Interview with "celebrity oldie" Nigel Short

by CHESS Magazine
3/9/2017 – He is the oldest player in the world's top 100, and last December he won the British Knockout Championship, to the surprise of some. In the quaterfinals he was dragged into a tie-break by the lowest-rated player in the event, but he then went on to beat Luke McShane and David Howell to take the title. "I am very happy with my status as celebrity oldie – I suppose now that Viktor has gone, someone had to step up," says Nigel in this interview with Junior Tay.

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Interview: Nigel Short

Junior Tay caught up with the 2016 British Knockout Champion shortly after his triumph at Olympia

Junior Tay: Daniel Fernandez, the lowest-rated player in the event, dragged you to a tie-break in the quarter-finals. He did say, though, that he didn’t have any chance to smell the advantage throughout the match.

Nigel Short: My expected score against Daniel Fernandez is 1½/2; I scored 1. Margins are narrow. I had a big advantage in the first game, but not enough and was pressing in the second, although the computer thinks White was fine, which he was if he played accurately. What you have to consider is that we played two games [classical – J.T.] that day not to mention the tie-break. That is a huge disadvantage for someone of my age. I always knew the first round was going to be far harder than outsiders would assume.

JT: Your third game with Luke McShane and the first of your second tie-break. What were your thoughts when McShane walked right into that famous Short-Seirawan game all the way up to move 12? Were you concerned that it was some massive preparation you were getting into?

NS: That was funny. Obviously he hadn’t bought my DVDs!

Were you concerned or fazed that it might be some massive preparation?

Fazed? I was delighted.

[Event "British KO Ch. semi-final, Olympia"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "3"] [White "Short, N."] [Black "McShane, L."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B07"] [Annotator "Junior Tay"] [PlyCount "65"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #03"] [SourceDate "2017.02.22"] 1. e4 d6 2. d4 g6 3. Be3 Bg7 4. Nc3 a6 5. h4 Nf6 6. f3 b5 7. g4 h5 8. e5 Nfd7 9. gxh5 Rxh5 10. e6 fxe6 11. Bd3 Nf8 12. f4 {[#]All these moves followed Short's miniature famous miniature against Seirawan.} Bb7 $4 {This definitely wasn't preparation as Short now demonstrated the clinical blow.} (12... Rh8 13. Qg4 Bb7 14. Rh3 Bf6 15. O-O-O b4 $2 16. Ne4 Bd5 17. Nf3 Nc6 18. Ne5 $1 dxe5 19. fxe5 Bxe5 20. Nc5 Qc8 21. Bxg6+ Kd8 22. dxe5 Nxe5 23. Nxe6+ Qxe6 24. Qxe6 Nxe6 25. Rxd5+ Nd7 26. Bf5 Nef8 27. Bg5 $1 {1-0 was the brutal Short-Seirawan, World Team Championship, Lucerne 1989.}) ({Instead,} 12... Rh6 13. Be4 d5 { is likely best, if hardly ideal for Black.}) 13. Bxg6+ $1 {The beginning of the end.} Kd7 14. Bxh5 Bxh1 15. Bf3 Bxf3 16. Nxf3 Qe8 17. Ng5 Qg6 18. Qf3 Nc6 19. O-O-O Rb8 {Too slow. Short now goes for the jugular;} ({but even after} 19... Nb4 20. Nge4 c6 21. Rg1 {, White's passed h-pawn and space advantage ensure him of a large advantage.}) 20. Nce4 b4 $4 {[#]} 21. Nc5+ $1 {Boom! The 'fianchettoed' central black king is stripped of his pawn shield. McShane would probably have resigned at this stage were it not for the speedy 10-minute plus increment time control for the tie-break games.} dxc5 22. dxc5+ Bd4 23. Bxd4 Qe8 24. Bg7+ {The black queen can only protect one of the two knights.} Kc8 25. Bxf8 Kb7 26. Nxe6 Qg6 27. Nd8+ Rxd8 28. Rxd8 Qg1+ 29. Rd1 Qg8 30. Bxe7 Qxa2 31. Bf6 Qc4 32. b3 Qxc5 33. Kb1 1-0

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JT: Your next and final game with Luke saw another win in the Steinitz Deferred. I notice that you score very well with this line (‘+6’ according to my base, including a win over MVL), as well as with the Cozio. Do you have any comment on this or is it a trade secret?

NS: The Steinitz Deferred is a proper opening. It is interesting to check which top players have played it historically and there a lot of big names: Keres, Smyslov, Spassky, etc. I like the fact it is not particularly fashionable. It is real chess. Anyway, much more interesting than the opening is the fact that I had only a draw from four encounters against Luke in the games immediately prior to this match. That was far more relevant than which pawn I decided to push.

Your second game in the final with David Howell. Afraid I must ask: why the quick draw? You could have played 9 Qe2 like Aronian did the day before instead of repeating moves.

I had spent the morning and early afternoon getting a visa, which I could not delay. I was tired. It is relevant because it is the only reason why I made a quick draw.

[Event "British KO Ch. final, Olympia"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "2"] [White "Short, N."] [Black "Howell, D."] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A34"] [Annotator "Junior Tay"] [PlyCount "21"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #03"] [SourceDate "2017.02.22"] 1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Nf3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nb4 6. Bc4 Nd3+ 7. Ke2 Nf4+ 8. Kf1 Nd3 9. Ke2 (9. Qe2 Nxc1 10. Rxc1 e6 11. h4 {soon had Black in trouble in Aronian-So, London 2016 - see last month's 'Chess'.}) 9... Nf4+ 10. Kf1 Nd3 11. Ke2 1/2-1/2

I was very impressed with the fourth game of the final. Your 13 Kf1 provoked Howell to sacrifice a pawn with 13...e5 and you kept the material advantage right until the end of the game. How did you arrive at the decision to play the king move and did you anticipate his risky counter?

I wanted to play 13 h4 which I thought might be met by 13...e5!?. The computer does not agree with this assessment, but, interestingly, when I discussed things with Caruana the next day, he had the identical thought process and the fact of the matter is I expected David to play 13...e5 after 13 Kf1.

[Event "British KO Ch. final, Olympia"] [Site "?"] [Date "2016.??.??"] [Round "4"] [White "Short, N."] [Black "Howell, D."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "D40"] [Annotator "Junior Tay"] [PlyCount "133"] [EventDate "2016.??.??"] [SourceTitle "Chess 2017 #03"] [SourceDate "2017.02.22"] 1. c4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Nc3 Nc6 4. e3 e6 5. d4 d5 6. a3 cxd4 7. exd4 Ne4 8. Bd3 Nxc3 9. bxc3 dxc4 10. Bxc4 Be7 11. Bf4 O-O 12. Qd3 Bf6 13. Kf1 $5 {[#]A refined waiting move, keeping the availability of h2-h4 open (unlike 13 0-0), and anticipating Black's reply.} ({Instead, after} 13. O-O b6 14. Rfe1 Bb7 { , Black must be OK;}) ({as he is after} 13. h4 e5 {, and if} 14. dxe5 Qxd3 15. Bxd3 Re8 {, when White would have to return the pawn thanks to his king position.}) 13... e5 $5 14. dxe5 Qxd3+ 15. Bxd3 Be7 $6 ({The counterintuitive} 15... Bd8 $5 {disconnects the back rank, but is probably stronger. Then} 16. h3 Be6 17. Rb1 Na5 18. Ke2 Rc8 {gives Black strong compensation for the pawn.}) 16. Ke2 $1 {The feint with 13 Kf1 has succeeded and now Short hangs on to the extra pawn until the end of the game. ---} Rd8 17. Rhd1 h6 18. Nd4 g5 19. Nxc6 bxc6 20. Be3 Rd5 21. Bd4 Ra5 22. a4 Be6 23. Rdb1 Bf8 24. Be4 Bd5 25. Kd3 Bxe4+ 26. Kxe4 Bg7 27. f4 gxf4 28. Kxf4 Re8 29. Re1 Rd5 30. Rab1 Ra5 31. Rb7 Bf8 32. Rxa7 Rxa7 33. Bxa7 Ra8 34. Bf2 Rxa4+ 35. Re4 Ra2 36. Kf3 Bg7 37. Bg3 Ra5 38. Bf4 Rc5 39. c4 h5 {[#]} 40. g4 $1 hxg4+ 41. Kxg4 Ra5 42. h4 Kh7 43. Kf5 Ra1 44. e6 fxe6+ 45. Kxe6 Kg6 46. Be5 Bxe5 47. Rxe5 Rd1 48. Rg5+ Kh6 49. Rc5 Rd4 50. Rxc6 Kg7 51. Rc7+ Kf8 52. Rc8+ Kg7 53. c5 Rxh4 54. c6 Rc4 55. Kd6 Rd4+ 56. Kc5 Rd1 57. Re8 Kf7 58. Re4 Rc1+ 59. Kb6 Rb1+ 60. Ka7 Rc1 61. Kb7 Rb1+ 62. Kc8 Rb2 63. c7 Rb1 64. Kd7 Rd1+ 65. Kc6 Rc1+ 66. Kd6 Rc2 67. Re5 1-0

How are you going to spend the £20,000 first prize?

Drugs and hookers.

What is your opinion of the format of the British Knockout event? I noticed on your Twitter feed you wrote: ‘A long and difficult day. Double rounds should be banned. No joke. But at least I pulled through.’

There is a dearth of well-remunerated chess events for British players. This goes some way to redressing the balance, so I am delighted that it exists. It is strongly supporting professionalism in the UK. However, I think the format itself needs to be tweaked. Double rounds, four different starting times for the games, excluding the tie-breaks, and two different time controls in the same event! It is a real dog’s breakfast I’m afraid. Two different classical time controls I even mean!

Somehow the oldie outlasted the youngsters... Did the fact that you would be up against your team-mates from the England Olympiad team motivate you?

I think the £20,000 first prize had more to do with it. Although, it is true, I was a little surprised to find myself on board 5 in the Olympiad.

Even after the big five-o you are clearly able to stay ahead of your younger GM compatriots. How does it feel to be the oldest player in the world top-100?

I am very happy with my status as celebrity oldie. I suppose now that Viktor has gone, someone had to step up.

The above article appeared in the March 2017 of the British magazine CHESS. Matthew Lunn pays further tribute to Nigel later in those pages and CHESS also has the full story behind the qualifier which produced two players for the British Knockout Championship.

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

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CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read.


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