The fourth round saw tense matches and exciting turnarounds in the duels of the favourites.
Two teams with the perfect score 6/6, Iceland and England 1, clashed in the central match of the day in the S50 category. The English players didn’t pose serious problems with the white pieces, as Emms (2448) couldn’t create anything against Hjartarson’s (2432) French Defence, and Arkell (2352) was similarly toothless against Thorallsson (2382).
All the action happened on the odd-numbered boards.
Facing Olafsson (2491) with Black, Adams (2662) chose an old favourite of his, the Queen’s Indian. The opening went surprisingly well for Black, and soon enough, he started to think about being better.
Black jumped 16…Nc3 and after 17.Bxc3 dxc3, the pawn on c3 became a dangerous asset, especially as it could be supported by …Bf6. Both sides placed their pieces on natural squares, and on move 21, White embarked on a strange-looking manoeuvre.
In view of White’s last move 20.h4, Adams expected 21.Ng5 here, with ideas like Qh5 or Nge4, but instead of that White played 21.Bh3 with the idea of Bf5-b1!
The plan was to control both a2 and c2 in view of the impeding …Nb4, but Adams already felt that this wasn’t quite right for White.
The critical moment came on move 25.
Adams expected the exchange of rooks on d8. Black should still be winning, but it would have been more difficult than in the game. White played 25.Bd3? and after 25…Nb4 was forced to go back 26.Bb1, which obviously only helped Black. After 26…Qg4 White’s position collapsed, and he resigned after 27.Re1 Bxc4 28.bxc4 c2 as Black wins material.
During the post-game interview on the live broadcast, Adams showed a fantastic line, which, although far from forcing or even very relevant, I have to show.
Michael calculated this during the game, though he realised White’s last move 29.Qd6? was bad (better was 29.Nd6). But here he was quite happy to find 29…Qxf3!! 30.Kxf3 Nd4 31.Kf4 Nd2 mate!
A position that deserves a diagram!
Unfortunately for the English team, on board three, Flear (2405) couldn’t withstand the pressure in spite of defending well for some time against Petursson (2396).
Here, the only move was to exchange queens by 28…Rxd4 29.Rxc7 Ra4, though White is certainly still better.
However, the retreat 28…Qc8? lost on the spot in view of 29.Qd6 and after 29…Be8 30.Bxe5 fxe5 31.Qe7 Black resigned as mate will soon follow, even if he gives up a piece to postpone it.
USA were very lucky to beat England 2, and for that, they had to thank Shabalov’s magic on board one.
Shabalov’s (2465) attack was finely repulsed by Dishman (2304) who obtained a winning position. The price he had to pay was time-trouble. It was here that Shabalov used all his imagination to sow chaos on the board.
By that point, the position became unclear and a total mess, with both players making. The best for White would have been 32.Rfd1, but instead of that, Shabalov took the pawn with 32.Rxf5. Here Black was winning with 32…Rc4!, although 32…Rxg2 and 32…Nd4 were also tempting, though not winning.
In severe time scramble, Black simply blundered the pawn on f6 with 32…Ne7?? and after 33.Qxf6 White won.
Before this win, USA was leading 2-1 thanks to a technical win by Novikov (2513) against Clark (2278). Black sacrificed a pawn as early as move 4 (!) in the Grunfeld.
Instead of the usual 4…Nxd5, Black played the surprising 4…c6!? and obtained some compensation for the pawn after 5.dxc6 Nxc6 6.e3 e5, but didn’t make the most of it. White consolidated and converted the extra pawn.
The games on boards two and four between Lewis (2238) and Kaidanov (2549) and Stebbings (2257) and Yermolinsky (2419) respectively, ended in calm draws.
The match between Italy and North Macedonia Alkaloid saw incredible twists and turns.
The first game to finish was David (2523) – Georgiev (2542) where Black masterfully outplayed his opponent.
Black risks ending up in a passive position, and after a long thought Georgiev came up with what he called “the only move” 14…f5! Black must create activity and inject dynamism into the position. Over the next several moves, Black gave up the bishop pair to wreck White’s structure by taking on c3, making all White’s pawns isolated.
The key moment was on move 20, when Black found a wonderful manoeuvre.
After 20…Nd8! Black achieves beautiful harmony – the knight defends both weaknesses on e6 and b7, and Black threatens …Bc6 to exchange the defender of the white king.
White’s situation was compounded by the severe time-trouble that he entered. David resisted but still blundered in the end.
White’s last move was a mistake, though his position was not one to be envied. Black wrapped up with the cute 28…Rg3+!
This win gave the Macedonian team the early lead. They had great positions on the remaining three boards as well. However…
Thanks to his good preparation Nedev (2465) achieved an advantage both on the board and on the clock against Godena (2429). Here, White should have played 21.Rxe5 Nd7 22.Re7 Nxb6 23.Rxb7 Nxa4 24.Bxc4, but instead of that, he blundered with 21.Bc7? After 21…Nd7! the tables suddenly turned around – Black consolidated his position, and the bishop on a2 and White’s pawns became easy prey. Although Black had only a couple of minutes to reach time control, he was up to the task and scored a full point.
On board three, again, thanks to very good preparation, Bogdanovski (2385) obtained a better position with Black against Ortega (2410) in the Exchange Variation of the Slav. He correctly avoided a move repetition that White was seeking but faltered at the critical moment.
Instead of finally getting rid of the backward pawn with 24…c5!, with a clear advantage, Black played 25…Bb5? and allowed White to take a grip on the c5-square with 26.Nb3.
The position was equal and continued to be so for a while before Black committed a horrendous blunder.
Black’s last move was 35…Kd6?? (any rook move would have kept the balance) and White struck with 36.Nxa6! winning a pawn. The conversion wasn’t very difficult for Ortega.
On board four Stanojoski (2351) got a small edge against Bellia (2388), but that never materialised into something more serious, so a draw was a normal result.
In the S65 section, the derby on board one between Germany Lasker Schachstiftung GK and England 1 was decided by the Germans’ victory on board three.
On board one, a tense King’s Indian battle between Knaak (2438) and Nunn (2569) ended in a draw on move 24 in a position where there was still some play left, but objectively Black was past his troubles.
On board four Povah (2229) was lucky to escape with a draw against Koehler (2189) after blundering badly in the opening.
On board three Baker (2222) successfully improved his dubious position after the opening to obtain a satisfactory middlegame against Kalintschew (2377). He was undone by his own ambition.
Any normal move by Black would have kept the equilibrium, but Baker lashed out 21…f5? 22.exf5 Nxd3 (22…gxf5 is met by 23.d4!) 23.Qxd3 e4, but this left him in a hopeless position after the simple 24.Qd1 exf3 25.Rxe8 Qxe8 26.Bxf3.
Black lost a pawn and weakened his position for nothing. The rest was a smooth sail for White.
England should have drawn the match as on board two Kosten (2352) had a winning advantage against Meister (2439). This was a result of an inexplicable pawn sacrifice by Black.
White is pressing, but Black can defend. Instead of that, he simply gave up the pawn with 34…a5?!?!
White gladly accepted the gift and soon was in total control.
The most technical solution would have been to bring the king to the queenside first, to guard against possible queen incursions on the a-file. Kosten’s choice 38.Qd8 was objectively winning, but it required calculation as after 38…Qa7, the black queen penetrated along the a-file.
This required White to find the only winning move.
That move was 43.Bb4, but Kosten gave the check on d5, after which there was no win anymore.
This victory made Germany Lasker Schachstiftung GK the only team in both sections with a 100% score.
As we cross the tournament equator, all the fight lies ahead. A lot of exciting games to look forward to!
Round 4 starts tomorrow at 3 pm local time.
Written by GM Alex Colovic
Photos: Mark Livshitz
Official website: seniorteam2023.fide.com/