Alarming day at the European Chess Championship

9/15/2006 – Round eight started normally, but after three hours of play suddenly the fire alarm went off. It turned out to be a mistake by dim-witted workman brandishing a soldering iron. After nine rounds of play, with one more to go, seven players share the lead with 6.5/9. The final day will decide everything. Steve Giddins reports.

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More nuts than a fruitcake

Round seven report by FM Steve Giddins

A few minutes into the playing session today, Dave Clayton, who is in charge of the excellent live games relay, came up to me, brandishing a handful of evil-looking brown objects, which bore a suspicious resemblance to animal droppings. “Here’s a challenge for you”, he said. “See if you can find a way to work these into your report. They’re hazelnuts, grown on Brett Lund’s allotment”. I am always eager to rise to a challenge, but this one does pose something of a problem. If I were John Henderson, legendary former chess correspondent of The Scotsman newspaper, it would be easy. I could just recycle his favourite joke about chessplayers showing off their games in the hotel lobby, and the manager expelling them, on the grounds that he couldn’t stand “chess nuts boasting in an open foyer”. I, on the other hand, could never stoop so low.

Fortunately, the players today cooperated very generously in providing some fairly nutty happenings. Not only did we have cases of people playing on when large lumps of material down (a whole rook in one case, and bare K v K+Q+N+2Ps in another!), but we also had some pretty extraordinary blunders. Richard Britton simply left a piece en prise against Gyimesi (thereby breaking the latter’s 5-game drawing rut), whilst the end of the game White-Savory was one of the most unlikely I have ever seen.

On top board, Sulskis-Williams was a sharp and furious encounter, which ended in a draw, but the result might have been different had Williams played 21...Ne5!, instead of 21...Nde7. Meanwhile, Short failed to achieve anything more than a small edge against Jones, and despite trying for some time, he could only draw. “That’s what you get for analysing Rublevsky’s games!”, a disappointed Short commented afterwards, Russian GM Sergey Rublevsky being the world’s leading authority on 3 Bb5+ in the Sicilian.

McShane won a long and highly obscure game against Deveraux, whilst Stephen Gordon moved further up the table by beating Miezis. The young Oldham talent is really coming of age in this tournament, and this was another excellent result. It was a bad day all round for Latvia, as Meijers also lost, after he allowed a rook to stray into enemy territory, only to see it trapped behind the Brandenburg gate. The other great hope of Northern chess is Craig Hanley. After his round 3 debacle, he has won 4 games in a row, to move within half a point of the lead. Today he added the excellent scalp of Thomas Luther, who misplayed some complications and got a knight trapped on the edge of the board.

For Mark Hebden, this tournament has been a tale of missed opportunities, and today saw another half point slip through his fingers. When it comes to opening ideas, Mark’s mind is almost as fertile as Brett Lund’s allotment, and today his latest wrinkle in the Barry (5 Qd2 instead of 5 e3) soon brought him a substantial advantage. The computer suggests that at move 19, White can just take the offered piece, but Mark’s choice also gives a clear advantage in the ending. Unfortunately, he lost much of it by 27 Rfe1?, when instead, 27 Rae1 would have set up Bd1-c2, with excellent winning chances.

Amongst the other games, I would single out Colin McNab’s endgame against Karttunen. This has certainly been the tournament for unusual endgames, with three examples of R+B v R. Today we had a much rarer ending still, that of 2N’s v P, with Colin giving a textbook example of how to corral the enemy king in such positions.

McNab,C (2433) - Karttunen,M (2422) [A07]
ch-EU Liverpool ENG (7), 12.09.2006

This ending of 2Ns v P was first analysed by the great Soviet endgame study composer Lev Troitzky in the first half of the 20th century. Although done entirely without computers, his analysis has proved remarkably accurate, so much so that when John Nunn wrote his definitive, computer-aided book “Secrets of Pawnless Endings”, he did not bother to cover this ending, because he had nothing to add to Troitzky’s own analysis. Troitzky indicated a line, behind which the Black pawn must stand, if the ending is to be winning. Here, the pawn is behind the critical line. The winning plan is to leave one knight blockading the pawn, whilst the other knight helps its king to round up the enemy king, and drive it into the corner. Once this is done, the second knight can give up the blockade and come over to the corner, to give mate.

59 Ngf5 Ke6 60 Ke4 Kd7 61 Kd5 Kc7. Black heads as far as possible from the blockading knight on h4. 62 Nd4 Kd7 63 Nc6 Kc7 64 Ne5. The last two moves are the standard way to restrict the enemy king in this ending. 64...Kb6 65 Kc4 Ka5 66 Nd7 Ka4 67 Nb6+ Ka5 68 Kc5 Ka6 69 Nc4 Kb7 70 Kd6. The Black King is gradually surrounded and prevented from escaping from the corner. 70...Kc8 71 Na5 Kb8. If 71...Kd8 72 Nb7+ and the Black King can only choose whether to be driven into the a8 or h8 corners. 72 Kd7 Ka8 73 Kc7 Ka7 74 Nb3 Ka6 75 Kc6 Ka7 76 Nc5 Kb8 77 Kd7 Ka7 78 Kc7. Now the Black King is trapped, and it only remains to bring up the other knight, to administer the coup de grace. 78...Ka8 79 Nf5 h4 80 Nd6 1–0. It is mate after 80...h3 81 Nb5 h2 82 Nd7 h1(Q) 83 Nb6 mate. Excellent technique from the Scottish GM. [Click to replay]

An alarming day in Liverpool

Round eight report by FM Steve Giddins

Although this EU Championship is a new event for Britain and Liverpool, we do feel obliged to maintain some of the best traditions of English chess. One thing, without which no chess tournament is complete, is the mid-round fire alarm, and today we had ours. At 3.45, just over three hours into the playing session, off went all the bells and whistles, and outside we all trooped. Fifteen minutes later, we were all allowed back, the fire services having in the interim established that the building contained nothing more dangerous than a dim-witted workman, brandishing a soldering iron. Word has it that the arbiters are instituting an additional, special prize, for the best suggestion of what should be done with said soldering iron.

St. John's Gardens in front of St. Georges Hall

Start of round eight at the 2006 European Union Individual Chess Championship

At 15.45 the fire alarm goes off and everyone vacates the building

It turns out that the alarm was accidentally set off by a workman. The fire brigade give the all clear and its back to the chess.

As far as the chess is concerned, all eyes were on the top board clash between McShane and Short. The latter selected the rarely-played Deferred Steinitz Defence to the Lopez, which clearly surprised McShane. He did not react well, his 8 h3 and 9 gxf3 looking very suspicious. Black soon stood better, and his piece sacrifice netted three pawns, with a powerful initiative. Unfortunately for Short, he then began to lose the thread in the endgame, and eventually agreed a draw in a position which was still highly promising.

On board 2, Williams-Gordon was a balanced struggle, drawn in 37 moves, as was the board 4 clash between Brandenburg and Hanley. Ciuksyte and Sulskis also fought out a draw, although at the end, White would seem to be fully justified in playing for the win by 42 Ra5.

The biggest British result of the day was Gawain Jones’victory over Sarakauskas, which leaves the 19-year old sharing the lead. He achieved nothing from the opening and would have stood only slightly better after 41...Re8, but instead, the Lithuanian blundered with 41...Rxc4?? after which all White needed to do was traverse the board with his king to avoid the perpetual.

The draws at the top allowed several players in the 4.5 points group to make significant progress. Hebden won comfortably as Black against Shaw, whose treatment of the King’s Indian went seriously wrong at an early stage, and soon led to a very unpleasant ending. Bischoff beat McNab by exploiting the latter’s pawn weaknesses in another typical King’s Indian structure, whilst Galego capitalised on a bad day for Max Devereaux, who played his worst game of the tournament so far.

Luther,Thomas (2589) - Littlewood,John (2244) [B60]
EU Championship Liverpool (8.12), 13.09.2006
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg5 g6?! This rather ugly move is associated with an amusing anecdote. The move is actually known as the Bondarevsky Variation, after the Soviet GM and former trainer of Boris Spassky. It should not be confused with the Boleslavsky Variation, 6 Be2 e5, which is much more respected and popular amongst top GMs. At the 1994 Olympiad in Moscow, a certain British GM, who shall remain nameless, met the charming daughter of the late Igor Bondarevsky. A most attractive lady, she worked at the time as a TV presenter. Our GM was suitably impressed, and begun making serious attempts to chat her up. He was making great progress, until he told her, “Your father was a great player. His Sicilian line with 6...e5 is still regarded as one of the best lines in that position”. “That was NOT my father, that was Boleslavsky!”, shouted the outraged daughter, before storming off, and thereby ending our hero’s hopes of making further progress with the relationship.

All of which only goes to show the importance of knowing your opening theory...

7 Bxf6 exf6. Black’s pawn structure is extremely ugly, of course, but he hopes that his bishop pair will provide dynamic compensation. The line has never achieved any degree of popularity, but very recently, there have been a few games involving the Romanian GM, Nisipeanu, and the variation was also the subject of a review in a recent issue of the NIC Yearbook. The main long-term practitioner is Oleg Chernikov, a veteran Russian master and former World Seniors Champion.

8 Bc4 Bg7 9 Ndb5 0–0 10 Qxd6 f5 11 0–0–0 Qb6. Not a novelty, but the most common move here is 11...Qg5+. This is Chernikov’s usual choice, although he has also tried 11...Qa5. 12 Nd5. This is technically a novelty, although the rarity of this whole variation is shown by the fact that Megabase 2006, which has just over 3.2 million games, contains only two examples of this position. Both were old and obscure encounters, where the White players respectively chose 12 f4 and 12 Qg3, both winning. 12...Qxf2 13 Nf6+ Kh8 14 Nc7

 14...Be6? Clearly, this is not a position for the faint-hearted, but this looks too optimistic. Black should try 14...Rb8, when the position is still very unclear. 15 Bxe6 Rad8. The imaginative point of Black’s last move, but it fails tactically. 16 Qa3? fxe6 now wins material for Black, but White can simply self-pin on the d-file. 16 Bd7 Qh4. The Lincolnshire Poacher could have bagged a knight by 16...Bh6+ 17 Kb1 Bf4, but after 18 Qa3 Bxc7 19 Bxc6 bxc6 20 Qc3, the position is still gone. 17 Nce8 Rfxe8 18 Nxe8 Be5? Shortening the agony. 19 Qf8# 1–0. [Click to replay]

Photos by David Clayton and Stephen Connor

Round nine results

Bd  WHITE                      Result  BLACK
  1 GORDON,Stephen        (6)   ½ - ½  SHORT,Nigel           (6)
  2 SULSKIS,Sarunas       (6)   ½ - ½  MCSHANE,Luke J        (6)
  3 JONES,Gawain C        (6)   ½ - ½  WILLIAMS,Simon K      (6)
  4 HANLEY,Craig          (5½)  ½ - ½  BISCHOFF,Klaus        (5½)
  5 HEBDEN,Mark           (5½)  1 - 0  CIUKSYTE,Dagne        (5½)
  6 GALEGO,Luis           (5½)  ½ - ½  VAN DER WEIDE,Karel   (5½)
  7 MEDVEGY,Zoltan        (5)   ½ - ½  BRANDENBURG,Daan      (5½)
  8 SARAKAUSKAS,Gediminas (5)   ½ - ½  GYIMESI,Zoltan        (5)
  9 REDMOND,John          (5)   0 - 1  LUTHER,Thomas         (5)
 10 CONQUEST,Stuart       (5)   1 - 0  KNOTT,Simon J B       (5)
 11 DGEBUADZE,Alexandre   (5)   0 - 1  GORMALLY,Daniel       (5)
 12 HASLINGER,Stewart G   (5)   ½ - ½  MIEZIS,Normunds       (5)
 13 PERT,Nicholas         (5)   1 - 0  DEVEREAUX,Maxim L     (4½)
 14 SWINKELS,Robin        (4½)  1 - 0  SHAW,John K.          (4½)
 15 MCNAB,Colin           (4½)  1 - 0  GRANT,Jonathan        (4½)
 16 BRITTON,Richard       (4½)  0 - 1  RUDD,Jack             (4½)
 17 CARLETON,John         (4½)  ½ - ½  LUND,Brett            (4½)
 18 MEIJERS,Viesturs      (4)   ½ - ½  EGGLESTON,David J     (4)
 19 KARTTUNEN,Mika        (4)   1 - 0  JACKSON,Oliver        (4)
 20 TEBB,David            (4)   0 - 1  QUILLAN,Gary          (4)

A full report on round nine will follow in our final report on this event.

Standings after nine rounds


















































Van der Weide,K















































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