As the tournament approaches its final stage the players still demonstrating a remarkable fighting spirit with four decisive conclusions, Nevertheless fatigue continues to show in the growing number of severe blunders and the seventh round was especially rich in such unfortunate episodes.
The earliest such decisive error occurred in the game Williams – Van Eijk. The Englishman who earlier in this tournament used the English Defence as Black [against Peng] successfully, showed once again some patriotic sentiments playing the English Opening as white.
White was already better when Black withdrew his knight 9…Ne8 while 9…Ne4 was to be preferred and then following 10.Bb2 d6 11.d4 cxd4 12.Qxd4 the Ede IM committed the fatal mistake 12…dxe5? 13. Qxd8 Bxd8 14.Ba3 after which it was just a matter of some routine technique for the experienced grandmaster to convert the material advantage. Van Eijk kept on struggling in a desperate position up to the 40th move, hoping in vain for a miraculous slip of his opponent who carried out his moves rather quickly.
The Australian David Smerdon had more than one opportunity to beat Alina L’Ami and to maintain his sole lead. Following another unusual opening line [This time the Trompovsky], chances seemed pretty equal when the Rumanian WGM was tempted to some premature greed:
Postponing satisfaction in favour of proper development was once again called for.
Although 14…Nc6 looks like a most natural choice, she somehow couldn’t resist picking up a second shaky pawn at once and following 14…Nxe5? 15. Nxe5 Qd4+ 16.Kh1 Qxe5 17.Rxf8+ Bxf8 18.Qf3 Nd7? White could already decide matters by 19.Rf1! Nf6 [19….Qf6 20. Qh3+-] 20.Ne4 Bd6 [Or else 21.Bc3] 21.Nxf6+ gxf6 22.Qg4+ Kf7 23.Bf4 Qd5 24.Bxd6 Qxd6 25.Qh5+ with a devastating attack.
Smerdon, instead, played 19.Re1 Qf6 20.Qh3 [ 20.Qe4!] and although he was still more than compensated for the sacrificed pawns, he failed to materialize all his chances and following multiple exchanges the resulting four bishop ending reached the inevitable peaceful conclusion.
This single draw allowed IM Twan Burg to join Smerdon at the top by beating Belgian IM Steven Geirnaert with the black pieces in what seemed as the most exciting battle of the round.
The Carlsbad variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defence has generated a promising position for white and following a further exchange sacrifice the game reached the following highly charged situation:
White played here 26.Bf2 probably missing a precious momentum to attack from the other side of the board: After 26.c5! bxc5 27.Bb5 Red8 28.dxc5 black seems to face some serious problems.
The game continued 26…f6 27.Bh4 Rf8?! [27…Qd6 was correct] 28.d5! Rb8
29. Rc7!? Interesting was 29.Ra7!? Ra8 30.Bxf6+ Qxf6 31.Rxd7 Ra1 32.Bb1 Rfa8 33.Rxh7+ Kg8 34.Qg3+ Kf8 35.Qd6+ Kg8 36.Qg3+ with perpetual check that could be an appropriate conclusion to this interesting and hard fought battle.
The game still offered mutual chances when white finally cracked under the pressure of both board and clock and in already an inferior position went for the suicidal 35.Rxf6? Rxf6 36.Bxe5 Re8 37.Qc3 Rxe5! 38. Qxe5 Rf8 and Geinaert threw in the towel.
The “Mutual blunder of the day award” might well be granted to the game Van Foreest – Van Delft. Young Jorden vigorously navigated a quiet variation of the English opening to the following position that looks quite promising for him:
The Apeldoorn IM residing in Hamburg was first to blunder: 20…Nxe5?? [20…f5!?] 21. Qxe5 f5 22.Bf6! this devastating counter blow was naturally missed by black, but the worst is yet to come: 22…Qf7 23.Qxf5 gxf6 24.Qg4+ Ng7 and here white could maintain his advantage with 25.Nd6! however owing to a kind of miscalculation (while getting excited by the opponent’s time pressure…) he carelessly moved the wrong piece to the right square: 25.Rd6?? f5 26.Nf6+ Qxf6! Turning again a winning position and an already IM norm to heap of ruins, giving his opponent an unexpected second point within 24 hours.
The No.1 seed GM Ernst was still unable to present his fans with a decent game. The tiredness of his recent chess tours is evident and having yesterday the white pieces against GM Peng he stood clearly worse already after the opening:
It’s not that easy to suggest white a useful move, however the one he chose 20.f4?? Speeds up the bitter end after 20…Rde8 21.Qd1 Qe4+ 22.Qf3 Qxc4 23.Bd2 exf4 Re2+ 25.Kh1 Qc2 26.Qb3+ Qxb3 losing a second pawn and consequently the game. For Peng it was her first victory. Now all players can boast at least one scalp but only Smerdon is still unbeaten.
The event will be concluded this weekend. At the focus of the eighth round, starting at 14.00 the game Burg-van Foreest will attract the public interest both in the venue and online. Whereas Twan needs 1.5 out of the remaining two rounds to obtain his final GM norm, for Jordan half a point will be sufficient for an IM norm.