Fontaine 1 – Europchess 1 : 6 – 2 +++ Aalst 1 – Europchess 2 : 2 – 4 +++ Fontaine 4 – Europchess 3 : 0 – 4 +++ Woluwe 2 – Europchess 4 : 0 – 4 +++ TS Mechelen 3 – Europchess 5 : 3 – 1 +++
Round 5: E3 and E4 winter champions!
+++ In the last round before Christmas, the third and fourth teams showed their ambitions to move up with two impeccable 4-0 wins. They thus deservedly finish on the first places and half way through the season in Divisions 4 F and 5 D. Also the second team took the two match points in Aalst, while E 1 and E 5 returned empty handed from Fontaine and Mechelen.
Fontaine beats Europchess 1
Showing a strong line-up with an average above 2300 ELO, Fontaine did not take any risk in playing our first team. On the fifth board, the former junior champion of the country, Nicola Capone (2300) put strong pressure on Matija Šušković after the opening, whose king was not very secure on the queenside. A nice tactical strike from White cost Matija either the queen or the king. The current Belgian champion Daniel Dardha (2434) added another match point on the top board with White against Rossen Roussev. Rossen equalised in the opening. However, after a tactical oversight in the middlegame, White gained an overwhelming king’s attack, which he crowned with a nice rook sacrifice leading to checkmate. Another loss with Black followed on board 7. Stephen Clark-Foulquier ran into a well-prepared line from Jean Herman (2263), trading three pawns for a piece. However, White could successfully attack Stephen’s queenside pawns and transform into a won ending. Only Frank Hoffmeister managed to hold a draw with Black on board 3 against Andy Maréchal (2324). White gained space and pushed on the kingside, while Frank tried to organise counter play on the queenside. White could not break through and accepted Frank’s draw offer in a slightly more comfortable position for Black shortly before the time control. Turning to our White games, the prospects looked better for some time. On board 8, Leonardo Pérez Aranda lost a pawn in the opening, but gained some piece activity. However, in the long run Xavier Mastalerz (2235) converted his material advantage. On board 6, Sławomir Kędzierski played a topical line with White against Arben Dardha (2286), promising some attacking chances. However, Black managed to exchange queens and put pressure on White’s centre pawns. In the ensuing rook ending Black’s queenside pawns proved unstoppable, though. The only full point was thus added to our basked by Tom Wiley. Playing on board 4 against Pieter Claesen (2301), Tom entered a sharp line. Black overplayed his hand with a temporary piece sacrifice, which allowed Tom to occupy the e8-square with his rook, tying a black knight on b8 and a rook on a8. After some struggle, Tom converted his structural advantage into a won pawn ending. This left Georgi (Anatoly) Tomov play a seemingly hopeless ending against Ekrem Cekro (2381) on the second board. Black was a pawn ahead, but Georgi masterfully employed his stronger bishop against his opponent’s knight. The latter had to sacrifice its life against Georgi’s advanced f- and g-pawns, securing a draw for White. Needless to say that E 1 could not really jump ahead in the table with another 2-6 loss in the first division.
Europchess 2 outplays Aalst 1
E 2 was up to its task and beat Aalst 1 with 4-2. Mark Ouaki on board 4 put some pressure on Ritsaart Willockx (1891) and had better chances due to a strong knight vs. bad bishop and each side left with a rook and 7 pawns. However, Black managed to trade the pieces to a drawn pawn ending. Also André Morais agreed to a draw with Frans De Smet (1787) on sixth board in a semi-open position. But Martin Müller took the measure of Bart Vermeiren (1941) on the second board, first exercising pressure with his heavy pieces and then winning convincingly an ending with the better bishop. Similarly, Mattias Johansson outplayed Freddy Vanhee (1905) with Black. Once the air on the queenside was cleared, he could attack White’s f2-pawn and add pressure by an exchange sacrifice. White’s bishop pair never came into play and Mattias finished the game in style. Eyes then turned to the first board, where Pere Moles Palleja had the better game with active knights against Berwout Heymans (1946). After some complications the players ended in a rook ending, where White commanded an extra-pawn. However, Pere averted the danger through excellent technique and safeguarded a half point. Finally, Stefano Ganci added another half point by drawing with Stefan Jorritsma (1813) on board 5. The players had a blocked position until Stefano sacrificed a piece for three pawns. In the ending, Black returned the piece for a pawn ending, but White boxed in the Black king in the corner, so that the h-pawn could not promote. The 4-2 win brings Europchess 2 back on shared third to sixth place in Division 3 A.
Europchess 3 dominates Fontaine 4
Paying tribute to the fact that their upper teams (Fontaine 1 and 2) mustered best possible composition, Fontaine 4 only played with an average ELO of 1448. Europchess 3 took advantage of this and won the match with a convincing 4:0. On board 3, Luis Parreira, with Black, faced Italo Russo (1407) and emerged clearly better from the opening. White blundered two pieces and allowed Luis’ queen into the sixth rank, so he resigned when checkmate was just a few moves away. On the second board, Benjamín Alberola Mulet played with White against Emmanuel Hakim (1445). After a tactical oversight by Black, Benjamin gained a pawn and decisively weakened Black’s kingside position, which led to a second full point shortly afterwards. On the first board, John Riksten, with Black, arrived to a balanced middlegame after an early queen exchange against Yohan Kellner (1544). White tried to control the open d-line, but his rook was trapped, and he had to resign. Finally, Julien Peyrebrune, with White, had some initiative against Alessandro Derzelle (1397). Black oversaw a small combination, which left him a rook down in a desperate position, so he decided not to continue playing. With this victory, together with the relatively surprising defeats of CREB 2 and Pantin 3, the situation in Division 4F gets clearer. Most likely, there will be a race between Philippeville and Europchess 3, who will face each other in the last round, with Europchess 3 currently leading by the narrowest possible margin of half a board point.
Europchess 4 stronger than Caissa Woluwé 2
Another 4-0 was delivered by E 4 in Caissa Woluwé. Two neat wins from Thanos Gkionis on board 4 against David Lenaertz (1424) and Marcello Ranucci against Mehmet Ertas (1637) on board 3, were complemented by wins on the two top boards, which were much less deserved. Johannes Bertram, playing Jens Frederiksen (1686) and Kristian Frederiksen, playing Paul Gerresch (1656) both had critical positions at some point, but benefitted from oversights of their opponents towards the end of the games. E 4 thus maintains its lead in Division 5 D.
Europchess 5 loses in Mechelen
In Division 5 G, Europchess 5 had to give in against Mechelen 3. Leslie Black, on the top board against Marc Duchesne (1761) battled for 74 moves and 5 hours! At the end, two lone kings sealed a draw in a marathon, where physical stamina was needed. Robert Prylinski attacked Wilbert Helsloot (1756) with White on the kingside, but lost a piece against a pawn in complicated tactical middlegame. The opponent converted his material advantage in the endgame and won after roughly two hours. Bruno Gatta reached a favorable position against Patrick Verlinden (1692), but was very close to the flag after 3 hours of slow fight. Unfortunately, a blunder in the end gave the victory to his opponent. Jorge Pereiro, on board 4 against Pieter Stroobant (1512) delivered a good draw, where he won a positional advantage on the queen’s side. He won the exchange in the middlegame, but a mistake in the endgame allowed his opponent to recover the exchange and to obtain a draw.