During today’s free day for the Masters Final players, Sestao won their match, while Gros lost theirs. Both teams are tied, mid-table, with Solvay (Cantabria)

Bilbao, 17 September 2014

DAY 4:

Main results at the European Club Cup

Socar (Azerbaijan) – G Team Noy Bor (Czech Republic) 2-0
Obiettivo Risarcimento (Italy) – Beer Sheva (Russia) 2-0
Malakhite (Russia) – SPB (Russia) 2-0
Gros Xake Taldea (Spain) – Odlar Yourdu (Macedonia) 0-2
Sestao Naturgas Energia (Spain) – Gambit Asseco (Serbia) 2-0
SHSM Nashe Nasledie (Russia) – Solvay (Spain) 2-0

During today’s free day at the Grand Slam Masters Final, part of which the players spent practising Basque rural sports, the European Club Cup was the protagonist during the fourth day of Bilbao Chess 2014. Due to the pairing system of this competition, which somehow resembles Darwin’s natural selection system, the strongest teams are starting to face each other and to compete for the title. Meanwhile, the rest of the teams fight to get a good position in the standings or, at least, stay as far from the last positions as possible. There are 60 clubs (52 in the open tournament and 8 in the women’s tournament) coming from 30 European countries.

At the top of the chain, big favourites Socar, Malakhite and Obiettivo Risarcimento seem ready to fight for the title during the last three days. The Azerbaijani team, with stars Veselin Topalov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Michael Adams, leads the standings with 8 points, followed by the Italians and the Russians with 7 each. The current European champions, Czech G Team, have 6 points, after being defeated today by unrivalled Socar.

9 of the world top 10 players are competing in Bilbao, either in the European Club Cup or in the Masters Final. These include Caruana, Aronian, Grischuk, Topalov, Anand, Karjakin, Nakamura, Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov. From the world ranking, we are only missing reigning number 1 and recent world champion Magnus Carlsen, who also won the Masters Final twice. Mr Carlsen turned down the invitation to participate this year in order to prepare for the rematch against Anand for the world title.

Also competing in Bilbao are 5 of the world top 10 women players, led by world champion Yifán, even though her team, Montecarlo — reigning champion at the Women’s Cup —, is disappointing everyone by holding a closing position in the standings.

Basque teams Sestao and Gros, on their part, turned the tables today. The team from Biscay eventually got a victory in their match against Serbian Gambit Asseco, while the team from Guipúzcoa lost their match against Macedonians Odlar Yourdu. As foreseen, Solvay from Cantabria, on their part, lost against the powerful Russian team SHSM Nashe Nasledie. After today’s fourth day, all three teams representing the Spanish Federation are equal on 4 points in the standings.

On the other hand, Paco Vallejo — as foreseen — proclaimed today champion of the 1st Basque Rural Sports Triathlon organized by the Grand Slam Masters Final after defeating the other finalist, Levon Aronian, at the deciding event — soka-tira (tug of war).

Organized by the Herri Kirolak Federation of Biscay and the City Hall of Bilbao, the competition consisted of a combination of three events, called lokotxak, txingas and soka-tira. According to the competition’s rules, all four players of the Grand Slam Masters Final 2014 — Anand, Aronian, Ponomariov and Vallejo — were to compete, in two rounds and with each other, a combination of lokotxas and txingas, without any pause between each type. The two players who set the best time would qualify for the final. The champion would arise from a one-to-one soka-tira confrontation between the two finalists.

During the first round of lokotxak and txingas, it was Ruslan Ponomariov who defeated the Indian player. While five-times world champion Anand finished at a time of 1’05’’, youngest ever world champion Ponomariov (Ukraine) did so at a time of 58’’.

When it seemed like thin but fibrous Ponomariov would qualify, a surprise came from the second round that Spanish champion Paco Vallejo and reigning Masters Final champion Levon Aronian were playing. Mr Vallejo finished in a time of 52’’, almost simultaneously followed by the Armenian player in a time of 53’’, so both players qualified for the final.

At the soka-tira final test, there was no comparison. Despite the Spanish player’s tiredness as opposed to Aronian’s lightness and great shape, Vallejo’s size and strength proclaimed him champion after a few seconds.

The prize for Vallejo, winner of this 1st Basque Rural Sports Triathlon, was a trophy representing an aizkolari (wood-chopping) hard at work, while his three rivals got several acknowledging trophies, such as an harrijazotzaile lifting a rock.

Today was the free day for the four players in the Masters Final, whose second round starts tomorrow and will finish on Saturday, at the same time as the European Club Cup. There is no break for the players competing in the European Cup, though, who will keep playing at 3pm this afternoon.

With both the 30th European Club Cup and the 7th Grand Slam Masters Final being held simultaneously, Bilbao is turning into the world chess capital during this week. Until Saturday 20 September, many high-level players are meeting in Bilbao for both tournaments; amongst others, nine of the current top ten players in the world. At the European Cup, specifically, there are 60 teams competing.

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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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