Short and Timman shine in Staunton Memorial

8/13/2009 – Older readers will remember that Nigel Short played Jan Timman in 1993 for the right to meet defending World Champion Garry Kasparov (Short won). Today Nigel is 44, and Jan 57. Thes are playing in the Scheveningen and round robin groups of the Staunton Memorial, and both are dominating. England and Holland are tied 12.5:12.5 in the team event. Rounds 1-5 report.

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Howard Staunton, 1810 – 1874

Seventh Howard Staunton Memorial

The 2009 Staunton Memorial, sponsored once again by Dutch chess lover Jan Mol, has been reformatted: a second international round robin tournament added alongside the main Scheveningen group which pits top British grandmasters against their Dutch counterparts.

Held since 2003, the Howard Staunton Memorial is played in Simpsons-in-the-Strand, London, England, in memory of the tournament namesake's habit of frequenting the restaurant – then a coffee house, known as "The Divan" or "Simspon's Divan" – in the 19th century, where he would search out chess play and discussion. From 2003-2005, the tournament was a four-player double round robin, with GM Jon Speelman sharing or holding the sole lead in each of those editions. In 2006 the tournament was expanded to a twelve-player single round robin, won by Michael Adams in 2007 and 2008.

This year, the tournament format has seen a further modification, with two events occurring simultaneously: a five-player double round Scheveningen system match between England and the Netherlands, and a ten-player round robin consisting of five Englanders and five international challengers.

Play at Simpsons-in-the-Strand runs from Saturday 8 August until Monday 17 August inclusive, with the games starting at 14.30 each day, except in the final round, which starts at 12 noon. Note that Saturday 15 August will be a rest day in the all-play-all group; there is no rest day in the Scheveningen event. Entry is free to spectators. The moves are being broadcast live on the official website, but there is a charge of £5.00 per round to log in and watch. The games become available for download in PGN some time after each round is completed. Details can be found here.

The tournament website is carrying daily reports by Steve Giddins, who describes the highlights of each round's play. Steve is assisted by some silicon friends, and the carbon-based entity of Tournament Director, GM Ray Keene. These reports are available free of charge.

With five of ten games completed, GM Nigel Short has clearly demonstrated there is something in his water, having scored 4.0/5, dispatching GMs Sokolov, Smeets, and Werle along the way. Meanwhile, the much younger Michael Adams, sits at 2.5/5, with three draws, one win and a loss. Best Netherlanders are Erwin L'Ami, Loek van Wely, Ivan Sokolov and Jan Smeets, each with 3.0/5.

In the accompanying round robin tournament, top-seeded Jan Timman leads the pack with 4.5/5. There are rumours he and Nigel Short are sharing the same glass. Second-seeded Korchnoi, on the other hand, is languishing in 5-8th place, with 2.5/5 (two win, two losses and a draw).


Round one – Saturday, August 8th, 2009

At the formal opening ceremony at Simpson's in the Strand Professor Michael Crawford, Director of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University, treated the players to a fascinating speech on human brain development and the importance thereto of the right type of nutrition. Crawford is world's leading expert on the role of fatty acids and lipids in the cellular signalling system. His basic message: eat plenty of fish!

The start of round one was complicated by the near-overlap with the British Championships, which finished on Friday afternoon, meant that several of the English players had to make a Saturday morning dash up the M4 from Torquay. All but one arrived on time. The exception was David Howell, who was late for the very best of reasons –- having just become the second-youngest-ever British Champion, he had to stay behind to attend Saturday morning's prize-giving! Fortunately, his opponent, Jan Smeets, sportingly agreed to delay the start of their game until David had arrived, and they eventually set to work some 75 minutes after the rest of the players. Results:

England
2.0-3.0
Netherlands
Short, Nigel
1-0
Werle, Jan
Adams, Michael
½-½
Van Wely, Loek
Howell, David
½-½
Smeets, Jan
Jones, Gawain
0-1
L'Ami, Erwin
McShane, Luke
0-1
Sokolov, Ivan

Round two – Sunday, August 9th, 2009

The second day saw some wonderful fighting chess, and just two draws out of ten games (in both groups). In the Anglo-Dutch Scheveningen match spirited defence in some suspicious positions, plus the requisite slice of luck here and there saw the home team emerge from the day as 3-2 winners, thus equalizing the match score. There was much excitement on board two, where Jan Smeets showed much imagination against Short's Alekhine Defence, sacrificing a piece for a strong attack. Indeed, he confessed afterwards that for a while, he thought he might be on the way to winning the brilliancy prize against Nigel, for the second year in succession! However, it was not to be. Results:

Netherlands
2.0-3.0
England
Sokolov, Ivan
½-½
Howell, David
Van Wely, Loek
1-0
Jones, Gawain
L'Ami, Erwin
½-½
McShane, Luke
Smeets, Jan
0-1
Short, Nigel
Werle, Jan
0-1
Adams, Michael

Round three – Monday, August 10th, 2009

The England team had a far better day than yours truly, winning the round 3-2 and taking a slender one-point overall lead in the match. The game Howell-L'Ami was a quiet draw, but Nigel Short maintained his 100% start with an unexpectedly one-sided win over Ivan Sokolov:

England
3.0-2.0
Netherlands
Short, Nigel
1-0
Sokolov, Ivan
Howell, David
½-½
L'Ami, Erwin
McShane, Luke
1-0
Van Wely, Loek
Adams, Michael
0-1
Smeets, Jan
Jones, Gawain
½-½
Werle, Jan

Short,N (2684) - Sokolov,Ivan (2655) [C58]
7th Staunton Memorial London ENG (3), 10.08.2009

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4. Just as in round one, Nigel opts to avoid the customary 35-40 moves of Marshall Gambit theory, so often seen in games between the elite these days. 3...Nf6!? This move already deserves comment. For over a century, the Two Knights was accepted as an excellent way to defend against 3.Bc4, with the world having accepted unchallenged Tarrasch's indictment of White's next as a "duffer's move". However, over the last 10 years or so, the influence of computers has swung the pendulum the other way, and the Two Knights now seems to be viewed much less favourably amongst the top players, almost all of whom prefer 3...Bc5. Two years ago, Short used the white side of 4.Ng5 to win a crucial last-round game against Mark Hebden, to clinch first place in the EU Championships at Liverpool, and he later described habitual practitioners of the Two Knights as "taking their lives in their hands". Most leading GMs nowadays play 3...Bc5, against which Nigel is wont to adopt the Evans Gambit, but he had clearly spotted that Sokolov had played 3...Nf6 in his first-round game against Luke McShane.

4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Bd3!? Against Hebden, Short had preferred 8.Qf3, but the text move has become fashionable recently. It was originally revived by Dutch GM Daniel Stellwagen, who wrote an article on it in the popular New in Chess opening series, SOS. More recently, Nakamura used it to win his critical last-round game in the US Championships, and only a week ago, it featured in the key game Conquest-Howell, at the British Championships in Torquay. The main point of he move is to give the Ng5 a more convenient retreat square than f3 or h3. 8...h6 9.Ne4 Nd5 10.0–0 g6 11.Re1 Bg7 12.Bf1 0–0 13.d3 f5

This is a typical position from the variation. For decades, it has been accepted that Black's lead in development, active pieces and space advantage, gives him more than enough compensation, and indeed, many games have been won by Black in such positions. A mere glance at the position seems to confirm that Black has a wonderful game. However, the computer, untrammelled by human emotions and visual impressions, sees only that White has an extra pawn with no weaknesses, Black's knight on a5 is offside, and his queenside pawns split. 14.Nc5 Qd6 15.Nb3 Nb7 16.g3 Be6 17.c4. Weakening d3, but this pawn can be defended relatively easily, whilst White enhances his central control. Once he completes the satisfactory development of his pieces, he will have a clear advantage. 17...Nb6 18.Qc2 Nd7 19.Nc3 a5 20.Na4 g5 21.Bd2 Bf7 22.Bc3 Rfe8 23.d4 e4. Black cannot win material by taking on d4, in view of the line 23...exd4 24.Nxd4 Bxd4 25.Bxd4 Qxd4 26.Red1 Qe5 27.Rxd7. 24.Rad1 Bg6 25.c5 Qc7

Compare the two diagrams. Black has been unable to make anything of his early initiative, and is now virtually lost. 26.d5 cxd5 27.Rxd5 Bxc3 28.Qxc3 Ne5 29.Red1 f4 30.c6 Qxc6? A blunder which hastens the end, but Black is more or less busted anyway. 31.Rxe5 1-0. A game which must surely have brought a smile to the celestial face of Wilhelm Steinitz, the one great player who always insisted the Two Knights was unsound!


Round four – Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

The games Sokolov-Adams and L'Ami-Short were both solid, if slightly uninspiring efforts, which were agreed drawn in 17 and 28 moves respectively. Jan Smeets showed yesterday that he is a formidable theoretician, and with Gawain Jones having long evinced a love of the Dragon Sicilian, a theoretical battle was always likely on their board. So it was, with Black employing a well-known exchange sacrifice. But suddenly it became apparent that he has no compensation for the exchange, and the full point went to the Dutch GM.

Defeats are of course a fact of life at the chess board, and how one reacts to a defeat is always a key test of a player. Some players tend to be rather cowed by a loss, and take a day or to to recover their confidence. On the other hand, there are some players who are at their most dangerous when coming off a defeat, like the irrepressibly optimistic Loek van Wely, who bounced back from yesterday's loss to win the most impressive game of the day.

Netherlands
3.0-2.0
England
L'Ami, Erwin
½-½
Short, Nigel
Smeets, Jan
1-0
Jones, Gawain
Van Wely, Loek
1-0
Howell, David
Sokolov, Ivan
½-½
Adams, Michael
Werle, Jan
0-1
McShane, Luke

Round five – Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

After two hours' play, the England team, playing with the white pieces, had an advantage somewhere between slight and very clear, on virtually every board. Indeed, Jan Timman, having perused his countrymen's positions, went up to Nigel Short and joked "It looks like Lucerne 1982 again!", a reference to the Olympiad of that year, when England defeated The Netherlands 4-0. But it was not to be. From there until the first time control, English advantages seemed to shrink inexorably, half points drifted away, and there was even the unthinkable possibility that England could lose the day's match. In the end, they did not do so, but a 2.5 - 2.5 draw seemed a relatively poor return for England, from the positions that had made Timman so pessimistic.

England
2.5-2.5
Netherlands
Short, Nigel
½-½
Van Wely, Loek
McShane, Luke
½-½
Smeets, Jan
Adams, Michael
½-½
L'Ami, Erwin
Howell, David
1-0
Werle, Jan
Jones, Gawain
0-1
Sokolov, Ivan

Score after five rounds

England: 12.5 – Netherlands: 12.5

After five rounds Nigel Short has a point more than any of the other players. With 4.5/5 the former World Championship challenger is displaying a 2862 performance and challenging Michael Adams' long-standing place as Britain's top player.

All Play All Group

Here Jan Timman is dominating completely – just like in the good ol' days, when he was the Dutch demi-god of chess. Jan has conceded just one draw in his five games so far, and is a full point ahead of his closest rival. His performance is 2788. Viktor Korchnoi is not having his greatest event, while the Elo rabbit Terry Chapman has lost all five games so far.

Links

The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!


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