Features Mar 17, 2014 | 2:26 AMby Colin McGourty

Winners and Losers: The European Championship

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.

The Winners

1. Alexander Motylev

European gold for Motylev | photo: official website

Motylev’s progress through the tournament was simply serene. He allowed himself a draw against a much weaker opponent in Round 1, won his next 5 games in a row to take the sole lead, and then alternated wins and draws – including a difficult last round with Black against David Navara – to finish the job off. His performance rating for the 11-round event – 2872!

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.

2.David Anton Guijarro

Magnus Carlsen isn't alone in having football connections! On his return to Madrid David Anton was invited to watch Atlético Madrid - Espanyol from the Presidential Box | photo: Atlético Madrid website

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:

1. ♘f3 ♘f6 2. c4 g6 3. ♘c3 ♗g7 4. e4 0-0 5. d4 c6 Obviously this isn't the main line (5...d6), but it's an interesting idea to complicate matters right from the start.

6. ♗e2 d5 7. e5 ♘e4 8. ♗e3 The principled response is 0-0, but David tries to reinforce the centre before deciding where to place his king. This is a more flexible idea, as we'll see in the game.

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.

9... e6 10. h4! Taking the bull by the horns! David doesn't back down but instead launches an attack - Black's kingside has been weakened and that's something it's possible to take advantage of.

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.

11... ♘a6 12. g3 Following the plan initiated on the previous move. Jobava's reply is almost forced.

12... c5 13. cxd5! Leaving d5 as a permanent weakness.

13... cxd4 14. ♗xd4 exd5 15. ♗xa6

15. ♘xd5? isn't exactly what White had in mind. After 15... ♗c6! it's curtains!

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. ♘gxe4

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...

20... ♖c8 21. ♖d2 ♕a5

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.

24... ♕c7 25. gxf5 gxf5 26. ♔b1 ♕b7 27. ♖dg1 ♖xh1 28. ♖xh1 ♖b8 Coordinating his pieces and planning to seize the initiative. David's next move is one of those that gets the crowd off their seats:

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... ♖d8

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.

30. ♖g1 ♔e8 31. ♖g6 ♕f7 32. ♕g5 It's now clear that the worst is behind White and he's taken the initiative.

32... ♗f8 33. ♕f6! The attack is over. Baadur's hopes of winning have gone and he has to fight for a draw.

33... ♕xf6 34. ♖xf6 ♗c4

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.

35. ♗xa7 ♖d3 36. ♔c2 ♖f3 37. ♖c6 ♗d3+ 38. ♔d2 ♔d7 39. ♖g6 f4?

39... ♗c4 It was vital to prevent e6.

40. e6+ ♔e8 The dust has settled and David has an extra pawn. From this point onwards his play is very precise.

41. ♖g8 e3+ 42. fxe3 ♗c4 43. exf4 ♗xe6 44. ♖h8 ♔f7

44... ♖xf4 45. ♗c5 completely paralyses the three black pieces - all that White needs to do is bring his knight into the action to pick up the f8-bishop.

45. ♘e4! Although few pieces are left the black king still can't breathe easily!

45... ♗e7 46. ♗e3 ♖f1 47. ♖h7+ ♔e8 48. ♗c5! It's over. Converting the advantage is now simple.

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!


3. The World Cup qualifiers

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

Rk.SNoNameFEDRtgIPts. TB1  TB2  TB3  TB4 Rprtg+/-
133Motylev AlexanderRUS26569.0263369.074.07287228.8
299Anton Guijarro DavidESP25598.0264465.069.07277532.5
348Fedoseev VladimirRUS26418.0264268.072.56279021.8
466Solak DraganTUR26108.0263267.571.55277424.6
52Eljanov PavelUKR27238.0263068.573.5627909.3
646Lupulescu ConstantinROU26438.0260667.573.06275916.8
715Navara DavidCZE27008.0260472.077.5627638.7
831Saric IvanCRO26618.0254663.568.5626955.7
934Lysyj IgorRUS26558.0253964.569.5526996.7
1062Melkumyan HrantARM26137.5265169.574.54275121.6
118Wojtaszek RadoslawPOL27137.5262574.580.5427424.7
123Jakovenko DmitryRUS27237.5262368.073.0427403.3
1357Artemiev VladislavRUS26217.5261465.070.05271215.4
1444Smirin IliaISR26447.5261270.576.06272312.3
1511Fressinet LaurentFRA27097.5261268.574.5527293.6
1626Sargissian GabrielARM26767.5260766.070.5427217.6
1713Areshchenko AlexanderUKR27057.5260063.568.5527182.4
1859Perunovic MilosSRB26177.5259865.570.57270614.4
1923Cheparinov IvanBUL26817.5259763.068.0627135.1
2077Iordachescu ViorelMDA25837.5259663.068.06269618.4
2129Zhigalko SergeiBLR26717.5257867.072.5426944.1
2289Ter-Sahakyan SamvelARM25727.5255862.066.55265615.4
2339Balogh CsabaHUN26517.5253963.067.5426562.2
24113Oparin GrigoriyRUS25267.5250861.564.56261016.

A good stare is essential for any top chess player! Radoslaw Wojtaszek seems to have mastered the art... | photo: official website 

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 Losers

1. Grigoriy Oparin

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.

2. The non-World Cup qualifiers

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:

  • Yuriy Kryvoruchko (2706)
  • Viktor Laznicka (2681)
  • Alexander Riazantsev (2689)
  • Alexander Moiseenko (2712)
  • Anton Korobov (2719)
  • Ernesto Inarkiev (2698)
  • Baadur Jobava (2716)
  • Maxim Matlakov (2695)
  • Judit Polgar (2693)
  • Vladimir Akopian (2682)
  • Etienne Bacrot (2739)
  • Aleksey Dreev (2679)
  • Zoltan Almasi (2704)
  • Evgeny Tomashevsky (2711)
  • Vladimir Malakhov (2717)…   

…and we could go on!

3. Denis Khismatullin

The fateful match against Salem A.R. Saleh ended 7:1 in the Russian's favour! | photo: FIDE website

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:

17136IMSchreiner Peter2455AUT6.5s 11.80
2586GMGolod Vitali2573ISR5.0w 13.10
3157IMArtemiev Vladislav2621RUS7.5s 0-6.30
42394GMDuda Jan-Krzysztof2563POL7.0w 0-7.00
556142GMPetrosian Davit G.2431ARM5.0s ½-3.40
657144IMSimonian Tigran2425ARM5.5w 11.60
73698GMSavchenko Boris2560RUS7.0s 0-7.10
859163IMKalashian David2380ARM5.0s 0-8.80
979169IMBaghdasaryan Vahe2368ARM5.0w 0-8.90
1095216WFMGevorgyan Maria2180ARM4.0w 10.80
1177190FMAlaverdyan Gevorg2311ARM5.0s 10.80

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!

See also:

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