By GM Arturs Neiksans

There’s no stopping of Aleksandra Dimitrova and Evgenios Ioannidis who are simply demolishing their opposition in both U-18 groups! Today they won their encounters against the closest rivals and now lead the tournament with a perfect 100% score and most importantly – by a whole one point margin from the nearest rivals! Saturday is a rest day, and the tournament will resume on Sunday. The weather in Riga is beautiful so all of the visitors surely will enjoy the best of it!

The 14th seeded Aleksandra Dimitrova from Russia is playing extremely well so far, scoring a second crushing victory in a row against a higher rated player. In the 4th round she in the Sicilian Rauzer variation mercilesly outplayed the 3rd seeded Alicja Sliwicka from Poland who mixed up things in the opening, and never received a forgiveness. One would have thought that in the 5th round Dimitrova would slow down before the rest day, but already the 6th move h4!? in the Najdorf indicated that she’s ready for more, and she was! Perhaps that was a preparation from a certain famous Russian grandmaster who was spotted at a certain hotel? While Dimitrova’s opponent, compatriot Anna Afonasieva seemingly was not surprised and quicky responded, she definitely was – Aleksandra had never played the move before.

Dimitrova, Aleksandra (RUS, 2166) – Afonasieva, Anna (RUS, 2193)

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h4!?

This paradoxical move at a high level for the first time was played in 2015 when Peter Heine Nielsen tried it out in the World Blitz Championship in Berlin against Jacob Carstensen. Being the coach of the World champion Magnus Carlsen has it’s perks, and the move was picked up by some elite grandmasters, but it became a real trend move only in 2017. It’s objective value it’s not clear – White is waiting for Black to define his setup, and in many of them the pawn on h4 plays a role. Or perhaps not.

6… e5 7. Nb3 Be6 8. f4 b5 Not very logical – for the particular structure the h2-h4 move actually contributes a lot! 8…exf4 looks simple and good enough. 9. f5 Bc8 10. g4 Bb7 11. Bg2 b4 12. Nd5 Nxd5 13. exd5 So far both players seem to be well prepared and follow the game Ruiz Sanchez – Gordievsky from US Masters Open 2017, a game which was played in 24th August, exactly a year ago. Is somebody celebrating an anniversary here? Afonasieva deviated from the known path. 13…Be7 A novelty. 14. g5 a5 15. Be3 Nd7 16. Be4 Nb6?! If Black would have known how the game will proceed, she would had left the knight on d7 where it protects his monarch. 17. Qe2 Na4?? Now this is just outright bad – it’s not clear what Black actually missed here. The black knight has nothing to do on a4, and White’s attack suddenly becomes crushing. 18. O-O-O Qd7 19. f6! gxf6 20. gxf6 Bxf6 21. Qf1 Ke7 22. Bg5 Bxg5+ 23. hxg5 With such an exposed king Black can’t hope to salvage this game. Dimitrova finished off her opponent quickly with a very beautiful combination. 23…Kd8 24. Rh6 Qe7 25. Rf6 Rf8 26. Bxh7 Kc7 27. Qc4+ Kb6 28. Bd3 Qd7

Boys and girls in the younger groups – here is a tactical puzzle for you! 29. …Nxa5!! In a true spirit of the magician from Riga Mikhail Tal! When your opponent executes such a move by a surprise, even before calculating you just know it – it must be over. 29.Kxa5 30. Rxd6! Rfc8 The point of the combination is revealed after 30…Qe8 31.a3! bxa3 32.b4#! White wrapped up the game very quickly. 31. Rxd7 Rxc4 32. Bxc4 Nb6 33. Rxb7 Nxc4 34. Rxf7 Nd6 35. Re7 e4 36. Rg1 1-0

In the 6th round Aleksandra with the Black pieces will be facing another compatriot, the 2nd seeded Alexandra Obolentseva – that’s one of the games we will be absolutely looking forward to. You never know what the secret GMs will cook up for us during the rest day!

In the meantime, in the Open U-18 section Evgenios Ioannidis from Greece extended his lead, with the Black pieces confidently outplaying Arien Erenberg from Israel. The young Greek surprised his opponent already in the 2nd move by choosing the Queens Gambit Declined, something he had played only once 10 years ago, when Evgenios was only 7 years old! In order to countersurprise his opponent, Erenberg decided to go for a sharp continuation which immediately backfired. Ioannidis appeared to be much better prepared, the Israeli misplayed the opening and quickly landed in a worse position. The cold blooded technique by the Greek reminded the Euro 2004 outcome.

In the other age groups most of the leaders also have a 100% score, but only with a half a point margin. Both U-8 groups are led by Diana Preobrazhenskaya and Denis Gordeev (both Russia) with a 100% score, in the U-10 Girls section the top seed Alexandra Shvedova (Russia) remains perfect, while in the open tournament Rudolf Pashikyan from Armenia is only 66th seeded, yet a sole leader with 5 points out of 5!

At the top of the U-12 Girls tournament is Olga Karmanova from Russia, while in the open tournament – Yahli Sokolovsky from Israel. The sole leader of the Girls U-14 group is Martyna Wikar from Poland, but the open section has a five-way tie with 4.5 points, among them the first two seeded Jonas Buhl Bjerre from Denmark and Dmitry Tsoi from Russia. They will face each other in the next round.

The Girls U-16 section has two leaders – Gabriela Antova (Bulgaria) and Zala Urh from Slovenia, who will play against each other in the next round. And last but not least, the Open U-16 section has four leaders: Francesco Sonis (Italy), Remy Degreave (France), Yaroslav Remizov and Nikoloz Petriashvili.

Did you know that in the tournament hall there are anti-cheating arbiters? They have a special equipment to scan frequencies of mobile phones to rule out a foul play. Except of one unfortunate incident in the first round, so far they don’t have much to do as the fair play in Riga lives up to the highest standards. In the spare time the arbiters had the honors to chase certain visitors who had been hiding under a player’s or VIP badge. One of them last year won a certain junior tournament in Italy, while the other is a well known local GM and a big fan of Kiev meatballs. They both recognized the authority from afar and showed quick reflexes. We are absolutely sure that they just wanted to see a few games and feel the great atmosphere in the Kipsala exhibition center, however we would like to remind to all our dear visitors, that the playing hall during the games is off limits for everyone else but the players!