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6. Ready for the final sprint
Panno - Rothuis

The three leaders are still in full sway. This round, which did not produce a single draw, saw Amon Simutowe, Dibyendu Barua and Nona Gaprindashvili each score the full point again. They all managed this in the endgame - Simutowe’s was the easiest, Gaprindashvili's the hardest. And this means that Simutowe isn't there yet. We are about to witness a cracking final sprint.

Puchen Wang fell back as he was toppled by Bianca Muhren in a straight attacking game. And the most captivating game was once again provided by Vincent Rothuis.

Panno - Rothuis

Never a dull moment with the young Dutchman from the nearby town of Doetinchem. Today he had put on a Brazilian football T-shirt carrying number 10 (which may not have been a fortunate choice in these surroundings…). You would expect this to have an aggravating effect on his Argentinian opponent. But Panno took it easy and steered towards a Closed Sicilian with an extra tempo.

The diagram position is pleasant for White. He has a choice between 12.b3 and 12.f4 (suggested by Herman van Riemsdijk), but Panno liked his own move very much. Unfortunately he had overlooked Rothuis's snappy reply: 12.d4!? Ne4! 13.Qb3 Nxc3 Releasing the tension partly. 13...Rab8 also deserved consideration. Then the direct 14...b5! is threatened since 15.cxb5 Qf7 is not possible; the Nd5 cannot be protected. 14.bxc3 Rab8 15.Rad1 Qf7 16.Qb5 g5 17.f4 gxf4 18.gxf4 Afterwards Panno liked 18.exf4 better, freeing the nice blockading square e3 for the knight. 18...Kh8 19.Ng3 e4 20.Rf2 Rg8 21.Kh1?

Overlooking something. In the post mortem Panno considered 21.Bf1, but then 21...Nxd4 is possible: 22.cxd4 c6. Maybe even better is 21...h5 22.Rg2 h4 23.Ne2 Ne7. 21...Bxd4! 22.Nxe4 The point was 22.cxd4 Rxg3 23.hxg3 Qh5+. 22...fxe4 23.cxd4 Qh5 24.Nc3 d5!? As always: the all-out attack! 25.cxd5 Bg4 26.Rdf1 Ne7

27.d6!? In time-trouble White tries to force matters, but this way he allows dangerous counterplay. Good was 27.Nxe4! c6 (not 27...Nxd5?? 28.Ng3!) 28.Qxa5 Nxd5 29.Qd2 and 30.Ng3 and White keeps everything under control. Panno considered 27.f5 Nxf5 28.Rxf5 Bxf5 29.d6, but renounced this on account of 29...Rxg2! 30.Kxg2 (30.Qe5+ Rg7) 30...Bh3+ and 31...Qxb5 winning a rook. 27...Nf5 28.dxc7 Rbe8 29.c8Q!? Computer cold-bloodedly says 29.d5 Ng3+ 30.Kg1 Nxf1 31.Kxf1 Bf3 (31...Bh3) 32.Bxf3 exf3 33.Ke1. 29...Rxc8 30.Qe5+ Rg7 31.Nxe4

31...Re8? Pity. The position would still have been quite interesting, and not at all bad for Black, after 31...Nxe3! 32.Qxh5 (32.Nf6 Qxe5 33.fxe5 Nxf1 (33...Nxg2 34.Nxg4 (34.Rxg2? Bf3!!) ) 34.Rxf1 Rc2 and now 35.Bd5? Bh3!) 32...Bxh5 33.Bh3 (after a rook move 33...Nxg2 wins) 33...Rc6 and Black has very good play for the pawn. 32.Nf6! Ng3+ 33.Kg1 and after the exchange of queens White is left with two extra pawns. Therefore Black resigned.

Bianca Muhren played another nice attacking game, based on excellent preparation.

Muhren - Wang

13.Bf4 White's position is already so pleasant that Wang thought he should have started his counterattack more quickly with 12...b5 instead of 12...b6. By the way, if White wildly sacrificed at this point she would be rudely awakened: 13.h4 Ba6 14.Bxh7+ Kxh7 15.Ng5+ Kg8 16.Qh5 Bd3! and curtains. A frequent saving move for Black! 13...Ba6 14.Qe3 Rc8 In a game Zubarev-Vavrak (2005), with the move order 14...Qd7 15.0-0-0 Rfc8, Black had put his other rook on c8 and lost as well. Muhren had made all these moves in 4 minutes or so, whereas Wang had thought for one hour already. 15.0-0-0 Qd7 16.Ng5!

16...Bxg5 After 16...h6 17.Nh7 Rfd8 Muhren would gladly have played 18.Bxh6!, just like in the first round against Panno! 17.Bxg5 f6 Otherwise Black constantly has to reckon with Bg5-f6. But the text opens the position White's favour. 18.exf6 gxf6 19.Bh4 Keeping the f6-pawn in sight. A not very subtle attacking plan is 19.Bh6 Rf7 20.h4 and 21.g4, and Black hardly seems to have a defence against this. 19...Qg7 20.Rd4 Bc4

21.f3! Of all the attacking moves - 21.Qf3, 21.Qh3, 21.h3 - this is clearly the best. The queen now covers the g1-square and moreover, the prop ...Ne4 is prevented. 21...f5 22.Bg3! Again played à tempo. Everyone expected 22.g4 here, but then things get highly unclear after 22...e5! 23.Rxc4 f4! 24.Qe2 dxc4 25.Qxc4+ Qf7. 22...h5 Not 22...Qg6? 23.Rg4, but maybe 22...Bxa2 23.Be5 Qe7 24.g4 f4 would have been more tenacious. 23.Be5 Qg6 24.b3 Ba6

25.g4! and now the black position crumbled quickly: 25...f4 26.Rxf4 Nd3+ 27.Bxd3 Bxd3 28.gxh5 Qxh5 29.Qxd3 1-0.

Olafsson - Simutowe



21.g4!? This was called a premature action by Simutowe. 'I speculated too much on his time-trouble', Olafsson concluded. White could have opened the centre relatively advantageously by 21.d4 Na5 22.d5 followed by e3-e4. 21...Bh4 22.gxf5 exf5 23.Qh5 Qd8 24.Bd5+ After these two natural moves by White Simutowe was of the opinion that he already had a slightly more pleasant position. 24...Kh7 25.Qf3 Na5!

Suddenly it has become very hard for White to think of something sensible. For instance, 26.Bxb7 Nxb7 27.Rd2? is no good on account of 27...Na5! and Black already wins a pawn. The direct 26.Kh1 is not possible in view of 26...Rxd5!, e.g. 27.cxd5 Bxf2 28.Qxf2 Qxd5+. Olafsson also considered 27.Kh1 Bxf2 28.Qxf2 Rxd3 29.Rg1, but Black can ward off the attack easily with 29...Rf7. 26.e4 Bxf2+ 27.Kxf2 fxe4 28.Bxe4+ Bxe4 29.Qxe4+ Kh8 Now Black is threatening 30...Qh4+. The white king is unsafe and the d3 pawn is weak. 30.Kg2 Qa8! 'Uh-oh - the endgame!' a former member of my club used to groan in such circumstances, because there he would always go astray. Against Simutowe this exclamation would often apply; his technique is flawless. 31.Bc3 Nc6 32.Re1 Nd4 33.Qxa8 Rxa8 34.Re4 Nf5!

And the d3 pawn is lost. On move 38 Olafsson surrendered.

That leaves the games of nos. 2 and 3. Against Helgi Dam Ziska, Dibyendu Barua liquidated into a classical endgame of good versus bad bishop and scored the touchdown after exercising a lot of patience. Things were still more difficult for Nona Gaprindashvili in Willy Hendriks's Benkö Gambit. She had a slight advantage all along, but in the post mortem Hendriks maintained that Black should be OK. Until deep in the rook endgame the highly motivated Gaprindashvili held on to her small advantage. Probably there was a draw in there somewhere for Hendriks, but his constantly having to defend for hours on end now took its toll and he was the last to resign. The post mortem was somewhat confused and took some time, but in the game itself Gaprindashvili had known exactly where to put her pieces. A question of years of experience: no unnecessarily deep calculations, just play on until the bitter end - for your opponent!