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    Entries in 2015 European Club Cup (4)

    Sunday
    Oct252015

    "Siberia" Wins The European Club Cup

    Siberia and SOCAR (nominally from Azerbaijan) were the pre-tournament favorites, and they came into round 5 with 4-0 records. Better still from a competitive standpoint (though not ideal in the bigger and more important picture), the two teams were led by Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov, respectively, which if nothing else guaranteed a hard fight at the top. In the end Kramnik won a great game and Siberia won the match, and that ultimately made the difference. Both teams went on to win in round 6 (with Kramnik defeating Vasil Ivanchuk to defeat his fourth consecutive 2700+ player in the tournament!) and both drew in the final round, round 7.

    Thus Siberia won the 2015 European Club Cup with 13 match points (two points per win, one per draw), SOCAR took second with 11 points, and another (nominally) Russian team, Mednyi Vsadnik (led by Peter Svidler) took the bronze. They too finished with 11 points, as did the "Italian" team Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova (led by Peter Leko, they very nearly beat Siberia in the last round, and Leko managed to hold Kramnik to his only draw of the event).

    I've uploaded Kramnik's four wins, with comments (based on his post-game remarks) to the Topalov game, here.

    Thursday
    Oct222015

    European Club Cup, Round 4: The Top Teams Start To Meet

    In round 4 of the European Club Cup the top teams - teams at least half-composed of 2700+ players - started to face off. The two absolute top teams, SOCAR and Siberia, both won their matches, and will face each other in round 5. SOCAR (Topalov, Caruana, etc.) defeated a mighty opponent, Obiettivo Risarcimento Padova with an undefeated 4-2 score, as Veselin Topalov defeated Peter Leko on board 1 while Shakhriyar Mamedyarov bested Etienne Bacrot with Black on board 5. As for Siberia (Kramnik, Aronian, Grischuk, etc.) it was an even more convincing 4.5-1.5 win against Mednyi Vsadnik. Vladimir Kramnik beat Peter Svidler with Black (maybe keeping his slim chances of becoming a rating qualifier for the Candidates' alive) on board 1 while a pair of Chinese stars on boards 4 and 5, Li Chao and Wang Yue, defeated Maxims Matlakov and Rodshtein, respectively. Now the big, exciting question is whether both teams' board 1 will play. If so, that means a Kramnik-Topalov showdown: no handshakes and sparks will fly.

    Also 4-0 in team matches is Alkaloid (Ivanchuk, Tomashevsky, etc.). It only won game against AVE Novy Bor, but that was all they needed. Again it was a Chinese player coming through: Yu Yangyi defeating Zbynek Hracek on board 6(!).

    On the slightly lower boards, one result was shocking. University-Belorechensk lost to Vaalerenga, despite outrating them on every board by a minimum of 168 points (on board 1) and a maximum of 339 points (on board 6). Staggering. Aleksej Alexandrov (2600) managed to defeat FM Brede Kvisvik (2318) on board 5, but Sergey Rublevsky (2702) lost to IM Johan-Sebastian Christiansen (2391) on board 3 while Konstantin Landa (2626) lost to IM Magne Sagafos (2398) on board 4. (You'll notice that board order isn't rating order. This isn't permitted in U.S. team events and it probably seems pretty odd to most of us on my side of the pond, but I doubt that the Europeans care very much about this. If I recall correctly, Bundesliga teams can be out of rating order as well.)

    Tuesday
    Oct202015

    An Upset and a Near-Upset At the European Club Cup

    In round 3 of the European Club Cup the top teams, all heavy-laden with 2700s, won their matches - handily. Better still, for them, there were almost no upsets on individual boards either. I only spotted one, but (to employ an archaic colloquialism) it was a real doozy. Another game seemed headed for an upset when the would-be David was killed by his own slingshot.

    The successful upset saw Evgeniy Najer defeat Alexander Grischuk. Najer is no slouch, generally rated in the mid-to-upper 2600s, but he is certainly an underdog against Grischuk - especially with black. But in this game, he was the boss. He repelled Grischuk's attack and then took over, steadily gaining ground and dominating his elite opponent in the endgame.

    The near-miss was Daniil Dubov vs. Li Chao. The young Russian held a pleasant edge for a long time, and it was starting to grow when, at move 37, he thought it was time for the kill. A brilliant kill, at that. He played 37.Rxe5, threatening 38.Re7 and accurately calculating that 37...Bxe5 38.Qe7+ followed by 39.Bxe5 would lead to a speedy massacre. What he failed to see, however, and with plenty of time on his clock, was the move Li Chao actually played: 37...Qxe5. Oops! Dubov resigned on the move, as the best White can do after 38.Bxe5 Bxe5+ 39.Rc3 Rc8 is a position where Black has a rook and two overpowering bishops against White's queen.

    One other game I'll note wasn't an upset. Vladimir Kramnik defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi and moved to 6th on the Live Rating list. If qualifying spots for next year's Candidates' tournament were based solely on the current ratings, Kramnik would be in. It's not, however, and in addition to his having no chance at passing Veselin Topalov for one of the rating qualification spots I don't think he has much of a chance of passing Anish Giri for the second spot, either. But if anyone has more precise information on this, and what would be necessary for Kramnik (or maybe Grischuk, if he can put an end to his year-long slide) to have a chance please let us know in the comments.

    Monday
    Oct192015

    Upsets at the European Club Cup

    Their teams won their round 2 matches at the European Club Cup even without their help, but it was still a shocking day for Hikaru Nakamura and Anish Giri, as they both lost to "mere" 2550-level grandmasters. Badly, too, especially in Nakamura's case. The American #1 and (now-former) world #2 was convincingly beaten by Yannick Pelletier while Giri was defeated by Vlastimil Babula.

    In fact it was almost a triple defeat for the world's super-elite as Sergey Karjakin was on the ropes against Christian Bauer, and had he lost his team (which included Nakamura) would have drawn against their massively outrated opponents. Fortunately for them, Karjakin continued his alchemy, again turning lead into gold and pulling out a victory.