Fifth Annual Staunton Memorial
By Steve Giddins
This traditional event is taking place in London from 7-18 August. It is the brainchild of the Staunton Society and GM Ray Keene and consists of a twelve-player all-play-all event, billed as "the strongest international tournament held in the British Isles for at least 20 years" (well, you have to graciously ignore Kasparov vs Short in 1993, which, we suppose, was not a tournament).
The tournament is taking place in Central London, in the prestigious surroundings of Simpsons-in-the-Strand. This is on the site of the famous Simpson's Divan, where many of the world's leading players used to congregate in the middle of the 19th century, and where Adolf Anderssen played his Immortal Game against Kieseritzky.
|Loek van Wely||NED||2680|
The Fifth Staunton Memorial is certainly Britain's, if not the world's most elegant chess tournament. It is organised under the auspices of the Staunton Society, a body devoted to keeping alive the memory of Howard Staunton, the only English player who could ever advance a legitimate claim to have been the world champion of his era.
The entrance of Simpsons-in-the-Strand in London today
What's on today? A chess tournament? Hmmm.
The entrance to the Grand Divan (originally the "Grand Cigar Divan"), which was opened in 1828. The Divan soon became a thriving coffee house for London gentlemen, with members paying one guinea a year for use of the facilities. Patrons smoked, read their newspapers at leisure, and played chess while reclining on divans.
The menu (or Bill of Fare, as they call it) at Simpsons, has many traditional dishes and is very much meat-based. The cartoon on the reverse of the menu has the caption: “The gentleman who asked the carver whether the meat was English or foreign”! Simpsons is especially famous for its carvery, brought to the table on huge silver platters and carved before one’s eyes.
Historical pictures on the walls of the staircases
Two more recent players whom you might recognise in the paintings on the walls
The portraits of Short and Kasparov are by Barry Martin, a professional artist and Hon Secretary of the Staunton Society. They were commissioned and sold as limited edition prints in 1993 by The Times newspaper, sponsor of the Kasparov-Short world championship match, which took place at the Savoy Hotel, next door to Simpsons (both the Savoy and Simpsons are owned by the Fairmont Group). The original of the Short picture now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
The opening ceremony in sponsor Jan Mol's appartment
The opening ceremony, held on the evening of the 6th of August at the main sponsor Jan Mol's stunning apartment in the heart of Covent Garden. It saw a most interesting method of conducting the drawing of lots: artist Barry Martin, Hon Secretary of the Staunton Society, came up with the idea of having the players determine their number in the draw by a series of head-to-head races, using remote-controlled toy racing cars. Miraculously, nobody wrote off their car – not even Loek van Wely, which may come as a small surprise to those familiar with his driving history...
Racing cars to determine the order of placement in the tournament
Getting the blighters facing the right direction was a challenge in itself!
One other interesting fact that came to light during the opening ceremony concerns honeymoons. It would be a brave man who suggested to his bride that he be allowed to spend his honeymoon playing in a chess tournament, especially where the lady concerned does not actually play chess herself! But 2700-plus super-GMs are made of stern stuff, and that is precisely what Mickey Adams is doing during the Staunton Memorial.
Michael and Tara Adams née McGowran
Three days before the tournament, on Saturday, August 4th, Michael married his long-time girlfriend Tara McGowran, in a ceremony in the city of Taunton, in Somerset, near where the couple live in South-West England. There is a long-standing tradition in the chess world that players who get married play about 200 rating points weaker in the immediate aftermath of the nuptials. If ever there was a tournament that respects tradition, it is the Staunton Memorial, but apparently this is one tradition that is not upheld!
Breaking the tradition: Michael Adams in the joint lead at the Staunton
On top of the tables with Adams: Dutch GM Loek van Wely
Chess legend Jan Timman in tenth place
British GM and collector of obscure English words: Jonathan Speelman
(decades ago we were introduced to "floccinaucinihilipilification" by Jon)
The only female player in the tournament: Jovanka Houska
The illustrious playing venue of the Fifth Annual Staunton Memorial
The initiator and main organiser of the tournament Raymond Keene
Standings after six rounds