Adams and Timman lead in Staunton memorial

8/10/2008 – The drawing of lots was conducted in the usual manner – by racing mechanical cars through an image of Garry Kasparov. In round one Adams demolished Smeets with the black pieces, in round two Nigel Short missed a win in one against Jan Timman, for which he would have won the Best Game prize, a chess set crafted from US Air Force weapons-grade aluminium. Round 1-2 reports.

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History in the making at historical Simpson's

Go Go, go, go!!

The 2008 Staunton Memorial, the 6th of the current series, got underway with the Opening ceremony and drawing of lots on Wednesday 6th August, at its traditional home, Simpsons-in-the-Strand. The category 13 event, the strongest such tournament in England for at least 20 years, is once again sponsored by Dutch chess lover, Jan Mol, and brings together six Dutch GMs, four English GMs, one Russian GM and one New Zealand-born, English-resident IM. The latter, the indefatigable Bob Wade, at 87 years young, is setting a world record by becoming the oldest player ever to compete at such a level.

Regular followers of the Staunton, and of these reports, will be aware that artist Barry Martin, the Hon Secretary of the Staunton Society, always likes to put on something of a show in the otherwise humdrum drawing of lots. As last year, he once again paid homage to Jan Mol's interest in Formula One by having the players determine their draw numbers by a series of head-to-head races, using radio-controlled dune buggy cars. The winning racer, each of whom had first consumed a glass or two of welcoming champagne, would be the first to propel his car across the floor and through a picture of retired former world champion, Garry Kasparov! Hmmm - "Kasparov run over by five drunk drivers" – sounds like the sort of newspaper headline Vlad Putin dreams of...

A nervous Garry K awaits his fate

One might have thought that the Brits would have had something of an advantage here. After all, our Dutch guests are rather more well-known for their love of the humble bicycle than of the internal combustion engine. Anyone who, like the present writer, has spent any time wandering around the streets of Amsterdam, will be only too painfully aware that in the Dutch Highway Code, the cyclist is king, with the motorist a poor second and the wretched pedestrian barely registering on the scale at all. However, it was not to be. As if to emphasise their intentions, the Dutch won all six of the head-to-head races, thereby securing the white pieces in each of the round one games. Britain's best performance came from Nigel Short, possibly benefitting from his experience of the traffic in his adopted home city of Athens. However, he had the misfortune of facing "Ayrton" L'Ami, who put up by far the most impressive performance of the night, and ploughed into poor Garry Kimovich within seconds of the starter's pistol firing.


Smeets and Adams under starter's orders. Adams lost this particular battle, but won the war next day

This humiliation over, the players and guests retired for a splendidly traditional Simpsons roast beef dinner. Nigel, still smarting over his race defeat, pulled something of a face at the gigantic Yorkshire pudding which accompanied the meal. Then again, he does have the excuse of hailing from the wrong side of the Pennines. To a true Tyke, of course, Yorky pud is little less than a religion, the seriousness of which is emphasised by the tragic story of the Yorkshireman who came down South, couldn't get any Yorkshire pudding, and in his despair, went back home and battered himself to death...


Round Yorkshire puddings is made from batter and often served with roast beef, chicken, or any meal in which there is gravy (photo for Wikipedia by Robbie Jim)

"Turning reluctantly to the chess", as Harry Golombek was wont to say, Thursday's first round saw the six Dutch players all wielding the white pieces. The game Timman-Wade brought together the tournament's two oldest players, with Jan Timman playing what nowadays must be the unaccustomed role of the young whippersnapper, receiving a full 30 years from his opponent. Wade's unusual opening sequence 1.e4 d6 2.d4 c6 3.f4 Nf6 4.e5 Bg4 seemed initially to bring a tolerable position, but things soon went wrong, and by the time he got his queen trapped in the centre at move 21, he was already facing a lost cause on the queenside.

Timman,Jan H - Wade,Robert Graham [B12]
Staunton Memorial (1), 07.08.2008
1.e4 d6 2.d4 c6 3.f4 Nf6 4.e5 Bg4 5.Qd3 dxe5 6.fxe5 Nd5 7.Be2 Qd7 8.c4 Nb6 9.Bxg4 Qxg4 10.Ne2 e6 11.0-0 N8d7 12.Nbc3 0-0-0 13.h3 Qh4 14.Qc2 f5 15.c5 Nd5 16.Nxd5 cxd5 17.c6 Nb6 18.a4 Qe4 19.Qd1 Nc4 20.cxb7+ Kb8 21.Rf4 Ne3 22.Rxe4 Nxd1 23.Rf4 1-0.

L'Ami-Short was a carefully-played draw, whilst Sokolov-Wells saw the Englishman outplay his formidable opponent. He agreed to a draw in a position where he stood substantially better, but had little time on the clock.

Sokolov,Ivan - Wells,Peter K [D38]
Staunton Memorial (1), 07.08.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.Nf3 dxc4 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 c5 8.e3 0-0 9.Bxc4 Qc7 10.0-0 b6 11.Qe2 Bb7 12.Bd3 Be4 13.Bxe4 Nxe4 14.Qd3 Qb7 15.c4 Nd7 16.Bb2 Ndf6 17.Ne5 Rfd8 18.f3 Nd6 19.dxc5 bxc5 20.Qc3 Rab8 21.Rab1 Nf5 22.Nd3 Qc6 23.Rfe1 h6 24.Rbd1 Qa4 25.Qc1 Nd7 26.Rd2 Nb6 27.Nxc5 Qxc4 28.Rc2 Qb5 29.Ba1 Rbc8 30.h3 Rc6 ½-½

Alexander Cherniaev, who is fulfilling the role of honorary Englishman, whilst adding the necessary third nationality to the tournament line-up, faced Jan Werle with black. The latter's positional exchange sacrifice yielded a pawn and good positional compensation, but it was not clear that White had more than enough. However, Cherniaev lost time with a long-winded knight manoeuvre, and soon found  himself tied hand and foot. White regained his material with an extra pawn, and Cherniaev's subsequent blunder of a piece only shortened the game, rather than changing its result.

Van Wely won the longest game of the day against Jon Speelman, who looked to stand okay from the opening, but weakened and shed a pawn. Even so, his excellent blockading knights and dark-square play appeared to offer good compensation, but van Wely gradually made progress and Speelman resigned when faced with two connected passed pawns in the ending.

The game of the day was undoubtedly Mickey Adams' splendid tussle with current Dutch Champion, Jan Smeets:

Smeets,Jan - Adams,Michael [C45]
Staunton Memorial (1), 07.08.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nxc6 bxc6 6.e5 Qe7 7.Qe2 Nd5 8.c4 Ba6 9.b3 0–0–0 10.Bb2!? The more usual choice here is 10.g3, as played by Kasparov against Karpov in game 14 of their New York/Lyon world championship match in 1990. Indeed, that was the very game that revived the Scotch as a serious weapon in GM play. It is sobering to speculate how much of the present game is to be found in Kasparov's legendary database - I would not be at all surprised if he analysed much of it back in 1990!

10...Qg5 11.Qf3?! Smeets thought for some 45 minutes over this move, which appears to be a novelty. As far back as 1881, Blackburne chose 11.Qe4 against Zukertort, eventually losing a long ending.

11...Bb4+ 12.Kd1. Obviously forced. White's king and development is a disaster, but the black minor pieces and queen lack stability, and he needs to use all his tactical ingenuity to avoid being driven back in disarray. This is one of those positions where everything depends on the precise tactical features.

12...Nf4 13.h4 Qh6

14.g3. At first sight, 14.Bc1 looks as though it wins material, but Black has the tactical retort 14...d6!, when he stands better after both 15.Bxf4 dxe5+ and 15.e6 Qf6.

14...Ne6 15.Bc1 Qg6 16.h5. 16.Bd3 also looks strong, but is well met by 16...Nd4

16...Qc2+! Another neat tactical resource.

17.Kxc2 Nd4+ 18.Kd3? This looks like the final mistake. White should settle for 18.Kb2, although Black is still doing well.

18...Nxf3 19.Ke4? Continuing the theme of death by misadvanture.

19...Nxe5! Another hammer-blow, the main point being that 20.Kxe5 Be7! regains the material. With Smeets by now in time-trouble, his position quickly collapses. 20.h6 Ng4 21.hxg7 Rhg8 22.Kf5 Rxg7 23.f3 Nf2 24.Rh2 Bc5 25.Bh6 Rg6 26.Nd2 Bd4 27.Bg5 Re8 28.Rxf2 Re5+ 0–1

A great show of tactical control by Adams.


Round two

Missing out on the gold coins...and the weapons grade aluminum

Round 2 of the 2008 Staunton Memorial saw the majority of the British players wielding the white pieces. And a pretty good job they made of it too, at least for the first 2-3 hours of the session. Sadly, though, in the time-honoured tradition of what Ossip Bernstein was wont to call "the equalizing injustice of chess", the due rewards of their play were not always forthcoming.

Nowhere was this more true than in the game between Nigel Short and Jan Timman. The latest instalment in their personal rivalry, which spans almost 30 years and includes a Candidates Final match, saw Short produce a splendid attacking game, only to miss a beautiful one-move win. Even so, he retained a clear advantage, but such is the malevolence of the Fates that he saw his flag fall as he was in the act of playing his fortieth move.

Short,N (2655) - Timman,J (2562) [C67]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (2), 09.08.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6. Defending the Spanish with a 19th century, non-3...a6 defence, seems like the only appropriate reaction in a tournament played at Simpsons.

4.0–0 Nxe4 5.Qe2!? This unusual move is the start of a little-known, but quite dangerous idea. I speak from experience, having been surprised by it a few years ago, in a game against Dutch IM, Martin Solleveld. After that game, I concluded that the somewhat un-Berlinlike 5...Nf6 is possibly the best reply, whilst the odd-looking 5...Ng5 has also been tried, by another Dutchman and Berlin Wall expert, Harmen Jonkman. Instead, Timman reacted in customary Berlin fashion.

5...Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.Qxe5+ Qe7 8.Qa5. This is the point of White's idea. Black has some trouble untangling and developing his pieces. 8...Qd8 9.Qc3. Again disrupting Black's normal flow of development, this time by preventing Be7.

9...Nf5 10.Re1+ Be6 11.Qb3 Rb8

Black has failed to solve his mobilisation problems, and Short now strikes with a fine long-term exchange sacrifice. 12.Rxe6+! fxe6 13.Qxe6+ Ne7 14.Nc3 Qd7 15.Qe3 b6 16.d4. For his exchange White has a pawn, whilst the black king is trapped in the centre, and the Black pieces have considerable difficulty getting developed. The result is a substantial advantage.

16...Kd8 17.Ne5 Qe6 18.Ne4 h6? This is very natural, but it allows a knockout blow. 18...Kc8 was better.

19.Qb3? Missing the crusher 19.Nd6!!, which wins at once: 19...Qxd6 (19...cxd6 20.Nxc6+ Nxc6 21.Qxe6) 20.Nf7+ Kd7 21.Nxd6. Naturally, silicon bodies such as Fritz spot this immediately, as also did the carbon-based entity of tournament director Ray Keene, although he did have the considerable advantage of having been forewarned that there was something in the position. Nigel, alas, had neither computer chip nor soothsayer to prompt him, but it is still a little surprising that he should have missed such a tactical blow. However, even the move played retains a clear advantage for White.

19...Qxb3 20.axb3 Kc8 21.Rxa7 Rb7 22.Ra1 Rb8 23.Ra7 Rb7 24.Ra1 Rb8 25.h4 Rg8 26.Ra7 Rb7 27.Ra4 Rb8 28.Bf4 Nd5 29.Bg3 Kb7 30.Ng6 Re8 31.f3 Nf6 32.Be5 Nxe4 33.fxe4 h5 34.Kf2 Bd6 35.Bxd6 cxd6 36.Ke3 Re6 37.Nf4 Re7 38.d5 c5 39.Ne6 Rf7 40.Ra1

At this moment tragedy struck, as Short lost on time whilst in the act of playing his fortieth move. Although he has mislaid most of his advantage, he still stands somewhat better, and should certainly not lose the position. 0-1.

Had Short spotted 19.Nd6!!, the game would have been a leading early contender for the Best Game Prize. This is a limited edition, specially-designed chess set by New York-resident British artist, Graham Fowler, and is cunningly fashioned from US Air Force weapons-grade aluminium – undoubtedly the most civilised use of such a substance that I have ever come across.

Anyone wishing to acquire one of these sets, and who is not in a position to win the best Game Prize at the 2008 Staunton Memorial, can purchase one for the trifling sum of £850 at the tournament website.

Whilst all this was going on, Mickey Adams was joining Timman on 2/2, after winning a tough classical Lopez against Jan Werle. The latter frequently looked on the point of neutralising White's small opening advantage, but Adams continually found ways to prevent this from happening, and Werle was eventually unable to hold his weak b-pawn. Once again, a highly impressive demonstration of super-GM play by Adams, who appears to be in ominously good form.

Adams,Mi (2735) - Werle,J (2591) [C99]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (2), 09.08.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.d4 Qc7 12.Nbd2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Nc6 14.Nb3 a5 15.Be3 a4 16.Nbd2 Bd7 17.Rc1 Qb7 18.Qe2 Rfe8 19.Bd3 Rab8 20.dxe5 Nxe5 21.Nxe5 dxe5 22.Bc5 Bc6 23.Nf3 Nd7 24.Bxe7 Rxe7 25.Rc3 Nf8 26.Rec1 Be8 27.b3 Ne6 28.g3 axb3 29.Rxb3 Nd4 30.Nxd4 exd4 31.Rb4 Qd7 32.Kh2 Qd6 33.Qb2 Rd8 34.Rd1 Qe5 35.Bxb5 Qxe4 36.Rbxd4 Rxd4 37.Rxd4 Qb7 38.Qb4 h5 39.Rd8 Re2 40.Qc5 1-0.

The day's other winner was Peter Wells, who faced veteran Bob Wade. The latter repeated the same opening set-up as in his first round game against Timman, but here it was in a worse form, and he was a pawn down and effectively lost after just eight moves. Sokolov appeared to gain a large advantage against van Wely, and had he pursued the plan of castling queenside and doubling rooks on the open h-file, Black's problems would have been very serious. Instead, Sokolov chose to trade queens and head for an ending with a clear structural advantage, but Black was able to occupy the open c-file and generate enought counterplay even to turn down a draw offer, although he had to return the offer a few moves later.

Jon Speelman was another who obtained a clear advantage, but was unable to convert it. Even in the final position, he could have played on, and indeed, the watching Ray Keene was extremely surprised that he did not do so. However, things were not as clear as they first appeared, and Speelman was still feeling a little nervous, not having played much recently. After his tough first round loss, it was perhaps not so surprising that should choose discretion as the better part of valour. The day's remaining game saw a balanced struggle between Cherniaev and L'Ami, which simplified to a drawn ending.

So, after two rounds, it is Adams and Timman who lead, with 100% scores. In the overall team match, the Dutch already enjoy a healthy lead, and are clearly going to need a lot of stopping.

Steve Giddins

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