Things couldn’t be more evenly balanced after Round 7 of the European Championship in Jerusalem. A group of nine players is tied at the top of the table with 5.5/7, while no less than 21 players are lurking only half a point behind. The cliché that it’s all to play for has never been more apt! Our report includes Jan Gustafsson’s video analysis of two key games.
Let’s take a look at that table:
Ian Nepomniachtchi is the main man to blame for the huge tie after defeating sole leader Anton Korobov in Round 6. The game was a power struggle in which Nepomniachtchi sacrificed a pawn in exchange for a certain initiative – there was nothing concrete, but it was uncomfortable pressure for his opponent to deal with. The critical moment came on move 22:
Korobov played 22...Qe5? with the idea that after exchanging queens with 23.Qxe5 Nxe5 he could sacrifice the exchange with 24.Nb6 c3. Black’s passed pawn looks imposing, but he never managed to obtain full compensation for the exchange and the white rooks brought home the victory with relative ease. 22…c3 would have been a less creative but stronger move. The position remains very complex, White can attack with h6 and all three results would still be possible, but you’d certainly fancy Black’s chances more than in the ending an exchange down.
Jan Gustafsson took an in-depth look at the game:
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Ian drew with Black against Motylev in the seventh round and can now be considered the favourite.
Another player worth mentioning is 24-year-old English Grandmaster David Howell. After an impressive second place in Gibraltar he got off to a bad start in Jerusalem, but has managed to recover and pulled off a crucial win in Round 7. You couldn’t say he had the most appealing of positions after the opening in his game against Lupulescu…
David has just been forced to return his knight to d2, and although you might call his position “compact” it wouldn’t be the envy of any white player. Lupulescu perhaps got carried away with how well it was going and decided to hit out with 20…f4?!, a very committal move that ceded the e4-square to the white knights! Howell was able to use that point as a fulcrum to gradually squeeze out a victory – a great display of character from the young Englishman, who’s having a 2015 to remember.
In such a strong tournament there’s an almost unlimited supply of interesting ideas and games. One that stood out, however, was the madness of Nisipeanu – Bukavshin. At some point it became almost impossible to count the threats of both players.
Jan Gustafsson tried to make sense of it all:
With four rounds remaining the fight for the 23 World Cup places is really heating up, with perhaps 100 players still in with a shout. Nepomniachtchi-Howell (another battle between the incredible class of 1990), will be the top game to watch in Round 8. An English IM tweeted his support for his compatriot:
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