GM-group IM-group A IM-group B ELO-group

Round 8 as Lahlum saw it
One of the main questions in the GM-group was finally answered today: The Greek star Stelios Halkias can no longer take a GM-norm, as he lost on time against GM Arkell. Still at least three main questions are to be answered: 1) Will Berge Østenstad become Norway's fifth GM? Having provoked out poor Røyset today, Berge can answer with a thundering "YES!" if able to defeat Kulaots as white tomorrow. 2) Will the ever-lasting Norwegian surprise Kjetil A Lie take his first GM-norm? Having grilled Tjomsland today Lie too can still do it - but having black against Kotronias his task tomorrow is even more difficult than white against Kulaots. 3) What about the top places? Top seeded Kotronias is leading with 6/7, but so is Østenstad and Lie. Kulaots having 5½ can also reach a shared first place if defeating Østenstad tomorrow, and Halkias and Arkell having 5 can still reach a moneyprize if winning tomorrow.

In IM-group A IM Jeroen Bosch seems like the likely winner, as Kourkounakis made no try to challenge him as white today. Having won her fight for a fourth WIM-norm two rounds ago. Heather Richards today lost her last chance for her first WGM-norm when collapsing against Tallaksen. The eight round however was a good one for the remaining IM-norm chances in IM-group A, also known as FM Kristian D. Trygstad: Winning a brilliant attacking game against Harestad today, Trygstad can make it if defeating IM Kasparov.

Having 7/8 GM Miezis will win IM-group B, which regarding norms was quiet before the final storm today: FM's Niclas Hjelm and Lars Venø Jakobsen both surprisingly opted for short draws, obviously considering their winning chances to be better tomorrow. In the ELO-group Valaker as the first one defeated the solid Swede veteran Per Johansson, and so could leave Gausdal with 7½/9 and a clear first place (he has already won his last round game). Svensen, Fant, Johansen and Johansson will decide about second and third place in their internal meetings tomorrow.

In short: Three out of four first places seems clear, but we are still waiting for one of the most exciting last rounds in the history of Gausdal: Østenstad can become Norway's fifth GM, and five players can take a titlenorm - but to achieve this both Østenstad, Lie, Trygstad, Venø Jakobsen and Hjelm need to win in the final countdown, starting 09.00 Thursday 18.04.


GM Kaido KULAOTS 2535 - GM Vasilios KOTRONIAS 2580 1/2 - 1/2
Both GMs came armed to their teeth with preparations for the top meeting, but Kotronias was the one to hit - with a Sicilian variation he reportedly has never played before. Kulaots got a tough start as Kotronias blitzed out 25 moves on five minutes in a sharp position, but the Estonian giant proved his strength by staying calm and taking the time he needed (= 90 minutes) to find the best moves. After the 25 preparation moves a balanced endgame with rooks and opposite coloured bishops came on the board, and so Kotronias still were satisfied with a draw as black. Having taken 6/7 after his first round loss, top seeded Kotronias now has the frontrunner position when entering the podium as white against Lie in the last round.

GM Keith ARKELL 2478 - IM Stelios HALKIAS 2566 1 - 0
This was the great drama of the day, as Halkias having given away four draws now had to defeat a GM as black to get his norm. In this critical situation the Greek went for the Swedish variation of a Tarrasch Queen's gambit, and following inaccurate play by Arkell came better in the middle game. Playing on his pair of bishops and passed c-pawn black however never found anything decisive, and while Halkias was about to run short of time Arkell created some disturbing counterplay against the black king and on the queenside. Having sacrificed a pawn to play against the white king with his queen and bishops, Halkias still looked having chances again just before 40 moves - but then he was obviously confused and nervous because of the time. The end became a Greek tragedy, as Halkias lost on time despite having around ten seconds left for move 40 - because he looked twice on the clock instead of making one move. Later analysis however demonstrated that white with his passed a-pawn was the only one having winning chances from the final position, and so Halkias' chance had gone on the board before they were crushed by the clock. Still it was of course a tragic end on the Norwegian GM-adventure for our young Greek friend, and we can only hope and believe that he will achieve his final norm soon. Arkell has been the bookmaker's nightmare so far in this tournament, but following this victory he can still aspire for a moneyprize if winning tomorrow.

Kjetil A LIE 2411 - Stig TJOMSLAND 2274 1 - 0
This on the other hand was not a very dramatic game. Former blood-teethed attacking monster Kjetil A keeps on living like a vegetarian with 1.c4 - a happy vegetarian, as he has taken 4½/5 as white. Tjomsland chose a natural set up, and managed to exchanged white's fianchetto bishop. Thanks to his strong square at e5 and the center files white however kept an edge all the way into the rook and minor piece ending - which was probably just lost for black, as Tjomsland totally destroyed his own pawn structure when exchanging queens. Black's five pawns where three isolanis and one double isolani, and they all were lost within a few moves after 40 - leaving white three pawns up with a simple win. Lie has done his best tournament ever, but to get a GM-norm he still has to jump across the highest hurdle in the last round: Black against the top seeded tournament leader Kotronias.

Pål RØYSET 2286 - IM Berge ØSTENSTAD 2438 0 - 1
Røyset varied with 1.Nf3 today, but still managed to transpose into a Sicilian. Having to win Østenstad left his king in the center and snatched a pawn at c3 with his queen. It seemed dangerous as white had only active pieces, but the defence mastermind Østenstad succeeded to demonstrate that his king could be safe on e7. Røyset's decision to sacrifice an exchange on f6 might have been correct, but if so he should have taken back the exchange afterwards. Playing with only two bishops and queen he got no really dangerous attack, and was probably lost anyway when blundering a bishop at move 36. Despite the many other highlights of the last round, there is no doubt about who is the star actor then: An extremely concentrated Berge Østenstad is still flying fast back to the board when hearing his opponent making a move, and then hanging low over the board until having found his answer. He will become Norway's fifth GM if able to defeat the so far unbeaten GM Kulaots Kaido as white tomorrow!

Magnus CARLSEN 2163 - IM Mark BLUVSHTEIN 2380 0 - 1
This became the longest game of the GM-group today, but first was expected to be the shortest one: A grave misunderstanding between Bluvshtein and his Sicilian opening occurred, and so both was considered more or less ready for delivery after 12 moves. Magnus of course was correct to refuse a draw, but played a little bit too careless afterwards: First it is not clear whether forcing black to give up his queen for rook and knight was the best thing white could make out of such attacking chances, and second black later tried to raise a fortress based upon his passed e3-pawn. Magnus refused a draw once more, but before and after 40 moves spent much time without finding any decisive breakthrough. Still unwilling to repeat moves with less than five minutes left for the game he sacrificed back an exchange to get rid of the e3-pawn, and so got queen and five pawns against two rooks and one pawn - probably winning, but absolutely for certain not easy to handle with less than two minutes on the clock. When Magnus finally offered a draw Bluvshtein refused, and after forcing Magnus' king to the h-file he managed to decide the game by the geometrically attractive rook manoeuvre Rg2-Rb2-Rb8-Rh8 - followed by the seldom seen move "Kg8+". Having wasted several promising positions this week Magnus was heartbroken after this extreme loss, and the great sportsman Bluvshtein too felt sorry to win it this way: "He outplayed me that badly - but then he wasted too much time". Well, Magnus hopefully learned for good that the clock is an important piece even without FIDE-time - and having won on the board Bluvshtein has no reason for bad conscience. Magnus smiled again a few minutes later, and will be back to meet Halkias tomorrow.

IM-group A

IM Ilias KOURKOUNAKIS 2389 - IM Jeroen BOSCH 2452 1/2 - 1/2
16 moves, Aljechin. Being a practical tournament driver Bosch is satisfied to draw his most dangerous opponents as black, and having white against bottom seeded Byklum tomorrow his chances for the first prize should be excellent. Kourkounakis seems satisfied to finish as unbeaten, but he too is in the fight for a money prize.

FM Kristian D TRYGSTAD 2313 - Hans Krogh HARESTAD 2186 1 - 0
Trygstad varied with 1.c4 although having to win today, probably to get Harestad out of the book and out on the clock as soon as possible. If so it worked out well, and Trygstad afterwards had every reason to be satisfied with another elegant attacking game. Never say never that black could not have defended after the white piece sacrifice at f6, as the next moves were not forced - but despite having only one pawn Trygstad definitely got compensation, and with Harestad short of time the white pieces burst through within a few moves. Until someone shows me a defence for black, I will vote for awarding Trygstad's sacrifice here a !! (or "a double X" as Bluvshtein calls it). The young Oslo player now needs only one more point to achieve his second IM-norm, but got only one round left - and having to win with black against Kasparov sounds like a hard way to achieve an IM-norm.

WFM Heather RICHARDS 2252 - Geir Sune TALLAKSEN 2275 0 - 1
For once Tallaksen did fine with 1.e4 e5, probably because Richards chose an untheoretical, uncritical and unambitious set up with 2.Nc3 and 3.g3. Chances still seemed about balanced after 15 moves, but during the moves 17-22 Heather disappeared in the darkness from one of her mystical black-outs - giving two pawns to create a black passed pawn on c3 and allowing black's queen to intervene on the first rank. Tallaksen took what chances he was given and had no problems to decide the game before 35 moves - but he of course insisted upon doing it by transposing into a won pawn ending... Following this result Richards cannot reach anything more than the WIM-norm she earned in round 6, while Tallaksen has succeeded to reach an average result if not losing to Kourkounakis in the last round.

Thomas JOHANSSON 2241 - IM Sergei KASPAROV 2457 0 - 1
Kasparov today tested a Philidor, and Johansson disappointedly played for a draw by exchanging on e5. A King's pawn center with symmetrical pawns arose, but while Johansson obviously dissatisfied with the position had difficulties to find a plan, Kasparov stubbornly played on with a patient Russian technique. The material balance and symmetry survived all the way into an ending with queen and two minor pieces on each side, but then black had a clear advantage as he had a strong bishop, a space advantage and a strong outpost on d3. Just before 40 moves he decisively intervened on d3 with his queen, creating threats which forced white to exchange queens at the cost of a pawn. Later white's position soon felt apart, and about to lose another pawn on the kingside he resigned just after 40 moves. Johansson will fight only to avoid tenth place against countryman Wikström in the last round, while Kasparov despite his slow start fights for second prize against Trygstad in the last round.

Bjørnar BYKLUM 2168 - Per WIKSTRÖM 2255 1/2 -1/2
Both players seemed less inspired today, probably because of their results: Byklum due to his seventh round loss had no longer IM-norm chances in this tournament, and Wikström has never had any. Byklum probably got a slight edge even when he played King's Indian Advance against French, as Wikström's a6 looks unnecessary at best. Still a King's pawn center with symmetrical pawns is difficult to win, and when Wikström accepted a double f-pawn at move 14 he had active pieces to compensate it. ½ - ½ on white's proposal after 24 moves, as black had exchanged his only weakness by realizing f5.

IM-group B

GM Normunds MIEZIS 2483 - Frode Ryan LUND 2173 1 - 0
Top seeded GM with 6/7 white against bottom seeded untitled with 0/7 does not sound too exciting, and this was expected to become the execution of the day. It was not - instead it became Miezis' probably hardest fight apart from the Venø Jakobsen game. Black for a start got a satisfying position first with a white isolani on d4 and then with hanging pawns on c3 and d4, as white postphoned castling. Later white got attacking chances on the kingside and seemed close to a decisive attack when sacrificing an exchange to intrude with his queen on h7. The first conclusion became two pawns for the exchange, but still no mate as black in between exchanging still further pieces found time to evacuate his king to d7. Even when running seriously short of time black continued to defend well, and when he forced an exchange of queens doubts about the advantage arose: Having to return one of the pawns, Miezis played with two bishops and five against rook, knight and four. With his flag hanging Lund however blundered an exchange at move 36, and immediately resigned without realising that he could still fight on with knight and three against bishop and four - but true enough that endgame was almost certainly winning for white. Following this game we all know that Miezis will finish a clear first and Ryan Lund an even more clear tenth in this tournament - but that was not obvious from the game.

FM Lars Venø JAKOBSEN 2320 - Øystein HOLE 2237 1/2 - 1/2
That this became the first draw of the day was a surprise, as Venø Jakobsen needing 1½/2 to get a norm was expected to play long for a win as white. The Dane however had a difficult choice to make, as he to win had either to find some improvement in his usual Slav variations, or to find up some new wheel to drive across Hole's solid black repertoire. The conclusion became his usual main line - and a draw offer, as a well prepared Hole followed black's best path into an unclear and reportedly about balanced endgame (everyone except dogmatic me seems to think that black having the pair of bishops and about to get a pawn, will have sufficient compensation for the exchange). Venø Jakobsen to achieve his first IM-norm now needs "only" to defeat ninth seeded Unander tomorrow - but then he is black. "I would have understood this draw if we were in ------ or somewhere around there - but not at Gausdal!", GM Miezis commented.

FM Niclas HJELM 2313 - FM Bjarte LEER-SALVESEN 2304 1/2 - 1/2
Also needing 1½/2 Hjelm was expected to play hard for a win in this game, but for unknown reasons he seemed more optimistic about defeating GM Westerinen as black than FM Leer-Salvesen as white. Having returned to 1.e4 Hjelm entered a Tarrasch main line which might become extremely sharp, but took the last emergency exit to avoid the critical complications. Without them white had nothing, as black's pair of bishops and g-file fully compensated for his double f-pawn. Still Hjelm's decision to offer a draw at move 19 was a surprise - and so was (more general) Leer-Salvesen's decision to refuse. As white exchanged queens to enter a drawish endgame with two rooks and one bishop on each side, black offered a draw himself at move 25. I am really excited to see what Hjelm has in mind as black against Westerinen.

Andreas G R MOEN 2268 - GM Heikki WESTERINEN 2403 1/2 - 1/2
Westerinen gave Albin's counter gambit with 5.--- Be6(?!) another try, and was not punished this time either. Innovative Moen tried to refute Albin's counter gambit at the board, but spent one hour on the opening moves without finding any advantage - instead his Ba3-idea led only to exchanges. Tactical complications around move 20 only resulted in some further exchanges favourable for black, and after 25 moves he won a pawn at c4 in the endgame. The pawn survived through mutual time trouble until move 40, but taking into account his double isolani and the reduced material I doubt whether black had serious winning chances. If he disagrees black should look over his moves before the time control, because even when the game continued for a long while the knight ending with e-pawn against two f-pawns was a dead draw which could have been buried much earlier.

Helge A NORDAHL 2277 - Matts UNANDER 2210 1 - 0
Unander offered an early draw here, but having the tougher challenge to defend his ELO Nordahl chose to play as white. He also had a good reason as white came better from this closed Queen's Indian opening: With a knight parked on c4 black's defence set up with b5-c6-d5 seemed solid, but white still had a positional edge among other due to the squares at c5 and e5. I still cannot understand black's decision to allow 26.Nxb7 as anything else than a blunder - even when the bishop at b7 was truly bad, and even when he regained the piece within a few moves: White was allowed to win the c6-pawn, and then black's position was a study in weak pawns. During mutual time trouble white picked up three of them, and even when black got some counterthreats against the white king just before 40 moves, they were never really dangerous. When forced to exchange queens four pawns down just after 40 moves Unander could just as well have resigned, and so he did three moves later.


Per JOHANSSON 2026 - Ole VALAKER 2116 0 - 1
Valaker tried to confuse his last challenger with 2.--- Nc6, but Johansson stayed true to his patient Catalan set up. From an early queen exchange white inherited both the c-file and a pair of bishops, and so seemed to have got the better parts of the cake. Valaker however managed both to close the position for the white bishops and to get counterplay on the kingside. After exchanging one bishop white was left with a double-sized pawn at e3, and while white's rooks still hit in granite on the queenside black snatched a pawn and opened the g-file with gxh5. As black having turned the board was about to win a second pawn, white chose a gentle resignation before 30 moves. Valaker already having played his last round game, could leave Gausdal with the first prize and about 25 ELO-points the evening of 17.04 - leaving his competitors to fight for only the second and third place 18.04...

Göran FANT 2025 - Henrik CARLSEN (1884) 1/2 - 1/2
Fant still plays 1.c4, to search for heavy closed positions which might be his strength now. White probably came better from the opening, and won a pawn following a tactical hit at e7 around move 20. Later Fant however did not increase his advantage even when Carlsen ran seriously short of time. Instead he chose an inaccurate way of exchanging the heavy pieces, and even when he after 40 moves still had an extra pawn, the minor piece ending seemed drawish as white's passed c-pawn was more or less doomed. A draw was agreed only with bishop and pawn against knight and pawn after 74 moves, but I can hardly believe that the players after 40 moves ever came within sight of any drawing borders. Following this six hours Carlsen despite a difficult start has fulfilled his match against the rated opponents with 3-3 and earned an ELO-norm of 2062, which together with his result from the Czech Republic in February should give him a FIDE-ELO around 2043.

Jon Ludvig HAMMER (1500) - Arild JOHANSEN 2109 1/2 - 1/2
13 moves, Modern. Playing still better and with still more confidence Jon Ludvig now started with a careful fianchetto, but soon turned more ambitious with d4 and e4 . Due to his space white was probably still slightly better in the final position, but black should have no problems.

Øyvind PEDERSEN 2051 - Tarjei J SVENSEN 2041 0 - 1
This "who of us can still get a moneyprize?"-meeting became a strange and mysterious French battle. After white castled short and black long white seemed to be better on both sides, but he concentrated his forces against a weakened black queenside - where he never found any breakthrough. Probably due to growing frustration and time trouble white ended up giving three pawns without coming closer to anything fun, then offered a queen exchange and then blundered on a piece level too. Pedersen does not usually behave in such a way, but this was a position difficult to understand. Whether Svensen without informing me has become a French genius, or just was more lucky than he deserved is still unclear, but he at least decided in an efficient way when Pedersen turned desperate - and can finish second if defeating Fant tomorrow.

Ida LAHLUM (1424) - Gunnar BUE (1587) 0 - 1
This started as a King's Indian Sämisch, in which white played too slow to get any kingside attack. Instead she got a pawn at d4, but as white had to exchange her bishop against a knight the price for the pawn was probably too high. White kept the pawn, but as black had a dominating fianchetto bishop and over all the more active pieces, he was probably better all of the time. Anyway white "as usual" in this tournament developed time trouble, blundered a piece and resigned at move 30.