Zoe Varney’s round 3 game at the European Youth Chess Championships had resulted in a draw when she unveiled her surprise weapon, 1. d4!?
This was her d4 debut in a competitive over-the-board game, so she was pleased with the result against a higher-rated player. Pavel Asenov had faced a player rated over 2200 and he lost his game.
Round 4 was the first time that both Zoe and Pav lost – i.e. the result was 0-0.
Wiesner vs Varney
Zoe was up against Paula Wiesner, a very experienced German girl who plays 1. e4 and 1. d4 equally well. Zoe decided to play a Queen’s Gambit Accepted if her opponent should choose 1. d4 but the line that they went down was not one that she had prepared in depth with her coach.
She found the best moves for a while, some of them not so obvious (such as 11…Ke7!) but unfortunately blundered with 13…Ba7?? which allowed White a massive attack after 14. b3! and 15. Ba3+. The German girl made very efficient use of her initiative and Zoe suffered her first loss of the tournament.
Karelidze vs Asenov
The opponent Pavel faced as Black in round 4 seemed significantly inferior to him on paper, but he is one of quite a few Georgians in this tournament who are clearly massively under-rated. Pavel had built a significant advantage out of the opening, and skewering his opponent’s rooks won an exchange.
Surprisingly, his opponent chose to make a second exchange sacrifice, at which point Black was objectively winning. If Pavel had activated his rooks quickly and, ideally, cut his opponent’s king off, his superior fire power would have won through. Instead, White ended up with a very active bishop pair and king which were able to support a passed pawn to obtain a superior position.
This game is a very neat lesson on the overriding importance of piece activity in the end game.