Round Three. The Final Time Out
In large open tournaments with an uneven lineup, the third round is usually the last more or less easy day, when the favorites have the luxury of facing a noticeably weaker opposition. Starting with the round four, each game on top boards will become a clash of contenders and will be of critical importance in the fight for the title.
The aforementioned principle was observed in almost all groups of the World Youth Championships, with one exception – the Open 18 category. The top games in this category were extremely tense already today, and the favorites often had no advantage over nominal underdogs. For example, Manuel Petrosyan (2nd ranked) found himself under heavy pressure against Johan-Sebastian Christiansen (12). The Norwegian played very subtly in the opening and forced the black king to desperately look for a safe harbor. It is quite possible that the play of Christiansen could be improved somewhere along the way, however the time pressure took its toll, and the game ended in a draw by perpetual.
Dmitrij Kollars (3), playing White against Seyed Khalil Mousavi (14), tried hard to break away from the group into a sole lead. However, when it started to look as if the German established a comfortable advantage, the Iranian executed series of accurate moves, which gave him a strong initiative. Kollars barely managed to survive in a complex ending. Another large scale fight occurred on the third board, where Zhanat Saiyn (15) held Aram Hakobyan (10) to a draw.
The Russian Maksim Vavulin managed to use this situation to his advantage. It seems the rating favorite from Russia in not on top of his form. Yesterday he barely survived as Black. Today he got nothing out of the opening as White. Moreover, had Arystanbek Urazayev shown some precision, Vavulin could end up in a big trouble. However, the player from Kazakhstan transposed the game into a deadly drawn rook ending, which ended… in a victory for the Russian on the 113th move! Bravo!
In contrast to the strongest group, almost half of the top games in other groups were pretty much one-sided. The leaders of the Open 16 section Amin Tabatabaei (2) and Haik Martirosyan (3) both won confidently. The Russian Olexandr Triapishko was also close to a victory, but misplayed in the time trouble and gave up half a point. Coming into the fourth round, four players have the perfect score.
Curiously, the main favorite, Parham Maghsoodloo from Iran, got stuck on +1. Yesterday the main reason for his draw was the opponent, who played White and made his peaceful intentions clear. Today Parham can only blame himself. An unpretentious opening as White lead to an equal position, and a draw was agreed already on the move 23. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that Maghsoodloo will take part in a fight for the gold in this category. The tournament is long, and one does not have to rush. Just make sure you don’t wait until it is too late…
The leaders of the Open 14 group – Andrey Esipenko (1) and Semyon Lomasov (5) from Russia showed clear superiority over their opponents. The character of those games was somewhat different: Lomasov took the bull by the horns immediately, relying on his deep home analysis (starting with the move 12, he played all the strongest moves suggested by the machine), while Esipenko made a subtle exchange sacrifice on the move 14, and decided the game with a direct attack. Kirill Shevchenko (3), who had a brilliant start, was unable to maintain the tempo – the Italian Matteo Pitzanti (25) proved a tough customer, and despite having a material advantage, the Ukrainian did not get more than a draw.
In the girls tournaments, the favorites swept through the opposition with the Olympiad-like 4-0 score. And they did not just win – they did not give their opponents a glimmer of hope!
Stavroula Tsolakidou (2), who had already won the Under 16 championship and decided to test the Under 18 this year, astonished with clarity of her play – every move of the Greek player was precise and deadly. Aleksandra Obolentseva (4) impressed with her bravery and truly surgical precision in executing her ideas. Josefine Heinemann (7) played with incredible calmness and composure. But the most impressive of all was Nino Khomeriki (1) – it seems she could have won such a fine game in a simul, or playing blindfolded…
It is a pity that the 12-year-old Russian Bibisara Assaubayeva (5) was unable to make a step forward as well. This little girl possesses the spirit of a true champion. She managed to get a nearly winning position against Michal Lahav (24), but did not cope with complications in the time trouble and suffered her first defeat. Well, misfortunes make us stronger.
The favorite of the Under 16 tournament, Polina Shuvalova made a second misstep. Playing White against Nilufar Yakubbaeva (30), the Russian never had even a slightly better position. Polina seems to always be under time pressure and does not cope with nervousness well, while the ambitious rivals continue to extend the gap. After the first three rounds, three players have the perfect score – Yao Lan (6) from China, Anna-Maja Kazarian (7) from Netherlands, and Danitza Vasquez (14) from Puerto Rico. Yet, the tournament distance is long, and let us see for how long they will remain on top.
The Russian leaders of the Under 14 group fired another winning salute. Elizaveta Solozhenkina (1) from St. Petersburg, daughter of grandmaster Evgeny Solozhenkin, stormed her opponent off the board with a strong pawn attack. It could become a textbook game, if Elizaveta did not blunder on the move 29, which forced her to win the game for a second time. Aleksandra Maltsevskaya won a long siege, proving that two rooks are stronger than a queen.