The Serbian national team is the European chess champion! That admirable sporting feat can hardly be described in words, but can be described in raw numbers. In the entire history of Serbian and Yugoslav chess, only one team gold medal was won at the biggest competitions, the one from the Olympics in Dubrovnik in 1950. The last medal for a chess player at the European Championships was silver in 1989, and silver for a female chess player in 1999.
For almost a quarter of a century, we were not close to the honors, and we counted entering the top ten in Europe, as two years ago, as a great success. Many times we were in the lead until the end, and then stumbled when the favorites stepped on the gas.
A miracle happened in Budva, that from only the tenth starting position according to the rating, Serbia overtook all the favorites, precisely by winning in the finish. This time, our team crushed rivals in the manner of great champions, first for division 1-3. places after the seventh round, then 1-2. places and in the end like that again, but with a minimal additional advantage compared to Germany, the only team we lost to. The outcome was sweet, like Djokovic’s rematch with Siner in Turin.
All that makes this triumph more valuable, while new champions enter the annals of Serbian and European chess: Aleksandar Pretke, Aleksej Sarana, Aleksandar Inđić, Robert Markuš and Velimir Ivić, with the selector Miodrag Perunović and coach Miloš Perunović, and with the daily support of ŠSS president Dragan Lazić and General Secretary Nebojsa Baralić.
In the last round, the Germans quickly gained an advantage against the Croats on the fourth board and then secured both points with draws with 2.5:1.5. It seemed that it would be enough for them, because the evaluations of the match between Greece and Serbia were within the bounds of a draw, with Ivić’s advantage and Indjić’s somewhat more difficult position.
Then Ivić started his opponents, Sarana increased the pressure, and Indjić started his turnaround. And although Pretke, our most successful individual until then, dropped the strings in the same position, he had someone to make up for it, and Ivić and Sarana won gold medals for individual results on their boards. The final minimal difference in the first supplementary criterion in relation to Germany 228:227, speaks volumes about the drama and its happy ending. The Armenians, whose success we announced before the mutual match, ended 2:2, went imperceptibly to the bronze.
The female chess players of Serbia far surpassed the expected 15th place. In the end, in a match that would have brought them a medal, they fell to eighth position with a 3:1 defeat against Azerbaijan, but their exploits in Budva should not be overshadowed by the men’s gold.
Teodora Injac, Adela Velikić, Marina Gajčin, Jovana Erić and Tijana Mandura deserve sincere congratulations, as well as coach Alisa Marić and coach Zoran Arsović. They played eight out of nine overworked matches against teams from the top 10, forming a compact unit of a cohesive Serbian expedition with their colleagues.
A fantastic result was achieved by Teodora Injac, with a gold medal on the first board and the men’s grandmaster norm, while Tijana Mandura, with the gold for the best reserve, fulfilled the women’s grandmaster norm.
Chess players: 1. Serbia 15 (228), 2. Germany 15 (227), 3. Armenia 13, 4-5. Poland and the Czech Republic 12 each, 6-12. England, France, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Georgia and Greece each with 11 match points, etc. (38 teams).
Chess players: 1. Bulgaria 16, 2. Azerbaijan 15, 3. France 12, 4-6. Ukraine, Greece and Poland each 12, 7-9. Germany, Serbia, Switzerland, Georgia, Armenia, Spain and England each with 10 match points, etc. (32 teams).
Heroes and heroines of the final duels
Velimir Ivić shone when it mattered most. He brought victory against the English in the penultimate round, and then the lead against the Greeks, after which it was much easier for Aleksej Sarana and Aleksandar Indjić to increase the score in a crucial triumph.
Results of the ninth, last round Greece – Serbia 1:3: Teodoru (2,619) – Pretke (2,661) 1:0, D. Mastrovasilis (2,573) – Sarana (2,669) 0:1, Kurkoulos (2,543) – Indjić (2,601) 0:1 and Joanidis (2,502) – Ivić (2,557) 0:1.
In the clash with the Azerbaijani women, Teodora Injac earned new applause. She brilliantly outplayed the most successful first board of the championship, Gunay Mamdzad, and took her individual gold medal.
Results of the ninth, last round Serbia – Azerbaijan 1:3: Injac (2.431) – Mamadzada (2.441) 1:0, Velikić (2.273) – Fatalija (2.395) 0:1, Gajčin (2.236) – Bejdulajeva (2.383) 0:1 and Mandura (2.178) – Baladžajeva (2.328) 0. :1.
Four gold and one bronze individual medal
It has never happened before that as many as five Serbian national team members won medals for individual results on their boards, namely four gold and one bronze!
The golds were won by Aleksej Sarana on the second board, Velimir Ivić on the reserve, Teodora Injac on the first board and Tijana Mandur in the role of reserve, and the bronze by Robert Markuš on the third board.
There would have been more medals if Aleksandar Pretke had not suffered his first defeat in the last round. He achieved the seventh result on the first board, as well as Aleksandar Inđić on the fourth, which is also above expectations according to the rating.