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Euro Club Cup Goes to Saratov

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Perfection is seldom reached, but the Economist team representing Saratov, Russia, made a clean score at the Euro Club Cup in Ohrid, Macedonia. I don't know if any of the team's members live in or are from Saratov, but it's not as if we hold professional teams in other sports to that standard. I doubt many of the Phillies are from Philadelphia, for example. The Saratov squad was a deep one, playing eight players across the six boards. Only first board Alekseev and Ni Hua played all seven rounds. It was an unusual sight to see Alekseev score -1 and yet his team still won every match. Margin doesn't matter when they are using match points, a method that is dull without being terribly efficient. Three of Economist's players underperformed their ratings and they scored 27.5 board points. Six (!) other teams scored more.

Perennial terror of the German Bundesliga, Baden-Baden, rolled up 33 board points, including a rare 7-0, but lost two matches. This system, recently adopted at the Olympiad as well, rewards team play but makes playing for a win from top to bottom good only for tiebreak value. The match point system made a hero out of Bu Xiangzhi. After drawing his first four games he was the only winner for Economist in the crucial final two rounds, with all six other games finishing drawn. He beat Guseinov in round six and then in the final round battle royal he beat Avrukh of the Ashdod Illit team, which would have taken first with a win. Still, boring system or not, respect must be given to the Saratov squad for going undefeated and winning the clutch.

The most impressive performance of the event came from a local boy made good. Like most of his teammates, Peter Svidler actually hails from St. Petersburg and he was an impressive first board for them. He scored +4 with wins over Ivanchuk, Nakamura, Mamedyarov, and Motylev for the top rating performance in Ohrid. The ever-handy Chess Results site has all the details. Volokitin and Gashimov also had big scores. As did Mickey Adams, who may finally be coming out of his slump. (To be fair, he hasn't had many chances this year since his disastrous Corus. I don't think he's faced a higher rated opponent since then.) Nakamura recovered from the loss to his French League teammate (the third straight) to turn in a solid score for the Austrian team Husek Wien and even add a few rating points.

Of course there were many fantastic games. A few pretty highlights: Sargissian-Caruana with 21.Re6!! is a jaw-dropper. Grischuk took on Aronian's expertise in the hot line of the Semi-Slav and paid the price. A thrilling dance took place starting with 21..Rxa1 with Grischuk giving up his queen for two pieces and an attack. But his erred immediately and the counter queen sac 26..Bd6! turned it into a rout. Ivanchuk had a nice endgame king walk to beat Huzman. Motylev had a classic Dragon slay against Feller. Aronian-Mamedyarov was a wild tactical battle, not something you can usually say out of a Catalan. Mamedyarov outplayed the world #3 with black, fending off every last Aronian trick. Svidler's final round win over Motylev was full of witty tactics. Don't miss Najer's 23rd move against Relange in the 7th round. Finding a brilliant move when there are good "normal" alternatives is always impressive. 23.Qh6 was good, but 23.Bc6 is gorgeous.

As long as we're full of team spirit, the Euro Team Championship -- this is the one with the national teams -- starts on the 22nd in Novi Sad, Serbia. Defending champ Russia is the top seed without Kramnik. Azerbaijan is second and Armenia third. Topalov is back leading the Bulgarians, lifting them to the 4th seed. For some reason the results site lists seven players on the Russian team instead of five; not sure who's actually there for them yet. Looks like Korchnoi is in action! Carlsen is there for Norway, though he might not see much 2700+ opposition.


Tomashevsky and Andreikin are from Saratov.

The strength of Saratov was their homogenous team, with only a 31 point ELO difference between boards 1 and 6. So it didn't matter much that their first board Alekseev may have been out of form, and in any case was (ELO-)weaker than Aronian, Svidler, Gelfand, Ivanchuk and even Nakamura - whose Austrian team was overall seeded 16th and finished 18th.
Baden-Baden had a similarly homogenous team - partly out of necessity because they had to do without their top players Anand (the German Bundesliga webpage mentions "private reasons"), Carlsen (playing in Nanjing), Svidler and Shirov (both playing for Russian teams). BTW, as their lineup was apparently strictly by current rating, Adams was still only board 5 behind Movsesian, Bacrot, Vallejo Ponse and Naiditsch. He faced an average of ELO 2441, which included only two GMs.

I couldn't find their 7-0 in the results ,:) it would indeed be a unique performance on six boards!

Off topic - apologies - NY Times segment on chess and Baseball with Yankees manager Joe Girardi. Worth a giggle. Thank God he knows more about baseball than chess. http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/10/06/sports/baseball/1247464960472/the-thinking-mans-games.html?WT.mc_id=VI-D-I-NYT-MOD-MOD-M118b-ROS-1009-HDR&WT.mc_ev=click

Glad that Mickey gave a great performance even though against av 2441 opponents. He did have a habit of drawing against lower rated players.
Hopefully the rough patch he passed through is over.....


I'm always amused by who plays for what team. Do the teams simply post offers for mercenaries to come join them for the event? Does anyone know?

Actually, teams cannot hire mercenaries specifically for this particular event. As far as I remember the rules, anyone has to play at least two games for the team in the previous season (national competition) to be eligible for the ECC. Last year, Caruana was nominated for a Spanish team, but not allowed to play because he didn't fit that criterion.
From a German perspective, while they didn't play the ECC later on, this may have been the reason why Anand and Carlsen each played exactly two games for Baden-Baden in the last season?
The main issue is that top players participate in several competitions and have to choose one club for the ECC. For example, Svidler could choose between St. Petersburg, Baden-Baden and Evry Grand Roque.

Yes we can!
Checkmate! Can someone fetch a tinopener now?
Canned applause for the secret GM!
Pawn to ringpull four!
Etc. Stop now, patience wearing tin.

Magnus has withdrawn from the European Team Championship.. wise decision, I would say!

your source for this info?

VERY good decision by carlsen and kasparov, indeed. one can reason that kasparovs support for carlsen is sincere and professional.

competing at ETC carlsen would have risked dropping below 2800 again losing part of the psychological edge he has been working hard for in nanjing to acquire.

in addition he should relax and of course prepare for the much more prestigious tal-memorial.

I agree about the Tal Memorial, but I'd guess the other factor is not wanting to risk losing his grip on one of the rating spots in the WC qualifier. I'm not sure whether a 2800 rating gives him a psychological edge or makes him more of a target.

It's like something out of Harry Potter :) http://www.chessdom.com/news-2009/astrakhan-fide-grand-prix

His stated reason indeed had to do with rest and preparation before Tal Memorial, and he made the decision after consultation with Kasparov. Might be other reasons, but that is simply speculation.

Understandable although not exactly ideal for the Norwegian team which might not even be able to have players on all four boards in the first round: apparently it's not even clear if they will now participate at all. But I suppose it was his right.

i do hope it's about rest and not about rating points, whatever about rating qualifications etc. It's just a shame to think of a great player not playing an event because of rating points, whatever the logic of it. After all they are meant to serve not rule.

Agreed. Although I certainly would understand it entirely if it were about qualification. But after gaining 28.8 points in Nanjing it would take a complete collapse to even get anywhere close to not qualifying. Hard to imagine that is a concern.

For those of us who don't have access to Scandinavian sources, Chessdom has put up a report:
It may well be a "wise decision", and it is presumably Carlsen's right - he didn't even get a remuneration, only travel expenses. Still a bit odd to make or communicate such a decision just one week before the event - he knew before that he has to prepare for the Tal Memorial, and it also couldn't be a surprise that "China was a huge effort".

Besides non-European Anand, five other Tal Memorial participants also won't play in Novi Sad (Ivanchuk, Leko, Gelfand, Ponomariov, Kramnik) but they said so well in advance. Money might be a reason, e.g. Ponomariov hasn't played for Ukraine for quite some time. And I remember a quote from Kramnik that he considers the European Team Championship less important than the Olympiad and wanted to give young players a chance - Russia is (of course) #1 seed even without him.

Three others (Aronian, Svidler, Morozevich) do play - no surprise in Aronian's case, every team event is very important for Armenia.

Very weak and selfish decision by Carlsen.

Ivanchuk , of course , is playing in the Essent Chess tournament.


Any decision made after consultation with Kasparov will have money as a primary reason. I'm not disparaging the reason, merely pointing it out.

The two official reasons were known weeks or months ago: Nanjing is a tough tournament, Tal Memorial will be even tougher requiring serious preparation. So you may have a point - according to the Chessdom report, Carlsen would have represented Norway "for free", with the federation covering only travel expenses. It could well be that Garry also didn't like this idea. Or Albos, mishanp and +- chesshire cat have a point that "ELO 2800" (the only thing unknown before Nanjing) played a role.

Of course both is speculation, but it may also be simplistic, even naive taking for granted that the official reasons are the full and only ones?

BTW, several people - Dennis Monokroussos was the last one - wrote that Carlsen "is taking a page out of the Karpov playbook". Does anyone know/remember what this is specifically referring to? And would Kasparov like his great successor being compared to his great predecessor in such a context [while he did compare Carlsen's style with Karpov's] ?

"Dennis Monokroussos was the last one - wrote that Carlsen "is taking a page out of the Karpov playbook"."

Unlike you, Monokroussos does not constantly make mistakes, so I'll give him a pass on this and assume he meant to say "Kasparov" instead of "Karpov".

I may be wrong, but perhaps Monokroussos really meant to refer to Karpov this time. Didn't Karpov once withdraw from a tournament even though he had some sort of contract to play in it? I forget.

Dennis was obviously referring to Karpov. Amongst his many classic withdrawals the one before the Russian championship (the last one which Kasparov won) stands out. He withdrew after giving a joint conference with Gazza a day before the tourney, with an emotional spiel of what Russia meant to him etc

Thanks for the information. My mistake.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on October 13, 2009 12:46 AM.

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