Batumi Chess Club NONA Wins 3rd ECC Title
The European chess club championship (ECC) has to be one of the most fascinating team events in the chess calendar. Although it is relatively short at only seven rounds, it’s the fusion between some of the world’s top players playing for big fees, national teams in serious training all mixed in with amateur players having fun that gives the event that sparkle. It comes as no surprise to see some of the clubs keep coming back for more.
So, it was that on 8 October the 22nd European Club Cup for women kicked off alongside the 33rd (open) European Club Cup, in the absolutely sumptuous Avantgarde resort in Antalya, Turkey. Playing in this idyllic paradise were 12 teams, each comprising of four boards plus one reserve, from eight different countries all competing to win the much coveted title (and perhaps the 3,000 euro first prize!)
The view from one of the rooms reveals that the venue was a small paradise. | Photo: David Llada/ECC.
The twelve teams in order of seeding were Batumi Chess Club NONA (Georgia), UGRA Chess Club (Russia) SHSM Legacy Square Capital (Russia), Odlar Yurdu (Azerbaijan), Bossa Nova (Belarus), Cs Studentesc Medicina Timisoara (Romania), Anatolia (Turkey), Mulhouse Philidor (France), Marmara (Turkey), Beer Sheva Chess Club (Israel), Aegean (Turkey) and Mediterranean (Turkey).
Although there was a decrease in the number of countries being represented, things certainly look great for women's chess in Turkey as the four clubs of Anatolia, Marmara, Aegan and Mediterranean accounted for a third of the line-up!
The sponsors of 2016 ECC champions Cercle d’Echecs de Monte Carlo like to alternate between sending a world class team to the ECC and organising a women’s event in Monaco. This year, Monaco will be hosting the European Rapid and Blitz Championship at the end of October 2017.
On paper, the clear favorite was Georgian powerhouse Batumi chess club NONA, a team named after the Batumi "Nona Gaprindashvili" chess club. The mayor of Batumi is also the sponsor of the team. After winning the title on their first two attempts in 2014 and 2015, the Georgian team came to Antalya determined to retake their title for the third time. With a rating average of 2495 and four grandmasters in their line up including the highest rated player of the event, Harika Dronavalli, this was a team with one golden aim.
|Bo.||Fed||Title||Batumi Chess Club NONA||Rtg||Pts.||Games|
Second and third seeds were the Russian clubs of UGRA and SHSM Legacy Square Capital, both regular participants of the ECC. Neither team had made any new additions to their squads of previous years, preferring to stick with experience and the existing team spirit.
UGRA chess club in action. Marina Nechaeva (forefront) with 5.5/6 and a staggering rating performance of 2657. | Photo: ECC.
|Bo.||Fed||Title||UGRA Chess Club||Rtg||Pts.||Games|
|Bo.||Fed||Title||SHSM Legacy Square||Rtg||Pts.||Games|
Ranked in fourth place with an average rating of 2348 was Odlar Yurdu from Azerbaijan, named after a university in Baku. The club was playing with four members of the Azeri national squad. Odlar Yurdu, who also had a strong team in the open section, was not the only team using the ECC as a training ground. "Local" club Anatolia was in essence the national Turkish team in another name.
Other teams to watch out for were fifth seeds Bossa Nova from Belorussia, who had bolstered their team by recruiting Ukrainian GM Natalia Zhukova, and Romanian team Cs Studentesc Medicina Timisoara who earned their place in the ECC by finishing second in the Romanian Superliga.
All games were played at the standard FIDE time control with the fashionable no draw offers allowed before move 30 in force. In addition to the four major prizes (€3000, €2,500, €1,500 and €1,000 there were €500 board prize for the best performances and seven round title norms.
Going to plan...?
As is the case in most Swiss-format tournaments, the first round was a smooth affair in favor of the stronger teams although Batumi c.c. NONA could only narrowly defeat the local club/national Turkish team Anatolia. With a match victory counting for two points and a draw only counting for one, it meant the top seeds all jumped forward to two points.
French vice-champion WFM Cecile Haussernot defeated IM Olga Girya in the biggest upset of the tournament. | Photo: Gurkan Ergun/ECC.
Whilst there were no team surprises, there was indeed one huge upset when French vice-champion WFM Cecile Haussernot playing for the French debutantes Mulhouse Philidor defeated IM Olga Girya.
The coolest hair! IM Elisabeth Paehtz playing for Cs Studentesc Medicina Timisoara. | Photo: Gurkan Ergun/ECC.
Playing a Swiss format with only 12 teams and seven rounds invariably means that some of the critical match ups occur very early in the tournament. After the smoothness of round one, all the action kicked off in round two culminating with one very surprising result: Batumi chess club NONA’s defeat at the hands of Odlar Yurdu in a very, very tumultuous match. GM(elect) Nino Batsiashvili was able to save face for the Georgian team in the following remarkable encounter:
UGRA were held to a draw against their Russian counterparts SHSM Legacy Square Capital, a very normal result for both teams but not a result conducive for their chances of gold. These results left only two teams, Odlar Yurdu and Bossa Nova (who defeated Studentesc Medicina Timisoara), as the early leaders.
Ulviyya Fataliyeva playing for Odlar Yurdu won the board prize on board 2. | Photo: Anastasia Karlovich/ECC.
Round three saw Bossa Nova continued their winning ways by defeating co-leader Odlar Yurdu. 2.5-1.5, it was left to Ulviyya Fataliyeva, to score Odlar's sole win.
Elsewhere, the shedding of the points continued. Legacy Square Capital were again held to a draw this time by Studentesc MedicinaTimisoara. In one of the most crunch matches Batumi NONA recovered from their shock defeat in round two to beat second seeds UGRA.
GM Nana Dzagnidze provided many of the key victories for her team Batumi NONA. | Photo: David Llada/ECC.
For a little while it looked like things were not going well for the Georgian favorites again after IM Marina Nechaeva defeated GM Bela Khotenashvili in a flawless game. Nino Batisashvili levelled the match by defeating IM Olga Girya, and then it all came down to whether GM Dzagnidze could squeeze something in this instrumental endgame versus former women's world champion Anna Ushenina.
The teams kept the blows coming in round four, as early leader Bossa Nova who had won rather cleanly in round three came to an abrupt halt at the hands of Legacy Square Capital. By round four the leader board was a rather cluttered affair between Legacy Square Capital, Batumi NONA, Odlar Yurdu and Bossa Nova all now on 6 points out of 8.
"We came to fight!"
Said the most recent female grandmaster Batsiashvili, and that fighting spirit was certainly the sentiment of the final rounds. Whilst round five saw two leader emerge from the pandemonium, Batumi NONA and Odlar Yurdu both defeating their rivals Bossa Nova and Legacy Square Capital 2.5-1.5 respectively. It was only in round six that finally a clear leader emerged after Batumi NONA defeated Legacy Square Capital with a rather convincing score of 3-1.
The real tragedy of round six occurred in the match UGRA-Odlar Yurdu, UGRA chess had been trailing the pack by one point and were hoping to recover some lost ground. Sadly we can pinpoint the moment that UGRA's golden dreams vanished into the ether.
Bossa Nova is defined in the dictionary as being "a style of Brazilian music derived from Samba, but with more emphasis on melody."
Bossa Nova first board GM Natalia Zhukova had a very impressive debut with 5/7. | Photo: David Llada/ECC.
Fifth seeds Bossa Nova (Zhukova, Badelka, Zaiatz and Stetsko) certainly played melodiously when they crushed local heroes Anatolia 3-1. Take a look at new recruit GM Zhukova's zen like victory over IM Ekaterina Atalik.
After round six the leaderboard (points from 12) looked like this:
|1||1||Batumi Chess Club NONA||5||0||1||10||92,5||15,5|
|3||2||UGRA Chess Club||3||2||1||8||80,5||14|
Much like most of the event, no-one could have predicted the thrilling finish. Whilst Odlar Yurdu, Bossa Nova and UGRA were all paired against significantly lower rated teams and won rather comfortably, the same could not be said of Batumi NONA who were facing the underrated Studentesc Medicina Timisoara.
At first, things looked good with Batumi securing very promising positions on all boards. However things took a disastrous turn when Batsiashvili suddenly blundered her rook against IM Cosma, whilst Khotenashvili steadied the ship with a win and Dzagnidze drew against IM Elisabeth Paehtz.
GM Harika Dronavalli may have drawn all her games for Batumi NONA but her final round draw made her the heroine of the day. | David Llada/ECC.
All eyes then turned on whether the highest rated player in the tournament GM Harika Dronavalli could save a razor sharp position against WGM Mihaela Sandu?
Alas it was not to be for the energetic team from Azerbaijan, whose hard work prior paid of in terms of luck and opportunities, in particular congratulations to 21 year old Ulviyya Fataliyeva, whose 2522 performance secured her a board prize on board two.
2017 European Club Cup for women | Final Standings
|1||1||Batumi Chess Club NONA||5||1||1||11||126,5||17,5|
|4||2||UGRA Chess Club||4||2||1||10||107,5||18|
|5||3||SHSM Legacy Square Capital||3||2||2||8||114,5||16|
|6||6||Cs Studentesc Medicina Timisoara||3||2||2||8||93,5||18|
|9||10||Beer Sheva Chess Club||2||1||4||5||47,5||12,5|
Games from TWIC.