With only a few days to go before the start of this year’s European Championship, the most prestigious event in the tournament calendar, here’s a preview of which players to keep an eye on. Let’s take a look at five potential highlights of the 2023 EC:

1. Benjamin Dréan-Guénaïzia 7d: Not just a pretty name

Benjamin surprised Europe and perhaps himself when he claimed the 2022 title in Romania, and returns this year to defend it. Ascending to 7-dan at the same moment as he took victory, he consolidated his success with runner-up placements in both the French Open and Amateur Championships, as well as the Hungarian Open. A little disappointing, however, was his performance in the 2022 Grand Slam, where he was knocked out in the first round by Andrii Kravets 1p. Perhaps with his confidence from winning last year, and promising results since, he’ll be able to hold onto Europe’s top title for a second year.

2. Artem Kachanovsky 2p: Three times the bridesmaid, this year the bride?

The strongest rated player in the running is Artem Kachanovskyi 2p, who will be keen to avoid a repeat of last year. He sailed through the 2022 competition only to fall to Benjamin at the very last hurdle, his third time placing second in the European Championship. He had a mostly uncomplicated journey to the final, and his only mistake was perhaps believing he had won before the game was over. This is a mistake he is unlikely to repeat, and with his experience in high-stakes games and natural style, Artem remains the player to beat this year.

3. Young Talent: Time for another new winner?

With the 2022 European Champion being a non-pro playing in his first final, no doubt many strong players in Europe had the feeling that they too have a chance to claim the title. Indeed, the EGF pros are often the first to admit that at the very top, there isn’t much separating Europe’s strongest players from the professionals. We are very lucky at the moment to have a number of young players quickly rising up the rating lists and achieving some excellent tournament results: 

Current Ukrainian Champion Valerii Krushelnytskyi might technically be 6-dan, but he played Dai Junfu 8d to a half-point loss in the 2022 Paris International, and has won tournaments in Germany and the Netherlands since. With a favourable draw and some confidence-building games, he could go very far. Elian Ioan Grigoriu 6d and Ashe Vázquez 7d are two other young players with bags of talent and promising tournament performances, could this be their year to break through? And Vsevolod Ovsiienko 5d, sneaking in as a late substitution, may well be a player to keep an eye on. Just this April, he beat such seasoned players as Lukáš Podpěra 7d and Lucas Neirynck 6d to finish second in the Paris International.

4. Jan Šimara 1p: Past winner and newest pro

Jan might be an unfamiliar name to anyone who picked up go recently, but as the 2012 European Champion and after being certified an EGF professional this March, he is certainly one to watch. Jan took an extended break from serious tournament play, but recently reignited his passion for competition and proved that he has lost none of his past form. After winning the Professional Qualification, he said he was excited to get back to competing. What he might lack in rating points, he makes up for in experience, confidence and a somewhat unconventional style that could surprise some of the more AI-taught players.

5. Fredrik Blomback 6d: Lightning could strike twice

Fredrik had a meteoric run in last year’s EC, beating two pros, Lukáš Podpěra 7d and losing only to the winner to claim third place. He said back then that his success was down to playing calm moves and not forcing confrontation with his opponents’ styles. That strategy took him all the way to the semi-finals, and he has since placed first in the Stockholm Open, second in the Swedish Championship and third in the 2022 Grand Slam. As long as he can get off to a confident start in Leipzig, there’s no reason why he can’t repeat or improve on these results.

No doubt this year’s European Championship will be full of surprises, and perhaps all of our predictions will be wrong! But no doubt the tournament will provide fierce confrontations, unforeseen upsets and in the end, one worthy winner.
The first round of the EC kicks off on Sunday 23rd at 11am. Make sure to follow the top boards broadcast and commentated live at https://www.egc2023.de/livestream/. We have prestigious guests lined up, so you won’t want to miss it! And whether you’re joining us in Germany or following from afar, don’t forget to check back here for regular reports of all the goings-on.

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