxf6 17. e5 ♗g7 18. ♖d6 ♕c7 19. ♖cd1 ♖d8 20. ♘b5 ♕a5 21. ♘g5 ♖xd6 22. ♕xh7+ ♔f8 23. ♘xd6 fxg5 24. ♗xb7 ♖d8 25. ♕h5 ♖d7 26. ♘c4


A brutal blow struck for underdogs everywhere, although it didn’t have the greatest impact on the match – all of Manuel’s teammates lost!

There was no easy first round in the women's event - Hou Yifan's team and favourites Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo lost to Batumi Chess Club "Nona" after Kateryna Lagno fell to Salome Melia | photo: official website

In Round 2 we already see a crucial clash at the top:

1RtgSHSM Nashe Nasledie (6)--SOCAR Azerbaijan (1)Rtg
1.12710Nepomniachtchi, Ian......Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar2756
1.22731Morozevich, Alexander......Topalov, Veselin2784
1.32662Dreev, Aleksey......Adams, Michael2752
1.42673Grachev, Boris......Giri, Anish2758
1.52614Dubov, Daniil......Radjabov, Teimour2717
1.62610Potkin, Vladimir......Wang, Hao2730

Though some of the favourites shouldn’t have too taxing a time:

2RtgObiettivo Risarcimento (2)--Grantham Sharks (48)Rtg
2.12801Caruana, Fabiano......Roberson, Peter T2403
2.22729Bacrot, Etienne......Rendle, Thomas E2392
2.32712Fressinet, Laurent......Purton, Ben J2142
2.42626Georgiev, Kiril......Murphy, Hugh W2148
2.52585Vocaturo, Daniele......Varnam, Liam D2123
2.62522Dvirnyy, Danyyil......Willis, Rupert0

The lambs to the slaughter were focusing on the positives!

Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent will be commentating on both the European Club Cup and the Bilbao Masters here on chess24. The show starts at 15:00 CET every day.

See also:

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