Even as a well performing GM you sometimes have to deal with a loss. Sipke lately flourished in several games and it looked like another tournament win was secretly in his planning. As the reigning champion of the Hoogeveen tourney he was one of the favourites, but he said himself that Brazilian GM Alexandr Fier is also one of the favourites to win this Chessfestival. When you think about it, Fier once had a rating close to 2650 so there’s no doubt he understands the art of chess, despite his current rating drop to 2528. 

It’s in the style of Fier to play quickly and against Ernst he didn’t change his routine. It felt like he played a rapid game. Early on it became clear the game would be a clash  of ideas. Black intended to push b5-b4, on the other side white was ready to annihilate black’s king. After 20..Rb8 the following position arised on the board, silence before the storm…

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And indeed, the tension raised and raised. To keep up his initiative, Fier didn’t even move his rook from f8 after 24.Bh6. He sacrificied an exchange hoping to get a crushing initiative on the queenside. But are those pawns fast enough?

The expectations became reality, Ernst- Fier transformed into a nailbiting fight! After 29.Nc3 the position on the board invited both GMs to play with all they had.

In this position Qh6+ (which would have been a strong on move 29 too) is powerful. With 30.Rh7 and Qh6 white troubles himself. From this position on the game went on 30.Rh7 Kg8 31.Qh6 Qd4! 32.Txf7! With the this rook sacrifice . 32…Kxf7 33.Rxc3 bxc3 34.Qh7+ Bg7 35.Be6+ Kf6 

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and here Bf5! leads to a draw, for example 35…Qd2 (or 35…Kf7 36.Be6+ with a repetition 36.Qxg6+ Ke5 37.Qxg7+ Kd6 38.e5+ Kxd5 39.Qxe7. Hard to find! In stead of 35.Bf5! white played  35.Dh4+? and let the black king get away 35…g5.

Alexandr Fier studies the position (Photo: Harry Gielen)

A valuable point for Fier. The Brazilian plays his games head-on and relies upon his chances to come. If nothing else, this game proves him right in that respect! Sipke Ernst has now left first place. He ran into time trouble, and just could’nt find the way out of the woods.

We witnessed a calm Italian game between Lucas van Foreest and Nikolas Lubbe. White enjoys a slight space advantage, but black has a sound and firm position. Juicy detail: brother Jorden has also played this same line with white, and Lubbe’s trainer -German GM Buhmann- plays the system with the black pieces.

Both players knew what they were doing, and in the end it Lubbe made an easy draw.

Lucas van Foreest (Photo: Harry Gielen)

Lucas couldn’t take the fight to Lubbe – the final position after 46.Bh3 says it all.

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We now have three players in the lead: Lubbe, Fier and German GM Hagen Poetsch all have 5 points after six games. Today Poetsch made it look easy with black against Krasenkow, not something we see every day! After 20…Bd6 

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Krasenkow played 21.f4? after which black put the pressure on the white centre: 21…Bb4 22.Ne1 f5! 23.b3 cxb3 24.axb3 Nf6 25.exf5 gxf5  

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and here white is already a bit shaky with his bad bishop.

The GM’s are playing the field as expected, although we might have to consider a move by the ambitious IM’s Lubbe and Vrolijk.Whatever the next rounds may bring, we have a feeling true fighting spirit might just be what is needed to top the chart after round nine.