European Team Championships – Porto Carras

Hello all. Apologies for not updating during the tournament but I had very little time and the internet was sporadic at best. I started this before the last round, which I didn’t think I was going to play, but the situation changed and in the end I played all nine. I had the 4ncl straightaway after and so only now, Monday afternoon, do I finally have time to give you some details of my time in Greece.
The tournament was fairly successful for me. I won four, drew five and lost just one. The team’s performance looked a little disappointing with minus one, but we’ve had very tough pairings thanks to a bizarre system they’re using. I’ll give a quick round-up of both mine and the team’s results.

Round One: we played against Latvia. On paper we were fairly heavy favourites but we decided to field our top 4 just in case. That turned out just as well as my slight edge out of the opening went all wrong against a low rated GM and I was in a lot of trouble when, thankfully, he offered me a draw. On the board above, David had even more trouble and after missing something lost material and couldn’t save the game. Mickey and Nigel came good on the top two boards though and so we squeezed through narrowly 2.5-1.5 WIN.

Onto Round Two and the only time we managed to be on +1 for the whole event! We played the hosts Greece. Again we were slight favourites on paper but a bad day in the office for Nigel and David meant we went down. I managed to defeat Stelios Halkias, a 2593 GM, on bottom board with Black in a Kings Indian when he lost a couple of tempi after being too optimistic about his position. Mickey was pressing but unable to convert and so a 2.5-1.5 LOSS.

Round Three saw Nick Pert make his debut in this event. On 50% we hoped for a fairly easy pairing but instead played fourth seeds Armenia! Mickey drew quite quickly with World number three, Levon Aronian, while Nigel also drew with Movsesian after outplaying him and winning a pawn. However Sergei then defended well to hold. I defeated Vladimir Akopian in a very complex French after he sacrificed the exchange just out of the opening. Unfortunately Nick couldn’t quite hold on bottom board though and so a 2-2 DRAW.
###pgn###[Event “European Team Championships”] [Site “Porto Carras GRE”] [Date “2011.11.05”] [Round “3”] [White “Jones, G.”] [Black “Akopian, V.”] [Result “1-0″] [ECO “C07″] [WhiteElo “2635”] [BlackElo “2681”] [PlyCount “87”] [EventDate “2011.07.25”] [EventType “swiss”] [EventRounds “11”] [EventCountry “ENG”] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 c5 4. Ngf3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 Nf6 6. exd5 Qxd5 7. Nb5 Na6 8. Nc3 Qd8 9. a3 Be7 10. Qf3 Nc5 11. b4 Ncd7 12. Nc4 O-O 13. Bb2 a5 14. Nxa5 Rxa5 15. bxa5 Ne5 16. Qf4 Qxa5 17. Qa4 Qb6 18. Nb5 Neg4 19. Bd4 Qc6 20. Nc3 Qc7 21. Qc4 Qa5 22. Qa4 Bd8 23. Qb4 Qg5 24. Bb5 b6 25. Bc6 Ba6 26. Qa4 e5 27. Qxa6 exd4 28. Qb5 Qf4 29. Nd1 d3 30. cxd3 Bc7 31. g3 Qh6 32. Ra2 Ne5 33. d4 Neg4 34. h3 Nxf2 35. Nxf2 Bxg3 36. O-O Qe3 37. Kg2 Bb8 38. Qd3 Qe6 39. Rc2 Nh5 40. Ng4 Nf4+ 41. Rxf4 Bxf4 42. Qf3 Bb8 43. Bd5 Qe7 44. Re2 1-0%%%pgn%%%

Round Four was only fractionally easier as we had Israel. They rested Rodshtein who was playing on one but, seeing as his rating is only 5 points higher than their reserve, this hardly weakened the team. We were back to playing with our top four. David drew quite quickly with Black against the high rated Smirin but Nigel didn’t get anything on board two and also had a short draw. Mickey appeared to be in some trouble against Sutovsky on board one but managed to hold. Unfortunately I went down against Evgeny Postny after overestimating my attacking chances. The position was still quite balanced until I blundered allowing a mate. 2.5-1.5 LOSS.

On minus one we could hope for slightly easier pairings and so it proved as we played our second Baltic state: Lithuania. This time we rested Nigel. Mickey beat their only GM, Sarunas Sulskis, on one while I won our other White on three. My opponent played the opening very superficially, he used just five minutes for his first 13 moves an built up a big time lead but after he allowed 14.c4! he was in trouble.
###pgn###[Event “European Team Championships”] [Site “Porto Carras GRE”] [Date “2011.11.07”] [Round “5”] [White “Jones, G.”] [Black “Labeckas, Kestutis”] [Result “1-0″] [ECO “C06″] [WhiteElo “2635”] [BlackElo “2410”] [PlyCount “67”] [EventDate “2011.07.25”] [EventType “swiss”] [EventRounds “11”] [EventCountry “ENG”] 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 b6 7. Ne2 Ba6 8. Bxa6 Nxa6 9. a3 Nab8 10. Nf3 Nc6 11. Nf4 g6 12. h4 h5 13. O-O Ne7 14. c4 Bg7 15. cxd5 Nxd5 16. Nxd5 exd5 17. Bg5 Qc8 18. dxc5 Nxc5 19. b4 Ne6 20. Qxd5 O-O 21. Rfc1 Qe8 22. Rc6 Rc8 23. b5 Nxg5 24. hxg5 Rd8 25. Qc4 Kh7 26. Re1 Rd7 27. g4 h4 28. Kg2 Qe7 29. Nxh4 Rfd8 30. Rh1 Kg8 31. Rxg6 Rd4 32. Rxg7+ Kf8 33. Nf5 Qb7+ 34. Qc6 1-0%%%pgn%%%

The blacks were more difficult. David showed he was having a tournament to forget. After equalising comfortably he forced matters too early and his position deteriorated rapidly. Nick was struggling against their under-rated junior on bottom board who showed he was worth more than his 2100 rating. Nick was pressing with black but missed a couple of things and found himself a couple of pawns down with insufficient compensation. Luckily the English upbringing of playing in Opens put him in good stead and he pounced when his opponent missed a tactic. 3-1 WIN.

Back to 50% and back to difficult matches. Round Six was against Czech Republic; another team roughly level with us on rating. This match seesawed dramatically, our openings went well with my Dragon working fairly well and Nick better on bottom board. Then things took a turn for the worse when Nigel played a tactic his opponent hadn’t seen but the complications came down in favour of his opponent Laznicka. A few careless moves by me left me in what should have been a lost rook endgame and Nick, despite having an extra pawn, had no significant winning chances. The momentum changed again as I managed to salvage a draw and Mickey, who had looked like he was going to draw all game, somehow managed to defeat David Navara on top board. Nick drew and for a while we hoped that we might even win but Nigel, who had some drawing chances, found himself in a rook and pawn versus rook endgame, which turned out to be lost. 2-2 DRAW.

Round Seven we played Poland, another team roughly our strength. As I’d had four whites and two blacks and David had played three blacks and just one white, our captain Loz Cooper tried the slightly risky approach of resting Nigel again so colours would even out. Unfortunately the idea didn’t work out. David had a slightly easier game out of the opening after following the repertoire advocated in my recent book but again missed something, as he got short on time. Meanwhile Nick destroyed his structure with one bad move and a loss from then on was inevitable. I had a very interesting Samisch Kings Indian against Mateusz Bartel, a GM whose rating has recently jumped up to 2653. A highly complicated struggle; I offered a pawn early to take control of the dark squares but he declined and tried to take the initiative himself. I sacrificed the exchange to open up the position for my bishop pair and he pragmatically gave back the exchange for a roughly level middlegame. Perhaps I could have played on but the match was already looking hopeless and so I accepted the draw. Mickey had a rather unpleasant position on top board but managed to hold the worse endgame but still a 3-1 LOSS.
###pgn###[Event “European Team Championships”] [Site “Porto Carras GRE”] [Date “2011.11.09”] [Round “7”] [White “Bartel, Mateusz”] [Black “Jones, G.”] [Result “1/2-1/2″] [ECO “E84″] [WhiteElo “2653”] [BlackElo “2635”] [PlyCount “73”] [EventDate “2011.07.25”] [EventType “swiss”] [EventRounds “11”] [EventCountry “ENG”] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. f3 O-O 6. Nge2 a6 7. Be3 Nc6 8. Qd2 Rb8 9. Rc1 Bd7 10. Nd1 e6 11. g3 Re8 12. Bg2 b5 13. c5 dxc5 14. Rxc5 Bf8 15. Rc1 e5 16. d5 Bb4 17. Nec3 Nd4 18. f4 c5 19. O-O Ng4 20. fxe5 Nxe3 21. Qxe3 Ba5 22. d6 Rxe5 23. Nd5 Rxd5 24. exd5 Nf5 25. Qf4 c4 26. Kh1 Qf8 27. Nc3 Nxd6 28. Ne4 Nxe4 29. Qxe4 Qd6 30. b3 Bd2 31. Rcd1 c3 32. Qd4 Rc8 33. Rxd2 cxd2 34. Qxd2 Bf5 35. Qd4 h5 36. Re1 Bd7 37. Qf2 1/2-1/2%%%pgn%%%

Round Eight. Estonia weren’t fielding a team and so we had to travel further north and thus we were paired with Finland. Apart from Tomi Nyback, the only GM, the rest are IMs. I played against Mikael Agopov, a 2450 IM I played in this same competition four years earlier. That time I defeated him with a Grand Prix but this time I used the Rossolimo and a line from How to Beat the Sicilian. He chose the 3…g6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 line which is more ambitious than the mainline. Black has to remain passive and hope that the bishop pair will eventually give him some chances. In this case I grabbed the centre and then managed to exchange bishops leaving him very vulnerable on the dark squares. I finished him off with a rook sacrifice when he couldn’t prevent mate without giving his queen.
###pgn###[Event “European Team Championships”] [Site “Porto Carras GRE”] [Date “2011.11.10”] [Round “8”] [White “Jones, G.”] [Black “Agopov, Mikael”] [Result “1-0″] [ECO “B31″] [WhiteElo “2635”] [BlackElo “2450”] [PlyCount “59”] [EventDate “2011.07.25”] [EventType “swiss”] [EventRounds “11”] [EventCountry “ENG”] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. O-O Bg7 6. Re1 Nh6 7. h3 O-O 8. c3 f6 9. d4 cxd4 10. cxd4 Nf7 11. Qc2 Qb6 12. Nc3 d6 13. b3 Ng5 14. Nxg5 fxg5 15. Na4 Qa6 16. Bb2 Rf7 17. d5 Bxb2 18. Nxb2 Bb7 19. Qd2 Raf8 20. f3 Qb5 21. Rad1 cxd5 22. exd5 Rc8 23. Qxg5 Rc2 24. Nc4 Qc5+ 25. Ne3 e5 26. Kh1 Rc3 27. Ng4 Kg7 28. Rxe5 dxe5 29. Qxe5+ Kf8 30. Re1 1-0%%%pgn%%%

The rest of the match also went pretty smoothly. Mickey couldn’t get any advantage on board one in a Jaenisch Gambit but Nick won the Black side of an Exchange French type position rather easily when his opponent refused to play positionally, while Nigel chose an offbeat opening to bamboozle his opponent Tapani Sammalvuo. Curiously all three of us finished within around 5 minutes of each other, my 30move game taking the longest.

The start of our match with Finland.

In the final round and back to 50% we were hoping to have a winnable match to finish well. Instead we played second seeds Ukraine who had had rather a shocker, losing to Switzerland 3-1 in round seven. Despite them resting their board two, former FIDE World Champion, Ruslan Ponomariov, they still had a team averaging well above 2700. The games started at 1pm and, as I had a flight back that evening, I had to make sure was finished by 6pm for the bus to the airport. I didn’t feel comfortable playing with that hanging over me and so offered a quick draw which Moiseenko (with a rating of 2715 number 27 in the world) which he accepted. Mickey had a great game defeating the legendary Vassily Ivanchuk, currently number six in the world. The match looked to be going well but Nick got into trouble quite early on bottom board against Efimenko (another 2700+), and, despite desperate defence, failed to save the draw. Nigel had a very complicated game but in the mutual time trouble he blundered and so a 2.5-1.5 LOSS.

Another case of what might have been. All our matches we lost, except perhaps Poland, were very close and came down to the final game. With an extra ½ point a match we would have done excellently. I was happy with my performance a little above 2700, whilst I have to congratulate Mickey for his impressive play on top board which won the gold medal. Nick had a tough time with four blacks and two whites against high rated opposition. Nigel will undoubtedly be disappointed with his finish: he was pressing against Movsesian but could only draw, was unlucky against Laznicka and then just one mistake in time trouble against Eljanov. David of course had a very bad time. His positions were fine but at some point they all came crashing down but I’m sure hell be back to showing his great strength in time for the London Classic.

Finally I would like to thank Loz for his work as captain, both during and before the event. Without his input I’m sure we’d have struggled to field such a strong side. Hopefully next Olympiad we’ll all be firing on all cylinders!

2 Responses to “European Team Championships – Porto Carras”

  1. kevin winter
    November 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    very well done Gawain. You should be playing at the London Classic in the premier if you ask me ! kevin winter, Bingley

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