I have played many European Club Cups in my career and it is such a huge difference between following the tournament from home and being there in the playing hall. When you are in the playing hall, you can feel the tension, the atmosphere and all the subtle nuances that decide the high-stakes matches. You can feel the progress of the match, sense the direction and understand the choices of the players.
It is quite different when watching from home, even if you manage to be glued to the screen for the whole duration of the match. At home you only see the moves and even if you can try to follow the matches as if you were present, it is still not the same.
This year’s ECC in Antalya was won by the top seeded team of Globus from Russia. A star-studded team with Nepomniachtchi on Board 6 (preceeded by Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Grischuk, Karjakin and Giri) they won 5 matches and drew 2. A relatively easy win with only a single scare in the drawn match with 4th finishers Odlar Yurdu when both Kramnik and Grischuk saved lost positions. An additional fact showing their superiority is that they only lost 1 game in the whole tournament – Karjakin’s last-round loss to Grachev, which meant nothing as they were already winning that match and secured the title.
I think this year’s second place for the Macedonian title-defenders of Alkaloid was maybe a bigger success than last year’s win. They came close to defend their title and would have done it if not for the superiority of Globus; why I rate this result higher is that after their unfortunate loss as early as Round 2 (5 draws and Eljanov blundered) they picked themselves up and started scoring big wins, 6-0, 5-1 and 5.5-0.5 before the crunch match with Globus. Alas, in that match they didn’t manage to pose problems to the eventual winners as all 6 games finished in draws without any real chances for Alkaloid for something more. In total they lost 3 games, 2 by Eljanov, and the crucial one from Round 2 led them to lose the only match in the tournament:
A truly unfortunate episode, but Eljanov was not in form in Antalya, losing one more game and finishing on 50%. He was the only player who disappointed, as all the others posted excellent scores of at least +3 (Ding Liren on Board 1) while Kryvoruchko on Board 6 had an amazing 6/7.
Third were Odlar Yurdu, the revelation of the tournament. The were leading before the last round, but unfortunately then lost minimally to Novy Bor and this dropped them to 3rd place. Still, with the starting rank 6 this is by far their greatest success.
The other Macedonian team, Gambit, had a dream start of 3 wins in the first 3 rounds and were delighted to play Globus in Round 4. This is the true joy for the weaker teams, if they are lucky they get a chance to play the elite players; where else can they get such a chance? Even in that match they didn’t lose 0-6, with IM Mitkov making a draw with Korobov. At the end they finished more or less around their starting rank, but I am sure they had a great experience playing this tournament.
There were many games in the tournament that deserved attention. I will present here the wildest one.
Next up is the European Team Championship. I should be there.