The game Van Eijk – Smerdon saw a white Fianchetto against the Dragon variation of the Sicilian Defence to avoid the heavy theory piling up in the main lines. This modest side-line is not considered too challenging and Black could seek comfortable equality in some more solid paths. Nevertheless in view of white’s slow development (11.Rc1?!) he went right from the beginning for a kingside attack via the rook’s file with the out prepared van Eijk failing to anticipate the Australian’s captivating tactics.
Although he missed the better defensive resource 15.Kf1, white could still put tougher resistance with 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Nd5 Rh6 18.Nd4 but instead opened up the entire Kingside with the disastrous 16.f4?? to be stunned by the powerful 16…Rxg3!! 17.Bxf6 [or 17.fxe5 Rxg5 18.exf6 Bxf6 19.Nd5 Rxg2 20.Nxf6+ exf6 21.Qxd6 Qg4 and game over] 17…Rxg2 18.fxe5 Qh3 leaving not much of a hope for White and granting GM Smerdon the sole lead with three rounds to go.
Two young Dutch players are now sharing the second place after convincingly beating their grandmaster opponents. Twan Burg seemed to have fully recovered from his fifth round defeat against Smerdon and is back on the run for the final GM norm. He picked up the same opening of that losing game [Sicilian 3.Bb5+] and employed it against GM Simon Williams, this time as White! The much sharper line chosen by the Englishman led to the following position.
White’s last move 18.Qb3-b4 threatens to win a pawn by 19.axb5 which is far from easy to meet since 18…Rd8 allows a white invasion along the rook file while 18…Qd8 is even worse owing to 19.axb5 axb5 20.Rxa8 Qxa8 21.b3! and the black queenside is falling apart.
Black tried to sort it all out by 18…a5 which was brilliantly refuted by 19.axb5!! and now 19…axb4 20.Rxa8+ Ke7 [20…Qd8 21.Rxd8+ Kxd8 22.b6 Kc8 23.Ra1 etc. Or 20…Bc8 21.Rxc8+ Kd7 22.Ra8 Be7 23.Ra7+ are both hopeless too] 21.b6 h5!? 22. b7 Bh6 23.Nxc4! followed by 24.Nb6 the white pawn will soon promote.
Black reluctantly chose for 19…Qd8 but following 20.Qa3 [why not 20.Qa4?] he gave away a second pawn for vague counter-play which soon proved insufficient.
The youngest participant –Jorden van Foreest, the European U-14 champion- continued to surprise his much older titled opponents, his victim of the day being the most experienced player in the field GM Zhaoqin Peng.
Here is where Peng went wrong. She played 20.Ra4? and the rook proved later on totally misplaced. White had on its 20th move various better options that might even promise her the edge. 20. e4! Nf4 21.Bxf4 exf4 22.e5 is the computer recommendation whereas 22…Kb8 is surprisingly met by 23. 0-0! Rxh4 24.Rfb1 with a powerful attack. But even the Rook in question could enjoy a brighter future than just protecting the a5 pawn. One doesn’t necessarily need a sophisticated silicon monster to spot a natural candidate line such as: 20.Rb1! (proposed by Peng after the game) 20… Qxa5 21.c4 Qa2 22.0-0 Nc7 23.Be4! Threatening to trap the opponent queen and forcing the ugly 23…b5.
26. Kf1?? Was the losing mistake while after 26.gxf7 the battle would have been still pretty much on. 26…Nxe3+! right away was deadly but white failed to spot it for the second time and Jorden is by now just half a point away of his IM norm while Peng is sharing the bottom.
Two players scored in the sixth round their first victory. The No.1 seed GM Sipke Ernst chose for the Bogo-Indian against WGM Alina L’Ami and the game reached a roughly equal position:
White is required to handle the situation rather cautiously and 16.Ne4 Nxe4 17.Bxe4 seems adequate. She however went for a more direct action against the enemy royal couple, to find herself soon surprised by the counter-blow 19…b3!
The desperate mating attempt 20.Nh4 was calmly thwarted by 20…Re4! followed by a counter mating attack:
26…Qxf1+! 27. Kxf1 Bh3+ 28.Kg1 Re1#.
The second player to score a first victory was IM Merijn van Delft as white against Belgian IM Steven Geirnaert. This was also the longest game of the round with white obtaining slight yet lasting edge thanks to a better bishop that secured control of some key light squares. In time pressure white finally managed to win a pawn and consequently to convert to a queen ending where he created a winning passed pawn.
The seventh round will be played on Friday starting from 14.00 live transmitted as usual.