The European Chess Championships is currently taking place in Kosovo. If you take a look at the field it is reflective of the incredible strength in depth in chess now. Just good player after good player. Players like me, at 2490 rating would just be considered washed up fodder in such an event. I’d get smashed game after game by hungry young 2600s eager for my easy rating points.
The two English representatives are David Howell and Gawain Jones who are far less easy to push around over the board. I don’t think many are tempted to play as the cost is very high. The way FIDE runs these events, you have to stay in the tournament hotel where they generally charge ridiculous amounts to stay there, (at least a grand for the entire duration of the tournament) so only the very best players, or those backed by their federation, need apply. You could well argue this is an elitist event, and if so why are there no qualifiers for it (where you’d win free accommodation for example), but this is a different story I guess and who would dare question the money men of FIDE?!
Gawain won a big tournament in Dubai recently so is riding a wave of confidence and is a player who tends to do well with momentum. David hasn’t been playing quite as well of late and struggled in round one. However he bounced back in round two by defeating Sargissian and the fact that two players rated in the high 2600’s were meeting as early as round two is another indication of just how tough this tournament is.
One of the pre tournament favourites was Ponomariov and he didn’t mess around in round one, soon launching an attack.
The top Spanish player Vallejo Pons was also successful against the young Norwegian Getz.
One of the interesting things about the European Championships is that there are so many good players there who nobody has ever heard of. Look through the list of names and they are so obscure I doubt their own families have even heard of them. But let me tell you that doesn’t matter. These are very strong players.
Two players I have heard of and are very strong indeed are Zaven Andriasian and Alexey Dreev. Zaven is a nice guy with a sharp tactical style. I played him in Groningen one year and was very impressed by how much he saw in the post mortem. He’s also written a book on the Najdorf which has many good ideas. Dreev has the higher profile and has been one of the top players in Russia for many years now. It was interesting reading in the Dvorestky biography how he felt Dreev was one of the most naturally gifted players he had ever worked with but felt that he never quite achieved his full potential. In the end he comes unstuck as they face off in a tough tactical battle.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.
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