Nigel Short wins European Union Chess Championship

9/15/2006 – The last day decided everything. With seven players tied for first it was anybody's guess who would clinch the Championship. But of the seven only Nigel Short could chalk up a victory in the final round to take first place alone, with 7.5/10 points. Full illustrated closing report by Steve Giddins.

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Fritzed out on a historic day

Round nine report by FM Steve Giddins

Today was a historic day for British chess, as two English players, Gawain Jones and Stephen Gordon, completed grandmaster norms, each with a round to spare. Those of you who found my Nigel Short trivia question earlier in the event a bit too easy may wish to think about the last time two English players completed GM norms in the same round of the same event. And when you have worked out the answer, perhaps you’d be so kind as to tell me, because I haven’t got a clue!

How to play for a win with Black against a strong opponent, without taking ridiculous risks? This is a problem which has bedeviled players for almost as long as chess has been around, and today it was Nigel Short’s turn to face it. One of six players sharing the lead on 6/8, Short was Black against Stephen Gordon. The latter has had a tremendous tournament, and is clearly a great talent, but even so, given the disparity in rating and experience, it was clear that Short would go for a win. He chose just about the sharpest line of the 4 Qc2 Nimzo, one in which he has even tangled with Garry Kasparov in two games. Unfortunately, nowadays, the sharper a line is, the more likely that it has been analysed out to a draw, by players using Fritz or other chess engines. So it turned out here. Short’s 19...b6 was a new move, but White can force a draw by repetition immediately, and after some thought, that is what Gordon did.

Afterwards, a frustrated Short complained that chess has been “Fritzed out” and even predicted that Fischerrandom chess could take over within a few years.


'Chess has become Fritzed out,' said Nigel Short, when Stephen Gordon forced a perpetual in 26 moves

There were also quick draws in Jones-Williams and Sarakauskas-Gyimesi. Luke McShane looked for some time as though he might seize the sole lead, as he obtained a promising position as Black against Sulskis. However, the latter defended steadily and held the draw.

Mark Hebden seized the chance to join the leading group, by breezing through Dagne Ciuksyte’s defences, after the WGM missed the standard d4-d5 break in an IQP structure. Pert, Conquest and Gormally all won, to move within half a point of the lead.

Thus, the last round sees 7 players tied on 6.5, and another 9 on 6. Top pairings are Short-Hebden, McShane-Gordon, Sulskis-Jones and Gormally-Williams. With so many players in contention, nobody can afford to make a quick draw, so we should be in for an exciting climax.

Pert,Nicholas (2503) - Devereaux,Max (2377) [A00]
EU Championship Liverpool (9.13), 14.09.2006
1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 e6 3 c4 b6 4 Nc3 Bb7 5 Bg5 Bb4 6 Nd2. This move has become popular recently, supplanting the older 6 e3. White anticipates his opponent’s planned h6, g5 and Ne4, and prepares f3 and e4, shutting out the Black fianchettoed bishop. 6...h6 7 Bh4 Bxc3 8 bxc3 d6. This is a popular and well-respected plan against 6 e3, but here, White is better prepared to meet it, since he will achieve the advance e4 in one move, instead of two. 7...c5 may be a better attempt to exploit White’s move-order. 9 f3 Nbd7 10 e4 e5 11 Bd3 Qe7 12 Nf1 g5?! This severely weakens the f5 square, for which the White Knight on d2 is heading, but it is already difficult to suggest a good plan for Black.

13 Bf2 exd4. The start of an attempt to break out and take advantage of White’s slow development. The danger is that, if Black does not succeed, the resulting opening up of the game will favour White’s bishop pair, as indeed proves to be the case. 14 cxd4 d5 15 cxd5 Nxd5 16 Ng3 Qb4+ 17 Qd2!? 17 Kf1 looks stronger still, since after the text, Black could gain some relief by exchanging queens. 17...Nf4 18 Bf1 Qa4? This was accompanied by a draw offer, but I think Black is simply lost after this move. He had to bail out into the ending, although his position remains unpleasant. With queens on, his king will never find a safe home. 19 Ne2 0–0–0 20 Nxf4 gxf4 21 Be2 f5 22 0–0 fxe4 23 fxe4 Nf6 24 Qxf4 Nxe4 25 Rac1.

By now it is obvious that the Black king is not long for this world. 25...Rh7 26 Qf5+ Rhd7. Or 26...Qd7 27 Bg4 winning material. 27 Bb5 Qxa2 28 Bh4 Ng5 29 Bxd7+ Rxd7 30 Rxc7+! Kxc7 31 Bg3+ Rd6 32 Rc1+ Bc6 33 d5 1–0. [Click to replay]


The main entrance to the World Museum – the event was held in the first floor gallery


The neo-classical architecture of St Georges Hall, venue for the British Championships in 2008


The St. Georges Hall War Memorial

Extremely chuffed

Round ten report by FM Steve Giddins

The city of Liverpool is famous for its music and its sporting successes, notably football, but chess has not been a great feature of the city’s life for many years

Nigel Short became the outright winner of the 2006 EU Championship, by beating Mark Hebden in today’s 10th round, whilst his main rivals could only draw. The former world title challenger later declared himself “extremely chuffed” at having won on his first appearance in an international tournament in his home country, since 1989.

Hebden is a player whose opening repertoire is well-known, and has been almost constant for his entire chess-playing life. As Black against 1 e4, he plays only 1...e5, usually either the Marshall or a main line Chigorin. Short avoided these with 3 Bc4, secure in the knowledge that Hebden only ever plays 3...Nf6. Over recent years, just about every top-level player has abandoned the Two Knights Defence, on the basis that Black does not have enough compensation after 4 Ng5. Indeed, after the game, Short commented that “The Two Knights just loses a pawn!”, and he added that anybody who played the line regularly as Black “is taking their life in their hands”. Hebden fought well, but never really had enough for his pawn, and eventually lost the ending.

Meanwhile, McShane and Sulskis both fought out hard draws with Gordon and Jones respectively. Unlike Short, McShane chose to avoid a theoretical dispute and chose the Trompowsky. He did not achieve much for a long time, and althougha significant bout of manoeuvering eventually netted him an extra pawsn in the N+P ending, Black’s king was very active and he held the balance. Jones played the Scandinavian with 3...Qd6 against Sulskis. This line has been doing remarkably well for Black in recent times, notably in the hands of Dutch champion, Sergey Tiviakov. After some inaccuracies by Black in the early middlegame, Sulskis was soon well on top, and by move 25, he was completely winning, with an extra pawn and the better king. From then on, however, he made no progress at all against Jones’ stubborn defence, and eventually drifted into a drawn rook ending. It is hard to pinpoint any one moment when he could have wrapped the game up, but 31 Qa5, with the idea of penetrating to b6 and b7, looks like one way of breaking down Black’s resistance.

Simon Williams has had an excellent tournament, but today he hit the buffers big-time, losing in 19 moves, in under two hours. In an obscure line of his favourite Dutch, he produced the novelty 11...exf6?, instead of the compulsory 11...e6, which was played successfully in Kharitonov-Gajewski, San Augustin 2003. After White’s obvious reply, he was already in trouble, and his 12th move simply lost the exchange, after which the position was already hopeless. Amongst the other leaders, there were wins for Bischoff, van der Weide and Galego, who all moved up into prize spots.

Thus ends a great 10 days’ of chess. All credit is due to Dave Robertson, David Welch and all the many others, whose hard work and imagination has made such a huge success of this event. In fact, I would go so far as to say that everybody involved with the event is entitled to be “extremely chuffed”. This year’s tournament is “only” a curtain-raiser in the run-up to 2008, when Liverpool celebrates its EU Capital of Culture award. Next year, there are plans for another powerful international open, the budget for which is already in place, and will be more than double this year’s. The final budget for 2008 is yet to be confirmed, but believe me, if the plans come to fruition, you will see a chess event, the like of which has not happened in this country for 70 or more years. All, being well, I will be there to bring you daily reports, and once again, will endeavour to get through the entire event, without once mentioning Cilla Black, Ken Dodd or The Beatles...

Short,Nigel (2676) - Hebden,Mark (2532) [C58]
EU Championship Liverpool (10.1), 15.09.2006

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Nf6 4 Ng5 d5 5 exd5 Na5 6 Bb5+ c6 7 dxc6 bxc6 8 Qf3. This old move has for years been regarded as giving Black a strong initiative, but in recent times, the cold reality of computer analysis has made people realise that Black may just be a pawn down for not enough. John van der Wiel has been at the forefront of rehabilitating the move. 8...h6 9 Ne4 Nd5 10 Ba4. Van der Wiel prefers 10 Nbc3 here, but Short was following some analysis that he had done a couple of years ago, with the Ukrainian teenage super-talent, Sergey Kariakin. 10...Be7 11 d3 0–0 12 0–0 f5 13 Ng3 Be6 14 Re1 Bd6 15 c4 Ne7 16 Bd2 c5 17 Nc3 a6 18 Nd5 Nac6 19 Bxc6. This is the logical follow-up to White’s plan, which is to pressurise e5, but Fritz 9 is hot to trot with the strange move 19 Nh5!?. Looking more closely, it does seem surprisingly strong. The knight will drop into f4 at some stage, exploiting the loose Black bishop on e6. 19...Nxc6 20 Bc3 Qe8 21 h3 Rd8 22 Re2 Bb8 23 Rae1 a5 24 a3 Nd4 25 Bxd4 cxd4.

26 Nb6?! Here, the exchange sacrifice 26 Rxe5 comes strongly into consideration. 26...e4 27 dxe4 f4 28 Nf1 Qc6 29 Nd5 Qxc4 30 Nd2 Qb5 31 Qb3 Qxb3. Over the past few moves, White has lost most of his advantage. At this point, Black offered a draw, but this was declined. 32 Nxb3 Bxd5 33 exd5 Rxd5 34 Rd2 Be5 35 Nc1 a4 36 Nd3 Bd6 37 Rc2. Thanks to the knight on d3, White retains a small advantage. Black’s pawn on a4 is more vulnerable that White’s on b2, which is defended by the knight-blockader. 37...f3 38 g3 h5 39 Rc4 h4 40 g4 Ra5? Losing without much fight. A better try was 40...Rb8 41 Rxa4 Rb3, when White still has significant technical problems to solve. 41 Rxd4 Rf6 42 Ree4. Now a4 goes as well, and the rest is silence. 42...Bc7 43 Kf1 Rc6 44 Rxa4 Rxa4 45 Rxa4 Rd6 46 Ne1 Rd1 47 Re4 Rb1 48 Re8+ Kh7 49 Rf8 Bd6 50 Rxf3 Rxb2 51 Rc3 Be5 52 Rd3 Bb8 53 Nf3 Ba7 54 Rd2 Rb3 55 Kg2 Rxa3 56 Nxh4 Bb8 57 Nf3 Bf4 58 Rd4 g5 59 h4 1–0. [Click to replay]


Walker Art Gallery, opened in 1877


Friendly locals happy to pose and say hello

Photos Stephen Connor

Final standings (for 6.0/9 and higher)

1

Short,N

2676

7.5/10

2

Gordon,S

2443

7.0/10

3

McShane,L

2614

7.0/10

4

Sulskis,S

2514

7.0/10

5

Jones,G

2416

7.0/10

6

Gormally,D

2513

7.0/10

7

Galego,L

2528

7.0/10

8

Bischoff,K

2533

7.0/10

9

Van der Weide,K

2446

7.0/10

10

Williams,Si

2473

6.5/10

11

Hebden,M

2532

6.5/10

12

Conquest,S

2534

6.5/10

13

Luther,T

2589

6.5/10

14

Ciuksyte,D

2440

6.5/10

15

Rudd,J

2328

6.5/10

16

Haslinger,S

2423

6.0/10

17

McNab,C

2433

6.0/10

18

Pert,N

2503

6.0/10

19

Gyimesi,Z

2616

6.0/10

20

Pritchett,C

2289

6.0/10

21

Medvegy,Z

2518

6.0/10

22

Miezis,N

2527

6.0/10

23

Swinkels,R

2286

6.0/10

24

Brandenburg,D

2392

6.0/10

25

Hanley,C

2419

6.0/10

26

Karttunen,M

2422

6.0/10

27 White,M 2239 6.0/10

28

Wallace,P

2242

6.0/10



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