The Russian teams finally lived up to expectations in Reykjavik and claimed double gold at the European Team Chess Championship. It was fitting, therefore, that as well as being congratulated by President Putin they received a hero’s welcome on their return to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Team leader Peter Svidler and Evgeny Tomashevsky were among the players who ran the gauntlet of media interviews, with the Russia Chess Federation providing photos and quotes.
Just as Fabiano Caruana warmed up for beating Hikaru Nakamura in blitz by playing Jan and Pepe during their 72-hour Bantherthon, Peter Svidler got in the perfect preparation by playing a 2-hour Banter Blitz session just before he headed off to represent Russia. You can rewatch that below:
It seemed to work! Peter scored an unbeaten +2 on top board for a 2803 rating performance, helping Russian finish a full two points clear of their nearest rivals Armenia, Hungary and France. On the team’s return to Moscow Vladimir Barsky, Boris Dolmatovsky and Eteri Kublashvili were on hand to interview and photograph the players - all photos are taken from their report unless stated otherwise.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Svidler had the most to say:
It’s always pleasant when the press pays us and our results
such attention. For that you need to win something, so it doesn’t happen as
often as we’d like! When it does happen, though, it’s really great that you get
such an official reception on your homecoming.
Of course there’s a very big difference compared to individual events. You need to carefully follow the match situation, since that often determines decisions you take at the board. Plus the atmosphere is totally different, because within the team everyone helps everyone else to prepare and you’re constantly talking with colleagues and friends. The difference between team and individual events really is very big. Of course when you play for the national team it’s a different kind of pressure.
Everything went our way from the very beginning. When everyone’s on form and there are no problems with the line-up you don’t need to try to work out each evening which of two misfiring people you should play in the following round. On the contrary, you have the novel situation of never knowing who to leave out. In such cases a team plays well - effortlessly!
In all the critical matches the decisive moments went in our
favour. Objectively the two decisive matches were at the end – first against
the French, then the Armenians; matches against those teams are always tough
for us. In the match against France, Grischuk won a brilliant game against
Fressinet in the Berlin; there’s hardly any need to explain what that means –
to win against the Berlin when it also gives your team victory in a key match
against your main rivals! The French team was the most interesting to watch in
Reykjavik apart from ourselves.
As has always been the case historically we had an extremely tough match against Armenia; it was dug out for us by a win for Ian who, at some moment, didn’t seem to have a very comfortable position. I really didn’t like his position, but then at home I had a quick look at his game and it turned out Ian’s evaluation was much closer to the truth – he understood much better than me what was going on and ultimately outplayed Sergei Movsesian. By not losing that match we ensured we had quite a big margin of error before the final round.
Of course it was very important to beat Ukraine. If that match against us had gone well for them they would have been extremely dangerous. That match didn’t come to my mind first because it went very smoothly for us. Vassily mixed something up or, perhaps, he simply didn’t believe that I’d ever again in my life play the variation I played in Baku against Sergey Karjakin.
And Ian played safely, solidly, and didn’t give Areshchenko the slightest chance. The match was incredibly important, but the outcome was never in doubt for a moment. After an hour’s play I had a position that I was playing for a win while Ian was also pressing right out of the opening.
In the first three rounds Sasha Grischuk rested, since he’d arrived sicker than the rest of us. Allowing him to recover as much as possible mixed up the colours for the other players. It wasn’t that we had the strategy: give Ian White and Evgeny Black, but it worked out like that and then, since Ian was winning game after game with White, there was no serious justification for “combatting” it.
On the rest day we went whale hunting*. Naturally, we not only didn’t catch a single whale but didn’t even see any, but on the other hand there was fresh air and getting tossed about. An important facet of our performance in Iceland was that on any given day our team had three out of four players ill. So apart from that trip (I decided trying to see a whale was something I couldn’t fail to do) I spent the rest of the time as passively as possible so as not to aggravate matters, and I didn’t see much.
* I should clarify that by 'hunting' I meant 'trying to observe from a distance, failing miserably, and getting very seasick' (Svidler on Twitter)
I slightly regret that, since my best childhood friend insists that his most unforgettable vacation was spent in Iceland – and he’s been around. I suspect I missed out on a lot because of the circumstances; but in general, during a tournament it’s hard to go on a lot of excursions.
Evgeny Tomashevsky also posted an unbeaten +2 and talked
about what went right this time round:
On this occasion we all managed to put the pieces of the
puzzle together the way they should go. If you look at ratings then all of our
players played at their level – perhaps some a little better, but simply the
class of players on the team was pretty high and that was enough for gold.
As for where it was held, Iceland is a little like Russia: the north, beautiful nature, positive, friendly people. I think that good attitude towards us helped the team.
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