THE LAHLUM SHORT REPORT 4
The fourth round on the top boards reminded much about the third one: Nearly all the top five boards somehow ended up with a draw, but the big exception again was GM Titas Stremavicius. Patiently squeezing out a full point from a drawish endgame on the first board, the young Lithuanian GM is now leading alone at 4.0/4 – with only one player half a step behind at 3.5/4.
All the top five boards were still in play with interesting positions after three hours, but still all of them after four and a half hours appeared likely to end up without a winner. Fifth board duel between IM Vaishali Rameshbabu (2418) and GM Erik Blomqvist (2521) definitely had the biggest firework, but consequently it was also the first one to burn out. Tactical complications started soon after this Sicilian Taimanov opening. Vaishali reportedly made a sound decision when sacrificing a bishop at f5 to go for a direct attack against the black king. As the IM afterwards sacrificed a rook at a1 to cut off black´s dark squared bishop from the defence of the kingside, the GM with an ice cold hand took the rook too. As Vaishali was one hour behind on the clock and had only some two minutes left, she forced the draw by repetition of checks instead of playing on for a win with an interesting 27.Nd6!? The threat of 28.Qf7 mate here would have forced black to give up his queen for the knight, but as black was a bishop and a rook up the remaining position also would have been demanding to handle for white.
Fourth board duel between GM Platon Galperin (2528) and Jakob Pajeken (2417) via 1.Nf3 c5 2.e4 also ended up in a Sicilian, although this was a much more positional Moscow line involving an early queen exchange. White kept a slight intiative into the rook and bishop endgame, but black got enough counterplay and the opposite coloured bishops voted for the draw – which was agreed after 25 moves. Third board duel between GM Davorin Kuljasevic (2553) and WIM Savitha Shri Baskar (2418) was a Bogo-Indian duel in which all the center pawns plus the queens and some minor pieces were exchanged early, leaving a very open position in which white´s pair of bishops gave him a slight plus. Black however found useful squares for her knight and had a solid position without any weak pawns, hence white found no way forward and offered a draw after 33 moves. Second board duel between Israelian IM Yahli Sokolovsky (2461) and Polish IM Pawel Teclaf (2575) was a Caro-Kann duel in which white first had some initiative and then won a pawn. Black due to his more active pieces still had fair chances in the queen and bishop endgame after 30 moves. After the first time control black´s passed c-pawn in this queen endgame soon forced white to force a draw by perpetual check.
Meanwhile, in the first board duel between third rated GM Szymon Gumularz (2587) and sixth rated GM Titas Stremavicus (2541), white first had a very slight initiative in a Catalan opening. Black took over the initiative after exchanging three set of minor pieces. As black in turn became too helpful to exchange off pieces, the endgame with rook, bishop and two kingside pawns against rook, knight and two kingside pawns after 45 moves appeared drawish. Black however had the better minor pieces and the better pawn structure – plus much more time on the clock. Giving up a pawn and exchanging rooks reportedly was fine from a white point of view. The remaining endgame with bishop and pawn versus knight and two pawns was a draw, although no way a trivial one as white´s last pawn was a bit weak at g4. With only 1–2 minutes left on the clock, white in the sixth hour lost his defence line and allowed black to win the g-pawn. Stremavicius has had a pole in tournament so far, but well deserved he was rewarded for his stubborn will to win in the fourth round too.
Stremavicius following this is leading alone at an outstanding 4.0/4, while all the players from board 2–5 after this round could be found a full point behind at 3.0/4. The only player reaching 3.5/4 instead was Swedish-Ukrainian GM Vitaly Sivuk (2489), winning patiently and rather confidently as black against FM Stanislav Zylka (2415) on the seventh board. White had no advantage from this positional Semi-Slav opening, hence e4 followed by e5 gave black a lot of counterplay. Black eventually won the e5 pawn after exchanging off the queen, and before 40 moves reached a won bishop endgame with two extra pawns.
The two top rated GMs are still struggling to win back the top boards. GM Vaibhav Suri (2595) of India again was under pressure, now as black against the German veteran IM Oliver Brendel (2334). White here sacrificed a a knight at h6 and after 25 moves had reached a very interesting position with queen, rook, two bishops and four pawns against queen, rook, two bishops, one kinght and one pawn. Black had the better attacking chances after exchanging the queens, but white appeared close to a draw as he after 46 moves could eliminate the final black pawn. Suri however kept up the pressure and with some help from Brendel´s time spending he after 63 moves had demonstrated a decisive attack against the white king. Ukrainian GM Konstantin Tarlev (2598) on the other hand first had some queenside intiative and established a passed c-pawn as white against Norwegian junior FM Shazil Shehzad (2310). During mutual time pressure white against a well defending opponent however found nothing better than exchanging it down to a dead drawn endgame.
Chances for a Norwegian GM norm were much reduced this round, as IM Tor Fredrik Kaasen (2480) lost a difficult black game against Polish FM Kacper Tomaszewski (2313). Black here recovered more or less from an inferior opening, but then became overambitious as he weakened his kingside with 26.— f6? – allowing a knight sacrifice at h7 which gave white a lasting attack. Black within a few moves felt forced to return the piece. Half an hour ahead on the clock, Thomaszewski neatly completed the attack after sacrificing a bishop at f6 and a rook at g6. Chances for a German GM-norm on the other hand were strenghtened as their «super-FM» Marius Fromm (2457) succeeded to win a turbulent attacking battle as black against WGM Gulrukhbegim Tokhirjonova (2340). Black in this game first had a promising attack in a complex Sicilian middle game, but white used her chance to turn the attacking wave against black´s king when Fromm ran short of time for move 40. Inviting for a queen exchange with 46.Ne4? however was a mistake from a white point of view and later black´s passed queenside pawns soon decided in a still somewhat messy endgame.
Chances for a Norwegian IM norm are much better: Shehzad is fully in the run after today´s draw against Tarlev, and same is FM Aksel Bu Kvaløy (2321) as he during mutual time pressure today suceeded to keep the balance in a tense position as white against German IM Theo Gungl (2379). A draw was agreed immediately after the first time control, as the players were about to reach an equal queen and bishop endgame. The Norwegian junior champion Sindre Melaa (2231) can also be in the IM norm run, after he today made an efficient use of his chances when FM Marcin Molenda (2406) blundered an exchange.
Round 4 in the GM group was long and hard fought, finally ending after six hours as GM Alex Fishbein (2366) after 120 moves succeeded to win a probably drawish endgame against the brave young Irishman Peter Carroll (2075). Veteran GM Lothar Vogt (2314) some two hours before has his first win, instructively realizing his extra pawn in the rook endgame as black against Sverre Lye (2173). Today´s most stressing start belonged to American WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan (2282), as she following a very internal misunderstanding arrived some 45 minutes delayed to her white game against Norwegian veteran FM Richard Bjerke (2085). Atousa continued to spend a lot of time after arriving, but got the better position and was relaxed enough to take a walk when she after 18 moves had only three minutes left on the clock. Her attack against the weakened black kingside succeeded within a few more moves. Curiously black here after 25 moves took a knight at h5 with his king, but then apparently resigned without waiting for the crushing 26.g4+!
Almost all of the games on the lower boards had a more or less expected outcome. A notable exception was local junior Lukas Dominik Gåsland (1799) winning as black following some very loose pawn sacrifices from CM Paulius Juknis (2115). Tromsø junior Sivert Schance Tørfoss (1833) won by a nice attack against Jan Vidar Vestly (2088). Nine year old Sarbalia Aarav (1718) this round saved a draw in a long rook endgame against more than 50 year older FM Ian Thompson (2064), but Aarav like Gåsland and Tørfoss might well already have a playing strength close to or above 2000. Even Huneide Hetland (1719) defeating Martin Holten Fiskaaen (2040) qualified as a surprise, although Fiskaaen still is very unpredictable and Hetland has improved a lot the last year. Black around moves 22–25 here creatively sacrificed a rook for 3–4 pawns, but the pawns were too scattered to make much of a difference later on.
Meanwhile in the Open, the first decision on the top boards came as Stavanger junior Jonas Gryte (1626) within two hours brought the sensation girl Sophie Damiano (1303) back to earth by a powerful kingside attack. On the second board Kathrine Lindegaard Bruntse (1603) was too helpful to return the pawn and exchange many pieces in a Benkö gambit, as second rated Christian Strahl (1935) had few problems to pick up loose white pawns and win the remaining endgame. Twin sister Caroline Lindegaard Bruntse (1459) however continued her solid play and this round deadlocked the minor piece endgame to a draw against Ole Smeby (1928). First rated Smeby is now lagging behind at 2.5/4, while third rated Michael Bergmann (1856) is back more or less on track at 3.0/4 – winning his third game in a row after the shocking first round loss. Bergmann today won a queen endgame with one extra pawn as white against Håkon Støren (1586) following a nice tactical d6-advance. White with a German accuracy here calculated that his king could escape after some 15 checks from the black queen.
First board duel between 17 year old Vetle Støren and 19 year old Ramesh Jeyanth (1469) by the way was a dry endgame battle in which black had a lasting pressure, although white proved able to defend into a draw. Today´s last and most interesting game in the Open was a five hours long and tight fourth board battle between 12 year old Sarah Sima Derlich (1522) and David Hellesøy (1606). Black´s brave try to win a drawish and heavyweight endgame here brought him to the brink of disaster, as white after four hours won a pawn at a6 and reached a close to winning position with knight against bishop in the minor piece endgame. Sarah however failed to find the best knight retreat with a few minutes left on the clock, hence black´s two passed pawns could advance and promote. The end after 60 moves saw black, with two queens against one, completing a mating attack against the running white king at b7. Remarkably eight out of the lowest nine games in the Open got a winner, but still none of the games had a very unexpected winner.