Café Batavia in Prins Hendrikskade next to the central station in Amsterdam is not a typical chess café. It is rather a highly popular “normal” lively café hosting various cultural events and chess players are especially welcome mainly owing to the owner Peter Tames enormous love for the royal game. Two Amsterdam clubs even regularly hold here their home interclub competition matches.
This week has seen quality chess events in Batavia café. Last Sunday a great bye-bye party was thrown here by Peter Doggers. His well appreciated news website Chessvibes.com is about to merge with the rising giant Chess.com.” and many chess friends and collaborators used it as another good opportunity for celebration with plenty of drinks and even a pretty strong and hard fought blitz contest. Its full results may be seen here.
On Friday the 6th edition of the traditional invitational Grandmaster tournament started and will be at the focus of the chess public eye till March 2nd. The line-up promises plenty of fighting chess which indeed was already demonstrated in the first round encounters.
GM Zhaoqin Peng, the best Dutch female player has been back to her good form lately performing well in the strong Groningen tournament last December. One of her “victims” in that event was young IM Twan Burg who probably looked here for his revenge. Being usually an 1.e4 player he chose for 1.d4 but didn’t seem to achieve much out of the opening. White’s premature 15.f4?! created more dark square weaknesses yet Peng seemingly missed her own chances by not capturing the b2 pawn…
After that the game proceeded in more or less tranquil paths up to an inevitable drawish queen ending.
GM Sipke Ernst, just back from a couple of exotic trips to Costa Rica and Iran, met as black Sander van Eijk. The IM (and solicitor) from Ede is usually a rather sharp player with a rather aggressive repertoire however he tried to restrain the No.1 seed with a more peaceful line of the Italian avoiding his more usual King’s gambit.
Chances were roughly equal following the opening and white could probably maintain equality by 19.c5 in order to stop black’s 19…c5. Black got the upper hand but returned the favour (partially) by preferring 23…Kg8 over the more direct 23…Bxc4.
He probably missed that following white’s 24.Qb5! in the game 24…Qxa2?? would have been met by 25.Rxf7! Kxf7 26.Qd7+ and he would soon lose his Rook. This waste of precious time, essential for collecting the vulnerable white queenside pawns, allowed van Eijk to obtain serious counter chances on the other side of the board. Despite his evident material advantage Black failed, in view of the opposite coloured bishops, to achieve more than a draw.
Globetrotter Alina L’Ami, the Rumanian WGM married to the Dutch GM Erwin L’Ami and thus resides in the Netherlands, has recently achieved all norms and rating points required for the (male) IM title. Having the Black side of one of the Sicilian sharpest variations against IM Merijn van Delft, she chose for a very interesting pawn sacrifice:
After 20…d5!? 21. Qd2 she cautiously avoided the obvious 21…d4? in view of the powerful 22.Bxd4! exd4 23.Nxd4 Qb7 24.Nf5 which would have allowed more than sufficient compensation for the sacrificed piece. Alina preferred to give up this central pawn and go for 21…00! gaining considerable counter-play which seemed to have been underestimated by her opponent.
Following further mistakes 28.Qd7? (28.Qd4) Bg5! 29.Rf2?? Black took over by a basic yet attractive queen sacrifice. The game went on 29…Rfd8 30.Qb7 .Nxc2! 31.Rfxc2 Qxc2+!
and the Apeldoorn/Hamburg IM gentlemanly allowed the infliction of the mate over the board: 32.Rxc2 Rd1+ 33.Rc1 Rdxc1+ 34.Nxc1 Rxc1#.
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Photo: Bas Beekhuizen
The most unusual opening line was seen in the game Williams – Geirnaert. Both players shared the opinion that 5…c5 was dubious in view of the vigorous follow-up 8.e4! and the English GM went indeed for what seemed a powerful pawn sacrifice owing to Black’s evident underdevelopment:
Last white’s move 9.Bd3!? allowed the capture of the d5 pawn. Black got here cold feet fearing white’s strong initiative following, for example 9….Bxd5 10.0-0. In fact his best option might well have been this consistent capture but with the other piece: 9…Nxd5 10.a3 f5!? 11.00 fxe4 12.Bxe4 [or 12.Re1 Nf6 13.Nc3 d5] Ne3! 13. Bg6+ hxg6 14.Dxg6+ Df7 and Black is doing fine though the whole affair naturally still calls for some deeper study.
Black decided to avoid the capture altogether however following his weaker 9…c4?! he soon got into serious trouble, being not only behind in development but also having his pieces in disorientation.
21. Bf4? Kf7 22.Bd6 allowed black the time required for recuperation by 22…Rc8 (while 21. Be3! Na6 22.a4 would have still secured white the edge) however Black chose for 22…Re8 after which white still kept his chances up to this moment:
Here he continued 31. Kg2? Right square wrong piece! 31. Ng2! threatening 32.f4 was correct, e.g. 31…Kd6 32.Nh4! looks still quite promising. The unfortunate 31.Kg2 led however to a quick draw.
The Australian GM David Smerdon, a student in Amsterdam University, played against the youngest and the only (yet) untitled participant, Jorden van Foreest a relatively harmless line of the Sicilian Alapin.
There is more than one safe path to equality 13…Be7 or 13…Rc8 being natural options.
However the current u-14 European champion was tempted to more exchanges and fell for some small tactics: 13.Nd5?! (too many moves by a single piece, isn’t it?) 14. Nxd5 Qxd5 15. Be4! and now 14…Qxd1 would generate the undermining of black’s pawn structure after the intermediate check 15. Bxc6+! Qd7?! 17. Bxd7+ Kxd7 18. Be3 is clearly in white’s favour. And yet that was apparently still the least evil as leaving the queens on the board proved even more dangerous for the underdeveloped black. Nevertheless white failed to come up with the best moves and allowed instead serious drawing chances. The pressure however proved too much for black and he finally dropped an important pawn. This time white did not fail to convert to a winning rook ending followed by converting to a winning pawn ending.
It’s an easily won ending indeed but it ended even earlier than expected: 45.g4 h5? 46. f5! 1-0.