Verslag ronde 2

Eindhoven NBSB cup team wins tense duel against HMC

We return to the adventures of the NBSB Cup team. Still in English, because not all of the members of the team speak Dutch – and I have no clue whether I should be going one way or the other in terms of language, so I just opt to write it in a language that I’m sure at least all people of the team can read.

After our victory in Made we got another away game, this time against HMC Den Bosch. Likely much stronger than ’t Paardje was, but how strong they would actually be would be anybody’s guess. HMC after all has a Meesterklasse team, and plenty of grandmasters to call on. They wouldn’t be the first team fielding a GM either in the NBSB cup but didn’t do so the last time around. As it turned out, we were around equal in ratings. Reason enough to expect a tough battle.

We had swapped only first-second, and third-fourth. Two away games in a row, just swapping to get everybody on one White and one Black game. Other than that, it was the same four as last time – Alessandro, Oscar, Morris and me (in that order).

Quickly, several games clarified themselves in the first hour. Alessandro got a classical IQP position, opted to exchange it for another pawn and a lot of pieces, going to an endgame straight away. He was facing off against a heavy caliber player in Thomas Mollema, with a rating of 2200+! Regardless, somebody with Alessandro’s technique we can trust on in endgames even against much stronger players. It remained to be seen what actually came out of it. Oscar seemed to get a lot of play against Derk-Jan Morelis, with some active bishops, but ended up making a wrong exchange and lost most of his activity after his opponent attacked. Morris didn’t get what he wanted from the opening either against Caspar Hermeling, was disrupted by an annoying attack against c2, but ended up clawing his way back. As for me, vs. Davoud Moghaddam: the second London game in a week, this time with the quick queen exchange on b6. Not particularly a variation I’m afraid of, and did not have any trouble equalizing though I was not particularly accurate in doing so.

The roles were swapped around compared to last round. Now, I was the only one that made a quick finish, about a hour and a half in:

Well, that at least was much more convincing than the weaksauce game I played last round. Victory on the fourth board of a cup game doesn’t mean all that much, unfortunately. Every 2-2 you get still goes the opposing team’s way, so for that all the games need to hold. And that was quite a ride. Perhaps it was the adrenaline, but this was a tense ride as all the boards needed to get at least a draw. And that felt far from trivial…

So, a recap of where the rest of the team was at: Alessandro in an equal endgame, albeit with less time and against a much stronger opponent; Oscar, under a lot of pressure and in a worse position; Morris, in a double-edged position that needed to be settled tactically. First we go to Alessandro’s endgame, as he finished first of the remaining players. Annotations by Alessandro:

Well, in retrospect, what was I afraid of? Perhaps the nerves had gotten to me a little? Seemed like we held that one quite well.

Secondly, Morris. Morris had put the knife between his teeth and fought himself back in the game with a series of tactical blows. His opponent ended up grabbing a few pawns, one of which was poisoned. Morris had a chance to deal a decisive blow but missed it in time trouble, after which he had to still hold the draw:

Morris’ opponent still tried as after all he had an extra pawn and every reason to continue. This ended up being a 60-move slog, 15 of which I ended up writing down as the game went deep into the evening. Eventually Morris too managed to keep it to a draw, exchanging all the remaining pieces off the board and leaving insufficient material.

And finally Oscar, who had the toughest job of us all, as his game looked to be genuinely losing:

We can see Oscar’s problems here. A pawn and a small exchange down does not make for a pleasant game, so Oscar had to settle for causing trouble and trying to create counterplay in some way. Much like Alessandro’s game, Oscar too ended up driving his pawns forwards while the opposing a-pawn advanced. Perhaps, if the pawns got forward enough, the king might be threatened or a passed pawn might be created, which might well be enough. But still – the game had to be at least drawn, as while all this was going on, it was clear that neither Alessandro nor Morris (the poisoned pawn situation was already past) was going to win.

So, another position from Oscar’s game:

Black’s plan is taking shape. The white king remains a little unsafe, and miraculously, Oscar got his h-pawn to slip through just in time to cause real trouble. The white king turned out really inconveniently placed as promotion on h1 would be a check and get the white counterpart on a8. In the end, Oscar’s opponent had to give material to save the position, only for Oscar to swiftly take him apart after that.

So a really tense 3-1 victory. Of course, once you get back home, and analyze games out a little bit further or throw them in the engine of your choice, all of it seems a lot less tense afterwards. For instance; I was constantly nervous about Alessandro being able to hold, but as it turned out, the game never really left the balance there 🙂 Engines don’t get nervous I guess!

Up next; semi-finals!

Paul van Zon