Since the start of the pandemic, opportunities for serious competition between players ranked outside the world’s top 20 have been scarce. So there was a pent-up appetite for the European Online Club Cup, which took place at the end of March, with more than 500 players registered (including more than 150 grandmasters) across 91 teams. Several teams from the 4NCL (Four Nations Chess League) took part: current champions Guildford, as well as Wood Green, Wood Green Monarchs, and Celtic Tigers.
With backing from Roger Emerson and Nigel Povah, the Guildford lineup consisted of England team regulars Michael Adams, David Howell, myself and Gawain Jones, as well as Ivan Cheparinov from Bulgaria. We came through some fierce competition in the preliminary stages, including a comfortable win over Baden Baden from Germany, who were the top seeds in the whole event. Ten teams qualified for the final round-robin stage, in which David Howell and Gawain Jones performed strongly, earning bronze and silver board medals for their respective individual performances. But some narrow losses left us out of contention for a podium finish, and the German team from Deizisau won the event (see diagram 1).
Luke McShane (Guildford)–Elizabeth Paehtz (Cercle d’Echecs de Monte Carlo)
European Online Club Cup, March 2021
My final game of the event saw a nice finish. Black threatens perpetual check, but 42 Kb5! advances the king to safety. Qd3+ 43 Kc6 Qxe3 The bishop is lost, but a neat checking sequence wraps up the game. 44 Qd7+ Kf8 45 Qg7+ Ke8 46 Qg8+ Ke7 47 Qxh7+ Ke8 48 Qd7+ Kf8 49 h7 Qxc5+ 50 Kb7 Black resigns
Vladislav Artemiev was awarded the ‘Vasily Smyslov’ prize for the best game of the event, with a wonderful queen sacrifice.