Russia Leads In European Team Championships
The reigning world rapid champion Daniil Dubov has led the mid-tournament surge for Russia from fourth board. Photo: European Team Chess Championship.

Russia Leads In European Team Championships

| 7 | News

The 2019 European Team Chess Championship has reached its final third, with Russia leading in both the open and women's section.

While strong Russian teams are the norm in any team tournament, the championship has seen a wide range of upsets. After six rounds, Germany, Switzerland and Turkey are currently placed above Azerbaijan, France and Poland in the open section. In the women's championship, Serbia and Spain have both overperformed, as they stand ahead of traditional powers Romania, Hungary and France.

Valentina Gunina European Team Chess Championships
Following a 2-2 draw against Azerbaijan today in the women's championship, Russia is in first in both sections with three rounds to play. Photo: European Team Chess Championship.

The Russian team, looking to recover from its opening-round draw to Denmark, found its stride in the fourth round against Turkey. GM Daniil Dubov, the reigning world rapid champion, jettisoned his pawn with 12. e6! on the way to a crushing victory against GM Muhammed Batuhan Dastan.

Shortly after Dubov's victory, GMs Nikita Vitiugov and Dmitry Andreikin both won their games to secure the Russian victory before GM Maxim Matlakov held a draw for a final 3.5-0.5 score.

While the Russian squad was bolstering its overall score against Turkey, a clash between the top two teams, Ukraine and Armenia, was taking place on top board. After two relatively quick draws, Armenia seemed to have strong winning chances as both GM Hrant Melkumyan and GM Haik Martirosyan had favorable positions. A match win would have seen Armenia take clear first at the tournament's halfway point, but Ukraine's GM Vladimir Onischuk was extremely resourceful, finding a way to win despite a seemingly poor opening choice:

With England knocking off the Netherlands, four teams entered the championship's fifth round in control of the tournament: Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and England. Teams like Azerbaijan and Germany were not far behind, while Poland, one of the tournament favorites, was still recovering after losses to Turkey and the Czech Republic.

English European Team Championship 2019
England secured a win against the Netherlands after Luke McShane (second from left) won against Erwin L'Ami. Photo: European Team Chess Championship.

The fifth round saw Russia paired with Armenia, while England squared off with Ukraine. Once again, it was Dubov who set the tone early, building an edge against GM Arman Pashikian with the Black pieces. The Russian grandmaster converted his kingside onslaught into a winning rook-and-pawn endgame:

With Dubov securing his third win of the event, Russia took the lead and would not look back. With three draws to close out the match, Russia defeated Armenia, 2.5-1.5. That left the Ukraine-England match to determine the tournament's co-leaders heading into the sixth round. While the fan-favorite GM Gawain Jones notched a point for England, Ukraine's GM Yuriy Kuzubov kept the match level. The match was decided when GM Andrei Volokitin converted a small advantage to win the match for Ukraine.

Following the rest day, the sixth round brought the highly anticipated match-up between Russia and Ukraine. After GM Alexander Moiseenko drew Dubov in a quick 22 moves, it seemed as if the match was heading toward a split result. With Alekseenko and Matlakov being held to draws, the Russians looked to Andreikin to complete a kingside attack against GM Vassily Ivanchuk. After 56 moves, the 2014 world championship candidate secured the result for a 2.5-1.5 final score:

Germany proved to be the biggest surprise of the sixth round. After early draws against Macedonia and Georgia, the Germans notched their third consecutive match win when GM Daniel Fridman beat Azerbaijan's GM Rauf Mamedov. With GM Georg Meier holding a draw against GM Gadir Guseinov, the final score stood at 2.5-1.5.

Germany Azerbaijan European Team Chess Championship
In the day's longest match, Germany upset Azerbaijan 2.5-1.5 to make a late jump in the standings. Photo: European Team Chess Championship.

With Germany upsetting Azerbaijan, it is now quite likely that GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's side will not be able to contest Russia for first place. Russia leads the field by a point, while Germany stands in clear second with 10 points. Armenia, England and Ukraine each have nine points with three rounds remaining. The Netherlands dropped out of the top 10 following three consecutive losses. The team, led by GM Anish Giri, started the tournament with three consecutive wins.

European Team Championship | Round 6 Standings (Top 10)

# Country Points + = - Board Points
1 Russia 11 5 1 0 16.0
2 Germany 10 4 2 0 14.0
3 Ukraine 9 4 1 1 14.0
4 Armenia 9 4 1 1 15.5
5 England 9 4 1 1 15.5
6 Switzerland 8 4 0 2 14.5
7 Czech Republic 8 4 0 2 14.0
8 Slovenia 8 4 0 2 14.5
9 Turkey 8 3 2 1 12.5
10 Azerbaijan 7 3 1 2 13.5

(Full standings here.)

Women's section:
Azerbaijan may have ended Russia's streak of five consecutive wins, but GM Valentina Gunina's side sits in clear first having played most of its biggest rivals.

Traditional powerhouses like Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan crowd the top of the field after six rounds, but teams like Serbia and Spain are still in the mix—despite not having a player rated over 2400 in their roster. One of the event's biggest surprises happened in the sixth round when Spain upset a strong Romanian side.

Spain Women's European Team Chess ChampionshipThe Spanish side has now upset both Azerbaijan and Romania and managed a draw with Armenia. Photo: European Team Chess Championship.

Spain's run nearly came to an end in the sixth round, but IM Ana Matnadze managed to swindle a lost position in time trouble (twice!) to upset the Romanians, 2.5-1.5. The Spaniards will face Italy in the seventh round.

Russia will face Poland in the seventh round, likely its largest hurdle before the end of the tournament. The Polish team has had its setbacks this event, including a draw to Greece and loss to France, but has one of the strongest rosters in the women's section.

Poland Women's European Team Chess Championship
Should the Polish women's team upset Russia, several teams will re-enter the race for the Women's European Chess Championship. Photo: European Team Chess Championship.

European Team Championship (Women) | Round 6 Standings (Top 10)

#. Team Points + = - Board Points
1 Russia 11 5 1 0 16.5
2 Georgia 10 5 0 1 17.5
3 Azerbaijan 9 4 1 1 15.5
4 Georgia 2 8 3 2 1 14.0
5 Poland 8 3 2 1 13.5
6 Armenia 8 3 2 1 14.5
7 Ukraine 8 4 0 2 13.0
8 Serbia 8 4 0 2 14.5
9 Spain 7 3 1 2 13.5
10 Italy 7 3 1 2 13.0

(Full standings here.)

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