The line-up for this years University Challenge Match is soon to be announced.
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.
Two days ago Nijboer, managed to make Eelke de Boer throw away his preparation by playing his maiden Caro-Kann. Today ofcourse, Eelke was ready for it. The best for white is not to play c2-c4 too soon, because black will have targets to manoeuvre to. However, two days of diving into Caro-Kann-territory proved too little, for Eelke was unable to refute Nijboer’s opening choice when it appeared on the board for the second time. After 18.Rd3
It went on 18…Bd6 19.Rh4 Rfe8 20.Qd1 Qf5 21. Ng1!? White really wants to play g2-g4, but 21.Nd2 seems more logical. 21..Nd5 22.Bc1 and Nijboer didn’t play 22…Qxf2, instead he played 22…e5!
A healthy charge in the centrum from Friso. After all it’s principal to open up the position when white plays backward moves like Ng1 and Lc1.
The weak f2-pawn proved fatal in the end; in the middle of a tactical move sequence the experienced GM from Amsterdam snatched the pawn, and this was too much to handle for Eelke in the resulting rookending.
Nijboer later explained there was more to the position than a superficial glance could reveal. Eelke de Boer had prepared himself well, and he surprised Friso with 18.Td3. ‘He wants to continue with Ne5 and maybe take on h6, followed by Rg3+ and mate. To block his intentions I found 18…Ld6 to take the punch out of any piece sacrifices.’
Taking with 28…Qxf2 Nijboer called a mistake: “I should have taken on h5 first. After 29.Rf4 I offered a draw, but Eelke wouldn’t take the half point.” Nijboer is expecting another tough battle in the final round: “Short draws, that’s just not in my system.”
That takes us to our young contender: how to cope with a dawning landslide? Ofcourse, there is no such thing as a clearcut recipe. Just try to play your game, and play it well. Forget about the results, and keep focussed on finding the next best move!
What we already feared in the preview tends to become reality: Eelke is having a hard time against Friso Nijboer. This match tends to remind some of us to the match Fischer – Larsen and Fischer Taimanov, both ending in 6-0, although we shouldn’t underestimate the promising talent of Eelke. Also we have to say the match is only halfway, so it wont be like bagle in tennis.
The first moves (photo: Harry Gielen)
There was no Caro-Kann this time. Nijboer played his main weapon 1.e4, De Boer reacted with his beloved Najdorf. Nijboers preparation included the quiet 6.Be2 and a few moves later 9.Qd3. It worked: after 17 moves white achieved a pleasant position. Nijboer was playing with the bishop pair with the plan of moving the white squared bishop to g2 to strike e4. Eelke quickly was walking on eggshells to keep the game balanced.
Eelke understood well the bishop has to come to d4 and the queen to e5. Nijboer found himself in a smoke of thoughts when the following position occurred:
How are things after 22.Lf4 Dh5 23.Ld6 e3? And what is 22.Lxd4 cxd4 23.f4 d3 24.Dxd3 Dxb2? Clever play by Eelke, give the opponent as much as possible to think about.
All this thinking from Nijboer did bear fruit. After 22.Lxd4 cxd4, white blew the center open with 23.Lxe4! And after Pxe4 24.f3! White wins back his piece with a better position. 24… f5 25.Dd3! Just an essential intermediate move 25… b5 26.b3 bxc4 27.bxc4 Db8 28.fxe4 Tfe8 29.c5 Txe4 30.Txe4 Txe4 31.d6!
Black managed to avoid the loss of a pawn, but the white passed pawns are now decisive. A few moves later, Black surrendered.
The university challenge is an important Chess Festival tradition in which an experienced Grandmaster faces a younger, promising challenger. This year GM Friso Nijboer faces Eelke de Boer, which is an exciting matchup. Both prefer interesting and sharp positions over the overcooked traditional positions. At first glance, Friso Nijboer would be the overwhelming favourite and a small defeat would be a good result for the talented FM from Groningen.
Nijboer, after a lifetime of Sicilians and Pircs against 1. e4 suprised everyone by answering with 1… c6, the Caro Kann. He’d never played it before today, so any preparation by the FM could be tossed away and he’d have to rely on his own knowledge of the Caro Kann. However, De Boer made an inaccuracy by playing 13. c4 after which 13… b5 is a promising pawn sacrifice which gives ample compensation. Should white accept, black receives the open B and C-files, as well as the nice d5 square for the knight.
Black stood better after the opening 20 moves, and white is lacking any realistic counterplay.
After white missed an opportunity to get an advantage after the blunder 23… Rh4 with 24. Nf5!, we rejoin the game after the inaccurate 29… Rxh5?! which gave white an interesting move to, once again, get back into the game.
White found the correct 30. Ng5!, threatening mate after 30… Qxe1?? 31. Qxf7+ . In stead, black gave up the exchange and the game would have probably been dynamically equal after 30… Qf6 31. Qxh5 hxg5 32. Rh1. White disappointingly blundered with 32. f3, giving up the initiative and black played energetically to bring home the point with 32. f3? Qf5+ 33. Ka1 Qd3 34. Qxg5 but there was no longer a decent defense. 34… Qxa3+ Kb1 35. Qd3+ 36. Ka1 Bf6 37. Qg4 Nc3!
And the game was over after 38. bxc3 Qxc3+ 39. Ka2 Qc2+ 40. Ka3 Be7+
Nijboer was satisfied with the result:’Although it doesn’t say much about the upcoming games, the moment I surprised De Boer forced him to think for a significant amount of time.’ A succesful opening choice then? ‘My repertoire is not up to scratch, at least not so much that I can continue playing the same lines over and over again. I’d assumed him to be well-prepared, so I thought to jump the gun.’
In summary, a great opening choice by Nijboer, followed by decent positional chess with the occasional slip up by black.