Impressions from this year's British Championships

8/23/2016 – Michael Adams has been a member of the world’s elite for twenty odd years. Like Anand, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, and others he is a player who has turned 40 but refuses to go away. These days he often has to face opponents half his age. In the recently concluded British Championship Adams scored a stunning 10.0/11 points to take his fifth title. Manuel Weeks shows us some of the highlights from the event with training questions for you to solve.

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Impressions from this year's championship

By Manuel Weeks

After recently having a catch-up brunch with GM Gawain Jones, where he mentioned some of his games played in the recent finished British Championships, I ended playing through various games and finding some striking moments. I thought it might be interesting to share the views of the event from the armchair of a spectator.

How does an online chess spectator feel about watching a live event? Usually he wants to be entertained, see a beautiful sacrificial game, hopefully some games where an opening he himself plays is explained. Others want to see their favourite player win or maybe a breakthrough performance by the next rising star. I watched the recent British Championships with a mixture of emotions mainly guided by personal relationships through the fact that I knew most of the main participants.

The top seed was Michael Adams who has been a member of the world’s elite for 20 odd years now and is now defending what I call the “old guys” corner. The players who have turned 40 but refuse to go away, they still play at the top level and they still want to win. Anand, Gelfand, Ivanchuk and recent new members Kramnik and Svidler plus many others still fight successfully at the top level. To call them “veterans” seems a little unfair, but there are so many superb players at such young ages that a player of forty odd years can easily be double the age of many of his opponents. For myself and many others we grew up with these players, watched them from when they were kids, saw them progress into world class GMs in an era where computers were not yet so strong. In those days they could play a complicated game without some online spectator criticizing their play, “Anand could have won easily with 32.Nxe6!, How did he miss that!” The silicon monsters who never get tired, who never miss a tactic, who can jump from different positions without skipping a heartbeat, are not the most understanding of analysts.

The field still had other strong GMs like David Howell (above) and Gawain Jones (below) who both still dream of achieving permanent 2700 status and are still young enough to believe it can still happen. Behind them were a varied group of experienced GMs who have proved many times that they can be tough opponents for any player. All were hoping to test themselves at the highest level since opportunities to play 2700+ players are still rare for mere mortal grandmasters.

Adams once expressed the view that he didn’t mind the uprising of chess playing programs, since they often pointed out interesting ideas. But databases were allowing weaker players to play the openings virtually perfectly and for someone who is happy to draw with Black to another super GM, to have to change suddenly to try to win is not so easy! To go from round robins to open events means having to adjust your mindset and many strong players have struggled with this. As everyone with an interest in chess in the British Isles will already know, Michael Adams not only won this year’s British Championship with the huge score of 10/11, but even gained 11 valuable ratings points in the bargain to take him to number 23 in the world on the live rating table with a healthy looking 2738. Only two draws, to GMs Peter Wells and Nick Pert, in eleven rounds – not bad for an “old guy”!

The Bournemouth Pavilion where the competition took place

There were various subplots in the event, but for Australians there was special attention paid to our fellow countryman IM Justin Tan who had come over to the UK for an extended study plus chess playing journey of discovery. What do you do when you live in an extremely isolated country but still wish to become a chess grandmaster? For most it is simply taking the option of as many visits as possible to various strong events and then heading back to Australia. But Justin Tan decided to base himself in Europe, play as many strong events as possible, get as much high level coaching as possible and begin his quest for the coveted GM title. For someone who was not one of the absolute stars of his generation he is now around 2500 and gained his second GM norm in the British title event after various adventures, like needing to win his ninth round, drawing, needing to win his tenth round, then drawing, then needing to win his eleventh round after dropping the first two rounds for a nine game norm. It is this sort of calculations that GM hopefuls have to keep doing and then there is the small matter of actually winning over the board! Justin only had one loss in the event, to the steamroller who was Adams, and was an unbreakable wall against the other British GMs with draws with Howell, Jones, Arkell, Gormally and a good win over the ageless Mark Hebden. A well-deserved second GM norm for Justin Tan who continue to impress in the UK.

The playing hall was as elegant as it was spacious

Another minor subplot can happen when two players who work together end up playing each other in the last round. Both wish to win to ensure the best placing, there is also a sizable rating difference, so there is no thought of a quick peaceful draw. As Gawain Jones and Richard Palliser found out in the last round it can lead to wild over the board complications in what started as a quiet Caro-Kann, one of the few openings on which the two haven't worked extensively together. Gawain himself expressed surprise that he did not seem to have any good moves in a quiet position after 13.Bd3. After the plausible 13...h5 the hammer blow 14.Nxd5! leads to a fine attacking position for White.

[Event "103rd ch-GBR 2016"] [Site "Bournemouth ENG"] [Date "2016.08.05"] [Round "11.3"] [White "Palliser, Richard J D"] [Black "Jones, Gawain C B"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B12"] [WhiteElo "2422"] [BlackElo "2650"] [Annotator "Manuel Weeks"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2016.07.25"] 1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 Nd7 6. O-O h6 7. b3 Ne7 8. c4 Bh7 9. Nc3 Nf5 10. cxd5 cxd5 11. Bb2 Rc8 12. Rc1 a6 13. Bd3 {An interesting postion to analyse since Black has played very natural moves and with the center closed he seems to have enough time to calmly develop and castle into safety but this is not the case!} h5 (13... Be7 14. g4 Nh4 15. Bxh7 Nxf3+ 16. Qxf3 Rxh7 17. Qd3 Rh8 18. f4 {Looks promsiing for white but if not Be7 then Black must be worse.}) {[%tqu "White to play and start opening lines towards the black king. What is the best way to proceed?","","",Nxd5,"",10]} 14. Nxd5 $1 Rxc1 15. Qxc1 (15. Bxc1 {seems stronger to avoid the dark squared coming to h6 with tempo as in the game.} exd5 16. Ng5 Bg6 (16... g6 17. Bxf5 gxf5 18. Qxh5 {crushing!}) 17. e6 {Black seems to have little defence here but White has to be very accurate.} fxe6 18. Nxe6 Qb6 19. Re1 Bb4 20. Nc7+ $1 Kd8 21. Nxd5 Qxd4 22. Nf4 {White has too many threats for Black to defend}) 15... exd5 16. Ng5 g6 (16... Bg6 17. e6) 17. e6 fxe6 18. Nxe6 {White has good chances but nothing decisive, the game is still in the balance.} Bh6 19. Qc3 Qb8 20. Nc7+ Kf7 21. Nxd5 Rc8 22. Bc4 $2 {Unfortunately for Richard his fine concept starting with 14.Nxd5! has run aground. The discovered check is all bark but with little bite!} b5 23. Nc7+ bxc4 24. Qxc4+ Kf8 25. Ne6+ Ke8 26. Nc5 Nxc5 27. dxc5 Kf8 28. Qe6 Bg7 29. Ba3 Bd4 30. c6+ Kg7 31. Qd7+ Kh8 32. Rd1 Rc7 33. Rxd4 Rxd7 34. Rxd7 Qc8 0-1

Two more interesting games:

[Event "103rd ch-GBR 2016"] [Site "Bournemouth ENG"] [Date "2016.07.25"] [Round "1.1"] [White "Shaw, Peter"] [Black "Adams, Michael"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D52"] [WhiteElo "2143"] [BlackElo "2727"] [Annotator "Manuel Weeks"] [PlyCount "124"] [EventDate "2016.07.25"] 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Nbd7 5. e3 c6 6. Nf3 Qa5 7. Nd2 Bb4 8. Qc2 O-O 9. Be2 e5 10. dxe5 Ne4 11. Ndxe4 dxe4 12. O-O Bxc3 13. Qxc3 Qxc3 14. bxc3 Nxe5 15. Bf4 Nd3 16. Bd6 Rd8 17. c5 Be6 18. a3 Bc4 19. Rfd1 b5 20. Bxd3 exd3 21. f3 f5 22. Kf2 Re8 23. Rd2 Re6 24. Re1 Rae8 25. Rb2 g5 26. Bc7 Kf7 27. Bd6 Kg6 28. Bc7 h6 29. Bd6 a5 30. Bc7 a4 31. Bd6 Bb3 32. Rd2 Bc2 33. Bc7 Kf7 34. Bd6 Kf6 35. h3 h5 36. Bc7 h4 37. Bd6 Kg6 38. Bc7 Kh5 39. Bd6 Rf6 40. Rh1 Rf7 41. Re1 Re6 42. Rh1 Kg6 43. Ra1 Re8 44. Rh1 Rf6 45. Rg1 Rfe6 46. Re1 Kf7 47. Bc7 Rf6 48. Bd6 Ree6 49. Bc7 Ke8 50. Rc1 Rf7 51. Bd6 g4 52. hxg4 fxg4 53. Rh1 g3+ 54. Kf1 Re4 55. Bf4 {Adams has been steadily building up his advantage and now cashes on his chips with.} {[%tqu "What to play here? 55...Rc4 looks strong enough, but there is better!","","",Rexf4,"",10]} Rexf4 56. exf4 Rxf4 { White is now helpless against simply Rc4 and taking on c4 but more importantly cannot play a constructive move himself!} 57. Ke1 Kf7 58. Rg1 Kf6 59. Rxc2 (59. Rh1 Rc4) 59... dxc2 60. Kd2 h3 61. gxh3 Rxf3 62. Kxc2 Kg5 0-1

[Event "103rd ch-GBR 2016"] [Site "Bournemouth ENG"] [Date "2016.08.03"] [Round "9.10"] [White "Wells, Peter K"] [Black "Brown, Martin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D85"] [WhiteElo "2419"] [BlackElo "2252"] [Annotator "Manuel Weeks "] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "2016.07.25"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 c5 8. Rb1 O-O 9. Be2 cxd4 10. cxd4 Qa5+ 11. Bd2 Qxa2 12. O-O Bg4 13. Bg5 h6 14. Be3 Nc6 15. d5 Na5 16. Re1 Bc3 17. Bxh6 Rfc8 18. Bd2 Bxd2 19. Nxd2 Bxe2 20. Rxe2 Qa3 21. Ra1 Qb4 22. h4 Rc3 23. h5 Rac8 24. hxg6 fxg6 25. Re1 Rc2 26. Nf3 Nb3 27. Rb1 Qc5 28. Re3 Qxe3 29. fxe3 Rc1 30. Kh2 Rxd1 31. Rxd1 a5 32. e5 a4 33. Rd3 b5 34. d6 exd6 35. exd6 b4 36. d7 Rd8 37. Ne5 Nc5 38. Rd5 {[%tqu "Black to play, both sides have their trumps in the shape of pawns. 38.Rd5 has just been played, what should Black play?","","",Nxd7,"",10]} Nxd7 $1 39. Nc6 $2 (39. Nxd7 b3 (39... Kg7 40. Rd4 b3 41. Rxa4 Rxd7 42. Rb4 Rd3 43. Kg3 Rxe3+ 44. Kf4 Re2 45. g4 b2 46. Kg5 {Still a draw.}) 40. Nf6+ Kf7 41. Rxd8 b2 42. Rb8 a3 43. Ng4 a2 44. Rxb2 a1=Q {Still a lot of work here for the Queen. A draw seems likely.}) {[%tqu "The idea is clear, promote a pawn but does it matter which one?","","",b3,"",10,a3,"",0]} 39... b3 $1 $19 (39... a3 $4 40. Nxb4) 40. Nxd8 b2 41. Rxd7 b1=Q 42. Ne6 a3 43. Rg7+ Kh8 44. Rf7 Qb8+ 0-1

The British Championships have a number of events apart from the title section: various age tournaments for juniors and seniors as well as shorter events for the time constrained who still wanted to play chess at the British Championships in Bournemouth. The 2016 British Championships will still be remembered for Michael Adams winning his fifth title, yet again cementing his place in the elite world of 2700+ players for a third decade of his long outstanding career.

Final standings

Rk SNo Ti. Name Rtg Pts
1 1 GM Adams Michael 2727 10,0
2 2 GM Howell David Wl 2663 8,5
3 3 GM Jones Gawain Cb 2650 8,0
  11 IM Tan Justin Hy 2438 8,0
5 5 GM Hebden Mark L 2509 7,5
  6 GM Fodor Tamas Jr 2505 7,5
  7 GM Gormally Daniel W 2494 7,5
  8 GM Emms John M 2467 7,5
9 4 GM Pert Nicholas 2570 7,0
  12 GM Ward Chris G 2437 7,0
  14 GM Wells Peter K 2419 7,0
  15 IM Houska Jovanka 2386 7,0
  20 FM Claridge-Hansen William 2299 7,0
  21 FM Duncan Chris R 2292 7,0
  25   Brown Martin 2252 7,0
16 9 GM Arkell Keith C 2455 6,5
  13 IM Palliser Richard Jd 2422 6,5
  16 IM Eggleston David J 2376 6,5
  17 FM Batchelor Peter J 2341 6,5
  19 IM Kolbus Dietmar 2315 6,5
  24 FM Storey Charles H 2256 6,5
  34   Jones Steven A 2186 6,5
  61   Moreby James E 2040 6,5
24 18 FM Harvey Marcus R 2324 6,0

Click for complete standings

All photos by Brendan O'Gorman


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