It was a day of impressive performances and wonderful stories, as is ofter the case in the concluding rounds of chess tournaments. Today’s best story involves the talented Liam Vrolijk, who scored his second GM-norm. Not bad for someone who hasn’t even finished high school yet. He’ll be focusing on chess the upcoming year, perhaps even the next two.

Vrolijk and Fier shake hands (Photo: Harry Gielen)

Vrolijk, who shared first place last year, is likely to also take first price this year after he crushed GM Alexandr Fier. After 13. Be3

The board was a complete mess and Fier took a long think after multiple moves. The move he came up with 13… Nbd7 surely wasn’t the correct one and after 14. Nxd5 Ba6 15. Nxf6+ Nxf6 16. Qa4 Qb6 17. Bxc4+ Bxc4 18Qxc4+ Kh8 19. Ng5 h5 20. Nf7+ Kh7 21. Ng5+ Kh8 22. e5!

The game was effectively over and Fier resigned a couple of moves later, offering no significant resistance.

Poetsch – Van Foreest (Photo: Harry Gielen)

Hagen Poetsch joined Vrolijk in the lead. The German GM showed the power of the bishop pair against Lucas van Foreest, truly a model game. After 29. Nf5

it is obvious that Black is suffering and Lucas tried to solve his problems tactically. It turns out that his plan did not work. Following 29… Ng4 30. Nxg7 Bxg7 31. Bxg7 Rg8 32. Bc3 Rg5 33. Bh3 f5 34. Bd2 Rxh5 Lucas had retrieved his pawn 35. Bf4+ Kb6 36. Bg2 yet now his rook is extremely out of position and out of play.

White had no issues finishing off the game: 36… Nc5 37. Rd6 Ne4 38. Rg6 Nexf2 39. Rxc6+ Kb5 40. a4+ Kb4 41. Bd6+ Ka5 42. c3 and white mates.

After a third win in a row, the Armenian Sargssyan is back in contention for the prizes. He elegantly beat Nikolas Lubbe. We join the game after 28… Qf6

White sacrificed his queen with 29. Rxg4! Rxf2+ 30. Qxf2 Qxf2 31 R1g2 Qe1 32. Nd7! Nf7 33. Nf6 Nh6 (does cover the mate, yet allows another one) 34. Rg7 1-0

Mary Ann Gomes beat her second GM in a row. Yesterday it was Sergey Tiviakov, today it was Gleizerov. Even though white stands badly in the game

there was no reason yet for the suicidal 37. Rxa6?? which allows 37… Qc8!, a simple double attack threatening mate and the rook on a6, forcing resignation.

So we have two players in shared first, Poetsch and Vrolijk followed by Mary Ann Gomes and Sargssyan. Both the players in shared first and shared second will play each other on the closing day of the tournament and excitement is garuanteed. Gomes can even score her next norm if she holds the draw.

In the B-group we saw a weird distribution of material in Slagter – Novotny. After the mess that was the middle game, what remained was a rook for Slagter against Novotny’s five pawns. Could any of those forfill their dream and turn into a queen? Sadly, the answer was no.

Novotny- Slagter (Photo: Harry Gielen)

Near the end of the game, Novotny had three pawns remaining with two of those being quite threatening for the white position.

The Parisian resident Slagter managed to keep the situation under control and from the diagram position onward, he would have felt safe. White sacrifices a knight for one pawn, blocks the other with his king and later on, he can always walk his own h-pawn down the board.

Was Slagter lucky? “That’s an understatement. Today I managed to win against probably the best chess player in our group”. A solid compliment coming from the 200 point rating favourite.

Two other favourites also met in round 8. Akotchik beat Salihbegovic in a closed French after the black position got opened against the Black king. The deciding error seems to have been 30… Nxc4. The following position arose after 36. Qxc1

Black suffered on for a bit with 36… Qd8 yet had to throw the towel in the ring after 37. Rb5+ Ka8 38. Rxb3. If in doubt why, just compare the comfortabililty white’s King is experiencing to Black’s pain.

The last game to finish was one in the C-group. It’s not only the world’s best who can endlessly play on in the endgame, the lesser gods do share the capacity. Annelies van den Heuvel and the Kazach Tamerlan Baisart drew their game, probably longing for dinner.

Round nine will decide all prizes. We’ll keep you updated!