Round Five. The Junction Point
The main favorites in nearly all categories of the FIDE World Youth Championships made strong steps forward, which may even be called decisive later on.
Let us start with the Open 14 section. The two Russians who were running at a full speed met on the first board – Andrey Esipenko and Semyon Lomasov. The former was a clear favorite before the start – being the Vice-Champion of Europe and World, he is also rated 50 points above the second ranked player of the event and obviously has tremendous confidence in his ability. His opponent is ranked 5th, and was considered more of a dark horse.
The course of the tournament, however, did not quite support the prediction. Both players won four out of four, but Esipenko did not always win in a convincing way, often prevailing in attrition wars, while Lomasov’s games were very impressive, especially his third round victory.
Despite playing Black, Lomasov won the opening duel. First he carried out a favorable trade of the light-squared bishops – a key piece in White’s attacking setup, then offered a queen trade. Had Esipenko accepted the offer, the game could end quickly and peacefully. However, Andrey went for an attack by 17.Qg4, and burnt the bridges on the next move, sacrificing a pawn.
Black’s reply 23…h5 looked like a wake-up call for White. While Esipenko spent time on regrouping his pieces, Lomasov blocked all roads leading to his king and started to utilize an extra pawn…
When the fate of the game was nearly sealed, Lomasov looked extremely nervous, as if he was scared to death to spoil everything with a random error, while Espineko seemed extremely confident. He will surely make use of this confidence – in the next six rounds, when he will be trying to catch up with the leader.
The Open 16 section featured a similar plot – two leaders with the perfect score faced each other on the first board: Haik Martirosyan (#3, Armenia) versus Amin Tabatabaei (#2, Iran). The latter’s game in the first four rounds was nothing short of impeccable.
Martirosyan had White, and he started very cautiously, as if he was happy with a draw, not taking any risks, but then, after the queens were exchanged, suddenly grabbed the poisoned d5-pawn! Black quickly developed the initiative. Haik’s minor pieces look just pitiful on the diagram.
The handsome Iranian looked like a king, standing next to the table with arms crossed on a chest looking at his opponent’s misery. On the board, he did everything right – forced the opponent to make weaknesses and then put pressure on them. The only trump Haik had was his passed pawn on the h-file, which looked quite harmless for a long time.
However, the pawn made it to the h6 and suddenly started to make a difference. White managed to activate his pieces, and Amin cracked under the pressure.
An exchange sacrifice 59.Rxf4! sealed the game. Black was unable to stop White’s pawns. Martirosyan won his fifth straight game.
There were no such clashes in the Open 18 category, only the final preparatory steps took place. The main favorites, Maksim Vavulin and Manuel Petrosyan scored another wins. The Armenian slowly and without flashes outplayed his compatriot Aram Hakobyan, while the Russian once again created a fire on board and outsmarted his opponent from Madagascar on the fifth hour of play.
Who do you think is playing for a win? It turns out, White does. In the course of the next 10 moves, Vavulin stalemated his king on a5, seizing an excellent outpost on c5 for his knight. Rakotomaharo lost the thread of the game, made several moves with the knight – e6-g7-f5-d6, and then lost two pawns one after another.
Therefore, after the rest day we will have the high point of the 6th round – Petrosyan-Vavulin. Two months ago Manuel stole the European title from Maksim. Will the Russian strike back? We’ll see. The Armenian plays White, so the ball is on his side.
While the situation in Open categories is more or less clear, the Girls events are a complete mess. In the Girls 14 event the tandem of the Russian leaders fell apart. Elizaveta Solozhenkina moved to a sole lead, beating the American Annie Wang in a rook ending 3 vs 2, while Aleksandra Maltsevskaya drew against the Indian Nutakki Priyanka, never having a chance to play for a win.
The rating favorite of the Girls 16 event Polina Shuvalova won a second game in a row. Finally she managed to get an opening advantage, then misplayed, allowing the opponent to equalize, and then outplayed Vera Prakapuk for the second time – no wonder, as Vera is rated almost 500 points lower! However, the competitors also won their games. Aakanksha Hagawane from India defeated Anna-Maja Kazarian, who was a sole leader before the 5th round, with a checkmate on the board!
On the second table, Oliwia Kiolbasa won against Amina Battsooj – the Mongolian blundered an exchange and resigned immediately.
Finally, the Greek Stavroula Tsolakidou took a sole lead in the Girls 18 section. Her today’s opponent Mariola Wozniak played poorly in the opening, grabbed a poisoned pawn, and by the move 13 was already in a big trouble.
Tsolakidou could have won faster, but a win is a win.
The first board game between Nino Khomeriki and Alexandra Obolentseva could also end in a crushing victory for one of the players. The Russian mishandled the opening, and the rating favorite of the event achieved a totally dominating position on the 13th move.
However, the Georgian spent too much time preparing breaks on the e-file and then on the h-file, so Black managed to consolidate and eventually held a draw. Perhaps after the rest day the girls’ play will be more purposeful!
P.S. Sad news arrived during the 5thround – Mark Dvoretsky, one of the greatest trainers of our time, passed away at the age of 68. Several generations of chess players grew up on his books and lectures, and dozens of famous grandmasters proudly proclaim themselves Dvoretsky’s students. Our condolences to the family members.