On the first day, the games were already pretty wild. Vincent Rothuis tried to work some magic against Barua, but unfortunately for the young Dutchman things didn’t work out so well. Even more remarkable was the 100% score of the two lady participants in the Main Group. Max Euwe would have been pleased!In the game between the two participants who had travelled the farthest, Amon Simutowe emerged victorious. After an hour or so, the first commentator of the Euwe Stimulus tournament, John van der Wiel, was licking his fingers. ‘We have a fantastic kamikaze game here’, he commented on the Barua-Rothuis duel, which Van der Wiel considered possibly important for the final classification. Barua-Rothuis
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.Bd3 Nc6 5.c3 e5!? 6.dxe5 Nxe5 7.Bb5+ Bd7 8.Qxd5 Qe7 A surprising alternative here is 8...Qc7!? 9.Bxd7+ (9.Bf4 Nf6! and oddly enough, Black always turns out to have quite pleasant play for the pawn, even with the queens off) 9...Nxd7 10.Qe4+ Ne7 followed by queenside castling and/or …Nc5. 9.Bxd7+ Nxd7+ 10.Be3 Ngf6 11.Qc4
11...b5!? Remarkably, Rybka ‘thinks’ that after 11...Ne5 12.Qb5+ Nc6 Black is still quite OK, thanks to the possibility of ...Ng4. 12.Qc6! Rb8 13.Nf3 This was one of several moves that Van der Wiel confessed he didn’t understand. 'Sometimes that happens to a commentator', he added. 'I would have preferred 13.Ne2 here, but the text is smart, as it invites 13...Ng4.' So what happened?? 13...Ng4 14.0–0! Nxe3 15.Re1
This looks utterly hopeless for Black, but Rothuis again manages to find a creative solution: 15...Nc2! 16.Rxe7+ Bxe7 17.Ne5 0–0!? The problem with 17...Rd8 was 18.Na3! (better than 18.Qe4!? Nxa1 19.Nc6 0–0! 20.Nxd8 (best) 20...Bxd8 and Black can still fight. After the game Barua commented: 'Even with a piece behind I would have been winning here, since I can play Kf1 catching the knight, even when it’s on c2...') 18...Nxa1 19.Nxb5 0–0 20.Nxd7 transposing to the game. 18.Nxd7 Rbd8
Again Rothuis manages to keep the tension by tactical means. But now White can grasp the initiative: 19.Na3 Nxa1 20.Nxb5 Rfe8 21.g3 Bf8 22.Nd4 Re1+ 23.Kg2 Rb1 24.Ne5 Bd6 25.Nxf7 Kxf7 26.Qd5+ and on the next move a queen check will win the rook, therefore Black resigned. Next, a result that surprised many, which may, however, not be justified. Former women’s World Champion Nona Gaprindashvili is still a quite active player – last year she played quite well in a tournament in the Dutch city of Haarlem. Today she toppled the renowned former Candidate Fridrik Olafsson.
This is the type of Modern position in which Gaprindashvili feels perfectly at home. Olafsson, on the other hand, commits an inaccuracy now: 9.Rb1?! White should have prepared this move by 9.Re1! in order to prevent Black’s next move. Gaprindashvili would have replied with her 'favourite' 9...f6. Her reaction is alert: 9...f5! Lays her finger on the sore spot: after the exchange on e4 White is always vulnerable on account of ...Bf5. 10.Bg5 Qe8 11.Qd2!? Gaprindashvili did not like this move, as it drives the knight to greener pastures. Perhaps it was advisable to close the position with 11.d5!?. 11...Nf7 12.Be3 Nb6! Overlooked by Olafsson: 'Now I have no good moves.' 13.b3 fxe4! 14.Nh4 14.Nxe4 loses material after 14...Bf5. Best was probably 14.Ne1, but after 14...d5 Black is in full swing already. 'This is my position', Gaprindashvili smiled. 14...d5 15.cxd5 cxd5 16.dxe5
16...g5! Catching the knight! After first 16...Qxe5 17.Nb5, 17...g5 would not work in view of 18.f4! 17.f4 After 17.Bxg5 Qxe5 (17...Nxg5 18.Qxg5 Qxe5!? also deserves attention) White must sac a piece with 18.Nxe4. 17...gxh4 18.Bxb6 axb6 19.Nxd5 Bf5 20.Rbd1 Rd8 21.Qe2
In the post mortem the players briefly looked at 21.Qb4 Kh8 22.Bxe4 (interesting may be 22.Ne3!?) 22...Bxe4 23.Qxe4 and now 23...Nd6. Black is better, but there’s probably no need for White to despair. Gaprindashvili now opts for a violent method to free her position. 21...Nxe5! 22.fxe5 Qxe5 23.Rxf5?! White wants to clear away the e4 pawn, but at the cost of too much material. More tenacious would have been 23.Ne3, although Black is still superior. 23...Rxf5 24.Qxe4 Kh8 25.gxh4 0–1 Bianca Muhren, not impressed by her opponent’s great reputation, struck the second blow for her sex.
11...0–0 Panno avoided 11...d5 since 12.exd6 Qxd6 13.Ne5! Nd7 14.Bf4 looks quite awkward. Possibly even worse for Black is 13.Ba3 Qd5 (13...Qxa3 loses the exchange after 14.Qe4) 14.c4 Qb7 15.Bxe7 Kxe7 (15...Qxe7? 16.Qe4) 16.d5 with a promising attack for White. Now White can carry through d4-d5 herself. Bianca Muhren is following a plan devised by Sergey Tiviakov, but the black position turns out to be quite flexible. 12.d5! exd5 Panno also considered 12...Qc8!? 13.Bg5! Bc5 14.Bf6! and this last move provoked an interesting discussion between generations: 'Tal would have played this', said Panno. 'But probably it doesn't work', Muhren replied. 'Yes, but Tal would still have played it and he would have won!', was Panno’s final word. Now for the concrete variations: 14...gxf6? (14...Qa6!) 15.exf6 h6 (otherwise 16.Ng5 wins) 16.Ne5! Kh8 17.Qh3 Kh7 18.Ng4 and White wins. 13.Rd1! Preventing the manoeuvre ...Na6-c5, which the Argentinian wasn’t planning, by the way. The text also introduces Tiviakov's idea of Qd3-f5 into the position. 13...Qc7 14.Bf4 Nc6 Muhren was relieved by this move. The endgame after 14...Qc4 15.Qxd5 Qxd5 16.Rxd5 Rc8 could well be more drawish than it seems. 15.Qxd5 Rad8 16.Rd3 h6 17.Rad1
17...Qc8!? An original manoeuvre. Alternatives were 17...Bc5, with the idea of ...Ne7, and 17...Rfe8!? (Van der Wiel) 18.Qe4! (Muhren) and White continues with e5-e6 and/or Qf5. In neither of these lines a clear advantage for White was found. 18.Nd2 Qa6 19.Ne4 Qa4 20.Rh3 Qc2 21.Kf1 A funny move. White can now involve her second rook in the attack without fear of back-rank mates. 21...Rfe8 22.Rc1 Qa4
23.Bxh6?! This sacrifice looks great and it has been in the air for a while. Still, White’s calculations turn out to contain a hole. 23...gxh6 24.Rg3+ Kf8? Both players had overlooked that after 24...Kh8! 25.Qxf7 Black has 25...Qb5+ 26.c4 Qxe5, covering the crucial g7-square. White can scrape a draw with 27.Qg6! Bg5 (the only defence) 28.Rxg5! (28.Nxg5?? Qe2+ and mate) 28...hxg5 29.Rc3! g4 (29...Qg7 30.Rh3+ Kg8 31.Nf6+ Kf8 32.Nh7+ is also a draw) 30.Qh6+ Kg8 31.Qg6+ Kf8 32.Qh6+ Ke7 33.Qh7+. Of course there are alternatives to 25.Qxf7 as Black’s king’s position remains quite airy, for instance 25.c4 or 25.Re1, but none of them looks really convincing. 25.Nf6 Ba3? Now it is immediately over. Black could still hang on with 25...Bxf6 26.Qd6+ Ne7 27.exf6 Qc4+ 28.Kg1 Qe6. 26.Rg8+ and after 26...Ke7 it is mate in two, therefore 1–0. Amon Simutowe was less plagued by jetlag than his opponent Puchen Wang. In a sharp and heavy game the Zambian from Texas grabbed a pawn on c3 that turned out to be very important. He survived all the New-Zealand assaults that were launched at his position and converted his advantage in the endgame. Long before, Helgi Dam Ziska and Willy Hendriks had split the point. In a Pirc, a specialty of Hendriks, White had a little something but it didn’t materialize into something tangible.
A first round full of promise! Just like in the Regional Group, the combatants in the Main Group fought admirably. We can expect more fireworks!