Smerdon Loses in Last Round, But Wins Batavia
Until Saturday it was clear who was playing the best chess at the Batavia GM tournament in Amsterdam: David Smerdon. The 29-year-old grandmaster from Brisbane, Australia won the tournament outright, despite getting crushed in the last round by tail-ended IM Steven Geirnaert. 14-year-old FM Jorden van Foreest finished shared third and scored an IM-norm.
After the fifth round two GMs were tied for first place in Amsterdam: David Smerdon and Simon Williams. After the rest day (Wednesday) play resumed in cafe Batavia 1920, opposite Amsterdam Central Station, on Thursday with round 6. It was clear that the players were ready for battle, and at the end of the day not a single game had ended in a draw!
Smerdon was the first winner of the day. In a Sicilian Dragon he was the one running with his h-pawn (as Black!) and with two sort of "hesitating" moves, 11.Rc1 and 12.b3 ("they work in normal positions but not in this one" - Smerdon), White got himself into trouble. 16.f4 was already losing; 16.Bxf6 Bxf6 17.Nd5 Rh6 18.Nd4 offered better resistance.
Top seed GM Sipke Ernst started badly but after the rest day he scored his first win, against IM-elect Alina l'Ami. As IM Yochanan Afek points out on the official website, White should have played 16.Ne4 Nxe4 17.Bxe4; instead she went for an attack but problably missed the counter-blow 19...b3! Soon it became clear who was really attacking in this game.
The most exciting game of round 7 was the following. It started as a Nimzo-Indian, Rubinstein variation and for a long time the game looked like one of the encounters between Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand in their Moscow 2012 match. At first White had the better chances (26.c5! bxc5 27.Bb5 Red8 28.dxc5 was strong - Afek) but he couldn't find the right way and eventually started sacrificing too much.
IM Merijn van Delft, who had started badly like Ernst, won two games in a round. After a good win against Geirnaert on Thursday, he was lucky in his game against Van Foreest on Friday. (Interestingly, Van Delft was Van Foreest's coach when the latter became European Champion U14 last year.)
After an inaccuracy in the opening (allowing e4-e5) Van Delft was worse, and then played the losing move 20…Nxe5 as after 21. Bxe5 f5 he had missed 22.Bf6!. However, then Van Foreest blundered by not playing the logical and more or less crushing 25.Nd6! and suddenly Black was winning.
However, less than 24 hours later Van Foreest had reason to smile again: he got an early draw offer by IM Twan Burg, and so the 14-year-old Dutch talent secured his IM norm!
The round also saw the clash between GMs Smerdon and Williams - the two leaders after five rounds. And it became clear (well, not taking into account the final round!) that Smerdon was the best player in this year's event: he simply calculated better than his opponents. In this game 26…Rxa4? was the decisive error; 26…hxg5! 27. Qxh8 Rxa4 was a better try according to Afek.
Smerdon seemed to be cruising to victory easily, but suddenly he had a complete off-day on Sunday, losting to tail-ender Steven Geirnaert. White already had a slight plus out of the opening, and then playing actively on the kingside was the wrong plan for Black. It seems clear that Smerdon still has a love-hate relationship with that Stonewall!
Suddenly Twan Burg still had a chance to win the tournament outright. The Dutchman was playing for a win anyway, in his game against Sipke Ernst, because 6.5 points was needed for a GM-norm. He went all or nothing, and got nothing:
In the last round Simon Williams missed a win. Can you see it?
Batavia 2014 | Final Standings