European Individual Chess Championship
Skopje, Former YUG Rep of Macedonia
March 18-29, 2019
1-2. GM Vladislav Artemiev RUS 2736, GM Nils Grandelius SWE 2694, 8.5/11
3-11. GM Kacper Piorun POL 2631, GM Maxim Rodshtein ISR 2673, GM Ferenc Berkes HUN 2666, GM David Anton Guijarro ESP 2643, GM Liviu Dieter Nisipeanu GER 2670, GM Sergei Movsesian ARM 2627, GM Niclas Huschenbeth GER 2594, GM Grigoriy Oparin RUS 2613, GM Eltaj Safarli AZE 2662, 8.0/11
12-26. GM Johan Sebastian Christiansen NOR 2539, GM Aleksej Aleksandrov BLR 2574, GM Ivan Cheparinov GEO 2683, IM Paulius Pultinevicius LTU 2439, GM Andrey Esipenko RUS 2603, GM Nikita Petrov RUS 2591, GM Boris Gelfand ISR 2655, GM Benjamin Gledura HUN 2630, GM Alexandr Predke RUS 2611, GM Aleksandr Rakhmanov RUS 2629, GM Mateusz Bartel POL 2609, GM Daniil Dubov RUS 2703, GM Igor Lysyj RUS 2635, GM Ruslan Ponomariov UKR 2667, GM Constantin Lupulescu ROU 2611, 7.5/11
27-35. GM Evgeny Alekseev RUS 2640, GM Vadim Zvjaginsev RUS 2642, GM Markus Ragger AUT 2696, GM Yuriy Kuzobov UKR 2644, GM Aleksey Dreev RUS 2662, GM Daniel Fridman GER 2633, GM Francisco Vallejo Pons ESP 2698, GM Haik Martirosyan ARM 2616, GM Andrei Volokitin UKR 2635, 7.5/11
Total Participants: 361 players
Tiebreaks: (1) Points scored, (2) Opponents’ rating minus the lowest, (3) Buchholz without the lowest scoring opponent, (4) Buchholz, (5) Direct encounter, (6) Rating
Time Control: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes play-to-finish with 30 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1
The 20th European Individual Championship took place from 18-29 March this year in Skopje, organized by the government of North Macedonia. The prize fund is €100,000 (about P5.9 million), with €20,000 (about P1.18 million) for first prize. Aside from the prize money the first 22 placers will qualify for the next World Cup, scheduled to take place Nov. 4-30 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The World Cup, aside from its huge money prizes (even the losers go home with around P250,000 each), will qualify its top finishers to the Candidates’ tournament, the final step in determining the challenger for the world title.
I went into detail describing the financial incentives above to impress upon our readers how important it is to qualify for the World Cup.
In the list above you can see the final standings after 11 rounds of furious battles. There was a huge logjam at 7.5/11 which extended from the 12th to 35th places. GMs Nils Grandelius, David Anton, Eltaj Safarli and Ivan Cheparinov had previously qualified for the World Cup from the European Championship last year, so that frees up 4 additional slots and everybody up to 26th place goes to Khanty-Mansiysk. I have cut-off the table at the 26th place so that you can see who qualified and who did not.
Vladislav Artemiev has been on an upswing lately. Last December 2018 he became European Blitz Champion and from there proceeded to the island of Gibraltar to win the Gibraltar Masters, one of the strongest open tournaments in the world. He had his 21st birthday on March 5, the first day of the World Team Championship and celebrated that by playing an important role in Russia’s gold medal.
Four days later he was in Skopje opening his bid to be the next European Champion. The journalists were already calling him “the new Vlad,” destined to take over the top dog status of “Big Vlad” Kramnik who recently announced his retirement from competitive chess.
Artemiev did not disappoint. He started out with 5/6, which included wins against recent Aeroflot winner Kaido Kulaots, Lucas van Foreest and the highly-regarded Russian up-and-comer David Paravyan, which should have been good enough for the lead, but for the cutthroat nature of the competition it was not enough — both GMs Maxim Rodshtein (Israel) and Kacper Piorun (Poland, and by the way he is a double GM — he is a world champion problem solver) had 5.5/6, they only allowed one draw each.
Going at that pace Artemiev could have settled for draws in the last six rounds and still have qualified, but that was not enough — he wanted to become European Champion.
In round 8 he defeated one of the co-leaders, the Czech GM Zbynek Hracek, with a nice attack. This important victory took him into the joint lead on 6.5/8 with three rounds to go, level with Rodshtein, Piorun, Nils Grandelius and 17-year old Andrey Esipenko. An additional significance of this win is that the additional rating points gained allowed “the new Vlad” to overtake “the old Vlad” Kramnik in the world rating list.
Artemiev, Vladislav (2736) — Hracek, Zbynek (2578) [B14]
European Individual Chess Championship
Skopje (8.3), 26.03.2019
1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.d4 d5 6.cxd5 exd5 7.Bb5 cxd4 8.exd4
With White Artemiev likes to play symmetrical positions and use White’s advantage of the first move to pressure Black’s position, at first imperceptibly, but then slowly building it up. This game is a perfect example.
8…Be7 9.0–0 0–0 10.Ne5 Bd7 11.Bg5 Rc8 12.Re1 Re8 13.Rc1 a6 14.Bxc6 Bxc6 15.Qf3 Qd6
With perfect hindsight we can say that Black should have played 15…h6! while he can.
GM Daniel Fernandez pointed out here that Black is already in a dangerous position. After 16…h6? 17.Bf4 Qb4 18.Rcd1 Qxb2 White already wins with 19.Bxh6! gxh6 20.Rd3! White has the very dangerous threat of Qf4 followed by Rg3+
17.Re3 Rf8 18.Rce1 Qb4
Black’s queen should not have left its position on d6.
19.Qf5 Ra8 20.Rd1
White already has 20.Bh6! gxh6 21.Qf4! with a win. A possible continuation is 21…Ne8 (21…Qd6? is too late. 22.Rg3+ Kh8 23.Nxf7+ wins the queen; 21…Be8 22.a3 Qb6 23.Rg3+ Kh8 24.Qxh6 Rg8 25.Nxd5 Qe6 26.Nxf6 Qxf6 27.Rxg8+ Kxg8 28.Ng6! Black’s bishop on e8 is free) 22.Qxh6 Bf6 23.Nxc6 bxc6 24.Rg3+ Bg7 25.Rxe8 Qxd4 26.Rxa8 Rxa8 27.Qxc6 Rd8 28.Qxa6 this endgame is easy. Artemiev probably saw this possibility but preferred a simpler solution.
[20…Qxb2? 21.Rb1 Qa3 22.Nxc6 bxc6 23.Ne4! (discovered attack on the black queen) 23…Qxa2 24.Nxf6+ Bxf6 25.Bxf6 gxf6 26.Rg3+ Kh8 27.Qxf6#]
21.Bf4 Nf6 22.Rg3 Kh8 23.Rdd3 Be8 24.a3 Qxb2 <D>
POSITION AFTER 24…QXB2
25.Rxg7! Kxg7 26.Rg3+ Kh8 27.Nxd5 Nxd5 28.Bh6 Bf6
[28…Rg8 29.Rxg8+ Kxg8 30.Qg4+ Kh8 31.Qg7#]
After 29.Qxf6+ mate is forced: 29…Nxf6 30.Bg7+ Kg8 31.Bxf6#
Artemiev was really serious about “the advantage of having the first move.” In fact, over the entire tournament he had White 5 times and won all of them! With Black he had one win and five draws. I am going to show you an endgame win by Artemiev, but before that let us recall this famous game:
Colle,Edgard — O’Hanlon, John [D05]
Nice Masters Nice (9), 21.02.1930
1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 e6 5.Bd3 Bd6 6.Nbd2 Nbd7 7.0–0 0–0 8.Re1 Re8 9.e4 dxe4 10.Nxe4 Nxe4 11.Bxe4 cxd4 12.Bxh7+ Kxh7 13.Ng5+ Kg6 14.h4 Rh8 15.Rxe6+ Nf6 16.h5+ Kh6 17.Rxd6 Qa5 18.Nxf7+ Kh7 19.Ng5+ Kg8 20.Qb3+ 1–0
White’s opening set-up is what is known as the Colle System. When he combines that with fianchettoing his bishop on b2 it is the “Colle-Zukertort System.” With that brief introduction let us get into it.
Artemiev, Vladislav (2736) — Van Foreest, Lucas (2515) [E14]
20th ch-EUR Indiv 2019 Skopje MKD (4.4), 21.03.2019
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.e3 e6 4.Bd3 b6 5.0–0 Bb7 6.Nbd2 Nbd7 7.b3 Ne4 8.c4 Bd6 9.Bb2 0–0
The tabiya, or battle formation, you see on the board is also basically a symmetrical one. When both sides are trying to get in a kingside attack it is important who strikes first.
10.cxd5 exd5 11.Ne5 Qe7
I cannot resist showing you Darwin Laylo’s inspiring win vs. the Russian GM Pavel Smirnov from the 2015 Subic Bay International: 11…Re8 12.f4 Ndf6 13.Ndf3 Qe7 14.Rc1 c5 15.Qe1 Rac8 16.Qh4 cxd4 17.exd4 Rxc1 18.Bxc1 Bc8 19.Ng5 Rf8 20.Be3 h6 21.Nxe4 dxe4 22.Bc4 Be6 23.Bxe6 Qxe6 24.f5 Qd5 25.Ng4 Be7 26.Nxh6+! gxh6 27.Bxh6 Qxd4+ 28.Kh1 Nd5 29.Qg4+ Kh7 30.f6! Bxf6 31.Bxf8 Ne3 32.Qh3+ Kg8 33.Re1 Nc2 34.Qg4+ Kxf8 35.Qc8+ Kg7 36.Qxc2 Darwin has a decisive advantage. Laylo,D (2471)-Smirnov,P (2617) Olongapo City 2015 1–0 48.
12.Ndf3 Nb8 13.Be2 f6 14.Nd3 a5
White’s attack has been rebuffed and now it is Black’s turn to advance on the queenside.
15.Re1 a4 16.Rc1 a3 17.Ba1 Na6 18.Bf1 b5
Perhaps 18…Rac8 going for …c7–c5 is a better plan
19.Bc3 Nxc3 20.Rxc3 Nb4 21.Qb1 Bc8 22.Nc5 Bg4 23.Nd2 c6 24.Be2 Bxe2 25.Rxe2
Black now has a weakness on c6 which White pounces upon.
25…Qf7 26.Nf3 Bxc5 27.Rxc5 Rfe8 28.Qd1 Re6 29.Qd2 Na6 30.Rc1 Qe7 31.Ne1 Nb4 32.Rc5 Na6 33.Rc1 Nb4 34.Nd3 Nxd3 35.Qxd3 g6 36.Rec2 Ra6 37.g3 f5 38.Rc5 h5 39.b4 h4 40.R1c3 Ra4?
Black swaps his weak c6–pawn for its counterpart on b4. This is a mistake as you will soon see.
41.Rxc6 Rxc6 42.Rxc6 Kg7 43.Qc2 Qxb4 44.Kg2!
Eliminating the threat of …h4–h3 with possible back-rank mate-themed tactics.
44…Ra7 45.gxh4 Qe7 46.Qc5 Qe4+ 47.f3 Qe7 48.Qxe7+ Rxe7 49.Kf2 b4 50.Rb6 Rc7 51.Rxb4 Rc2+ 52.Kg3 Rxa2 53.Ra4 Ra1 54.Kf4 a2 55.Ra6 Kf7 56.Ke5 Re1 57.Ra7+ Ke8 58.Rxa2 Rxe3+ 59.Kf6!
[59.Kxd5 Kf7! makes it harder for White]
59…Rxf3 60.Kxg6 Rf4 61.h5 Rg4+ 62.Kf6 Rh4 63.Ra8+ Kd7 64.Kg5 Rxh2 65.h6 Kc6 66.Kg6 Rg2+ 67.Kxf5 Rf2+ 68.Kg4 Rh2 69.Ra3! 1–0
Beautiful! Black cannot take the pawn because of 69…Rxh6 70.Ra6+, and White’s coming Rh3 will queen his pawn.
This last move is the reason why I entitled this column “Artistry.”
Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.