''The role of the favourite proved to be quite a heavy burden…''
Anish on European Club Cup 2013 with his game analysis.

©Official website
Effortless start
As you may know, for a couple of months I have been involved in the long chain of major team-events and European Club Cup was the first one.
Unlike the upcoming European Team and World Team Championships, my team in the ECC was a huge favourite. I was part of SOCAR, the ridiculously strong team from Azerbaijan, each player being stronger than the other. With Caruana, Radjabov, Topalov, Kamsky, Mamedyarov, Wang Hao, Safarli, led by experienced trainer Vladimir Tukmakov, we were no doubt the highest rated and the clear favourites to win the title (repeating the success of the previous year).

Our main competitors were three Russian teams, strongest being a team called Malachite, which was also star-packed, having pretty much all the best Russians in its line up and the only team that could challenge the hegemony of the East was the team from Chezh republic G-team Novy Bor. Running ahead, I have to say that, had the victorious G-team not won the tournament, I might have even omitted them in my introduction so big was the shadow of the very top seeds...but perhaps that's one of the reasons why they emerged so victorious?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, as at the start, we as well as our rivals won the first couple of rounds quite effortlessly.
I myself played a few semi-correct, but very brutal attacks on the last boards and since my rating hasn't dropped low enough yet, the fear was still possessing my opponents.

Game analysis: P. Lindgren- A. Giri (click arrows to view the annotation)

Game analysis: A. Giri- J. Mullon (click arrows to view the annotation)

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Difficult clashes
Our first serious clash was with Ugra. I was pressing with black, against my solid opponent, Russian GM Khismatullin, but the rook endgame with a pawn more was never really winning, although I could have certainly put more pressure somewhere towards the end, as the practical chances had suddenly appeared. Even though we were pressing on almost all the boards, the match didn't look so clear. At the end, however, we won the position, which was close to a draw (Topalov-Korobov) and we drew the position which was close to loss (Rublevsky-Kamsky) and so the final score of 4-2 was convincing enough.

The penultimate round might have been decisive, as by now we were already in the lead and we were chased by the G-team, team with somewhat lower rated players (relatively, of course), but those who are always there to beat the very best of the world. Navara, Wojtashek, Laznicka, Sasikiran, Hracek and Bartel, were the guys and it was clear that it will not be an easy walk in the park.
However, the match did seem very smooth at first. While all the games were just starting, my position was already overwhelming. The attack was again brutal, but this time somewhat more correct, compared to my first couple of games. On the other hand it has to be said that it was my opponent who provoked the crisis with his ambitious and risky play.

Game analysis: A. Giri- M. Bartel (click arrows to view the annotation)

©Official website

Dramatic and painful…
Using the simple logic, the match was going well, we were still favourites, the positions were still unclear, but we already had one victory on our side. However, chess is far more complicated than simple logic and one way or the other our first three boards were unfortunate enough to lose. The final score 2,5-3,5 was very dramatic and painful, especially since we realized that the chances for the first spot were lost, as the new leader, Novy Bor, was a clear favourite in their next match.

Our final game was against Saint-Petersburg, one of the strongest and most dangerous teams of the tournament. In fact we were fortunate to make six draws, here I speak for myself as well as for most of my teammates who were put under pressure. There were no surprises in the match of the leader either, and even though their victory was in doubt at the opening stage, the difference in strength was felt and the G-team clinched the title with an impressive score.

©Official website

Follow, cheer, root!
After our last match it didn't feel so bad to settle for the third spot, but we obviously were hoping for more and the result was somewhat of a disappointment. The role of the favourite proved to be quite a heavy burden, but with the lessons learnt again, I am very much looking forward to give it another shot next year.

As for now, the Netherlands will be put to test in the European Team and then immediately World Team championship. Follow, cheer, root!


Official Website of the Tournament