By GM Arturs Neiksans

It couldn’t have been a more exciting 8th round! Although in several groups the gap between the leader and the followers is a full point, no championship titles have yet been decided one round in advance. The regulations of the tournament dictate that the direct encounter between tied players is the priority tiebreak, so a lot of things can still change in the last round, if the leader loses!

In the Girls U-8 group there were two leaders before the 8th round, however one of them today fell. Veronika Iudina from Russia miscalculated and lost against Kesaria Mgeladze from Georgia. This allowed the 2nd seeded Ekaterina Zubkovskaya from Belarus to take a considerable lead in the overall standings by one point, as today she easily beat the first seeded Wiktoria Smietanska from Poland. However, even that doesn’t guarantee her the title as tomorrow she must make at least a draw with the black pieces against Kesaria Mgeladze.

Jahandar Azadaliyev from Azerbaijan today showed a good understanding of positional maneuvering, in the Open U-10 group slowly outplaying Russian Artem Uskov, thus scoring a very important victory. Also the co-leader of the tournament Denis Gordeev won his game against another Russian Bogdan Golovchenko, so both of them enter the final round with 7 points out of 8, by a full point ahead of their closest rivals. Azadaliyev is in a better situation as in the last round he will play with the 8th seeded Nikolay Averin from Russia with white pieces, while Gordeev with Black will play against the top seeded Kala Kishan Udipi from Switzerland. Since Jahandar beat Denis in the 7th round, that means that in case of a tie he has a better tiebreak. However, if the both leaders tomorrow will lose, somebody else might become the champion because of the tiebreak!

In a very important duel the U-10 Girls group first seeded Alexandra Shvedova from Russia today safely held her ground against the 3rd seeded Yana Zhapova, and together with her compatriot Anna Shukhman leads the tournament.

Alexandra Shvedova

Shvedova at the moment looks as the main favorite to take the title because she has a better tiebreak than Shukhman, and tomorrow she faces the only 32nd seeded Marilena Papadopoulou from Greece, while Shukhman will be playing against Zhapova, who is trailing them by half a point and will desperately play for a win.

The situation in the Open U-10 group is absolutely unclear as three players lead the field with 7 points out of 8! The previous sole leader Rudolf Pashikyan from Armenia for a considerable time was pressing his oppononet Vladimir Alexandru Cnejev from Romania but in the end in a better position he decided to play is safe and agreed to a draw offer.

Rudolf Pashikyan

This allowed his closest rivals, the first seeded Artem Pingin (Russia) and third seeded Clement Kuhn (France) to catch up with him. In the overall standings Pashikyan still has a much better tiebreak, however in the last round with the black pieces he will be facing Artsiom Bialiauski from Belarus who trails him behind by only half a point. The other two leaders will play against each other. One of the three leaders will become the new European champion.

A change of scenery was also in the Girls U-12 group where the leader Luisa Bashylina from Germany lost her game against Aliaksandra Tarasenka from Belarus, and thus also gave up the lead.

Aliaksandra Tarasenka

Tarasenka together with Olga Karmanova from Russia leads the tournament with 6.5 points, and in the last round they will face each other to decided the gold medal owner.

Volodar Murzin (Russia) today once again scored a victory, this time with the black pieces against Robert Piliposyan from Armenia, and is one of the two players in all age groups who has scored already 7.5 points! However, even such an impressive performance is not yet enough for a title one round in advance – even though he is ahead of his countryman Ilya Makoveev and Semen Mitusov from Ukraine by a full point, in case of a tie he has a worse tiebreak than Makoveev thus in the last round he needs at least a draw to secure the title. Volodar tomorrow will face the 4th seeded Jakub Chyzy from Poland while Makoveev and Mitusov will play against each other.

In the Girls U-14 group, after missing a clear victory in the 6th round against Martyna Wikar from Poland, the 9th seeded Ayan Allahverdiyeva scored her 2nd win in a row, with the black pieces confidently outplaying Floris Maria Eizaguerri from Spain, and now leads the tournament with 7 points. The previous co-leader, the 14th seeded Wikar today was held to a draw for the 2nd time in a row, thus right now she has falled behind by a half a point. However, everything can still very much change in the last round as Allahverdiyeva will play with the white pieces against the top seeded Russian player Leya Garifullina, while Wikar also with white will play against Astghik Hakobyan from Armenia. There are several scenarios how this could end so let’s just wait for tomorrow!

Stefan Pogosyan, who in the 7th round received an unexpected gift in a completely lost position against his compatriot Konstantin Popov, has become the sole leader of the Open U-14 group with 7 points out of 8, by today beating Georg Aleksander Pedoson from Estonia. The game could have turned either way, and it the end when a draw seemed to be very realistic, Pedoson suddenly missed a cute little tactic, after which he immediately collapsed.

Pedoson, Georg Aleksander (EST, 2195) – Pogosyan, Stefan (RUS, 2331)
White must have thought that he will hold this position without too much effort, until the moment when Black unleashed 51… Rxe5+! A strange way to give a fork! Shocked by the unexpected move, White didn’t find the best defense 52.Kd2 with still excellent drawing chances as 52…Kxf6 is not good because of the only 53.Rd3! which White missed in his calculations. The game continued with 52. Bxe5? Kxe5 and now 53.Ne8 is impossible because of 53…Ba4. The game ended quickly. 53. Rxe6+ Bxe6 and the White knight is inevitably trapped. 54. Nh7 f6 55. Ke3 Bf5 56. h4 g5 57. Nf8 g4 0-1

In the last round the new sole leader Pogosyan with the white pieces will face the top seeded Jonas Buhl Bjerre who trails him by half a point as Dmitry Tsoi with white will play against Vladyslav Larkin from Ukraine.

Dmitry Tsoi

In the Girls U-16 group there was a four way tie after 7th round, and all of the leaders were facing each other. The 2nd seeded Gabriela Antova from Bulgaria unexpectedly lost with the white pieces against Kamaliya Bulatova while in the other leader matchup happened a classical stumble in a time trouble!

Beydullayeva, Govhar (AZE, 2184) – Shpanko, Nadiia (UKR, 2176)
It’s time for Black to make her 40th move! 40… Qb3?? This logical move appears to be game losing! Pretty much any move would have kept the balance. 41. Qf3+! This is what Black missed when she was low on time. Black can’t go to the pawn endgame as it’s lost, but otherwise the white a-pawn runs forwards without nobody stopping it. 41… Kg6 42. Qc6+ Kf5 43. a6 e4 44. Qd5+ Kf6 45. Qxe4 Qa4 46. Qd4+ Kf7 47. Qa7+ Kf6 48. Qb6+ Ke5 49. a7 c3 50. Qb8+ Kd4 51. a8=Q 1-0

That means, that in the last round the match Bulatova vs Beydullayeva most likely will decide the gold medal. Both girls lead the tournament with 6.5 points and three players are trailing them by half a point, including the top seed Olga Badelka from Belarus who today was very lucky to win a worse position with an unexpected mating pattern!

The top games of the Open U-16 group today were very exciting and dynamic. Yaroslav Remizov from Russia went for a classical exchange sacrifice and quickly destroyed his countryman’s Kirill Shubin’s defenses, and thus joined the leaders with 6.5 points. In the game between Viachaslau Zarubitski (Belarus) against the top seeded Francesco Sonis from Italy, the latter decided to repeat the game Zarubitski – Chukavin from the 5th round where the young Belorussian went for a theoretical piece sacrifice. Zarubitski stayed true to his analysis and didn’t mind to repeat it, but Sonis was better prepared. When the dust had settled, Sonis had a piece for three pawns, an easier to play position and a big advantage on the clock. However, despite all of his advantages, he suddenly accepted his opponent’s draw offer! Let us hope the Italian won’t regret the decision in the end of the tournament! In the last round he will play Frenchman Yovann Gatineau while the other two leaders Remizov and Zarubitski will face each other. The outcome is truly unpredictable!

A true drama went on at the top board of the Girls U-18 group where the tournament leader Aleksandra Dimitrova from Russia was facing Margareth Olde from Estonia who was one of the two closest followers, trailing her by one point. The very interesting game came to the culmination at this moment.

Olde, Margareth (EST, 2127) – Dimitrova, Aleksandra (RUS, 2166)
Previously White had forced Black to sacrifice an exchange for a pawn. After White’s innacuracy Black‘s compensation was more than enough although White should be able to hold the position without too much effort. Here the tournament sole leader suddenly believed in the 26… Be5?? which could have lost her the tournament lead – the amazing combination simply doesn’t work! After the brave 27.exf5! Rxf3 28.Qe5!! Rxg3+ 29.Kf1! things look scary for White but as a matter of fact, Black’s attack fizzles out! It doesn’t matter if Black tries the obvious 29…Qg2+ 30.Ke2 Qf3+ 31.Kd2 Qxf2+ 32.Kc1 and Black runs out of checks, or if Black goes for the beautiful 29…Rg1+! 30.Ke2 Qf3+ 31.Kd2 Qxf2 32.Re2 and White wins. It’s a brave new World. However, also White believed in the attack and went for a more human looking 27. Ra7 Bb8 and gave back the exchange to keep the game going 28. Rxb7!? Qxb7 29. exf5 e5 30. f4 e4! a very good practical decision! 31. Qxe4 Qxe4 32. Rxe4 Kf7 The game is heading to a draw, and right here White tragically blundered away the game in one move. 33. Rd4?? Ba7! and just like that, Black wins! 34. Rxd3 cxd3 35. Kf1 d2 and White soon resigned. Good players also have to be lucky!

Despite the fact that Dimitrova has amassed already 7.5 points, the title still can be taken away by Oliwia Kiolbasa from Poland, who trails her by one full point. If Oliwia will win the game with the Black pieces, she will become the champion because of the tiebreak!

Finally, the Open U-18 section is still led by Evgenios Ioannidis from Greece but one can’t stop wondering if he should have pushed for more in today’s game against Jan Vykouk from Czech Republic. In the last round the Greek will have Black against Abdulla Gadimbayli from Azerbaijan who is behind the leader by a full point. However, taking into account the tiebreak rules, actually if the Azerbaijani will win the game, he will become the champion! No matter what will happen tomorrow, it’s going to be a very exciting finish! For the final eye candy of the report let us look at one of the most fascinating games of the tournaments!

Gaifullin, Artur (RUS, 2461) – Mesaros, Florian (AUT, 2422)
White starts and wins! 12. Nxe4 dxe4 13. Qc3! f6 14. gxf6 Rxf6 15. Bc4+ Kh8 16. Qxf6!! Boom! What a fantastic shot! 16…Nxf6 17. Ng5 Lets tango, anyone? Qe7 18. Nf7+ Kg8 19. Nxd6+ Kf8 20. Nf5 Qd7 21. Nxg7 Nd5 22. Nh5 Qf5 23. Ng7 Non-stop dancing! Qd7 24. Rg5! One kibitzer joins the dance. 24…b5 25. Bxd5 Bxd5 26. Nh5 Qd6 27. Nf6 c6 28. Nxh7+ Ke7 29. Rg7+ Kd8 30. Nf6 a5 31. Rh7 Kc8 32. Ke2 a4 33. Rg1 and here comes the second one! The black queen is powerless as dancing alone is not fun. 33…axb3 34. Rh8+ Kb7 35. Rg7+ Kb6 36. Rxa8 Bc4+ 37. Ke1 Qxh2 38. Nd7+ Kb7 39. Rb8+ Kc7 40. Be5+ 1-0