A dream scenario for spectators and chess fans alike was played out during the penultimate round of the European Individual Championship for Small Nations, that is about to be concluded in the beautiful seaside town of Larnaka, Cyprus. Constant tournament leader Oscar De la Riva had to surrender yet another half point, thus allowing two other players to catch up with him in the standings. With a three-way tie for first place going into the last round, and tough match-ups for most of the leaders, a more exciting finish to the tournament could not have been expected!
De la Riva has not been as effective in the second part of the tournament, and in his game against Olaf Berg he quickly found himself trying to justify a pawn sacrifice in the opening. By threatening to win back the pawn in comfort, he invited an early move repetition; this was eventually accepted by his opponent. White did have possibilities of playing on, though Black's counterplay would have been considerable in that case, but decided not to, although this effectively meant the end of Berg's ambitions for a medal, and the direct IM title it would bring along. The result was hardly to the Andorran grandmaster's liking either: he loses in all tie-break scenarios for first place, and only an unlikely combination of results will give him the winner's prize (and the qualifying place to the World Cup).
Igor Efimov did not miss the chance to capitalize on this turn of events, by quickly beating Oliver Said with a direct kingside attack, after the Maltese mishandled the early middlegame. After his moderate start, Efimov is now back in the shared lead and has a theoretically easy pairing against tail-ender Tito Kahn in the last round, compared to De la Riva (he plays Berend) and the other leader, Michael Wiedenkeller (he plays Berg). Wiedenkeller joined the leaders with his win against Renato Frick, a win achieved in a long and complicated fight typical of the French Defense. The two players attacked on opposite flanks and at the same time tried to strike the right balance between their aspirations and prophylactic measures. The Luxembourg IM eventually performed this task more efficiently and managed to crash through, winning a few pawns and the game. Thanks to his win against Efimov in the early rounds, Wiedenkeller is assured of winning the tournament if he does no worse than his two rivals in the last round; thus, a win will secure him first place.
The other games of the round had their ups and downs, and proved quite interesting as well. Massimiliano Maccapani had a promising position against Peter Kirby, after the latter misplayed the opening, but he failed to exploit his opponent's inaccuracies and had to venture into obscure complications; the game finished abruptly when Maccapani blundered a piece. Andreas Kelires was completely winning from a very early stage against Tito Kahn, but he inexplicably missed several opportunities to finish his opponent off. Stubborn defense by the Jersey player unsettled the young Cypriot, whose inaccuracies were compounded by a more serious error later, and he even ended up in an inferior position; but Kahn had had enough excitement for today, and he offered a draw shortly after the time control. Finally, Fred Berend managed to beat Antonis Antoniou in a long and tumultuous game, where he first obtained a slight but very stable space advantage, then grabbed the chance to destroy Black's defenses and obtain a winning position. It was at this point that he started to play hesitantly, allowing Antoniou back in the game. Unfortunately for the local fans, the latter couldn't adjust to the changes in the position and failed to put up a proper defense, eventually getting mated in the center of the board; the mating pattern was so unusual that neither player realized it at the time!
In other activities, away from the tournament venue, a fruitful meeting of the delegates of the involved federations with FIDE and other officials was carried out in the morning, followed by yet another blitz tournament; this one was convincingly won by Zurab Azmaiparashvili, with Finnbjorn Vang second and Tournament Director Paris Klerides yet again third. In the afternoon, the International Organizers Seminar delivered by IO Theodoros Tsorbatzoglou was also concluded successfully, with the attendees taking their exam.
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.