As the finishing line of the inaugural European Individual Championship for Small Nations is slowly approaching, with medals, money prizes, norms and a coveted qualification spot for the World Cup at stake, the games are heating up and every point counts. Thus it was not surprising that the seventh round (of eleven), played after the free day, would be extremely combative.
The free day itself was most enjoyable for participants and accompanying people. Almost everyone involved with the tournament, be it in a competitive or organizational role, joined a lovely excursion to the traditional villages of Lefkara and Kato Drys, right after a tour of the famous church of Saint Lazarus. After walking around the former destination and enjoying its architecture and atmosphere, the group visited a winery, where they were informed of the local wine-production techniques, while they also had the opportunity to taste various products of the business. A subsequent visit to the local Bees and Embroidery Museum was followed by a most exquisite lunch in traditional Cypriot style, before the party returned to Larnaka in the early afternoon. The day was concluded with a friendly blitz tournament, which was dominated by Olaf Berg (with a 100% score of 9/9), with Oscar De la Riva finishing second and the Tournament Director, FM Paris Klerides, third.
There has been a large percentage of decided games in the tournament, with rarely more than one drawn game in every round. Remarkably, that singular drawn game is usually that of former Cyprus champion Antonis Antoniou, who now has scored six draws out of seven games played! This has not been through lack of trying, of course, and only today’s game was rather short; but, playing against the tournament leader, De la Riva, the Cypriot cannot be accused for trying to play it safe. White obtained a stable position in the center after the opening, making it very hard for the Andorran Grandmaster to seek play; with a one-point lead over the field, the decision to not push things too much seemed rather justified, and thus an early repetition of moves concluded the game.
This result, however, allowed Michael Wiedenkeller to close the gap with the leader to only half a point, with their head-to-head encounter still ahead of us in round 9. The Luxembourg IM defeated Peter Kirby after a complicated battle. Black unusually gave up his central bastion in a Stonewall structure, but obtaining an extra pawn in this way. White developed counterplay and for quite a while the position remained unclear. However, Black eventually managed to unravel and free his position, whereupon White was faced with further material losses. Olaf Berg and Igor Efimov also came within striking distance, a further half point behind, thanks to their quick wins over Tito Kahn and Massimiliano Maccapani respectively. Berg efficiently broke through Kahn’s Stonewall structure with a standard central strike, and won a piece right when the position opened up, owing to a miscalculation on White’s part. Meanwhile, Efimov quickly built up a promising position in the face of Black’s passive opening play, and Black’s attempt to cover the dark-square weaknesses around his king by bringing the queen over to assist the defense ended in disaster, as the queen ran out of available squares.
The talented young Cypriot Andreas Kelires scored an important win against Renato Frick, in a game that was fiercely contested. A complicated King’s Indian battle remained unclear deep into the middlegame, with Black constantly seeking active play and White trying to stabilize his space advantage. It appears that the balance was disturbed when Frick decided to allow the opening up of the position, as White appeared to be better prepared for this; his pieces quickly swarmed through Black’s lines, creating serious threats. Black put up stiff resistance, but Kelires did not lose his cool in time pressure and eventually drove the point home. The game between Oliver Said and Fred Berend was also tense, with Black’s flexible position withstanding White’s attempts to attack. When several moves were executed in mutual time pressure, Black gradually seized the initiative and, when the time-control was reached, it emerged that he was able to win a key pawn. The conversion process was by no means simple, if at all possible, but White failed to defend in the most precise way and eventually allowed Black to speed things up when he walked into a mating net.
The event is organized by FIDE, the Cyprus Chess Federation (KYSO) and the European Chess Union, with sponsorship from the Larnaka Tourism Board and the Municipality of Larnaka, and takes place at the Larnaka Museum Historical Archives from April 22nd to April 30th. Full coverage of the event can be found at the official website, http://larnaca2014.fide.com, with results, standings, news and photo galleries. All games are transmitted live via the official website, also with real-time computer analysis.