Top-class chess returns to England
Despite having initiated the tradition of international chess tournaments in 1851, England hosts deplorably few such events nowadays. However, the normal gloomy picture will be changed for the better in August and September, as two top-class events take place in quick succession.
Fifth Annual Staunton Memorial
The revival starts with the fifth Staunton Memorial tournament, taking place in London from 7-18 August. The brainchild of GM Ray Keene, this twelve-player all-play-all event will be the strongest international tournament held in the British Isles for at least 20 years.
"You talking to me?" The formidable Howard Staunton
Organised by The Staunton Society, a body dedicated to preserving the name of one of England's greatest players, and with sponsorship from Dutch chess maecenas Jan Mol (formerly of Lost Boys tournament fame), the tournament line-up comprises six Dutchmen ( van Wely, Sokolov, Timman, L'Ami, Smeets and Werle), and six British players (Adams, Speelman, Wells, McNab, Jones and Jovanka Houska).
The chess pieces that bear the name of Staunton
The tournament will take 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.
The way we were...
... and Simpsons-in-the-Strand today
At Simpsons, play takes place in an elegant Victorian drawing room, thickly-carpeted, beautifully furnished, with chandeliers on the ceiling and oil paintings adorning the walls - and not a basketball hoop in sight!
The tournament offers a unique combination of top-class 21st century chess, with the elegance and atmosphere of Victorian England. No sign here of players seated in a draughty sports hall, with trainers squeaking on the all-weather surface beneath their feet.
|Loek van Wely||NED||2680|
The Fifth Annual Staunton Memorial will be the strongest event to be held in London if not the UK since 1986.
Venue and dates:
The venue is Simpsons-in-the-Strand, with the opening round on August 7, one rest day, and the final round and prize giving on August 18. Play begins in the afternoons starting 14-00 hours.
UK v China in Liverpool
The second piece of good news comes from the north of England, specifically Liverpool. As part of the lead-up to its status of 2008 European City of Culture, the city plays host to a UK-China summit chess match, from 4-9 September. Teams of six male and two female players will compete in a Scheveningen-style match. The English team includes both Michael Adams and Nigel Short, the first time for almost 15 years that the two have competed together in an event on British soil.
The Chinese team includes top stars Wang Yue, Bu Xiangzhi and Ni Hua, plus 13-year old schoolgirl sensation Hou Yifan. Alongside the match, there will also be a nine-round International Open, with a prize fund in the region of £10,000–£12,000 (details to follow).
|GM Michael Adams||34||2724||GM Bu Xiangzhi||22||2685|
|GM Nigel Short||42||2683||GM Wang Yue||20||2696|
|GM Jonathan Rowson||30||2599||GM Ni Hua||24||2681|
|GM Luke McShane||23||2592||GM Zhang Pengxiang||27||2649|
|GM Nick Pert||26||2536||GM Wang Hao||18||2619|
|GM Gawain Jones||18||2526||WGM Hou Yifan||13||2523|
|GM David Howell||16||2519||WGM Zhao Xue||22||2500|
|WGM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant||39||2419||WGM Shen Yang||18||2439|
|IM Jovanka Houska||27||2401|
Average age: 28, average rating: 2555
Average age: 21, average rating: 2600
The event takes place from September 4th (first round) and ends on September 9th (6th round). Rounds 1-5 start at 3 p.m., round six at 9 a.m. The format of the match is a Scheveningen for the first six boards (each player meets all six opponents once); and similar for the women's boards (each to play both opponents three times). The rate of play is all moves in 2 hrs plus 30 seconds per move.
The venue: St. Georges Hall, Concert Room, Liverpool, UK
St George's Hall, Concert Room – click here for a virtual tour
Regular ChessBase correspondent FM Steve Giddins will be in attendance at both events, and will provide full coverage on ChessBase. So, starting from August 7, get out the port and cigars, settle down in your favourite armchair, and watch chess played in the sort of surroundings where it belongs!