Before the seventh round of the European Team Championship in Montenegro, I woke with a peculiar malaise I could not explain. Answer soon came, in an alarming salvo of diarrhoea. My hopes for an easy ride in my game against the German grandmaster Alexander Donchenko did not last long, and I landed in a tenable but thankless middlegame where all the winning chances lay with my young opponent. I clung on for a draw after 52 moves, shivering through the game in spite of ample layers of clothing. Straight after, I crawled into bed and fell asleep.
That match, which we tied 2-2 against the eventual silver medallists, was played on the top board, but alas it was downhill thereafter. I sat out the following match against Serbia, which we lost. (Serbia went on to get the gold medals.) In the final round, a 2-2 draw against Armenia would have earned us the bronze, but that honour went to Armenia, who defeated us 2.5-1.5 and shunted us down to a disappointing sixth place.
Though the team medals eluded us, the British women’s champion Lan Yao secured an individual bronze medal on the second board of the women’s team. Her performance in Budva, including a final round win against Swedish grandmaster Pia Cramling, earned her an international master norm, and the women’s grandmaster title must soon be forthcoming.
Russian teams were conspicuously absent from the event. (It was announced back in February that Russia had joined the Asian Chess Federation, following their suspension by the European Chess Union.) But the departure of many of their top players, many of whom gave explicit reasons of conscience in light of the invasion of Ukraine, has strengthened the teams of other countries.
Serbia received a significant boost from the arrival of grandmasters Alexandr Predke and Alexey Sarana on the top two boards.