The first round of the Univé Open was quite hectic. Overall the tournament is quite strong, and the grandmasters didn’t exactly have an easy time. Especially a couple of talented German youngsters made their life miserable. The Czech Jiri Stocek didn’t get more than a draw against the tenacious defence of Valentin Buckels, Daniel Hausrath’s pupil who we already saw in Dieren earlier this year. But also the experienced player Peter Mijnheer did an excellent job against Oleg Romanishin. The latter was hoping to make his Elo surplus tell in the remote endgame, but he just couldn’t get through.
Sipke Ernst is known for his troubles in first rounds. In 2011 he lost to Arlette van Weersel here. Today he went too far against Sebastian Mueer, a German player who is completely unknown in these parts.
‘If I win in the first round, something’s wrong’, the grandmaster sniggered. ‘So actually nothing strange has happened. I’m simply happy with the draw.’
Mueer - Ernst
1.c4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Bf5 5.cxd5 cxd5 6.Qb3
This pawn sacrifice has been en vogue in recent years. Black used to play 6...Qb6 or 6...Qc8 here – the latter move was once played by our tournament director. ‘I knew the pawn sac was good’, Ernst said. ‘But I hadn’t really prepared it, of course.’
7.Qxb7 Bd7 8.Qb3 e5 9.d3 Rb8 10.Qd1
A sad retreat, also seen before. But White doesn’t have any weaknesses in his position. Black has to rely purely on his activity.
After 11.Bd2, 11...e4 is already pretty annoying, followed by 12...e3.
12.Nc3 has been played. The text is a little slow, and the answer is a little fast!
12...e4!? 13.dxe4 dxe4 14.e3
Understandably, White wants to prevent ...e4-e3, but now he gets a new hole on d3.
14...Ne5 15.0–0 Qc8
Black could grab an exchange with 15...Bb5 16.Nxe4 Bxf1 17.Qxf1 Nxe4 18.Bxe4 0–0, but probably Ernst didn’t give this a second look.
16.Nxe4 Nxe4 17.Qd4!
Stronger than it looks!
17...0–0 18.Qxe5 Re8!?
Again, 18...Bb5 was possible. ‘But I thought I could catch his queen,’ said Ernst.
19.Qxh5 g6 20.Qh4 Bf5 21.Rd1
In his calculations, the Frisian had missed that the queen could still escape to f4. Had he looked a little further here, then he would surely have seen that 21...Nxf2! wins: 22.Rf1 (22.Kxf2 Qc2+ 23.Rd2 Qxc1) 22...Nxh3+, for example 23.Kh2 Nf2! etcetera.
22.Qf4 Qc2 23.Rf1 Rb4
Optically it looks beautiful for Black. Here Houdini suggest the crazy 24.g4 Nc3 25.Na3 Ne2+ 26.Kh1 (analysis diagram)
And now Black has to retreat: 26...Qc5 27.Qf3 Ld3 28.Td1 La6 29.Dc6 with advantage to White. Mueer’s solution is more human.
24.Qe5 Qc8 25.Nd2 Bc5 26.Qd5
Again Ernst plays adventurously. ‘I was panicking a little’, he admitted afterwards. Here with 26...Be6 27.Qd3 Rd8 28.Qxd8+ (28.Qe2 Nxd2 29.Bxd2?? Rxb2 30.Rfd1 Bb4) 28...Qxd8 29.Nxe4 Bxh3 30.Bxh3 Rxe4 Black could have obtained good chances. The computer gives 0.00, but there’s no doubt that the grandmaster would have won this.
27.Rxf2 Rxe3!? 28.Kh2 Qc7 29.Nf1 Re5
‘I must have been losing somewhere’, Ernst said. And indeed, here 30.Bf4! would have won because 30...Rxf4 fails to the intermediate check 31.Qa8+.
30...Rd4 31.Qc3 Rd3 32.Qc4 Rd4 33.Qc3
Here White could make a last-ditch attempt with 33.Qb3!?. After 33...Rd3, the Rf2 now does hang because the bishop is no longer pinned, but 34.Rxf5! Rxb3 35.Rxe5 Qxe5 36.axb3 leads to an interesting endgame. Of course, Mueer was satisfied with the draw after...
33...Rd3 34.Qc4 Rd4 35.Qc3 Rd3 36.Qc4 ½–½
Only half a point lost. That’s more than we can say for Sergey Kasparov. His very young pupil Nazar Poznyak wasn’t so glad with his point by default, and Kasparov himself even went down against Alef Boer, who performed very well. ‘He plays like a machine’, said the grandmaster from Belarus. ‘Not a single mistake.’ Tomorrow Boer can try to repeat this against Anish Giri’s girlfriend, Sopiko Guramishvili, who with a 2381 Elo rating won’t be a walkover either.