Euro championship under way in Greece
LET’S PLAY CHESS - Edgar De Castro (The Philippine Star) - October 21, 2017 - 4:00pm

The European Team Championship, the strongest continental team event anywhere, gets underway Oct. 27-Nov. 7 in Greece’s largest island of Crete.

Thirty-eight countries have registered this year for the 21st edition of the championship, and with five players to a team, there were easily about 195 players (Greece as host is allowed to field two teams) taking part in the nine-round Swiss system tournament.

Defending champion Russia, composed of Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi, Fedoseev, Matlakov and Vitiugov, has been ranked No. 1 based on average ratings of players.

Ranked second was Azerbaijan with Mamedyarov, Radjabov and Naiditsch, bolstering its line-up.

Other big names were Eljanov and Ponomariov for the third-seeded Ukraine, fourth-ranked England, powered by Adams, Howell and Short, No. 5 Israel, with Gelfand at the helm and sixth ranked Armenia, led by candidates qualifier Aronian. The rest of the top 10 read Hungary (seventh), Poland (eighth), Spain (ninth) and Germany (10th).

Conceived of by European organizers in the 50s, the first championship was held in Vienna, Austria in 1957, and won by the team from the Soviet Union. Yugoslavia finished second and Czechoslovakia placed third.

The European team championship is the Olympiad in microcosm. An average 40 teams participate. This is a very prestigious event, and like the Olympiad, this championship is held once every two years.

* * *

This is a stimulating classical game you hope to play in your lifetime. Imagine the thrill of announcing a forced mate, starring a Queen sacrifice.   

European Club Cup 2017 

W) I. Popov (Russia)

B) I. Nepomniachtchi (Russia) Sicilian Defense

1. e4                        c5 

2. Nf3                      d6 

3. d4                        cxd4 

4. Nxd4                    Nf6 

5. Nc3                      a6 

The well-known Najdorf Variation, popularized in the 30s by its pioneer and leader, Miguel Najdorf, a Polish-Argentine grandmaster and world contender.

6. h3                        ...

The Adams Attack, an old variant against the Najdorf, strongly recommended in the 50s and 60s, but only Fischer succeeded in making it popular.

6...                             e5

7. Nde2                     ...

7. Nb3 and 7. Nf3 are fair alternatives, though the text is much more usual today, but not necessarily better.

7...                             h5

The latest wrinkle in grandmaster play. It prevents White’s early 8. g2-g4.

8. Bg5                       Be6 

9. Bxf6                       Qxf6 

10. Nd5                    Qd8 

The alternative 10...Bxd5 leads to a slight edge for White after 11. Qxd5 Nc6 12. Nc3 Rc8 13. Bd3 Qe6, etc.

11. Qd3                    Nd7 

12. O-O-O                 g6 

13. Kb1                     Nc5 

14. Qf3                      Bg7 

15. Nec3                   ...

One of the ideas behind White’s seventh move. This Knight supports the other Knight at d5.

15...                           0-0

16. g4                        h4 

17. Rg1                     ...

An unpleasant move as it allows Black to hinder White’s Kingside action. Correct is 17.Qe3 with probably equal chances after 17...Bxd5 18. Nxd5 Bf6 19. Nxf6ch Qxf6 20. Bc4 Rac8 21. Bd5 g5.(engine).

17...                          Qg5!

Stopping White’s planned g4-g5.

18. Ne3                    ...

18. Nb6 seems a better alternative.

18...                           Rad8

19. Ncd5                   b5 

20. Be2                     Rb8 

21. Qh1                    Rfd8 

22. Nb4                    Rbc8 

23. Nf5?!                  ...

A dubious move. The surrender of the center is not forced. 23. Nbd5 should have been tried.

23...                           a5! 

24. Nd3                    ...

24. Nxg7 Kxg7 25. Nd5 Bxd5 26. Rxd5 b4 27. Rgd1 Qe7 28. f3 a4 is also satisfactory for Black, according to the engine. Or 24. Nd5?! Bxd5 25. Rxd5 gxf5 26. gxf5 Qf6 and Black is a piece up.

24...                           d5!

This thematic pawn advance allows Black to wrest the initiative.

25. Nxc5                   Rxc5 

26. Bd3                     ...

26. Nxg7 seems necessary, though Black obtains the upper hand with 26...Kxg7 27. exd5 Rdxd5 28. Rxd5 Bxd5 29. Bf3 Qd2 30. Bxd5 Rxd5, etc.  

26...                          Bf8!

A good choice as this piece will be effective once lines are opened.

27. exd5?                  ...

The decisive mistake, after which Black’s major pieces will swarm all over the White King. Correct is 27. Ne3, and although White is inferior after 27...d4 28. Nd5 Bxd5 29. exd5 Rcxd5, the game continues.

27...                          Bxd5

28. Qh2                    Bf3 

29. Rde1                   e4!

The clincher as it paves the way for the painful invasion of Black’s heavy pieces.

30. Bxe4                    Bxe4 

31. Rxe4                   Qd2!

This is the end, Queen + Rook on the seventh rank are irresistible.

32. Ne3?                   ...

This loses outright, but White’s position is indefensible anyhow. E.g. 32. Ree1 Qxc2ch 33. Ka1 Rd2 34. Rb1 Rxf2 35. Qb8 gxf5 36. gxf5ch Rg2 and Black emerged a piece up.

32...                           Rxc2!

This rook is taboo in view of a back rank mate starting with ...Qd1ch!

33. Qe5                    Bg7 

34. Qe8ch                 Kh7!

White is hoping for 34...Rxe8? 35. Rxe8ch Kh7 36. Nxc2, when he can still prolong the game.

35. Nxc2                   Qd1ch!

36. Rxd1                   Rxd1 mate.

Solution to last week’s puzzle:

White to move and win.

white=Kf8, Rb1, Pe6

black=Ka7, Pa3, Pb2

1. e7                         a2

2. Re1                      b1Q

If 2...a1Q 3. e8Q b1Q 4. Qd7ch Ka6 5. Qc6ch Ka5 6. Qa8ch Kb4 7. Rxb1ch Qxb1 8. Qb7ch Kc3 9. Qxb1 and wins.

3. e8Q                      a1Q

4. Qd7ch                   Ka6

5. Qc6ch  Ka5

6. Qa8ch  Kb4

7. Rxb1ch Qxb1

8. Qb7ch  and wins.

* * *

White to move and win.

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