Hastings: Seven players lead with 5.5/7

1/4/2010 – A Ukrainian, Czech, Romanian, and thank heavens three Brits lead at the traditional Hastings International Chess Congress. David Howell lost a winning position after a blunder in round five, but picked up two points in the next two rounds to join the leaders. Our correspondent in situ, Steve Giddins, continues to taunt us with Latin phrases, but has at least the kindness to provide translations. Of sorts.

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Reports by Steve Giddins

Round five: Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus

Blunders. Don't you just hate them? Nearly all of the most dramatic moments in chess history concern those inexplicable moments of tragic weakness, when a player throws away the fruits of hours' of hard work. Chess is especially cruel in that way. It is often said that blundering in a winning position is the chessboard equivalent of a cricketer getting himself out when on 99, but the late Hugh Alexander pointed out that the chess situation is even worse. Disappointed though he may be at missing out on a century, at least the batsman who gets out on 99 is allowed to keep his 99 runs. The chess player, who works like a Trojan for four or more hours to establish a winning position, and then blunders, gets a zero in the scorechart, just as surely as if he had allowed Fool's Mate - parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus, he can be heard to wail.


The playing hall during round six

The other thing about blunders is that all players make them, no matter how great the players concerned may be. I am sure we all remember the tragic case of Chigorin, the great Russian master of the latter part of the 19th century, who blundered into a simple mate in 2, when a piece up against Steinitz in game 23 of their 1892 world championship match. More recently, Kramnik suffered the embarrassment of overlooking a mate in one threat, against the computer Deep Fritz, in their match in 2006. And the list goes on - name a great player, and you are sure to be able to find a few examples of his committing one-move howlers, that would not look out of place in the 4th Division of the Little Ditchford Evening League.

Here at the 2009 Hastings, it was the British Champion, David Howell, who had cause to curse the fickle fates. After establishing a winning advantage against Andrei Istratescu of Romania, Howell blundered fatally:

Howell,D (2597) - Istratescu,A (2624) [C07]
85th Masters Hastings ENG (5), 01.01.2010
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.exd5 Qxd5 7.Nb5 Na6 8.c4 Qc6 9.Nf3 b6 10.Be2 Bb7 11.0-0 Be7 12.a3 0-0 13.Nbd4 Qc8 14.b4 Rd8 15.Qb3 e5 16.Nc2 e4 17.Nfd4 Nb8 18.Bb2 Nc6 19.Rad1 Nxd4 20.Nxd4 a5 21.h3 axb4 22.axb4 Bf8 23.Rc1 Qc7 24.Rfd1 Rac8 25.Nf5 Rxd1+ 26.Rxd1 Qf4 27.Ne3 Ne8 28.Bg4 Ra8 29.c5 Nf6 30.cxb6 Nxg4 31.Nxg4 Re8 32.Rd7 Re7 33.Rd8 e3 34.Nxe3 Qg5

Having turned down a draw offer at move 22, Howell had worked up a winning advantage, but now disaster struck. 35.Rd2 would adequately meet the threat of 35...Rxe3, but instead, a time-trouble-ravaged Howell played the catastrophic 35.Rd5??, after which he was lost, following the reply 35...Rxe3! The game ended 36.Qxe3 Qxe3 37.fxe3 Bxd5 38.Bc3 f6 39.Kf2 Kf7 40.g4 g5 41.Ke2 Be4 42.Kf2 Ke6 43.Kg3 Bd6+ 44.Kf2 Be5 45.Bd2 Kd5 0–1. Sic transit gloria mundi, as my old Medway Chess Club match captain used to say at such moments.

That stroke of good fortune allowed Istratescu to assume the outright lead. Close behind him come Edouard and Drozdovskij, who halved out after 16 moves of Queen's Gambit theory, and Keith Arkell, who beat Simon Knott. This last game was vintage Keith – queens off at move 12, into a level ending, in which he soon picked off a pawn, and won the double rook position in a canter. With all due respect to his opponent, Keith made it look like shelling peas.

Hracek, Philippe and Greet all won, to join the chasing group on four points, the latter also including Hebden, who could not overcome Simon Ansell's defence in a theoretically drawn 3 v 2 rook ending. Lower down the tournament, Simon Williams won his second straight game, but despite this, he is still not the highest-placed player called Williams in this tournament! 13-year old namesake Peter continued his outstanding performance, by holding Kjartansson to a draw, after a long defensive struggle. There is something about this youngster which reminds me rather of the late Tony Miles – like the latter, Williams seems to have a robust self-confidence and absence of respect for reputations, and also a penchant for slightly offbeat openings (notably his regular use of 1.f4 as White). He is definitely a player to watch for the future.

Although youth has been to the fore in this event, Russian veteran Boris Furman struck back for the more mature generation, by outplaying Sam Collins with Black. Finally, on board 24, there was more evidence, as if such be needed, that the magnificent monument of chess literature that is 101 Chess Opening Traps is in dire need of a reprint – anyone from Gambit Publications listening out there?

Griffiths,R (2148) - Webb,L (2321) [A29]
85th Masters Hastings ENG (5), 01.01.2010
1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nc3 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.a3 0-0 9.b4 Be6 10.Rb1 f6 11.d3 a5 12.b5 Nd4 13.Nd2

13...Nd5?? A highly plausible move, which has ensnared many a strong player. 14.Bxd5! Bxd5 15.e3. And suddenly, Black is losing a piece! Laurence fought on all the way to move 71, but eventually had to bow to the inevitable.


Round six: Qui gladio ferit, gladio perit

It has been suggested to me, by a certain cynical German of my acquaintance, that some of my readers may be a little baffled by the various Latin quotations, with which my reports this week have been peppered. I personally find this hard to believe, since I feel sure that the deleterious effects of downgrading the role of the classics in the modern education system is more than compensated for by the wonders of the Internet, and particularly Google. A simple copy and paste operation on the offending phrase is sure within a nanosecond to produce an English translation, plus full background notes. Nonetheless, I have been persuaded that a glossary of terms should be included in these reports. Being a man who always listens to the advice of my elders and betters, I have therefore decided that such a glossary should be offered to my readers today. Fortunately, Alex McFarlane, the Chief Arbiter of the Hastings Masters, just happens to have been keeping such a list of translations throughout the week, so I am able to offer this for your education and delectation, without the need to perform any significant labour myself. I am unsure of the precise details of Alex's classical education, but I know him to be a recently-retired schoolmaster in the excellent Scottish education system, so I am fully confident of the reliability of his efforts. Without further ado, therefore, I set out below a list of the English translations of Latin tags used in reports 1-5, which I trust you will find helpful:

Abusus non tollit usum

The WC is not available to the coach party

Laudator temporis acti

In the absence of Stewart Reuben, someone has to take the temporary position of acting God.

Fata obstant

The large unobliging arbiter

Gaudeamus igitur

The peroxide blond chav wore a gaudy tracksuit

Stevius Giddenae

An ancient scribe who believed that the quill is mightier than the computer

Labor omnia vincit

The government wants a tougher tax on all wines

Non carborundum

We do not use duplicate scoresheets

Ad captandum vulgus

Increase the thick captain's vulgarity

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat 

The candy coated chocolate drops do not excuse my stupid legs

Panicus nautus

Don’t panic

Hodie mihi, cras tibi

I’m a hoodie, but you’re thick

Terra incognita

Disguised fright

Anno urbis conditae

I am aware our players without opponents obtained neckwear fraudulently. ("Ah know oor byes conned a tie".)

Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus

Alexander from Spain gets an extra point for sleeping at our house.

Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus

A portion of Colin the Scottish golfer must be his ridiculous nasal passage.

Sic transit Gloria mundi

The vomit in the back of the Ford van will be cleaned by Gloria after the weekend

Back at the chess, round six of this year's Hastings Masters saw another batch of tremendously hard-fought games. On board two, Keith Arkell found himself hoist by his own petard, in the unaccustomed role of having to defend a slightly worse endgame. Despite defending unguibus et rostro, he was unable to hold. Second seed Zbynek Hracek won a classic Sicilian counterattack against his French IM opponent.

Kjartansson kept up his challenge by beating Furman with the black pieces, whilst Simon Ansell did the same at the expense of young Peter Williams. Jonathan Hawkins' bid for a third and final IM norm is well on track after another win, whilst John Anderson, who came close to a norm here last year, renewed his chances, with a surprise win against Simon Williams.

Yesterday saw the announcement of the £100 Best Game prize for the Masters tournament, generously sponsored by the Trustees of Horntye Park, our playing venue. Anyone wishing to enter a game for consideration for this prize can do so at the Control Desk. Your correspondent is the judge for this prize, so naturally, any player submitting his game with annotations, written in Latin, will have an obvious head start... The announcement of the prize immediately generated a potential contender, in the shape of following attacking effort, by a player outrated by some 250 points:

Green,An (2151) - Eggleston,D (2367) [C00]
85th Masters Hastings ENG (6), 02.01.2010
1.e4 e6 2.d3 d5 3.Qe2 Be7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.g3 b5 6.Bg2 dxe4 7.dxe4 b4 8.Nbd2 Ba6 9.Nc4 Nc6 10.e5 Nd5 11.Qe4 Qb8 12.Ne3 Qd8 13.Bd2 Bc5 14.0-0-0 Bxe3 15.Bxe3 Rb8 16.Qg4 Rg8 17.Qe4 Rh8 18.Qg4 Kf8 19.Ng5 Nce7 20.Qf3 Qe8 21.Nxe6+ Kg8 22.Nc5 Bc4

23.Bh6 Qc6 24.e6 f5 25.Nd7 Rd8 26.Rhe1 gxh6 27.Qh5 Ng6 28.Qxf5 Rxd7 29.exd7 Kg7 30.Bxd5 Bxd5 31.Qxd5 Qxd5 32.Rxd5 Rd8 33.Re8 1–0.


Round seven: Mors tua, vita mea

The latter rounds of Swiss tournaments can often be bloody affairs, in which "many must die, that a few may live". As we reach the business end of the tournament, draws are of little use to those battling for major prizes. It is usually only in the last round, alas, that wholesale grandmaster draws take precedence, as players seek to consolidate their earlier gains. Most often, the real battle for the prizes takes place in the penultimate and ante-penultimate rounds.

So it was in yesterday's seventh round of the Hastings Masters. Although the top two boards were both drawn, the next nine all saw decisive results, with White triumphing in eight of those games. Romain Edouard of France won another fine positional game, this time at the expense of Andreas Strunski. The German IM donated his dark-squared bishop in the opening, and spent the rest the rest of the game in chains on the dark squares.

Edouard,R (2620) - Strunski,A (2386) [D16]
85th Masters Hastings ENG (7), 03.01.2010
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 e6 6.e4 Bb4 7.Bg5 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Qa5 9.e5 Ne4 10.Rc1 b6 11.Qc2 Qd5 12.Bxc4 Qxc4 13.Qxe4 h6 14.Nd2 Qd5 15.Be3 Qxe4 16.Nxe4 Ba6 17.c4 Nd7 18.f4 Ke7 19.Bd2 c5 20.d5 f6 21.d6+ Kf7 22.0-0 f5 23.Nf2 Bb7 24.a5 g6 25.Rc3 Bc6 26.Ra1 Rhg8 27.Rh3 Rh8 28.Rha3 Rhg8 29.Rh3 Rh8 30.Kf1 Bb7

31.Rha3 g5 32.axb6 axb6 33.Ra7 g4 34.Nd1 Bc6 35.Nc3 Rhb8 36.Nb5 Rxa7 37.Rxa7 Rb7 38.Ra3 Rb8 39.Nc7 b5 40.cxb5 Bxb5+ 41.Nxb5 Rxb5 42.Ra7 Ke8 43.Ke2 h5 44.Kd3 Rb3+ 45.Kc4 Rb2 46.Ba5 Rf2 47.Ra8+ Kf7 48.g3 Rc2+ 49.Kb3 Rc1 50.Rd8 Rb1+ 51.Kc2 Rb7 52.Bc7 Nb6 53.Bxb6 Rxb6 54.Rh8 1-0.

In the all-English clash Howell-Hawkins, the latter seemed to equalize without too much trouble against his opponent's main line Spanish, but an uncharacteristic rush for blood saw Hawkins sacrifice a piece for a couple of pawns in the queenless middlegame. It never really looked convincing, and he lost without too much of a fight thereafter.

Mark Hebden has been coming to Hastings for over 30 years, and is still battling for top honours. He did his cause a power of good by cashing in when Kjartansson lost his way in a tough King's Indian position:

Kjartansson,G (2391) - Hebden,M (2522) [E97]
85th Masters Hastings ENG (7), 03.01.2010
1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.d4 Nf6 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Ne8 10.c5 h6 11.a4 f5 12.Nd2 g5 13.Ba3 Ng6 14.Re1 Nf6 15.b5 Rf7 16.cxd6 cxd6 17.Nc4 Bf8 18.exf5 Bxf5 19.Ne3 Bd7 20.g3 Rc8 21.Bb4 e4 22.Qb1 Ne5 23.Nxe4 Nxe4 24.Qxe4 Qf6 25.Rf1 Bh3

Here, the computer is still optimistic about White's chances after 26.Bh5, but the young Icelander instead preferred the dubious 26.f4? After 26...gxf4 27.gxf4 Nd7 he was already in some trouble, and his attempt to hold things together by 28.Ng2? simply lost material. Play continued 28...Re7 29.Qd3 Bf5 30.Qd1 Qb2, and wriggle as he might, White cannot avoid dropping something. Hebden won after 31.Bd2 Rc2 32.Rb1 Qd4+ 33.Be3 Qxd1 0–1.

Simon Ansell continued his fine run by beating Kolbus, whilst Keith Arkell was in trouble early on against Giffard, but turned the tables in the middlegame and won. On the next board, another English GM found himself in trouble with White, and for a fleeting moment, it looked as though Gormally was going to become the victim of the day's big upset:

Gormally,D (2479) - Anderson,J (2209) [A45]
85th Masters Hastings ENG (7), 03.01.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 g6 3.Bxf6 exf6 4.e3 d6 5.h4 h5 6.Bc4 Bh6 7.Nd2 f5 8.Ne2 0-0 9.g3 Nd7 10.Nf4 Bxf4 11.gxf4 Nf6 12.Qf3 Rb8 13.Rg1 Kg7 14.0-0-0 b5 15.Be2 Be6 16.Qg3 c5 17.dxc5 Qa5 18.e4 Qxa2 19.exf5 Qa1+ 20.Nb1

At this point, with the watching internet audience cheering him on, Anderson could have secured his second consecutive GM scalp, by 20...Ba2, eg. 21.Bd3 (21.fxg6 Ne4 -+) Qxb1+ 22.Kd2 Qxb2 23.fxg6 and now 23...dxc5 24.gxf7+ Ng4 wins, although the computer prefers 23...Rg8 instead. Instead, he ignored the classical injunction occasionem cognosce and chose 20... Bxf5??, after which the tables quickly turned. 21.Bd3 Bxd3 22.Rxd3 Ne4? 23.Qe3 Nxc5 24.Ra3 1–0. A narrow escape for the GM, and a major missed opportunity for Anderson.

By the end of round seven, therefore, we have no fewer than seven players sharing the lead on 5.5, with another six just half a point behind. Today's top 8 live boards should see some serious fighting chess, as those with the white pieces, for probably the last time in the tournament, make a desperate effort to put themselves in pole position for the final round. As the Spartan women used to tell their husbands and sons, when sending them into battle, "E tan, e epi tan!" – "Come back with your shield or upon it!"

Top ranking after round seven (Sunday, 3rd January 2010)

# Player
Points
Nat.
Rating
Perf.
W-We
1 GM Drozdovskij, Yuri 5.5 UKR 2625 2627 +0.10
2 GM Hracek, Zbynek 5.5 CZE 2624 2624 +0.11
3 GM Istratescu, Andrei 5.5 ROU 2624 2714 +0.80
4 GM Edouard, Romain 5.5 FRA 2620 2660 +0.42
5 GM Howell, David W L 5.5 ENG 2597 2598 +0.10
6 GM Hebden, Mark L 5.5 ENG 2522 2584 +0.58
7 IM Ansell, Simon T 5.5 ENG 2387 2479 +0.85
8 GM Gormally, Daniel W 5.0 ENG 2479 2439 -0.21
9 GM Arkell, Keith C 5.0 ENG 2464 2573 +1.04
10 IM Philippe, Christophe 5.0 FRA 2430 2501 +0.75
11 IM Greet, Andrew N 5.0 ENG 2423 2510 +0.93
12 WGM Zdebskaja, Natalia 5.0 UKR 2408 2279 -0.87
13 IM Bates, Richard A 5.0 ENG 2383 2358 -0.06
14 IM Breder, Dennis 4.5 GER 2427 2442 +0.22
15 IM Martin, Andrew D 4.5 ENG 2423 2285 -1.03
16 IM Kjartansson, Gudmundur 4.5 ISL 2391 2326 -0.41
17 FM Strunski, Andreas 4.5 GER 2386 2308 -0.52
18 FM Hawkins, Jonathan 4.5 ENG 2383 2527 +1.42
19 FM Lorscheid, Gerhard 4.5 GER 2348 2296 -0.31
20 FM Eames, Robert S 4.5 ENG 2276 2382 +0.94
21 Mitchell, Martin 4.5 SCO 2195 2467 +2.45
22 Demac, Elias 4.5 NOR 2084 2373 +2.57
23 Jackson, James P 4.5 ENG 2067 2309 +2.24
24 Sreeves, Clement 4.5 SCO 2061 2311 +2.30

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