Minsk for a long time is known for its chess strengths and achievements. Here lived great players, like Boleslavsky, Gelfand and Kupreichik, who died just few days before the start of this Championship. Great chess school was developed by great trainers Alexey Sokolsky, Albert Kapengut and Mikhail Shereshevsky. Here in Physical Culture Institute studied Boris Gelfand, Ilya Smirin and Zsuzsa Polgar. Here, her Father Laszlo Polgar successfully defended his Doctorate! Playing hall was very spacious Sport center, hotel and food were solid, but nothing more - classical Soviet style.
Nowadays it is beautiful and clean Soviet style city, as it was practically completely destroyed during the Second World War. Belorussian Federation became much more active recently, they voted for President of Federation Anastasiya Sorokina, IA and niece of Victor Kupreichik!
European Championship usually is very well participated, as there are 23 places for qualification for World Cup. A lot of Grandmasters, many girls played there too. Chess is practically the only sport (not all countries agrees with it!) where positive discrimination is possible. Girls can participate in two Championships; man just in Open (is it time to introduce new European Man Championship?). But for development of Woman Chess it seems to be positive step.
Favorites started to fail, as usually in European Championships - this time Ukrainian heroes of silver Olympic team Andrei Volokitin and Yury Kryvoruchko played so badly, that they stopped participation after 8 rounds! The same trick was forced to perform other pre-tournament favorites Ragger and Edouard! Ok, here everybody pays his money and can go home at any moment, just so.
Very difficult tournament had former World top player Peter Leko, who was buried in draws sand. It is sad picture to see former great World vice Champion, who in the age of 36 cannot win a game and first time I think in 21 century, went out of 2700.Very uncommon situation happened to Etienne Bacrot, who overslept his game against Demchenko and Russiaan TASS agency proudly announced victory of our player over French favorite! Bacrot set his wake up call according to French time, which is one hour behind the Minsk time! But even with this loss Etienne confirmed his class and qualified convincingly.
As always it was very big peloton of many leaders from the start. Great form on the start showed former Ukrainan Champion Yuri Kuzubov with four straight wins, but then he slowed down significantly. In one moment huge spurt performed English Grandmaster Howell, who drew first two games and suddenly won six in a row! In one moment leaders were Howell and young Spanish hope Anton Guijarro, but Spanish IGM lost three games in a row after losing to Howell. Practically unnoticed started to win games after two losses in round 2 and 3 - great fighter Baadur Jobava - he won 7 in a row! I think record for European Championships!
Can you imagine - his only draw was in the last round - the same with veteran Aleksandr Beliavsky, whose result was 5 wins and 5 losses. In the same time started to accelerate young IGM from Sankt Petersburg Maxim Matlakov and he caught Jobava. Leaders met in the last round. After tough fight with some advantage for Jobava the draw was agreed. Three players at the end shared first places. Medals were arranged according to additional criteria:
Gold - Matlakov, Silver - Jobava and Bronze another new Russian hope - Fedoseeev. Director of Russian Federation Glukhovsky announced that Matlakov probably will play for National Tean on World Championship in Kahanty Mansijsk this June.
Qualification places for FIDE World Cup were 22, but 5 players qualified before, so last place in World Cup was 27 for lucky first leader Yuri Kuzubov!
Among veterans we can register great qualification of home player Alexei Aleksandrov – the veteran was much better than his young challengers, except good result of Zhigalo Sergei .Very funny was encounter of both brothers in the penultimate round - they had to fight and Sergei won. We can remember that Kosintseva and Muzychuk sisters always made draw playing each other.
Among all others a bit unexpected was qualification of Greek Antonios Mastrovasilis and Germans Bluebaum and Kunin, but they deserved it with their fighting spirit.
Let`s see some interesting games from the tournament: