Vincent Keymer climbed to world no. 17 on his 19th birthday | photo: Deutscher Schachbund
Vincent Keymer celebrated his 19th birthday with a win over Armenia's Haik Martirosyan that gave Germany the sole lead after Round 5 of the European Team Chess Championship and took the young star up to world no. 17 on the live rating list. The Women's section is led by France and Azerbaijan, who both got back to winning ways after tying their match in Round 4, while Greece's Stavroula Tsolakidou won a stunning game against Ukraine's Nataliya Buksa.
Alojzije Jankovic and Dragana Nikolovska are commentating on the European Team Championship action.
After Round 5 of the European Team Championship, a team has finally taken the sole lead: 2011 champions, Germany (full standings).
It could have been sooner, since in the Round 4 top-of-the-table clash against Poland, Vincent Keymer was a move or two away from beating Radoslaw Wojtaszek. He let the chance slip, however, and in the end Polish GM Szymon Gumularz could have clinched victory if he'd converted an advantage against GM Dmitrij Kollars in the last game to finish. Suffering was etched on the faces of both team captains, Jan Gustafsson and Oleksandr Sulypa.
All four games ended in draws, however, with Armenia catching the leaders with a 3-1 win over Israel, courtesy of Haik Martirosyan and Hrant Melkumyan. Alas for Armenia and their HM GM duo, things wouldn't go so well when they faced Germany in Round 5.
Draw with White, win with Black, was Germany's approach vs. Armenia | photo: Deutscher Schachbund
It was a strange match, since for the first half of it only Gabriel Sargissian looked in trouble. Rasmus Svane won a pawn in a sideline Ian Nepomniachtchi had used to beat Ding Liren in the 2023 World Championship match, and a German win seemed on the cards.
Instead Sargissian eventually survived a 91-move ordeal, but his teammates had perhaps overcompensated for that likely loss and let their positions crumble in the run-up to the time control. Vincent Keymer got to celebrate his birthday with a game that demonstrated just how formidable he's become.
That victory took Keymer above such stars as Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Alexander Grischuk, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to world no. 17 on the live rating list.
Keymer hasn't always garnered as much attention as fellow prodigies, but right now only Praggnanandhaa is younger and higher-rated.
The immediate focus for Keymer, however, is the European Team Championship, and Germany wrapped up victory with a spectacular win for Matthias Bluebaum, who got to finish with a flourish by sacrificing his queen.
Germany leads four teams by a point, including their round-six opponents, Romania. With top-seeded Azerbaijan suffering a second loss in Round 4, after Croatian GM Ivan Saric beat Teimour Radjabov, Romania is the highest remaining seed. They still haven't lost a single game, and in Round 5 they woke from their slumbers to beat Poland 3-1, with first wins for Richard Rapport (vs. Wojtaszek) and Bogdan-Daniel Deac (who won on time vs. Pawel Teclaf).
Saric beat Radjabov and is performing at a 2900 level | photo: Mark Livshitz, ECU
Serbia has bounced back from a loss to Germany to win their remaining matches, while England seems to have no problems with team spirit.
The other team just a point behind Germany is the Netherlands, who has shrugged off the absence of Anish Giri with a 2867 performance by Jorden van Foreest. His round-five game against Italian GM Daniele Vocaturo was short and sweet, for Dutch fans, with the white queen trapped in just 22 moves.
Much of the focus has been on world number-one Magnus Carlsen, who has continued the thankless task of defending his 2839 rating against 2500 opposition. After a round-four win, he was even gaining rating points...
..but a draw with Black against 2503-rated Moldovan GM Ivan Schitco in round five meant Carlsen was again dropping points for the tournament. He's not going to face higher-rated opposition anytime soon, since Norway scraped only a match draw and is ranked 25th out of 38 teams.
There are future 2500s everywhere! | photo: Mark Livshitz, ECU
France and Azerbaijan have been in a class of their own so far | photo: Mark Livshitz, ECU
Round 4 was also the graveyard of 100-percent records in the Women's event, with co-leaders France and Azerbaijan trading wins in a 2-2 draw. It was France that was on the brink of victory until Pauline Guichard suddenly dropped a piece.
67.Qe6? simply let Gulnar Mammadova grab the f3-knight and escape with a draw
Guichard has won her remaining games, however, while WGM Mitra Hejazipour has scored a remarkable 5/5. Hejazipour, who left Iran after being denied a place on the team for not wearing a hijab, has gained 49 rating points.
France beat Armenia 3.5-0.5 in round five, while Azerbaijan kept pace by edging a 2.5-1.5 win over Germany. Only Bulgaria is within a point, while four teams, including favorites Georgia, are a further point back (full standings).
The standout team among those tied for fourth is Greece, which began the event as the 19th seed. Much of that success is due to 23-year-old Stavroula Tsolakidou, who has more than held her own on the top board.
In round four she won in just 21 moves, but her victory in round five was even more stunning and is our Game of the Day, with annotations by GM Rafael Leitao below. Don't miss perhaps the move of the tournament so far!
Thursday is a rest day in Budva before the final four rounds begin.