Interclubs 2015-2016 – Round 1

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Wirtzfeld 2 – Europchess 1 :  4.5 – 3.5  +++  Sint-Amandsberg 1 – Europchess 2 :  2.5 – 3.5  +++  Pantin 1 – Europchess 3 :  3.5 – 0.5  +++  Pantin 2 – Europchess 4 :  0.5 – 3.5  +++

Narrow defeat for Europchess 1 against Wirtzfeld 2

The first match-day of Interclubs 2015-2016 saw Europchess 1 making the longest journey of the season, travelling 160 km to Wirtzfeld.  The two teams were evenly matched according to ratings, and the match was extremely close from start to finish.  First blood went to Wirtzfeld 2 on Board 7.  Radu Stoenescu, playing Black against Joshua Eckardt, fell into a difficult position out of the opening; White created a strong bind with a pawn chain stretching from f2 to b6.  Radu sacrificed a knight for two pawns to break the bind, but in the resulting position his extra pawns were not mobile enough to compensate for the piece down.  Consequently Wirtzfeld 2 took a 1-0 lead.

The next results to come in were two solidly-played draws on boards 1 and 3.  On top board, Laszlo Hetey had Black against IM Stephan Hautot.  In a position with a symmetrical pawn structure, Hautot tried to create pressure down the only open file.  Laszlo gained counterplay with a temporary pawn sacrifice to create a second open file.  In the main line foreseen by both players, further exchanges would have created a completely level position; hence a draw was agreed.  Subsequent analysis, however, revealed that both players had overlooked an opportunity in the final position for White to hang on to his extra pawn.

On board 3, Tom Wiley played Black against Marcus Schmücker.  Schmücker chose a quiet opening line, forcing a queen exchange already on the seventh move and hoping to gain a small but stable advantage with the chance to “play for two results”.  However, his choice was a bit too solid, and an equal position arose where each side had an isolated d-pawn, with both c-file and e-file being open.  Just before the first time control the players repeated moves and a draw was agreed.

There was good news for Europchess on board 4, where Georgi Tomov played White against Roland Honhon.  Georgi seized a space advantage in the centre, with all the pieces remaining on the board.  He then started to create a king-side attack.  Honhon responded by blasting open the centre, but his king-side disintegrated and he lost pawns one after another.  The position remained sharp, but Georgi wrapped up the game just before the time control.  The score became 2-2.

Martin Mueller played White on board 8 against Mathieu Bovy.  In a classical isolated d-pawn position, Bovy’s pieces seemed to be awkwardly placed on the queenside.  However, he launched complications which gave both players much to think about.  When the smoke cleared, Martin was a pawn down but, with his queen and knight coordinating better than his opponent’s queen and bishop, he created enough play to hold the draw.

Playing Black on board 5 against Andreas Kessler, Jozsef Barta produced a miracle save in the ending after reaching a dreadful middlegame position.  Jozsef had to shed two pawns in order to get his king castled, and then his opponent naturally welcomed the opportunity to swap major pieces and reach an ending with bishop and four pawns against knight and two pawns.  Jozsef had foreseen chances to create counterplay with his king and passed a-pawn at the same time as using his knight to defend on the opposite flank.  Somehow the position simplified to king, bishop and h-pawn against king and knight.  Jozsef’s king was in time to block the pawn, and the game was drawn.  The score was 3-3.

On Board 2, Tim Binham had a very complicated struggle with White against Lukas Winterberg.  Tim managed to win a centre pawn at the cost of allowing piece activity to his opponent.  After extreme complications, the position simplified to an ending in which Tim had two bishops in exchange for a rook and two pawns.  At that stage all three results still seemed possible.  The game swung in Winterberg’s favour when he found an exchange sacrifice that left him with a rook and two far-advanced passed pawns against Tim’s rook and bishop.  The bishop could not find an effective square in time, and the passed pawns were enough to bring victory for Winterberg.

The longest game was a slow-burning struggle on board 6, where Pere Moles played White against Andreas Jagodzinsky.  Each side probed the other’s weaknesses for many moves, and the players reached an endgame with bishop, knight and three pawns each.   Jagodzinsky’s pawns, including an outside passed pawn, were all isolated, whereas Pere had two pawn islands, without any passed pawn.  In view of the match situation, Pere tried everything possible to tip the balance.  Unfortunately for Europchess, Jagodzinsky managed to cover any possible entry squares for Pere’s king, and a draw was eventually agreed.  The final score, therefore, was a narrow win by 4½ to 3½ in favour of Wirtzfeld 2.

Europchess 2 starts with a win

For the first time since moving up to third division three years ago, Europchess 2 started the season with a win, with one of our two newcomers in the team delivering the decisive point after four hours of play and the other securing a solid half point on the difficult first board.

The first game to finish was the one on first board between Benjamin Alberola Mulet (2094) with the black pieces against Rimsky Mahieu (2121). Benjamin’s opponent pulled off a very drawish line against Black’s defence and indeed offered a draw after 12 moves already. Benjamin accepted after some hesitation and checking of the positions on the lower boards.

The first full point for the team was delivered by Johannes Bertram (1925) with Black on board five. Roger Ost (1692), his opponent, reacted rather tamely against Johannes’ sharp gambit play and was overplayed on the queen side. White had problems developing the king side and was forced into castling by hand. He resigned in a position where Johannes had complete control of the dark squares and was about to achieve decisive material gains.

The next good news came from board six where Kristian Frederiksen’s (1854) opponent Maarten van Drom (1673) with Black had blundered a piece in the early middle game in a position which was becoming difficult due to White’s pressure on the queen side and Black’s problems with developing properly. After the blunder, it was primarily a matter of patience to bring home the point, since Black continued playing until move 53, where he was confronted with an utterly hopeless pawn endgame.

Up 2,5 to 0,5, everything seemed well and fine for Europchess 2, but as so often before, strange things began to happen in the last half hour leading up to the time control.

First, José María Ramos Florido (1942) with the black pieces on board three had to resign against Jonathan Van Laeken (1886). Although everything was under control after the opening, with an equal position, José María came under pressure on the queenside in the middle game and lacked counterplay on the opposite side of the board. He should still have been able to put up a more stubborn defence, though, but didn’t find the optimal placement for his pieces. He suffered decisive material losses and had to throw in the towel.

Next bad news for Europchess 2 happened on board 2, where John Riksten (2010) with White had built up an attractive attacking position against Benny Willen (2010) out of the opening. It seemed as though John lost some of his advantage in the middle game but the position was still in dynamic equilibrium when he blundered two central pawns on e3 and d4 to an intruding black queen. This basically decided the game, and although John fought on for some moves, there was no way to recover from the material loss.

Last man standing was Helge Ruotanen (1940) with the white pieces on board four against Elias Verhalle (1811). It was a messy roller coaster in which Helge, after having been down material in the middle game, was able to turn things around in the endgame. In the final position, Helge was up a whole piece, when his opponent, sufficiently disgusted with first thinking he was netting a rook for nothing only to see the material disequilibrium re-established immediately after due to a knight fork, decided to call it a day.

Europchess 3 without a chance against dominating Pantin

For the opening day of the interclubs, the third team played the just recently promoted club Pantin 1. The question was about what such a club was doing in the last division last year and what it still be doing in 3rd division this year? With a core team of players averaging around 2000 elo last year, they presented this time their highest selection with a clear view of targeting the promotion again. Their last board was indeed rated not less than 2100.

Under such circumstances Europchess could only make their best effort to limit damage and hope for a miracle, which was partly accomplished by the promising young player Carlo Russian who saved the honour of the team, forcing the draw on the fourth board. Although none of the Europchess players could really be ashamed of his game, each one thoroughly defending his position, Athanasios Gkionis, Vladymyr Dedobbeleer and Luis Busquets had to admit the difference of strength and finally resign.

With Carlo saving the half-point, the final score was 3,5-0,5, which is not much more dramatic than any other loss, and  anyway no better result could have been expected against this kind of opposition. Europchess 3 had started also last season with the same result against another strong team, before getting through the championship then without too much trouble.

Europchess 4 provides some consolation against Pantin 2

While the third team was outplayed, Europchess 4 was able to achieve a good start into the season, beating Pantin’s 2nd team also with the score of 3.5-0.5.

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