Vugar Gashimov scored the critical win for Azerbaijan in the final round of the European Team Chess Championships, allowing them to defeat the Netherlands 2.5-1.5 and slip ahead of Russia in the final standings to take first place. Azerbaijan and Russia entered the final round tied for first, and one of the two were guaranteed to take first unless both teams lost in the final round.
Russia, though, stumbled slightly in their final round encounter with Spain. While Alexander Morozevich scored a board two victory over Francisco Vallejo Pons, Evgeny Alexseev gave the point back to the Spaniards by losing to Ivan Salgado Lopez on the fourth board. The 2-2 draw opened the door for Azerbaijan to win outright by defeating the Netherlands.
The battle for third was also fierce, and was ultimately won by Ukraine, which scored a win over Israel in the final round to take the bronze medal on tiebreaks over Armenia.
In the Women's division, the battle for first between rivals Russia and Georgia came down to tiebreakers. In the end, the Russian women had two more board points than Georgia, which was enough to give them the gold. Georgia settled for second, while Ukraine nipped Azerbaijan for third on tiebreaks, far behind the leaders.
The tournament, held in Novi Sad, Serbia, attracted 38 Open and 28 Women's teams from across Europe. In the end, there were few surprises, but the event produced a great deal of exciting chess. Much like the European Championships in soccer (or football, for the Europeans reading this), which are second only to the World Cup in international competition, this event is likely the second biggest team competition on the chess schedule after the Olympiad. You can expect the top finishers here to figure prominently in the standings at the 2010 Chess Olympiad, scheduled for Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.