David Navara, the top seed, and Ernesto Inarkiev, are tied for the lead and will face each other in Round 8.
The European Individual Chess Championship is the only time every year that I wish I was European. Unfortunately, I am unable to participate in this insanely strong tournament populated by so many elite grandmasters because I happen to play for the United States (though I suppose I am compensated by my participation in the United States Championship, which this year featured three of the top 10 players in the world).
Seven rounds are now in the books, and the standings have been shaken up several times. The current leaders are David Navara of the Czech Republic, the tournament’s top seed, and Ernesto Inarkiev of Russia, who each have 6 points. Lurking just a half point behind them are six strong grandmasters, including Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland, the second seed.
European Individual Chess Championship
Radoslaw Wojtaszek, left, and David Navara in Round 6. The game ended in a draw.
Going into Round 7, Ivan Saric of Croatia had been tearing up the field and was sitting in clear first with 5.5 points. I particularly liked his victory in Round 6 over Maxim Matlakov of Russia:
Saric, Ivan vs. Matlakov, Maxim
European Individual Chess Championship |Gjakova, Kosovo |Round 6 |19 May 2016 |1-0
f6I would not be surprised if everything up to this point was
preparation from both sides because The Marshall Gambit has been ery heavily analyzed. But I was quite surprised at how easily Saric wins this endgame. The computer says that White has only the slightest advantage as Black's has plenty of space and the bishop pair. 28. b3Bc5!
( 28... Nxd3?29. Bxd3Qxd330. Qe6+!Puts Black in a tough spot. )
( 29. Qxc5?Nf3+ )
29... Qxf430. Bxf4Nxd331. Bxd3Rxd3I find the computer's evaluation of equal to be ridiculous. It
might be right, but if there's any justice in chess, an extra protected passed pawn should matter more than a bishop pair. 32. Re1Kf7?!
( 32... Bd4!This was the way to go. Black cannot afford to let his bishop become passive. )
33. Be3!Bd634. Bb6!Be535. Bc5a5?The final mistake
( 35... Bc3!Was
more resilient 36. Re7+Kg8As White has not played f4, his king is a
little less comfortable and Black has decent counterplay. 37. Kg2a5 )
36. f4!Bd6Black elects not to allow Re7+, but this cedes the bishop pair.
( 36... Bc337. Re7+This is really bad for Black. If he wanted it, he should have played it before to avoid the f2-f4 advance 37... Kg838. Ne3Rd239. f5!Dead. Wouldn't it be nicer if the pawn was on f2? See the note about 35. ... Bc3 )
37. Bxd6Rxd6White is up a pawn up and Black has no compensation. 38. Ne3Be439. c5Rc6
( 39... Rd3This could offer some
resistance but White should still win. )
Saric’s performance reminds me an event I know all too well — the Under 18 section of the 2008 World Youth Championship. Saric was leading at the midway point in that championship (his victories included one over me) after a win over Matlakov, but lost a tough game to Le Quang Liem of Vietnam in Round 8. In the European Championship, his loss came in Round 7 to Inarkiev.
Inarkiev, Ernesto vs. Saric, Ivan
European Individual Chess Championship |Gjakova, Kosovo |Round 7 |19 May 2016 |1-0
Nc2?!I do not envy Black's position, but this is where the trouble really began
( 26... Nbc627. Qxa6Qe7White looks better, but Black is not without counterplay after an eventual Nd4. )
( 26... Bxc3The computer recommends this, but it looks far too retro for me )
27. Ne2!Now the moves are more-or-less forced. 27... Nxa328. Qxa6h529. Bf3Nb530. Rb1Now the point is clear: White restores the material balance by capturing the pawn on d6 and has a better pawn structure and more active pieces. 30... Nd431. Nxd4cxd4
( 31... Bxd4This looks more natural to me but Black is still in some trouble. )
32. Qxd6Nf733. Qb6Qd734. e5!The bishop on g7 is locked down and the pawn on d4 is artificially isolated. I think Black is close to lost. 34... Bh635. Bc6Qc836. Qb5?!I'll forgive Inarkiev for faltering in severe time trouble
( 36. Bb4!And Black is dead. 36... Bxf437. Bxf8Kxf838. Ra1 )
Navara climbed into the lead with a surprisingly easy win over Baadur Jobava of Georgia. Though the game lasted 42 moves, it was the quickest decisive result of Round 7:
Navara, David vs. Jobava, Baadur
European Individual Chess Championship |Gjakova, Kosovo |Round 7 |19 May 2016 |1-0
18. Kc3The players reached this endgame pretty quickly. It almost looks like a dead draw because of the symmetrical pawn structure, but Black is actually under quite a lot of pressure because White's pieces are more active. 18... Kf819. Rb1Ke720. e5h521. a4Rd522. Rb7+Rd723. Rb8Rd824. Rb4Rd525. g3Rc5+?!
( 25... f6Black could try
to trade some pawns, but then he has to worry a little about the pawn ending. 26. Rb7+Rd727. Rxd7+Kxd728. exf6gxf629. h3f5!Not allowing g4-g5, when White will be able to create an outside passed pawn. )
26. Kb3Rd527. c4!White correctly judges it to be time to push this pawn. I still think Black should be able to hold, but going after the kingside pawns was foolish 27... Rd2?
( 27... Rd3+28. Kc2Rd7Black looks solid enough. I think he should hold )
( 28... Rxh229. Rb7+And the a-pawn will be able to promote eventually. )
( 28... Rd7This
looks more resilient to me, but Black is definitely struggling. 29. Rb8Rd830. Rb7+Rd731. Rb4g632. a6Black is already effectively in zugzwang )
29. Rb8+Kc730. Rf8Rd731. Kb4The difference in piece activity is staggering. The rest was trivial for a player of Navara's caliber. 31... a632. Kc5g633. Ra8Kb734. Rf8Kc735. h3Kb736. g4hxg437. hxg4Kc738. Ra8Kb739. Rh8Kc740. Rh1Rd241. Rh7Rd742. g5In a deadly zugzwang, Black threw in the towel
Though it happened a bit earlier in the tournament, I’d like to point out an extremely cool idea from Aleksey Goganov of Russia in his Round 5 win over Evgeniy Najer of Russia:
Goganov, Aleksey vs. Najer, Evgeniy
European Individual Chess Championship |Gjakova, Kosovo |Round 5 |19 May 2016 |1-0
27. f4!?This was utter genius. White starts a tactical operation based on sacrificing a rook. It doesn't win per se, but I like the idea a lot. 27... gxf428. g5!Bxg529. e5Re6?
( 29... d3This looks more resilient to me because it
prevents Rxa6, but the pawn will probably be lost and White still looks better. 30. Rxa6bxa631. Bxc6d2 )
30. Rxa6!!Bang! 30... bxa631. Bxc6And despite having an extra rook, Black finds himself surprisingly helpless against the threat of Rxa6-a8 mate 31... Rd732. Rxa6Rb733. Bxb7+Kxb734. b5The pawns cannot be stopped. 34... Rxe535. c6+Kb836. c7+Kb737. Rc6Re1+38. Kg2f3+39. Kxf3Re3+
Navara will have White against Inarkiev in Round 8. It would be tough to bet against the Czech superstar at this point, but there is still a lot of chess to be played, and, if history is any indication, Saric did win that 2008 World Youth on tiebreak. (I still hate Mr. Bucholz for relegating me to bronze.)
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.
FIDE and World Chess announces today that the 2018 World Chess Championship Match will take place in London in November 2018. The world’s most prestigious chess tournament is to be the climax of a season of high-profile activity to extend the sport’s appeal among global audiences – and make 2018 the Year of Chess in the UK.
After 9 days of intense chess battles at the last leg of the World Chess Grand Prix series 2017 in Palma de Mallorca, the two winners of the series were finally determined: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan, overall 340 points in the series) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 336,4 points). They qualified for the Candidates Tournament – the next part of the World Chess Championship cycle, which leads up to the Championship match.
The sole leader of the Palma de Mallorca Grand Prix Levon Aronian made a quick draw with Evgeny Tomashevsky today, inviting the group of rivals to join him at the top. But same as in the previous rounds all games on the top boards finished peacefully and not a single player came close to catching up with him.
After seven rounds Aronian is in the lead with 4,5 points. A group of 8 players is half a point behind, including Vachier-Lagrave. In order to qualify for the Candidates, the Frenchman needs to win at least one more game. Boris Gelfand defeated Alexander Riazantsev, Pavel Eljanov won against Jon Ludvig Hammer, while Teimour Rajabov outplayed Li Chao. After the victory the Azerbaijani Grandmaster still hopes to qualify, but in that case has to win both games.
Javier Ochoa, Honorary FIDE Vice President and President of the Spanish Chess Federation, made the first symbolic move to start the fourth round, which turned out to be the most exciting round of the tournament so far, with six decisive games out of nine.
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The world’s best chess players and chess establishment came together in Bellver Castle to celebrate the opening of the final leg of the FIDE 2017 World Chess Grand Prix Palma de Mallorca – a prestigious qualifier for the World Chess Candidates Tournament.
Katerina Lagno, one of the strongest Russian women-grandmasters won the historic Moscow Blitz Tournament, beating her fellow Russian Olympic team members Alexandra Kosteniuk, Valentina Gunina and Olga Girya.
After a draw against Ian Nepomniachtchi, Teimur Rajabov won the tournament. One of the strongest players, Rajabov had not won a major tournament lately, but has shown phenomenal form in Geneva and managed to overpower some of top world’s players