NH: The Wrinklies bite back – Experience leads 22:18

by ChessBase
8/30/2009 – It has been a good few weeks for the middle-aged. At the Staunton Memorial 44-year old Nigel Short top-scored, despite being the oldest player in the event. In Canada the oldest player, IM Jean Hebert, won the national championship – 31 years after winning it as the youngest. And in Amsterdam the experienced players continue to dominate. Report by Steve Giddins, pictures by John Nunn.

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The 4th NH Chess Tournament runs from Thursday, August 20, and runs through August 31 in the five-star NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky smack in the centre of Amsterdam. It is a double round robin team event, with five Rising Stars facing five Experienced players.

The Wrinklies bite back

By Steve Giddins

It has been a good few weeks for the middle-aged in chess. At the Staunton Memorial in early August, 44-year old Nigel Short top-scored, despite being the oldest player in the event. As we will see in a minute, over in Amsterdam, a team of warmed-up stiffs has been keeping the young GMs at bay. But before we get to them, I have another heartwarming story of middle-aged Caissic success. This comes from Canada, from where ChessBase was delighted to receive the following message from IM Jean Hebert:

"Since age is very much at the center of Steve Giddins' article on GMs and GOMs, I just want to add a piece of information that might add some fuel to the subject. The Canadian Closed Championship and Zonal tournament, concluded last week, has been won by the oldest player in the event, IM Jean Hébert, 51, who bypassed a bunch of young titled players, including GM Mark Bluvshtein, co-Canadian Open winner. I won my last four games, to finish at 7.5/9, a full point ahead of Bluvshtein. Also noteworthy is the fact that I had already won that title – 31 years before! At the time I was the youngest player in the event..."

I am sure all our readers will join with me in offering IM Hebert what Edmund Blackadder would doubtless call "our heartiest contrafibularities" (here on YouTube – start at 1:05 min). Despite the understandable lack of grumpiness in his message, I am also delighted to confer on the new Canadian champion honorary membership of the GOM Chess Club, of which I am proud to be founder, Honorary Life President, CEO, and, until now, sole member. It is great to see the wrinklies biting back, even if it is with their false teeth.

All of which leads me naturally to the subject of the NH tournament in Amsterdam, where our last report left the Experience team leading by two points at the halfway stage. After Tuesday's rest day, battle resumed in round six, with the Rising Stars having the white pieces. Smeets beat Belyavsky in a topsy-turvy game, in which the latter rejected a draw just a few moves before the end. However, any thoughts L'Enfants may have had about equalizing the match score were dashed by Ljubo of the L'Ancients (to give him his heraldic name), who struck a major blow by downing the still-ailing Nakamura:

Nakamura,Hi (2710) - Ljubojevic,L (2553) [B35]
3rd NH Chess Tournament Amsterdam NED (6), 26.08.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bg7 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 Qa5 8.Nb3 Qb4 9.Bd3 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 Bxc3+ 11.bxc3 Qxe4 12.0-0 d6 13.Re1 Qg4 14.f3 Qh5 15.Qd2 Be6 16.Nd4 Nxd4 17.Bxd4 Rg8 18.a4 g5 19.Rab1 b6 20.h3 Qg6 21.a5 h5 22.axb6 axb6 23.Rxb6 g4 24.fxg4 hxg4 25.h4 Qh5 26.Qe2 Rc8 27.Reb1 Qxh4 28.Rb8 g3

29.Qb5+ Kf8 30.Qc6 Qg4 31.Rxc8+ Bxc8 32.Rf1 Rg6 33.Rf4 Qd7 34.Qe4 Kg8 35.Be3 e5 36.Rf1 f5 37.Qc4+ Qe6 38.Qc7 f4 39.Qd8+ Kg7 40.Ra1 Rf6 41.Bb6 Bb7 42.Ra7 Qd5 43.Qd7+ Kh6 44.Qh3+ Kg5 45.Ra1 Rf8 46.Be3 Kg6 47.c4 Qe4 48.Bb6 Kg5 0-1.

Rather strangely, this round was immediately succeeded by another rest day. The official website explains that this was forced by some kind of double-booking at the hotel, but I personally suspect that the real reason was to enable the organisers to fly in emergency supplies of oxygen, vitamin pills and other essentials, to keep the ageing members of the Experience team going. Whatever the truth, the extra day's R&R certainly helped the old fellas, who beat their opponents 2-0 the next day. Alexander Belyavsky has been in wretched form so far in this event, but in round seven, he shook off the blues with a quick win against Caruana:

Beliavsky,A (2662) - Caruana,F (2670) [E12]
3rd NH Chess Tournament Amsterdam NED (7), 28.08.2009
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.a3 Ba6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.Nc3 c5 7.e4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Nb3 Be7 10.Bf4 d6 11.Rd1 0-0

12.e5 Nh5 13.Be3 Bg5 14.Qc1 Bxe3 15.Qxe3 Nc6 16.Rxd6 Qh4 17.Rd7 Rab8 18.g3 Qg4 19.h3 Qf5 20.Rxb7 Rxb7 21.Bg2 Rc7 22.Bxc6 f6 23.Be4 Qxe5 24.f4 Qd6 25.Nb5 1-0.

He was followed by Nielsen, who handed Smeets his first defeat. Ljubo pressed for a very long time against Hou Yifan, but could not break through, but van Wely missed a win in a tense fight with Nakamura. This left the Experience team leading by four points overall. In Saturday's eighth round, honours were even, as Stellwagen beat Ljubojevic, but Belyavsky won his second straight game, against Nakamura, who appears to be in free fall.

Round six – Aug. 26  
Hou Yifan – Svidler
Stellwagen – Nielsen
Smeets – Beliavsky
Caruana – van Wely
Nakamura – Ljubojevic
Round seven – Aug. 28  
Svidler – Stellwagen
Nielsen – Smeets
Beliavsky – Caruana
van Wely – Nakamura
Ljubojevic – Hou Yifan

So, with just two rounds to go, the Experience team maintains an imposing four point lead. As far as individual scores are concerned, most attention is focused on the issue of who will be the top scorer in the Rising Stars team, the prize for which is a place in the 2010 Amber tournament in Nice. Here, it is the reigning Dutch champion Jan Smeets who stands on the threshold of success, leading Caruana by a point and a half, and needing only a draw tomorrow to clinch his winter holiday on the French riviera. Strangely enough, the tournament website is silent on the subject of what the prize is for the top scorer of the Experience team, although my spies tell me that that he will receive a motorised wheelchair, an electric blanket and a year's supply of denture-cleaning fluid. Pole position in the race for this particular goody-bag is shared by Svidler and Nielsen, who hold a half point lead over Ljubojevic.

Finally, I fear this report may once again have left you wondering if you are getting middle-aged yourself, so I will leave you with another definition, this time courtesy of ex-President, Ronald Reagan: "Middle age is that time of life when, faced with two temptations, you choose the one that'll get you home by nine o-clock!"

Round eight – Aug. 29  
Smeets – Svidler
Caruana – Nielsen
Nakamura – Beliavsky
Hou Yifan – van Wely
Stellwagen – Ljubojevic
Round nine – Aug. 30  
Svidler – Caruana
Nielsen – Nakamura
Beliavsky – Hou Yifan
van Wely – Stellwagen
Ljubojevic – Smeets

Standings after eight rounds
Experience individual score
Nielsen    5
Svidler 5
Ljubojevic 4½
Van Wely 4
Beliavsky 3½
  Rising Stars individual score
Smeets     5
Caruana 3½
Hou Yifan 3½
Nakamura 3
Stellwagen 3

Total: 22.0


Total: 18.0

Rank, points and performance

Impressions from the NH tournament

By GM Dr John Nunn

An overview of the playing hall in the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Amsterdam

Inspiration from above? At 58 GM Ljubomir Ljubojevich is the oldest player in the field

Hou Yifan looking confident before her game against Peter Heine Nielsen

The game starts – it ended in a solid 37-move draw

Youth vs Experience – the game ended in a draw after a fluctuating 73-move struggle

Fabiano Caruana with his father (left) and long-time trainer GM Alexander Chernin (right)

Loek van Wely with his girlfriend Lorena

The obligatory windmill photo from our free day trip

Remaining schedule

Round 9 August 30 (Sunday) 13.30 hrs
Round 10 August 31 (Monday) 12.00 hrs


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