Vassily Ivanchuk’s team Mérida Patrimonio de la Humanidad have won the Spanish Team Championship, which ended today in the world-renowned chess city of Linares. The 7-round event featured a combination of Spanish players and international stars such as Anish Giri and Etienne Bacrot.
The winners of the “Honour Division” were the top seeds from Mérida in Western Spain,
with the Roman ruins to be found there explaining the extravagant name. They had an imposing line-up, with Ferenc Berkes in particular demolishing the opposition:
Second, a point back, were Sestao Naturgas Energia, while Magic Extremadura took third.
A team with "Chuky" on top board and Korneev and
Illescas on the bottom two is not to be treated lightly!
is the top Spanish team division, featuring the best Spanish players alongside
numerous international stars (Giri, Ivanchuk, Almasi, Iturrizaga, etc.). As well
as a fierce sporting struggle – no team went unbeaten – it’s also an ideal
training ground for Spanish IMs and GMs, who can come face to face with some of
the big guns.
Going into the final round the leaders had a “relatively simple” task against La Escola D’Escacs from Barcelona, a team fighting to avoid relegation. Mérida took no mercy and thrashed them 5.5:0.5, ensuring themselves first place:
wasn’t Illescas’ tournament, with the 48-year-old former Spanish no. 1 dropping
rating points, but he ended by winning a fine miniature in the last round,
showing just what can happen if Black plays too optimistically in the opening:
13. ♘xg5! The multiple Spanish Champion doesn't need to be asked twice.
20. ♖xa6+! The final blow.
On board two Canada’s
Kevin Spraggett had Black against Hungary’s Zoltan Almasi. Things were going more or less normally, until...
Kevin was probably already thinking about a draw, since it seems as though all the pieces are soon going to be exchanged and a draw against a 2700-player is of course a great result. Moves like Nd4 would have been perfectly reasonable. However, the Canadian may have relaxed too soon and played:
A vital encounter took place in the final round between Sestao and Solvay, who were competing for second place. It was a close fight:
Giri scored a crucial win against Harikrishna. The India played Na5 in the
opening to surprise his opponent, but soon ended up slightly worse.
You can replay the whole game here.
The teams relegated were Equigoma and Barberá, who despite much lower budgets still put up a fight.
In the final round Catalan Barberá scored their first point by holding Gros Xake (Bacrot, Van Wely and co.) to a draw,
which didn’t alter their fate but meant they could leave Linares with
their heads held high.
Let’s take a look at how their young talent Erik
Ramírez managed to dismantle IM Argandoña:
23.f3 seems to defend everything, but the international master had clearly missed the pretty tactical blow that decides the game. Erik played 23...Ba4! and after 24.Qxa4 played 24...Nxe2+ followed by Qxf3, regaining his piece with an extra pawn. Argandoña decided to give up the exchange on d1 but couldn't avoid defeat.
So the final standings were as follows:
That concluded a seemingly endless sequence of tournaments in Linares, but the Spanish summer just goes on. The attention of the chess world will be focussed on Bilbao for the Masters Final and the European Chess Club Cup, which start in just a few days’ time.
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