The Europchess 1 line-up was strong enough to out-rate our opponents, Amay 2, by an average of more than 140 points per board, but the match result could have been a lot closer than the eventual 5½-2½ victory achieved by Europchess.
Europchess got off to the best possible start with wins after about three hours play for Georgi Tomov and Tim Binham. Georgi played White against Jimmy Lafosse (2167). Immediately after the opening, Lafosse overlooked a tactic on the h1 to a8 diagonal, and Georgi was able to capture a rook on a8 in exchange for his own knight on g5. Lafosse might have grabbed a pawn as additional compensation for the exchange, but instead he preferred to harass Georgi’s king while the White queen was temporarily out of play. Georgi defended calmly and neutralised the threats. Finally the White queen came decisively back into play, and the game was over; 1-0 to Europchess.
Tim played Black against Bernd Dahm (2091). After Dahm lost some time in the opening, Tim created attacking chances by advancing his f-pawn and opening the f-file. He transferred all his pieces to the king-side, added his h-pawn and g-pawn to the attacking force, and finally broke through. Hence 2-0 to Europchess.
Despite this good start, the match still seemed in the balance, as Tom Wiley, Jozsef Barta and Eduardo Semanat all had rather dismal positions. Jozsef seemed to be in the worst trouble against Patrick Nauts (2066). With Jozsef’s queen standing on d7 and his king on g8, a knight fork on f6 was in the air. Nauts was able to offer his queen on two successive moves (first on h6 and then on g7) in order to give his knight access to f6, and Jozsef was left with an apparently lost ending two pawns down. Jozsef continued to look for active play and built up sufficient pressure that Nauts felt compelled to give up a rook for a knight. After further exchanges the position became balanced, with bishop and three pawns against rook and one pawn. Neither player could make progress, so a draw was agreed.
A victory for Europchess seemed assured after Matija Suskovic (playing White) took the full point against Wolfgang Block (2090). The game had started well for Block as he gained considerable pressure against Matija’s queenside. This was achieved, however, at the expense of moving both his knights far away from his own king. Matija offered a pawn on the queen-side to slow down his opponents play, and gradually opened lines on the king-side. He eventually closed in on the open king with his queen, rook and h-pawn. Black resigned, to make it 3½-½ to Europchess.
The match-points were made safe when Martin Mueller converted his end-game advantage against Marc Dambiermont (1966). After a quiet opening, Martin (playing Black) gained the bishop-pair and gradually took the initiative on both sides of the board. All of the pieces were exchanged except for Martin’s two bishops and Dambiermont’s bishop and knight. The bishop and knight combination were unable to defend the weaknesses; Martin gained two pawns and, not long after, the game. So 4½-½ to Europchess.
Soon after, Eduardo Semanat recovered from a very difficult position to draw with White against Pierre Munster (2032). Eduardo had the worst of tactical exchanges in the middle game, and the passed c-pawn that he created did not seem adequate compensation for his opponent’s huge pawn chain stretching from g6 to d3. Nevertheless he continued to create tactical problems, and eventually clawed back enough ground to force a draw. Hence the score was now 5-1 to Europchess.
By this time, Tom Wiley had also recovered from a probably lost position, playing Black against Juergen Schaefer (2107). On move 27, in a roughly equal position, Tom blundered an important pawn and allowed Schaefer’s pieces into the heart of his position. In the run-up to the time-control Schaefer won an entire piece, and reached a position with rook, knight and three pawns against rook and three pawns. Fortunately for Tom, he had the possibility to create a passed pawn on the a-file, far away from Schaefer’s king and knight. After an exchange of rooks, both sides queened a pawn, so that Schaefer was still a piece up. However, Tom queened one move earlier and was able to start checking the White king. Schaefer had to allow either a perpetual check or the loss of his last pawn, so a draw was agreed, making the score 5½-1½ to Europchess.
The last game to finish was that of Jan Bednarich, playing White against Stefan Bien (2106). For the first 50 to 60 moves, Jan was patiently trying to increase a slight space advantage and the possession of light-squared bishop against knight. He succeeded in fixing many of Bien’s pawns on light squares, but after the exchange of all the major pieces, it became apparent that the knight had a strong square in the centre from which it could menace Jan’s pawns. Jan’s position became difficult to defend, and in addition his time was running low because of the large number of moves played. As Jan entered his last two minutes on the clock, and with well over 90 moves played, he had no way to stop Bien’s passed a-pawn, and had to resign. Hence the final score was 5½-2½ in favour of Europchess 1.
Europchess 2 continues excellent streak and wins match against Mechelen 1 with 4-2, moving to second place in division 3C, very short of already achieving season goal of staying in the division.
The first game to finish, after just about one hour, was the one on board 6, Velibor Novakovic (1903), White, against Kristian Frederiksen (1841). White played a notoriously drawish variation against Black’s defence; queens came off very quickly and an absolutely dry position arose with no real prospects for either player: Draw on Black’s proposal.
On board 5, Luis Parreira (1943) with the white pieces came out of the opening against Yves Cornille (1949) with a reasonably solid position, although a backward pawn on d4 gave him some causes for concern. Luis struggled to find an active plan, using up a lot of the time, but then overlooked a nasty knight manoeuvre threatening all kinds of forks. Luis was forced to give the exchange for little or no compensation, and Black drove home the game without too many problems.
On board 4, Mattias Johansson (1946) as Black, entered an extremely double edged middlegame position against Jan Pelgrims (1950), with players pressing forward on opposite wings. White tried to instigate a sacrificial attack against Mattias’ king but stopped short of the most uncompromising continuation. Mattias kept cool and was able to simplify the position, entering a favourable endgame, which he duly converted.
John Riksten (2061) had the black pieces on board 2 against the young talent Deon Lee (1952). Players bashed out theory for the first thirteen moves, but then White went seriously into the thinking box, seemingly not at ease with the double edged position that had arisen on the board. From here, John went on to outplay his opponent, eliminating a dangerous knight with a temporary sacrifice of the exchange to take over the initiative. The game was decided when John, just a few moves before the time control, picked up a whole rook in his opponent’s extreme zeitnot.
The match was decided on board 3 with Johannes Bertram’s (2005) win as White against Koen Van Vlaenderen (1951). A dynamically balanced position was reached out of the opening, when Black, maybe in an attempt to capitalise on his advantage on the clock, avoided the exchange of queens and decentralised his pieces to go pawn grabbing. Instead, it was Johannes who was able to attack the black monarch, who had been left to his own devices; faced with the choice of mate or loss of the queen, Black resigned shortly after the time control.
The game on board 1, Pere Moles Palleja (2099) with White against Olaf Cliteur (2004), Black, was a demonstration how seemingly unfair chess can sometimes be. Pere thoroughly outplayed his opponent positionally, gaining the upper hand first in the centre and then on the queenside, where Black’s dark squared bishop was shut in behind its own pawns. Black had absolutely no counter play and was doomed to await events. However, just when it was time to capitalise materially on his fine positional play, Pere let that exact same bishop re-emerge on the b8-h2 diagonal, and together with knight and queen it was able to create nasty mating threats against White’s king. Pere was just about able to fend off those threats with an exchange sacrifice, and the game ended in a positionally drawn ending.
Europchess 3 loses with the smallest possible margin
On board 1 Jose Maria couldn’t hold the pressure by a higher rated opponent (2009). On board 2 Serge with black played a Caro-Kann defence and his opponent launched an early attack on the kingside with h4. Serge blocked that pawn with h5 but overlooked that the protecting piece can be exchanged. So he lost that pawn and then fought an uphill battle against losing a second one. Thanks to simplifications in the mid-game thanks he managed to win back one of the two and to push a pair of pawns (f and g) forward trying to go to promotion. Unfortunately, in the meantime his opponent managed to put in motion his majority on the queenside and they turned out to be faster so Serge had to resign. On board 3 Ventsislav managed to draw a fighting game against Constant Clerquin (1546). Luis with black on board 4 faced Sebastien De Witte (1322). The game was quickly unbalanced in favour of Luis when his opponent faced an inevitable loss of a pawn on move 10. However, by responding inappropriately he lost much more, a bishop and two pawns. Black kept on pressing and another mistake of white resulted in a loss of a full rook. With just a rook and 5 pawns against two rooks, a bishop and 7 pawns white realized that the endgame cannot be held and resigned.
Europchess 4 wins convincingly
At board one Jesper played Caro-Kann against Gerrit Verlinden who activated the queen early in the game. Gerrit’s queen was the only piece developed when it was captured by white at move 16. After having lost the queen black resigned. Piotr played black against a higher ranked opponent (ELO 1742) but secured a win after a long game. In the beginning white had got a slight advantage due to a better opening and pressed quite intensively; black had to castle long. However, the open h-file gave black the possibility to threaten the white king. That proved to be decisive – linked with a firm fortress around the black king. The last desperate attack with white sacrificing his rook to attack the black king failed and white resigned after 36 moves. After a classic opening, Paris was under pressure and exchanged a quality for advanced pawns, however his opponent managed to block their progression and won the game. After a rather closed opening, Benjamin slowly built up some pressure on his opponent who gave his queen for a rook in a difficult position. This turned out to be a decisive mistake and after some simplifications Benjamin managed to win.