European Team Championship Underway In Batumi
European Chess Union President GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili makes the inaugural move on board one. Photo: European Chess Union.

European Team Championship Underway In Batumi

| 19 | Chess Event Coverage

The biennial European Team Championships 2019 is underway at the Sheraton Hotel in Batumi, Georgia. At the time of writing, three rounds have been played.

This fall seems to be one of the busiest chess schedules ever with the World Cup, the FIDE Grand Swiss, the European Team Championship and the FIDE Fischer Random World Championship all running back-to-back (or simultaneously!) and within 60 days.

The packed schedule has had its ups and downs with several top players. World Champion Magnus Carlsen is missing in Batumi because he is playing in Norway, while other top GMs such as Anish Giri, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Jan-Krzysztof Duda are back in action after missing the Isle of Man.

The opening ceremony of the European Team Championship 2019 in Batumi, Georgia. Photo: European Team Championship.

The open section of the European Team Championship has 40 teams of five players each (including one reserve) with Russia starting as the usual favorite. This year the Russian Federation has fielded a young team with firepower while defending champion Azerbaijan has brought its "A team" with only the recent World Cup winner, Teimour Radjabov, missing. England, Poland and Armenia are strong contenders as well and conclude the top five seeds.

The FIDE Grand Swiss in Isle of Man finished just two days before this event, and the team lineups and the play seem to be affected by such close timing. The young Russian team faced the 21st-seeded Denmark in round 1. This round-one pairing seemed to be comfortable for the top seeds, but they faltered and were held to a 2-2 draw by the spirited Danish team in a match that had decisive results on all four boards.

The Russian team. Photo: European Team Championship.

Rising star and Russia's latest sensation, GM Kirill Alekseenko, is making his senior team debut but lost to GM Sune Berg Hansen on board two.

This upset was compensated as the board-four game saw GM Daniil Dubov, after a disappointing tournament in Isle of Man, beat Denmark's latest and youngest grandmaster, the 15-year-old Jonas Buhl Bjerre.

Dubov employed a novelty as early as move eight in the Anti-Marshall of the Ruy Lopez, which may be theoretically important. As Black he developed a strong initiative after sacrificing two pawns and later won with a crushing attack in probably the game of the tournament already:

Elsewhere, rating-favorite England drew to lower-rated Austria as its number-three GM Gawain Jones lost again after having a disastrous event in Isle of Man last week. GM Nicholas Pert made a winning comeback for his national team and helped England to draw 2-2.

Other rating-favorites—Poland, Armenia and Azerbaijan—posted crushing wins over Belarus, Serbia and Norway respectively in round one.

The French team with a 12-year-old! Photo: European Team Championship.

Round two saw some of the favorites battle it out on the top boards. On board one, Czech Republic beat England in a bloody affair while Azerbaijan narrowly beat France as GM Rauf Mamedov beat 12-year-old IM Marc Andria Maurizzi on board three. 

Dutch number-one Giri is back at the board and scored the lone victory in the Greece vs. Netherlands match. 

Giri again showed the way for his team as he won once more on the top board in a match where Netherlands defeated rating-favorite Spain. This time his victim was GM David Anton, who performed so well in Isle of Man:

European Team Championship | Round 3 Standings (Top 10)

Rk. SNo Flag Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3
1 5 Armenia 3 0 0 6 22,0 9,0
2 8 Ukraine 3 0 0 6 22,0 8,0
3 7 Netherlands 3 0 0 6 20,0 7,5
4 2 England 2 1 0 5 19,5 8,5
5 1 Russia 2 1 0 5 16,5 7,5
6 17 Turkey 2 1 0 5 13,5 7,5
7 28 Switzerland 2 0 1 4 16,0 8,0
8 4 Azerbaijan 2 0 1 4 16,0 7,5
9 9 Germany 1 2 0 4 16,0 6,5
10 14 Georgia 1 2 0 4 15,5 6,5

(Full standings here.)

Women's Section:
The women's section has 32 teams. As usual, the favorites are Russia and hosts Georgia and Ukraine, though teams like Poland, Azerbaijan and Armenia are also definitely in the mix. Some of the top women players also were in action in the FIDE Grand Swiss as they received wild cards from the organizers.

The Muzychuk sisters are notable absentees, but Ukraine still beat Germany (though narrowly) with a score of 2.5 to 1.5. Otherwise round one was smooth sailing for the top seeds as all of them posted convincing victories except Poland that drew Greece. Azerbaijan blanked Latvia with a whitewash 4-0 score.

The women's team of Azerbaijan. Photo: European Team Championship.
An incredibly rare moment occurred when Norway fielded a team with twins on all boards.

If round one was smooth sailing, then round two was just completely the opposite. Russia barely managed to scrape through against the hosts' second team, Georgia 2, with a 2.5-1.5 win. Georgia 1 managed a crushing win over Turkey while Ukraine and Azerbaijan were upset by Italy and Spain respectively.

IM Marina Brunello's victory as Black over IM Inna Gaponenko on board one was instrumental in Italy's win over Ukraine.

Another amazing story that deserves attention is the Swedish women's team. Three team members—GM Pia Cramling, Siv Bengtsson and WIM Borislava Borisova—are back together. They first played together at the 1978 Chess Olympiad.


European Team Championship (Women) | Round 3 Standings (Top 10)

Rk. SNo Flag Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3
1 2 Georgia 3 0 0 6 26,0 9,5
2 1 Russia 3 0 0 6 22,5 9,0
3 11 Italy 3 0 0 6 17,5 8,0
4 13 Armenia 2 1 0 5 15,0 8,5
5 7 Hungary 2 1 0 5 15,0 7,0
6 12 Spain 2 0 1 4 20,0 7,5
7 8 Romania 2 0 1 4 14,0 8,5
8 3 Ukraine 2 0 1 4 14,0 6,5
9 15 Serbia 2 0 1 4 12,5 9,0
10 10 Turkey 2 0 1 4 11,0 7,0

(Full standings here.)

The event is also being broadcast on Georgian TV for the first time in both English and Georgian.

You can follow and replay all the games with engine analysis here:
European Team Championship 2019
European Women's Team Championship 2019

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