England in the lead 18.5-16.5, Short rejuvenated

8/15/2009 – Nigel Short won another game, in round six of the Staunton Memorial, which put him on 5.5/7 with a 2842 performance that could take him above the 2700 mark on the next FIDE list. David Howell won a beautiful queen sacrifice game in round seven, while Viktor Korchnoi upset the course of events in the all play all group by beating the leader, Jan Timman, with the black pieces. Round 6-7 report.

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Howard Staunton, 1810 – 1874

Seventh Howard Staunton Memorial

The 2009 Staunton Memorial, which pits top British grandmasters against their Dutch counterparts, is taking place at Simpsons-in-the-Strand, from Saturday 8 August until Monday 17 August inclusive. The games start at 14.30 each day, except in the final round, which starts at 12 noon. Entry is free to spectators. The moves are being broadcast live on the official website, but there is a charge of £5.00 per round to log in and watch. The games become available for download in PGN some time after each round is completed. Details can be found here.

The tournament website is carrying daily reports by Steve Giddins, who describes the highlights of each round's play. Steve is assisted by some silicon friends, and the carbon-based entity of Tournament Director, GM Ray Keene. These reports are available free of charge.


Round six – Thursday, August 13th, 2009

We all enjoy a good slugfest, both literal and metaphorical, and the 2009 Staunton Memorial is certainly turning into that. There has been great fighting chess throughout, and over the past couple of days in particular, the English and Dutch teams have begun to resemble a couple of heavyweight sluggers, of the Billy Walker and Jack Bodell variety, standing toe to toe in the centre of the ring, trading punches mercilessly, with nobody being prepared to take a step back. And at the end of it all, they remain inseparable on the judge's scorecard.

Thursday's Round Six proved to be a classic, with no fewer than four decisive games. The only exception was van Wely-Adams, which saw a draw in 22 moves. Jan Smeets then put the Dutch ahead, with a convincing win over David Howell.


David Howell, who will go down to the 1.e4 Closed Ruy Lopez by Jan Smeets

This left L'Ami and Jones fighting out the last game of the day. In a a long manoeuvering struggle L'Ami rejected a draw at move 31, showing admirable determination. Occasionally such qualities are ill-rewarded, and the player over-presses. Like George Foreman, in his famous "Rumble in the Jungle" with Muhammed Ali in 1976, L'Ami punched himself out and suddenly found himself facing defeat.

Netherlands
2.5-2.5
England
Van Wely, Loek
½-½
Adams, Michael
Werle, Jan
0-1
Short, Nigel
Smeets, Jan
1-0
Howell, David
Sokolov, Ivan
1-0
McShane, Luke
L'Ami, Erwin
0-1
Jones, Gawain

Werle,J (2575) - Short,N (2684) [D63]
7th Staunton Memorial London ENG (6), 13.08.2009

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Nbd7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 Be7 7.e3 0-0 8.Rc1 Re8. An unusual line, which Short said he had could not remember playing for 18 years! However, it has been played a number of times by Turkish GM, Suat Atalik, who is a great friend of Nigel's – indeed, the latter was even Best Man at Atalik's wedding! 9.a3 a6 10.c5 Ne4 11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.Be2 Nxc3 13.Rxc3 c6 14.0-0 e5. It seems that Werle was not especially familiar with Black's chosen line, and against his treatment, Short already has a very comfortable game. 15.b4 e4 16.Nd2 Nf8 17.Qc2 Bf5 18.Rb1 Qg5 19.Qd1 Re6

Round about this point, Short confessed to me that he was feeling rather hung over, and consequently, incapable of thinking too deeply. His strategy was therefore "to put some bits in front of his king, and hope that a mate turns up!".

20.a4 Bh3 21.g3 Qf5 22.Bf1 Bg4 23.Qe1 h5 24.Rcb3 h4 25.Be2. Continuing passive defence on the kingside, rather than pressing on with his counterplay on the other wing. However, 25.b5 is clearly the programmed move, but it is far from clear that it brings White anything concrete, and Werle may have been concerned that the black rook could penetrate on the a-file. All in all, White's position is already very difficult. 25...Rf6 26.Bxg4 Qxg4 27.Qd1 Qf5 28.Qe2 Nh7

29.g4?! A very radical decision, which in the end results in a fatal weakening of the white king position. However, sitting passively whilst Black brings up further reserves is also extremely unpleasant, and it is a common phenomenon for the defender to lash out in such situations.

29...Qe6 30.Kh1 Ng5 31.Rg1 Rf8 32.Rbb1 Nf3 33.Nxf3 Rxf3. Now there is no stopping f7-f5, opening the f-file. 34.Rg2 f5 35.gxf5 Qxf5 36.Rf1. White has been covering up desperately, but he cannot prevent a punch getting through. Now the f2-pawn drops and the resulting rook ending is hopeless. 36...h3 37.Rg3 Rxf2 38.Rxf2 Qxf2 39.Qxf2 Rxf2 40.Rxh3 Rb2 41.b5 axb5 42.axb5 cxb5 43.Rh5 b4 44.Rxd5 b3

45.c6. Or 45.Rd7 Rc2 46.Rxb7 b2 and the pawn queens. 45...bxc6 46.Rd8+ Kh7 47.Rb8 Kg6 48.Rb7 Kh5 49.Kg1. 49.Rxg7 Rc2 50.Rb7 b2 is the same as the previous note. 49...g5 0-1. [Click to replay]


Nigel Short rejuvinated: here in his game against Jan Werle


Round seven: Thursday, August 13th, 2009 – the War of the Spanish Succession

According to that most reliable of information sources, Wikipedia, the War of the Spanish Succession was fought between 1701 and 1714, as various European powers got together to prevent the Spanish and French thrones being unified under a single Bourbon monarch. I have to admit that my knowledge of such matters is not something about which I feel able to boast. Indeed, it was not that long ago that I thought bourbons were just those rather tasty biscuits, with the chocolate in the middle. However, it all rings true. I recall an episode of Yes Minister (a programme which I regard as the source of all political wisdom in this country), in which Sir Humphrey explains to his political master, that the only reason Britain joined the EU was in order that it could sow discord amongst the various member states. "Britain has had the same foreign policy for at least 500 years - to create a disunited Europe", he explains. "In that cause, we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see." Incidentally, on the subject of the EU, I cannot help mentioning an interesting chess connection. A few years ago, Nigel Short played a chess event in Reykjavik, and found himself sitting next to the Icelandic Prime Minister at the closing dinner. Nigel asked the latter when Iceland would be joining the EU, and received the prompt reply "Straight after North Korea!". That seemed clear enough, but times do change - a week is a long time in politics, as our own former PM, Harold Wilson, once pointed out. Just a fortnight ago, the Icelandic parliament voted to apply for membership of the EU. Cynics have suggested that it has something to do with collapsing banks, but I am sure that the nation which did such a wonderful job in rescuing Bobby Fischer from oriental incarceration, must have nobler motives.

However, returning to the subject of Spanish successions, it seems to me that we in the chess world are witnessing a new war on the subject, namely a battle over which opening will replace the venerable Ruy Lopez or Spanish, as White's main weapon after 1.e4 e5. For most of the last 100 hundred years, the Spanish has been almost automatic amongst serious players, but in recent times, an increasing number of White players have been exploring alternatives. The main problem is that the Spanish has been analysed to death in recent times, especially the Marshall and anti-Marshall lines, with "improvements" now regularly turning up at move 30 and beyond. Despite having defied Euclid with the number of permutations of h3, a3 and c3 that White can play to avoid the Marshall, the clear consensus is that White has two tenths of very little in such lines. Throw in the fact that the Petroff is also looking ultra-solid these days, and one understand that today's GMs no longer feel that they can net a guaranteed edge by wheeling out 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5, and "milking the cow", as David Bronstein once described it.

The 2009 Staunton Memorial has reflected this trend very clearly, with non-Spanish alternatives scoring very well for White. Nigel Short has already won with 3.Bc4, whilst the Scotch Game has now scored 3/3 for White. It all seems highly appropriate that this should be the case here, since in Staunton's day, the Spanish was one of the least popular openings.

England
3.5-1.5
Netherlands
Adams, Michael
½-½
Werle, Jan
Short, Nigel
½-½
Smeets, Jan
Howell, David
1-0
Sokolov, Ivan
McShane, Luke
1-0
L'Ami, Erwin
Jones, Gawain
½-½
Van Wely, Loek

The Scotch's latest triumph came in yesterday's seventh round, and saw David Howell play the game of the event so far:

Howell,D (2614) - Sokolov,Ivan (2655) [C45]
7th Staunton Memorial London ENG (7), 14.08.2009


David Howell, the reigning British Champion, produced a lovely queen sacrifice

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bb4+ 5.c3 Bc5 6.Be3 Bb6 7.Qg4. The first round game Jones-L'Ami saw White achieve a pleasant advantage after 7.Nf5 but Ivan, of course, must have prepared something against that move. David instead selects Kasparov's line, which is the sharpest option in this position. 7...g6!? The text looks a little strange, but has been played at high level recently. Theory considers 7...Qf6 8.Qg3 Qg6 as best, and good enough for equality, but it is probably significant that leading players are now avoiding this line - one suspects that they know something! 8.Nd2 Nge7!? 8...Qe7 was seen in the game Radjabov-Aronian, Sochi 2008. 9.Qh4 Nxd4 10.cxd4 d5

11.Bg5!? An interesting pawn sacrifice. David admitted after the game that he was not certain whether he had enough compensation, but thought it looked very interesting. The computer prefers 11.Qf6 Rf8 12.0–0–0 Qd6 13.Bb5+ Bd7 14.Bxd7+ Kxd7 15.Qf3, which also looks strong. 

11...Bxd4 12.0–0–0 h6 13.exd5 hxg5. 13...Bxf2 14.Qxf2 hxg5 15.Ne4 Bf5 16.Bb5+ Kf8 17.Nxg5 Nxd5 18.Qc5+ Kg7 19.Nxf7 Kxf7 20.Rxd5 Qg5+ 21.Rd2 Rhd8 is the computer preference, which it assesses as roughly equal. I am not surprised that Ivan avoided this, however, as it is very hard to judge which of the exposed kings is the more vulnerable. Nonetheless, the text soon leaves Black in serious trouble on the dark squares, so I guess the computer's line had to be tried.

14.Qxd4 Rh4 15.Ne4 Bf5 16.f3 Bxe4 17.fxe4 Kf8. A terrible concession to have to make, but with the white queen ensconced on d4, Black has no chance of ever being able to castle queenside. 18.g3 Rh7 19.Bc4

White simply piles up his pieces on the f7 square. Black already has no adequate defence. 19...Qd6 20.Rhf1 b5 21.Bxb5 Rxh2?! Objectively, 21...Qb6 looks like the best practical chance, but after 22.Qxb6 axb6 23.Rd2 Rxa2 24.Kc2 the ending is pretty grim for Black as well. Ivan prefers to seek his chances in the middlegame.

22.Rf6 Qxg3 23.Rdf1 Rh7 24.Bc4. With the crushing threat of d6. 24...Ke8 25.Bb5+ Kf8 26.Bd7 Nc8. Allowing a beautiful finish, but there is no hope anyway. At the very pleasant drinks party hosted by sponsor Jan Mol in the evening, Ivan explained to me that he had intended Rd8 at some point round here, with a variation in which his king managed to run, still with unclear play. However, at the last moment, he realised that there was a hole in his calculations. Unfortunately, a combination of senility, drunkenness and general stupidity means that I am quite unable to reconstruct the variation in question, so I am unable to share it with you. I can only apologize, both to my readers and to Ivan himself. 27.R6f3 Qh2

28.Qh8+! Ke7. Of course, taking the queen leads to mate after 28...Rxh8 29.Rxf7+ Kg8 30.Rf8+ Kg7 31.R1f7+ Kh6 32.Rxh8#.

29.Rxf7+ 1-0. All roads lead to mate: 29...Rxf7 (29...Kd6 is mate in four after 30.Qf6+ Kc5 31.Qc3+ Kb6 32.Qc6+ Ka5 33.Qb5#) 30.Qe8+ Kd6 31.Qe6+ Kc5 32.Qc6+ Kd4 33.Qc3+ Kxe4 34.Re1+ Kxd5 35.Qc6+ Kd4 36.Re4+ Kd3 37.Qc4#! Wonderful stuff from David, who thus adds another queen sacrifice to the collection we have seen at the Staunton Memorial over the past few year (I can think of four, at least!). [Click to replay]

Whilst the new British Champion was strutting his stuff with such style, his teammates were having mixed success. Nigel Short's attempts to turn the Petroff into something slightly less mind-numbingly tedious failed dismally, and he felt obliged to offer a draw as early as move 16. Gawain Jones repeated the Grand Prix Attack against van Wely's Sicilian, hoping to rekindle memories of his own queen sacrifice triumph against the same opponent two years ago. However, lightning did not strike twice, and he spent most of the game struggling to justify his early pawn sacrifice. He wriggled effectively, and despite coming within a few seconds of losing on time at move 40, when the smoke cleared, he had reached a rook and minor piece ending, which was drawn.

Mickey Adams was another who abandoned the Spanish after 1.e4 e5, settling instead for the Four Knights. He obtained a large space advantage, but Werle managed to block the position so completely, that Adams was unable to make any progress, despite Black being so bereft of activity that he spent most of the last 30 moves of the game shuffling his bishop to and fro between c8 and d7.

The remaining game of the day brought another English success, as Luke McShane overcame Erwin L'Ami: 

McShane,L (2620) - L'Ami,E (2593) [B11]
7th Staunton Memorial London ENG (7), 14.08.2009
1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 Nf6 6.d3 e6 7.a3 Nbd7 8.g3 d4 9.Nb1 h5 10.h4 Be7 11.Nd2 Qc7 12.Qe2 0-0-0 13.Bh3 Kb8 14.Nf3 e5 15.Bd2 Ka8 16.b4 g6 17.Ng5 Rdf8 18.f4 Bd6 19.f5 gxf5 20.Bxf5 Nb6 21.0-0 Qe7 22.Rf2 Ne8 23.Bh3 f6 24.Ne6 Rfg8 25.Kh2 Na4 26.Raf1 a6 27.Qd1 Bb8 28.Qb1 b5 29.Qb3 Ba7 30.Rf3 Bb6 31.c3 dxc3 32.Bxc3 Nxc3 33.Qxc3 Qd6 34.a4 Rh7 35.Nc5 Ra7 36.Rf5 a5 37.Qb3 Rh8 38.axb5 cxb5 39.d4

White had been somewhat better for some time in a Two Knights Caro-Kann, but Black was holding until this moment, just two moves before the time control. 39...axb4 would leave the position unclear, but instead Erwin chose the fatal pawn snatch 39..Qxd4? and after 40.Qe6, he was suddenly lost. The game ended 40...Nd6 41.Rxf6 Rd8 42.Rf8 Rb7 43.Nxb7 Kxb7 44.Qe7+ 1-0. So, a great day for England, who take a two-point lead in the match.


Scores and performances of the individual players

All Play All Group

Jan Timman had been dominating completely – just like in the good ol' days, when he was the Dutch demi-god of chess. Jan has conceded just one draw in his first five, and was a full point ahead of his closest rival. Then Viktor the Terrible struck.


A game from round six: Veteran Korchnoi drew against his Dutch opponent in 66 moves


Round seven saw a key encounter that could play a decisive role ub the final standings

In round seven the amazing Victor Korchnoi threw the tournament wide open by defeating leader Jan Timman with the black pieces! Timman now shares the lead with Cherniaev, who drew with Hendricks. In the day's other two decisive results, Williams beat Wells and Davies beat Chapman. Saturday is a rest day in the all-play-all group, whilst in the Scheveningen section, the game van Wely-McShane will start early, at 12.00 noon.

Steve Giddins


Links

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