John Nunn: Fifty years of chess

by John Nunn
4/3/2018 – “Last year I took part in the British Over-50 Championship,” our friend and author writes. “A number of people wondered why I had entered. The explanation is that 2017 made it exactly half a century since I first took part in the British Championship, and it seemed reasonable to mark the occasion by once again playing in the event. I thought it would be interesting to tell the story of these two events, although I have allowed myself to wander off-topic to some extent.” Well, here it is for you to enjoy.

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Linking the present and the past

My first British was in 1967, when it was held in the Examination Schools of Oxford University. On that occasion I participated in the Under-14 section, at that time the youngest age category available. The event was new territory for me, since it was my first national tournament, although I had previously won the London Under-12 Championship. I wasn’t a member of a chess club, and my grasp of chess theory was, to put it mildly, very limited. My family couldn’t afford any kind of normal accommodation so, with the farmer’s permission, we pitched a tent in a field outside Oxford and travelled in to the chess every day. The fact that the field was shared with a considerable number of cows was only a minor inconvenience.

The Examination Schools was (and still is) a magnificent building, with large halls and impressive staircases. The junior events took place in the morning, with the Championship proper being played in the afternoon. I really had no idea how well I was likely to do, so I was pleased to start with a win and a draw. The half-point was shared with Matthew Reisz, whom I bumped into just a few weeks before writing this article, since he was competing in the British Problem Solving Championship. I almost lost catastrophically in round three due to my lack of opening theory knowledge, but fortunately I averted disaster at the last moment and even won the game.

[Event "British under-14 championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "1967.08.09"] [Round "?"] [White "Chapman"] [Black "Nunn, J."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C54"] [Annotator "John"] [PlyCount "82"] [EventDate "1967.??.??"] [SourceDate "2018.03.04"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.04"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. c3 Nf6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Bb4+ 7. Nc3 Nxe4 { Back in 1967, I knew very little opening theory and this was about as far as my knowledge went in this classical opening.} 8. O-O Bxc3 ({I didn't like the look of the greedy} 8... Nxc3 9. bxc3 Bxc3 {, justifiably so since} 10. Ba3 $1 {is very strong, so I decided to swap on c3 and then play ...d5, with what looked like almost a clear extra pawn.}) 9. d5 $5 {I was stunned when my opponent flashed out this move instantly, and for a few minutes I was baffled. I take a piece, and he doesn't take it back! I could see that there were some threats, but after some thought I decided I could keep the extra piece.} Na5 $6 ({Current theory gives} 9... Bf6 10. Re1 Ne7 {when White will be struggling to even equalise.}) 10. bxc3 Nxc4 11. Qd4 {White was still reeling off his moves, but I still couldn't see why I wasn't just a piece up.} Ncd6 {From the theoretical point of view, the fact that even} (11... f5 12. Qxc4 d6 {is perfectly adequate for Black shows how harmless this whole line is.}) 12. Qxg7 Qf6 13. Qxf6 {And now he goes into an ending. I at least expected him to keep the queens on by} (13. Qg4) 13... Nxf6 14. Re1+ {Here I suddenly realised that matters might not be so clear.} Nfe4 {I analysed the following lines:} (14... Kf8 $2 15. Bh6+ Kg8 16. Re5 Nfe4 (16... Nde4 $2 {allows a forced mate in 3 by} 17. Nd2 d6 18. Nxe4 dxe5 19. Nxf6#) 17. Re1 f6 18. Re7 {and Black is busted, or }) (14... Kd8 $2 15. Bg5 Nde8 16. Rxe8+ Kxe8 17. Re1+ Kf8 18. Bh6+ Kg8 19. Re5 {followed by mate. Clearly I would have to put a knight on e4, even though this involves returning the piece that I had valued so highly. I had waited until the last possible moment before bailing out, and I was fortunate that it's not too bad for Black.}) 15. Nd2 {Best, since} (15. Ng5 f5 16. f3 h6 { only makes life harder for White}) 15... f5 16. f3 O-O 17. fxe4 fxe4 $2 { Actually, I should have taken with the knight when White has nothing better than to take on e4, transposing to the game.} 18. Nxe4 (18. Ba3 $1 {would have been very unpleasant.}) 18... Nxe4 19. Rxe4 d6 {Many opening books still give this whole line as some kind of terrible trap for Black, but even if he falls headlong into it, as I did, there's no real advantage for White. Indeed, Houdini gives White a rather insignificant +0.13 advantage. At least my opponent had started to think!} 20. Bh6 Rf6 {This is even more solid than} ( 20... Bf5 {when} 21. Re7 Rf7 22. Rae1 {gives White some advantage. It's important to dislodge the annoying bishop from h6.}) 21. Re8+ (21. Bg5 { is safely met by} Bf5) 21... Kf7 22. Rf8+ (22. Rae1 {was probably best, although after} Rxh6 23. R1e7+ Kf6 24. Rxc7 Rh5 25. c4 b5 $1 {a drawn rook ending is almost inevitable. Of course, as played the ending should also be a draw, but White has to take a little care as his queenside pawns are slightly weak.}) 22... Kg6 23. Rxf6+ Kxf6 24. Rf1+ Kg6 25. Be3 Bf5 26. Rf4 Re8 27. Bd4 Re1+ {Black starts to play for a win, although this is double-edged.} (27... h5 {is a dead draw.}) 28. Kf2 (28. Rf1 $2 {is wrong since after} Rxf1+ 29. Kxf1 b6 {White will certainly lose the d5-pawn, when Black could play for a win with more justification.}) 28... Ra1 29. h4 $2 {White, probably disappointed at the failure of his opening trap to secure a quick victory, starts to make mistakes. } (29. g4 $1 {was natural; then} Bd3 30. Kg3 Rf1 {is compulsory, otherwise Black's king will once again be in trouble. Then White will win the a7-pawn, but the opposite-coloured bishops guarantee a draw in any case.}) 29... Rxa2+ 30. Kf3 $2 {The king is badly placed here, blocking in the rook.} (30. Ke1 { was better, still with good drawing chances since} Rxg2 $6 31. h5+ Kg5 32. Be3 {surprisingly leads to equality.}) 30... h5 {Now Black is winning thanks to his active pieces and passed a-pawn.} 31. Ke3 a5 32. Rf2 Rxf2 33. Kxf2 a4 34. Ke3 b5 35. Kd2 Be4 36. c4 b4 37. Bb2 a3 38. Bc1 Kf5 39. Ke2 Bxg2 40. Kf2 Be4 41. Ke3 Bb1 0-1

The Under-14 Championship was 11 rounds, just like the main Championship, played at the reasonable rate of one game per day; there was even a free day in the middle of the event. As an example of how different junior chess was then, I noted in my scorebook that my win with Black against Gerard O’Reilly, which took 71 moves, was played from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then, after the adjournment, from 2.30 p.m. until 4.42 p.m., a total of 6 hours 12 minutes. No quickplay finishes in those days, even kids were expected to play the games out properly! Gerard is still active today, as he is a major organiser in Oxfordshire chess. It may be that there are others I played who are still involved with chess and I apologise for any omissions.

I continued with a mixture of wins and draws, but as it turned out everything hinged on the last round as I was just half a point ahead of my nearest rival, Laurence Marks. I found myself facing an opponent I had never played before, Tony Miles.

[Event "British under-14 championship"] [Site "?"] [Date "1967.08.18"] [Round "?"] [White "Nunn, J."] [Black "Miles, Anthony John"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C61"] [Annotator "John"] [PlyCount "53"] [EventDate "1967.??.??"] [SourceDate "2018.03.04"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.04"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nd4 {Once again, I found myself on my own at an early stage. Curiously, this line gained a certain popularity in the 1980s, but it's now rarely seen in tournament play.} 4. Nxd4 exd4 5. c3 $6 (5. O-O { is better.}) 5... c6 6. Be2 d5 {Black has already equalised.} 7. exd5 Qxd5 8. O-O {Over 7 million games in MegaDatabase 2018, and not a single one has reached this position!} Nf6 9. Bf3 Qd8 10. Re1+ Be6 11. Qb3 $6 {Playing to win a pawn, but White should really be thinking about his development.} (11. d3 { makes more sense.}) 11... Qc7 $1 {The strongest move, giving up the d4-pawn in return for a large lead in development.} 12. cxd4 O-O-O 13. Qe3 $2 {Black is close to winning after this further mistake, placing the queen in an exposed position on the open e-file.} (13. d5 {was better, to play d4 and follow up with some belated development.}) 13... Bd6 14. g3 Bh3 $2 {This actually throws away a large part of Black's advantage.} (14... Rde8 $1 {was best, keeping the bishop move in reserve. After} 15. Qd3 h5 {Black has an enormous attack.}) 15. d3 Rhe8 16. Qd2 {White's position is more solid than it might appear and there is no longer anything clear-cut for Black. White intends either Qd1, allowing the bishop out, or simply Nc3.} Re7 $6 {Now the balance starts to shift in White's favour.} (16... Qd7 {was better, although} 17. Qd1 {leaves Black with only an edge.}) 17. Nc3 Rde8 18. Rxe7 Qxe7 19. Qe3 $6 {It looks odd to put the queen back on the exposed e-file, and indeed} (19. Ne4 $1 {was a simpler way of meeting the mate threat.}) 19... Qc7 $6 (19... Qd8 20. Ne4 Bc7 {was best, when Black is close to equality.}) 20. Ne4 {It's all gone wrong for Black now; he's a pawn down and his attack has disappeared.} Kb8 21. Qg5 $1 {Suddenly it's Black's position which looks vulnerable.} Nxe4 22. dxe4 f5 23. e5 (23. Qh5 $1 {would have won material immediately, but the move played is certainly good enough to win.}) 23... Qf7 24. Qh4 Bg4 25. Bxg4 fxg4 26. Qxg4 Qd5 27. Qd7 1-0

It could be said that I was a bit lucky in this game, but in the end everything turned out well for me, and the final scores in the event were J. Nunn 9 (out of 11), L. Marks 8.5, D.T. Marr and J.K. Orell 7. The Championship proper was won by Jonathan Penrose, and was the eighth of his British Championship titles (Penrose’s final tally was ten wins).

Three years after this event I was back in Oxford, this time as an undergraduate at Oriel College, reading Maths.

Oriel College in 1970

In the first year at Oriel I shared a room with Michael Potter, a geology student, with whom I have unfortunately lost touch. Undergraduate life was rather more spartan than students enjoy these days.

My first-year accommodation in Oxford in 1970

Going to Oxford proved a great help for my chess, as I could meet the many strong players who were at the University then. During the whole of my time there, ten years in all, I participated in practically every event of the local chess scene. There were two main inter-college competitions, the knockout Cuppers and a College League. On top of this, two University teams (called Pieces and Pawns) took part in the Oxfordshire Evening League, competing against other local clubs. I was a Piece, by the way. The Oxford League is still going strong, indeed with many of the same teams that took part in the 1970s, but inter-college chess appears to have more or less disappeared.

In 1973 I was back in the Examination Schools for my final examinations; indeed the Maths exams took place in the hall just opposite the one in which I had played chess six years earlier. I played hundreds of games in Oxford, some of them quite interesting and almost all unpublished. But in keeping with the title of this article, I will just give one, which was played just a few months before I left Oxford for good to become a professional player.

[Event "Oxford Univ Pieces v Hazells"] [Site "?"] [Date "1981.03.02"] [Round "?"] [White "Nunn, John"] [Black "Peters, Stephen"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C54"] [PlyCount "72"] [EventDate "1981.??.??"] [SourceDate "2018.03.06"] [SourceVersionDate "2018.03.06"] 1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. c3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. O-O {It's curious that such quiet methods have once again become very popular and this type of plan is being played at the highest level.} Qe7 {In the late 1970s and early 1980s I played this type of line quite often for White, and many of my opponents (including grandmasters) would put their queen on e7. However, I always felt that there was something not quite right about this, and indeed these days} (7... a6 {is the main line, definitely avoiding the exchange of the c5-bishop for a knight.}) 8. b4 Bb6 9. Bb3 {Intending Nc4, so that if Black wants to avoid the exchange of his bishop he will have to lose a tempo.} Nd8 {Black doesn't want to lose a move and simply allows Nc4 and Nxb6, but the two bishops will then always be a lurking danger.} 10. Nc4 c6 11. Nxb6 axb6 12. h3 Kh8 13. Re1 Ne8 {Black intends to support his e5-pawn by...f6, but with the centre still fluid White can develop considerable pressure.} 14. d4 f6 15. Nh4 $6 {This threatens an immediate win by Qh5. The idea is to induce ...g6 so as to give the c1-bishop a nice square to develop to on h6, but actually this move is probably less effective than simple development by Be3.} g6 16. Bh6 Ng7 17. Qd2 Be6 18. d5 {Black's position is rather cramped, so White prefers to avoid piece exchanges.} Bg8 $2 (18... cxd5 19. exd5 Bd7 {was much better, with just an edge for White. The possibility for active play by ...Nf7 followed by . ..f5 is more important than the weakness of the b-pawns.}) 19. Be3 c5 (19... b5 20. a4 {is also unpleasant for Black.}) 20. g3 {Black now finds himself in a cramped position with little active play. Any attempt to generate play with ... f5 is likely to open the position up, after which White's bishops will become more dangerous.} Nf7 21. Bc2 {The bishop is no longer doing much on b3, so moves in order to hold up ...f5.} Qd7 22. Kg2 f5 $2 {It's never pleasant to defend purely passively, but Black should have tried} (22... Ra3 {to make it hard for White to play a4.}) 23. exf5 gxf5 24. f4 {Now Black starts to really miss his dark-squared bishop.} e4 25. a4 {It's simply a winning position for White, either by playing on the queenside or by manoeuvring his e3-bishop to the a1-h8 diagonal, or both.} Nh6 26. c4 Nh5 27. Kh2 Qg7 28. Rg1 {It's easy for White to counter Black's kingside play, as there is only one square he needs to defend.} Bf7 29. Rab1 Be8 30. a5 Rg8 31. Qe1 Nf6 32. bxc5 bxc5 33. Bd2 {Finally the time has come for the bishop transfer.} Bh5 34. Bc3 Rab8 35. Rb6 Qe7 36. Qa1 Rgf8 {Black resigned without waiting for} (36... Rgf8 37. a6 { with total collapse.}) 1-0

I have chosen this game because some 35 years later I met Stephen Peters across the board once again, this time in the Witney weekend congress. He proved a most resilient opponent.

[Event "2016 Witney Congress"] [Site "Witney, Oxfordshire"] [Date "2016.10.22"] [Round "2.1"] [White "Peters, Stephen G"] [Black "Nunn, John Dm"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "E94"] [WhiteElo "2128"] [BlackElo "253"] [PlyCount "102"] [EventDate "2016.10.22"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "5"] [EventCountry "ENG"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 Nbd7 {Avoiding 6...e5 7 dxe5, etc., since a quick database search before the game showed my opponent to be quite fond of swapping queens.} 7. O-O e5 8. Be3 h6 {This odd-looking move is actually the fourth most popular here and I had some experience with it, having played it a few times in the early 1980s.} 9. dxe5 dxe5 10. Ne1 $6 ( 10. Nd2 {or}) (10. Qc1 {is more critical.}) 10... c6 11. Qd2 Kh7 12. Nc2 Qe7 13. Rfd1 Nc5 {Black has emerged from the opening with a comfortable and approximately equal position, but to generate winning chances is not so easy.} 14. f3 Ne6 15. Qd6 {White is not to be denied his exchange of queens.} Qxd6 16. Rxd6 c5 {A committal but quite good move; it creates a hole on d5 but enables Black to occupy the d4-square straight away.} 17. Rd2 {White drops the rook back lest it be trapped after ...Nd4.} Nd4 18. Ne1 Be6 19. Nd5 Nxd5 $6 { I should have emulated White's manoeuvre and played 19...Ne8, to move the knight to the blockading square d6 before creating a passed pawn by swapping on d5.} 20. cxd5 Bd7 21. Rc1 b6 22. Nc2 f5 23. Na3 {White can probably claim a slight edge here, since although the knight on d4 is strong Black has some light-squared weaknesses on the queenside. The premature exchange on d5 has given the e2-bishop more scope.} h5 24. b3 $6 {Insufficiently active.} (24. Bf1 {was better, as Black's plan of} Bh6 $6 {runs into trouble after} 25. Bxh6 Kxh6 26. Nc4 Rae8 27. b4 $1 cxb4 28. Nxe5 {when White has a large advantage. If Black doesn't play ...Bh6, it's not so easy to come up with a constructive plan.}) 24... Bh6 25. Bxh6 Kxh6 26. Nc2 ({Now} 26. Nc4 {can be well met by} Bb5 $1 {and Black is fine.}) 26... Rae8 27. Re1 Kg5 28. Nxd4 $2 {White finally gives way to temptation, but it is wrong to give Black a protected passed pawn and to open the e-file for Black's rook.} (28. Rc1 {would have maintained equality.}) 28... exd4 29. Bd3 Kf6 {Of course Black must prevent e5.} 30. Rf2 a5 $6 {It would have been more accurate to play ...h4, to prevent White playing the same move.} 31. a4 f4 32. h4 $1 {White finds the best defence, preventing Black gaining further space on the kingside.} Ke5 {Although visually it looks like Black is doing well, the computer gives 0.00 since it's really hard for him to make progress.} 33. Rc2 Rb8 34. Rec1 Rfc8 35. Ba6 Rc7 36. Bd3 Kd6 37. Ra1 $6 {This casual move gives Black some chances. Now was the time to bring the king closer by} (37. Kf2 {and White can hold.}) 37... b5 38. axb5 Bxb5 39. Bc4 Ra7 40. Rca2 Ke5 41. Rxa5 $2 {Now Black is winning.} ({ The tricky defence} 41. Kf1 d3 42. Ra3 $1 {would still have offered fair drawing chances}) 41... Rxa5 42. Rxa5 Bxc4 43. bxc4 d3 {The passed d-pawn is just too strong.} 44. Ra1 Kd4 45. Rc1 d2 46. Rd1 Ke3 47. Kf1 Rb4 48. d6 Rxc4 49. d7 Rc1 50. Kg1 Rxd1+ 51. Kh2 Rh1+ {It's mate in four more moves.} 0-1

One of the pleasures of chess is that is that players often have a lifelong affection for the game, and it’s not unusual to meet opponents I faced 40 or more years ago.

Fifty years after the Oxford event, I travelled to Llandudno in North Wales for the 2017 edition of the British Championship. I hadn’t played at the British since 1980, when I won the Championship proper, and I was curious to see what the event was like these days. The town was pleasant, and there was some really attractive scenery within walking distance (provided you are prepared to do a NunnWalk).

Near the top of the Great Orme, with Llandudno visible in the distance [click or tap to enlarge]

One major difference from 50 years before was the inclusion of several events for younger kids. In 1967 the junior events ranged from Under-21 down to Under-14, but now they covered a range from Under-16 down as far as Under-8. Older juniors were given a chance to play in the Championship proper, and many did so. Back in 1967 there was an elaborate qualification system for the Championship, which made it hard for younger players, even if they were talented, to get a place. Certainly, much progress has been made regarding the inclusion of younger players. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said of the venue, which would have been suitable for a weekend tournament, but not a prestigious national championship. A cramped, noisy room (especially if you were playing near the door) with poor analysis facilities was certainly nothing to compare with the Oxford venue from 50 years before. But of course part of the fun of the event is the social side, and this was as good as ever, with plenty of chances to meet old friends.

The first round proved an unwelcome surprise as my opponent, who had a modest rating of 2043, played solidly and well; indeed, at one point I had to defend accurately to draw. A number of players of my generation recently remarked to me how much more difficult it is to beat lower-rated players these days, and I think this is definitely true. At one time you just had to wait for some serious mistake and then you could win with little effort. However, these days chess knowledge is easier to come by so players have a much better general understanding and are generally well prepared in the opening. Consequently, it can be a real effort to win, especially with Black. Indeed, a number of my games in Llandudno went on well into the ending. After this initial setback, I won my next five games and a relatively quick draw against Paul Littlewood in the last round secured the title. Here’s one of the wins.

[Event "BCF-ch Seniors 50"] [Site "Llandudno"] [Date "2017.08.02"] [Round "4"] [White "Nunn, John DM"] [Black "Lewis, Andrew P"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "B49"] [WhiteElo "2581"] [BlackElo "2252"] [Annotator "John"] [PlyCount "67"] [EventDate "2017.07.30"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "7"] [EventCountry "WLS"] [SourceTitle "CBM 179 Extra"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "2017.08.23"] [SourceVersion "1"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.08.23"] [SourceQuality "1"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nc6 5. Nc3 Qc7 6. Be2 a6 7. O-O Nf6 8. Be3 b5 {The third most popular move for Black at this point (the top two are 8. ..Bb4 and 8...Be7). Personally I think that pushing the b-pawn gives White more to play for than the alternatives, but maybe that's just me.} 9. Nxc6 { This must be the critical, since otherwise White has to waste time dealing with the threat of ...b4.} dxc6 (9... Qxc6 $2 {is just a blunder, since} 10. e5 {gives White a large advantage. Now I was on my own regarding theoretical knowledge, and some might suggest that I know little more in 2017 than half a century earlier.}) 10. f4 {I don't think Black has any way to fully equalise here.} Bb7 ({During the game I intended to meet} 10... b4 {by} 11. e5 ({ in fact,} 11. Na4 {is also good since} Nxe4 $6 12. Bf3 f5 13. Bd4 {gives White a very dangerous initiative}) 11... bxc3 12. exf6 cxb2 13. Rb1 gxf6 14. Rxb2 { when it seems to me that White has very good compensation for the pawn, a verdict confirmed by Houdini.}) (10... e5 {is another try, but again} 11. fxe5 Qxe5 12. Kh1 {retains an advantage for White.}) 11. e5 Rd8 12. Qe1 Nd5 (12... Nd7 13. Ne4 c5 14. Bf3 {is clearly better for White.}) 13. Nxd5 Rxd5 $2 { A misjudgement, making it hard for Black to activate his bishops.} (13... cxd5 {is better, although after} 14. c3 Bc5 15. Bd4 {the position looks to me like an inferior type of French Defence in which Black will have a lot of trouble solving the problem of his bad light-squared bishop.}) 14. c4 $1 {Now Black must either allow his queenside pawns to be broken up, or leave the pawn on c4, but in the latter case the pressure on b5 will make it almost impossible to liberate his bishop by ...c5.} Rd7 15. Qg3 $6 (15. Qf2 $1 {would have left Black in big trouble straight away, since} Be7 16. Bb6 Qb8 17. f5 {gives White a decisive attack, the key line being} Qxe5 18. fxe6 Qxe6 19. Bg4 $1) 15... g6 16. a3 Be7 17. Rac1 b4 $6 {Giving White the chance to seal in the b7-bishop.} ( 17... bxc4 {was essential, although} 18. Bxc4 {retains some advantage.}) 18. axb4 Bxb4 19. c5 {Now Black is in serious difficulties as both bishops are out of play} a5 (19... O-O 20. Rfd1 Rxd1+ (20... Rfd8 21. Rd6 {is even worse}) 21. Rxd1 Rd8 22. Rd6 {is very unpleasant for Black.}) 20. h4 Rd5 21. Bc4 Qc8 { Black decides to jettison the exchange, since} (21... Bd2 22. Rcd1 Bxe3+ 23. Qxe3 Rxd1 24. Rxd1 O-O 25. f5 $1 exf5 26. e6 {breaks through and wins}) 22. Bxd5 cxd5 23. Bd4 Qc6 24. f5 $1 {Direct action on the kingside offers the quickest win} gxf5 25. Qg7 Rf8 26. Qxh7 Ba6 27. Rf2 Bc4 28. b3 (28. h5 Bxc5 29. Bxc5 Qxc5 30. Qg7 Qe3 31. Ra1 {also wins, but keeping the c5-pawn is simpler}) 28... Bxb3 29. h5 Bc4 30. h6 a4 31. Qg7 Bxc5 32. Bxc5 Qxc5 33. h7 Qa3 34. Rb1 1-0

I don’t know if it is a record to win two British titles half a century apart, but in any case I was happy with the result. Frank Marshall once wrote a book called “My Fifty Years of Chess” (well, actually Reinfeld is said to have written much of it, but that’s rather beside the point), which is well worth reading. The great American Champion obviously loved chess, and in that respect I feel a certain kinship with him.

After the tournament, another old chess opponent and Oxford University contemporary, Jim Burnett, kindly gave me a lift to Manchester Airport and I was off to Dresden for the World Problem Solving Championship. Oh, and Gawain Jones became British champion after beating Luke McShane in the final of the play-off.




Dr John Nunn (born 1955) is an English grandmaster, author and problem-solver. He was among the world’s leading grandmasters for nearly twenty years, winning four gold medals in chess Olympiads, and is a much-acclaimed writer whose works have won ‘Book of the Year’ awards in several countries. In 2004, 2007 and 2010, Nunn was crowned World Chess Solving Champion. Now 62, he continues to compete successfully in over-the-board and problem-solving events.
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chessbibliophile chessbibliophile 4/5/2018 11:32
I adore the kid!
Danstacey Danstacey 4/4/2018 11:21
A legend of the game. I was lucky enough to play against him in a simul (at Highgate School?) when I was about 10 (1981 or so). I managed 55 moves and in time-honoured schoolboy style offered him a draw when I was bound to lose, which he refused with a tolerant smile. Sponsored for charity and every move counted at I think an average of 5p per move! It was the glory days of the post-Fischer chess boom with Nigel Short a well-known celebrity and the Master Game on TV. A golden age, never to return, maybe...
jaberwocky jaberwocky 4/4/2018 08:01
In March 2010, Magnus Carlsen said that John Nunn never became world chess champion because "..... he is too clever for that. ..... His enormous powers of understanding and his constant thirst for knowledge distracted him from chess."
lnlver lnlver 4/4/2018 05:26
John Nunn is to chess problems as Stephen Hawking was to theoretical astrophysics. I thoroughly enjoy his articles and always look forward to his Christmas puzzles.
TomE57ach TomE57ach 4/4/2018 02:55
Really enjoyable read from Dr. John Nunn, the proverbial "smartest guy in the room" and a highly engaging writer, to boot!
Bobbyfozz Bobbyfozz 4/3/2018 06:46
An absolutely FUN read! Time does fly quickly doesn't it John? As a bookseller titles with the "Nunn" name generally did well, so thank you for that. I wish other authors would write like this, chess interspersed with stories. I felt an affinity with Nunn because I too was a mathematician, though not of the algebraic topology level as John was... grad school in math was lots of fun. My other, avocation, was chess. So Nunn's article hit home and like I said, would love to see more reminiscences by other elder statesmen. Thanks to ChessBase. Bob Long.
Luisrs Luisrs 4/3/2018 02:23
John Nunn is a reference! Thank you for the excelent article!! Best wishes.
jaberwocky jaberwocky 4/3/2018 01:44
Chess and mathematics often go together.
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