By GM Arturs Neiksans

It seems that in Riga, home of the famous chess magician Mikhail Tal, there’s a spell that bears the number of 18. Latvia declared it’s independence at 18th November in 1918, this year celebrating the 100 year anniversary. Two players, seeded 18th, lead the tournament while the third one tomorrow will play on board one. Two of them in group U-18. Magic?

U-18 first boards

Today in the 7th round of the European Youth Chess Championship in most of the groups the pre-tournament favorites scored wins over several surprising result authors. After today there’s also noone with a perfect score – today Evgenios Ioannidis finally was held to a draw while the other perfect score owner Denis Gordeev lost his game.

While the 18th seeded Evgenios Ioannidis after 6 rounds was confidently leading the Open U-18 group with a 1.5 point lead, today he showed no signs for a peaceful approach. On the contrary, the Greek yet again dropped a bomb on his opponent’s Robby Kevlishvili’s preparation by playing the open variation of the Ruy Lopez (being mainly a Najdorf player with a very few games in the oldest chess opening). Surprises continued at move 6th when Evgenios played a rare move 6…Be7!? which several years ago a few times was chosen by Teimour Radjabov. The variation seems slightly dubious but most likely he had prepared it at a great depth just for this particular game.

The chosen tactics paid off – Kevlishvili didn’t want to go into a theoretical struggle and chose a more peaceful approach 8.Bb3 with the inclusion of the rook on e1, which not always is a good addition. Soon both players were out of their preparation, and in middlegame after a few inaccuracies from Black, White formed a considerable advantage. Ioannidis correctly sensed the danger and quickly offered a pawn sacrifice in order to activate his heavy pieces. White took the bait, allowing Black to sail out from the dangerous waters. Draw was agreed soon after that.

The huge gap from the leader was slightly reduced to a one point by the 10th seeded Jan Vykouk from Czech Republic and the 17th seeded Davit Mirzoyan from Armenia. The latter won a truly tragicomical game against one of the surprise authors of the tournament Aleksei Garanin from Estonia who prior the game had beaten the 5th seeded Szymon Gumularz in a wild tactical game. Today was a completely off day for the Estonian – he mixed up his preparation at move 5 and at move 9 he could already resign. The game lasted just three more moves. Probably Garanin will want to forget this game quickly if he wants to produce more surprises in the tournament. In the meantime, Jan Vykouk for the longest time was defending a worse position against Lithuanian Lukas Stauskas who overpressed and ultimately lost the control of the game.

Aleksandra Dimitrova (Russia) today secured her lead in the Girls U-18 section by scoring an easy win against the 13th seeded Ivana Hrescak from Slovenia. The Dragadorf variation which in the 3rd round brought the Slovenian a great victory against the top seeded Marta Garcia Martin, proved to be too unreliable in the long term. Unlike the Spaniard, the Russian was well prepared, played it cool and Black quickly lost the thread of the game. Dimitrova now leads the tournament with 6.5 points and tomorrow will face 18th seeded Margareth Olde from Estonia.

Tomorrow in the 8th round there are going to be many crucial games, and many of them could already decide the European champion. Among them will be the game in the Open U-16 section where the 3rd seeded Viachaslau Zarubitski will face the first seeded Francesco Sonis from Italy. Both of them at the moment lead the tournament with 6 points out of 7.

The Girls U-16 is still wide open for everyone. After 7 rounds there is still no sole leader – four girls share the 1st place with 5.5 points and 8 more follow them with 5! In the 7th round the top seeded Olga Badelka from Belarus badly needed a win over the 2nd seeded Gabriela Antova from Bulgaria, as she was trailing behind by half a point. However, nothing worked for the main favorite, and she had to settle for a draw. Govhar Beydullayeva from Azerbaijan took the opportunity and confidently outplayed the co-leader Zala Urh from Slovenia, joining Nadiia Shpanko from Ukraine and Kamaliya Bulatova from Russia in the lead. Tomorrow the four leaders will play against each other, thus the situation most likely will be much clearer before the last round.

Two Russians have currently taken over the lead in the Open U-14 group. Dmitry Tsoi and Stefan Pogosyan right now stand at 6 points out of 7. Tomorrow both of them with the black pieces will face their closest followers so things are still far from clear in this group.

Despite missing a clear victory yesterday, in the Girls U-14 group Azerbaijani player Ayan Alahverdiyeva showed no signs of weakness. Today she beat Slovenian Larisa Kuhar with the black pieces and has catched up with the leader Martyna Wikar from Poland, who today was up an extra exchange against Eva Stepanyan, but failed to convert it to a win. She and Allahverdiyeva lead the tournament with 6 points, however tomorrow in the 8th round both of them will play with black against their closest rivals.

U-12 first boards

The top seeded of the Open U-12 group Volodar Murzin today scored a very important win over Artsiom Siniauski from Belarus with a very nice tactical shot!

Murzin, Volodar (RUS, 2306) – Siniauski, Artsiom (BLR, 2081)

Black seemingly is alright, the position looks solid. However, the young Russian found a way to destroy the fortress. 20. Nxe6! fxe6 21. Rxb7! The point of the sacrifices! White is not even aiming for a checkmate – he just wants to crash Black’s pawn center. Now it will collapse like a house of cards. 21…Qxb7 22. Qxc6 Qxc6 23. Rxc6 Kf7 24. Bh3 and that’s all she wrote. Murzin converted his huge advantage with ease. 24…Rfd8 25. Bxe6+ Ke8 26. Nc3 Nc5 27. dxc5 d4 28. Bxd4 Rxd4 29. Nb5 Rd2+ 30. Ke3 Rad8 31. Nd6+ Bxd6 32. cxd6 Rd1 33. Rc7 R8xd6 34. Bf7+ 1-0

Volodar Murzin leads the O-12 group with an impressive 6.5 out of 7 and is trailed by Yahli Sokolovsky who today in an Israeli derby beat his countryman Eytan Rozen.

The Girls U-12 group once again has a different leader – Veronika Shubenkova who was at the top of the tournament after 6 rounds, today suffered a heavy loss against Luisa Bashylina from Germany, ending the Russian dominance in the group. The German player now is the only leader with 6 points out of 7 and tomorrow will face a new challenger – Aliaksandra Tarasenka from Belarus who has scored 4 wins in a row.

U-10 first boards

A fascinating situation is at the Open U-10 group which has a total of 132 players. There are three players with 6 points out of 7, however that’s not a tournament lead! Rudolf Pashikyan is ahead of everyone else with 6.5 points – today he was slightly lucky as his opponent Daviti Nemsadze made a very unfortunate blunder.

Nemsadze, Daviti (GEO, 1710) – Pashikyan, Rudolf (ARM, 1489)

White has an extra pawn and good chances to become the new leader. However, the young Georgian player here tragically blundered with the “automatic” 34. g3?? and after 34…Qh5! he was unable to parry two threats – Qxd1 and Qf3. White did come up with the best practical defense but Black was merciless. 35. g4 Rg6 36. Kf1 Rxg4 37. Qe3 Re4 38. Be2 Qxh2 39. Qf3 Rf4 0-1

Russia continues to dominate the Girls U-10 group where at the first three boards were sitting 5 Russians! The first seeded and the sole leader of the tournament Alexandra Shvedova had done everything to forget the tragic mishap last round, and in a complex game she beat Belorussian player Milena Sidorenja to strenghten her lead. Tomorrow most likely we will see a gold deciding game between Shvedova and the 3rd seeded Yana Zhapova who trails behind her compatriot by half a point.

U-8 first boards

With so many leaders losing their conquered positions today, the Open U-8 group was no exception. The 18th seeded Denis Gordeev was leading the tournament with perfect 6 points out of 6, but today he was outplayed by the young Azerbaijani star Yahandar Azadaliyev, making a four player lead in the group with 6 points out of 7. Three of them are from Russia – tomorrow at the top board Artem Uskin will face Azadaliyev, while Denis Gordeev will play with Bogdan Golovchenko.

And last but not least, the Girls U-8 group has two leaders – the 2nd seeded Ekaterina Zubkovskaya from Belarus and 9th seeded Veronika Iudina from Russia. They are ahead of everyone else with one full point, and tomorrow will face their opponents with the white color.