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Firouzja Surges To World No. 3 At European Team Championship
Alireza Firouzja is the new world number-three. Photo: European Team Championship/ECU.

Firouzja Surges To World No. 3 At European Team Championship

PeterDoggers
| 54 | Chess Event Coverage

After winning the FIDE Chess.com Grand Swiss, GM Alireza Firouzja's quick rise to the top continues. The French-Iranian started with 4.5/5 at the European Team Championship in Slovenia and is now the new world number-three in the live rankings.

The European Team Championships (open and women, four boards per team, held every two years) are currently underway in Brezice, a town in eastern Slovenia near the Croatian border. Many of the Grand Swiss participants are also playing in Brezice, including the winner, Firouzja. And, while just 18 years old, he continues to make headlines.

How to watch?
You can follow the games and live broadcast live here: European Team Championship | European Women's Team Championship.
European Team Chess Championship 2021

 

Making his debut for the French team, Firouzja, rated 2770 on the FIDE November rating list, pushed GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, rated 2766, to board two. MVL probably doesn't mind, since the new board one has scored 4.5/5 so far!

In general, the team spirit among the top two French players looks good:

Together with his games in Riga, Firouzja has now gained 23.3 rating points for the December rating list, where he is virtually the world number-three—ahead of GM Fabiano Caruana and below GMs Magnus Carlsen and Ding Liren.

Firouzja world number 3 live ratings
Firouzja is now the world number-three in the live ratings. Image: 2700chess.

Firouzja's win in round four against Turkey's GM Mustafa Yilmaz is quite impressive. Challenging the dogma "don't play weakening pawn moves in front of your king," White's b2-b4 and a2-a4 are remarkable, and they formed the prelude to a nice tactic: 

With the next win, Firouzja has reached a live rating of 2793.3 and surpassed Caruana on the rating list. If we compare that with Carlsen, we're seeing a similarly fast rise to the top. At the same age, 18 years and five months, the Norwegian prodigy had a rating of 2770 and was also the world number-three, behind GMs Veselin Topalov and Viswanathan Anand, on the April 2009 FIDE rating list.

April 2009 FIDE chess ratings
The April 2009 FIDE rating list top 10.

In November 2009, a month before turning 19, Carlsen broke 2800, and two months later, he was leading the rating list for the first time. Firouzja could theoretically surpass Ding and become the world number-two before the end of the tournament in Slovenia if he scores three more wins.

Here's how Firouzja got to occupy the world number-three spot:

Alireza Firouzja
Alireza Firouzja. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The other big change at the top is GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's return to the top 10. Azerbaijan's board one started with 3/3 before drawing his next two games. With players having very similar ratings, a 7.7 rating gain is currently good for Mamedyarov jumping from 11th to seventh place.

His second-round win as Black was, similar to Firouzja's game above, one in the category "don't try this at home." Defending White's 5.Bg5 with 5...f6 and the ...g7-g5-g4 follow-up two moves later looks like beginner's play, but it's theory and, in general, elite grandmasters get away with such nonsense these days!

No team managed to win five or even four times. In fact, there are six teams sharing first place with three wins and two tied matches: Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Hungary, Armenia, and the Netherlands.

France is not among them, with three wins but losses to Hungary and Armenia. Hungary's GM Benjamin Gledura is the only player in the tournament to win all of his games so far. In the clash with France, he beat GM Etienne Bacrot in a match won 2.5-1.5 by the Hungarians.

Benjamin Gledura
Benjamin Gledura is on 5/5. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Russia is the favorite, as always. While their last Olympiad victory was back in 2002 when GM Garry Kasparov was still in the team, the Russians next won the European Team Championship four times (2003, 2007, 2015, 2019).

This year playing with GMs Alexander Grischuk, Daniil Dubov, Kirill Alekseenko, Vladislav Artemiev, and Andrey Esipenko, the average age is as low as 25.8 and the average rating 2728. The team hasn't suffered individual losses so far. 

In their 3-1 win vs. the Czech Republic, Russia's Esipenko got checkmate on the board with the black pieces. Can you find how he did it?

Andrey Esipenko. Photo: European Team Championship/ECU.

GM Anish Giri followed the same path as Mamedyarov on board one for the Netherlands, starting with three wins before drawing two. In the third round, he got to play a positional exchange sacrifice that was hard to resist:

Anish Giri Ivan Saric Brezice 2021
Anish Giri playing Ivan Saric. Photo: European Team Championship/ECU.

European Team Championship 2021 | Round 5 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Team + = - MP SB GP
1 1 Russia 3 2 0 8 66.0 12.5
2 2 Azerbaijan 3 2 0 8 62.5 13.5
3 7 Ukraine 3 2 0 8 58.0 12.0
4 10 Hungary 3 2 0 8 57.0 13.0
5 11 Armenia 3 2 0 8 49.0 12.5
6 6 Netherlands 3 2 0 8 45.0 13.0
7 8 Spain 2 3 0 7 63.0 11.0
8 16 Romania 3 1 1 7 58.5 12.0
9 25 Georgia 2 2 1 6 55.5 11.0
10 3 France 3 0 2 6 51.0 11.0
11 4 Poland 2 2 1 6 47.5 11.5
12 13 Serbia 3 0 2 6 45.5 110
13 17 Turkey 3 0 2 6 44.5 11.0
14 20 Greece 3 0 2 6 41.0 11.0
15 12 Czech Republic 3 0 2 6 39.0 10.5
16 35 Finland 3 0 2 6 27.0 9.5
17 34 Slovenia 2 3 0 2 6 25.0 11.0
18 9 Germany 2 1 2 5 53.5 10.5
19 24 Norway 1 3 1 5 52.5 10.0
20 26 Switzerland 2 1 2 5 40.0 10.5

MP=match points, SB=Olympiad-Sonneborn-Berger, GP=game points; full standings here

The women's tournament is a different story as there Russia leads with a perfect 10 match points after five rounds.

Their top board, GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, had finished her Grand Swiss in Riga—the open section!—with two wins, and she added three more in the first three rounds in Slovenia, thus stabilizing her 2600+ rating.

Here's a convincing win from the third round:

Goryachkina Paehtz Brezice 2021
Goryachkina playing Paehtz. Photo: European Team Championship/ECU.

European Women's Team Championship 2021 | Round 5 Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Fed Team + = - TB1 TB2 TB3
1 1 Russia 5 0 0 10 82.5 17.0
2 2 Georgia 4 0 1 8 64.0 12.0
3 18 Greece 4 0 1 8 43.5 11.5
4 3 Poland 3 1 1 7 64.0 12.0
5 5 Azerbaijan 3 1 1 7 60.0 14.0
6 13 Italy 3 1 1 7 59.5 11.0
7 4 Ukraine 3 1 1 7 52.0 11.5
8 8 Armenia 3 0 2 6 52.5 11.5
9 11 Hungary 2 2 1 6 43.0 12.5
10 28 Lithuania 2 2 1 6 41.5 10.0
11 17 Slovakia 2 2 1 6 40.0 11.5
12 7 Germany 3 0 2 6 34.0 10.5
13 6 France 2 1 2 5 54.5 10.5
14 14 Netherlands 2 1 2 5 44.5 11.5
15 10 Romania 2 1 2 5 42.5 11.0
16 21 Sweden 2 1 2 5 35.0 8.5
17 12 Serbia 2 1 2 5 33.0 11.5
18 19 Israel 2 1 2 5 33.0 10.5
19 16 Czech Republic 2 1 2 5 27.0 10.0
20 9 Spain 2 0 3 4 35.5 11.0

MP=match points, SB=Olympiad-Sonneborn-Berger, GP=game points; full standings here.

The European Team Chess Championships are taking place November 12-21, 2021 in Brezice, Slovenia. The format is a nine-round Swiss for teams of four players. The time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves plus 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second increment starting from move one. 

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