New Age Chess
There are still hardly any draws and the struggle for first place is approaching a riveting climax. Amon Simutowe was rather fortunate to win a drawish rook endgame against Bianca Muhren, Dibyendu Barua convincingly eliminated Nona Gaprindashvili from the race. So, Simutowe retains his half-point lead and needs only half a point for a GM-norm. And in the final round, next Sunday, the crucial duel Simutowe-Barua is scheduled!
And now for something completely different. Forget Chess960, Random Chess and all the rest. Here in the Rijnhotel in Arnhem, we have witnessed the birth of New Age Chess.
Rothuis - Olafsson
1.e4 g6 2.h4 h6 3.f4 You won't find this position after 5 plies in your database (I haven't checked, actually). Commentator Genna Sosonko said: 'Normally I start with the remark that I will not tell you too much about the opening. I don't have to now, for the opening is already over...' Rothuis himself said: 'I've given up the idea to become a professional already. So I play for fun now and these games are lots of fun.' Olafsson spoke of 'New Age Chess'. 3...Nf6 4.e5 Nh5 5.f5!?
5...d6 5...Ng3 6.fxg6 (6.Rh3!?) 6...Nxh1 7.gxf7+ Kxf7 also seems possible, but Olafsson didn't trust this line. And he considered d7 a better square for his king. 6.e6 Also interesting was 6.Qf3!? dxe5 7.fxg6 fxg6 8.Bb5+! c6 9.Bc4 with nice compensation. 6...fxe6 7.fxg6 Ng3 8.Rh3 Nxf1 9.Qf3! Kd7! 10.Qf7?!
An ingenious attempt to win a piece. The Nf1 cannot escape. But now Black can develop quickly and he obtains a dangerous attack all of a sudden. 10...Nc6!? 10...Qe8 looks impossible in view of 11.g7, but with 11...Bxg7 12.Qxg7 Rg8 13.Qc3 Qg6! Black can save his piece and gets his attack anyway! 11.g7 Bxg7 12.Qxg7 Rg8 13.Qc3 Rxg2 Again Black could have saved the piece, this time by 13...Rf8 14.Nf3 e5, but then White can draw: 15.Qd3 and now Black has nothing better than 15...Ke8 16.Qg6+ Kd7 etc. 14.Kxf1 Qg8! 15.Ne2 Rg4
16.d3 White could have defended more tenaciously with 16.Rg3! b6 17.Qf3, but his situation remains dangerous: 17...h5 18.Rxg4 hxg4 19.Qe4 Bb7 followed by 20...Rf8. 16...b6 After the immediate 16...Nd4 White may be able to hold with 17.Rh2! 17.Bxh6 Bb7!? Now 17...Nd4! was very strong: 18.Be3 Nxe2 19.Kxe2 Rg2+ 20.Bf2 Bb7! 21.Nd2 Rf8 22.Rf1 Qg4+ etc., or 18.Rh2 Bb7! with the deadly threat of 19...Bf3. 18.Nd2 Nd4! 19.Ne4 Nxe2 20.Kxe2 Bxe4 20...Rxe4+! 21.dxe4 Qg2+. 21.dxe4 Rxe4+
22.Kd3? It is hard to believe, but after 22.Kf2! Rybka can find nothing convincing for Black (for the moment). Now, however, Olafsson skilfully decides the issue: 22...Qg2! 23.Qd2 On 23.Re3 the Icelander had coolly planned 23...Rxh4!, e.g. 24.Qg7 Qd5+; and 23.Be3 Qxh3 24.Kxe4 Qf5+ 25.Kd4 Qd5 is mate, a motif we will see again later on. 23...Qxh3+! 24.Kxe4 d5+ 25.Kf4
25...Qxh4+ A practical solution. The Kiebitzers analysed intensively the line 25...e5+ 26.Kg5 (26.Kxe5 Qe6+ 27.Kd4 (27.Kf4 Qxh6+) 27...Qe4+ 28.Kc3 Qc4 mate) 26...Rg8+ 27.Bg7! and now 27...Rxg7+ 28.Kh6 is still difficult because White is threatening to give perpetual check (which is why Olafsson declined this line). Still, after 28...Qg2 the rook endgame with the strong centre pawns is winning for Black. Moreover, Black has a much more effective win instead of taking the bishop: 27...Qe6! After the text move White cannot escape either. So Rothuis sportingly allowed the mate with 26.Ke5 Qf6 and then went on to play two-minute blitz with some friends in the press room.
The most important duel in this round was the one between the numbers two and three on the list.
Barua - Gaprindashvili
Nobody can say that Dibyendu Barua wins his game by patiently shifting wood. In this position he struck mercilessly with 22.Bxg6! It's not so hard to see that after 22...fxg6 23.Qxg6 White has many ways to win in the attack, e.g. 23...Ne4 (23...Qf6 24.Qxf6 Bxf6 25.Bxd6; 23...Re7 24.Nh5! (even better than 24.Ng5 or 24.Rxe6) 24...Ne8 25.Bh6 Kh8 26.Rxe6! etc.) 24.Nh5 Qe7 (or also 24...Re7 ) 25.Rxe4! dxe4 26.Ng5. After 22...Ba6 23.Bd3 bxc3 24.bxc3 Rb8 25.qc2 White was a healthy pawn up and he converted it convincingly.
The New Zealand champion Puchen Wang returned at the front with a victory over Helgi Dam Ziska. 'I was lucky', he admitted after the game. Well, let's call it 'practical play'.
Wang - Ziska
The pawn on h6 finds itself rather lost. The knight hurries to the rescue, but it's too little too late. 18.Nh5 Be8 19.Ng7 Wang probably declined 19.Qe1 on account of the dangerous-looking 19...Nb4. On g7 the knight is not doing very much, but it can break open the black position via e6. 'A desperate offensive', Wang said, 'because I had lost my pawn.' 19...Qh4 20.Ne6 Rf6 21.Bf2 Qxh6 22.g4!? fxg4 23.Bxa6 Nxa6?! Black could have taken over the initiative with 23...Rxa6 24.Nxc5 dxc5 25.Bxc5 Qh5 26.Nxe4 Rh6. 24.Nxe4
Now the white initiative starts to take shape, for example: 24...Rf5 25.Ng3 Rf7 26.Qe2. 24...Rxe6 25.dxe6 Bc6 26.f5! Qxd2 The endgame offers better practical chances than, for instance, 26...Qh5? 27.f6! 27.Nxd2 Bf6?! Even though it looks dangerous, Black should have taken on b2 here. Now White was able to consolidate his position and he finished off in an attractive way.
34.e7! Nxd4 Black will also have problems after 34...Re8 35.Bxf6+ Kxf6 36.Nxd5+ Bxd5 37.Rxd5 Nc7 38.Rd6+ Kxe7 39.Rh6. Now a sharp exchange of blows follows in which Wang has calculated well. 35.exd8Q Bxd8 36.Nxd5! Nf3 Esthetically 36...Bxd5 was better, but White wins sompliy after 37.Rxd4 Bc7+ 38.Kh4. 37.Rxf3! gxf3 38.Kxf3 Bf6 39.b3 Be5 40.Rg1+ Kf7 41.Ke4 Bb8 42.Rh1 and now Ziska had exhausted his resources and resigned.
Practical play is also a specialty of Amon Simutowe. In the commentary room his rook endgame with Bianca Muhren was analysed to a draw many times, but on move 54 the latter lost a decisive tempo with ...Kf7? Instead of ...Kg7 een beslissend tempo. 'I had originally planned 54...Kh5', Muhren said, 'but that wasn't possible due to 55.a6. Then I had to think of a new plan. I wanted to support my d-pawn with the king, but that didn't work either.' So after many ups and downs, the tenacious Simutowe managed to haul in the loot after all, which leaves him only a half point short of his third GM norm. This rook endgame we will present to you at a later stage as an extra, together with an analysis of the similar Gaprindahvili-Hendriks endgame of one round earlier.
The only draw of the day was Willy Hendriks-Oscar Panno. After a few less fortunate opening moves Hendriks found himself in a bad position. 'After that I was lucky to hold', admitted Hendriks.
Meurs leads in Regional Group
In the Regional Group the top duel between the young leaders Tom Meurs and Mark Haast was won by the former. In a Sicilian the player from Schaakstad Apeldoorn coolly captured a few pawns and he prevented all counterplay after that. This took Meurs half a point before Haast with 5½ out of 7.