The European Individual Championship in Yerevan came to an end last Friday with likeable Russian Alexander Motylev finishing a clear point ahead of the field. Our look back at some of the event’s winners and losers includes how Motylev was subsequently serenaded on stage (we have video evidence… plus a gratuitous Carlsen video), 18-year-old David Anton’s stunning performance to snatch silver and Denis Khismatullin’s “solution” to the problem of being a 2700 grandmaster.
Alexander is perhaps better known as a coach and second. He’s worked for the Russian team on many occasions and individually for such half-decent players as Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Svidler and now Sergey Karjakin, although he remarked in a long interview for WhyChess: “It seems to me that as a player I’ve never fully shown what I’m capable of.” This was a glimpse!
He told News.am:
It’s a real miracle… I want to share my joy first of all with my family. My son always asks me why I play so badly. Now I can show him the medal and he’ll realise that his father doesn’t play all that badly.
Afterwards he had to face an unusual challenge – Israeli-Georgian chess player Irma Bejishvili serenaded him on stage with a song specially written by Vitali Golod (it involves Yerevan, cognac and – a play on the meaning of Motylev’s surname in Russian – butterflies). I think you’ll agree Alexander did about as well as could be expected in the circumstances!
It reminded us of this recent interview with Magnus Carlsen on Brazilian television – watch out for Magnus’ enthusiasm at the start before the presenter switches to English!
If your hunger for videos hasn’t yet been sated you can also
try watching chess24
GMs Jan Gustafsson and Paco Vallejo talking about Motylev’s ping-pong skills.
18-year-old Spanish hope David Anton’s performance truly was
miraculous. Although he finished runner-up in the most recent U18 World Youth
Championship this was a different league entirely. He entered the event rated
2559 and seeded 99th, but went on to win 7 games, beat all three 2700+ players
he faced, gain 32.5 rating points (his live rating has now crossed 2600) and ultimately
claim a silver medal.
In the final round he defeated Georgian star Baadur Jobava in a game his opponent needed to win, while a loss would have meant David missed out on World Cup qualification. His coach – and chess24’s Spanish editor – IM David Martínez, annotated the fierce battle that ensued:
8... f5 Jobava continues to complicate the game by playing very aggressively. He wants both to break in the centre and play f4 in order to undermine d4.
9. ♕c1! Preventing f4.
10... ♗d7! Jobava tries to find a balance between counterplay in the centre and defence. This bishop can cover g6 in order to solidy the king position if White breaks with h5.
11. ♘g5 David switches plans so as not to justify Baadur's idea and to attempt to stabilise the position.
11. h5 gxh5 12. ♖xh5 ♗e8 13. ♖h1 ♗g6 14. ♗h6 was the natural continuation, but although engines give White a big edge - mainly due to the space advantage - there would still be everything to play for, as Black will get counterplay in the centre.
15... bxa6 16. ♕e3 ♖e8 The better pawn structure gives White a clear positional advantage, but it's not so easy to exploit. David now decides to continue attacking, though it was preferable to choose a more solid plan.
17. 0-0 ♖c8 (17... ♗xe5 can't be recommended as after 18. ♗xe5 ♖xe5 19. ♕d4 the d5-pawn falls and the white rooks will reach the central files very quickly.) 18. ♖ac1 and then at some point f4 and Rfd1 would have stabilised the position and maintained White's advantage.
17... dxe4 18. h5 ♗e6 19. hxg6 hxg6 20. 0-0-0 What's there to be afraid of? David is ready to start a battle with opposite-side castling. Both players had already used up almost all their time and a long 20 moves of time trouble were stretching out before them...
21... ♗xa2 was Jobava's chance to seize the initiative, according to Houdini, but it looks very complicated and definitely inhuman: 22. e6! The idea of sacrificing the a2-pawn is to allow lines to be opened. 22... ♗xd4 23. ♖xd4 ♕f6 24. ♖d7 ♖xe6 25. ♖hh7 and although the machine cooly evaluates this as -0.60 would you risk letting White triple on the seventh rank?
22. a3 ♔f7 As he showed in the opening by playing Bd7, Baadur is aware of the need to combine attack and defence. As he sees nothing forcing on the queenside he tries to reinforce the security of his king.
23. g4 And of course David doesn't back down! With 17 moves to go to the time control and only a few minutes for each player we get a fight that's both tense and fierce.
23... ♖h8 24. ♖dd1 We only see the final idea of this move 5 moves later... The rook on d2 was fulfilling the role of defending the king position, but David once again shows bravery and decides to switch it to the attack... Jobava's response is logical - he attacks b2, the point which has been left undefended.
29. b4‼ I'm speechless! David responds to Black's attack on the b-file by advancing a pawn in front of his king! Once again this is modern chess - based on concrete and unprejudiced calculation. From this moment onwards Jobava fails to find a way to attack the white king - but it wasn't easy!
29... a5 30. b5! (30. ♗c5⁉ is similar, and after 30... axb4 31. axb4 a5 32. b5 it's not clear how Black can open up lines on the queenside.) 30... a6? 31. ♕g5! axb5 For the moment the queenside is closed, so White can play 32. ♖g1 and his attack lands first.
34... ♗c8 was the correct move to defend the structure and not hand the initiative to White - according to Houdini. But I don't believe it would have occurred to anyone to play it.
39... ♗c4 It was vital to prevent e6.
45. ♘e4! Although few pieces are left the black king still can't breathe easily!
48... ♗xc5 49. ♘xc5 ♗c4 50. ♔e3 ♖a1 51. a4 ♖b1 52. ♖b7 ♔d8 53. ♔d4 ♗e2 54. f5 ♖f1 55. ♔e5 ♗g4 56. ♖f7 ♗e2 57. ♘b7+ ♔c8 58. ♘d6+ ♔b8 59. ♖b7+ ♔a8 60. f6 A magnificent game from David that demonstrated admirable courage and enabled him to secure the runner-up spot in the European Championship. Congratulations!
The European Championship is a curious event in that the real target of most of the participants is to finish in the top 23 places and qualify for the lucrative FIDE World Cup. None of those who made it could consider their tournament a genuine disappointment.
Final standings after 11 rounds
For instance, Poland’s Radoslaw Wojtaszek had this to say at ChessBrains.pl about finishing 11th:
My goal was to qualify for the World Cup, so I’d have bitten your hand off if you offered me this place before the tournament. However, my good start means I feel some slight disappointment. In the second half of the tournament I found it harder to play and I didn’t have very real chances of adding another “plus”. I played a few interesting games and had the chance to show some good opening preparation, particularly in the game against Laznicka. However, I particular value the win against Fedoseev (editor’s note: another winner, he finished third!), because I think he’s currently the most talented junior and will soon cross new rating boundaries. To sum up, World Cup qualification, a return to form after Wijk and a good rating performance over quite a long tournament mean I can consider my result a success.
The observant among you will have noticed that our final standings above included 24 players, while only 23 qualify… The very unlucky one to miss out was 16-year-old Russian grandmaster Grigoriy Oparin. He ended with four straight wins, three of them against (chess-)household names – Daniil Dubov, Pavel Tregubov and Emil Sutovsky – but tiebreaks meant he was the only one of 15 players on 7.5/11 not to qualify for the World Cup!
Still, given his age and obvious ability we can expect to hear more from him in future.
You only fully appreciate the strength of the European Championship when you realise who didn’t manage to finish in the top-23 places! That includes:
…and we could go on!
Khismatullin recently encountered an unusual problem – a crushing victory in a match in the United Arab Emirates and a fine run of form saw the 29-year-old Russian’s rating soar past the 2700-mark and left him knocking on the door of world top 30. Where’s the problem, you ask? Denis explained it to Dmitry Kryakvin for the Russian Chess Federation website:
I don’t think I’ll get invitations. These ratings… I used to be 2670 and I could calmly play in the Russia Cup events. But now where can I play? If I go to a Russian open I need to score +4 or +5, which is far from always going to happen. I don’t even know what it could change that my rating is over 2700. Sometimes you become a hostage to such figures, though basically they’re totally meaningless.
In Yerevan Denis cut that Gordian knot with the following results:
The losses to talented juniors Vladislav
Artemiev and Jan-Krzystof Duda in rounds 3 and 4 were the sort of thing that
could happen to anyone, but losing to players rated below 2400 in
rounds 8 and 9 suggests the siren-call of the 2600s was just too hard to resist!
We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines. Some components of our site require cookies or local storage that handles personal information.