Coming soon to a Divan close to you – London honours its chess greats

8/5/2009 – Yes, it's that time of year again! London's premier chess event in recent years returns to action on Saturday 8 August, at its traditional home of Simpsons-in-the-Strand. It is a double-round Scheveningen between England and Holland, with each side fielding five of their top players. The event is once again sponsored by Dutch chess maecenas Jan Mol, and will be broadcast on the Internet.

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"You talkin' to me?" Howard Staunton doing an impersonation of Travis Bickle

London honours its chess greats

By Steve Giddins

The 2009 Staunton Memorial tournament continues its recent trend, by getting bigger and better every year. Sponsored once again by Dutch chess lover, Jan Mol, this year the event has been reformatted, and a second international tournament added alongside.

In a new development for the tournament, the games will be broadcast live on the Internet. Those wishing to follow the games in this fashion will need to register and pay a nominal fee, details of which can be found here.

Furthermore, the tournament website will carry the traditional daily reports by yours truly, in which the highlights of each round's play will be analysed by a combination of myself, my silicon friends, and the carbon-based entity of Tournament Director, IGM Ray Keene. These reports will be available free of charge.

The main event is a Scheveningen-style match between England and Holland. Each side will have five of their top players, competing in a double-round event. The two sides are as follows:

England Rtng   Holland Rtng
IGM Michael Adams 2699   IGM Ivan Sokolov 2655
IGM Nigel Short 2684   IGM Loek van Wely 2655
IGM Luke McShane 2620   IGM Jan Smeets 2632
IGM David Howell 2614   IGM Erwin L'Ami 2593
IGM Gawain Jones 2554   IGM Jan Werle 2575
Average rating 2634   Average rating 2622

In recent years, England have been heavily worsted in the team event against the Dutch, but this year, the hosts are fielding their five strongest active players, and enjoy a small superiority in average FIDE ratings. Even so, with only twelve points separating the two teams' averages, an extremely close and hard-fought battle should be in store.


Michael Adams, winner of the event for the past two years, and again leading the English challenge

International chess tournaments in London are rather like the capital's buses – you wait for ages for one, then two come along at once. Alongside the Scheveningen event, the Staunton Memorial also sees a second, category nine all-play-all tournament, the full line-up for which is as follows:

Name Rating
IGM Jan Timman 2569
IGM Victor Korchnoi 2561
IGM Simon Williams 2527
IGM Peter Wells 2498
IGM Nigel Davies 2493
IM Lawrence Trent 2471
IM Willy Hendricks 2444
IGM Alexander Cherniaev 2428
IM Eelke Wiersma 2403
Terry Chapman 2271
Average rating 2463

Naturally, most eyes will be on the legendary Victor Korchnoi, now aged 78, who comes to the event as the reigning Swiss Champion. He won this title just a couple of weeks ago, and is believed to be the oldest player ever to win a national championship. 


Call him Doctor, Professor, or just Grandmaster, Victor Korchnoi remains a strict examiner at the chessboard

Top seed on rating, however, is the vastly experienced Jan Timman, who showed fine form just last week, in the Dutch Open at Dieren. The top-rated English player is "Mr Entertainment", Simon Williams, whose play is always a rich source of creativity. He too is in fine form, having triumphed ahead of Korchnoi in the Open section of the aforementioned Swiss Championship. Indeed, he defeated Korchnoi in that event, in a sharp King's Indian Defence, so we can be sure that Korchnoi will be burning with ambitions of revenge!


Mr Entertainment, a.k.a. Simon Williams, is on a hot streak at present

Play in the tournament runs from Saturday 8 August until Monday 17 August inclusive, at Simpsons-in-the-Strand. Games start at 14.30 each day, with the exception of the final round, which starts at 12 noon (note that Saturday 15 August will be a rest day in the all-play-all group; there is no rest day in the Scheveningen event). Entry is free to spectators.

Simpsons-in-the-Strand is one of London's most renowned traditional English restaurants, and is located, as one might expect. in one of the capital's famous streets, The Strand. This house played an important role in the development of chess in the 19th century.


The Grand Divan, where Anderssen won his "Immortal Game" against Kieseritzky

The restaurant started off as Samuel Reiss's Grand Cigar Divan, which opened in 1828. The Divan soon became a thriving coffee house, almost a club, among London gentlemen with members paying one guinea a year for use of the facilities. Patrons smoked, read their newspapers at leisure, and played chess while reclining on divans.


The entrance of Simpsons-in-the-Strand in London today

Bob Wade tribute


Bob Wade (left), pictured in 2007 with Jon Speelman and FM Peter Sowray

In addition to Howard Staunton, this year's tournament also honours another great figure in British chess. Bob Wade OBE, the doyen of British chess, died on November 29th 2008. His last tournament was the Howard Staunton Memorial 2008 and following the end of this year's tournament, a service will be held in his memory. This will be at Simpson's-in-the-Strand on Monday August 17th at 7-00pm. All are welcome both for the service and to spectate at the last round preceding it. Complimentary refreshments will be served afterwards and anybody wishing to stay on for the tournament's closing dinner can apply to the Staunton Society  treasurer Clive Davey c/o daveylab@talk21.com for tickets, which will cost £80 including wine, service and VAT.

There are limited spaces for the closing dinner, which will include chess greats Victor Korchnoi, Jan Timman, Nigel Short, Michael Adams, David Howell, Luke McShane, Jon Speelman, Gawain Jones and others. So please apply early to avoid disappointment.

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