Zhukova Wins European Championship, Sandu Loses 4 Straight

Zhukova Wins European Championship, Sandu Loses 4 Straight

| 56 | Chess Event Coverage

Last Saturday GM Natalia Zhukova won the European Women's Championship in Chakvi, Georgia. After all the cheating controversy turmoil, WGM Mihaela Sandu finished with four losses.

The European Women's Championship took place May 19-30 at the Oasis Hotel in Chakvi, a resort town by the Black Sea coast in Georgia. The tournament wasn't a great success for several reasons.

First, the arrival at the hotel must have been an unpleasant surprise for the players. The photos on the hotel website (“We create an oasis for you.”) were very promising, but in reality the accommodation was located in the middle of a construction site. Here's a YouTube video take from the hotel, just before the tournament:

Then, only three 2500+ players played: Nana Dzagnidze and Bela Khotenashvili of Georgia and Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria.

Big names such as Anna Muzychuk (Ukraine, 2549), Valentina Gunina (Russia, 2548), Viktorija Cmilyte (Lithuania, 2534), Kateryna Lagno (Russia, 2530), Maria Muzychuk (Ukraine, 2528) and Alexandra Kosteniuk (Russia, 2520) were all missing.

To make things even worse, three strong players withdrew during the tournament. Top seed Dzagnidze only played three games but couldn't continue due to health reasons. The same goes for another strong Georgian player, IM Lela Javakhishvili, who stopped after seven rounds. Third-seeded Antoaneta Stefanova lost three games in a row in rounds 7-9 and then decided to call it quits as well.

And then there was, of course, the Mihaela Sandu case. By now most chess fans seem to agree that the Romanian chess player has become the victim of a witch hunt. The latest news is that two players have retracted their signatures from the letter that accused Sandu directly: Ekaterina Kovalevskaya and Anastasia Savina. 

After the two letters were posted on the hotel's bulletin board, Sandu (2300) lost four games in a row, being slowly outplayed against four higher-rated opponents: Natalia Zhukova (2456), Elina Danielian (2458), Monika Socko (2467) and Alisa Galliamova (2478).

Mihaela Sandu (r.) together with the photographer of all other pictures: Fiona Steil-Antoni.

Zhukova, who many see as the initiator of the two letters — being the first signatory on both — eventually emerged as the winner in Chakvi. The Ukrainian number three, the best player in her country behind the Muzychuk sisters, also won the first European Women's Championship, held in Georgia (!) in 2000.

After six rounds Zhukova was tied for third place with 4.5 points. She had a super strong finish with five straight wins.

In round nine she beat second-seeded Bela Khotenashvili with the black pieces. White's attack looked more dangerous than it was, although there was a draw at one point.


After nine rounds Zhukova still was half a point behind local hero Nino Batsiashvili, whom she beat with Black as well — this time from a Volga/Benko Gambit. Somehow it was White who was a pawn down right out of the opening!


Nino Batsiashvili eventually came second. | Photo Fiona Steil-Antoni.

In the final round the 35-year-old Ukrainian successfully defended her half-point lead with yet another win. This game, against Elina Danielian, might be theoretically relevant for this particular line in the English as White does seem to be better after her novelty on move 18.


Zhukova eventually scored a 2662 performance and won 25.5 rating points. Batsiashvili came second with 9.0/11 and a 2671 performance; Russian IM Alina Kashlinskaya ended third with 8.0/11 and a 2590 performance.

Zhukova is the new European Champion. | Photo Fiona Steil-Antoni.


2015 European Women's Championship | Final Standings (Top 20)

Rk. SNo Title Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 15 GM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2456 9,5 2369 65 69
2 7 IM Batsiashvili Nino GEO 2473 9 2426 71 74
3 20 IM Kashlinskaya Alina RUS 2423 8 2438 68,5 73
4 14 GM Danielian Elina ARM 2458 7,5 2421 70,5 75,5
5 30 IM Guseva Marina RUS 2391 7,5 2419 70,5 75,5
6 4 WGM Girya Olga RUS 2479 7,5 2410 70,5 76
7 11 GM Socko Monika POL 2467 7,5 2361 66 71,5
8 16 IM Melia Salome GEO 2452 7,5 2354 66,5 70,5
9 29 IM Gaponenko Inna UKR 2391 7,5 2352 61,5 64
10 18 IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina RUS 2450 7 2411 70 75
11 25 IM Bodnaruk Anastasia RUS 2402 7 2394 67 71,5
12 2 GM Khotenashvili Bela GEO 2527 7 2371 66,5 71,5
13 5 IM Galliamova Alisa RUS 2478 7 2365 63,5 68,5
14 6 WGM Goryachkina Aleksandra RUS 2474 7 2359 64 69
15 8 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2473 7 2358 62 66,5
16 31 WGM Charochkina Daria RUS 2391 7 2355 63 67
17 13 IM Mkrtchian Lilit ARM 2459 7 2330 60,5 65,5
18 22 IM Savina Anastasia RUS 2417 6,5 2386 69,5 74
19 9 GM Hoang Thanh Trang HUN 2472 6,5 2362 66,5 71,5
20 34 IM Guramishvili Sopiko GEO 2370 6,5 2320 58 62

(Full final standings here.)


Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

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