Nigel Short wins Commonwealth Championship 2008

by ChessBase
10/10/2008 – This event took place in Nagpur, a 2.5 million city smack in the middle of the Indian sub-continent. There were almost three hundred players, with eleven rounds of play in nine days. Top seed Nigel Short started off badly, but then went on to win his last six games and take the title. Afterwards the Commonwealth Champion spoke to us and gave us some interesting insights.

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Commonwealth Chess Championship 2008

The historical city of Nagpur in the center of India

The Commonwealth Chess Championship took place from September 28th to October 6th, 2008, in Nagpur, India. This is a 2.5 million city right in the center of India, the capital of the state of Maharashtra and the commercial and political center of the state's eastern region. The city lies in the middle of India, and the "Zero Mile Marker" (indicating the geographical center of the country) is located here. Nagpur is one of the greenest cities of India, and is a gateway for one of the great tiger habitats.

"It is indeed a great honour bestowed upon us to host the Commonwealth Chess Championship 2008," write the organisers. "Nagpur, the city of oranges has been chosen as venue for the first time. This rare distinction has come our way due to our outstanding record in conducting several national ranking chess championship in highly organized and efficient manner."

The event was an eleven-round Swiss with almost three hundred players. The schedule was gruelling: two rounds on the first two days, then two games on the third day (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.). This was repeated on the sixth day, so that the eleven games were crammed into nine days. Titled players – GMs, WGMs, IMs and WIMs paid no starting fees, in fact GMs and WGMs could expect to receive appearance money. Other participants paid Rs 1,500 (23 Euros, US $31) to Rs. 25,000 (€383, $520) depending on their playing strength.

There were Gold, Silver and Bronze medals and titles to be won in Nagpur: Men, Women, Boys U-20, Girls U-20, Boys U-18, Girls U-18, Boys U-16, Girls U-16, Boys U-14, Girls U-14, Boys U-12, Girls U-12, Boys U-10, Girls U-10, Boys U-8, Girls U-8.

Indian musical presentation during the opening ceremony

Top seed Nigel Short waiting for his opponent in the first round

The Swiss system: Nigel's first opponent is an 11-year-old boy named Shardul Gagare, rated 2092, who hangs on for 48 moves against the 2655-rated grandmaster. The game is interesting to replay.

Short,N (2655) - Gagare,Shar (2070) [B12]
ch-Commonwealth Nagpur IND (1), 28.09.2008
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.dxc5 Nc6 5.Bf4 e6 6.Nd2 Bxc5 7.Nb3 Bb6 8.Qg4 Kf8 9.Nf3 Qc7 10.Bd3 Nge7 11.0-0 Ng6 12.Bxg6 hxg6 13.c3 Bd7 14.Rfe1 Ne7 15.Be3 Qc4 16.h3 Bxe3 17.Rxe3 Nf5 18.Ree1 Qxg4 19.hxg4 Nh6 20.g5 Nf5 21.g4 Ne7 22.Kg2 Rc8 23.Kg3 b6 24.Nbd4 Nc6 25.Nxc6 Rxc6 26.Rh1 Rg8 27.Nd4 Rc8 28.Rh7 Ke7 29.Kf4 a5 30.Ke3 Rc4 31.Kd3 Rc7 32.f4 Rc5 33.Rah1 Rcc8 34.R1h2 Rcd8 35.Nc2 Rc8 36.Ne3 Bb5+ 37.Kd4 Bc6 38.f5 gxf5 39.gxf5 Kf8 40.f6 g6 41.Rh8 Bb5 42.b3 a4 43.bxa4 Bxa4 44.R2h7 Bb5 45.c4 dxc4 46.Ng4 Rd8+ 47.Kc3 Rd3+ 48.Kb4 1-0.

In round three Nigel lost with the white pieces to an untitled 2339 player, Rahul Sangma. But the former World Championship challenger won his last six games to take clear first with 9.5/11, half a point ahead of Indian GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly. Here are the top final standings:














Arun Prasad,S
















































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Telephone interview with Nigel Short

Frederic Friedel: Respectful greetings, Great Commonwealth Champion. Tell us what the event was like for you.

Nigel Short: It was a typical event, in that most of the participants were from the home country. The most interesting part from my perspective was winning the last six games, all of them, and in fact five and a half would not have been enough to win the trophy.

It started badly, with a white loss against an untitled player…

In round three. I managed to overlook a check. Let's take a look at the game:

Short,N (2655) - Sangma,R (2339) [C90]
ch-Commonwealth Nagpur IND (3), 30.09.2008
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.a4 Bg4 10.h3 Bxf3 11.Qxf3 Na5 12.Bd1 c5 13.axb5 axb5 14.d3 Qc7 15.Qg3 Kh8 16.f4 c4 17.Kh1 Rfd8 18.Na3 Rab8 19.Ra2 cxd3 20.Qxd3 d5 21.Nxb5 Qc4 22.Qxc4 Nxc4 23.Na7 Nxe4 24.Nc6?

24…Nf2+ 25.Kh2 Nd3 26.Be2 Nxe1. The computer seems to suggest that I am by no means lost, but I was so shocked at having missed such an obvious tactical blow – and in a addition at this point I was running out of time – that I just collapsed. I just played in a miserable way and went down. 27.Nxe7 e4 28.Nc6 Ra8 29.Rxa8 Rxa8 30.b3 Nd3 31.Bxd3 exd3 32.bxc4 Ra1 33.Bd2 Ra2 34.cxd5 Rxd2 35.d6 Ra2 0–1.

Anyway, I was struggling at this point. I obviously couldn’t play like a grandmaster, so I decided that I should at least dress like one. I started putting a suit and tie on, although everyone told me it was too hot. But it apparently put me in the right frame of mind. I think I am a bit of a sluggish starter, and in this way I managed to dig myself out of the hole.

The secret to success: dress like a grandmaster and you start to play like one

Which were your best games?

You know, it was a little like Liverpool, my best games came towards the end. In Liverpool I finished with four and a half out of five, including a draw against Michael Adams. In Nagpur I had a pretty long game against Sethuraman in round eight, where I had a queen and two pawns against two rooks. That was a long, technical win. And I had a good game in the penultimate round, against Enamul Hossain from Bangladesh.

Short,N (2655) - Hossain,Enam (2489) [B33]
ch-Commonwealth Nagpur IND (10), 05.10.2008
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c3 Ne7 12.Nxf6+ gxf6 13.Bd3 d5 14.Qe2 Bb7 15.0–0–0 Qb6 16.f3 b4 17.cxb4 Qxb4 18.Kb1 Rb8 19.Qd2 Qb6 20.Qh6 Rg8 21.Rd2 Rg6 22.Qxh7 Qe3 23.Rhd1 Kf8 24.Qh8+ Ng8 25.exd5 Bxd5 26.Nc4 Bxc4 27.Bxc4 Qb6 28.Qh7 Rg7 29.Qd3 Rg6

Here the official bulletin gives 30.Qc3 Kg7, but in fact I played 30.Qa3+ Kg7 31.Qxa6 1–0. So please correct that.

This game practically brought you victory?

Not at all, everything was still wide open. Surya Ganguly, the only other player over 2600, played the entire event on board one or board two. I had a terrible tiebreak because I had lost my third-round game. In the last round I was half a point ahead, but I was black against Arun Prasad, who is about 2530 on the latest FIDE list. Surya was white against Abhijit Kunte, who is a respected, solid player. Abhijit lost miserably in about twenty moves. If I didn’t know both these guys, and if we’d been in a different country, I might have been suspicious about the result. They played about fifteen moves of theory, and then Kunte lost in about five moves.

Ganguly,S (2631) - Kunte,A (2554) [C91]
ch-Commonwealth Nagpur IND (11), 06.10.2008
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.d4 Bg4 10.Be3 exd4 11.cxd4 Na5 12.Bc2 Nc4 13.Bc1 c5 14.b3 Nb6 15.Be3 Nfd7 16.Nbd2 cxd4 17.Bxd4 Rc8 18.Qb1 Ne5 19.Bd1

19…Bf6? 20.Nxe5 Bxd1?? 21.Bxb6 Qe8 22.Qxd1 1–0.

This game was over incredibly quickly, and that effectively meant that I had to win in the last round. The strangest thing about this game is that my opponent, who could have maybe taken the title by winning this game, suddenly resigned.

Arun Prasad,S (2492) - Short,N (2655) [E13]
ch-Commonwealth Nagpur IND (11), 06.10.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 b6 5.Bg5 Bb7 6.Nd2 h6 7.Bh4 Qe7 8.Qc2 c5 9.d5 d6 10.0–0–0 exd5 11.cxd5 Nbd7 12.e4 a6 13.Nc4 b5 14.Ne3 g6 15.Be2 Kf8 16.Rhe1 Re8 17.f3 Qd8 18.g4 c4 19.Kb1 Bc5 20.Bf1 Bc8 21.h3 Ne5 22.Bg2 Nd3 23.Rxd3 cxd3 24.Qxd3 g5 25.Bg3 Nd7 26.f4 gxf4 27.Bxf4 Ne5 28.Qf1 Bd7 29.Nf5 b4

0–1. You have your analysis engines and can look at the final position, but I have absolutely no idea why he resigned. Maybe he simply did not fancy defending a lousy position. I was certainly better, I may have even been a lot better, but given the circumstances I would have expected the guy to play on until the death.

Indeed a very curious final round. Where are you off to now? [Airport announcements can be heard in the background].

I am doing this thing with Garry K, in Antwerp. He is giving a televised simul on Tuesday, mainly against CEOs, but also against juniors and other people who will qualify by first playing me this weekend. I will give commentary during that event. So you see I am the support act, so to speak. I go on the stage and warm the audience up a little bit for him.

Nigel, thank you very much for the interesting insights.

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