Carlsen Starts With Win At European Club Cup
Magnus Carlsen, David Howell and Nils Grandelius in good spirits before round two. | Photo: Niki Riga/

Carlsen Starts With Win At European Club Cup

| 28 | Chess Event Coverage

Magnus Carlsen is active at the European Club Cup, where he started with a win against Vladimir Potkin in round two. Earlier in the week, Carlsen had some PR activities and spoke about his match with Fabiano Caruana.

The European Club Cup is underway in Porto Carras, a well-known Greek seaside resort in Halkidiki that has hosted many chess events before. It is a one-week event, played over seven rounds.

The general ECC, held for the 34th time, has 61 teams that consist of six players, with two reserves. The prize fund is 22,000 Euros. The women's event has 12 teams with four players and one reserve, and play for a 13,000-euro prize fund.

There are three teams with an average rating of over 2700. Top favorite is 2016 winner Alkaloid, who have Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Dmitry Andreikin, Dmitry Jakovenko and Pavel Eljanov as top guns. Then there's AVE Novy Bor (Czech Republic) with Radek Wojtaszek, Pentala Harikrishna, David Navara and Vidit Gujrathi on top boards, and third seeded Odlar Yurdu, which is basically the full national squad of Azerbaijan. Last year Shakhriyar Mamedyarov played for Globus alongside e.g. Vladimir Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin and Alexander Grischuk. That star-studded team won the event, but apparently their sponsor has lost interest.

Among the dark horses this year is Valerenga Sjakklub from Norway, a team that plays with a special board one. None other than World Champion Magnus Carlsen decided that the European Club Cup would fit nicely into his schedule this year. 

2018 European Club Cup | Top 8 Teams

Bo. Title Fed ALKALOID (1) Rtg Bo. Title Fed VALERENGA SJAKKLUB (5) Rtg
1 GM Ding Liren 2804 1 GM Carlsen, Magnus 2839
2 GM Yu Yangyi 2765 2 GM Howell, David W L 2689
3 GM Andreikin, Dmitry 2723 3 GM Grandelius, Nils 2655
4 GM Jakovenko, Dmitry 2752 4 GM Tari, Aryan 2618
5 GM Eljanov, Pavel 2703 5 GM Predojevic, Borki 2616
6 GM Kryvoruchko, Yuriy 2697 6 GM Romanov, Evgeny 2614
7 GM Nedev, Trajko 2496 7 IM Christiansen, Johan-Sebastian 2541
8 IM Pancevski, Filip 2489 8 GM Lie, Kjetil A. 2537
Bo. Title Fed AVE NOVY BOR (2) Rtg Bo. Title Fed OBIETTIVO RISARCIMENTO (6) Rtg
1 GM Wojtaszek, Radoslaw 2727 1 GM Wang Hao 2722
2 GM Harikrishna, Pentala 2733 2 GM Leko, Peter 2690
3 GM Navara, David 2740 3 GM Vallejo Pons, Francisco 2713
4 GM Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi 2711 4 GM Granda Zuniga, Julio E 2641
5 GM Sasikiran, Krishnan 2672 5 GM Vocaturo, Daniele 2615
6 GM Ragger, Markus 2690 6 GM David, Alberto 2561
7 GM Laznicka, Viktor 2664 7 GM Brunello, Sabino 2548
8 GM Bartel, Mateusz 2591 8 GM Dvirnyy, Danyyil 2480
Bo. Title Fed ODLAR YURDU (3) Rtg Bo. Title Fed MOLODEZKHA (7) Rtg
1 GM Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar 2820 1 GM Potkin, Vladimir 2597
2 GM Naiditsch, Arkadij 2721 2 GM Paravyan, David 2629
3 GM Mamedov, Rauf 2699 3 GM Chigaev, Maksim 2599
4 GM Safarli, Eltaj 2676 4 GM Yuffa, Daniil 2563
5 GM Guseinov, Gadir 2667 5 GM Antipov, Mikhail Al. 2593
6 GM Durarbayli, Vasif 2629 6 IM Lomasov, Semyon 2540
7 GM Abasov, Nijat 2627 7 IM Golubov, Saveliy 2476
8 GM Agaragimov, Djakhangir 2502
Bo. Title Fed MEDNYI VSADNIK (4) Rtg Bo. Title Fed BEER SHEVA (8) Rtg
1 GM Svidler, Peter 2756 1 GM Efimenko, Zahar 2641
2 GM Vitiugov, Nikita 2709 2 GM Postny, Evgeny 2612
3 GM Fedoseev, Vladimir 2713 3 GM Roiz, Michael 2607
4 GM Matlakov, Maxim 2683 4 GM Huzman, Alexander 2571
5 GM Rodshtein, Maxim 2674 5 GM Mikhalevski, Victor 2565
6 GM Alekseenko, Kirill 2639 6 GM Greenfeld, Alon 2495
7 GM Goganov, Aleksey 2592

The games Carlsen plays in Greece will be the last before his title match with Fabiano Caruana next month. About why he chose the ECC and not the Olympiad, Carlsen said: "I thought there would be less pressure, and also it's kind of a smaller event which is easier to navigate. It also fits in my general plans better."

Carlsen said this at a private event in Rome, where he played against a group of lawyers earlier this week. Norway's TV2 reported on it here. Another remark by the Norwegian GM was about his number one status on the FIDE rating list, which he has held since 2011. "In a way, it's only symbolic, but it has also been a part of my identity for many years."

Carlsen went into the European Club Cup with only a 6.7-point lead over his match rival Caruana in the live ratings, and so playing in Greece is not without risks. Imagine he would have to play the London match as the world number two, and what the media would do with that story!

Magnus Carlsen European Club Cup 2018

Carlsen at the European Club Cup. | Photo: Niki Riga/

This is Carlsen's first event since the Sinquefield Cup, although he did play some chess last Monday. First, he faced Liverpool footballer Trent Alexander-Arnold in Manchester in an event sponsored by the Russian cybersecurity and anti-virus company Kaspersky Lab.

Time odds (5 minutes to 1) and assistance from English prodigies Shreyas Royal (9) and Kyan Bui (12) didn't prevent Alexander-Arnold from losing quickly and nicely.

Later, on the same day, Carlsen also played his annual Play Live Challenge simul against 12 opponents, all users of the PlayMagnus app. This was held at the headquarters of German magazine Der Spiegel, and like in the previous editions, Carlsen won all games easily.

Here you can watch the simul with commentary by GM Danny King. Don't expect too much resistance from his opponents. Clock simul vs the Israeli national team, anyone?

Also in a chat with Chessbase's Macauley Peterson, Carlsen said something about the November match, comparing it to his two matches with Anand and one with Karjakin:

"The biggest difference is that everybody agrees now that these are the two strongest players. There’s nobody that really questions that, which makes it all the more exciting really, and makes it kind of easier for me as well, because I know it’s 100% legitimate, whereas the previous matches you could always ask ‘what if this guy had qualified’ — like last time ‘what if Caruana had won the last round’, wouldn’t that have been tougher? This time it’s the real deal."

That was a lot of non-European Club Cup in this report, but simply didn't get a chance to cover Carlsen's activities earlier.

But back to Greece, where the first two rounds saw the typical pairings of teams from the upper half against teams from the lower half, which meant a lots of 6-0 and 5.5-0.5 scores. One could argue that accelerated pairings is worth trying, because nobody is really interested in a game such as Kauko Kelo rated 1592 playing vs GM Nijat Abasov rated 2627 (from the match SK Comeon vs Odlar Yurdu).

On the other hand, it does give IMs or weaker GMs a nice chance to play a world class player (with the hopes to maybe even analyze together afterward!). And sometimes, that goes pretty well.

When Carlsen expectedly decided to rest for that first round, his Twitter nemesis Anish Giri tweeted: "No surprise indeed, Twan Burg's Petroff would have been a hard nut to crack." And then the Dutch GM duly held David Howell to a draw on board one (without getting a chance to play a Petroff).

Another small upset, in the same match Valerenga vs Echiquier Amaytois, was from another Dutch grandmaster. Roeland Pruijssers defeated Aryan Tari in an endgame:

In round two, the biggest individual upset was Mednyi Vsadnik's Peter Svidler losing to Aleksandar Indjic of the Serbian team Itaka. First he had been winning, and then he missed an amazing computer draw.


Peter Svidler European Club Cup

Peter Svidler got involved in a tremendously complicated endgame. | Photo: Niki Riga/

In the women's section, the following was the biggest upset. Playing for Caissa Italia Pentole Agnelli, Russia's Olympic team member GM Valentina Gunina (2525) didn't play a great game against ZSK Maribor's WIM Teodora Injac (2258):

Valentina Gunina European Club Cup 2018

Valentina Gunina. | Photo: Niki Riga/

Carlsen did show up for round two, where he faced Russian GM Vladimir Potkin, board one for Molodezhka. The Russian player, who mostly works as a trainer for the Russian Chess Federation (and seconded Sergey Karjakin many times) was doing fine for a while but then got outplayed anyway.

It all started with Carlsen's little pawn push 29.a5. It wasn't Donner's Sweet Little Thing on a5, but it came close! 

Carlsen played in shorts, which was against the dress code of the tournament. It didn't lead to a scandal like last year with Anton Kovalyov at the World Cup, because the arbiters haven't been upholding this dress code strictly in what is a less prestigious tournament, where more players tend to play in "sporty" outfits. [Update: for round three, several players appeared in the playing hall wearing shorts.]

Instead of losing further ground to Caruana on the rating list, Carlsen added two points (the difference is now 8.7 points). In round three, the world champion will be playing Novy Bor's Radek Wojtaszek (pairings here at Chess-Results), a player he lost to in 2015 in Wijk aan Zee, before beating him three times in subsequent classical games and once in rapid. This wouldn't be the best moment to lose again.

Games via TWIC.

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