08 Jan

Groningen Remembered


Intriguingly, they were world champion-to-be Mikhail Botvinnik and ex-champion Max Euwe, who were in a close race to the end. Botvinnik won in a nervy finish, to record his first outright victory outside of the Soviet Union, en route to the World Championship title in 1948; for Euwe, who won and lost the title in 1935 and 1937 respectively against Alexander Alekhine, it was to be the Dutchman’s last great international success.


Groningen also proved to be an important landmark in Smyslov's career as it was his first international tournament — and in capturing third place, he took the FIDE spot to be the sixth participant in the forthcoming match tournament for the world championship (five had already been named: Euwe, Keres, Botvinnik, Reshevsky, and Fine).

The crowds also turned up in force in Groningen for this first international after the war. Newspaper reports indicate that there were over 12,000 paying spectators - and even today, chess continues to be extremely popular with the Dutch. Next week, the first major of the year gets underway in Wijk aa Zee, with World Champion Magnus Carlsen heading a star-studded field at the 78th Tata Steel Tournament.

And the long chess tradition continues in Groningen, with the annual Groningen Chess Festival running 21-30 December 2015. Rising 16-year-old Dutch star IM Jorden Van Foreest gave the locals something to cheer about, as he edged out Indian GM Sundar M. Shyam on tie-break after both top-scored on 7.5/9 - the deciding factor being his win when both met in round four.

IM Jorden Van Foreest - GM Sundar Shyam
53rd Groningen Open, (4)
London System
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.Bf4 The London System has recently been taken up by top stars Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Grischuk. It is simple chess at its very best, as White has - basically - the same, logical development plan regardless, thus cutting out having to learn a lot of topical opening theory. 3...c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.Nbd2 cxd4 6.exd4 g6 7.c3 Bg7 8.Bd3 The London set-up would now see White playing h3 (to give the bishop a safe haven on h2) followed by Re1 and claiming an advantage with no risks. However, Black opts to 'complicate' matters with his next move. 8...Bf5 An interesting idea, looking to restrict the scope of White's development, and hoping to get something from the stronghold on e4 for his knight. 9.Bxf5 gxf5 10.Nf1 e6 11.Ne3 Qb6 12.Qe2 Qa6? This is a mistake, plain and simple - and White now takes full advantage of the crippled pawn-structure heading towards the endgame. Instead, Black had to play either 12...0-0-0 or 12...Ne4 and accept that White will have a positional edge. 13.Qxa6 bxa6 14.h3! Preserving the bishop against Black's next move. 14...Nh5 15.Bh2 f4 16.Nc2 The best retreat, as eventually the knight will hop via e1 to d3, where it will hit f4, keep tabs on e5, and also has access to c5. Compare White's centralised development of his pieces to Black, who is lumbered with the knight misplaced on the edge of the board on h5 to defend f4. 16...Rb8 17.0-0-0 Rg8 18.Rhg1 Bh6 Doubly protecting f4 from the knight hop Nc2-e1-d3, and also retaining the possibility of a future ...Ng3 that could well help to simplify Black's position. 19.Nce1 Ke7 Black may well have been better opting now for the spectacular-looking 19...Ng3 20.Kc2 Now ...Ng3 is no longer a threat. 20...Rb6 21.Nd3 Rc8 22.Rde1 Nb4+ 23.Nxb4 Rxb4 Black may well have released some of the pressures with exchanges, but now White capitalises on his opponent's awkwardly-placed pieces on h5 and h6. 24.Re5! (See Diagram) 24...Nf6 25.g3! Ne4 Forced. If 25...fxg3? 26.Bxg3! and suddenly the threat of Bh4 will quickly win, as Black can't escape the eternal pin with ...Nd7, as White will have Rh5! 26.gxf4 Ra4 27.f5? The clear, clinical win was to be found with 27.Rh5! 27...Rxa2 Trying to muddy the waters with 27...Nxc3 looks tempting, but White has a crucial zwischenzug with 28.f6+! (If 28.bxc3 Rxa2+ 29.Kb1 Rxf2 30.f6+ Kd7 31.Rh5 Rxf3 32.Rxh6 Rcxc3 and winning this won't be easy for White.) 28...Kxf6 29.bxc3 Rxa2+ 30.Kb1 Rxf2 31.Bg3! Rb8+ 32.Ka1 Rxf3 33.Bh4+ Bg5 34.Rexg5 and Black can't defend against Rh5+ mating. 28.Kb3 Nxc3 29.fxe6 Again, 29.f6+! was stronger - but all roads lead to Rome now for White as he simplifies down to a trivial endgame win now. 29...Rb8+ 30.Kxc3 Raxb2 31.exf7+ Kf6 32.Rf5+ Kxf5 33.Bxb8 Rxb8 34.Rg8 Rf8 35.Ng5! Kf6 36.Rxf8 Bxf8 37.Nxh7+ Kxf7 38.Nxf8 Kxf8 39.Kb4 Ke7 40.h4 Kf6 41.f4 1-0

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