With a last round win, Armenia edged out Hungary on tie-breakers for the silver, while France was pushed out the medals and ended up fourth.

Russia did what it had to in the final round of the European Team Championship. It drew its match with Hungary and by doing so clinched first place.

Winning gold was not easy. Russia fought long and hard and, after a surprising thrashing of Azerbaijan by Hungary in Round 8, Russia needed a tie match in the final round.  

The tie was not so good for Hungary. It allowed two other teams, Armenia and France, to catch up with it. On tie-breakers, Armenia took silver. Unfortunately for France, its tie-breakers were not as good as Hungary’s, so at least the Hungarians had the consolation of winning the bronze.

There were no really critical moments in the match between Russia and Hungary. All the games were very equal throughout. Nonetheless, the game between Alexander Grischuk of Russia and Richard Rapport was short but very exciting.

In the above position, Grischuk, who was White, played the highly unusual 11. Ncb5!?, a move I had analyzed and played myself once. Normally White would have continued 11. exf6.

After 11. … axb5 12. Nxb5 Qa5! (I think this is stronger than 12. … Qb8) 13. ef6 gf6 14. Nd6+ Bxd6 15. Qxd6 Qxa2 16. Rd3, the position is absolutely wild. I remember working it out to a forced draw in my preparation, but it’s very stressful for Black to play and to work out over the board.

Following 16. … Qa5, Grischuk played 17. Bc5!?, a move I have never analyzed, but might be decent. I had prepared 17. g3 in this position and won a nice game over Anton Kovalyov in June 2012. After Grischuk’s choice, the game was soon drawn after 17. … Qd8 18. Rh3 Ra1+ 19. Kd2 Ba6 20. Rxh7 Rg8 21. Rg7 Rh8 22. Rh7 Rg8, etc., with a very amusing perpetual.

The fight for second place turned out to be where the real action was. Armenia nipped Hungary and France by convincingly beating Georgia. One of the key games was Levon Aronian’s victory over Baadur Jobava.

Jobava is a very entertaining player, always mixing things up in the opening, but this time he did it too much for his own good. Aronian came well prepared, and hit him hard.

I had never seen the above position before, but Aronian clearly knew what he was doing when he played 9. Be3, a move that looked very strange to me. There followed 9. … Na6 10. g3!, and all of a sudden with 11. Bh3 on the agenda, Black would have to develop white’s pieces for him with exd4 at some moment or else the e5 pawn would come under huge pressure. 

Jobava tried to hold the center together instead with 10. … f6, but after 11. dxe5 Nxe5 12. Qxd8+, black even had to take with the king to avoid losing the a7 pawn. Jobava was unable to put up any meaningful resistance in this miserable position.

Though France ended up in fourth, they did manage to win their last round thanks in no small part to their bottom board, Vladislav Tkachiev, who beat Sergei Tiviakov, to record the lone victory in the team’s match with the Netherlands.

In the above position, Tkachiev, who had White, has a bit more space in this symmetrical position, and Tiviakov would be well-advised to try to solve this problem. He could have done this with 17. … Nxd5! because after 18. Qxd5 Rc5, Black wins his piece back with a fine position.

Instead, after 17. … a5?! 18. Bf4!, White’s pieces were invading all of Black’s weak squares. The game continued 18. … Na6 19. Qg4 Nc5 20. Re3 g6, and then Black had no good answer to 21. Bh6!. Tkachiev did not even bother to win the exchange after Tiviakov played 21. … Kh8 — he simply continued his attack and wrapped the game up very soon afterward.

Overall, the tournament was very exciting through the last round and Russia was a very deserving champion. It will be interesting to see if they can continue their improved team results at the next Olympiad as they have struggled in recent years.


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.