Round 4

In group 1 the frontrunners Cramling and Peng kept eachother in balance. In a Queen’s Gambit Accepted Cramling adopted a modest set-up. For a moment it looked as if Peng would gain the advantage. Looking back Peng didn’t like 18…f6: ‘I should have fixed the white pawn structure with b7-b5-b4.’ After this critical moment followed some pinpricks in time trouble, but the balance was never broken. 

Just as in round 1, Van der Sterren and Ólafsson had a Nimzo-Indian position on the board, Van der Sterren having the white pieces this time. With 7. … b6 Olafsson played a variation ‘from the last century’, popularized by Paul Keres in the fifties. Van der sterren was very disappointed that his memory failed him: ‘In the old days I could remember all those variations without effort!’ In an attempt to comfort him, Olafsson put it to him that junior player Robin van Kampen probably didn’t know the system at all!

Van der Sterren sacrificed a pawn for the initiative, but Ólafsson counter-attacked well. After 21. … Nc5 the black night had to be exchanged in order to prevent it dominating the white position from d3. After that Olafsson took all venom out of the position by playing 24. …f6. Van der Sterren thought he could make him nervous with 25. Dd7, but Olafsson didn’t budge and replied a tempo. After a forced exchange, the game ended in a repetition of moves. Commentator Arno Bezemer applauded team mate Van der Sterren, who joined the commentary to explain his game to the audience. ‘Olafsson scored 3 out of 3 in earlier games with this variation. So you did very well to draw!’

In group 2 the games were more lively. Van Kampen surprised Soćko in a Sicilian Dragon electing to play 9.g4, a variation he hadn’t played before. Soćko’s reply wasn’t adequate. She tried to get back in the main variation through a change of moves, but Van Kampen had anticipated that. He played the exceedingly strong 13. a3 and gained two pawns in the first twenty moves with half an hour’s advantage on the clock. Winning this was relatively easy. A disappointed Socko was impressed by Van Kampen’s opening knowledge: ‘I could have tried the French, but he’s very well prepared against that as well.’ 

Conquest had a better position against Arakhamia-Grant after the pawn attack 13. … f5 and 17. … d5, but the white position was not an easy nut to crack. When Arakhamia played Bf2, allowing 24. … e4! instead of the stronger Re1, a relieved Conquest decided the game with an exchange sacrifice and an attack on the king.


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Download the games.pgn here.