Adams is the sole leader at the British

by Daniel Gormally
8/3/2019 – It's a familiar story: Michael Adams and Jovanka Houska are the leading contenders to be British Champion and Women's Champion heading into the final round. GM DANIEL GORMALLY brings us up to date on the action in Torquay, England, including several annotated games. Adams has a half point lead over David Howell, Stephen Gordon and Richard Pert. |Round 9| The final round starts at 9:00 UTC (11:00 CEST / 5:00 AM EDT). | Photos: Chris Stratford

A Sicilian Stunner - The Kalashnikov A Sicilian Stunner - The Kalashnikov

This increasingly popular opening is easy to pick up as the Black pieces can usually be developed quickly and smoothly. Many of the ideas are thematic and Black can achieve attacking positions in several of the variations.


Why experience trumps potential

During one of my commentary sessions during the British Chess Championship, I managed to bore the watching audience with a discussion on the value of experience over potential.

What I was talking about was an article in the Harvard Business Review which focused on why people tend to favour potential over experience, and which was brought to my attention by the elaborations of horse racing guru Nick Mordin, who would never miss a chance to find some kind of obscure betting angle.

Essentially what the article said was that if you have two people, and one person has already achieved something but the other person has two potential outcomes, in other words he or she might also achieve that thing that the first person has achieved, or they might not, then the average person will tend to favour (or find more interesting) the second person. The reason for this is that it's more interesting for the human mind to have two potential outcomes. 

The reason I discuss this in relation to the British Championships is that what you tend to get is a scenario where the same sort of people win every year. It's a bit like Wimbledon. A lot of people tend to bet against Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, and yet they win pretty much every year. And not only at Wimbledon, but at every grand slam you could care to mention.

As far as the British is concerned, Michael Adams is rather like Fed, Nads and Djoko rolled into one. If you have any designs on winning the thing, you have to get past Adams. He's won it every year he's entered, for as long as anyone can remember.

In theory, in round four, Palliser had a good chance to do so, because he was already rested after the rather freak occurrence of having two people default against him in a row, and seemed to emerge from the opening with a rather playable position. Therefore, it seemed quite instructive to me how easily Adams managed to squash his dreams:


I think a lot of amateur players would shy away from this, because subconsciously they'd fear opening up the a-file. But Adams proves that concrete calculation is more important.

23...axb5 24.d2 Consolidating and freeing up the knight to burst into d5. 24...e5?! (Better was 24...♞c5 25.♘xb5 ♛a5 26.♘d4 ♜fc8).

25.c1? — A tricky position, and apparently it was better to play 3.♕e2.


25...e6? Palliser collapses. 25...♜fc8 ties the knight down for the time being. 26.♖dc2 ♜c5 maintaining the tension. In the commentary room we were advocating 25...♜fb8 which also seems to be preferable to what Black played in the game.

26.xb5 b4 27.xd6 fd8 28.c3 forcing the queens off. 1-0

Richard Palliser

Richard Palliser is an Editor of CHESS Magazine | Photo: Chris Stratford

Keith Arkell, one of the default victims against Palliser, was recovering from an illness and got rather careless against Toma.


The tournament takes place inside the vast Riveria Centre, which has already hosted several British Championships.

On the walk down from the harbour to the Riveria, the intrepid traveller is generally assaulted by a kaleidoscope of sounds and sights as you break through the very heart of Torquay. Families frolicking around in their flip-flops, corpulent O.A.P.s racing down the sidewalk in their mobile scooters, and all the time the sea air whipping off the front, only adding to the atmosphere. Such is the allure of the panorama that one day I felt like parking myself in a deckchair and spending the rest of the day soaking up the suns rays. Alas, like the players, it wasn't a true holiday as I had to be somewhere at a certain time, in my case the commentary room.

Mistakes away from the board

You'd think that such an ambience would make the players more relaxed, but this isn't always the case. In round six there was a controversy that was not unrelated to some of the incidents that have been hitting the chess headlines recently.

In his game against Charlie Storey, Lorin D'Costa made the mistake of taking his bag away from the board when intending to visit the cafe to buy something. The problem for him was that he still had his mobile phone in the bag, and Charlie was quick to notice this. He alerted the arbiters who had no choice but to default the unfortunate Lorin.

This was careless on Lorin's part, although I wonder if his lack of recent tournament experience was partly to blame. In most tournaments now you are repeatedly warned not to take your phone around with you during play, and perhaps because Lorin doesn't play a lot he wasn't aware of the severity of this rule.

Nevertheless, he wasn't pleased by Charlie's immediate reaction, which was to ask the arbiter to ask Lorin to resign, rather than just default him, so that in Charlie's words Lorin "Could save his reputation". This seems like an overreaction by Charlie, as in my view it shouldn't be up to the other player to get involved in this way, and should be solely left up to the discretion of the arbiter.

Perhaps he could be excused as we now live in paranoid times. Also in round six, Steven Gordon was starting to make his mark on the event after he defeated Simon Williams.


Simon Williams

A bad day for the Ginger GM | Photo: Chris Stratford

One of the things I've noticed about the commentary is that most of the games have finished fairly quickly. My fears of having to stay for long sessions that go on for six hours plus have proved fairly unfounded, probably because the tournament has adopted a relatively quick time control, that you could argue has turned these encounters into glorified rapid play games. Some of the players have been complaining to me about not having enough time to work out complex positions after move forty.

And indeed it is also much more likely that you will get into time trouble early in the game if the position is complicated enough. Having so much time on my hands I was able to stumble across the excellent Perpetual Chess Podcast with Kenneth Regan, doyen of the FIDE anti-cheating committee, and in the podcast Ken discussed amongst other things how sharply the quality of play tends to go down from moves 30-40 when players tend to find themselves short of time.

As if to prove this point, Gary Lane, who was actually on move 25 when we pick the game up but already in zeitnot, missed a great opportunity against Ravi Haria.


25.c2? Lane could have ended the game at once with a brilliant, yet in some ways logical, shot. Can you spot it?

25.♕xe5!! ♝xe5 26.♗xe5 when Black is helpless. 26...♚h7 27.♘g5+ ♚g6 28.♗f7+ ♚xg5 29.♖h5+ ♚g4 30.h3#

25...d3! 26.b3 g4 27.e1 e4 and Black was over the worst — he even went on to win!

Pert vs Pert

Nick Pert and his twin brother Richard have long been familiar fixtures on the British chess scene, and for many years Richard has to some extent lived in the shadow of his brother, but is a serious player in his own right.

Indeed, I think without having to try and juggle a family with a full time job I'm fairly sure Richard would have nailed down the GM title long ago, and when he does play he tends to be able to compete with professional players on an equal basis. In the game against his brother, he was able to show how dangerous he can be in opening preparation.



When twin brothers play, it's hard to tell who's winning | Photo: Chris Stratford

Adams' edge

In the penultimate round, Mickey faced Richard Pert in a sharp French Defence which ended up being a fairly one-way affair.


Black is desperate to trade queens with ♛g4 next, but Adams simple doesn't allow it: 19.h3 and White maintains a big edge in the position. 19...f7 20.c5 e7? 21.d6! e8 22.fe1 and the pin down the e-file is deadly. Adams is ready to pile on the pressure and pile on he did:


Black resigned a few moves later.

The final round nine starts considerably earlier at 9:00 UTC (11:00 CEST / 5:00 AM EDT).

Standings after Round 8 (top 10)


All available games



Daniel is an English grandmaster with a FIDE rating of 2498 and a peak Elo of 2573. He became a Grandmaster in 2005, and played for England in Olympiad and European Championships. Author of Play Chess Like the Pros, Calculate Like a Grandmaster, Mating the Castled King and A Year in the Chess World, Gormally is also an established chess coach at St Mary’s School in Alnwick, England, where he lives.


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