Eupen 2 – Europchess 1 : 1.5-6.5 +++ Brasschaat 2 – Europchess 2 : 5.5-0.5 +++ Woluwé 1 – Europchess 3 : 2.5-1.5 +++ DT Leuven 2 – Europchess 4 : 2-2 +++
In the final round, the first team outclassed Eupen 2 with a stunning 6.5-1.5 victory, earning a deserved 3rd rank in the division. The second team went astray with 0.5-5.5 in Brasschaat, but was safe in Division 3 C, landing on rank 8 in the end. The third team’s 1.5-2.5 loss against Woluwé threw them back to the relegation spot, ex-aequo with Boitsfort 3, requiring a play-off match. Europchess 4 made a draw in the final round, finishing on a very good 4th place in the 5th division.
Europchess 1 half a point away from Division 1 with overwhelming victory in Eupen
Before the final round, Eupen 2 had already won the division, but was barred from moving up due to the rule of the Belgian Federation that no club may hold two teams in the 1st division. Nevertheless, they showed up with their usual team with an average rating of roughly 2100. For our part, we put together the strongest line-up up in the history of Europchess with five masters and three players above 2100 ELO, bringing us to an average of roughly 2250! And it worked!
On the 7th board with Black, Jozsef Barta inflicted an isolated d-pawn on Dieter Plumanns (2073). White tried to organise some play on the kingside, but with reduced material it did not prove dangerous. Joszef pocketed the pawn, and kept the better overview in some tactical play thereafter, winning an entire piece: 0-1.
Tom Wiley on board 2 reached a stable position with White against FM Dmitrii Marcziter (2283), which was always in dynamic equality. When Tom had to concede a doubled pawn on the b-file his slight advantage faded away, and the opponents agreed to a justified draw.
On board 6, Frank Hoffmeister gained a slight opening advantage with White over Norbert Müller (2080) with a better bishop over a knight and a backward pawn on b6 in Black’s camp. Black then lost an important tempo, allowing Frank to penetrate his position with a rook over the a-file, supported by a monster bishop on d5: when the latter could even be sacrificed on f7 for a mating attack, the game was over: 0.5-2.5.
Shortly thereafter, Eduardo Semanat Planas added another point to our score. Despite late appearance he overplayed with White Peter Schillings (1985). The unusual situation arose on the board that he had a queen, knight and four extra pawns against two rooks and bishop. Black tried to go after Eduardo’s king, but this was a futile exercise: 0.5-3.5!
Georgi Tomov on Board 1 then cashed in a draw with Black from Marcel Harff (2289). In a complicated queenless middlegame, it looked as if White was gaining the upper hand, and Georgi was severely down on time. A clever defence, however, changed the position, Georgi getting a knight for 3 pawns. This led to a drawn ending: 1-4.
The next two points again went to us. Carl Buhr, with Black on board 5 played cat and mouse with Holger Telke (2155). White did not find any plan against Carl’s opening system, misplacing his pieces. Carl improved his position with threats on both wings, netting a piece for two pawns already in the early middlegame. His tactical superiority continued throughout the game, being in the end a full rook up! 1-5.
Also Tim Binham played a very nice game on board 4 against Sven Muehlenhaus (2215), although he did not achieve much in the opening with White. Tim was able to create some pressure in the middlegame, based on a strong knight on f5 and some attack on Black’s e5-pawn. Black chose to defend passively, which allowed Tim to first invade the 6th rank with both his rooks (!) and then to win a full piece: 1-6.
Eyes finally turned to Jan Bednarich on board 3 with Black against Alexander Sokalsky (2257). Jan tried to gain space on the kingside and put pressure against White’s e3-pawn. However, White found a good way to counterbalance this with threats along the f-file and some pawn advance on the queenside. When both players were short on time, they agreed on a draw, White probably having the better chances in the final position.
This outstanding effort was not rewarded though: the main rivals for promotion, Namur, beat last-placed Geel only with a narrow 4.5-3.5, but this was just enough to clinch 2nd rank, only one individual point (half a board point) ahead of Europchess. Congratulations.
Europchess 2 drowned by Brasschat 2
Team 2 was determined to end the season with a positive result in Brasschaat. However, having ensured to stay in the league already earlier, it seems that concentration and fighting spirit were somewhat weakened, leading to the worst defeat of the season.
On 5th board, Kristian Frederiksen with the black pieces faced Rediart Cankja (1971), who played a theoretically innocuous, but in practical terms irritating system against Kristian’s favourite defence. In the transition from the opening to the middlegame, White chose to sacrifice a piece for two pawns, which played a move earlier would actually have given him a dangerous initiative. As it were, however, Black was able to consolidate and even force the exchange of queens, which gave him a serious advantage, not without taking a toll on the clock in the process, though. White showed some smart psychological pitch, when, as it looked as if he was collecting a third pawn for the piece, he offered a draw. This was accepted by Kristian somewhat hesitatingly.
Luis Parreira, playing on Board 4 with White against Melvin Holwijn (1981), had come out of the opening with equal chances but went astray later in the game losing two pawns, which was not repairable in the endgame: 0.5-1.5.
Johannes Bertram (Board 3) reached equality with Black against Toon Wijgers (2050). He found a good pawn sacrifice disrupting the White position, but assessing the position’s chances wrongly, he over-optimistically sacrificed a second pawn. Realising that his opponent’s position was not as cramped as planned, he even blundered more material and could only continue in a hope- and pointless struggle for 30 moves more, before he finally resigned.
Pere Moles Palleja (Board 2) had some problems with his car navigator and arrived twenty minutes late. In his game with White against Lennard den Boer (2060) he played the opening too fast and did not follow the most accurate line, ending up with practical problems. Pere tried to cope with his weaknesses regrouping his pieces but after the opponent’s precise answer he found himself in a difficult situation with all his pieces uncoordinated. Pere tried to close the position but this allowed a piece sacrifice that obliged him to resign soon afterwards: 0.5-3.5
Dario Maiorani played with White on Board 6 against Johan Busschots (1905). Once the d-file was opened, rooks and queens were swapped, resulting in a balanced endgame position. However, being unfamiliar with the position and under time pressure, White wrongly evaluated the strength of the remaining minor pieces. This allowed Black to exchange his bad bishop for a good knight. White lost afterwards a pawn and then the game.
Svetlozar Andreev, playing on Baord 1 with Black against Stijn Hawinkel (2080), was caught off-guard in a sharp opening variation. After emerging a pawn down, but with some active pieces, he managed to create counterplay and maintain a dynamic status quo. Around move 40, another complicated exchange of pieces led to an almost equal position but with a pawn up for White. Unfortunately, Hawinkel played very precisely and the game had to be closed at move 75, with a win for White. Final score: a disappointing 0.5-5.5.
Europchess 3 goes for a play-off match with narrow loss in Woluwé
The final match was crucial for the third team because a loss would let its future in the hands of its rivals. The objective was clear: a team draw was sufficient to stay in the league.
Luis Carlos Busquets on the third board with Black met Gérard Burnay (1741). Luis came out of the opening in a nice position to launch an attack on the kingside. Being too cautious, he retreated his bishop to f8 instead of using it more offensively. This caused a jam in Black’s kingside used by his opponent for re-gaining the initiative. Fortunately, Luis defended well and launched a counter-attack at the right moment, rebalancing the game to reach a drawn endgame.
José María Ramos Florido with White faced the experienced Henri Winants (1862). After initial advantage for José María, who tried to complicate the game with tactics, his opponent got compensation and proposed a draw. In view of the team’s need for points, José María refused but when Luis got his draw, also accepted to share the point. In fact, the position after the time control was unclear: in a queen endgame, White was a pawn up while Black had an already well advanced passed pawn. The draw seemed almost unavoidable due to the exposed situation of both kings.
Vladymyr Dedobbeleer (Board 4) with White had to fight Bernard Geerinckx (1651). Things looked good soon from the beginning, as Vladymyr won the exchange. However, he was obliged to allow his opponent two connected passed pawns. These proved unstoppable and Vladymyr had to resign as they advanced.
With two draws and a loss, the last hope for a draw and avoiding depending on others was Mattias Johansson winning his game on the first board with black against Julien Verbist (1998). He controlled the long diagonal with mating threats and managed to get an extra pawn on the seventh rank, although difficult to defend. After several skirmishes his opponent managed to get the pawn back but allowing Mattias a strong attack. Verbist defended very well though and managed to counter attack and give perpetual checks: draw.
Having lost 1.5-2.5, Europchess had to look to the results of the other teams in danger of relegation. When it appeared on the federation’s website that Geraardsbergen 2 had only drawn its game, the team was relieved to see that Geraardsbergen were the unfortunate ones joining last-placed Excelsior to go down to 5th division. However, the next morning presented an unpleasant surprise: the results of Geraardsbergen 2 had been wrongly encoded. The team had in fact won, and overtaken Europchess, who found themselves on the penultimate rank, exactly tied, by team points and individual points, with Boitsfort 3.
Consultation of the tournament rules, in particular Article 37, brought clarity to this very rare constellation. The two teams had to face each other in a decisive play-off match, the following Sunday, on neutral ground, which was chosen to be Anderlecht.
Final draw in Leuven brings fine finish for Europchess 4
Jesper Abrahamsen played with Black on Board 1 against Patrick Puttemans (1598). Jesper got a good attack on a weak backward pawn, but Black managed to neutralise it with a series of exchanges. After those, the position was totally equal and when White proposed a draw, Black accepted.
On Board 2, Jeremy Rand played with White against Dries Heremans (1299). After solid positional play, White played a strong queen move threatening mate and winning a pawn. However, an inaccurate follow-up allowed Black to counter-attack winning three pawns. Black then swapped off queens and was able to win the endgame thanks to two passed pawns.
Sergio Serrano Samper played with Black against Remi Partoens (1289) on Board 3. White got into the endgame one pawn up, but played incorrectly so that Sergio managed to block the pawn with his king and ensure a draw.
The winner of the day was Nikolaj Abrahamsen on 4th board playing with White against Beere Rits (1149). Nikolaj’s game was pretty stable at the beginning, but he soon blundered and weakened the position around his king. The game went on in very risky style with his king wandering around the chessboard, but the risk eventually paid off when he got a queen for a rook. Finally he also got another rook and easily gave check mate, to clinch the team’s draw: 2-2.