Since the start of the pandemic, opportunities for serious competition between players ranked outside the world’s top 20 have been scarce. So there was a pent-up appetite for the European Online Club Cup, which took place at the end of March, with more than 500 players registered (including more than 150 grandmasters) across 91 teams. Several teams from the 4NCL (Four Nations Chess League) took part: current champions Guildford, as well as Wood Green, Wood Green Monarchs, and Celtic Tigers.
With backing from Roger Emerson and Nigel Povah, the Guildford lineup consisted of England team regulars Michael Adams, David Howell, myself and Gawain Jones, as well as Ivan Cheparinov from Bulgaria. We came through some fierce competition in the preliminary stages, including a comfortable win over Baden Baden from Germany, who were the top seeds in the whole event. Ten teams qualified for the final round-robin stage, in which David Howell and Gawain Jones performed strongly, earning bronze and silver board medals for their respective individual performances. But some narrow losses left us out of contention for a podium finish, and the German team from Deizisau won the event (see diagram 1).
Luke McShane (Guildford)–Elizabeth Paehtz (Cercle d’Echecs de Monte Carlo)
European Online Club Cup, March 2021
My final game of the event saw a nice finish. Black threatens perpetual check, but 42 Kb5! advances the king to safety. Qd3+ 43 Kc6 Qxe3 The bishop is lost, but a neat checking sequence wraps up the game. 44 Qd7+ Kf8 45 Qg7+ Ke8 46 Qg8+ Ke7 47 Qxh7+ Ke8 48 Qd7+ Kf8 49 h7 Qxc5+ 50 Kb7 Black resigns
Vladislav Artemiev was awarded the ‘Vasily Smyslov’ prize for the best game of the event, with a wonderful queen sacrifice.
Mateusz Bartel (Polonia Wroclaw)–Vladislav Artemiev (Ladya Kazan)
(see diagram 2)
21… Nxh4!! Forcing open the h-file, after which mate with Rh8-h1 is looming. 22 Bxe7 Nf5 23 Bh4 Nxh4 24 Qg5 24 Qe3 Nf5 25 Qxf3 gxf3 only delays the reckoning: Black will soon double rooks on the h-file. Nf5 25 Qg6+ Kd8 26 Qf6+ Kc7 27 Nd5+ Kc6 Rh1 mate is inevitable, so White resigns
The Candidates tournament which began in March 2020 was put on hold after seven rounds. The event will resume in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Monday 19 April, with the winner earning the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world title. Ian Nepomniachtchi and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave lead with 4.5/7. Behind them are Fabiano Caruana, Anish Giri, Alexander Grischuk, Wang Hao with 3.5/7, while Ding Liren and Kirill Alekseenko have 2.5/7.
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