The Lahlum Short Report 1
The GM group of Norway Chess Open had almost no changes during the registration. Consequently it started up with 36 games – plus late arriving Ukrainian WGM Diana Tarleva joining as player 73 from round 2. Chances for title norms should be excellent, as one third of the participants have a GM, IM or WGM title! The median ELO also is very promising here, as more than 2200 was needed to be on the upper half of the pairings for round 1. Almost all the round 1 games had an ELO difference around 400–450 points, and players from the top half in total defeated players from the lower half with an astonishing 34–2! Notably the ten GMs still won «only» 9–1, as two players below 2150 succeeded to reach more or less sensational draws against their GM opponents.
All but one of the top 25 rated players somehow succeeded to win their games in round 1 of the GM group. Second rated GM Suri Vaibhav (2595) of India won very convingingly as white against the young Norwegian CM Sverre Lye (2173). Third rated Polish GM Szymon Gumularz (2587) neither had many nervous moments as black against American Jeevan Karamsetty (2169). First rated Ukrainian GM Konstantin Tarlev (2598) got a long and thorny road to Stavanger as his car broke down before reaching the border to Norway. Finally arriving Stavanger shortly after the other players had made their opening moves, he started up the first board duel as black against 12 year old Evsuld Myagmarsuren (2181) with a ten minutes handicap on the clock. Highly talented Myagmarsuren for a long time kept the Italian game in rough balance. As the talented junior ran short of time in the fourth hour, the GM still picked up two pawns and won the game.
Croatian GM Davorin Kuljasevic (2553) as black against Danish junior Vitus Bondo Medhus (2126) meanwhile won within 28 moves by a powerful attack, and same did Lithuanian GM Titas Stremavicius (2541) within 21 moves as white against our new German chessfriend Stefan Erdmann (2123). The Ukrainian GM duo Platon Galperin (2528) and Vitaly Sivuk (2489), both now living as war refugees in Stockholm and representing Sweden, won their first games as black without many nervous moments. Senior American GM Alex Fishbein (2366) also had the board under fair control as white against Norwegian Hallvard Haug Flatebø (1948). GM Erik Blomqvist (2521) on the other hand wasted his Caro-Kann opening advantage as white against Lithuanian CM Paulius Junkis (2115), and the Swedish GM was reported in danger of losing in the fourth and early fifth hour. Junkis reportedly had a winning (if far from straightforward) attack before he went for an apparently promising exchange sacrifice with 41.— Rxg5+?!? Blomquist following a few tense moves could save his king by exchanging queens, and later demonstrated the draw rather convincingly with rook and two pawns against knight and five pawns. Finally underrated Tromsø teenager Sivert Schance Tørfoss (1833) gave himself a memorable start on his first GM group, scoring a draw despite time shortage as black against German veteran GM Lother Vogt (2314). Vogt gently praised his young opponent after the game and considered the final position slightly better for black, although white probably had the better chances and refused a draw offer earlier on. This game also saw a remarkable generation duel, as white was born in 1952 and black in 2009!
The first player to win a game in this GM group much earlier on became 13th rated IM Vaishali Rameshbabu (2418) of India, sacrificing a piece soon after the Sicilian opening to win by a crushing queenside attack as black against the talented Danish junior Alf Andries (2071). Later the IM team actually did better than the GM team, scoring a notable 11–0 against their much lower rated opponents. Top rated among the IMs is Polish Pawel Teclaf (2575), today starting up with a safe positional squeeze as white against Israelian WFM Michelle Katkov (2142). Norwegian IM Tor Fredrik Kaasen (2480) has done very well for the last two months and is a hot GM candidate after scoring his second norm at Fagernes in April. Now in Stavanger, Kaasen Friday evening shared the first prize in the blitz tournament with GM Galparin at an outstanding 8/9. Today playing white against the local veteran master player Jan Vidar Vestly (2088), Kaasen picked up a pawn in the opening and reached a won position well before the first time control.
Some of the other games involving IMs were longer and more difficult. Norwegian veteran FM Richard Bjerke (2085) appearently had some fortress chances with rook and bishop for queen against 48 year younger IM Yahli Sokolovsky (2461). The young English talent Harry Zheng (2067) was reported close to a draw with rook and two kingside pawns against bishop, knight and two kingside pawns against German IM Jakob Pajeken (2417). The IM however was obviously better and went on to win both these games. The American WGM team with Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova (2340) and Atousa Pourkashiyan (2282) also could be well satisfied with their start, following sound working day wins as black against underrated junior opponents.
The sensational game win for the lower rated players finally came on the second last board in the very last game of this round 1. Nine year old and heavily underrated Indian player Sarbalia Aarav (1718) bravely refused a draw offer to play on for an endgame win as white against Israelian WFM Ronit Levitan (2220), with rook, knight, bishop and five pawns against rook, knight and five pawns. This version of a classical theme with strong knight versus a rather bad bishop probably somehow somewhere should have been a draw. Aarav however methodically increasted the pressure until winning a pawn with a tactical pseudo-sacrifice. Under mutual time pressure in the sixth hour he later demonstrated a good endgame technique, winning a borderline endgame with knight and three pawns against bishop and two pawns.
We look forward to an exciting round 2 as the GM team now to a large extent will meet the combibed IM team and FM team on the top eight boards. The second round here already will see the first GM duel of this tournament, as Konstantin Tarlev on the first board will get the white pieces against Alexander Fishbein.
The Open group lost a few more players during the registration and started up with 45 players, making 118 the total number of players for Norway Chess Open this year. The big bang sensation here came on the third board, as the inspired ten year old Stavanger girl Sophie Damiano (1303) sacrificed a rook at a6 and won by a powerful attack following much too careless play from her German opponent Michael Bergmann (1856). Bergmann obviously had a disappointing performance on the board today, but impressed the spectators as he very sportily congratulated his young opponent and praised her play to everyone after the game. Second rated Christian Strahl (1918) and fourth rated Lucas Pruetting (1702) both came a forest up in their white games, hence the Germans here are strong challengers despite Bergmann´s havoc. On the first board, Norwegian veteran Ole Smeby (1928) no way had an easy win as black against talented Alina Shehzad (1327). Alina for two hours more or less kept the balance in the remarkable generation duel, with an age difference of almost 60 years. Sound and solid Smeby later first got a space advantage and then won a pawn with a decisive advantage.
Players from the upper half in the Open grpup within four hours won 20.5–1.5 against the players from the second half. Most of the games were one way driven, although the outome in a few of them still remained in doubt after three hours. The second unexpected outcome here from a statistical point of view was Dutch Carlos Van Rossum scoring a 14 moves draw as white against Danish junior Bastian Rynkjob (1384). Van Rossum however is a unrated player and it remains to test out whether this result was really surprising. The unrated German junior Mojo Mestani also for a long time did well as white against the local Brazilian Sidney Haubrick (1433). Black still won the game as white somehow blundered his minor piece in the rook and minor piece endgame. The organizers are very happy to see such a large group of talented young Danish players in this group – and the Danish team of course was well satisfied to score 6.5/7 in the first round! The even younger team from Kazakhstan was less successful regading the score this round, but hopefully still learned a lot. Their youngest player, Osman Yertai, noteworthy was born in 2018 and has not yet celebrated his fifth birthday!