‘Experience’ maintain lead: 16-14

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NH Chess Tournament 2009In Round 6 of the NH Chess Tournament the Experience team maintained a two-point lead in their battle with the Rising Stars. Hikaru Nakamura is still not in good physical shape and lost with White to Ljubomir Ljubojevic but Jan Smeets, on the other hand, is close to winning the ticket for Amber 2010 after beating Beliavsky.

The NH Chess Tournament takes place August 20-31 in hotel Krasnapolsky, in the heart of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. As always, the tournament is a confrontation between a team of five young ‘Rising Stars’ and a team of five ‘Experienced’ grandmasters.

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Round 6



Report by the official website

The heroes of the day were Ljubomir Ljubojevic and Jan Smeets. Ljubojevic, the lowest rated player on the Experience team scored his third win and now has the same top-score as top-seed Svidler. His victim was Hikaru Namakura, who is still plagued by health problems. Rising Star Smeets defeated out-of-form Alexander Beliavsky and holds excellent prospects to win the ticket to the 2010 Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament in Nice. With four rounds to go the Dutch Champion is 1½ points ahead of Caruana and 2 full points ahead of Nakamura. Tomorrow the players will have another free day due to festivities in the hotel that would make it hard for the management to guarantee the required peace and quiet for a chess tournament. On Friday, August 28, Round 7 will be played.

Yesterday the players enjoyed their first free day. Some of them stayed at the hotel to rest and prepare, Peter Svidler (of course) went to watch the cricket match between the Netherlands and Afghanistan in Amstelveen, and four of the grandmasters (Van Wely, Caruana, Stellwagen and Hou Yifan) joined an excursion to the Schermer and Beemster polders and the picturesque villages of Volendam and Marken, where they visited a windmill, a cheese factory and various other attractions that are generally seen as ‘typically Dutch’.

NH Chess Tournament 2009

Today it was business as usual again and at half past two in the afternoon the NH tournament was resumed in the Foyer Room of the Krasnapolsky hotel. The shortest game of the day was the one between Hou Yifan and Peter Svidler, which took only 18 moves and a mere two and a half hours. The Russian Champion defended himself with the Pirc Defence, but wasn’t too happy with the position he ended up in. ‘This is not what you play the Pirc for’, he commented on his manoeuvre 9…Bxh6 10.Ng4. After these moves White could withdraw her queen to d2, but another option was what she played, going for a slightly better ending with 11.Qg5, when Black cannot avoid the queen swap. Or as Svidler put it, ‘I didn’t want to go for that, because if there’s one thing she does exceptionally well it’s giving mate.’ However, the ending was only slightly worse for him and with a couple of precise moves he secured the draw, stressing afterwards that in this position there were no chances whatsoever to fight on.

NH Chess Tournament 2009

Daniel Stellwagen played an entertaining game with Peter Heine Nielsen. In the opening, after 10…exd4, the Dutchman rejected the tame 11.Nxd4 with an edge, but opted for the more adventurous 11.cxd4. An important move on Black’s side was 12…Bd7, which took the Danish grandmaster 50 minutes, a good investment according to Stellwagen. A few moves later the inevitable piece sacrifice on g5 followed. Stellwagen believed that the resulting endgame was slightly better for him, but the longer he looked at the position, the more resources he saw for his opponent. When he took stock after 26 moves he concluded that there was no advantage left whatsoever, and that he might even be worse, and offered a draw.

NH Chess Tournament 2009

The good news of the day for the local fans was the win of Dutch Champion Jan Smeets against Alexander Beliavsky. The Slovenian grandmaster was ready to play another Philidor (by transposition of moves), but Smeets exchanged queens and went for an ending which would not have brought him much if Black had played 12…Nbd7. But Beliavsky chose 12…h6 which resulted in a middlegame with opposite-coloured bishops in which White had an edge thanks to Black’s vulnerable kingside pawns. According to Smeets his position became ‘technically winning’ when Black had to push his pawns to g5 and f6. But the game took a dramatic turn when Beliavsky started to play for a win and launched an attack on the white king. ‘Suddenly I was almost mated’, Smeets commented, still in disbelief. Well, actually he was not, and Beliavsky had been better advised to take a draw by a repetition of moves when the opportunity arose. Instead, he overplayed his hand and only realized what he had done when it was too late. For Beliavsky it was his fourth loss, for Smeets his third win.

NH Chess Tournament 2009

Fabiano Caruana countered the predictably Najdorf Variation of Loek van Wely with 6.Be2. The set-up that the Dutchman chose looked risky, but he got what he was looking for when White let him push …e5. To his mind 13.Nf3, in order to push e5 himself, would have been better than 13.Bf3. In the remainder of the game Caruana had the feeling that he was still a bit better, but Van Wely was of the opinion that he had everything under control, which seemed to be confirmed when on 38 moves he could claim a draw because of a threefold repetition.

NH Chess Tournament 2009

The game between Hikaru Nakamura and Ljubomir Ljubojevic was another dramatic and unfortunate adventure for the American Champion. In the opening, an Accelerated Dragon, he lost a pawn to the well-known ‘trick’ 8...Qb4. True to style Nakamura continued as if nothing had happened and won the admiration of the experts when he managed to obtain a decent position. But more than equal his chances were not and he should have made a draw with 29.Rxc8+ Bxc8 30.Rb8. His decision to play for a win with 29.Qb5+ was too optimistic. Ljubojevic grabbed his chances and playing accurately the Serbian grandmaster warded off all threats and scored his third win.

NH Chess Tournament 2009

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