The European Team Chess Championship kicked off in Reykjavik today. Playing venue for this extraordinary event – which is being held in Iceland for the first time – is Laugardalshöll, where in 1972 the Match of the Century took place between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.
There are a total of 36 teams in the open section and 30 in the women’s section. In the open section, out of 178 players, 176 are titled and 133 grandmasters!
The top 3 seed in the open section are Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, while in the women section Georgia are top seed, followed by Russia and Ukraine. The defending champions are Azerbaijan in the open section and Ukraine in the women section.
Today’s first round proved what a tough competition the ETCC is, as we witnessed the first upsets already. In the open section, the 7th seed Hungary (who are captained by a certain Judit Polgar) were held to a draw by Moldova and 8th seed Poland were held to a draw by Austria. On boards 11-13, we had three even bigger surprises, as Montenegro beat Norway, Denmark beat the Czech Republic and Finland beat Latvia. On board 15, Lithuania held Serbia to a draw, while it is also worth noting that the lowest seeded team, Kosovo (who only recently became a member of the ECU), only lost to Greece by the smallest margin.
In the women’s section, the biggest shock was Anna Muzychuk defaulting her game against Jovanka Houska, as she missed her connecting flight in Frankfurt. Her team Ukraine still managed to overcome their opponents, as did most of the favourites. There were only three small upsets in the women’s section: Montenegro held 7th seed Germany to a draw, as did Switzerland against 9th seed Hungary and Lithuania against 10th seed Netherlands.
Tomorrow’s 2nd round already sees the first big clashes, as in the open section Armenia face France on the top board, while on board 2 England are paired against Georgia and on board 3 Netherlands play against Croatia. In the women’s section the top 3 pairings are Spain-Serbia, Italy-Azerbaijan and Georgia-Turkey.