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European Club Cup
Lawrence Cooper reports on Hilsmark Kingfisher at the European Club Cup in Kemer, Turkey
England’s sole representatives, Hilsmark Kingfisher, had a daunting first round draw. We were drawn against Bosna Sarajevo who were led by Vassily Ivanchuk and also featured Nigel Short on board 5! Despite the huge rating differences we were looking forward to the challenge. Keith was facing the world number two, whilst the rest of the team were facing GMs rated below 2691 and 2645.
The board 1 tussle was a g3 Kings Indian with Ivanchuk varying from Arkell-Karajkin from Hastings Premier 2002 by playing 11…Bg4. Possibly the critical moment came on move 14 when Keith could have played Qxf3 giving him a slight edge and a position that black would have found very hard to play for a win. Instead after Bxf3 he came under pressure and despite putting up strong defence he eventually lost a pawn and lost on time as his position became critical.
On board 2, Andrew faced Almasi rated 2691 with black. Andrew obtained a solid position in a Bogo-Indian and as the time control approached one could tell Almasi was unhappy with his position. Sadly Andrew appeared to go astray after declining to take an exchange in an unclear ending and his position quickly fell apart. Although I haven’t had a chance to analyse the game I thought Andrew stood well and was the one looking to win.
On board 3 Jovanka was white against Movsesian rated 2679. After declining an unclear queen sac Jovanka appeared to have the better position and entered an ending a pawn up. Sadly the position turned and she eventually lost. Aside from the moves played on the board, one had to admit that Movsesian facial expressions made him a very difficult opponent to sit opposite.
On board 4 Nick faced Ivan Sokolov with black. Although he appeared to have a reasonable position from the opening his pawn sacrifice didn’t yield sufficient compensation and he was eventually ground down.
The result of the day was Chris Briscoe’s draw with Nigel Short on board 5.Short equalised comfortably from the opening and appeared to be the player pressing in the middle game, particularly as Chris was running short of time. However, Chris kept his nerve and managed to create enough counter play to force a repetition in a double rook ending where Chris had sacrificed a pawn but obtained a lot of activity. Indeed it was Chris who considered playing for a win at the end before agreeing to Short’s draw offer. A fine result and I was especially pleased with the way he handled the critical part of the game after a lacklustre opening.
On board 6 Christin faced a 2645 GM named Predojevic. After a fairly equal opening she tried to become active at the wrong moment and her pawn sacrifice was easily refuted and her activity proved insufficient. Once the queens came off her position quickly fell apart.
In conclusion, although I felt the score was harsh I was pleased we had the chance to play such a strong side and felt that with the exception of boards 4 and 6 we had chances in all the other four games. Keith was punished for one or maybe two inaccuracies and Andrew and Jovanka both had good positions before going astray around the first time control. I certainly think the experience of playing such a match would help in the future when taking on such strong opposition.
There was inevitably a slight sense of anti-climax in round 2 after the honour of playing a team of 2600-2700s the day before. However, we were still narrowly outrated and so to win 4.5-1.5 against a solid Finnish side was an outstanding result. We had the edge on rating on the top 3 whilst we were outrated on the bottom 3. Bearing this in mind, Keith’s opponent was determined to use the white pieces to swap off all the pieces and neutralise our GM. A slight gain maybe for them but at least it left us with 3 whites on the bottom 5 to try and win the match.
Andrew produced a typically smooth display to grind down Lehtivaara in a Lopez transferring a slight space advantage into an ending where his better pieces, pawn structure and active king were sufficient to win in 57 moves. A typically smooth performance.
Jovanka also won but in a more tactical struggle. A well-timed pawn sacrifice opened the position to her advantage and her opponent chose to sacrifice the exchange for insufficient compensation rather than allow her to win the pawn back with advantage.
Nick secured an advantage from the opening after good preparation but was unable to convert it into anything clear cut and after his opponent freed his position with exchanges Nick drifted into a worse position and eventually lost two pieces for a rook.
Chris built on his excellent result against Short by defeating a 2354 with black. He had no problems from the opening and gained an active position. White sacrificed a pawn to try and leave Chris’s queen out of play and managed to restore the material balance before blundering a piece after which the result was never in doubt.
Christin’s game was a topsy turvy affair. After achieving no advantage from the opening she drifted into a passive middle game. However she deserves credit for turning the position around and her pressure led to her winning a pawn just after the time control. Perhaps due .to tiredness she actually blundered the pawn back when on the verge of winning a second pawn in the rook ending. Fortunately she stayed calm and actually won rook & pawn each when her opponent overlooked a trick which won her a rook and left her enough time to stop her opponent’s pawn.
An excellent team performance and a great boost to confidence after the first round.
After the elation of the previous day’s fine team performance round 3 was something of a disappointment. Although we were facing a strong Strasbourg team with 3 GMs to our 1 I still felt we had chances to cause an upset. Sadly we didn’t even come close.
Keith achieved an excellent result on board 1, holding GM Rozentalis to a draw with black although he had to play accurately to neutralise a nagging white initiative in a 4…Nd7 Caro. Despite getting short of time he was able to find an exchange sacrifice that defused white’s initiative and forced white to repeat moves.
On board 2 Andrew was super solid and mass exchanges led to a 14 move draw against a 2541 rated GM.
Sadly we were outgunned on the bottom 4 boards with only Chris drawing. Jovanka appeared to have a fairly equal position for most of the game but blundered and eventually had to give up a piece to stop her opponent’s passed b pawn.
Nick’s misfortune continued on board 4 where despite his opponent equalising and gaining a comfortable middle game Nick seemed to be gaining an edge before a blunder where he sacrificed a piece but missed a vital queen check which left him a piece down for no compensation.
Chris appeared to have the better of a tactical Najdorf with opposite castling. His well timed exchange sacrifice on c3 gave him a strong initiative and white was eventually forced to giver the material back. Black still appeared to be better but white was able to escape to a Q&R ending. Allowing an exchange of rooks probably ended his winning chances as he was unable to make progress in the Q&P and subsequent K&P ending due to his doubled a pawns.
Christin was unable to build on her round 2 victory and after achieving a slightly unusual opening a tactical sequence led to a better position for black and her black squared weaknesses around her king led to her dropping an exchange and she was unable to recover.
A disappointing result but the test now is for the team to bounce back against a lower rated but unpredictable Turkish side in round 4.
Round 4 proved to be one of the most dramatic matches I’ve been involved in. Although we outrated them heavily on the bottom three boards it was actually at the top where we secured the points to win us the match.
Keith registered his first win with a smooth game to secure Hilsmark’s first win on board one in the two years we have played. A quiet opening led to a position where Keith had a queenside majority in a Q&N ending and he won the ending with ease.
Andrew won with black in a Ruy Lopez. Initially the position was blocked but white sacrificed his d-pawn to open up the position. Andrew remained calm and was able to repel the white counterplay and emerged a piece up with a clever tactic.
Jovanka played a nice game without securing the full point. Her pressure in a 3 Bb5 Sicilian forced the win of the exchange but, somewhat fortunately, her opponent seemed to emerge with compensation. Despite Jovanka returning the exchange in favour of an extra pawn she was unable to make progress and had to agree to a draw.
Nick finally had some luck and saved an ending an exchange for a pawn down. The early game saw Nick temporarily sacrifice a pawn in a Benoni/Benko type position which he eventually regained before sacrificing an exchange to emerge with R, N + 5 versus 2 Rooks + 3. Swapping one pair of rooks was possibly a mistake, which led to a R+3 v N+4 ending where white quickly made progress and the win seemed only a matter of time. However, Nick managed a miraculous escape in what was the final game of the match and therefore the winning half. Finally his luck appears to have turned.
After his impressive start Chris had a quick draw with white. The Turks are unpredictable players and despite his opponent being 250 points below Chris he had drawn with a GM the day before. Possibly this played on Chris’s mind and the game ended in a repetition of moves as early as move 16 in a 4 Qxd4 Sicilian.
Christin had a disappointing day. An unclear Slav opening where black tried to hold onto an extra pawn turned in white’s favour as he gained the material. Black had a difficult task with a weak pawn structure and a blunder from Christin lost a rook as her pawns were about to start dropping off. One thing was clear, her opponent looked far stronger than his 1942 rating.
Keith continued where he left off in round 4, utilising his double white to grind down another helpless IM opponent. Black’s early activity led to nothing and Keith soon emerged with an improved minority attack, which he transferred into a winning rook ending. Following this win Keith moved to +1 against a 2542 field.
Andrew lost a tough battle with black in a long game where white’s R&B proved to be stronger than black’s R&N in the ending despite the knight’s strong outpost on c5. Despite black creating counterplay white retained control and his passed d pawn eventually forced the win of material.
Jovanka had a short draw on board 3 with white in a Sicilian Kan against the talented young German IM Lorenz Drabke. White appeared to have some initiative but by the time the position was agreed drawn a clear-cut plan to play for an advantage was hard to find. Given the frustration of the day before it’s easy to understand why Jovanka accepted her opponent’s draw offer.
My 2007 debut was something of a baptism of fire as I unwittingly played into a line that my opponent had analysed in depth and not knowing the mass of theory required to steer the game into a level ending I ended up in a passive position where my opponent’s doubled h and b pawns were more than compensated for by his two bishops and space advantage. I failed to come up with a satisfactory defence and lost material although I battled on more in hope than expectation after losing an exchange.
Nick’s change in fortune continued as he overcame the early blunder of a pawn to create some counterplay and when black grabbed a second pawn he obtained sufficient play for his opponent to return one pawn with a draw offer. After some thought Nick accepted. The position remained unclear, black was short of time and Nick had some chances but after his early error I was pleased to see him emerge unscathed.
Chris lost in a tough battle on board 6. An unclear opening and middle game ended in a tense time scramble and when the smoke had cleared Chris had the worst of a rook ending. Somewhat unfortunately his opponent had a strong move at the end of a long sequence, which left him a pawn up in a rook ending that he was able to convert. Chris unfortunately missed a drawing move Kd8 towards the end. A good battle and I think Chris can count himself unlucky to have suffered his first loss.
Pride and Prejudice
Barbican 4NCL 1
White Rose 1
Cambridge Univ. 1
Barbican 4NCL 2
Pandora's Box Grantham
S. Wales Dragons
Poisoned Pawns 1
Jutes of Kent
Warwickshire Select 1
Barbican 4NCL Youth
Poisoned Pawns 2
Celtic Tigers 1
White Rose 2
FCA Solutions 1
Sambuca Black Sheep
Cambridge Univ. 2
Warwickshire Select 2
FCA Solutions 2
The Full Ponty
Sussex Smart Ctls.
Braille Chess Assoc.
Beauty and the Beasts
Celtic Tigers 2