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Euro Team 05

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This great event is well underway in Gothenburg, Sweden. The traditional powers have risen to the top for today's sixth round, with France now being a member of the elite with Bacrot on board one. ChessBase has handy charts, games, and photos. Russia is climbing again after a slow start and Ukraine is doing well despite not having Ponomariov. van Wely is doing great on board one for the Dutch on the heels of his strong Dortmund showing. Teammates Sokolov and Tiviakov are higher rated, so I'm assuming that they are following tradition and putting the Dutch champion on board one.

John Henderson pointed out to me that this is the 50th anniversary of the infamous Gothenburg Variation disaster, one of the all-time classic chess anecdotes. In the 14th round of the 1955 interzonal, the four Argentines were all paired with black against four of the mighty Soviets. Three games followed the exact same sacrificial variation of the Najdorf Sicilian, now known as the Gothenburg. All three Argentines (Najdorf, Panno, Pilnik) and their special preparation were wiped out in short order by Keres, Geller, and Spassky, respectively. Less remembered is that Petrosian beat the fourth Argentine, Guimard, but he played 1.d4 and Guimard didn't play the Sicilian anyway.

The British Championship is being held at the same time and most of the top players went to Gothenburg instead of the Isle of Man. So defending champ Rowson is the top seed. A Scot winning two years in a row?!


I was quite pleased to see Rowson go down to a tactical shot by an English junior. However, he still has a decent chance of retaining the title.

Slow start in an understatement. The Russians were destroyed today 3-1. They are in 12th place after today's result, 3 points behind. I am not a chess historian, but I can't remember the Russians (or Soviets before them) ever performing so poorly.
When you are a favorite, anything less than first is usually considered a failure even if that is an unfair expectation. Just look at the U.S.A.'s bronze medal in basketball this past Olympics as a case in point.

Not only was last year a disaster for the USA Olympic Basketball team, it demonstrated what could happen if they continue to pick a few "superstars" instead of choosing strong team players. Team beats several big egos every time.

I cannot tell what is more surprising: Russia doing so poorly, or Ukraine's performance so far.

"I was quite pleased to see Rowson go down to a tactical shot by an English junior." -Posted by: Mark Howitt

It is hard to see what you mean when you say this. Are you pleased to see a junior player doing well by beating a former Champion? Are you glad that the tournament is now wide-open and anyone can take the title? Or do you not like GM Rowson for some reason?


With respect to Olympic basketball, I believe the differences are (1) the talent gap has closed and (2) the U.S. doesn't have a "national team". Unlike all of the other countries, the U.S. grabs a hodge-podge of all-star players, trains about two months (or six weeks) and suits up. The other teams were legitimate national teams having played together for a decade. Even second-rate national TEAMS competed with and beat the U.S. team in tune-up games. Even if you choose strong team players from the NBA, you cannot throw them together for two months and expect results.

Russia's setbacks (i.e., 2004 Olympiad and current European Team Ch.) shouldn't be so surprising. The talent gap is closing rapidly, Kasparov has retired and "brain drain" (immigration) is taking its toll. Russia should not expect to show up and win team events anymore than the U.S. basketball team should show up and win the Olympic gold or World Championships. India and China are improving fast and it appears as if Poland is grooming a cadre of young talented players. Also watch Vietnam and Cuba!

Additionally, Russia is hobbled by the fact that some of its best players (e.g., Kramnik, Morozevich, and previously Kasparov) choose not to play.

This is true of other teams, to an extent (Leko does not play for Hungary; Topalov does not play for Bulgaria), but since Russia has more top players than any other country, their loss is differentially the greatest.


For immigration to be causing "brain drain" you would need som seriously stupid chess players...
Perhaps emigration...

(sorry, just takin pot shots here)


Seth, It wouldn't be hard for you to see why if you'd have read any of the threads about the British on the message boards. I was quite pleased to see this junior do well yes, as I'm only a few years older than him. And Rowson is a Scottish player in a tournment funded by the English- English players have no right to enter the Scottish chess championship.

Yep Q... that's what I meant. Those players leaving Russia and going other places (see the Russian emigre list posted recently), not those who have arrived in other places.


To Mark-

Nope, I don't visit the Ninja message boards, and I know I'm not the only one here who doesn't. I hope you can understand the little bit of confusion I had.

As for Scottish players entering the Smith & Williamson British Chess Championships, maybe I'm showing ignorance here, but isn't "British" and "English" two different things? England is a separate country, and Great Britian was a collection of all the neighboring countries of England? If I'm wrong, please let me know, as it is itself a little confusing :-)

And anyway, it isn't Rowson's fault that the tournament let's him in. Blame the rules, or the tournament organizers if you feel irked.

To Daaim-

I completely agree with your points one and two. USA Olympic Basketball will have to get alot more serious if they want to stay on top, 'cause it's not gonna get easier any time soon. Also, the players should take the same attitude, and that's what was the most frusterating thing I remember. It didn't seem like they were taking it very seriously, and all they had to do was wait for a superstar to take the ball and start sinking lots of baskets in a row, which just wasn't going to happen

If we continue with the basketball-chess analogy, I believe (and anyone can jump in) that Russia still has a strong collection of talent, but chess apparently is losing its prestige. I'm not sure that Kasparov's foray into politics has sullied the image, but I'm not sure how much it helps.

On the other hand, U.S. basketball is not losing its prestige, but players have not been taking the Olympics as the world's crown. As we have pointed out here, NBA players see the NBA title as the world's top title, not the Olympics. This will have to change... the U.S. has something to prove now.

The U.S. still produces the best players in the world and contrary to what people want to believe, the overwhelming majority of NBA players are fundamentally sound. What happened last year to the U.S. basketball team in the Olympics and to the Russian team in the Olympiad was not for the lack of talent, but what I see is an affliction of "dynasty syndrome." They EXPECTED to show up and win.

About the Dutch team setup (loosely translated from www.schaaklog.nl):

It's more pragmatic to have a setup that's as efficient as possible, one where the chances for a title are as high as possible. This means ego-concessions have to be made and that playing on a lower board than your rating would indicate can be a good thing for the team as a whole.

Loek is at board one: logic because at the recent European Championship, he had few wins, but in Dortmund against strong grandmasters he played very well.
Tiviakov performed solidly against strong GM's at the EC, but has recently been scoring tremendously against lower rated players and that's why he's at board 3.
This leaves board 2 for Ivan Sokolov. Timman and Van Den Doel at board 4 have to provide the points.

(Of course positions can shift somewhat depending on which player is resting.)

Seth, I was using 'the British' as the term that English (and maybe Scottish and Welsh) use to refer to the British Championship. I'm not necessarily blaming Rowson- he's just out to do what most chessplayers do: win and make money. I just would prefer to see an English player win.

Sometimes it's a shame that more chessplayers don't think about the things which have to go together in order to make a tournament. Even I have personal experience of this as my club organised, and hopefully will continue to organise, tournaments which draw international players into my town. However, I don't think the majority of these players have much appreciation of the funding that my club put into organizing this tournament- it's made a loss the past two years and may not continue. There was no great mound of thanks from the participants either. One of the players, IM Richard Palliser, ignored a request to review my debut novel despite attending the tournament and being of a similar age and locality as myself.

So hopefully the British will continue to be a popular event, and English players and companies will continue to support it.

Russia lost again!

Thanks, Mark, it's all clear to me now and I agree with what you say.

On the Euro team front, Ukraine also lost again today.

" English players have no right to enter the Scottish chess championship."

English players do play in the Scottish Championship, and Rowson lives in England, so what's the problem with him winning?

I'm not sure that English players can play in the Scottish Championship... if they can they can't win the main prize. Rowson has lived in many places in the world, so he's hardly a long standing resident in any place that he lives.

why isn't the USA playing in this event?

yeah, yeah, I know the USA is not in Europe. Did Israel move?

To get around the fact that most of their neighbors won't play with them, Israel has long been European in most endeavors, including Olympic and World Cup qualifying.

Sure they can play, but if they win they won't be considered European Champions in my book. Just like a man can never be woman's champion or a 21-year-old can never be U18 champion.

Bad news for Yermo. France finished 3rd winning on tiebreak! ;-)

Er... I must have missed something here. Did Yermo bet something on Greece ?

Yermo wrote
"I can tell straight up I hate the French."

Ironically it was in the Team Spirit thread. ;-)

I doubt Yermo cares very much. 1.) He's American, and has no stake in Euro team games and 2.)He wasn't talking about French chessplayers when he said he hated the French. But then again, I can't speak for him.

Speaking of Yermo, I hope he plans on writing another book. I quite liked his "Road to Chess Improvement", even if I'm not quite sure how to fill out the + and - chart at the beginning of the book :-)

Mr Homa

I'm not so sure he wasn't talking about French chess players when he wrote this in the same post:
"How come for all these years playing chess and travelling the world I have never even spoke with a French chessplayer? Lautier I don't count because he's Japanese, and Nataf because he's Neanderthal."

If we're not counting Lautier, it still leaves Christian Bauer, Laurent Fressinet and Etienne Bacrot.


Looks like a Scot winning two years in a row!

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