First contested in 1956 and then 1976 and annually from 1992, the European Club Cup is the chess equivalent of football’s Champions’ League. For one week the top qualifying teams from Europe’s domestic team championships – headed by the prestigious German Bundesliga – compete for the de facto (with apologies to a couple of top Chinese teams) title of the world’s strongest “club” side.
Normally this would be played in some sunny beach-side getaway resort, such as Greece, but for obvious Covid-19 protocols, this year it morphed into the European Online Club Cup with all the action contested on the tornelo.com platform. The event started with 91 teams in group sections and then playoffs to be whittled down to 10 teams vying for the title (9 qualifying, and joined by women’s champions Cercle d’Echecs de Monte-Carlo)
The biggest shock came in the playoffs for the final 10 as the Grenke-sponsored top seeds and former champions OSG Baden-Baden (with Candidates’ co-leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on top board) sensationally crashed out of the competition. The shock exit of the favourites left the competition genuinely open.
But the opening up of the team competition also saw another Grenke-sponsored second team, the all-German SF Deizisau e.V emerging to take the title on Thursday afternoon, as 16-year-old Vincent Keymer sealed victory for the new champions with his impressive final round win over Artom Timofeev of Clichy Echecs 92, the French runners-up. Clichy (Jorden van Foreest) took silver and Mednyi Vsadnik (Fedoseev) took bronze, just ahead of Poland Hussars (Jan-Krzysztof Duda).
This year, with the recent centenary anniversary of the birth of the seventh World Champion, there was also a special “Vasily Smyslov” prize for the best game of the competition, and that went to Vladislav Artemiev for his brilliant win over Bartel Mateusz, a game that featured in our previous column “The Third Wave”.
European Club Cup Final
1. SF Deizisau e.V (20½ board points) 14/18 match-points; 2. Clichy Echecs 92 (22½) 13; 3. Mednyi Vsadnik (22) 11; 4. Poland Hussars (20); 11; 5. Odlar Yurdu (19) 9; 6. Hamburg Schachlub 1830 (14) 9; 7. 4NCL Guildford (18½) 8; 8. Ladya Kazan (16½) 8; 9. Novy Bor (18½) 7; 10. Cercle d’Echecs de Monte-Carlo (8½) 0.
Photo: 16-year-old Vincent Keymer top-scores as SF Deizisau e.V become champions | © Grenke Chess Classic
GM Artom Timofeev – GM Vincent Keymer
European Online Club Cup Final, (9.3)
1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.d3 An unusual and rare set-up against the Caro-Kann. Back in the 1960s and early 70s, the great Leonid Stein had much success against the Caro with a King’s Indian Attack set-up, but his preferred method was via a more dynamic approach with 1.e4 c6 2.d3 d5 3.Nd2 and keeping the queens on the board. 3…dxe4 4.dxe4 Qxd1+ 5.Kxd1 Nd7 6.Bf4 If Timofeev thinks that trading queens early doors will lessen the chances of him dropping vital points for his team in the final round, then he is in for a shock, as it all backfires on him with some mature play from the German teenage ace. 6…f6 7.Nfd2 e5 8.Be3 Bc5 If anything, already Keymer has equalised as Timofeev’s cautious approach has negated White’s opening move advantage. 9.Ke2 a5 10.a4 Bxe3 11.Kxe3 Nh6 The position is very similar to the Exchange Variation in the Old Indian Defence (1.d4 d6.2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 dxe5 4.Qxd8+ Kxd8) where the knight opts to develop on h6, and then …Nh6-f7-d6 to be more centrally placed. 12.Na3 Ke7 13.Nac4 b6 14.Be2 Nf7 15.g3 Ba6 Keymer quickly and rightly assesses that trading his bishop for the knight will allow more trades as his knight(s) come into the game, and he’ll have a ‘no-risk’ endgame. 16.c3 Rhd8 17.b4 Bxc4 18.Nxc4 Nd6 19.Nxd6 Kxd6 20.Bg4 Nf8 21.f4 If Timofeev wanted to ‘halve out’, then now was the time to do so, with 21.Rhd1+ Kc7 22.Rxd8 Rxd8 23.f4 Nd7 and a draw coming sooner rather than later. 21…exf4+ 22.gxf4 Re8 23.h4 Timofeev has grabbed a little real estate on the kingside, but it has come at the cost of splitting his pawns – and there’s a real risk that he could over-extend his pawns that they will become long-term endgame targets, as happens in the game. 23…Re7 24.h5 Kc7 25.Rhg1 g6 26.Bf3 Rg7 27.Rg3 Better was 27.f5!? forcing matters with 27…Re8 28.hxg6 hxg6 29.Bh5 Nd7!? 30.fxg6 (No better is 30.Bxg6 Ra8! 31.Rgd1 Ne5 and White can’t make any progress with his extra pawn, as the Black knight dominates on e5, and he can’t move his Ra1 from the defence of the a4-pawn.) 30…f5! 31.e5 axb4 32.cxb4 Nxe5 33.Kf4 Nd3+ 34.Kg5 Rgg8 35.a5 (White can’t snatch the f-pawn, as 35.Kxf5 Re5+ 36.Kg4 Rh8! 37.g7 Rg8 38.Kh4 Re4+ 39.Kh3 Re7 40.a5 Rgxg7 41.Rxg7 Rxg7 42.axb6+ Kxb6 is just a draw.) 35…bxa5 36.bxa5 f4! 37.a6 Re5+ 38.Kh4 Kb8 39.Ra3 Ne1 where White can’t possibly make any progress with his passed pawns. 27…Nd7 28.h6?! Short-term, it looks good; but long-term, that over-extended pawn is a handicap, and Keymer wastes no time in proving it to be so! 28…Re7 29.Rgg1 Nf8! [see diagram] Simple chess at it’s best, as Timofeev has now constructive way to counter Keymer’s plan of …Nf8-e6-d8-f7 targeting the weak h6-pawn. 30.Rge1 Ne6 31.Bg4 Nd8 32.f5?! Timofeev is now in panic mode and makes things worse for himself. 32…Nf7 33.Rh1 Rae8 34.fxg6 Rxe4+ 35.Kd2 hxg6 36.Bd1 axb4 37.cxb4 Rh8 38.Bc2 Rxb4 The tables are now turning as White’s pawns begin to tumble. 39.h7 Rg4 40.a5 bxa5 41.Rxa5 Kb6 42.Ra3 f5 When h7 surely falls, White can resign. 43.Bb3 Rg2+ 44.Kc3 Rg3+ 45.Kb2 Ng5 46.Bg8 The rook entombed on h8 can’t save Timofeev – when Black’s kingside pawns start running up the board, he won’t be able to stop them. 46…Rxa3 47.Kxa3 f4 48.Kb4 f3 49.Kc4 f2 50.Kd4 There’s no salvation. If 50.Rf1 simply 50…Nxh7 51.Bf7 Ng5 52.Rxf2 Nxf7 53.Rxf7 is a technically won ending. 53…Rh4+. 50…Nxh7! Taking full advantage of the fact that White can’t recapture with 51.Bxh7 as 51…Rxh7! and the f-pawn queens if you recapture again on h7. 51.Bc4 Rf8! 52.Ke3 Once again, after 52.Rxh7 Rf4+! 53.Ke3 Rxc4 54.Kxf2 it’s a relatively easy technically won endgame for Black. 52…Ng5 53.Bf1 Nf3 54.Rh7 g5 55.Bg2 g4 56.Ke2 White is hopelessly lost and just playing out the final few moves, and note that an even quicker way to go was 56.Kxf2 Ng5+! 56…g3 The pawns are just too powerful to contain. 57.Rg7 Nh4 58.Bf1 Re8+ 59.Kd3 Re1 0-1