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.