GM Alexey Sarana won the European Individual Chess Championship on Monday in Vrnjacka Banja, Serbia. The 23-year-old Russian grandmaster, who played under the FIDE flag, edged out GMs Kirill Shevchenko (Ukraine) and Daniel Dardha (Belgium) on tiebreak.
The three players all finished on 8.5 points out of 11 rounds in what was a large Swiss event held March 3-13. In fact, it was the biggest European Individual ever with 482 players, including 126 grandmasters, from 40 federations.
GM Anton Korobov, one of the 11 Ukrainian players in the field, was the only one left with a perfect score after five rounds. That included a win over one of his compatriots, the 2002 FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov:
A key game in the tournament was the following, as Sarana took over pole position from Korobov in their direct encounter. With two rounds to go, Sarana was then on 7.5 points while his opponent joined the group of players on 7.
Thanks to two straight wins, Shevchenko joined Sarana in first place in the penultimate round. Instead, we show a nice fragment from the seventh round. Can you find how the 20-year-old Ukrainian, who now lives in and plays for Romania, won his game?
Two draws in the last two rounds were enough for Sarana to win the tournament on tiebreak. Dardha, a 17-year-old Belgian grandmaster, managed to clinch the bronze medal with a win against Korobov, who played for a win too long:
Two excellent performances that stand out were scored by two IMs. The 25-year-old Greek player Stamatis Kourkoulos-Arditis played the tournament of his life and finished in shared fourth place on eight points (with a 2743 performance), the same score achieved by the only 14-year-old Ediz Gurel from Turkey, who had a 2683 performance.
I am pretty sure we have here a future superstar: Ediz Gurel (🇹🇷 2454). pic.twitter.com/2qUxm5kdvs
— David Llada ♞ (@davidllada) December 28, 2022
2023 European Championship | Final Standings (Top 30)
|6||22||GM||Nguyen, Thai Dai Van||2651||8||0||71.5||76.5||5||5||2715||10||9.1|
|7||20||GM||Santos Latasa, Jaime||2655||8||0||70||75.5||5||5||2702||10||6.8|
|13||3||GM||Anton Guijarro, David||2685||8||0||66.5||72||6||6||2681||10||0|
(Full final standings here.)
An important reason for players to participate in the European Individual is because it’s part of the world championship cycle. 23 players qualified for the next FIDE World Cup (July 29-August 26 in Baku, Azerbaijan) but it was not simply the top 23, because some players had already qualified from earlier editions.
It’s yet to be verified, but it looks like the following players qualified from this event: GMs Shevchenko, Dardha, IM Kourkoulos-Arditis, GMs Etienne Bacrot, Nguyen Thai Dai Van, Andrey Esipenko, Valentin Dragnev, David Paravyan, Igor Janik, IM Gurel, and GMs Alexander Donchenko, Korobov, Nijat Abasov, Alexandr Predke, Frederik Svane, Grzegorz Nasuta, Sergei Azarov, Szymon Gumularz, Nils Grandelius, Benjamin Gledura, Ante Brkic, Jergus Pechac, and Boris Gelfand.
One other big name from the past, GM Vasyl Ivanchuk, failed to qualify. Here’s a nice combination from the legend, played in the last round:
Players from Russia and Belarus were allowed to play under the FIDE flag because of war sanctions by the European Chess Union (ECU) and the International Chess Federation (FIDE). A total of 40 players did, including the Russian GM Aleksandra Goryachkina, who picked up the third women’s prize with six points, finishing behind WGM Jolanta Zawadzka (Poland) and IM Irina Bulmaga (Romania) who scored 6.5.
Sarana, the winner of the tournament, is one of the few Russian players who left their country and openly criticized the war in Ukraine. In March of 2022, he told Chess.com: “What our government is doing now is absolutely disgusting. I cannot accept it, but I cannot do anything about it. But I have no sympathy for this war; all the reasons are absolutely terrible.”
After playing in the European Championship, the Russian participants can also participate in the Asian Individual Championship later this year. On February 28, the Asian Chess Federation (ACF) formally adopted the Chess Federation of Russia (CFR) into its ranks at a meeting of its General Assembly in Abu Dhabi. Per May 1, Russian players will be able to participate in Asian events.