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News Article

European Team Championship – Iceland

November 22nd, 2015


Live games

Round by round Scot scores

FINAL REPORT by Andy Burnett

And so to the final round of the tournament, and lo and behold we are moved from our ‘reserved’ spots close to the exit, and into the centre of the hall surrounded by other games, spectators, cameras and all sorts of things new to us!¬†

The reason? Well, we were playing the ‘Iceland Legends’ team! All GM’s in the 2500′s, but also all a fair bit older than us. Our team strategy was, if we hold on long enough….nature might takes its course (preferably culling the oldest before the weakest!)

Not to be unfortunately. Alan misplayed his position, as did Steve, as did I. Only Andy M. seemed to be comfortable, and although we hung on grimly it ended in a 3.5-0.5 win for the legends, who gaily skipped off to do whatever legends do after chess games.

The Open tournament was won by Russia (minus Kramnik). The Georgian team surprisingly dropped their board 2 Pantsulaia, who was performing at almost 2900 level and lost 3-1 to the Armenians, who thus took second head of Hungary.

In the women’s section Russia, Ukraine, Georgia was the 1-2-3 and although the standard of chess was incredibly good, the ridiculous daily ‘fashion contests’ between many of the women was pitiful to watch. Hobbling on high-heels to the toilet in time-trouble? Invest in some Doc Martens for crying out loud!

All-in-all this was a fascinating event to attend. Being my first (and probably last given my horrible showing!) tournament of this calibre I was shocked each day to see guys I had only ever read about strolling past my board. Carlsen, Shirov, Ivanchuk, Aronian, Giri, Adams, Short…..real legends of the board!

Hopefully the ‘Scottish chess public’ won’t be too harsh in their criticism of our own team’s efforts – we didn’t take the event lightly at all and prepared and worked hard at the board. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and against the quality of opposition we were facing it was hard to find a hiding place!

Thanks for the messages of support!

Round Eight Report by Andy Burnett

We sent out our 4 top-rated guys to do a job -to beat Kosovo and ensure we didn’t finish in last place -and the boys did just that.

Steve played a very good game on top board, playing his favourite line against Black’s Dragon variation. A slight blip near the end fortunately didn’t affect the win.

Alan was looking to soak up the pressure on board 2 when his opponent surprisingly sacked a piece, which became a queen for rook+2 minor pieces position. The Kosovan went badly wrong soon after and Alan put him away efficiently.

Graham had a lovely position – as he has had in many of his games this week – but again one rash move came back to haunt him.

Andy M. decided solidity was the order of the day as Black on board 4 and held his under-rated opponent quite easily. So, 2.5-1.5 and our first match win of the event!

Round Seven Report by Andy Burnett

Chess has been described as a cruel mistress, and so it proved today.

At one point Alan had a strong attack going, Graham was completely level while Andy M’s passed pawns looked set to queen and win. Only yours truly had a bad position, and even that had decent drawing prospects.

Fast forward half an hour or so and we had lost 4-0 to Denmark.

Quite how this score-line came about is a mystery, except that whatever killer instinct we arrived with in Iceland seems to have completely disappeared. Alan ran out of gas, Graham went astray, Andy M blundered into a mate and I missed the drawing variation because I wanted to draw more quickly, and missed a trick.

Tomorrow’s match sees us take on Kosovo, the only team lower seeded than we are, and I fully expect us to bounce back with a good victory – I think we deserve a bit of kindness from our mistress for once!

Round Six Report by Andy Burnett

Another tough day on the 64 squares, with a disappointing loss to Austria.

Steve defended well against a strong attack and seemed to have some drawing chances in the endgame which ensued but it wasn’t to be. Steve has led very well from the front against a ridiculously strong series of opponents and will hopefully get on the scoreboard before the end.

Graham’s position turned into a bit of a tactical minefield against the 2 bishops of his opponent and he missed a nice defensive trick which we had fun analysing afterwards with the Austrian captain, the legendary Zoltan Ribli from Hungary.

I’m just not playing accurately enough at the decisive moments in my games and yesterday was a good example, my opponent able to turn his slight initiative into a full-blown attack on my uncastled king.

Alan saved the team from a whitewash with a solidly played game where he might have tried for more at some point.

Today sees us take on Jacob Aagaard’s Denmark team, another tough pairing. Jacob can be found reading novels for hours on end in his captain’s chair – he seems very relaxed in this kind of environment so I’m glad he’s not playing against us!

Three rounds to go and our aim is to hopefully leapfrog one or two of the weaker teams before Sunday’s finish.

Round Five Report by Andy Burnett

Finally we showed that we could play as a team and get a result!

Andy M. had a solid draw as white, while I messed up a bit in my preparation and then missed the few chances which came my way.

Fortunately, just as I was resigning, Alan launched a vicious attack on the dark squares around his opponent’s king. Almost impossible to defend in practice, and so it proved – Alan getting a well-deserved win and levelling the match.

This left Graham to try to eke out a win to take the match, but his opponent found a fortress and a draw. Still an excellent day’s play from the Scots and a much-needed result for everyone before tomorrow’s rest day.

Hopefully today’s result will restore a bit of faith on the team’s ability to play chess – I for one was getting a bit worried. After the rest day we have Austria in round 6. Not sure of our team yet but we are hopeful of taking something from the match.

England’s men unfortunately lost today which puts them out of contention realistically, while Carlsen committed a gross blunder in a simple endgame (he basically chucked a piece in one move) to lose to Switzerland’s Pelletier.

He doesn’t seem overly interested/concerned about his results (just my impression of course) and might be better off not playing these events if he can’t summon up the same intensity for his country as he shows as an individual. About 5 minutes after his loss he was walking about laughing and smiling.

There are tours arranged for tomorrow, but they are extremely pricey. £60 for a day tour? Hmmm. Alan has signed up for the football while I might pop into the international backgammon tournament РI know nothing about the game but am supposed to interview a backgammon champion/author soon for work so might as well get some tips!

P.S. Andy M and myself got a ticking off about talking (while my game was still going). Of course we weren’t discussing the game, but the paranoia around cheating is huge at this event (and elsewhere nowadays).

They introduced hand-held body-scanners today, to complement the airport scanners at the entrance. I got scanned on the way-in, scanned at the smoker’s area and scanned again at the toilets. It would have been much easier if they had just looked at my game – pretty bloody obvious I wasn’t cheating!!

As of tomorrow no-one is allowed to wear a watch either. Upon this announcement Andy M pulled an old watch-face from his pocket (circa-1970, minus a strap!) and asked how he would tell the time if it wasn’t allowed. Sundials and star positions from now on I guess. Sad state of affairs, but the reality of the game in 2015.

Round Four Report  by Andy Burnett

I finally got the first (half-)point on the board for the team, although it possibly should have been a full one.

Steve once again found himself up against high-class opposition, Helgi Dam Ziska being the Faroe Islands Sports personality of the Year a while back, and also a student in Scotland for a while. It’s really tough playing such strong opponents day-after-day and Steve has a well-earned day off tomorrow.

Again, however, the other boards didn’t go our way despite having decent positions – at some point we are due a few points in a row when we finally get the hang of converting some of the good play.


Round Three Report  by Andy Burnett

Today was, unfortunately, the same old story. Another strong team (averaging about 2600) and another match which we should have taken something from.

Steve had a tough one today against the mighty Shirov. In an opening variation which isn’t supposed to offer white anything at all, Shirov somehow managed to conjure up an initiative on the k-side which Steve couldn’t hold on against.

Andy M had a tricky material imbalance in a main-line Catalan as Black – but it proved too difficult to find safe squares for his 2 pieces versus a rook and passed pawn.

My own game followed my ‘orders for the day’. Steady as she goes and try to put something on the board! And I really should have. Taking the safe option at every turn, I finally had a rush of blood to the head and went for a variation I thought was drawing 50.Rb7, and when I realised it wasn’t I managed to overlook a blunder 54..c3?? which would have allowed 55.Rb8 with a forced draw (55…g5 56.Rh8+ Kg6 57.Rhh7!)

It was therefore left to Alan to salvage something from the match, and he was much, much better out of the opening, but a bit of indecision let his opponent back into the game. Even at the end though he had a very solid, drawish position – but he saw a ghost somewhere when short of time, sacked a crucial pawn and soon had to turn over his king.

So, 3 matches, 3 losses and not a single half-point on the scoreboard. Hmmm, not good. Tomorrow sees us take on the Faroe Islands and hopefully we can put in a result there. We all know we are playing pretty decent chess, and although a bit embarrassed at our lack of points we are still positive!

I had a wee chat with Simon ‘GingerGM’ Williams who is providing the live commentary (along with Fiona Steil-Antoni, a popular lass in Scottish circles) and he has promised to give us a shout-out during tomorrow’s broadcast to see if it will help our cause!

Elsewhere Aronian beat Carlsen some 10 yards from our match (there was a big crowd around that board and a lot of happy Armenians afterwards as they won the match as well).

Round Two Report  by Andy Burnett

A minute’s silence was observed before today’s round after the tragic events in Paris the previous evening. The French team decided to play -against Armenia on top board – and came away with a narrow victory after Vachier-Lagrave beat Aronian in the last game of the day to finish.

It was another tough day for the Scots here in Reykjavik as we faced a strong Slovenian GM quartet.

My debut game for my country was somewhat less-than-successful when I took some strategic liberties and was soundly punished for my impudence.

Steve had a tough time against the ex-candidate Alexander Belyiavsky on top board, and although both Graham and Alan had good positions for most of their games, it was an unfortunate repeat of yesterday, leaving us languishing on 0/8 and facing the Latvian 13th seeds tomorrow, quite possibly sporting Alexei Shirov on board 1.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen put in an appearance today to watch his team-mates grind out a win, and Nigel Short spent some of his rest-day in the commentary booth while his team had a steady 4-draws draw.

We’re hoping for better things tomorrow as a team, and confidence is still high despite the difficult start; the difference between this tournament and something like the Olympiad being that there are no ‘easy’ matches to get ourselves going with, but hopefully we can start to take our chances when they appear.

Round One Report  by Andy Burnett

A tough start for us over here in Iceland, and despite being buoyed by the news of Craig and Roddy running amok in the Seniors, we couldn’t quite replicate the same success here in Reykjavik.

We were up against the strong Georgian team, averaging 2600 over the 4 boards and led by the super-GM Baadur Jobava. I sat out and watched the games live from the hotel nearby, and after a couple of hours play things were looking quite rosy – even later on it looked like we should take a point or 2 from the match.

Alan Tate seemed to be doing OK, Andy Muir was never under pressure while Graeme Morrison’s complex position offered good chances too. Steve Mannion’s slight advantage had dissipated, but only into what seemed to be a drawn position.

Alas, these 2600 GM’s make a living from winning drawish positions, and unfortunately all 4 of our guys went astray. A rather unrepresentative 4-0 loss, as all our boys had played to a high standard barring one dubious move each late in the games.

Tomorrow will see us take on Slovenia – headed by ex-World title Candidate Alexander Belyavsky – and it promises to be another tough match. I will hopefully get my debut (probably as black against a 2540 GM!) and will try my best to help the guys kick-start our campaign.

Reykjavik is an interesting and strangely beautiful place, and the team (including Graham’s wife Lynne who many will know from playing in Scotland) have gelled together quite well already. Spirits are high, now we just have to add some points into the mix!

The live games and results can all be accessed here and tomorrow ought to see Carlsen put in an appearance for Norway.


Preview: Hot on the heels of the Juniors heading home from Greece and the Seniors heading off to Italy, our European Team should be arriving in Reykjavik, Iceland tomorrow to take part in the European Team Chess Championships.

Round 1 starts on Friday the 13th which will hopefully be unlucky for Scotland’s opponents. The Scotland squad is -

Scotland Rtg Avg:2329,

Captain: IM Andrew Muir

1 IM Mannion Stephen R 2342
2 FM Tate Alan 2337
3 FM Morrison Graham 2323
4 IM Muir Andrew J 2313
5 FM Burnett Andrew 2234

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