Poland, Germany On Perfect Score; Carlsen Can't Save Norway
GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek beat GM Etienne Bacrot as Poland took down France. Photo: Mark Livshitz/ECU.

Poland, Germany On Perfect Score; Carlsen Can't Save Norway

| 9 | Chess Event Coverage

Poland and Germany are the only teams on a perfect 6/6 match points after three rounds of the Open section of the 2023 European Team Chess Championship, and face a showdown in round four. GM Magnus Carlsen escaped with a draw in round two and won in round three to move to 2.5/3, but Norway lost both matches.

In the Women's section, France and Azerbaijan are the only teams still on a perfect score, but Spain's round-two defeat of top seed Georgia has been the stand-out result so far.  

Round four starts on Tuesday, November 14, at 9:15 a.m. ET/15:15 CET/7:45 p.m. IST.

How to watch?
You can watch the 2023 European Team Chess Championship on the European Chess Union YouTube channel and on Hikaru Nakamura's Kick channel. Games from the event can be viewed on our events page: Open | Women.

The live broadcast was hosted by GM Alojzije Jankovic and Dragana Nikolovska.

Things are heating up fast in Budva, Montenegro. After just three rounds of the European Team Championship, only two teams in each section remain perfect, while the favorites in both the Open and Women's sections have suffered defeat. 

Open Rounds 2-3: Germany, Poland Perfect

Given some of the missing players and teams, underdogs may dare to dream that this European Team Chess Championship is their chance to shine. In 2011, Germany defied the odds to triumph, and three wins in three matches suggests they're in the mood to do it again. Eighteen-year-old GM Vincent Keymer is their new star, and he was the hero against Hungary as he shrugged off a piece sacrifice by GM Viktor Erdos to emerge with an overwhelming position. Team captain GM Jan Gustafsson, a veteran of the 2011 campaign, looked on.

In round three, fortune turned against Keymer, but by the time he lost to Serbian GM Alexandr Predke, Germany had already won the match. GM Alexander Donchenko increased his score to 2.5/3 by crashing through against GM Velimir Ivic.

31...Qxg8 32.Qxh5+ Kg7 33.Qg6+ and Ivic resigned with mate-in-two on the board.

Can Germany repeat their 2011 European Team Championship victory? Photo: Mark Livshitz/ECU.

Arguably more dramatic, and certainly more amusing, was the way GM Matthias Bluebaum's king endured 18 consecutive checks from GM Aleksandar Indjic's queen. The king, which had been driven across the board and back, was about to escape the checks when White resigned. 

Germany will now play Poland, who owed their round-two win over Slovenia to a remarkable game where GM Mateusz Bartel was essentially winning in 12 moves against GM Jure Skoberne

In round three, Poland faced France, known for combining fine chess with the finer things in life. 

This time, however, it was Poland who emerged victorious in a hard-fought match. 

Poland-Germany will be the matchup to watch in round four. 

The Chasing Pack: Armenia Never Says Die

There are just four teams within a point of the leaders.

Rk. Seed Team Games + = - Points TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 11 Poland 3 3 0 0 6 20 7,5 21 21
2 3 Germany 3 3 0 0 6 17,5 7,5 19,5 19,5
3 15 Israel 3 2 1 0 5 20 8,5 18,5 14,8
4 9 Netherlands 3 2 1 0 5 20 7,5 21 16,8
5 5 Armenia 3 2 1 0 5 15,5 7 18,5 15,3
6 2 Romania 3 2 1 0 5 13,5 7 18,5 15,5

One of those teams that you underestimate at your peril is Armenia, who defied the odds to win the Olympiad three times in four attempts from 2006 to 2012, an astonishing result for a country of under 3 million people. They also finished runner-up to Uzbekistan in 2022, and that's partly down to their team spirit—and, above all, willingness to help each other out. 

We got an example of that in round two when Croatia took control with a powerful counterattack from GM Ivan Saric against 23-year-old rising star GM Haik Martirosyan. That was our Game of the Day, with annotations by GM Rafael Leitao below.

Someone else would have to win to save Armenia, and that's just what GM Hrant Melkumyan managed to do by living very dangerously against GM Sasa Martinovic. Melkumyan gave up a piece, and though our silicon overlords were far from convinced, it ultimately worked out, when Martinovic made a mistake on which his teammate Saric commented the next day: "I thought it’s like a transmission error!"

 Carlsen's 2500-Days Continue As Norway Struggles

In the recent Qatar Masters, seven of the players Carlsen faced in the nine-round event were rated under 2600, meaning that whenever he played them, he was putting a lot of rating points on the line. The pressure is high, and it's not looking as though the pattern will change in Budva.

Carlsen has handled the task well, on paper, and the Icelandic team proved right to be worried about the openings in round three.

That game went smoothly for Carlsen, who built up a big advantage, both on the board and the clock, with the little trick 19.Nh4! establishing complete dominance, while GM Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson was 50 minutes down on the clock.   

The world number one went on to win smoothly.

Carlsen won on the top board, but Norway lost the match. Photo: Mark Livshitz/ECU.

That hasn't been the whole story, however, since, as in Qatar, the attempt to win with the black pieces threatened to backfire horribly. Carlsen was objectively lost for much of the game against Austrian GM Valentin Dragnev in round two, although near the finish, he was tempted to play again for a win.

The heroics of Carlsen's king at the end drew the attention of GM Fabiano Caruana (or his podcast partner-in-crime GM Cristian Chirila).

Carlsen's healthy personal score isn't going to bring him higher-rated opposition, at least without some luck, since Norway lost in both rounds two and three and now faces Finland, whose highest-rated player is the 2527-rated IM Toivo Keinanen, in round four. 

Women Rounds 2-3: France, Azerbaijan Lead; Spain Defeats Favorite Georgia  

Top-seed Azerbaijan was put to the sword in round one of the Open, while in round two of the Women's, clear favorite Georgia crashed to defeat against Spain.

Twenty-three-year-old IM Marta Garcia Martin was the catalyst for that victory, outpreparing and outplaying the formidable GM Bela Khotenashvili.

The French women have conceded just three draws so far. Photo: Mark Livshitz/ECU.

Chess is cruel, however, and in the very next round, Martin blundered at the end against France's IM Deimante Daulyte-Cornette with 35...f5?. Can you see the killer blow?

There was no shame in the match defeat, however, since France has been cruising so far.

Round four will be a tough test since they take on the other team on a perfect score, second-seed Azerbaijan, who overcame the strong Netherlands and Poland teams in rounds two and three.

Azerbaijan beat Poland 3-1. Photo: Mark Livshitz/ECU.

The only teams a single point back are Germany and Hungary, who also meet in round four.

Rk. Seed Team Games + = - Points TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4
1 6 France 3 3 0 0 6 24,5 10,5 18,5 18,5
2 2 Azerbaijan 3 3 0 0 6 22 8 22 22
3 3 Germany 3 2 1 0 5 16 8 16 12,8
4 12 Hungary 3 2 1 0 5 15,5 8,5 15 11,8

Will we end up with sole leaders on Tuesday?

The 2023 European Team Chess Championship is a nine-round team tournament taking place in Budva, Montenegro, during November 11-20. All the European chess federations can field a team in the Open and Women's sections; matches are played on four boards. The time control is classical, with 90 minutes for 40 moves, 30 minutes to the end of the game, and a 30-second increment from move one. 

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