Short, Williams, Sulskis lead in Liverpool

by ChessBase
9/12/2006 – After six rounds of the European Union Individual Chess Championship (Sept. 6–15) three players are in the lead with 5.0 points, followed by four with 4.5 points. After neglecting this exciting event for a few rounds we catch up with a giant illustrated report on rounds 2–6, provided by Steve Giddins, live from Liverpool.

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Round two report

By FM Steve Giddins

After only two rounds of the tournament, only five players remain on 100%: Short, Dgebuadze, Miezis, Sulskis and Pert. The top seed gave Short shrift (pun intended) to van der Weide’s Scotch, in the game annotated below. Alexander Dgebuadze already stands to win the prize for the least easily-pronouncable surname of the tournament. Today, the Georgian-born, Belgian-resident GM easily overcame Jack Rudd with the Black pieces, after the latter overlooked an elementary tactical blow in the opening, and lost a pawn.

The tournament hall

Latvia’s Normunds Miezis is a very good example of how effective it can be in practice to play a very narrow set of openings. With White, he never opens anything other than 1 c4, usually heading for some type of Botvinnik structure with an early e4. Today he did just that against Colin McNab, himself a flank openings specialist. Colin sought to exploit his opponent’s slow development by the pawn sacrifice 13...b5, but never seemed to obtain quite enough compensation. He fought desperately hard, but Miezis eventually succeeded in liquidating to an opposite-coloured bishop ending with two widely-separated passed pawns, a standard theoretical win.

GM Nicholas Pert

Nick Pert was another who won a long ending. He did not appear to have a lot until Black’s 33...Kg6, which dropped a pawn, after which Pert’s technique did the rest. Finally, Sarunas Sulskis of Lithuania became “The Fifth Man” in the 100% club, by winning a fluctuating game against Brett Lund. The latter wasted much time with his queen in the opening and soon stood badly, but some over-optimistic play by White between moves 15-20 turned the tables completely. 20...Qc7 looks to leave Black clearly better, but Lund avoided this and the advantage soon swung back to White, who this time made no mistake.

Luke McShane played the most dramatic games of the day. He outplayed Ciuksyte from the opening and looked to be winning comfortably, but his advantage then started slipping away, until he finally produced the calamitous blunder 46...Kh6?? After White’s reply, he was completely lost, but Ciuksyte missed the immediately decisive 49 Qf5, when there is no defence to the threats against d7 and g6. Instead, her 49 Rxg6+? led only to a rook ending with an extra pawn, which McShane hung on to draw – a narrow escape indeed.

GM Zoltan Gyimesi

Amongst the other games, Gyimesi was well held by Stephen Gordon, whilst Haslinger and Conquest drew an interesting Sicilian battle. Most of the other rating favourites overcame lower-rated opposition, with Mark Hebden’s game tending to support rumours that he is being paid by the move in this tournament. After a 90-mover in round 1, he played another 79 today, finally grinding down Sarakauskine.

van der Weide,K (2446) - Short,N (2676) [C45]
EU Championship (2), 07.09.2006
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nxd4 Bc5 5 Be3 Qf6 6 c3 Nge7 7 Bc4 Ne5 8 Be2 Qg6 9 0–0 d6 10 f3 0–0 11 Nd2 d5 12 Kh1 dxe4 13 fxe4 Bg4 14 Bf3. The first new move of the game, but it does not change the assessment of the position, which is that Black has comfortable play. Short explained later that he had based his preparation on the game Movesesian-Acs, Budapest 2003, where White played 14 Bf4, but did no more than grovel a draw. “This whole line is just not where it’s at in the Scotch”, claimed Short. 14...Rfe8 15 Qe2 Rad8 16 Rae1 Bd6 17 Nb5 N7c6 18 Nxd6 cxd6!? An interesting, non-standard choice. It looks more natural to recapture with the rook, preserving the integrity of Black’s pawn structure. This had indeed been Short’s original intention, but then he changed his mind, deciding that the plan of breaking out with d6-d5 also offered Black good play. 19 b4 a6 20 a4 Qe6 21 b5 axb5 22 axb5 Ne7 23 Bd4 N7g6 24 Bxg4 Nxg4 25 Nf3 Qe7

26 Bg1? This and the next just drop the e-pawn for nothing. 26 b6 looks like a better try, but van der Weide had already used a lot of time, and was clearly not terribly happy with his position. 26...Nf6 27 Qc2 Nxe4 28 c4 d5 29 cxd5 Rxd5 30 Qc4 Qe6 31 Bd4 h6 32 Kg1 Nf4 0–1. [Click to replay]

Nigel Short in round two

A surprising conclusion, and indeed, Short even asked his opponent why he had resigned. There is no pressing reason to do so, but van der Weide simply could not find a sensible move, and with little time left, he resigned out of general disgust and demoralisation, rather than any other reason.

Trivia time

I have been truly underwhelmed by the response to my trivia question yesterday, which was: when was the last time that Nigel Short played in an international tournament in mainland Britain? The answer, incredibly, is Hastings 1989.

Round three report

Liverpool haunted by the ghost of Philidor

The endgame of rook and bishop v rook is one of the most notorious in chess. It was first analysed by the great 17th century French master Andre Danican Philidor, who despite declaring that “pawns are the soul of chess”, also did some of the pioneering work in analysing pawnless endings. Philidor thought the ending was winning, but later researches showed that his winning method cannot be forced, and the ending is drawn with correct defence. However, it remains one of the most difficult endings to defend in practice. Fortunately, it does not arise very often, only a handful of times per year in GM practice, yet amazingly, in yesterday’s third round here at Liverpool, we had two such examples!

The first pair to reach it were Medvegy and Savory. Despite being outrated by 400 Elo points, and having only three minutes (plus a one minute per move increment) on his clock at the start of the ending, the English player defended perfectly for the requisite 50 moves and secured his half point. Meanwhile, the game McShane-Haslinger had also simplified to the same ending, but this time, the defender was unable to hold. Haslinger defended correctly for 27 consecutive moves, before a fatal slip at move 115(!) condemned him to defeat. Instead of his 115...Rc1, Black must set up lateral checks along the 7th rank, so the only three drawing moves are 115...Rh3/Rg3/Re3.

GM Sarunas Sulskis

While all this was going on, Nigel Short assumed the sole lead in the tournament, after beating Sarunas Sulskis in a heavyweight Lopez. White emerged slightly better from the opening, with Sulskis’ 20...g6 being the first deviation from theory. Short admitted that he was struggling to remember much about the line, despite having spent some time working on it a few months ago. Sulskis manoeuvered his bishop to the square b3, where it defended the c4 weakness and disrupted White’s plans to double rooks on the d-file. However, the bishop risked being badly out of play, and once Short had untangled and achieved the f4-break, he was virtually playing a piece up.

IM Stephen Gordon

Williams beat Miezis, after refuting the latter’s early pawn sacrifice, whilst Stephen Gordon continued his impressive form by beating Klaus Bischoff. Gormally also won to reach 2.5.

With the pairings no longer being accelerated, there were a large number of games which looked likely to be mismatches, and by and large, that was how it turned out, with most of the favourites winning. However, there were a few upsets. The highly talented Craig Hanley had a disaster, losing in 17 moves as White, in a game which only lasted barely above an hour. Backward retreating moves are reputed to be the hardest to see, and so it was here, as Hanley missed the lethal reply to his 15th move pawn snatch. Local Northern player Mike Surtees produced the biggest upset of the day, demolishing WGM Dagne Ciuksyte with another of his patent anti-Sicilian set-ups. Surtees’ has his own concept of how one should play the opening, the essence of which is that one should play one’s pawns up first, and only develop pieces behind them later on. He did just this against Ciuksyte, making 10 pawn moves in his first 12. He soon seized the initiative, and when Ciuksyte blundered a pawn with 19...Na5?, it was all over. You can see this remarkable game below.

GM Alexandre Dgebuadze

Meijers looked like being another rating favourite who would lose, after being totally busted inside 25 moves against Jonathan Grant. Unfortunately, the latter chose the wrong way to wrap things up, and his piece sacrifice proved inadequate. The only other leading seed who failed to win was Grant’s Scottish compatriot John Shaw. He was held to a draw by 2100-rated Malcolm Armstrong, who hoovered the board clean with a determined thoroughness that would have been the envy of Mrs Mops the whole world over.

Lower down the tournament, the Vodafone Gambit finally claimed its first victim, as Duncan Grassie’s mobile phone went off at move 23. Curiously, as Jack Rudd pointed out, his opponent was Mika Karttunen, who was also Nigel Short’s opponent when the latter left his phone switched on in round one. Having recently watched a re-run of the TV spy classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I am probably a bit paranoid, but I am beginning to wonder if the Finns have developed a secret technique for switching their opponents’ mobiles back on by remote control...

Surtees,M (2182) - Ciuksyte,D (2440) [B22]
EU Championship (3), 08.09.2006
1 e4 c5 2 c3 Nf6 3 d3 Nc6 4 f4. This is the Surtees’ approach – get the pawns moving first, and bring the pieces in behind them. Methinks that Philidor would approve! 4...d6 5 Na3 e5 6 f5 d5 7 Qf3 h6 8 g4 Be7 9 h4 dxe4 10 dxe4 Nd7 11 g5!? In the finest military tradition, the “poor bloody infantry” sacrifice themselves to breach the enemy ramparts. 11...hxg5 12 hxg5 Rxh1 13 Qxh1 Bxg5 14 Qh8+ Nf8 15 Nf3 Bf6 16 Bc4 Qe7 17 Qg8 Bd7 18 Be3

18... 0–0–0?! Giving the pawn back fails to relieve the pressure. The computer’s interesting suggestion is the tactical blow 18...Nd4!?, although the position remains highly unclear after 19 Nd2 Bh4+ 20 Kf1.

19 Qxf7 Na5? And this loses another pawn, after which the outcome is never in doubt. 19...Qxf7 was a better try, but White remains clearly better. 20 Qxe7 Bxe7 21 Nxe5 Nxc4 22 Naxc4 Bb5 23 Kf2 b6 24 Rh1 Kb7 25 Rh8 Rd1 26 Rg8 Nd7 27 Rxg7 Bf6 28 Rf7 Bxc4 29 Nxc4 Kc6 30 a4 Ra1 31 e5! The final blow, after which one feels the fight could probably have been stopped. 31...Bxe5 32 Rxd7 Kxd7 33 Nxe5+ Kd6 34 f6 Rh1 35 f7 Ke7 36 Bg5+ Kf8 37 Kf3 a6 38 Ke4 b5 39 a5 b4 40 c4 b3 41 Kd5 Rh5 42 Be3 1–0. [Click to replay]

Round four report

English quartet pulls the strings on Last Night of the Proms

The last remaining 100% score disappeared today, as Short was held to a draw by Luis Galego of Portugal. The latter was determined not to die of over-ambition, and essayed the Exchange Lopez. Short equalized pretty comfortably, but never looked like doing any more than that, and a quiet game ended in a draw on move 22.

This allowed three players to join Short in the lead, appropriately enough, all of them English. Gormally cashed in on a blunder by Stephen Gordon, whilst Williams beat Dgebuadze in the game given below. They in turn were joined by McShane, who won a long game against Nick Pert. McShane’s exchange sacrifice netted a pawn and the two bishops, and he gradually ground his opponent down. At the end, a clearly disappointed Pert gave the late afternoon spectators a revision lesson in basic rook and pawn endings, as he allowed/forced his opponent to demonstrate his Lucenian bridge-building skills.

Lithuanian husband and wife WM Zivite Sarakauskiene 2158 and IM Gediminas Sarakauskas 2414 playing against each other in round 4. Result: 0-1 after 40 moves.

The leaders are followed by a group of 10 players on 3 points. Max Devereaux has been in fine form in recent months, making an IM norm at the British Championships, and he continued his good start here by crushing Latvia’s Viesturs Meijers in short order. The latter produced the novelty 8...Nd5 in the Catalan, but was soon in the toils. Once his king was trapped in the centre by the energetic breakthrough 17 d5! the writing was on the wall, and Devereaux finished him off neatly in 25 moves. Luther recovered from his round one loss to win his third game in a row, but only after a long, hard battle with Brett Lund. Amongst the other 3-pointers, Mark Hebden won easily against Rudd, who impaled himself rather horribly, whilst Miezis beat John Littlewood and Sarakauskas showed no marital mercy to his wife, Zivite Sarakauskine.

One of the day’s best battles was the board 4 encounter between Gyimesi and local player John Carleton. The former emerged from the opening with a clear advantage, and his interesting exchange sacrifice should have brought more dividends. However, he missed the very strong 32 Bb3!, which would have preserved a pair of mobile central pawns. His chosen line also looked promising, but Carleton defended heroically and eventually held the draw in a fascinating ending.

Williams,Simon (2473) - Dgebuadze,Alexandre (2527) [E14]
EU Championship (4), 09.09.2006
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 Bb4+ 4 Nbd2 b6 5 e3. 5 a3 is more popular here, but the solid text should also suffice for a small edge. 5...Bb7 6 Bd3 0–0 7 0–0 d5 8 a3 Bxd2 9 Bxd2 c5 10 dxc5 bxc5 11 Qc2 dxc4 12 Bxc4 Be4. After 12...Bxf3 13 gxf3, White’s additional central control and whole bishop pair would outweigh his weakened kingside. After the text, White has very little advantage, although the bishop pair gives him some hope of a long-term edge. 13 Qc1 Qc7 14 Ng5! The start of an effective plan. White intends to place his pawns on f3 and e4, blunting the black bishop’s long diagonal, and seizing controil of some additional central squares.

14...Bb7 15 f3 h6 16 Nh3 Nc6 17 Qc2 Ne5 18 Be2 Rfd8 19 Rac1 Rac8 20 Nf2 Rd7 21 Rfd1 Qb8 22 e4 Nc6 23 Be3 Nd4 24 Bxd4 cxd4 25 Qd2 Rxc1 26 Rxc1 e5 27 Qa5. Black has defended in natural enough fashion, but still has some problems, His e5-and a7 pawns are weak, White has chances of penetrating down the c-file, and the knight at f2 will soon take up an effective blockading post on d3. 27...Rd8 28 Nd3

28...Nd7? 28...Re8 29 Rc7 Ba6 was a better try, although White retains some pressure. 29 Rc7. Now a pawn is lost, since Black cannot meet the threats of both 30 Nxe5 and 30 Rxb7. 29...Nb6 30 Qxe5 Ba6 31 Qe7 Rf8 32 b4 Bc4 33 Bf1 Re8 34 Qc5 Rd8 35 a4 Bxd3 36 Bxd3 Nd7 37 Qa5 Nf8. Dgebuadze fights on ingeniously, but to no avail. White has only to exercise due care to avoid any cheapos. 38 g3 Rc8 39 Rxa7 Ne6 40 e5 g6 41 Be4 d3 42 Bxd3 Kg7 43 Rd7 Rc3 44 Kg2 Rb3 45 f4 Rxb4 46 Qa7 Rb2+ 47 Kh3 Qb3 48 Rxf7+ Kg8 49 Bxg6 Qd5 50 Rd7. The computer’s 50 Bh7+ Kh8 51 Bc2 is also winning, but Williams has seen that the white king can march safely to f6. 50...Ng5+ 51 Kg4 Qf3+ 52 Kf5 Qe4+ 53 Kf6 Rb6+ 54 Qxb6 1–0. [Click to replay]

Round five report

Sleeping sickness on the Mersey

In addition to writing these reports, my other principal function here at the EU Championships is to input the game scores into Chessbase each day, from the players’ scoresheets. This is not generally an onerous task, but it does tend to cause one to take an unseemly interest in the legibility of players’ handwriting. Most of the players here score quite highly in that department, but there are a few exceptions. Portugese GM Luis Galego is one whose offerings tend to look rather like a drunken spider has stepped in the inkwell and staggered across the page. Fortunately, the genial grandmaster saw me struggling on day one, and since then, has always been willing to help decipher his efforts. Of course, handwriting is not the only problem – so too are unfamiliar foreign piece names. Yesterday’s scoresheets from the husband and wife pairing of Sarakauskas and Sarakauskiene made me very relieved that they had not featured in the two marathon endings the day before. Their scoresheets are perfectly legible, but it appears that in Lithuanian notation, the letter B stands for rook, whilst the letter R stands for bishop. If I had been forced to enter 100-odd moves of the ending R+B v R, from Lithuanian scoresheets, I would have been in need of a straitjacket by the end.

“Turning reluctantly to the play”, as Harry Golombek would have said, it was Short and Williams who forged into the lead, in contrasting styles. The former obtained nothing from the opening against Gormally, and the game looked drawish for a long time. However, Short gradually outplayed his opponent in the ending, finally winning a pawn and converting the rook ending. Later, he identified 41...a5? as particularly unwise, a sentiment shared by the watching German GM Klaus Bischoff, who described it as “a horrible move”.

Nigel Short in round five

Chessplayers are notoriously late risers, and the relatively early 12.30 start has led to a few players struggling to arrive on time. Today it was the turn of Luke McShane to suffer an embarrassingly severe attack of SMS (Sticky Mattress Syndrome), and he overslept to such an extent that he was a full half hour late for his game against Simon Williams. This was to cost him dear, as the game soon developed into a highly complex position, where having forfeited almost 40% of his initial time allowance put McShane at a severe disadvantage (not that I wish to take anything away from Williams' play). Objectively, McShane stood better, having won a pawn early on, but Williams gradually developed counterplay, as McShane fell into increasing time-trouble. 31 Qc1 looks like the main culprit, although few time-troubled human players would be brave enough to play the computer’s recommendation 31 Bxe4 and 32 Qxd4. Once Williams’ knights reached e4 and c3, he was clearly better, and the breakthrough was not long in coming. Williams thus wins his fourth consecutive game, and shares the lead with Short on 4.5 / 5.

FM Jovica Radovanovic

The other two decisive results on the top 8 boards saw Sulskis and Karttunen beat Radovanovic and Conquest respectively, in both cases with the black pieces. Bischoff, Dgebuadze, Medvegy and Pert also won, to move into contention at the top, but Gyimesi was again unable to break out of his drawing rut, and thus lost further ground.

McShane,Luke J (2614) - Williams,Simon Kim (2473) [A00]
EU Championship Liverpool (5), 10.09.2006
1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nd2 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 f4 c5 6 c3 Nc6 7 Ndf3 Qb6 8 a3. An insidious little move, which has caused Black some problems in recent years. The Dutch GM John van der Wiel is one player who has won several games with it. White aims to prevent his opponent’s usual rapid counterplay with cxd4 and Bb4+, as well as preparing to seize queenside space with b4. 8...a5. Coincidentally, the same position was reached in the game Littlewood-Brown, also from today’s round. There Black preferred 8...c4, but lost badly. 9 b3 Be7 10 h4 f5 11 h5 cxd4 12 cxd4 Ndb8 13 Bd3 Bd7 14 Ne2 a4. The first deviation from McShane-Zhao, Calvia Ol 2004, where Black played 14...Na6. McShane went on to win a very long game in 91 moves, but Black seemed to stand satisfactorily in the opening. 15 b4 Na7 16 Nc3 Nb5. Offering a pawn, in order to activate his knight on e4. The computer is not impressed, of course, but in practice, Black will always have some compensation, and this is typical of Williams’ ambitious and uncompromising approach. 17 Nxa4 Qc7 18 Nc5 Nc3 19 Qc2 Ne4 20 h6 Rg8 21 hxg7 Bxc5 22 dxc5 Ba4 23 Qb2 Qxg7 24 Rh3 Nc6

25 Kf1?! Here, the greedy silicon beast claims a near-decisive advantage for White after the cold-blooded 25 Bxe4 dxe4 26 Ng5, but it would take a brave human to play this way. McShane, who was already quite short of time by now, prefers to keep the central files closed, which is certainly much more natural. 25...0–0–0 26 Ne1 Bd1 27 Be3 d4 28 Bf2 Bg4 29 Rh4 Ne7 30 Rh2 Nd5 31 Qc1? This seems to be a clear mistake, after which Black definitely has the advantage. Once again, the computer is keen to take another pawn, with 31 Bxe4 fxe4 32 Qxd4, which is probably what White should play, although it is understandable that he was reluctant to do so. 31...h5 32 c6. It seems that Black’s king is under attack, but this is just an illusion. White’s pieces cannot create any threats against it. 32...Qh6 33 g3 Ndc3 34 Ng2 Bf3 35 Qe1 Bxg2+ 36 Rxg2 h4 37 cxb7+ Kxb7 38 Rh2 Qh5. Suddenly, there is no defence to the threat of 39...Nxg3+ and a decisive queen penetration to f3. McShane prevents the latter, but only at the cost of a lost ending. 39 Be2 Nxe2 40 Qxe2 Qxe2+ 41 Kxe2 d3+ 42 Ke3 hxg3 43 Rh7+ Kb8 44 Bg1 d2. Black’s two huge passed pawns will decide the game. 45 Rd1 Rd5 46 Rh1 g2 47 Rh3 Rc8 48 Ke2 Nc3+ 49 Rxc3 Rxc3 50 Rxd2 Rxd2+ 51 Kxd2 Rf3 0–1. [Click to replay]

Round six report

Lightning never strikes...three times?

It was another day of fighting chess at the EU Championships, and also another excellent day for the English.

The top board game between Williams and Short almost provided a major upset, as Short was, by his own admission “dead lost”. His troubles started with the move 18...c6?, condemned by the top seed as “a nervous move” (18...Qh6 is OK for Black). Williams took energetic advantage with the central break 21 e5, and by move 30 was clearly winning. 34 e6 was one good alternative, but Williams’ chosen line should also have been sufficient. He made things harder by not retaining his h-pawn on move 38, and a move later, feeling that he had spoilt things, he offered a draw. Even in the final position, White has much the better chances, and Short was certainly relieved to emerge unscathed.

Round six under way

Sulskis joined the leaders by beating Medvegy on board two, after a crashing blunder by the latter at move 33. The fatal move was accompanied by a draw offer, something which did not impress Sulskis, who exchanged a few sharp words with his opponent after the game. The rest of the significant winners today were all English. McShane bounced back from yesterday’s disappointment to beat Karttunen, whilst Gawain Jones trounced Bischoff with the black pieces, destroying his GM opponent with a standard Bxh2+ Greek Gift sacrifice. Another young English player who has been very impressive in this tournament is Stephen Gordon, and he scored a further excellent win today, crushing Luis Galego with Black.

Hebden had an excellent chance to make further progress, after Haslinger over-extended himself seriously with 14 c5? The immediate 14...Bxe5 is possibly even better than Hebden’s choice, but even so, he soon forced an ending with an extra pawn. However, in the face of stiff resistance, he was unable to convert the advantage, and had to settle for a draw after 80 moves. Max Devereaux continued his superb run of form, by beating Gormally with Black. Amazingly, the FM is now unbeaten in his last 17 games against grandmasters! Martin Taylor also put up an excellent result, clinging on tenaciously in a bad position and with no time on his clock, to hold Gyimesi.

Finally, lower down the draw, my personal nightmare came true. Not only did we get another ending of R+B v R, our third of the tournament, but this one involved a Lithuanian, the very nation whose algebraic notation uses R for bishop and B for rook! Fortunately for me, Dagne Ciuksyte’s opponent was John Littlewood, who gets his R’s and B’s the right way round, so I managed to key in the whole game without ending up being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Unfortunately for John, he failed to hold the ending, blundering fatally with 98...Rg7?. Instead, a rook move along the first rank would hold.

Bischoff,Klaus (2533) - Jones,Gawain (2416)
EU Championship Liverpool (6.5), 11.09.2006
1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 c5 3 Nf3. Declining the invitation to sharper play after 3 d5, but this quiet line has not scored well for White in recent years. 3...cxd4 4 Nxd4 e5. The sharpest response, and almost certainly the best. Black gambits a pawn for excellent compensation. 5 Nb5 d5 6 cxd5 Bc5 7 N5c3 0–0 8 e3 e4 9 Be2 Qe7 10 a3 Rd8 11 Nd2 Nxd5 12 Nxd5 Rxd5 13 Qc2 Bf5 14 b4 Bb6 15 Bb2 Nc6 16 0–0 Bc7. Surprisingly, this is the first novelty. A youthful Kasparov preferred 16...Qg5 against Mihalchishin (USSR Ch 1981), winning handily. 17 Rfd1 Rc8. The opening has been a complete success for Black, who has regained the pawn and stands clearly better. The White Queen is short of good squares. 18 Qb3 Be6 19 Qa4 b5!? Preparing his next move, by deflecting the White Bishop from control of the h5 square. 20 Bxb5.

20...Bxh2+! 21 Kxh2 Qh4+ 22 Kg1 Rh5 23 f4?! A critical moment. 23 f3 may be a stronger alternative, when it is not clear that Black has better than perpetual check. 23...Qh2+ 24 Kf2 Rh3. This is the difference. With his pawn on f3, White would now have 25 Nxe4, but here, that move would be met by 25...Bg4 26 Bxc6 Rf3+ with a virulent attack. Nonetheless, this is what White has to try, since after the move in the game, he is demonstrably losing. 25 Nf1? Rf3+ 26 Ke1 Qxg2 27 Rd2 Qg1?! Slightly spoiling things. 27...Qh1 is more accurate when the extra threat of a check on h4 leaves White defenceless. 28 Rad1? Missing his chance. 28 Qa6! is much more tenacious, although Black should still win after 28...Rxe3+ 29 Be2 Bh3. 28...Bh3 29 Qa6 Rxe3+ 30 Re2. If 30 Be2 Qxf1 mate. 30...Qxf1+ 31 Kd2 Rd8+ 0–1. Mate is forced. [Click to replay]

All photos by Stephen Connor and David Clayton

Standings after six rounds


























































Van der Weide,K























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