By match reporter Wouter Sipma
In the first round of the match the two combattants, Jan Groenendijk and Guntis Valneris did not get into a full clinch. Keeping in mind that both players just returned from the Heerhugowaard Open, this might not be considered surprising.
The game started with a relatively unexplored branch of the Keller-opening (11. … 11-16?!). This move of Groenendijk (who handled the black pieces) has for example been played in Scholma-Proovoost, in this year’s Dutch Championship. Valneris arranged his position as ‘cleanly’ as possible and in the diagram below Groenendijk had an important decision to make.
In the game he chose for the rather ‘blunt’ 17. … 13-19 18. 24×13 8×19, with which black gains four temps and is ready to construct a lot of centre formations in the centre in order to thrust forward: 9-13, 2-8, 19-23×23 and 22-28×28 (although in the meantime Valneris is also allowed to play moves). Another possibility was to leave the piece on 24 untouched and attack it (20-25 followed by 14-19; the option to change with 13-19×19 remains), but I can imagine Groenendijk didn’t see what to do against the solid white position.
Valneris replied with 19. 37-32 and now Groenendijk decided not to allow white on square 27 by placing and outpost himself: 19. … 21-27 20. 32×21 16×27 (see diagram below). It is true that white does not have a lot of active plans after 19. … 9-13 and also 20. 31-27 22×31 21. 36×27 2-8 followed by 17-22 isn’t very interesting either (or are there any daredevils who are courageous enough to play the sacrifice 22. 27-22?! 18×27? White does have compensation for sure!).
At this moment Valneris had an alternative to play for a surrounding after 21. 47-42 (threats 26-21 etc.) 19-23 22. 28×19 14×34 23. 39×30 (also 23. 40×29 is possible, but then white is limited to attacking piece 27, after which black best takes retreats using the 2-for-2 exchange) 18-23. He declared howerever to have calculated from the position after 24. 30-25 10-14 25. 33-29 23×34 26. 40×29 20-24 27. 29×20 15×24 and concluded that white does not have the opportunity to set up a surrounding; black is simply in time with the replenishment of his centre. In this variant 25. 43-39 (to prevent 22-28) presumably is this best option for a fundamental battle.
In the game the position levelled after the big exchange 21. 26-21 17×37 22. 28×8 2×13 23. 38-32 27×38 24. 33×31 (see diagram below).
This open position intrigued me; some aspects give it an abstract character. The white position looks less flexible due to its piece on 29; black can choose what to do with this piece (attack, change or nothing). Besides, white has a few pieces which aren’t so well-placed (36 and 45) and is 6 temps behind. But also the black position has a weakness: its distribution of pieces. The pieces on 6 and 11 are the only pieces on the short wing and this gives white a focus point. The direction of play is therefore towards this wing.
The duellists of course sensed these aspects and interpreted them well. Despite some time trouble, both players did not make any big errors. After 42 moves the players agreed on a draw.
Conclusion after day 1: the balance in the game was not disturbed, but the players did not go all-in yet. We will see tomorrow whether we will be in for some more explosive game! If not in the ‘normal’ game, then be it in the four rapid games, which will be played in the afternoon.