Every year in Europe the strongest chess club among men and women is determined. This event is rather short, but very exciting. Among the participants you can see both elite grandmasters and pure amateurs. The main prize is a cup that the team gets to keep forever-- if it wins the championship thrice in a row. Given how competitive chess is, this is a real challenge for any ambitious club.
The playing venue
This year’s championship was held in a beautiful place, Rogaska Slatina in Slovenia. The city is famous for its mineral springs, mountains and forests. The weather was also warm and nice, so the participants could enjoy their stay. We had a chance not only to play chess, but also to relax. For example, I loved taking walks in the forest. In the evening many of the teams assembled in a large street cafe in the center of the city to discuss chess and soccer matches while watching the Champion’s League and the European League.
7 rounds is a short distance. A lot depends on the pairings. In the men’s section there were 62 teams, so it was obvious in advance that not all the leaders would get to play each other. Naturally, this offers fuel for talks about the legitimacy of the champion. Among women only 11 teams were participating, but even here not everyone got to face all the competitors. The number of teams was odd, so the worst fear for the leaders was to get a bye (2 team points without playing the match, but with just 2 board points).
I was playing for AVS (Russia) for the 5th year straight. Our team is very friendly and supportive. This year we had a spectacular line-up: ex-Women’s World Champion Antoaneta Stefanova, Women’s World Blitz Champion Kateryna Lahno, European Champion Viktoria Cmilyte, myself, and Mariya Muzychuk, a member of the Ukrainian chess team. The captain was GM Vladimir Georgiev. Nonetheless, we were seeded only second by average rating. The top dog was the three-time winner of the European Cup, Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo: Hou Yifan, Anna Muzychuk, Pia Cramling, Monika Socko and Elmira Skripchenko.
Our club had never won the European Club Cup before. This time we were determined to go for it. After a victory in the first round we lost the match to SHSM that looked won or at least drawn. This defeat infuriated us in the good sense of the word, so we won all the following matches, including critical encounters against Monte-Carlo, Mika and AEM. So, with 12 match points out of 14 we earned the trophy! By the way, the cup itself is very heavy, and we had a hard time trying to lift it above our heads during the awards ceremony. My personal result was 4/6 (2 wins, 4 draws) and a silver individual medal.
Gold medalists, 12 MPs out of 14 - AVS (Russia): Antoaneta Stefanova (2528), Viktoria Cmilyte (2525), Kateryna Lahno (2554), Natalia Pogonina (2446), Mariya Muzychuk (2456)
In the men’s section before the final round six teams were still in contention for gold. Among them was the Saratov Economist club (Russia), which has won the previous two championships. However, in a tough struggle the St. Petersburg (Russia) team clinched the trophy. The team was headed by Peter Svidler, who has won the Russian Superfinal, World Cup and Europan Club Cup in a row.
Gold medalists, 13 match points out of 14 - Saint-Petersburg Chess Federation (Russia): Peter Svidler (2740), Nikita Vitiugov (2726), Sergei Movsesian (2715), Zahar Efimenko (2703), Vadim Zvjagintsev (2666), Ildar Khairullin (2642), Maxim Matlakov (2630)
The next European Club Cup will be taking place in Eilat, Israel.
Today I will show you my game vs WGM Irina Chelushkina from the 1st round. We were playing against BAS (Serbia) and won 2.5-1.5.
White got too excited about playing on the kingside. Irina didn’t solidify her position on the queenside well enough and then gave away a pawn for no reason. Later in the game the material became equal again, but Black got a decisive positional advantage. White was on the verge of zugzwang.