Adams wins second successive Staunton Memorial

8/18/2008 – Michael Adams justified his position as the top seed in the 2008 Staunton Memorial, by winning the tournament for the second successive year. He can be justifiably happy with his result, as can all six of the Dutch players, who dominated the team event once again. Bob Wade, who is in his late 80s, battled wonderfully, but ultimately came up empty-handed. Final report.

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Round ten

Grandstand finish in prospect at Simpsons

Loek van Wely set up an exciting final round at the 2008 Staunton Memorial, by closing to within half a point of Michael Adams - and, in the final round, the two will face off against one another!

Van Wely made the most of the white pieces against Alexander Cherniaev, although the Russian looked to stand well in the early middlegame. However, he failed to make anything of his penetration down the open c-file, and once the white knights took aim at the weak d5 pawn, Black was in trouble. Black's resignation may look a trifle premature, but he had no compensation for his pawn deficit.

Meanwhile, Michael Adams had what looked like a close call against Sokolov. Adams offered a draw at move 20, but after White's next move, he realised that he had significant problems, so much so that after the game he even apologised to his opponent for the draw offer. Black's king came under a strong-looking attack, but Adams defended well and it does not appear that Sokolov ever had a real chance to achieve anything substantial. He was eventually forced to make a draw by perpetual check.

The game Wells-Speelman was not one to set the blood racing. L'Ami-Timman was rather more interesting, but also agreed drawn soon after the opening. Jan Werle crushed Bob Wade in rather gruesome style, after the latter landed in a very bad Stonewall structure. But the game of the day was played by Jan Smeets, who made a determined effort to deprive his countryman of the weapons grade aluminium on offer for the Brilliancy Prize:

Smeets,J (2593) - Short,N (2655) [C96]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (10), 17.08.2008

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 Nd7 12.Nbd2 exd4 13.cxd4 Re8. 13...Nc6 is much more common here, but in recent years, theory has swung in favour of White. In general., it has to be said that Black's entire plan of exd4 looks strategically rather suspect, and in this game, Smeets gives a classic demonstration of the dangers that Black's king can face in such positions.

14.dxc5 dxc5 15.e5. Depriving Black's knight of the f6 square, and thus setting up potential attacking ideas against h7.

15...Nf8 16.Qe2 Bb7 17.Ne4 Ne6 18.h4! Smeets was very pleased with this move after the game. The tactical justification is that 18...Bxh4? loses to 19.Nd6 Rf8 20.Nxb7 Nxb7 21.Qe4 winning.

18...Qc7 19.Neg5 Bxg5 20.Nxg5 Nxg5 21.Bxg5 h6

22.Qd3! A sacrifice which yields a very strong attack. Black is forced to accept, since 22...g6 just loses the h-pawn. 22...hxg5 23.Qh7+ Kf8 24.Qh8+ Ke7 25.Qxg7 Rg8. After the game, Smeets said that he rather expected 25...Kd8, trying to evacuate the king from the danger zone. However, after the reply 26.Bf5 (which Smeets had intended), the black king still faces a vicious attack. 26.Qf6+ Kf8 27.e6

27...Nc6?! 27...Qe7 was probably the only hope, although Black's position is extremely unenviable after 28.Qh6+ Rg7 29.Rad1. 28.hxg5 Rd8 29.Qh6+ Rg7 30.g6 fxg6 31.Qh8+ Rg8 32.Qf6+ Ke8 33.Bxg6+ Rxg6 34.Qxg6+ Kf8 35.Re3 1-0. A brilliant effort by Smeets, who later described the game as one of his best ever.

So, going into the final round, the scores are: Adams 7.5, Van Wely 7, Smeets and Timman 6, Sokolov 5.5,  Werle 5, L'Ami Speelman and  Short 5, Wells 4.5, Cherniaev 3.5, Wade 0. In the top game, Adams has White against Van Wely, and a draw will secure outright tournament victory for the English no 1.


Round eleven (final)

Adams wins second successive Staunton Memorial

Michael Adams justified his position as the top seed in the 2008 Staunton Memorial, by winning the tournament for the second successive year. Leading by half a point from Van Wely, going into the final round, Adams had the white pieces against his main rival, and made his intentions clear by choosing the quiet 3.Bb5+ against the Sicilian. Van Wely evidently decided that he had no real chance of winning the resuilting Maroczy Bind position, and offered a draw at move 15, which was accepted.

Quiet draws also ensued in the games Timman-Wells and Short-Werle, whilst Speelman-Sokolov fought out a tougher draw, which eventually culminated in a standard drawn rook ending, where all pawns were on one side of the board.

The two decisive games involved the young Dutch GMs L'Ami and Smeets. The former overcame Bob Wade as Black, wrapping up the game with a neat queen sacrifice:

Wade,R (2167) - L'Ami,E (2610) [B50]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (11), 18.08.2008
1.e4 c5 2.b3 Nc6 3.Bb2 Nf6 4.Nc3 d6 5.Nf3 e5 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.Qe2 g6 8.Nd5 Bg7 9.Nxf6+ Qxf6 10.h3 0-0 11.d3 a6 12.Bc4 Qd8 13.0-0 Ne7 14.c3 b5 15.Bd5 Nxd5 16.exd5 f5 17.c4 g5 18.Rae1 b4 19.Bc1 h6 20.Nh2 Qf6 21.Bb2 Qg6 22.g4 a5 23.Ra1 a4 24.a3 axb3 25.axb4 cxb4 26.Qd2 fxg4 27.hxg4 Rxa1 28.Rxa1 e4 29.Ra7 Bxb2 30.Qxb2 Qf6 31.d4

Here, L'Ami clinched the game by 31...Qxf2+! 32.Qxf2 Rxf2, when 33.Kxf2 is impossible because of 33...b2, when the pawn queens. Bob instead resigned after 33.Rb7 b2 34.Rxb4 Rc2 35.Nf1 e3 36.Nxe3 Rc1+ 37.Kf2 b1Q 38.Rxb1 Rxb1 39.c5 Rb4 0-1.

Jan Smeets completed an outstanding 3/3 finish by beating Cherniaev with the black pieces, after the latter blundered away a drawish-looking position:

Cherniaev,A1 (2431) - Smeets,J (2593) [B22]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (11), 18.08.2008
1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.Nf3 Nc6 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 Nb6 8.Bb5 a6 9.Bxc6+ bxc6 10.Qc2 Qc7 11.0-0 d5 12.h3 a5 13.a4 Ba6 14.Re1 e6 15.b3 Bb4 16.Bd2 Nd7 17.Bxb4 axb4 18.Rc1 Rc8 19.Qd2 Qa5 20.Ra2 c5 21.dxc5 Rxc5 22.Rac2 0-0 23.Qe3 Rfc8 24.Rxc5 Rxc5 25.Rxc5 Nxc5 26.Nbd2 Qc7 27.Ne1 Nd7 28.Ndf3 h6 29.Qd4 Qc3

Here, White should play 30.Ke3 Nc5 31.Nd4. Instead, he blundered with 30.Qxc3?? bxc3 31.b4 Bc4 32.a5, having expected only 32...Kf8. Instead, Smeets played 32...f6! 33.exf6 e5  and Cherniaev had to resign, since the c-pawn queens. 0-1.

Thus, another great tournament ends. The final scores after eleven rounds read as follows:

Adams can be justifiably happy with his result, as can all six of the Dutch players, who dominated the team event once again. Jan Smeets, in particular, underlined that his victory in the 2008 Dutch Championship was no fluke, and his score here should take his FIDE rating over 2600 for the first time. Of the English players, mention must be made of Bob Wade, who battled wonderfully, but ultimately came up empty-handed. Nevertheless, I am sure that everyone associated with the game hopes that they too can still be playing international chess when in their late 80s! 

And with that, we bid you goodbye from Simpson's, and hope that you have enjoyed the 2008 Staunton Memorial tournament.

Steve Giddins

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