Tenth Day That Shook the Euros - First Move Chess -First Move Chess


November always brings a welcome holiday for Russians. And this year’s official holiday on 7 November commemorates exactly 100 years since Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, staged his bloody Bolshevik revolution that changed the fabric of a whole continent. American journalist and socialist John Reed witnessed the chaos of Lenin’s revolution firsthand and told the story of the uprising in his seminal book, Ten Days That Shook the World.

Under Vladimir Putin, we are also told the Russian government has sought to restore the reputation of the Soviet era – but ironically, while the revolution ultimately led to the Soviet hegemony of the chess world throughout the 20th century, in this centenary year, Russian chess could be said to be in a state of steady decline.

Partly because it could tap the talent pool in such a vast area, Soviet chess ruled supreme. But after the Soviet system collapsed over two decades ago, many of those players began playing for the independent countries that rose from the ashes — nations that quickly assumed their own place among the world’s elite.

And this was dramatically evident in the recent European Team Championship in Crete, Greece, as Russia, the perennial favorites, had a very spectacular collapse that saw the top seeds denied of yet another team triumph, as the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan went on to score a historic gold-medal victory.

After losing to Hungary, Russia had staged a comeback and looked to be back on course for gold – but their round eight loss on the tenth day of the competition to Azerbaijan shook them to their foundations, as the Azeri’s went on to take gold by a superior tie-break score. Despite the setback, Russia did at least head home to Moscow with their women’s team capturing the gold medal.

Final scores:
The tie-break score is composed of the sum of the board points scored multiplied by the final match points tally for each opponent – 1. Azerbaijan 14/18 (230); 2. Russia 14 (217.5); 3. Ukraine 13 (210); 4. Croatia 13 (170); 5-7. Hungary, Israel, Romania 12.

(Photo) The jubilant Azeri’s celebrate victory! | © European Team Championship

Azerbaijan’s emphatic 3-1 win over favorites Russia started with their talismanic top board performer, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov’s impressive win over Muscovite Alexander Grischuk.

GM Alexander Grischuk – GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
21st European Team Ch., (8)
Ruy Lopez, Modern Steinitz Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.0-0 Bd7 The Modern Steinitz is one of Black’s more solid options against the Ruy Lopez – I’m surprised that, unlike the Berlin Defence, this isn’t played more at elite level. 6.Re1 g5!? Now there’s a new move that certainly comes out of left-field – and I think there was a great deal of psychology going on from Mamedyarov behind this bold thrust, as Grischuk, who has a really had habit – some would even it verging on ‘addiction’ – of getting into time trouble, starts to think long and hard in the very early stages of the game trying to dismantle the unlikely thrust – but the Russian gets nowhere, and in the process he finds himself chronically short of time. 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.d4 What else is there? If 8.h3? g4! plays into Black’s plan. 8…g4 9.Nfd2 exd4 10.Nb3 I suppose at the end of the day, no matter what White has, Black will always have some sort of level of security with the bishop-pair. 10…Ne7 11.Nxd4 The point is that 11.Qxd4 is well answered by 11…Ng6 and Black will have a really firm grip on the critical e5-square. 11…Bg7 12.Nc3 0-0 13.Bg5 f6 14.Be3 Qe8!? Mamedyarov’s queen just casually slips over to the kingside, and suddenly Grischuk finds himself having to defend an attack out of nowhere. 15.Qd3 Qf7 16.Qd2 Qg6 17.Bf4 h5 18.b4?! After the game, Grischuk commented on his loss to Mamedyarov, that it “reminded [him] of my early encounters with Garry Kasparov where I couldn’t even figure out what went wrong.” In truth, if anywhere, probably here. I can see why he probably wanted to stop Black playing …c5, but perhaps safer was 18.Nb3!? where later perhaps a timely Nc5!? could come in useful? But in truth, nothing went wrong at all – he just spent far too much time trying to fathom a way to take advantage of Black’s very early liberty with 6…g4, only to find out that the Modern Steinitz is very solid, and you simply can’t blow it away by brute force – and by now, Grischuk had wasted a valuable amount of time trying to find a way to do this. 18…h4 Mamedyarov’s kingside attack is picking up steam now, as Grischuk’s position drifts. 19.a4 Qh5 20.Be3?! This just gives Black carte blanche to continue pressing on with his kingside attack. 20…h3 21.Nce2 hxg2 22.Nf4 Qh7 23.Nfe6 Bxe6 24.Nxe6 Ng6! The knight is heading asap to f3, where it will wreck havoc around White’s king. 25.Nxf8 Rxf8 26.Bf4 f5! The game opens up for all of Black’s pieces now. 27.exf5 Nh4 28.Ra3? It is pretty desperate stuff, but Grischuk simply had to return the material and get his queen out of the way of any possible forks on f3 by playing 28.Qd3 Bxa1 29.Rxa1 Nf3+ 30.Kxg2 Rxf5 31.Bg3 Qh3+ 32.Kh1 Rf6! 33.Qe3 Qh5 and try his best to hold this position. 28…Qxf5 [see diagram] It’s hard to see any defence with all of Black’s forces now moving swiftly in for the kill – the coming …Nf3+ is going to be the killer blow. 29.Bg5 Nf3+ 30.Rxf3 gxf3 31.Bh6 Qd5 Mamedyarov is perhaps taking further liberties now with Grischuk’s legendary time-trouble predicaments, by playing the not-so-obvious move. More clinical was 31…Qf6! 32.Bxg7 Kxg7 And White is either going to get mated down the h-file or fall to some back-rank mating scenario. 32.Qc1? With absolutely no time left to think, Grischuk could have shown more resistance with the better 32.Qe3 Rf7 33.Qe8+ Kh7 34.Bxg7 Kxg7 35.c3 – Black is still winning, but White is doggedly hanging on here. 32…Bc3 33.Re3 Bd4 34.Rd3 Re8 35.c3 Bxf2+! This easily wins. 36.Kxf2 Re2+ 0-1



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