This week’s European championship at Vrnjacka Banja in Serbia had a record entry of nearly 500 players, but was also notable for a glut of quick draws among the top boards, especially in the later rounds. In Monday’s 11th and final round, 17 of the top 20 games were halved.

The reason? For many of the leading grandmasters, the continental title and its €20,000 top prize mattered less than becoming one of the 23 qualifiers for the World Cup, a 206-player knockout to be held later this year where even first-round losers receive $3,000, the rewards escalate rapidly, and the finalists qualify for the world title Candidates.

The winner, Alexey Sarana, 23, is a Russian, playing under a neutral Fide flag, who last year defeated Magnus Carlsen at the world blitz. Second was the Romanian champion, Kirill Shevchenko, 20, while Daniel Dardha, 17 (who at 13 was Belgium’s youngest-ever champion) came third.

England fielded GM Dan Fernandez, 28, and five IMs in their teens or early twenties, as the English Chess Federation gives more opportunities to backup players for its ageing Olympiad team. The results were promising, especially from Shreyas Royal, England’s youngest IM at 14, who scored 6.5/11, and Jonah Willow, 20, who totalled 7/11 and beat a GM in the final round with an imaginative attack.

Tristan Cox, 39, was the oldest of the England party by more than a decade, but proved a star performer. As reported here last week, the Warwickshire amateur defeated a four-time Ukrainian champion in round one, then went on to beat another four Fide titleholders in his 5/11 total with no draws.

Puzzle 2511

Arjun Erigaisi vs Shak Mamedyarov, Meltwater Tour final 2022.  White to move and win.

Seemingly a complex position, but the Indian GM found the winning tactic.

For solution, click here

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