Report from day six by Daryl Taylor
The pairings for round six delivered two local derby matches, with the competitors from Denmark and Finland drawn to play one another. All of the games were hard fought affairs, but as the early results emerged on Thursday it became clear that there would be no change in the general tournament standings and that the world would soon be getting a new International Master.
Round six blow by blow:
Board 1 brought together Norwegian IM Johan Salomon and Swedish GM Axel Smith in a game that opened very tamely. White was evidently in no hurry to build his position, adopting an extremely solid approach and awaiting developments. Black, in turn did not appear to be forcing the pace, either. Only on the 15th move did the prospect of any pawn exchanges emerge, as white finally inched the c pawn cautiously forward to nudge the black centre. Following this game, I was vividly reminded of an old chess adage. I think it may have been Lasker who said when you can’t think of anything to do, wait for your opponent to have an idea. It’s sure to be unsound.
The pawn exchanges initiated by white’s 15th move did indeed seem to hand over the initiative to black, who rapidly assembled his major pieces to dominate the newly opened d file. A complex manoeuvring phase followed in which both players were consuming a lot of clock time, leaving them with only about ninety seconds per move available for the last 12 moves before the time control. Black was slowly creeping forward and waiting for white to push the panic button. This came on white’s 32nd move. The f4 pawn thrust driving black’s knight from the centre was obviously begging to be made at an opportune moment, but this was not the right time. GM Axel Smith had no difficulty in sidestepping the advancing white pawns and black suddenly had unstoppable threats against the white king’s position. With only a few seconds left on the clock, he could be forgiven for failing to find 36 … RxB+ which wins outright, but this did not matter as white stepped into a position with forced mate within a couple of moves anyway. 0-1
Board 2 was the arena for an encounter between tournament leader GM Erik Blomqvist from Sweden and Icelandic IM Guðmundur Kjartansson. The opening was a four knights game that remained symmetrical for the first six moves and followed the opening databases until white delayed the d4 pawn thrust in favour of 13 Re1. A manoeuvring phase followed in which white only had a slight initiative and no real plus remaining from the opening. With bishop against knight, white was keen to open up the centre, and he achieved this with a temporary pawn sacrifice on the 23rd move. An exchange of queens soon followed resulting in an endgame of rook and bishop against rook and knight with five pawns on each side. The white rook on the 7th rank and activated bishop now gave white the distinct advantage that he had evidently planned and foreseen. Black had an advanced passed d pawn, but this could not be supported and was soon exchanged. In a wide open game the bishop clearly dominated the knight, combining effectively with the white rook on the 7th rank. It also soon became clear that black was in serious trouble not only on the board, but also on the clock. Many of black’s moves after the 32nd turn were made on the brink of losing on time and his position on reaching the 40th move time control was totally busted. 1-0
So GM Erik Blomqvist scored another nice victory mainly by choosing an effective plan in a relatively even position, and he retains the tournament lead as we enter the last three rounds.
Board 3 provided an all-Danish showdown between FM Martin Percivaldi and FM Bjørn Møller Ochsner that is my game of the day for round six. The opening was a Catalan in one of those instructive lines where black checks on b4 to draw the white queen’s bishop away from the long diagonal and then retreats to e7. These positions are well known to opening theorists, but white chose not to play the book line that moves this bishop again to f4 on the 9th turn, and instead opted for simple development with Nc3. Black did not need to be asked twice and promptly snapped off the bishop on d2 to give the game an independent flavour.
The stage was then set for white to hammer away at black’s d5 strongpoint with all the force at his command. Black exchanged on c4, banking on getting adequate counterplay against the broad white centre. None of this is really new. Black is slightly cramped, but will find some way to activate his bishop pair and certainly stands no worse.
The activation was achieved by an early …e5 and white then expanded with the aggressive f4. The plan is maybe to push the e pawn forward liberating the Catalan bishop and then launch a minority attack on the queenside, or maybe to turn the attack in the other direction and molest the white king. Black must play actively to combat these ideas, especially by getting his bishop pair moving
The counterattacking move chosen by FM Bjørn Møller Ochsner was 18 …b5. The first thing to notice about this is that the immediate Qxc6 by white loses. Black can take the knight on a4 and if the white queen takes on a8, then she is trapped by …Qb6+ and …Be6. Instead white moved the attacked knight forward to c5 where it was promptly attacked again by black’s follow-through with …b4.
Bjørn Møller Ochsner
Martin Percivaldi to play 25 …
This procedure certainly activates black’s bishop pair, but it also presents opportunities to white in a highly tactical position that FM Martin Percivaldi handled with considerable skill. The apparent kamikaze push 25 e6 freed up the e5 square, and black had to push past with f6 to deny the white knight access to this outpost. White’s advanced passed pawn then became a serious tactical problem, that black’s 27 …Bd6 already failed to tackle. An immediate 28 e7 by white even wins at this point, but 28 Ne5 as played was also a strong move. Exchanges then left white with doubled passed pawns on e5 and e6, command of the open d file and the more active queen and bishop. The job of the defender was very difficult, and black was already in time trouble. 32 …Rc8 should lose outright, but obviously under pressure of nerves FM Martin Percivaldi missed the winning move 34 Bh5 and his 35 Bb7 almost lets his opponent off the hook. With errors on both sides the strength of white’s game was nevertheless finally demonstrated and FM Bjørn Møller Ochsner resigned on move 41 after reaching the time control
This win takes FM Martin Percivaldi to a total score of 4.5 points, achieving the IM norm for the lowest-rated player in the event. This is now his third and final IM norm, and he should receive the title assuming that he can also reach an Elo rating of 2400.
Despite his status as our highest rated player, Norwegian GM Jon Ludvig Hammer has underperformed so far in our event, and he was certainly in no mood to be charitable to his board 4 opponent IM Einar Hjalti Jensson from Iceland. The game was an open Catalan in which white gives up a pawn for sustained pressure against the black queenside down the c file and the long light squared diagonal. GM Jon Ludvig Hammer was fully familiar with this line, having played it in London three years ago. White eventually blasted through on the c-file, regaining the sacrificed pawn with a solid advantage. A simple tactic netted another pawn on white’s 31st move, after which white consolidated and was never really in any trouble. 1-0
The all-Finnish affair on board 5 was a complex tussle between IM Mika Karttunen and IM Vilka Sipilä. Both players opened flexibly, and it’s not quite clear what to call the opening. Perhaps a form of the Old Indian Defence in which white delays e4 best describes it. In any case the position after white’s 8th move had been seen before in master play, and here black diverged by immediately hitting the white centre with …c6 instead of first playing round the edges with …a5. IM Sipilä’s approach certainly seems playable, although the omission of …a5 meant that he could not keep the queen’s knight on c5 for very long and this piece was immediately driven back to a slightly offside-looking station at a6.
Black then hit on the idea of rapid kingside expansion with …Nh5 and …f5, inviting an obvious tactic that IM Sipilä could not reasonably have missed, although quite why he allowed it remains a mystery. On general positional grounds, this idea opens up the centre and liberates white’s fianchettoed king’s bishop. White’s knights are centralised, whereas black’s knights are sitting on opposite edges of the board. The tactic gives white the two bishops and weakens the black centre. This was quite a lot to concede for no concrete tactical payoff, and white held a definite edge after about 20 moves.
Though it leads white to exchange off his strong light squared bishop, …Ne4 by black on the 22nd turn also seems overly optimistic. White exchanges the queens and snatches a pawn in the centre to enter an endgame with four rooks and bishops of opposite colour in which white has the better bishop and a lasting initiative. This was never going to be easy for black to defend. Possibly IM Sipilä was hoping that his opponent would crack under mild time pressure, with only about four minutes plus increment to play the last four moves to the time control. However, white’s positional edge is undeniable and there are few ways to go seriously wrong, even though black regained the lost pawn. My Finnish colleagues claim that there was a way for black to save this position by manoeuvring his rook from c8 to a6, but in any case this was too hard to find under time constraints. The broad picture is that for the second day running IM Karttunen had a protected passed pawn rolling down the board and his opponent had too little counterplay. The game was already clearly lost anyway when IM Sipilä stepped into a mate in one on white’s 59th move.
This result means that since leading the tournament after the first three rounds IM Vilka Sipilä has now lost three games on the run, and he now falls half a point behind his opponent’s mid-table position in the standings.
The end of the sixth round means that we have now completed two thirds of our event, and the main news of the day is that 17 year-old Martin Percivaldi from Denmark has secured his third International Master norm. Assuming that he can also bring his Elo rating up to at least 2400 in this tournament, then it is my understanding that he will be formally awarded the IM title at the next FIDE congress. With the most recent Congress held only last month, the next one will presumably take place sometime next spring. Aside from securing necessary rating points, Martin Percivaldi is also still in with a fully realistic shout to reach his personal GM norm as well.
This was the first round of the tournament in which there were five decisive games, and the standings as we enter the last third of the competition show Swedish GM Erik Blomqvist leading with five points out of six (one loss to IM Sipilä in round 3), ahead of Norwegian GM Jon Ludvig Hammer and Danish FM Martin Percivaldi on four and a half, and Swedish GM Axel Smith on four points. FM Percivaldi and GM Smith are unbeaten in the tournament so far.