SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
For my North American readers, any European Championship is like life on another planet! No part of the world has a higher concentration of chess talent or a greater number of Grandmasters. This Championship is typical: there are 196 GMs, 107 IMs, 42 WGMs and 39 WIMs. Nine players are rated 2700 or higher! The 95th ranked player is rated 2600. In total, there are 440 players taking part in two tournaments: a mens tournament and a womens tournament.
European Individual Championships (men and female)
This event is taking place from March 6th to 18th 2010 in Rijeka, Croatia. It is open to all players representing the chess federations which comprise the European Chess Union (FIDE zones 1.1 to 1.9) regardless of their title or rating. There is also no limit of participants per federation.
Top players include Almasi, Bacrot, Movsesian, Navara, Vallejo, Motylev, Adams, Tomashevsky, Alekseev, Naiditsch, Akopian, Volokitin, Bologan and Jobava. 18 players from Armenia are participating.
The event is being organized by the chess club “Rijeka” together with the Croatian Chess Federation under the auspices of the City of Rijeka and the European Chess Union. All players who represent chess federations of the European Chess Union are eligible to participate. The European Championship is a qualification event for the next World Cup, with 22 players qualifying.
The championship is an 11 round Swiss tournament with a playing rate of 90 minutes for 40 moves, 30 minutes for the rest of the game, and an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. As always, the tournament is run in accordance with the ECU Tournament Rules and FIDE Rules of Chess.
Games start at 3:30 p.m. EST. Saturday, March 13 is a rest day.
The tournament website is truly well done and it is possible to follow games live. The address is http://www.eurorijeka2010.com/home
Tons of pics, videos, games and other information to keep you busy!
There is a total of 180,000 euros in prizes, with 1st place in the men’s tournament walking away with 20k and in the women’s tournament 10k.
The standings (for the first 46 places) after 5 rounds is given below. As is normal in an 11 round swiss, it is too early to single out any particular performance or player favourite to win. Most players are separated by half a point, followed by groups of 20 players or more!
I am enjoying following this tournament very much. The play is sharp and entertaining. Many great games have been played (I will present about a dozen here in the following days) and, surprisingly, an unusal number of blunders have also been seen. Probably the pressure of having almost 200 Grandmasters under one roof has been creating psychic waves!?
This kind of tournament is what chess is all about! Very different from the closed and elitist tournaments like Linares, this tournament gives the opportunity to everybody to play some of the greatest players of the day, to match wits and seek fame and fortune. It is , in my opinion, sad that players such as Ivanchuk and Aronian are not participating.
Alexander Motylev (born 1979) is a former Russian Champion and one of the strongest Grandmasters of his generationPOSITION AFTER WHITE’S 7th MOVE (7.Bxc6)
A well known position that has occurred in about a hundred master games over the years. Usual now is 7… dc 8. Qxd4 Nf6 9.Nc3 Bg4!? with a more or less balanced position. Not much is happening that is very different from the normal Exchange variation of the Spanish.
However, Godena is a player who goes his own way and likes to surprise his opponent with little known, and even less studied, side variations. Here he played….
7… Qb4 !?
A very sharp check that immediately creates a crisis : White must now play in gambit style if he is to avoid getting the worse right off the bat! 8.Qd2 or 8.Nbd2 simply won’t do. On the otherhand, is Black’s last move any good? He neglects his development and is for the time being a piece down.
The only way to play! The complications that result are very difficult to fathom over the board and require precise calculation and accurate evaluation of the resulting positions. According to my database, there are only about a dozen games that have gone this way and theory still has to mention this position in its books!
8… Qxb2 forced
Much worse is 8… dc3 as after 9. bc Qb2 10. Bd5 Qxa1 11. Qb3 the Black Queen will be trapped after White castles and moves his Queen Knight.
As mentioned, there are few games to go by in this little studied position. White has mostly tried either 9. Qxd4 bc 10. O-O Qxa1 11. Qxh8 Kf8 with a messy position (diagram, right) or 9. O-O, with mixed results. Motylev, undoubted taken by surprise by Godena’s opening choice, had to re-invent the wheel himself and comes up with a new idea!
This move looks quite strong! White preserves his Bishop and intends to use it later in an attack against the Black King. Black will now have to take the Rook in the corner , being an exchange up, but his problems are just beginning: where to put the Black King? And the Black Queen is always in a danger of being trapped! I don’t like Black’s position….
9… Qxa1 Worse is 9… dc 10. O-O !
This position reminds me of the type of game that was often seen during the lifetime of Paul Morphy! One of the players (yet to be decided!) is risking too much….Not good now is 10… Ne7 as after 11. Qxd4 O-O 12. Qd2! the Black Queen is trapped. Probably necessary, but hair-raising, is the cold blooded 10… Qxa2!? 11. Bb3 Qa6 12. Qxd4 Qf6 13. e5 Qg7 and atleast the Black Queen is safe. However, it is clear that White has many attractive continuations.
10… b5?! A horrible move!
Black simply drives the White Bishop to a better square while creating a weakness on the Queen-side. Black is now lost almost by force. Probably he was lost anyway…
11. Bb3 ! Setting it’s eyes on f7.
Probably equally strong is 11. Qxd4 f6 12. Na3 Qxa2 (12… Qxf1 13. Kxf1 ba 14. e5) 13. Nxb5 (diagram,right) when White has many threats and the Black Queen is still out of play.
11… c5 Black hopes to play …c4 and shut out the White Bishop
Note that the immediate 11… Qb2 loses immediately to 12. Qxd4 f6 13. Qd5!, exploiting Black’s 10th move
12. Nxd4! Ripping open the centre!
If you put your head into the lion’s mouth, you should not be surprised if it gets bitten off!
In this kind of position (with the Black Queen out of play and almost trapped, and the Black King still uncastled) material is not such an important factor. Here White realizes that with just his Queen and Bishop he can create serious mating threats against Black. Play proceeded:
12… cd It is too late for the consolidating try 12… a6 as after 13. Qd2 cd 14. Qxd4 f6 15. Qd5 Black’s position falls apart.13. Qxd4
A dream position! White threatens the Black Rook on h8 and also (if there is nothing immediately better) Qd5, attacking the other Rook and f7. Something has gone seriously wrong with Godena’s opening surprise!
13… f6 At this point, Black has little choice
Now Motylev has a pleasant choice. I would prefer 14. Na3!? Qb2 15. Nxb5 and if 15… Kf8 16. Qd5 Kg7 17. Qf7 Kh6 18. Qf8 when Black should soon get mated. However, Motylev’s choice is more sadistic!
14. e5 ! Very thematic: more ripping
There is little that Black can do from White opening up the position, exposing the Black King to mating threats.
14… Bb7 15. Na3 [15. ef is also good]
Now should Black give the Queen with 15… Qxf1 16. Kxf1 Bc6
(what else) simply 17. ef
gives White exactly the same attack as in the game.
16. ef Threatening f7
Taking the pawn on b5 was equally good. If now Black tries to escape to the Queenside he walks into an equally deadly attack: 16… O-O-O 17. Nxb5 Bc6 18. Nxa7 Kb7 19. Nxc6 and Black does not have a single good move.
16… Nh6 At least taking some of the sting out of White’s immediate threat…
17. Qe5 ouch!
I am certain that Godena wanted to resign here, but nobody likes to lose in less than 20 moves! So he continues for a couple of moves…Note that if he now moves to f8 he would allow a mate in 1 move. So Godena goes the other direction
17… Kd8 18. Nxb5
I can imagine that a lot of vultures were hovering over the board at this point! Motylev quickly concludes his attack:
18… Qd2 19. Qc7 Ke8 20. Nd6
Godena resigns. It is mate in at most 6 moves! An opening experiment that went bad …
Grandmaster E.Sutovsky (born 1977). A dangerous attacking player
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 27th MOVE (27.Qc7)
After an interesting game, where little seems to have been going on, Sutovsky has managed to create some threats: either 28.Ne5 or 28.Ng5 are serious and Black does not seem to have an obvious answer to either!
However, there is a solution! Black must play 27… Qc2! and it seems that White’s winning chances are problematic: 28. Ng5 Qf2 29. Qxc6 Qxh4 30. Nh3 Qxd4 31. Qxa6 Qe5 32. g3 Qb2 ( Diagram,right) To prevent perpetual check black must allow the d-pawn to advance. Should White lose his a-pawn then he will never win.
Or if 28. Ne5 Qf2! and White can not take the Knight because Black has a perpetual check. White would then have to try to return to the above variation with 29.Nf3
INSTEAD, BLACK PANICKED AND LOST IMMEDIATELY!
27… Kf6?? 28. Ng5!
Black finds himself in a mating net and resigned 5 moves later.
See the pgn-viewer for the finish.
Grandmaster Z.Kozul (born 1966) won the European Championship in 2006
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 25th MOVE (25.f3)
Things haven’t been going very well for Kozul in this tournament so far, and this game proves it. White has played a bit too freely in the opening and early middlegame, and his opponent (obviously well prepared and in fine form) is about to strike out and hand his Croation opponent another defeat.
25… Rxe6! 26. de Bxf3!!
Very pretty! Black takes advantage of the geometry of the position (the White Armada is on the Queenside on vacation) and White’s King finds itself without defence!
27. Kxf3 Qd3
White is pushed back and now the entry of the Black Rook will soon finish things off.
28. Kg2 Qe4 29. Kg1 Rd8 !
Now if White plays 30.Bd2, then Black wins with 30…Qg4ch ! 31.Kf Rf8ch ! etc. Kozul could now resign but plays on for one more move
30. Rxa6 Qf3 !
Covering a8, and now should White play 31.Bd2 (to stop …Rd1) then 31…Qd1ch follows.
Kozul resigns. A pretty finish by Black
24 year old Khismatullin is a rising star with an aggressive style
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 26th MOVE (26…Qh6)
Black’s two extra pawns bring little comfort. Every one of White’s pieces bears down on the fragile Black position. It is little surprise that White can force an immediate breakthru!
This draws the Black King into the open
27… Kxf7 28. Rxd6!
As pretty as it is brutal! Black can not take the Rook because of mate in one move. The game quickly ends
28… Nf6 29. Bxf6 Bxf6 30. Qd5
Black resigns. It is forced mate!
Grandmaster E.Najer (born 1977) has won many strong Open tournaments in the USA
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 29th MOVE
Branko Damljanovic, a Serbian friend of mine, has spoiled a promising position and now he should play cautiously to maintain a rough balance with 30.Rd1, exchanging rooks. It is difficult to believe that the game would not end in a draw.
However, probably not wanting a peaceful conclusion , Branko tries to mix it up and soon finds himself in trouble.
30. Qc3 ?! This looks good, but is wrong
White probably thought that control of the long diagonal , coupled with a later Ra1 would give him serious threats against he Black King. However, Black’s next move takes control of the d-file and also cuts out any back rank nonsense.
30… Qd8! 31. Kg2?!
Branko is stubborn! He had to try 31.h4, but probably rejected it because Black can sacrifice his Knight on h4 and get a perpetual check! Now Najer increases the pressure on White’s King-side.
31… h4 !
The control of the d-file and some King-side initiative gives Black a clear advantage.
White continues to play with unjustified optimism:
32. Ra1 Kh7 33. Ra7
With the White Rook misplaced, Najer begins a decisive attack. Probably it is already too late to save the position.
33… Rd1 !
The threat of …Qd5ch forces White’s next move
34. Qc2 h3 !
A clever idea that ends the game surprisingly quickly. If White now moves to f3 then …Qd5ch will be good enough to win.
35. Kxh3 Rg1 !
The White King unexpectedly finds itself in a mating net! There is no real defence to the Black Queen entering and stinging the White King. The game ends almost immediately….
36. e4 Qg5
White is getting mated. All is fair in love and war….