By GM Arturs Neiksans

The second round of the European Youth Championships has finished, and what a round it was! Lots of amazing tactical games, interesting endgames, dramatic moments in the final seconds and amazing gamma of emotions – all of it makes the championship in Riga so special!
The Open U-18 section continues to be the source of the biggest surprises in the championships so far. First, some unexpected fireworks happened in one of the top games where the 4th seeded FM Artur Gaifullin was playing White against FM Bahadir Ozen from Turkey. Most of the game was quiet and with a symmetrical pawn structure, but things changed very swiftly.

Here White went for a daring attack – 27.Qd8 and Black decided he has nothing better to do than to accept the sacrifice by 27…bxc3. The idea is completely sound, had White continued 28.Qh8+ Kg6 29.Rg8, where 29…Kf6 fails to 30.Qxg7+ Ke7 31.b4! and White wins because of the Qf8+ resource! However, Black can escape, if he would play 29…Nf3+! 30.Bxf3 Qd4 31.bxc3 Qxc3 32.h4 h5 and surprisingly the black king is perfectly safe, and the position is equal! However, White thought of another way and went for 28.Bh5??, seemingly trapping the king in the corner, only to miss a refutation 28…Nf3+! and suddenly Black is easily winning! After 29.gxf3 Qg5+ Black simply exchanged queens and promoted at the queenside right after that!
From the favorites only the 3rd seeded Leon Livaic and 8th seeded Max Warmerdam remain with the perfect score while the other pre-tournament favorites have lost half a point or more.
In the younger boys groups there were far less surprises, most notably in the U-12 group where all of the first eight top players have scored both wins so far. Also in the U-14 group only the 3rd seeded Rudik Makarian from Russia was held to a draw as everyone else from the favorites scored their second wins.
Typically for youngsters, many games were decided in a sharp and tactical battle, with both sides pushing for the win at all costs. This game is a perfect example how the youth plays today!

Szpar, Milosz (POL, 2365) – Kizatbay, Abyl (NOR, 2205)
European Youth Championship U16, 9th board
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 Nbd7 7. Qe2 h6 8. Bh4 g6 9. f4 e5 10. fxe5 dxe5 11. O-O-O Qc7 12. Nb3 b5 13. Qf3 Bg7 14. a3 O-O So far this is modern theory, all of it has already been played before. 15. Be2 Bb7 16. Rd2 Bc6 17. Rhd1 Rab8?! Probably 17…Rfb8 is better, going for a quick a6-a5 and b5-b4 push. 18. Nd5?! Here White most likely couldn’t properly evaluate, what happens after the tempting 18.Rd6 g5 19.Bf2 Rfc8, so he decided to change the character of the position. 18…Nxd5 19. exd5 Ba8 20. Be7 Rfe8 21. Qh3 The game is completely wild and all results are possible!

21…Rbc8?! Too slow – Black should be thinking how to open the game at the queenside – Black will regret this decision later. 22. d6 Qa7 23. Rf1 White clearly already eyes for a possible combination! 23…e4 24. c3?! A provocation? Maybe, but it gives Black clear targets at the queenside… Rb8 Now the rook goes back where it was a few moves ago. 25. g4 a5 26. Nd4 The game is incredibly complex and at the most important moment Black loses control, forgetting to keep tabs on opponent’s ideas. 26…b4?! Extremely tempting but it allows White a nice tactical motif he was eyeing for already a few moves ago! After the correct 26…Rec8 27. Nxb5 Qc5 28.a4 e3 29.Rd3 Qb4 30.Rxe3 Qxa4 31.g5 Be4! 32.Rxe4 Qxe4 Black is clearly in the driver’s seat, however the position still remains very sharp. Now suddenly White strikes first!

27. Rxf7!! bxc3?? Shocked by the unexpected move, Black immediately throws away the game. After the best 27…Ne5 28.Rxg7+ Kxg7 Black wants to give back the exchange on e7, thus still getting a good play. One can only wonder if White would pick up the entertaining 29.Bf6+!? Kxf6 30.Qxh6 Nf3 31.g5+ (31.d7 is also possible with more crazy lines!) 31… Ke5! 32.d7! Rg8!

and now after the only 33.Qh3! Nxd2 34.Qe6+ Kf4 35. Qg4+ White forces a perpetual! However, it was not meant to be. 28. Rxg7+! Kxg7 29. Ne6+ Kh7 30. Ng5+ Kg7 31. Qxc3+ Kg8 32. Bc4+ Bd5 33. Bxd5# 1-0

In the Girls U-18 group the 2nd and 3rd seeded players Alexandra Obolentseva (Russia) and Alicja Sliwicka (Poland) scored their second wins, thus becoming the main favorites in pursuit for the medals. The 4th seeded Mariia Berdnyk unexpectedly lost with White against Noela Joyce Lomandong from Monaco while a few other favorites finished their games with a draw.
Girls U-16 group produces less surprises so far, and from the first six seeded players five of them have a 100% result. The only surprise came at the 3rd board, where the third seeded Gergana Peycheva (Bulgaria) lost against Yulia Grigorieva (Russia). A similar picture is in the younger groups where most of the tournament favorites are at the top of the rankings, with many trailing by a half a point. The tournament is only starting and everything can change very quickly!
Did you know that today one of the longest games was played in the U-8 Girls section? Sadaat Bashirli from Azerbaijan fought against the top seeded Wiktoria Smietanska for 120 (!) moves, making it one of the longest games of the day!