London Chess Classic – simul at Simpson's

12/23/2012 – We reported extensively on the wonderfully exciting chess that was played in London. But the Chess Classic is also a festival and provides exquisite enjoyment for visitors – especially those who are invited to the VIP room and the closing dinner. One keen amateur, Allan Beardsworth, describes the atmosphere and annotates the game his table played against the Classic masters.

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The Chess Classic and a Simpsons Simul

By Allan Beardsworth

My wife and I have a house in one of the prettiest valleys of the Lake District, one of the most beautiful parts of England. The mantra for visitors to that region, as for tourists everywhere, is “take only photos, leave only memories”. And now, a week after the equally splendid London Chess Classic, all I am left with is memories of my visit to the event. So this brief article is simply one keen amateur’s perspectives.

Malcolm Pein receiving the Sport and Recreation Alliance’s Community Sport and
Recreation Award
from the Alliance’s President HRH Prince Edward Earl of Wessex

First of all the chess world, and the English chess community in particular, owe a massive vote of thanks to Malcolm Pein for the vision he had in setting this tournament up; and Malcolm’s tireless energy in running such a mammoth event. I hope that he finds time over the seasonal break to relax and celebrate what he has achieved. To these thanks, should also be added thanks to the sponsors and the team of officials without whom such events simply cannot happen.

Secondly, the elite players: to be in the packed commentary room, listening for every nugget of insight; to hear the rapidity of explanations of lines seen. Vishy’s explanation of the final stages of his game versus Magnus, was a particular treat; and I would also highlight Vlad who seems to make chess simple. As a parent myself (though, alas, none of my children have any interest in chess) it is really nice to see all the players willingly pose for photos with their young fans; the ability to meet our heroes is key to perpetuating our game.

Postgame analysis by Vishy Anand with GM David Howell

Thirdly, and here I am lucky in being invited to the VIP room, as a donor to English chess. The surprising, disappointing, revealing change this year was that the GM commentators now routinely refer to chess engines – what does Hiarcs say? Houdini? Stockfish? In all previous years, reference to engines has been verboten, but now, the game is up. Nakamura-Anand was the finest example of that; to me, it just shows that chess between two people, even two elite players, is a different game, and not the worst for it, than the analysis of engines.

Vladimir Kramnik and Nigel Short analysing in the VIP room

John Nunn showing Judit Polgar his latest software development for the iPad

Blitz in the VIP room: IMs Ali Mortasavi and Lawrence Trent are at it again...

... as are chess amateurs Alaa Gamal, former member of the Egyptian women's team,
and Mihaly Szalontay, Managing Partner of Buran Venture Capital in Moscow

Veterans: Michael Stean and David Levy discussing, while Aronian listens skeptically

I could add more comments, but for brevity will end with a game played at the Closing Dinner at Simpson’s in the Strand. The Classic players, during main course and dessert (and this is key, after champagne, wine and port...) go round the tables, making a move at each; with the amateurs consulting. It is light and inconsequential, and I think Malcolm said that this year the score was 12-6 to the tables. But it was a fitting end to yet another tournament which shows one of the great things about chess, gens una sumus: the fun and friendship our games gives us all.

Dinner at Simpson's, with a tag simul given by the participants of the Classic

After dinner some players stay on for a few rounds of blitz

Levon Aronian playing GM David Norwood, with Magnus Carlsen looing on

The simul at the Simpsons

There are apparently six degrees of separation, and there are also Fischer or Kasparov or now Carlsen scores: I have beaten Nigel Short (alas, last time thirty something years ago, in the days we were at Bolton School together); he has beaten Garry, so my Kasparov score is Two. As of 10 December 2012, my Carlsen-score, Kramnik-score, Aronian-score, Nakamura-score, Adams-score, McShane-score, Jones-score and Pein-scores are each One, having beaten them all, together, at the London Classic closing dinner at Simpson's in the Strand. (Judit Polgar didn't play a move, and true to my accountant self, my Luke score is actually One, if Internet blitz is included). Or maybe, and probably more honestly, my score against the Classic players is actually fractional, since it was in collaboration with (retired) GM Michael Stean, Terry Chapman, Tony Stewart, Alex Greg and Andrew McQuillan on table 17.

[Event "Classic Dinner"] [Site "Simpson's on the Strand"] [Date "2012.12.10"] [Round "?"] [White "Classic GMs"] [Black "Table 17"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A34"] [Annotator "Beardsworth,Allan"] [PlyCount "76"] [EventDate "10.??.??"] 1. c4 {Gawain. I have not given this game a rigourous examination, and my checking with Houdini 3.0 has been superificial; so forgive my errors. It was though a perfect imbalanced game, with chances for both sides, very suitable to the occasion.} Nf6 {.} 2. Nc3 {Magnus} c5 3. Nf3 {Hikaru} d5 4. cxd5 { Malcolm} Nxd5 5. e4 {Gawain} Nb4 6. Bc4 {Luke} Nd3+ 7. Ke2 {Magnus} Nf4+ { Terry (Chapman) influenced our choice of this line, saying it was theory of 30 years ago; Houdini 3.0, in 2012, prefers Nc1+} 8. Kf1 {Hikaru} Ne6 9. b4 {Luke} cxb4 10. Ne2 {Vlad; our table all presumed Nd5, thinking this was the old theory; but we soon saw the strength of the move played; supporting d4 and also en-route to f4.} g6 11. Bb2 {Gawain} Bg7 12. d4 {Levon "Taking the centre can't be bad"; our table had more or less presumed Bg7; we discounted Be6 more or less without analysis, thinking whichever visiting GM next arrived at our board would not want to simplify the game. Houdini, after a bit of thinking, settles on (what to me at first sight) looks odd, Qb1, but when its main line shows it being followed by h4-h5, you see the engine's point.} (12. Bxe6 Bxb2 13. Bxf7+ Kxf7 14. Qb3+ {would have resulted in a far less convivial game, so Be6 deserves a ?}) 12... O-O 13. a3 {Vlad; though the engine prefers h4, answered by h5, appraising it as equal.} bxa3 14. Rxa3 {Luke; it was interesting to be part of our table's discussion here; Terry and I preferred Nc6, thinking we could see our way through the tactics, with the d4 pawn being pinned; but Michael (Stean) wanted to improve the knight on e6; it was remarkable throughout the game that the author of one of my favourite books, Simple Chess, showed clarity of thinking and judgement. Houdini after a good think also prefers Michael's choice, but assesses Nc6 as more or less equivalent. Terry and I, both strong amateurs, kept looking at more tactical, complex lines; but we could often see the wisdom of what Michael said.} Nc7 15. h4 {Magnus (with a laugh). Houdini also recommends it, but not with a laugh, or at least not to my knowledge.} Bg4 {Tony wanted to play ...b5, hitting the bishop; but Michael explained that that would merely force it to a better square, a2; on c4 it is tactically loose. Whilst ...b5 also permits Bb7, pressurising e4, on balance we played for some control over h5. Houdini 3.0 is indifferent between the two; though its suggestion after ...b5 is that the B retreats to d3, a possiblity we didn't consider.} 16. h5 {Vlad (thumping the pawn down)} Nc6 17. hxg6 {Gawain} hxg6 18. Nf4 {Magnus} e6 (18... Ne5 {was what Terry and I considered, and Houdini thinks it is equal; but Michael was adamant that on principle e6 should be played; Houdini's clear preference though is to protect g6 by Qd6, which also has the advantage of taking some of the power out of a d4-d5 advance.}) 19. Rd3 {Hikaru; though the engine prefers Qc1 or Qd2; its preference is Qc1, which looks strange to my eye, but maybe it is protecting c4 and discouraging b5 (after which, with the queen on c1, the Nc6 is loose).} b5 20. Bb3 {Luke} a5 21. d5 {Gawain} Bxb2 22. dxe6 {Levon, and Houdini} Qf6 23. exf7+ {Mickey} Kg7 24. Qd2 {Vishy; our table's confidence was high here, thinking, wrongly, that we had the advantage, with the extra piece and black square control. We didn't properly assess the weaknesses. The keen readers of John Nunn's books, knowing his acronym LPDO (loose pieces drop off), would notice c6, c7, g4 and weaknesses on b2 and g6; let alone h6. We failed to appreciate that the pathway to all these was d6.} Rh8 (24... Be5 {= per Houdini, as it says is a4 25 Rh4 Be5; I don't think we considered trying to control d6 by Be5. Michael felt strongly that Rh8 needed to be played on principle; to exchange off one of White's active pieces. In fact, he was wrong in his assessment, and control of d6 was the most important requirement.}) ( 24... a4 25. Nd5 Nxd5 {was one line the table looked at, thinking that maybe we could survive the complexities (for instance after 26 Qh6+ Kf7 is possible, since the N on d5 blocks the Bb3's protection of f7); Houdini seems to concur that a4 is possible, though Michael's safety first choice swung the vote at this late stage of the evening; wine and safety being the watchwords.}) 25. f8=B+ $6 {Gawain. The ! for the underpromotion (and, promoting to a bishop is also Houdini's third choice, so maybe not showing that it has a sense of humour)., though it is not anywhere near as good as the underpromotion of the tournament, Luke's knight promotion versus Levon. The ? because Rh8 is far stronger, winning.} (25. Rxh8 {9} Rxh8 26. Rd6 $18 {It is interesting that none of us appreciated the level of danger we actually were in. Here, we are simply lost.}) 25... Raxf8 26. Rxh8 {Vlad (to Levon) "this position has the stamp of Gawain on it". Levon (to Vlad): "more than a stamp".} Rxh8 27. Rd6 { Levon} Rh1+ (27... Bxf3 28. gxf3 Bc3 {was one alternative we looked at, but we thought checking was preferable, if only because it frees h8 for the king. We were unsure who had the advantage, and Houdini suggests it is equal.}) 28. Ke2 {Gawain} ({We felt that} 28. Ng1 {was far stronger, and the engine confirms this: equal; but that does not mean drawn.}) 28... Nd4+ 29. Ke3 {Luke; from now on, the GMs wondered whether it was time to resign, but played on whilst there was a bit of doubt.} Bc1 (29... Qxd6 30. Qxb2 Bxf3 {was preferable.}) 30. Qxc1 {Magnus} Rxc1 31. Rxf6 {Mickey} Kxf6 32. e5+ {Luke} Kg7 33. Nxd4 {Luke} a4 34. Bc2 {Vlad} Re1+ 35. Kd2 {Magnus} Rxe5 {Michael's last pearl of wisdom was, when one of our table was worried about losing the g6 pawn, was not to worry, because then "the knight is out of the game". The game, of course, being the queenside pawns, which are ready to rush.} 36. Nxg6 {Malcolm} Rd5 37. Ke3 { Mickey} a3 38. Nf4 {Gawain} Rxd4 {Levon resigned.} 0-1

The game will be one of my memories of another superlative Classic, for which so much is owed to Malcolm Pein, his team, and his sponsors. Nigel Short, commenting to the audience during the last round, recounted a witticism by IM Bill Hartston, that chess was a contributor to net human unhappiness, since the pleasure of victory is greatly exceeded by the pain of defeat. Yes, Nigel, I agree, having fallen for an outrageous cheapo against him in three minute blitz during the last round, our first game together since childhood, when for a good dozen moves or so the crowd were about to witness a GM kill. Nigel's Re2 mate will forever be etched on my mind.

However, my abiding memory of this tournament is in fact the throngs of school children who visited the Classic. The venue was heaving with the future of our game; ample reason why the UK charity, Chess in Schools and Communities, and similar ones in other countries are to be supported: for chess, with its victories and defeats, can give a lifetime of friendship, challenge and pleasure.

Allan Beardsworth, 50, (here pictured not at the Simpson's but on a holiday in Turkey) was a strong junior chess player. Learning the game because of Fischer-Spassky, his first clubmate was Nigel Short, three years his junior. Nigel followed Allan to his senior school, and a lifetime of friendship has been the result, including playing for England Juniors together. In 2004 and 2006 he captained the England’s mens’ teams in the Olympiads.

Allan is now a tax partner at Deloittes, Manchester, and with the demands of work and family is now only a keen internet blitz player and follower of chess: His 2012 rapidplay rating was 227 (UK, equivalent to 2466 FIDE), though this is an example of “lies, damn lies and statistics”, because it is based on only the one tournament he plays each year. Allan suspects his true current rating is a couple of hundred points lower. For many years he has sponsored chess in the UK. His biggest fear in chess now is not knowing how strong (or rather, weak) he will be when he retires and finally has time to resume playing over the board.

Finally Allan is a friend of the ChessBase news page – hardly a day goes by when we do not receive a message from him, correcting typos or even the tiniest of errors that have crept into our stories.


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