In the second round, the favourites continued to win their matches, but the resistance was visibly stiffer. One wonders, if the matches are tough so early, what would happen in the final rounds?
In the S50 section USA beat Montenegro 3.5-0.5, but the match was closer than the scoreboard would suggest. The draw on board one was a result of a good defence by Nikcevic (2358) against Shabalov (2465). On board two, Pajkovic (2412) had a normal position with White in a reversed Benoni, but he misevaluated opening of the b-file, which was not forced at all, and it turned out to be in Black’s favour. On board three, Ehlvest (2530) sacrificed a pawn for a dangerous attack against Podlesnik (2289), but Black defended with great precision to maintain balance. However, in a tense position, both players blundered:
Black’s last move 25…Be4? was a mistake. The only continuation to keep the game going was 25…f4. But here, inexplicably, Ehlvest didn’t play the obvious 26.Qg5, when an inevitable mate comes after Bg7 (or even the cheeky Qg7) and opted for the flashy 26.Rg6, which allowed Black to play a pretty defensive queen sacrifice with 26…Rxe7! 27.Rxe6 Rxe6, which led to an unclear situation.
In fact, the position became easier to play with Black. However, instead of consolidating, which would have given him easier play and an advantage, Podlesnik continued aggressively, only to become the unfortunate player who blundered last.
Here, Black should have taken on g2 with check and then captured the d6-pawn, with a tense but objectively equal position. But Black miscalculated and played 33…Bxg2?? but missed that after 34.Qxe6 Bd5 White has 35.Qxg8! winning on the spot.
After Black captured the queen, White pushed d7 and won the game. 1-0
On board four, Novikov (25143) displayed good technique to overcome Miljanic (2331).
England beat Poland 3-1, but they had a lucky break early on when Flear (2405) won quickly, thanks to a swift and unexpected attack against Sielicki (1956).
Black sacrificed a pawn for the initiative, and here he broke through with 27…f4! After 28.exf4 Nf5 Black wrapped up in style with …Nxf2 next. 0-1
The second win for England came on board one, where Adams (2662) outplayed Gdanski (2484) from the black side of the Exchange Ruy Lopez. It was a typical Adams game where it was almost impossible to sense the moment the position started shifting from equal to a somewhat more pleasant for Black to winning for Black.
There was a curious situation at the end of that game.
Adams is completely winning; the question is how to do it. Instead of calculating the pawn endgame after the exchange of rooks followed by …b5, which also wins, Adams played 52…Rf4, grabbing a second pawn, forcing an immediate resignation. For those readers who might think that this was a senior moment, I hasten to say that Adams’s decision was the more practical one – why calculate when you can win without calculation? This approach has been recommended by many coaches, including Mark Dvoretsky.
The other two games were drawn, even though both Emms (2448) was pressing against Sapis (2375) and Davies (2354) was doing the same against Flis (1948).
Italy beat England 2 thanks to David’s (2523) win over Dishman (2304) on board one. All the other games were drawn, giving Italy a narrow win.
Black’s king won’t survive, and White is spoilt for choice of winning moves (22.Rac1 and 22.Nxf7), but David went for the spectacular 22.Nxe6! Kxe6 23.Qg7 and eventually the black king was mated on b5.
The home team of North Macedonia Alkaloid also won narrowly, but at least they were never in danger of losing the match. The only win happened on board one when, in a severe time trouble, Mrva (2361) forgot about his rook against Georgiev (2542).
Black (Georgiev) has an extra pawn, but White has obvious counterplay on the kingside, thanks to the very stable bishop on d3. Now, White could have taken on g6 or played 38.Re7, when Georgiev wasn’t sure about the position – in fact, it is objectively equal. However, White played 38.Qf4?? and after 38…Rb4! could resign as the black rook moved away from the attack with tempo, something the rook on e1 couldn’t do. Black won the exchange and the game. 0-1
The other games were drawn, but Bogdanovski (2385), on board two, missed a one-move win against Motuz (2279).
White was winning from the early middlegame, being a pawn up for nothing. With his last move, Black took on a2 and here instead of the obvious 31.Ra1, winning a piece in view of the mate on a8 (or because of a pin after 31…Ra7 32.Bd5), he played 31.Rxc5? and then couldn’t convert the extra pawn.
In the S65 section, both Germany Lasker Schachstiftung GK and England 1 won 3-1. The German team had a wild game on board one where a technically winning position for Knaak (2438) against Westerinen (2237) became a complete mess after White misplayed it.
White was a pawn up and dominating for a long time, and here he went for the pretty 35.Qxf8! Kxf8 36.Kf1 (36.a7 was even stronger), which should have won. But he misplayed the position completely, and soon enough, it was Black who was winning!
Here 46…Qd8, 46…Qf6 and 46…Qc1 were all winning for Black, but he played 46…Ne7, and it was equal again. After many twists and turns, Black refused to give up his bishop for the a-pawn to stop promotion, and White eventually won.
Nunn (2569) beat Sadiku (2143), and Kosten (2352) outplayed Xheladini (2149) to ensure England’s victory over Kosovo, as the other two games were drawn.
The surprise winners were again the hosts North Macedonia, who beat Austria 1 by 2.5-1.5 after Kralevski (2054) on board two bested Danner (1967) with all the other games being drawn. North Macedonia shares first place with two wins together with four more teams.
Tomorrow we will see several clashes of favorites, and it’s only Round 3!
Round 3 starts tomorrow at 3 pm local time.
Written by GM Alex Colovic
Photos: Mark Livshitz
Official website: seniorteam2023.fide.com/