European Team Champs - England report
I have realised that despite joining chess.com 2 months ago I have not really been writing a blog. I thought I would use the European Team Champs in Crete, Greece to change this, by following the fortunes of the England team, and maybe also following events on the top boards.
In round one the men were paired against British rivals Scotland! A high pressure match indeed, one the team would be expected to win, and win comfortably. In this they did not disappoint, winning by 3.5-0.5.
On top board Gawain Jones won a one-sided game, winning in just 23 moves on the Black side of a King's Indian against Andrew Muir.
I have not seen the whole of Nick Pert's win against Keith Ruxton but he gained a comfortable advantage out of the opening (a King's India, fianchetto variation) as White and went on to win after 56 moves.
Mark Hebden won a tough encounter against Jonathan Grant. After equalising early on Mark kept Jonathan under pressure for the whole game and looked to be getting on top. The game was brought to a premature end when Jonathan blundered a piece, probably short of time (I know from bitter experience that Mark plays fairly quickly and it's easy to get into time-trouble against him!).
Graham Morrison prevented the rout turning into a whitewash by holding Stuart Conquest in a messy Sicilian game.
A good start for the Men's (or Open!) team who will look forward to tougher tests to come.
Unfortunately, it was a different story for the Women's team, who suffered a 4-0 drubbing by 6th Seeds Poland.
Jovanka Houska looked to have got a reasonable opening on the White side of a French Tarrasch against Monika Socko. However she overlooked a strong combination that allowed Monika to win a pawn, and essentially, the game.
On board 2 Dagne Ciuksyte played the Nimzo-Indian and looked to be doing ok from the opening. Iweta Rajiich sacrificed a pawn for some pressure and an unclear position arose. Iweta managed to win the pawn back quickly and keep a strong initiative and went on to went after 34 moves.
England were heavily out-rated on boards 3&4 and it was always going to be tricky. Ingrid Lauterbach was unlucky to get ground down in a rook+pawn ending and Meri Grigoryan-Lyell was dispacted in 25moves by a player rated almost 300 points above her.
Round 2 pairing have seen the Men drawn against the Czech Republic in what should be a tight encounter, the highlight of which is sure to be Adams making his 1st appearance of the tournament against David Navara.
The Women have been handed another tough match, against the 3rd Seeds Ukraine, who suffered a shock 2.5-1.5 defeat in the 1st round at the hands of Azerbaidjan. I feel a draw would be the best they could hope for out of this match, with the top 2 needing 1.5/2 at least I feel.