Europchess 1 – Zottegem 2 : 5 – 3 +++ Europchess 2 – Opwijk 1 : 0.5 – 5.5 +++ Europchess 3 – Zottegem 6 : 2.5 – 1.5 +++ Europchess 4 – Nivelles 1 : 3 – 1 +++
Round 8: Crunch time
+++ With a neat 5-3 victory over Zottegem 2, the first team defended its lead in Division 2 B. The 3rd team probably saved itself from relegation by beating Zottegem 6 with 2.5-1.5 and Europchess 4 kept its chances for promotion with a good 3-1 win over Nivelles 1. However, after a severe loss against Division leader Opwijk, Europchess has arrived at the bottom of the table in Division 3 B.
Europchess 1 wins crucial match against Zottegem 2 after difficult start
With Zottegem 2, the No. 3 of the Division came to Brussels in an important match for the title race in the division. They had drawn with Boitsfort before and were certainly ambitious in their match against us. And indeed, the start looked rather grim for our team. Frank Hoffmeister on board 5 played not diligently enough a typical middlegame position where his opponent Nele Vanhuyse (2101) advanced her pawns on the kingside. With a strong f4-f3-push, supported by two strong knights, White’s position became defenceless. Black first won the exchange and then another piece with a nice pseudo-queen sacrifice: 0-1.
On board 2, also Carl Buhr came into trouble in the early middlegame with Black against Rein Verstraeten (2320) after an unconventional opening. Just when Carl was about to consolidate his position on the queenside and to prepare a comeback, his queen got trapped: 0-2.
After this worry-some start, things got better, though. Tom Wiley accepted a draw offer from Simon Van Poucke (1966) in a slightly worse ending, after he had given away the possibility to play for an advantage in the opening with a fingerfehler: 0.5-2.5.
Afterwards, Matija added the first full point to the basket. In nice strategic fashion, he first inflicted a double pawn on Dorian Van Den Heede’s (2075) white army on the c-file, then blocked it, and finally won it. This proved enough to get a winning, reinserting some hope for the team: 1.5-2.5.
Also Tim Binham on the fourth board played a convincing game with Black against White’s 1.b3. He always commanded more space and when Yasseen De Herdt (2119) wanted to complicate matters tactically with less than 10 minutes on the clock, Tim refuted that attempt in a nice way: Tim won back a piece with the interest of two pawns, leading to White’s resignation: 2.5-2.5.
Eyes now turned to Pere Moles Palleja on board 8 playing against Tim Vandenbroucke (1924). Pere was under pressure in a queenless middlegame and then lost a pawn. His drawing chances seemed still intact, though, as opposite coloured-bishops had remained on the board next to the rooks and as the extra passed pawn was blocked. However, White overstretched his possibilities exchanging a first pair of rooks to get a second blocked passed pawn but allowing a dangerous passed black pawn on the h-file. This allowed Pere, despite the exchange of remaining rooks to obtain two extra passed pawns in the queenside, complementing his other passed pawn on h4. Keeping cool, he then actually converted the position to a full point: 3.5-2.5 for us!
This turn of events also relieved some pressure for the remaining players. On board 3, Georgi Tomov had gotten a stable advantage in the centre, which allowed him to attack the kingside of Adrian Roos (2278). Black lost a pawn and Georgi was even able to shut out the fianchettoed bishop on h8 from the game. In order to get at least some counter-chances, Black then activated his pieces, allowing White to push the d-pawn to d6 and create threats against Black’s king. This cost Black first the bishop and then the entire game. Georgi’s victory thus gave us also the match points!
On the first board, Rossen played a highly combative game with White against Glen De Schampheleire (2352). At some stage, Black got the initiative and Rossen had to defend carefully not to arrive at a lost rook ending. Black then went through the motions and untangled his doubled f-pawn to free his king. However, Rossen was able to collect the h-pawn in exchange leading to a theoretical draw with one remaining black pawn on the f-file. This draw helped us securing a final 5-3 and defending the 1st rank in the division with Boitsfort catching up on board points.
Opwijk 1 severely beats Europchess 2
The second team was out to take a David’s fight against Division leader Opwijk 2, but could never hit the Goliath. Only Mattias Johansson on the 3rd board held a draw in a rook ending with a pawn less to Tom Van De Perre (2103). On the 1st board, Olafur Hannesson fought with Jonas Van Cappellen (2169) a balanced fight, but mixed things up tactically before the time control. On the 5th board, Johannes Bertram got the initiative for a pawn through the middlegame against Dominique Versyck (2006). However, when the players transposed to the ending, Black’s passed d-pawn decided the game in his favour. On board 6, Kristian Frederiksen’s opponent Cedric Van Peer (1991) took the liberty to arrive almost 1 hour late, but still managed to play a reasonably good game with White. After the time control, his two rooks entered the seventh rank and proved to be too strong for Kristian’s lonely king. On board 4, Martin Müller defended well with Black and got a level position against Iuliia Morozova (2054) for a long time. However, around time control an inaccurate knight move allowed his opponent to enter with the rook and pick up important pawns on the queenside. These losses could not be compensated by his b6-pawn on the queenside, and so the game also got lost. Finally, John Riksten offered the longest resistance on the 2nd board against Jan Rogiers (2157). Having missed a tactical trick in the middlegame to his advantage, John was hoping to keep a draw with a pawn for an exchange down. However, rather than going for a rook plus pawn v knight plus pawn ending, he kept the bishops on the board. That allowed White to create more threats, actually winning a full piece after almost 6 hours of play. This clear 0.5-5.5 loss pushed the 2nd team to the last rank in Division 3 B.
Europchess 3 prevails over Zottegem 6
Meeting the direct competitor at the bottom of the table, Europchess 3 showed strong nerves against Zottegem 6. On the 2nd board, José María Ramos Florido outplayed Dirk Ponnet (1757) with Black, playing very aggressive from the beginning and deciding the game over the open e-file in just 19 moves, and 2 hours. On the 4th board, Luis Busquets got a passive position out of the opening with Black against Charlotte Schroeer (1601), but held a good draw. Thanos Gkionis had a promising attack and tried to put pressure on the 3rd board against Jan Motte (1643), but lost due to a tactical oversight. So, 1.5-1.5 and everything hung on Benjamín Alberola Mulet playing White against Frank Roos (1850) in the 1st board. For a long time, the game was slightly advantageous for White, but in the ending Benjamín got a passed a-pawn which cost Black his remaining bishop. Black could in the meantime get Benjamín’s h-pawn running with his own footsoldier. However, White’s king could march back in time to get the remaining g-pawn while his bishop controlled the promoting square h1. This deserved win brings Europchess 3 out of the relegation zone with 5 match points and almost saved!
Europchess 4 wins against Nivelles 1
The 4th team benefitted from the reinforcement of the other teams. On the 1st board, Luis Parreira smashed Peter Grijp (1957) in the early middlegame. After he won the queen for a piece, the outcome was beyond doubt at that stage. On the fourth board, Bruno Gatta played a long game with Black against Jean-Claude Herman (1245). Arriving at the pawn ending, Bruno correctly formed a distant passed pawn, deciding the game in his favour in a textbook manner. On the 3rd board, Jesper Abrahamsen pressed with White against André Mouchart (1484). Jesper got an attack against Black’s king but with reduced material this was not enough to overcome the stubborn resistance. After further exchanges the players agreed on a draw. On the 2nd board, Marcello Ranucci ran into an offensive with a piece sacrifice from Samuel Monnier on the kingside (1653), but defended equally well. White decided to force a repetition of moves and so another draw was agreed. This comfortable 3-1 keeps alive E 4’s chances to play for the title in Division 5 B.