By GM Arturs Neiksans
The fourth round is over and in three groups has emerged a sole leader who is now chased by a pack of followers, willing to drag him down from the top! While in the Girls U-16 section the sole lead of the 2nd seed Gabriela Antova from Bulgaria can hardly be called a surprise, noone expected that in the Open U-18 section Evgenios Ioannidis from Greece (seeded only 18th) will lead the tournament after 4 rounds while in the Open U-16 section at the top with the only perfect score is Yaroslav Remizov from Russia, who is seeded only 25th!
Evgenios Ioannidis today played with great precision, after a relavitely harmless opening slowly but clearly outplaying the last remaining favorite at the top Leon Livaic from Croatia. After yesterday’s excellent performance where Evgenios sacrificed a queen, today the young Greek showed a good understanding how to treat the Maroczy Bind structure until his opponent succumbed under the pressure.
Ioannidis, Evgenios (GRE, 2343) – Livaic, Leon (CRO, 2495)
Black has been under a serious pressure for some time already and it’s always difficult to play if one don’t have any counterplay at all. Here Black had to eliminate the White knight by 25…Bxd5 25.exd5 f5 and virtually build a brick wall to defend his monarch. However, Livaic let down his guard and played the careless 25…Nc6?? to miss a cute little tactic 26.e5! Nxd4 27.Rxd4 and Black can’t properly defend the h7 pawn without suffering big material losses. After 27…f5 28.Nf4! Qc8 29.Bxb7 Qxb7 30.Ne6 Rf7 31.Nd8! White regained his sacrificed material with interest, combined with a deadly attack. Black resigned three moves later. While the combination itself is rather simple, much more impressive is the mature play by the youngster from Greece.
In the Open U-16 section Yaroslav Remizov became the only leader by outplaying Luka Oboladze with the black pieces.
Oboladze, Luka (GEO, 2349) – Remizov, Yaroslav (RUS, 2317)
Everything seems to be alright for White. He is enjoying a slight space advantage and has just played 18.Qe3 to solidify his position by a possible Nd4-e2, then perhaps bother the black queen with Ne2-g3 and Nc4-e5, also the endgame looks better. At this peaceful moment the young Russian suddenly uncorked 18…Ncxe4! which must have hit White as a thunder from the clear Riga skies! After 19.Bxe4 Bxe4 20.fxe4 e5 it becomes clear that the white knight can’t retreat because of the Be7-c5 threat, thus Black regains the sacrificed piece, and White’s pawn structure is ruined. However, the position was still possible to salvage had White picked up the not-easy-to find 21.Qf3 with the idea that after 21…exd4 22.Bxd4 Black gains nothing from the thematic exchange sacrifice 22…Rxd4 23.Rxd4 Bc5, because White has a nice defensive resource 24.Ne3! From afar it might be not easy to see it, and combined with the shock value of the piece sacrifice White played the direct 21.Nxe5?! and after 21…Rxc1 22.Rxc1 Qxe5 simply lost a pawn. After Black rushed to an endgame White still had excellent chances to escape with a draw, but in the time trouble the following mistakes were decisive.
Oboladze, Luka – Remizov, Yaroslav
The Girls U-16 section now is led by the young Bulgarian Gabriela Antova, who today went for a slaughterfest against 5th seed Govhar Beydullayeva, and in an exciting game scored a very important point!
Antova, Gabriela (FID, 2293) – Beydullayeva, Govhar (AZE, 2184)
The critical position after 15th move – Black intends to play c6-c5 thus White most likely was thinking – in that case perhaps it would be a good idea to sacrifice a knight on b5? First let’s make a good move to prepare it, so…16.Rd1?! Why not 16.0-0-0? Perhaps Gabriela was not sure what happens after 16…c5 17.Ndxb5 axb5 18.Nxb5 0-0!? and the White king is quite exposed. While the engines assure us that White holds here a huge advantage, perhaps a more human approach after 16.0-0-0 c5 would had been 17.Nb3 with an idea to sacrifice an exchange on d6, followed by taking the pawn on c5 with a risk-free game for White. The game continued 16…c5 and now 17.Ndxb5 actually is a mistake! After 17…axb5 18.Nxb5 Black found an amazing counter-strike 18…Nxf3! 19.Bxf3 and now after 19…Bg3+, followed by 20…Nxe4 Black would have ensured her a big positional advantage as the White king’s position is wide open. However, Black blundered immediately by playing 19…Nxe4?? only to miss 20.Rxd6! Nxd6 21.Nxd6+ Qxd6 22.Bxb7 and the game has finished right after it started!
In the meantime the top seeded Olga Badelka from Belarus survived a real scare as she was dead lost against Honorata Kucharska from Poland. The latter probably didn’t realize that the final position is winning, and went for a threfold repetition.
The youngest groups U-8, U-10 and U-12 for both boys and girls currently are completely dominated by the young Russian players who occupy most of the top boards in the groups. Things might change in the second half of the tournament but the pattern which shows the power of Russian chess school, is admirable.
Did you know that the youngest player of the tournament is Mikhail Osipov in the O-8 group? Misha is just 5 years old, yet he already is a celebrity in Russia after having played against the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov at the age of 3!