This year’s European Championship is about to begin!

It’s time once again to crown a Champion, and while other events in the EGF calendar might claim heftier prizes, there is no doubt that no European title is more highly sought-after than this one. The total prize money up for grabs this year is €11,000, with the overall winner taking home €4,000. An upgrade on last year’s purse, this was enough to attract six of the EGF’s nine professionals, as well as a stacked list of veteran 7-dans to up-and-coming 5-dans. Remember that the tournament format is a double elimination: if a player loses one game, they drop down into the loser’s bracket. If they are able to win all their subsequent games, they can re-enter the winner’s bracket and continue towards the title. This is the path that 2022 winner Benjamin Dréan-Guénaïzia 7d took, losing to Artem Kachanovskyi 2p in the third round, then fighting his way back to the quarter and semifinals to beat Artem in the final and claim victory.

The pairings for the 2023 EC are out and, assuming there are no last-minute substitutions, we can take a look into the future, scope out some interesting pairings and predict what the first rounds might look like!

As the number 1 seed, Artem Kachanovskyi 2p can hope for uncomplicated match-ups until the third round, where we can expect him to face Tanguy le Calvé 1p, his first professional opponent. Although Artem did beat Tanguy on Saturday in the Team Championships, the game was not a one-sided victory and Tanguy has managed to surprise his higher-ranked colleague on two occasions. This could be the first threat to Artem’s attempt to claim the EC at last.

Jan Šimara 1p is our youngest professional, having won the Pro Qualification this March, and it will be very interesting to see how he matches up against the prodigies and veterans in his bracket. A potential second-round pairing with Ashe Vázquez 6d would make compelling viewing, Jan as a past European Champion returning to form and Ashe as a steadily-improving young talent who placed fifth last year.

Vsevolod Ovsiienko 6d will have a tricky first-round encounter with Lukáš Podpĕra 7d, and a repeat of their match in this year’s Paris International that saw the fourteen-year-old Ukrainian emerge with one of his best victories to date. A gambler would favour Lukáš for reasons of experience and as a player even professionals have to fear, but perhaps Vsevolod has a strategy to beat him? This will be a game to keep a close eye on.

Benjamin Dréan-Guénaïzia 7d, returning as our 2022 Champion to defend his title, dropped a game against Amir Fragman 6d in the Team Championships and will need to have his revenge in the first round to setup a potentially explosive game with Fredrik Blomback 7d. Fredrik found incredible form last year, beating a series of pros and 7-dans alike and losing only to the eventual winner to place third overall. The loser here will have to fight through the bottom bracket to continue towards the trophy, so look out on Monday for this one!

There you have it: the pairings are drawn, the (figurative) dice are cast, the stones and boards are waiting for some thrilling battles to take place. Round 1 of the 2023 European Championship begins Sunday 23rd at 11am, check out live commentary on the EGF Twitch channel and check back here for regular reporting!

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