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Alexey Sarana Wins European Chess Championship
Alexey Savara, center, takes first place in the European Individual Chess Championship. Photo: EICC.

Alexey Sarana Wins European Chess Championship

PeterDoggers
| 42 | Chess Event Coverage

GM Alexey Sarana won the European Individual Chess Championship on Monday in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia. The 23-year-old Russian grandmaster, who played under the FIDE flag, edged out GMs Kirill Shevchenko (Romania) and Daniel Dardha (Belgium) on tiebreak.

The three players all finished on 8.5 points out of 11 rounds in what was a large Swiss event held March 3-13. In fact, it was the biggest European Individual ever with 482 players, including 126 grandmasters, from 40 federations.

GM Anton Korobov, one of the 11 Ukrainian players in the field, was the only one left with a perfect score after five rounds. That included a win over one of his compatriots, the 2002 FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov:

A key game in the tournament was the following, as Sarana took over pole position from Korobov in their direct encounter. With two rounds to go, Sarana was then on 7.5 points while his opponent joined the group of players on 7.

Thanks to two straight wins, Shevchenko joined Sarana in first place in the penultimate round. Instead, we show a nice fragment from the seventh round. Can you find how the 20-year-old Ukrainian, who now lives in and plays for Romania, won his game?

Two draws in the last two rounds were enough for Sarana to win the tournament on tiebreak. Dardha, a 17-year-old Belgian grandmaster, managed to clinch the bronze medal with a win against Korobov, who played for a win too long:

Two excellent performances that stand out were scored by two IMs. The 25-year-old Greek player Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis played the tournament of his life and finished in shared fourth place on eight points (with a 2743 performance), the same score achieved by the only 14-year-old Ediz Gurel from Turkey, who had a 2683 performance.

2023 European Championship | Final Standings (Top 30)

Rk. SNo Fed Title Name Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 TB5 Rp K rtg+/-
1 11 GM Sarana, Alexey 2668 8.5 0 73 78 5 6 2787 10 17.1
2 12 GM Shevchenko, Kirill 2668 8.5 0 70 76 5 6 2758 10 12.9
3 41 GM Dardha, Daniel 2610 8.5 0 66.5 72 6 6 2716 10 15
4 101 IM Kourkoulos-Arditis, Stamatis 2520 8 0 73 78 5 6 2743 10 33
5 16 GM Bacrot, Etienne 2659 8 0 72.5 77 5 5 2694 10 4.9
6 22 GM Nguyen, Thai Dai Van 2651 8 0 71.5 76.5 5 5 2715 10 9.1
7 20 GM Santos Latasa, Jaime 2655 8 0 70 75.5 5 5 2702 10 6.8
8 8 GM Esipenko, Andrey 2680 8 0 69.5 75 5 5 2698 10 3.3
9 37 GM Kuzubov, Yuriy 2616 8 0 69 74 5 7 2670 10 8.1
10 70 GM Dragnev, Valentin 2561 8 0 69 74 5 6 2692 10 19.2
11 55 GM Paravyan, David 2584 8 0 68 72 5 5 2698 10 16.5
12 94 GM Janik, Igor 2527 8 0 67 72 5 6 2646 10 17.9
13 3 GM Anton Guijarro, David 2685 8 0 66.5 72 6 6 2681 10 0
14 161 IM Gurel, Ediz 2454 8 0 65.5 69 5 6 2683 10 34.5
15 21 GM Donchenko, Alexander 2653 8 0 65 70.5 6 6 2650 10 0.1
16 18 GM Korobov, Anton 2658 7.5 0 76 82 5 6 2700 10 7.1
17 29 GM Abasov, Nijat 2625 7.5 0 73.5 78.5 5 5 2653 10 5.2
18 6 GM Predke, Alexandr 2684 7.5 0 71.5 77.5 5 4 2684 10 1
19 61 GM Svane, Frederik 2577 7.5 0 71 76.5 5 4 2686 10 17
20 89 GM Nasuta, Grzegorz 2535 7.5 0 71 76 5 5 2674 10 21.5
21-22 71 GM Azarov, Sergei 2559 7.5 0 70.5 76 5 4 2705 10 22.7
21-22 72 GM Gumularz, Szymon 2558 7.5 0 70.5 76 5 4 2674 10 18.2
23 17 GM Grandelius, Nils 2658 7.5 0 70.5 75.5 6 4 2661 10 1.1
24 23 GM Gledura, Benjamin 2637 7.5 0 70.5 75.5 5 5 2677 10 6.7
25 34 GM Vocaturo, Daniele 2619 7.5 0 69.5 75.5 5 4 2608 10 -0.6
26 52 GM Brkic, Ante 2596 7.5 0 69.5 73.5 5 5 2653 10 10.4
27 50 GM Pechac, Jergus 2598 7.5 0 69 75 5 4 2662 10 10.7
28 9 GM Gelfand, Boris 2674 7.5 0 69 74 6 4 2695 10 4.2
29 19 GM Ponomariov, Ruslan 2655 7.5 0 69 73.5 5 6 2676 10 4
30 98 GM Yilmazyerli, Mert 2525 7.5 0 68.5 74 5 5 2630 10 16.6

(Full final standings here.)

An important reason for players to participate in the European Individual is because it's part of the world championship cycle; 23 players qualified for the next FIDE World Cup (July 29-August 26 in Baku, Azerbaijan). However, it was not simply the top 23 because some players had already qualified from earlier editions.

It's yet to be verified, but it looks like the following players qualified from this event:  GMs Shevchenko, Dardha, IM Kourkoulos-Arditis, GMs Etienne Bacrot, Nguyen Thai Dai Van, Andrey Esipenko, Valentin Dragnev, David Paravyan, Igor Janik, IM Gurel, and GMs Alexander Donchenko, Korobov, Nijat Abasov, Alexandr Predke, Frederik Svane, Grzegorz Nasuta, Sergei Azarov, Szymon Gumularz, Nils Grandelius, Benjamin Gledura, Ante Brkic, Jergus Pechac, and Boris Gelfand.

One other big name from the past, GM Vasyl Ivanchuk, failed to qualify. Here's a nice combination from the legend, played in the last round:

Players from Russia and Belarus were allowed to play under the FIDE flag because of war sanctions by the European Chess Union (ECU) and the International Chess Federation (FIDE). A total of 40 players did, including the Russian GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, who picked up the third women's prize with six points, finishing behind WGM Jolanta Zawadzka (Poland) and IM Irina Bulmaga (Romania) who scored 6.5.

Sarana, the winner of the tournament, is one of the few Russian players who left their country and openly criticized the war in Ukraine. In March 2022, he told Chess.com: "What our government is doing now is absolutely disgusting. I cannot accept it, but I cannot do anything about it. But I have no sympathy for this war; all the reasons are absolutely terrible."

After playing in the European Championship, the Russian participants can also participate in the Asian Individual Championship later this year. On February 28, the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) formally adopted the Chess Federation of Russia (CFR) into its ranks at a meeting of its General Assembly in Abu Dhabi. On May 1, Russian players will be able to participate in Asian events.

PeterDoggers
Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by Chess.com in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!


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