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8. GM-norm for ‘Lucky Amon’
(1) Muhren,Bianca - Rothuis,Vincent [B14]

For a long time it looked as if the tournament would be decided today, with Amon Simutowe as the winner. It even looked for a while as if both leaders would lose. That didn't happen, but Simutowe did increase his lead to a full point and he also scored his first GM norm. Hanging on by a thread or, as we say here in Arnhem: spurting on his slippers.

Ziska - Simutowe

23Nb4!? After 23...Rab8 24.Rb3 f5 25.Nc5 Nxc5 26.dxc5 Nf4! Black has a small advantage; after 23...Ndf4 24.Nxf4 Nxf4 25.R3d2 (25.Rb3 f5! 26.Nc5 Rxd4!) 25...Rab8 he also has an edge. Now White was able to consolidate with 24.Rc3! Rac8 25.a3 Nd5 26.Rcd3 Rb8 27.Rb3 Ndf4 28.Nxf4 Nxf4 29.Nc5 and at this moment there is no time to take on d4. There followed 29...Rxb3 30.Nxb3 e5, but after 31.Na5 exd4?! (31...Rd6!?) 32.Nxc6 White was even slightly better in the endgame. Simutowe again got in terrible time-trouble, survived thus, but his position visibly deteriorated. A hair-raising finale followed:

58.c7 Nxc7 59.Nxg6+?? Winning would have been 59.Kxc7 Kf6 60.Kd6 g5 61.Nd7+ Kf5 62.hxg5 h4 63.Nf6 and the knight can stop the pawn on g4. After 59...Kd6 60.Nxf4 Nd5+ 61.Nxd5 Kxd5 the endgame was drawn. 'I am so lucky in this tournament', Simutowe cried out after he had held the draw with two sole queens with seconds to go. It gained him his third GM norm and possibly the title, provided that he reaches a 2500 rating somewhere between now and the next FIDE congress.

For a moment the Texan from Zambia thought he had also won the tournament already, since Puchen Wang had defended excellently against runner-up Dibyendu Barua and when the latter went too far, the young master from New Zealand struck:

Barua - Wang

35.Rg3?! In considerable time-trouble Barua misses a good chance here: 35.h6! Qe7 (35...Re7 36.Rg3 Qc7 37.Re1 with nasty pressure on e6) 36.Qh5 g5!? 37.Qg6+ Kh8 38.Re3 with the unpleasant threat of 39.Rxe6+. Therefore Black has to sacrifice a pawn with 38...Rg8 39.Qxe6 (39.Qxf5!?) 39...Qxe6 40.Rxe6 Kh7 41.Kg2 with good chances for White. 35...Qe7 36.Rg5 Kh7 37.Kh1 Qf6 38.Qf4 Also after 38.Rdg1 Kh8 39.h6 g6! White has problems due to the pin and the weakness on d4. The position is gradually slipping out of his hands.

38...e5! 39.dxe5 Rxd1+ 40.Bxd1 Rxe5 41.Rg6 Re4 42.Qc7?? A gruesome blunder. 42.Qxe4 fxe4 43.Rxf6 leads to an approximately equal endgame.

42...Qd4! Like a cat out of the bag! White is lost immediately. 43.Bf3 Rh4+ 44.Kg2 Nd3 and Barua resigned in desillusionment. Still, we have to admire Wang's flexibility and tenacity.

A painful blow for Barua, but if he is able to recover and beat Simutowe, who seems invincible in this event, he will still overtake his rival and then his defeat of the Zambian master will still yield him tournament victory.

If I remember well, I have started each round with Vincent Rothuis's game. Not this time, but that doesn't mean he won't be in this report! Once again his game was highly interesting and sharp. But his opponent Bianca Muhren is also quite proficient in such situations.

Muhren - Rothuis

A theoretical position that commentator Jan Timman recognized from a game Najdorf-Portisch, Varna Olympiad 1962. That game continued 14.Qe2 Bd6 15.Bb2 Qa5 16.Rfd1 Rd8 17.Qh5 f6 18.Qxh7 Kf7 19.Be2 Qg5 20.Bc1 Bxh2+ 21.Kxh2 Qe5+ 22.f4 10, illustrating Black's problems in this line quite clearly. Bianca Muhren had counted on 9...Ba5 10.a3 first, which is known to be a slightly better version for Black since in some lines it is important that the bishop is not hanging on b4. 14.Qe4!? Rothuis had prepared 14.Qe2 Qxa1!?. 'After 15.Bg5+ Qf6 White is only slightly better', he opined. If Black now takes on a1 White has the better possibility of 15.Qxb4+. 14.Qa4!? has also been played in a few games. 14...Bd6 15.Bf4 A novelty! In the Bundesligapartij Pirrot-Schulz (1989) 15.Rb1 Qe5 16.Qh4+ f6 17.Rd1 Kf7 18.g3 Be7 19.Bf4 Qc5 20.Rdc1 Qf5 21.Be3 Rd8 was played, after which Black somehow managed to hold. This was the only draw Black has managed to attain in six games with this line. The text is known from a game Nunn-Lobron with 14.Qa4 instead of 14.Qe4, where Black exchanged the bishops which could have led to the same position here. 15...e5!? Ambitious. 16.Tfe1 Timman also looked at 16.Rfd1. Now, 16...Qb4! looks strong, e.g. 17.Bc4? Be6! 18.Rab1 Qxc4 and White does not have much of an attack for the piece. 16...f6!? 16...Qb4 17.Bxe5 (17.Bc4 Be6) 17...Qxe4 18.Bxd6+ Kxd6 19.Rxe4 and Black always has 19...Be6! when White does not have enough compensation. Rothuis said he wanted to try and play like a computer, converting his material plus. He considered 16...Be6 to be the safer move, e.g. 17.Bg5+ Kf8 18.Qxb7 Qc8. 17.Bc4! Qa5 17...Bd7 18.Qd5 Rhf8 and after 19.Rad1 Qb4 20.Bxe5 fxe5 21.Rxe5+ Kd8 22.Qxd6 the endgame is approximately equal. But White has a stronger option: 19.Be3! Qa3 20.Rab1! and now Black cannot keep his position together. 18.Rad1 Be6

19.Rxd6! After 19.Bxe6 Kxe6 20.Qxb7 Qc7 21.Qd5+ White seems to have something, but when Muhren saw the text she did not hesitate. 19...Kxd6 19...Bxc4 20.Red1 Rhd8 21.Qxb7+ Kf8 (21...Ke8 is met by first 22.Qc6+ and then the same) and now in the post mortem Rothuis came up with the brilliant 22.Bd2!! which wins in all lines, see 22...Rxd6 23.Bb4! 20.Rd1+ Kc7 21.Bxe6 Rad8 22.Rc1+ Muhren discarded Timman's proposal of 22.Rb1 on account of 22...exf4! and White has no good way to continue the attack. 22...Kb8 23.Be3 Rd6 This move was accompanied by a peace offer. But White still has a promising initiative. 24.Rb1 Qa6 25.Bg4! Ka8 26.Bf3 Rb8 27.Qxh7 Qd3 28.Qxd3 Rxd3 29.Kf1!? 29.g4 would have fixed the black pawns, but it does not matter much anymore. 29...f5 30.g3 e4 31.Be2 Rdd8 32.Bc4 Rbc8?! A mistake in a cheerless position. 33.Be6 Rc2 34.Bxf5 Re8 35.Rb4 Rxa2 36.Bxe4 and Black's passed a-pawn could not save him. Shortly after the time control Rothuis resigned.

With that game the bolts of this round were shot. Hendriks-Olafsson and Gaprindashvili-Panno were short draws. Quite a rarity in this tournament!