Monte Carlo Supreme In Novi Sad; Hou Yifan Goes 6/6

Monte Carlo Supreme In Novi Sad; Hou Yifan Goes 6/6

Cercle d'Echecs Monte-Carlo won the European Club Cup in Novi Sad most convincingly. The team won all their seven matches, and Hou Yifan, playing on top board, won all her games. Chess.com's latest addition to the content team, IM Jovanka Houska, reports.

Cercle d'Echecs Monte-Carlo, winners in Novi Sad | Photo Lennart Ootes.

Many moons ago, I played in the European club championships for women in Rijeka, Croatia, it was to be my first international team tournament playing for my then local chess club Slough. As a teenager, my lasting memory of this event was how happy our Abba loving amateur chess team were to see all those famous names from chess magazines come to life.

Leaping forward to 2016 and with a player list that included one world champion, six grandmasters and several international masters, I imagine that same sense of excitement and anticipation was still very much there.

In contrast to Olympiads and European team events which are tense, long, drawn out affairs, the 7 round ECC has always felt like a fun-fuelled dash amongst a group of friends. In fact, the tournament is so enjoyable — not only are the same teams participating every year but they are fielding the same players!

From the outset, it looked like it would be a contest between five time champions Monte Carlo and reigning 2015 champions NONA Batumi. Monte Carlo, who skipped the 2015 event to host a leg in the women’s Grand Prix event, fielded their regulars: World Champion Hou Yifan followed by Grandmasters Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, Pia Cramling and international master Almira Skripchenko.

The venue, in Novi Sad, Serbia. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

NONA Batumi, also unsurprisingly stuck with their 2014 winning line-up of GM Nana Dzagnidze, IM Nino Batsiashvili, GM Bela Khotenashvili and WGM Miriam Mikadze. Of course, never to be underestimated were the Russian team Ugra who fielded former world champion Anna Ushenina and former Russian champion Natalija Pogonina.

The reality was, well, very one-sided: Monte Carlo outclassed the field. After defeating NONA in round three with a very comfortable 3-1 victory Monte Carlo kept slicing through the competition, securing the title in round 6.

Monte Carlo’s success was largely due to the wonderful gold medal performances of the World Champion duo Hou Yifan and Mariya Muzychuk, who scored 6/6 (3248 performance and 15 rating points!) and 6.5/7 respectively. Both ladies played in a very strategic manner, Hou Yifan consistently favored tense, dynamic positions where the long-term prospects were in her favor.

Let’s look at her game against GM Nana Dzagnidze in the critical match Monte Carlo vs NONA Batumi.

Hou Yifan won all her games in Novi Sad. | Photo Lennart Ootes.

The race for silver was a tough fight until the seventh round when NONA Batumi defeated the rather luckless SHSM Legacy Square Moscow ahead of Russian Team Ugra.

Funnily enough, it would later transpire that the standings on the podium all hinged on this tragicomedy between International masters Marina Nechaeva (Ugra) and Salome Melia (Nona Batumi) on board 4:

An unusual feature of the ECC is that it is possible to gain a seven-round title norm; according to my detective skills, three players achieved international master norms: Gulnar Mammadova (Odlar Yurdu), Mihaela Sandu, (Midland Monarchs) and the biggest rating winner Latvian WGM Ilze Berzina who gained a magnificent 40 points playing for the lowest rated team Kaunas CC Margiris. In fact, her score of 4.5/7 was more than the rest of her team combined!

Here she is defeating Alina Kashlinskaya in an impressive display.

European Club Cup (Women) 2016 | Final Standings

Rk. SNo Team # + = - TB1 TB2 TB3 TB4 TB5
1 1 Cercle d'Echecs Monte-Carlo 7 7 0 0 14 152 21,5 105 105
2 2 NONA Batumi 7 5 1 1 11 127,5 17 112,5 84
3 3 Ugra Chess Club 7 5 0 2 10 126,5 17,5 112 73,5
4 10 ASD C.S.R. Fischer Chieti 7 3 2 2 8 78 14,5 95,5 46,25
5 5 Odlar Yurdu 7 3 2 2 8 75,5 14 104,5 49,75
6 9 Ladya Kazan 7 4 0 3 8 62 14 104 48
7 6 Chigorin Chess Club St Petersburg 7 3 1 3 7 89 15,5 104 41,5
8 7 Jelica PEP - Goracici 7 3 1 3 7 65 15,5 82 33,75
9 4 SHSM Legacy Square Moscow 7 3 0 4 6 86 15,5 100 30
10 11 Midland Monarchs 7 1 3 3 5 61 13 86 25
11 8 SS Lazio Scacchi 7 2 0 5 4 65,5 11,5 93 24,5
12 13 ASVOE Pamhagen 7 2 0 5 4 27 8 94,5 21
13 12 Rishon Le Zion 7 1 1 5 3 41,5 9,5 85,5 18
14 14 Kaunas CC Margiris 7 1 1 5 3 39 9 93,5 16

 

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