History in the making at historical Simpson's

8/6/2008 – "In the summer, an Englishman's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of chess", as Alfred Lord Tennyson almost said. For the past few years, August in London has meant international chess of a calibre rarely seen in England, and this year is no different. Next to Adams, Sokolov, Short and van Wely we see 87-year-old IM Bob Wade participating. Everyone's rooting for the octogenarian.

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History in the making at historical Simpson's

The annual Staunton Memorial begins on the 7th of August, at its traditional home of Simpson's-in-the-Strand. Once again, the joint efforts of the Staunton Society, GM Ray Keene, and Dutch sponsor Jan Mol will see a twelve-player all-play-all, between six Dutchmen and six English players. The full line-up is as follows:

GM Michael Adams England 2735
GM Ivan Sokolov Netherlands 2658
GM Nigel Short England 2655
GM Loek van Wely Netherlands 2644
GM Erwin L'Ami Netherlands 2610
GM Jan Smeets Netherlands 2593
GM Jan Werle Netherlands 2591
GM Jan Timman Netherlands 2561
GM Peter Wells England 2526
GM Jonathan Speelman England 2524
GM Alexander Cherniaev Russia 2431
IM Bob Wade England 2167

With an average FIDE rating of 2558, the tournament will be a Category 13, and the strongest such event held in London since 1986. In addition, it brings together Britain's two strongest players for the first time in an individual tournament in the UK for 17 years! Incredibly, the last time Adams and Short competed against one another in a classical tournament in this country was at the ill-fated English Championship knockout event in 1991. Even more incredibly, the 2008 Staunton memorial will be the first time ever that these two players, the greatest this country has ever produced, have played together in an all-play-all tournament here.

The other big story of the event is the participation of 87-year-old Bob Wade, who we believe will be the oldest player ever to compete in a tournament of this level. The New Zealand-born IM, who has lived in England most of his adult life, twice won the British Championship (in 1952 and 1970) and has tournament victories against such players as Korchnoi to his credit, as well as a draw with the legendary Bobby Fischer.


Ex New Zealanders: Murray Chandler vs Bob Wade

Here's a relatively recent game in which the octogenarian got a draw against an active grandmaster. In the post mortem, Chandler graciously acknowledged: "You played very well Bob, I have to say."

Chandler,Murray - Wade,Bob
Queenstown Classic Queenstown, NZ (2.2), 2006
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.d3 Na5 10.Bc2 c5 11.Nbd2 h6 12.Nf1 Nh7 13.Ne3 Ng5 14.h3 Be6 15.Nh2 g6 16.d4 h5 17.Nd5 f6 18.f4 exf4 19.Bxf4 cxd4 20.cxd4 Bxd5 21.exd5 f5 22.Rxe7 Qxe7 23.Qd2 Nxh3+ 24.gxh3 Nc4 25.Qg2 Qf6 26.Nf3 Rfe8 27.Bd3 Ne3 28.Qh2 Nxd5 29.Bxd6 Re3 30.Be5 Qb6 31.Be2 Re8 32.Kh1 f4 33.Rg1 Qe6 34.Bd1 Rc8 35.Qg2 Kf8 36.Bb3 Qf5 37.Bxd5 Rc2 38.Qf1 Ree2 39.Bb3 Rxb2 40.d5 Qxe5 41.Bd1 Qe4 42.Bxe2 Rxe2 43.Rg2 Rxg2 ½-½. [Click to replay]


New Zealanders Bill Forster and IM Bob Wade sharing a pot of tea! Between moves, both players would take turns pouring, sipping and pour some more.


Bob Wade's lectures during the 2006 Queenstown Classic [Photo Malcolm Tredinnick]

The really famous game was this one, played half a globe and half a century ago:

Wade,Robert Graham - Kortschnoj,Viktor [D07]
Buenos Aires Buenos Aires (10), 05.07.1960
1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.e4 Bg4 6.d5 Ne5 7.Bxc4 Nxc4 8.Qa4+ Nd7 9.Qxc4 e5 10.Bg5 f6 11.Be3 Bxf3 12.gxf3 Bd6 13.Nb5 Nb6 14.Bxb6 axb6 15.Rc1 0-0 16.Rg1 Rf7 17.Nxd6 Qxd6 18.Ke2 Rd8 19.Rgd1 Rdd7 20.Rd3 f5

21.Ra3 fxe4 22.fxe4 Rf8 23.Rcc3 Rdf7 24.Rf3 h5 25.Rxf7 Rxf7 26.Rf3 Rxf3 27.Kxf3 Kh7 28.Ke2 h4 29.Qc3 Qe7 30.Qf3 g6 31.Qg4 Kg7 32.Qe6 Qf6 33.Qxf6+ Kxf6 34.Kf3 Kg5 35.a4 Kh5 36.b4

36...Kg5?? 36...b5! 37.axb5 b6 should hold a draw. 37.b5 Kh5 [or 37...Kf6 38.Kg4 g5 39.Kh5+–] 38.a5! and Black is lost: 38...bxa5 39.b6 cxb6 40.d6+–. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Bob is also famous for having built up one of the finest chess libraries in England during the 1960s, and he provided Fischer with most of his preparation material, when the latter was preparing for his 1972 world championship match against Spassky.

Despite his age, Bob is still a very active player in London League and other competitions, and he is keenly looking forward to the chance to make history by crossing swords with such a field of top grandmasters. Conceding almost half a century, and an average of some 400 rating points to his GM opponents, most players would be totally daunted by the challenge. But not Bob – throughout his career, he has been known as an indomitable fighter, and I am sure we will see these qualities in evidence again over the next two weeks.

As always, the tournament will take place in the elegant and historical surroundings of Simpson's-in-the-Strand, site of the famous 19 century chess mecca, Simpson's Divan. The tournament runs from 7 -18 August (rest day 13 August), with play starting at 2.00 p.m. daily. Entry is free to spectators, so if you are in London or nearby during the relevant period, pop along to Simpsons and watch top-quality chess being played in its most elegant surroundings. You will be watching history being made!

Steve Giddins

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