Azerbaijan Wins Gold Amidst Controversy
Azerbaijan played 2-2 vs Ukraine and had some scary moments as Russia beat Germany 3-1 and reached the same amount of match points. At the end of the day the tiebreak worked out well for the Azerbaijani, who won gold at the European Team Championship but not without a controversy about arranged draws.
The final day in Hersonissos was a dramatic one. After beating Russia convincingly on Sunday, most fans expected Azerbaijan to take fate in its own hands, win against Ukraine and secure the gold medals. But it went a bit differently.
|1/1||GM||Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (w)||2791||-||GM||Eljanov, Pavel (b)||2720||½ - ½|
|1/2||GM||Radjabov, Teimour (b)||2741||-||GM||Kryvoruchko, Yuriy (w)||2692||½ - ½|
|1/3||GM||Naiditsch, Arkadij (w)||2702||-||GM||Ponomariov, Ruslan (b)||2687||½ - ½|
|1/4||GM||Mamedov, Rauf (b)||2678||-||GM||Kuzubov, Yuriy (w)||2690||½ - ½|
After several hours of play, the Kryvoruchko-Radjabov and Kuzubov-Mamedov games had ended in (fairly balanced) draws. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov had failed to get an initiative going vs Pavel Eljanov and was defending a worse position. A draw seemed the most likely result though, and Arkadij Naiditsch had reached a winning position with brilliant play.
Everything seemed to be going Azerbaijan's way...but then something happened.
The start of the Azerbaijan-Ukraine match.
Sources told Chess.com that they saw the two team captains, GM Eltaj Safarli for Azerbaijan and GM Alexander Sulypa for Ukraine, talking to each other and then approaching the chief arbiter. Then, almost at the same time, a draw was agreed in the last two games that were still going, and the match ended 2-2.
Over the last few decades it has been quite common in chess that draws among several boards at team events were "negotiated" by team captains. A famous story is about the match between Netherlands and Russia at the Thessaloniki Olympiad in 1988 when, not long after the start, all of a sudden Russian-born Genna Sosonko stopped all four clocks. Nobody protested.
The chief arbiter in Crete, Takis Nikolopoulos, couldn't comment to Chess.com as to whether the captains had made an agreement because he didn't see such a thing. Russia's Alexander Grischuk, who had finished his game, witnessed the moment and then joined the live broadcast, saying "I cannot speak about this."
Video footage shows Safarli and Sulypa shaking hands when Mamedyarov-Eljanov had been agreed to a draw, but before Naiditsch-Ponomariov ended.
@photochess) November 6, 2017
The "proof" of this story was still somewhat thin, until Ian Nepomniachtchi tweeted about it:
I really wonder if captains dealing about a draw during the match should be penalized. It’s clearly forbidden by the rules. #ETCC2017— Yan Nepomniachtchi ( @lachesisq) November 6, 2017
This can possibly (and it did in some way) affect distribution of medals. For example, Croatia has lost chances to bronze. #ETCC2017— Yan Nepomniachtchi ( @lachesisq) November 6, 2017
The controversy didn't blow up to a full scandal because the final positions in both games were drawn. However, especially in Naiditsch-Ponomariov, White could have played on a bit more, and Black needed to find some accurate moves.
Here's the game—after brilliant opening and middlegame play (where Naiditsch might have been helped by the fact that he once beat Magnus Carlsen in a very similar structure!) he let his opponent slip away:
During the broadcast Grischuk felt that 3-1 might be just enough for Russia to overtake Azerbaijan in the standings, but it wasn't. The tiebreak rule, which kept the Azeri's in first place, was the "Olympiad-Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break without lowest result," meaning that big victories against lower-ranked teams matter less than wins against direct competitors.
|2/1||GM||Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter (w)||2672||-||GM||Grischuk, Alexander (b)||2785||½ - ½|
|2/2||GM||Meier, Georg (b)||2655||-||GM||Nepomniachtchi, Ian (w)||2733||0 - 1|
|2/3||GM||Bluebaum, Matthias (w)||2643||-||GM||Vitiugov, Nikita (b)||2728||0 - 1|
|2/4||GM||Fridman, Daniel (b)||2626||-||GM||Matlakov, Maxim (w)||2730||½ - ½|
Both Ian Nepomniachtchi and Nikita Vitiugov won their games in rook endgames. It seems that Meier was quite close to the draw:
Ian Nepomniachtchi won a long game vs Georg Meier. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Azerbijan won the title for the third time, after victories in 2009 in Novi Sad and 2013 in Warsaw, and silver in 2011 in Porto Carras (behind Germany, who still had Naiditsch in their team!). In 2009 and 2011 the late Vugar Gashimov was part of the team—no doubt the players will be thinking about him tonight as well.
Naiditch becomes the first to win European team championship with two different countries, and not actually being born in neither! https://t.co/O1uVyIHGUa— Peter Heine Nielsen ( @PHChess) November 6, 2017
The winning team (without Teimour Radjabov, who did not attend the ceremony) and the media. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Two countries in the top 10 outperformed positively. First Croatia, who was 14th seeded and finished fourth after beating Turkey in the last round. As Nepomniachtchi pointed out in his tweet, if Naiditsch had beaten Ponomariov, Croatia would have won bronze instead of Ukraine.
|3/1||GM||Solak, Dragan (w)||2626||-||GM||Saric, Ivan (b)||2662||0 - 1|
|3/2||GM||Yilmaz, Mustafa (b)||2633||-||GM||Bosiocic, Marin (w)||2619||0 - 1|
|3/3||GM||Can, Emre (w)||2604||-||GM||Stevic, Hrvoje (b)||2616||1 - 0|
|3/4||GM||Sanal, Vahap (b)||2549||-||GM||Martinovic, Sasa (w)||2565||½ - ½|
Here's Ivan Saric beating Dragan Solak on board one, using an interesting, long-term pawn sacrifice in a Sicilian:
Croatia finished in an excellent fourth place. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Then there was Romania, who was 20th seeded and finished in seventh place after beating Spain in the final round.
|5/1||GM||Anton Guijarro, David (w)||2651||-||GM||Lupulescu, Constantin (b)||2620||1 - 0|
|5/2||GM||Salgado Lopez, Ivan (b)||2629||-||GM||Parligras, Mircea-Emilian (w)||2616||0 - 1|
|5/3||GM||Lopez Martinez, Josep Manuel (w)||2607||-||GM||Deac, Bogdan-Daniel (b)||2560||½ - ½|
|5/4||GM||Korneev, Oleg (b)||2557||-||GM||Szabo, Gergely-Andras-Gyula (w)||2563||0 - 1|
Armenia's 12th place was rather disappointing but it was partly because of a 2-2 vs Serbia in the final round, when a certain top GM was given rest. If Levon Aronian is not playing in the final round, you know something went wrong with Armenia.
England cannot be happy either, finishing in 16th place as the fourth seeded team. All players dropped rating points and a total of 47.9 points was donated to other countries.
The best individual performance was achieved by Rauf Mamedov, board four for the winning team Azerbaijan. He scored 8/9, a 2920(!) performance rating and won 22.8 Elo points.
Norway's IM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen played a remarkable tournament. He didn't draw a single game, scored 6/9 and reached a performance rating of exactly 2600 which was just good enough for a GM norm over nine rounds. IM Filip Pancevski of Macedonia also scored a GM norm over nine rounds.
ETCC 2017 | Standings After Round 9
|33||39||Greece - Crete||2||3||4||7||76,5||13,5||147,5||50,5|
Top performances on board one: 1. Levon Aronian (4.5/7), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (5/8), David Navara (6/9). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Top performers on board two: 1. Marin Bosiocic (6/8), 2. Teimour Radjabov (5.5/8; prize collected by Eltaj Safarli), 3. Jan-Krzysztof Duda (6/9)
Top performers on board three: 1. Nikita Vitiugov (4.5/6), 2. Gabriel Sargissian (6.5/9), 3. Kacper Piorun (6/9). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Top performers on board four: 1. Rauf Mamedov, 2. Maxim Matlakov, 3. Zoltan Almasi. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Top performers for board five: 1. Rasmus Svane (5.5/7), 2. Carlos Ibarra (4/6), 3. Jorden van Foreest (5/7). | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.
Games from TWIC.
- Azerbaijan Beats Russia, Takes Over Lead In Crete
- European Teams: Azerbaijan, Russia Clash On Sunday
- European Teams: Hungary, Russia On Top
- Croatia Surprising Leader European Team Championship
- European Teams: Hungary Shocks Russia
- With Only 3 Board Wins Russia Leads European Teams
- European Teams: Italy Does It Again
- Italy Upsets Azerbaijan In Round 1 European Teams