There is some great competition at the elite team tournament underway in Serbia.

The chess world is virtually ignoring the European Club Cup. The competition, one of the elite team events of the year, is being held in Novi Sad, Serbia, and ends Sunday.

Under normal circumstances, it would be odd that a tournament with two of the world’s top four players and at least two dozen more “mere” super grandmasters (players rated at least 2700) could be overlooked. But the Champions Showdown underway in St. Louis and the World Championship match that is about to start in New York City are grabbing the lion’s share of the chess world’s attention. The latter events deserve the attention they’re getting, but there are some great, high-level games being played at the Club Cup, too.

Some teams are exceptionally strong, like the top-ranked one called “Syberia,” whose top player, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, is 2810, and which also has four other players rated over 2700. Still, there have already been some upsets in the competition. In Round 3, two favorites were defeated.

In the top match, OR Padova, which is led by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France (2811) and Levon Aronian (2795), outrated VSK Sveto Nikolaj Srpski, on every board but the last one. Ironically, that was the game OP Padova won. The games on Boards 3, 4 and 5 were drawn. And OR Padova’s superstars? Have a look.

Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar vs. Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
32nd ECC Open 2016 | Novi Sad SRB | Round 3.1 | 08 Nov 2016 | ECO: D78 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 d5 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 c6 Vachier-Lagrave typically plays sharp openings with Black - the Najdorf and the Gruenfeld - but this Gruenfeld/Slav hybrid is a very solid, even dull option for Black.
7. Qb3
7. b3 is the most popular choice at the moment, while  )
7. cxd5 cxd5 8. Ne5 or
...   )
7... Qb6 8. Nc3 Rd8 The alternative is
8... Bf5 A recent high level example, albeit in blitz:
9. h3 Rd8 10. Bf4 dxc4 11. Qxc4 Nbd7 12. Ng5 e6 13. e4 h6 14. Nxf7 Kxf7 15. exf5 gxf5 16. Rfe1 Nf8 17. Rad1 Rd7 18. Na4 Qd8 19. Nc5 Re7 20. Qb3 b6 21. Nd3 Nd5 22. Bxh6 Ng6 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. h4 Qd6 25. h5 Nf8 26. Ne5 Rc8 27. Rc1 Rec7 28. g4 fxg4 29. Qg3 Nf6 30. h6+ Kg8 31. Nxg4 Qxg3 32. Nxf6+ Kf7 33. fxg3 Kxf6 34. Re5 Kg6 35. Be4+ Kxh6 36. Kg2 Kg7 37. Rf1 c5 38. Rg5+ Kh6 39. Rg4 Kh5 40. Bf3 1-0 (40) Svidler,P (2745) -Kramnik,V (2808) Moscow 2016 (blitz)  )
9. Rd1 One option of many.
9... Bf5 10. Ne1 dxc4 11. Qxc4 Na6 12. e4 Be6
12... Bg4 is common too, drawing White's bishop to f3.  )
13. Qa4
13. d5 cxd5 14. exd5 Bg4 15. Be3 Qxb2 16. Nd3 Qa3 17. Nb5 Qa5 18. Bd2 Qb6 19. Be3 Qa5 20. Bd2 Qb6 21. Be3 Qa5 1/2-1/2 (21) Jakovenko,D (2738)-Grischuk,A (2780) Khanty-Mansiysk 2015  )
13... Qb4 Mamedyarov could have anticipated this variation, and here he played a new move.
14. Nc2
14. Qxb4 Nxb4 15. h3 Ne8 16. Be3 Nd6 17. a3 Na6 18. Nf3 Bb3 19. Rdc1 Nc4 20. Bg5 f6 21. Bf4 e5 22. dxe5 fxe5 23. Bg5 Rd7 24. Bf1 Rf8 25. Nh2 Nc5 26. Na4 Nxa4 27. Bxc4+ Bxc4 28. Rxc4 Nxb2 29. Rc2 Na4 30. Rb1 Rff7 31. Be3 Rd3 32. Bxa7 Rxa3 33. Rd1 h6 34. Rd8+ Kh7 35. Kg2 b5 36. Bc5 Rc3 37. Rxc3 Nxc3 38. f3 Rb7 39. Rd2 0-1 (39) Jumabayev,R (2606)-Vachier Lagrave,M (2758) Berlin 2015 (rapid)  )
14... Qxa4 15. Nxa4 The burden is on Black to find some way of undermining or otherwise bothering White's center; if White finishes his development without anything bad happening he will be better.
15... Nd7
15... Rac8  )
15... Ne8  )
16. Bg5! Re8
16... Kf8? looks like the most natural way to defend the pawn, keeping the rook on d8 and not impeding the bishop on g7. Unfortunately for Black, White has
17. d5 cxd5 18. exd5 Bf5 19. Ne3 and the threats of Nxf5 and d6 give White a serious advantage.  )
16... f6 is a good alternative to the text, clearing f7 for the bishop to elude any d4-d5 shots. White is slightly better after
17. Be3 Bf7 18. b3 f5 19. exf5 gxf5 20. Bg5  )
17. b3
17. Nc3  )
17... Nb6 18. Nxb6 axb6 19. Rac1 Nc7 A sensible move, looking to bring the knight into the action while hitting a2. The knight is vulnerable on c7, however, undefended and facing the rook on c1.
19... b5  )
20. d5! cxd5?!
20... Bg4! 21. f3 Bd7 22. dxc6 Bxc6 23. Nb4 Bb2! 24. Rc2 Ba3 25. Nxc6 bxc6 26. Be3!  )
21. exd5 Bg4 22. Re1 The knight is vulnerable, e7 is hanging, Black's b-pawns are weak; it's a troublesome position for Black.
22... Nb5 23. h3 Bd7 24. a4 Nc3 25. Na3 Ra5?!
25... b5 26. Nxb5 Bxb5 27. axb5 Kf8 28. d6 exd6 29. Bxb7 Rab8 30. Rxe8+ Rxe8 31. Bc6  )
26. Bxe7
26. Bd2! Rc5 27. Nc4 Nxd5 28. b4! Rxc4 29. Rxc4 Be6 30. Rec1  )
26... Nxd5 27. Bd6! Rxe1+
27... Nf6 28. Rxe8+ Nxe8 29. Bb4 Ra8 30. Nc4 Rc8 31. Rb1 Bf8 32. Bxf8 Kxf8 33. Nxb6 Rc7 34. Nxd7+ Rxd7 35. a5 There is work to be done, but White probably ought to win this ending.  )
27... Be6 28. Nc4 Raa8 29. Bxd5 Bxd5 30. Nxb6 Bxb3 31. Nxa8 Rxa8 32. a5  )
28. Rxe1 Black cannot hold the b-pawn, and once it goes White's victory is an inevitability.
28... Nf6
28... Be6 29. Nc4 Ra8 30. Bxd5 Bxd5 31. Nxb6  )
29. Nc4 Ra6 30. Bxb7 Ra7 31. Bg2 b5 32. Bc5! Ra6 33. Bb7 bxc4
33... Re6 34. Rxe6 fxe6 35. a5! bxc4 36. a6  )
34. Bxa6 cxb3 35. a5 Bf5 36. Bd4 The b-pawn has been neutralized, and there's nothing left for Black to hope for.
Aronian, Levon vs. Rapport, Richard
32nd ECC Open 2016 | Novi Sad SRB | Round 3.2 | 08 Nov 2016 | ECO: D07 | 0-1
1. d4 d5 2. c4 Nc6 Richard Rapport has always been a great experimenter in the opening, and the Chigorin - which he has played with some regularity - fits in with his swashbuckling approach.
3. Nc3 Nf6
3... dxc4 is the other main move.  )
4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Nf3
5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 e5 7. d5 Nb8 8. Nf3 Bd6 is also playable for both sides.  )
5... e5 6. dxe5 Bb4 Rapport decides on the main move instead of the sideline he used last year.
6... Be6 7. Bg5 Nxc3 8. Qxd8+ Nxd8 9. bxc3 h6 10. Bh4 Nc6 11. e3 Bd5 12. Bb5 g5 13. Bg3 O-O-O 14. O-O a6 15. Bxc6 bxc6 16. h4 Rg8 17. hxg5 hxg5 18. Nd4 c5 19. Nb3 Rg6 20. Rfd1 Be7 21. Rd2 Rb6 22. Nxc5 Rh6 23. Rad1 Rdh8 24. f3 Bxa2 25. Kf2 Bc4 26. Ne4 Rh1 27. f4 gxf4 28. exf4 a5 29. f5 a4 30. e6 fxe6 31. f6 Rxd1 32. Rxd1 Bf8 33. Bf4 Bd5 34. Nd2 Rg8 35. g3 Bc5+ 36. Be3 Bd6 37. c4 Bc6 38. Ke2 a3 39. f7 Rxg3 40. Ne4 Rg2+ 41. Kf1 Bf8 42. Kxg2 Bxe4+ 43. Kg3 e5 44. Bg5 a2 45. Bf6 Bd3 46. Bxe5 Bxc4 47. Bf6 a1=Q 48. Rd8+ 1-0 (48) Navara,D (2724)-Rapport,R (2671) Biel 2015  )
7. Bd2 Nxc3 8. bxc3 Ba5 Black seems to be fine here. If this is the best White can do, then 5.e4 had better offer something if the Queen's Gambit is going to stay in business.
9. e3
9. Qa4!?  )
9... O-O 10. Qa4 Bb6 This might be a little inaccurate. The point is that ...Bb6 isn't useful until and unless Black is ready to play ...Nxe5. Up until that moment, there are better ways to spend a tempo, and the bishop is good on a5 to stop c3-c4.
10... Bd7  )
10... Qe7  )
10... Qd5  )
11. Qf4
11. c4! Qe7 12. Bc3 Bg4 13. Qc2  )
11... Qe7 12. h4!? The pawn will go as far as it can, aiming to weaken Black's kingside.
12... f6!? Rather than reclaim the e-pawn with ...Re8 and so on, Rapport decides to rip open the center. If White's king will remain in the center, Black will make a target out of it.
13. exf6
13. Bc4+ Be6 14. Bxe6+ Qxe6 15. exf6 Rxf6 16. Ng5 Rxf4 17. Nxe6 Re4 18. Nf4  )
13... Rxf6 14. Qc4+ Kh8! 15. Bd3 Bf5 16. Bxf5 Rxf5 17. Ng5? Aronian is a very active player himself, and wants to go forward rather than find groveling ideas like the one below (17.Kf1). Unfortunately for him, Black's pieces are better placed and thus better able to succeed in an open battle.
17. Kf1! Raf8 18. Be1! Ne5 19. Qe4! Qf6 20. Rh3 Nxf3 21. Rxf3 Rxf3 22. gxf3 Qxf3 23. Qxf3 Rxf3 24. Ke2 followed by Rd1, with an edge.  )
17... Ne5 18. Qe4?
18. Qe2  )
18... Qd7 Forced, but strong.
19. O-O Maybe Aronian initially thought that
19. g4? would win, as the rook can't retreat without hanging mate on h7. But thanks to the queen on d7,
19... Nd3+ is possible and winning:
20. Kf1 Rxf2+ 21. Kg1 g6 22. Rf1 Rxf1+ 23. Kxf1 Re8 24. Qf3 Ne5 25. Qe2 h6 26. Nh3 Nxg4  )
19... Re8 /-+
19... h6  )
20. Qc2 h6 21. Ne4 Rh5 22. Ng3 Rxh4 23. Rad1 White has finished developing without suffering a disaster, but even so his life is difficult. Black has more space, beautiful pieces, and even a better structure.
23... Rf8
23... Qc6  )
24. Bc1 Qg4
24... Qe6  )
25. Rd5 Qg5 Threatening ...Nf3+.
26. Qe2 c6 27. Rd4! Rh1+!? Meeting one rook sac with another!
27... Ng4 The immediate  )
27... Bxd4?? is a blunder due to
28. exd4 , but Black is setting things up so that ...Bxd4 will be possible.  )
28. Kxh1
28. Nxh1? Nf3+ 29. Qxf3 Rxf3  )
28... Bxd4 29. f3 Now
29. exd4? loses to
29... Qh4+ 30. Kg1 Ng4 31. Re1 Qh2+ 32. Kf1 Qxg3 33. Be3 Rf6 followed by ...Qh4. White cannot disentangle his kingside.  )
29. Kg1! is best, keeping Black's advantage from getting too far out of control.
29... Ng4 30. f3 Bxe3+ 31. Bxe3 Nxe3 32. Ne4 Qf4 Black is a safe pawn up, but that's it. White must now avoid the temptation of the seemingly winning
33. g3?? , which loses on the spot.
33... Qxe4! 34. fxe4 Rxf1+ 35. Kh2 Rf2+! 36. Qxf2 Ng4+ 37. Kg2 Nxf2 38. Kxf2 Kg8  )
29... Bb6 30. Ne4 Qh5+ 31. Kg1 Bc7?!
31... Rf4! followed by ...Rh4 looks strong.  )
32. Kf2?
32. Ba3! intends Bd6, neutralizing the bishop. Black keeps some advantage with
32... Rd8 33. c4 , but White is catching up.  )
32... Qh2 33. Ke1?
33. f4  )
33... Rd8! Sealing off the exits. Now ...Nd3+ is a killing threat, and there is no solution.
34. Bd2 Nd3+ 35. Kd1 Qe5! 36. g4 Qb5 Threatening ...Qa4#, and ... Qb1+ is mate in two.
37. Qg2 Nb2+ 38. Kc2 Nc4 39. Bc1 Rd5! 40. g5 Na5 Now ...Qd3+ is coming, and ...Qa4+ followed by ...Rb5+ isn't bad either.
41. Bd2 Qd3+
41... Qd3+ 42. Kd1 Nc4 43. Re1 Rb5 44. gxh6 Rb1#  )

Of course, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan and Richard Rapport of Hungary are great players, but the overall result was still a surprise.

An even bigger – and more lopsided – upset occurred in the match between the AVE Novy Bor, the No. 5 seed, and Zhiguli, No. 10. The former outrated their opponents between 92 points (on Board 3) and 163 points (on Board 5). AVE Novy Bor managed to win one game, on Board 2, but lost on Boards 1, 3, and 5. It was notable that every member of AVE Novy Bor who had Black lost. Poor opening play wasn’t really the problem on Boards 3 and 5, but it was the culprit on Board 1 as Sanan Sjugirov of Russia, No. 85 in the world, impressively dispatched Pentala Harikrishna of India, who is No. 10.

Sjugirov, Sanan vs. Harikrishna, Pentala
32nd ECC Open 2016 | Novi Sad SRB | Round 3.1 | 08 Nov 2016 | ECO: D47 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. Bd2 Bb7 11. Rc1 Rc8 12. a3 a5 13. e4 e5 14. dxe5 Nxe5 15. Nxe5 Bxe5 16. Qe2 Re8 17. Rfd1 Qe7 18. f3 Black's results here haven't been good. There may not be any equalizer, but Harikrishna's move clearly isn't the best try.
18... Nd7?!
18... h5 19. Be3 Qd6 20. g3 Qe6 21. Qf2 Rcd8 22. Bf1 Rxd1 23. Rxd1 h4 24. Rd2 hxg3 25. hxg3 Nh5 26. Ne2 f5 27. Bh3 g6 28. f4 Bc7 29. e5 Rd8 30. Rxd8+ Bxd8 31. Bg2 Ng7 32. Bb6 Be7 33. Nd4 Qd7 34. Qf3 Bd8 35. Bc5 Ne6 36. Nxe6 Qxe6 37. Qd3 Be7 38. Qc3 Bxc5+ 39. Qxc5 a4 40. Qa7 Qc8 41. Qd4 Qe6 42. Qd8+ Kf7 43. Qh8 Bc8 44. Qh7+ Ke8 45. Qh8+ Kf7 46. Kh2 Bd7 47. Qd8 Be8 48. Kg1 Qe7 49. Qd4 Qd7 50. Qxd7+ Bxd7 51. Kf2 Ke6 52. Ke3 c5 53. Bb7 Be8 54. Kd3 Bd7 55. Kc3 Be8 56. Bf3 Bd7 57. Kd3 Be8 58. Ke3 Bd7 59. Kd2 Be8 60. Kc3 Bd7 61. Bg2 Be8 62. Kd3 Bd7 63. Bf3 Be8 64. Bd1 Bd7 65. Bc2 Be8 66. Bb1 Bc6 67. Ba2+ Ke7 68. Kc3 Be4 69. Bg8 Bc6 70. Ba2 Be4 71. Kd2 Bc6 72. Bb1 Bd5 73. Bd3 Bc6 74. Ke3 Bd7 75. g4 Ke6 76. gxf5+ gxf5 77. Be2 Ke7 78. Bh5 Be6 79. Kd2 Bd7 80. Kc3 Be6 81. Bf3 Bd7 82. Bd5 Be8 83. Kd2 Bd7 84. Ke3 Be8 85. Kf2 Bd7 86. Kg3 Be8 87. Kf2 Bd7 88. Kf3 Be8 89. Kg3 Bd7 90. Kh4 Be8 91. Kg3 Bd7 92. Kf2 Be8 93. Ke3 Bd7 94. Kd2 Be8 95. Kc3 Bd7 96. b3 axb3 97. Kxb3 Be8 98. Kc3 Bd7 99. Bb3 Be8 100. Bd5 Bd7 101. Bb7 Ke6 102. Bf3 Ke7 103. Bd5 Be8 104. Ba2 Bd7 105. Bb1 Be6 106. Bc2 Bd7 107. Bd3 Ke6 108. Bb1 Ke7 109. Bd3 Ke6 110. Be2 Ke7 111. Bd1 Be8 112. Bb3 Bc6 113. Bg8 Bd7 114. Bd5 Be8 115. Ba2 Bd7 116. Bb1 Be6 - (116) Sjugirov,S (2624)-Jakovenko,D (2741) Novosibirsk 2012 (rapid)  )
18... Rcd8 19. Be3 Rd7 20. Bb1 Red8 21. Rxd7 Rxd7 22. g3 b4 23. axb4 Qxb4 24. Kg2 h5 25. h4 Rd8 26. Ba2 Bc8 27. Bc4 Ne8 28. Bg5 Nf6 29. Ra1 Rd6 30. Ra4 Qb6 31. Be3 Qd8 32. Ra1 Qc7 33. Qe1 Qd7 34. Kg1 Qd8 35. Be2 Rd7 36. Kg2 Rb7 37. Nd1 Qd7 38. Nf2 Rb3 39. Ra3 Rxb2 40. Rxa5 Bb8 41. Bc1 Rc2 42. Ra8 Qb7 43. Ra4 Qd7 44. Be3 c5 45. Rc4 Rxc4 46. Bxc4 Qa4 47. Qc3 Bd6 48. Qd3 Qc6 49. Qb3 Qd7 50. Qb6 Qe7 51. Qc6 Bb7 52. Qb5 Bc8 53. Qb6 Bd7 54. Qa5 Kh7 55. Qc3 Kg8 56. Qa3 Kh7 57. Bd3 Kg8 58. Bc4 Kh7 59. Qc3 Kg8 60. Qa5 Kh7 61. Qa3 Bc8 62. Qc1 Kg8 63. Bg5 Be6 64. f4 Qd7 65. Bxf6 1-0 (65) Loschnauer,R (2465)-Winkler,T (2512) ICCF email 2012  )
19. f4 Bd4+
19... b4 20. fxe5 bxc3 21. Bxc3 Nxe5 22. Bb1 is unattractive for Black, though it might still be better than the game.  )
20. Be3 Bxe3+ 21. Qxe3 f6?!
21... Qc5 22. Nd5 Qxe3+ 23. Nxe3 g6 24. e5 Nf8 25. Ng4 Kg7 26. Nf6 Red8 27. Ne4 Ne6 28. f5 Nf4 29. Nd6 Rb8 30. f6+ Kf8 31. Kf2 b4 32. Bc4 bxa3 33. bxa3 Bc8 34. Nxf7 Rxd1 35. Rxd1 Be6 36. Bxe6 Nxe6 37. Rd7 Rb2+ 38. Ke3 Rb3+ 39. Kd2 Rb2+ 40. Kc3 Rb3+ 41. Kc2 Re3 42. Nd6 Re2+ 43. Kc3 Re3+ 44. Kc4 Rxe5 45. Rf7+ Kg8 46. Re7 h5 47. Re8+ Kh7 48. f7 Kg7 49. f8=Q+ 1-0 (49) Bukavshin,I (2476)-Hovhannisyan,R (2612) St Petersburg 2012  )
22. e5! Qc5 23. Nd5! Qxe3+ 24. Nxe3 Nf8
24... fxe5? 25. Bf5 exf4 26. Rxd7  )
24... Nb6 25. Nf5 Rb8 26. Nd6 Re7 27. Nxb7 Rexb7 28. exf6 gxf6 29. Be4 gives White excellent winning chances.  )
25. Nf5 Rb8 26. Nd6 Re7 27. Bb1! h5?
27... Ng6 is a better way to deal with the threat of Ba2+, keeping the king nearer the center.  )
28. Ba2+ Kh7 29. exf6 gxf6 30. Rc5! Bc8 31. Rxh5+ Kg6 32. Rh8 Bg4 33. Rg8+? Missing an opportunity to the end the game straight away.
33. f5+! Bxf5 34. Rg8+ Rg7 35. Rxg7+ Kxg7 36. Nxf5+  )
33... Rg7 34. Bb1+ f5 35. Rxg7+ Kxg7 36. Nxf5+ Bxf5 37. Bxf5 Black could resign this without thinking twice, but because of the team situation he feels compelled to continue.
37... c5 38. Rd5! c4 39. Rc5 Freezing Black's majority.
39... Kf6 40. g4 Ke7 41. Kf2 Kd6 42. Rc8 Rxc8 43. Bxc8 Ng6 44. Ke3 b4 45. axb4 axb4 46. Bf5 Ne7 47. Be4 And this is a bit much for Black, even in a team context.
47... Kc5 48. f5 Nc8 49. f6 Kd6 50. g5 Nb6
50... Ke6 51. Bf5+!  )
51. g6 Nd7 52. f7 Ke7 53. Bd5 Nb6 54. Be6 Kf8 55. h4 c3 56. bxc3 bxc3 57. h5

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Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.