The last game in the University Challenge was one for the record books only. Of course, De Boer would like to score his first points of the match yet the match itself had already been decided on the day before. De Boer knew what to expect from Nijboer, who’d told him the day prior that an easy draw wouldn’t be coming his way.
The game started with an open Sicilian, where black can play either 8… 0-0 or 8… a6. De Boer chose d6-d5 whereafter Nijboer picked 9. Bg2 Bb4
and this is already a completely new position. Having been surprised, Nijboer found nothing better than to enter the endgame after 10. g5 Nxe4 11. Nxc6 bxc6 12. Bxe4 Bxc3 13. bxc3 dxe4 14. Qxc8+Kxd8.
After moves like 15. 0-0-0+ Ke8 16. Rd4 it’s approximately equal. Nijboer tried something creative however De Boer defended solidly and the position remained equal after 26 moves.
White’s a bit more active, however with such a ruined pawn structure any hopes for a win seem to be purely imaginary. Indeed, after a well-played rook endgame, the game ended in a draw and the match in 3 1/2- 1/2 in Nijboer’s favour.
De Boer admitted afterwards that Nijboer had managed to suprise him in basically every game which may have caused the seeminly lopsided score. Nijboer thought that the fourth game was clearly Nijboer’s best. “He found the only move in a couple of instances. I hope Eelke learned that it’s always important to have some surprises up your sleeve.”
Nijboer was clearly satisfied with the match score. Winning that easily, it was understandable that Nijboer’s enthousiasm on the board was obvious. “Learning and playing those new openings is something I should have done a long time ago. I’ve always been a fan of studying, but I could have learnt so much more over the years.
Experience once again beats the student in this year’s University Challenge, brought to you by the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. De Boer showed his competitive spirit, however he might need to show some composure in later games. Of course, he’s got time on his side.
Nijboer showed himself to still be that clever fox, and a strong one at that. Can he still improve himself? “I look forward to playing all my new openings, with both white and black. And then I’ll embark on my fifth or sixth chess life” Nijboer concluded.