By GM Arturs Neiksans
European Youth Chess championships yet again prove one thing – there are no weak players in the continental championships! In the very first round of the tournament several high seeded players gave up at least half a point, or even more!
In the strongest Open 18 group which is spearheaded by the only grandmaster in the event Thai Dai Van Nguyen from Czech Republic, the first two seeded players didn’t score a win. The already mentioned GM was held to a draw with white pieces by Ukrainian FM Oleksandr Yrovskykh, who managed to build an impregnable fortress. In the meantime, the 2nd seeded Robby Kevlishvili from Netherlands was convincingly outplayed by Lithuanian Lukas Stauskas who sacrificed a piece to finish off his mighty opponent.
White continued with the powerful 30.Nxh6! gxh6 31.Qc1! and after 31…Ke8 32.Bxf6! Bxf6 33.Rg8+ collected back material with some interest. Black didn’t hold for long.
The younger open sections delivered much more predictable results as most of the tournaments favorites scored expected wins against a much lower rated opposition. One of the few unexpected setbacks in the O-16 group was for the 2nd seeded Felix Blohberger from Austria who with black pieces was held to a draw by Thomas Sondergaard Thybo from Denmark while in the O-14 group the 7th seed Slovenian Jan Subelj lost with the white pieces to Mikhail Tobak from Ukraine. In the youngest groups there were more than a few surprises, however it’s not clear what is the actual strength of the surprising winners as they might be much stronger than the indicated rating.
In the girls U-18 section a true drama happened at the very first board where the top seeded Marta Garcia Martin from Spain with white pieces was outplaying her opponent Masa Maksimovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina). The win already seemed in hand as White was up simply a piece when in the time trouble happened an unbelievable blunder.
Probably there is nothing simpler than 66.Na3, followed by 67.g4, then proceeding with advancing the h-pawn up to the 6th rank, when finally in the stalemate position with the pawn on h7 the knight comes to help via route a3-c4-e5-f7 to checkmate the black king, while the black pawn is too slow to promote in time. However, in the game happened 66.Nd4+ Ke5 67.Ke3?? a3! 68.Nb3 a2 and now the black pawn is too far away for the white knight to hope to employ the same idea. The game continued for a few moves until White had to accept the shocking truth that the win is gone.
In the Girls U-18 section there were a few more unexpected results – the 5th seed Fiona Sieber was held to a draw by Saule Gailiunaite from Lithuania, while the 8th and 12th seeded players suffered losses.
The Girls U-16 section was much more predictable – all of the favorites scored wins, including the top seeded Olga Badelka from Belarus who being rated 2416 would have been the highest seeded player also in the U-18 group, if only she would play there!
A truly surprising opening round was for the girls in the U-12 section where from the first six seeded players four of them didn’t win! The first seeded Machteld Van Foreest from Netherlands (and presumably a sister of the two young Dutch stars Jorden and Lucas) played a draw with white color.