The 2023 European Championship is well underway, and while the first round might have delivered mostly predictable results, the second had plenty of surprises in store. On Sunday, Benjamin Dréan-Guénaïzia 7d was one of the quickest players to finish his first round game, beating Amir Fragman 6d by 1:30pm. Interestingly, their game was identical up to the first 30 moves to their encounter two days earlier in the Team Championships. It was Amir who first broke the pattern, but Benjamin said in his post-game interview that he had studied the game with AI in the meantime and felt confident through to the middlegame. In fact, he said that he feels no pressure at all this year. After having won the entire tournament in 2022, he feels he has nothing to prove and can play for enjoyment.

One of our rising stars, Ashe Vázquez 7d, must have been just as confident entering this Championship, considering they started their first game against Dmytro Bogatskyy 6d by playing two 5-4 stones with the black stones. Although they lagged behind by a few points throughout the opening, they capitalised on a mistake by their opponent to surround a group of stones and hold onto a comfortable lead for the rest of the game. They then went on to beat Jan Šimara 1p in the second round, another very encouraging sign. Their reward is a battle with another professional, in the form of Ali Jabarin 2p. This will be their toughest competition yet, and it will be fascinating to see how they handle it (and whether they employ another unconventional opening!).

Fredrik Blomback 7d, also an emerging contender for the title, began his Championship in similar style by killing an enormous dragon (in his words, almost by accident) in his first game against Johannes Obenaus 6d. His second-round game against Benjamin Dréan-Guénaïzia was a much more explosive encounter, and an early ko lead our current Champion into trouble. Despite another midgame ko, it was Fredrik that emerged with a steady lead and the game ended with him ahead by around eight points. Just like in 2022, Benjamin will now have to fight his way through the loser’s bracket and back into the running, while Fredrik, having proved that his incredible run in 2022 was no fluke, next faces Stanisław Frejlak 1p.

Vsevolod Ovsiienko 5d, as the 29th seed, had a tough draw, first facing Lukáš Podpĕra 7d and then Benjamin Teuber 6d in the loser’s bracket. With two losses, this ends his progress in this year’s Championship before it had time to build any momentum. We can be certain, however, that this will not be the last time we see him compete at the very top levels of European go.

Our no.1 seeded player, and still a strong favourite for the title, Artem Kachanovskyi 2p has thus far emulated his progress from last year’s EC, moving comfortably past both European Student Champion Martin Ruzicka 5d and Csaba Mero 6d. His next opponent will be, as predicted, his fellow professional Tanguy le Calvé 1p. This will be the first pro vs. pro match-up in this Championship, and no doubt an unmissable game.

Fellow Ukrainian Valerii Krushelnytskyi 6d is in excellent form currently, beating Benjamin Teuber 6d and Lukáš Podpĕra 7d in quick succession. This second game was a chaotic struggle, with neither player gaining a strong lead for its entire length. Valerii, with the black stones, had pulled ahead by around six points in the midgame, which Lukáš was only able to reduce to a final score of Black+1.5. These two hard-won victories will no doubt bolster Valerii in his third-round game against 2022 Grand Slam winner Jonas Welticke 7d – another game to keep a close eye on when play resumes on Tuesday morning!

Don’t forget that the top six boards are broadcast on OGS from 10am, with professional commentary on the EGF Twitch channel starting a little later. After two rounds played so far, this year’s European Championship is only just beginning! But by the end of the week, the winner will have been crowned. Make sure to check the EGC Discord server and check back here for regular updates.

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