Nigel Short simul and lectures at RA Chess Club

9/27/2011 – The chess club in Ottawa has a special relationship with the former World Championship challenger. GM Nigel Short, who in recent months has been on fire with a string of sterling results, turned up a second time to give a simul and a lecture – his first on the 1993 match against Garry Kasparov in London. You will find annotated highlights from the simul and lecture in this report by John Upper.

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GM Nigel Short simul and lectures at RA Chess Club

Report by John Upper

GM Nigel Short is on fire in 2011. Starting with 2nd in Gibraltar in February (8.5/10, perf. 2883; behind only Ivanchuk’s ridiculous 9/10 near-3000 Elo performance), Nigel followed with tournament victories in April in Thailand (=1st, 7.5/9); May in Angola (1st CUCA, 8/9); June/July at the Commonwealth Championship in South Africa (=1st, 9.5/11), and in July/August in England at the British Championship (=1st, 8.5/11). He continued his successful 2011 World Tour with a return visit to Ottawa to give a simul and lectures at the RA Chess Club.

Simul

On September 15, 2011 GM Nigel Short played 27 opponents at Ottawa’s RA Chess Club. Short emerged with a highly creditable +24 =1 –2 score. I write “emerged” but “survived” might be better: the nearly six hour long event ended at 1 a.m. local time (7 a.m. in Nigel’s Athens home), and in his 67 laps of the playing hall Nigel walked nearly two kilometres without a break.


Winners and drawers: Stijn de Kerpel, Nigel Short, David Gordon, Mate Marinkovic

Nigel was beaten by masters David Gordon and Mate Marinkovic, and held to a draw by the former (and future?) master Stijn de Kerpel. The honorable mention goes to Qiyu Zhou, who gamely defended a bad Sveshnikov endgame, and only blundered away the draw just before 1 a.m. – Qiyu has a lot of potential, but she also has a normal bedtime for an 11-year-old on a school night.


11-year-old Qiyu Zhou hanging tough 5½+ hours into the simul, while Nigel
revives himself with a glass of Ireland’s favourite source of iron and B vitamins

Simul Highlights

As one might expect from a renowned attacker, some of Short’s games were bloody routs. Black gets torn to bits with a nice queen sac after he mistimes a queenside exchange in Short-Palsson; and Nigel gives a fine example of how to attack a Sicilian small centre in Short-Paul.


Joey Qin looks on as Nigel decides to play the crushing positional exchange sac Rc6 against host Gordon Ritchie. Always the sharpest dressed player at the RA Chess Club, Nigel is sporting a tie from Hangzhou, which used to be the largest city in the world – in the 12th toi 14th century. The silk market is mentioned even by Marco Polo. The city was sacked by Kublai Khan, who then moved the capital to Beijing.

Less explosive, but no less instructive, were his wins against Alan Tomalty and the current RA Club co-champion Joey Qin: in both games there are virtually no tactics to speak of, but Black gets crushed because of a badly-placed minor piece. And, of course, we have to show off every game where we took points from our guest.

Please note that you can select the games in the dropdown menu of our Javascript player. You can use the buttons below the board or your cursor keys to replay the moves. Click any move in the notation with jump to the postion on the replay board, which follows the notation downwards in long games. If you have trouble with the Javascript player use the PGN link below it to replay the games in Fritz or ChessBase.

Lectures

On Saturday and Sunday Nigel gave a pair of +4 hour lectures. Last year he lectured on his successful Candidates matches against Gelfand and Karpov. This year the subject was his 1993 World Championship match against Kasparov, and the tone was completely different. Different in two ways.

First, [Spoiler Alert] Nigel lost the match against Kasparov. This time his story did not have a happy ending. Or middle. Or beginning: Nigel lost the first game on time in an equal position, and Kasparov raced away to a 3½-½ start; it looked like the match was effectively over before the second week. “Back to the suffering” was Nigel’s playfully mournful introduction to the Sunday session.

The second way the tone was different concerns Nigel’s comments on the moves themselves. Nigel said almost nothing about the PCA vs FIDE split the match created, or any of the side issues. We played through every game and, with the exception of two places where the result was already clear, we played through every move.


“Not a bad move” – Nigel Short during one of his lectures on the 1993 World Championship

Nigel’s most frequent remark was: “It’s not a bad move”. It’s not that Nigel was trying to justify his play or “win the analysis”. Far from it. Nigel is more than capable of turning his acerbically candid wit on himself, and did so throughout the lectures:

  • Opening Preparation: Before the match he looked for a way to close the “chasm of knowledge” between “the best-prepared player in chess history” and his own “years of sloth and indolence”.

  • Time Trouble: “I wonder what the hell I was thinking about”, doing “lots of rechecking” of variations (Games 1 & 5).

  • Pride vs Objectivity: Nigel should have forced a repetition at move 20 of Game four, when Kasparov neutralized a line in the Poison Pawn Najdorf, but he stubbornly pressed on like: “an idiot. You can’t be too proud. I knew White wasn’t better but I was looking for a win and became completely unobjective.”

  • Missing Forced Wins: “So I am a patzer, a complete and utter patzer.” (OK, this one was ironic, since he was referring to the mind-bogglingly complicated, Game 10).

  • Opening Confusion: “It hurts, it really hurts that I did something so stupid.” (Game 15, switching 9...Nf8?! for 9...c6)

All this happened 18 years ago but these are still fresh wounds. This was the first time Nigel has lectured on his match with Kasparov, and it was the first time he has carefully reviewed the games. The loss still hurts, but Nigel’s most frequent remark was: “It’s not a bad move”. Often this was followed by demonstrating a variation (sometimes an improvement, sometimes just a playable alternative), but more frequently it was said with something I think was surprise or relief. Why the surprise?

Reviewing the games on his host Gordon Ritchie’s 12-core Rybka-Houdini monster, and checking team Kasparov’s variations quoted in Ray Keene’s book of the match, Nigel found the computer agreeing with his evaluations on many of the points where he was most widely criticized. Indeed, what looked in 1993 like a reckless disregard for his own pawn structure, looks to today’s players as reasonable compensation in piece activity. That he didn’t manage to turn that into victory is not because he played badly, but because he was playing the greatest player of all time.

What I think happened last week in Ottawa is that Nigel Short discovered that although he lost the match badly, he played brilliantly. I’m glad I was there. Since you couldn’t be there, here’s a reminder.

Special Thanks to Gordon Ritchie for arranging and hosting Nigel's visit. For complete simul games visit the RA Chess Club homepage.

Copyright Upper/ChessBase


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