Staunton Memorial: Adams lead by a full point

8/12/2008 – This is Michael Adams' third appearance in the Staunton Memorial, and his cumulative score with the white pieces is 11.5/13! In this year's edition Adams is leading with 4.5/5 points and has displayed a stunning performance of 2886. Second is Dutch GM Loek van Wely with 3.5/5, followed by Smeets, Timman and Short with 3.0/5 each. 87-year-old Bob Wade still has to score. Rounds 3-5 reports.

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Round three

Joint leaders at Simpsons

The third round of the 2008 Staunton Memorial saw the last 100% scores disappear. Mickey Adams faced the ultra-solid Erwin L'Ami with the black pieces, and a theoretical 4.Qc2 Nimzo soon simplified to a drawn ending. The other co-leader, Jan Timman, came much closer to maintaining his winning run, but saw half a point slip through his fingers.

Timman,J (2562) - Cherniaev,A1 (2431) [E18]
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 Be7 6.Nc3 Na6. The favourite line of Russian-born, Dutch-resident GM Sergey Tiviakov. 7.0–0 0–0 8.Ne5 Bxg2 9.Kxg2 Qb8 10.e4 Qb7 11.Qf3 Bb4

12.Bg5!? Definitely the critical move, and a typical Timman choice. The move 12.Re1 would maintain a safe space advantage, whereas the text provokes a much sharper and tactical battle. 12...Bxc3 13.bxc3 Nxe4 14.Be7. 14.Nxd7 is the alternative, with a similarly unclear position.

14...d6 15.Bxf8 dxe5!? The solid 15...Rxf8 would also offer Black reasonable compensation for the exchange. 16.Ba3 f5 17.Rfe1?! Neither player liked this after the game. Timman was hoping to organise g3-g4, undermining the e4 knight, but he never succeeds in making this work, with the result that Rfe1 turns out to be a waste of time.17.Rad1 is stronger.

17...Qc6 18.dxe5 Qxc4!? Played after long thought, but perhaps not best. Cherniaev had wanted to play 18...Qa4, but rejected it after calculating the line 19.Rxe4 dxe4 20.Qxe4 Re8 21.Bc1 Nc5 22.Qg4 Qc2 23.Bh6, but he had missed 23...Qe4+, when Black seems okay.

19.Rad1 Qa4 20.c4 Re8? And this definitely looks like a serious mistake. 20...Qxc4 21.Rd7 Qc6 would be a better try.

21.Qb3! Now the black queen is driven back and White assumes a decisive initiative.

21...Qc6 22.Qb5 Qa8 23.f3 Nec5

24.Re2? Missing the strength of Black's counterplay. Instead, 24.Bc1! would put a stop to it before it started, and the plan of doubling rooks on the d-file should then win easily. 24...g5 25.Red2 Kf7! 26.Rd7+ Nxd7 27.Rxd7+ Kg6 28.Qxa6 g4. White as won a piece, but his out-of-play queen makes it difficult to meet Black's threats on the kingside.

29.Bc1. 29.Rd3 is the obvious reply, but after 29...gxf3+ 30.Kf2 Qe4, Black has strong play. 29...Qxf3+ 30.Kg1 Qe2! 31.Qa3 draw.

The day's only winners were Jan Smeets and Nigel Short. The former triumphed in a tough Ruy Lopez against compatriot Ivan Sokolov. This was a game which was perhaps lent additional significance by the fact that Smeets won the 2008 Dutch Championship earlier this year. However, the top-rated Dutch players Sokolov and van Wely were both absent, and both may therefore feel they have something to prove against Smeets at this event. Sokolov played a somewhat discredited line of the Zaitsev (theory considers 12...Nb8 to be superior), but emerged in the middlegame with a reasonable position, only for a pawn to drop off in the complications running up to the time-control.

Nigel Short, after his trauma of the day before, faced Bob Wade with the black pieces. The former played solidly, but unambitiously in the opening, and Short gradually ground out a win with a standard Minority Attack. He clinched the game with an attractive combination:

Wade,R (2167) - Short,N (2655) [A47]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (3), 10.08.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 b6 4.e4 h6 5.Bxf6 Qxf6 6.Bd3 Bb7 7.Nbd2 g6 8.Qe2 Bg7 9.c3 Qe7 10.e5 d6 11.0-0 Nd7 12.Be4 Bxe4 13.Qxe4 0-0 14.exd6 cxd6 15.Rfe1 Nf6 16.Qd3 Qd7 17.a4 Rfc8 18.h3 Qc6 19.Qb5 a6 20.Qxc6 Rxc6 21.g3 Rb8 22.Nf1 Rc7 23.Ne3 Bf8 24.Nd2 h5 25.Kg2 d5 26.f4 b5 27.axb5 axb5 28.Nd1 b4 29.Kf3 Ne8 30.g4 hxg4+ 31.hxg4 Nd6 32.Ke3 Be7 33.Kd3 Kg7 34.Rh1 g5 35.fxg5 Bxg5 36.Nf3 Bf4 37.Ra4 bxc3 38.bxc3 Ne4 39.Kc2

Short demolished his opponent's position with 39...Nxc3! 40.Nxc3 Rbc8 41.Ra3 Bd6! 42.Rha1. 42.Rb3 is answered in the same fashion: 42...Bb4! 43.Rxb4 Rxc3+ and 44...Rxf3.  42...Bb4! 43.Kd3 Rxc3+ 44.Rxc3 Rxc3+ 45.Ke2 Bd6 46.Ra2 Bf4 47.Rb2 Kg6 48.Ra2 Re3+ 49.Kf2 Re4 50.Ra4 Bc7 51.g5 Bf4 52.Ra7 Be3+ 53.Kg3 Bxd4 0-1.

A cheerful Nigel Short, who has obviously just heard the cricket score...

The two drawn games between Werle-Speelman and van Wely-Wells both saw the English players obtain the better of the game, despite the black pieces, but both were unable to convert. Although a draw with black against a higher-rated opponent is rarely a bad result, one cannot help fearing that these various dropped half points may come back to haunt the British in the team event.

After three rounds, the scores are therefore as follows: Adams, Timman 2.5, Van Wely 2, L'Ami, Wells, Short, Smeets, Werle 1.5, Cherniaev, Speelman, Sokolov 1, Wade 0.


Round four

Britons at their Sunday best

Sunday's fourth round of the 2008 Staunton Memorial tournament saw the British players put up one of their best efforts in the informal match contest against the Dutch. Of the three decisive games, two saw Englishmen defeat their Orange rivals, thereby levelling the overall match score. In the three years of Jan Mol's sponsorship, I am not sure this has ever happened before.

Jon Speelman opened his winning account by ending Erwin's L'Ami's unbeaten start. The latter's Slav Defence produced its customary solid, but passive position, and L'Ami's attempts to free himself left White with heavy pressure against the enemy hanging pawn couplet. One pawn soon dropped off, and although a tactical trick at move 32 saw the Dutchman win the exchange, White had three pawns and a winning endgame by way of compensation. 

The other England-Holland encounter was the clash of the leaders, and produce an interesting battle:

Adams,Mi (2735) - Timman,J (2562) [C83]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (4), 11.08.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Nxe4. The Open Spanish has long been a regular feature of Timman's opening repertoire, which is only fitting; aside from Tarrasch himself, the man who did most to put the line on the map at GM level was Jan's "great predecessor" in Dutch chess, Max Euwe. 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Be3 Be7 10.c3 Nc5 11.Bc2 Nd7 12.Re1 Ndxe5. This looks a rather audacious pawn snatch, but in fact he players were still following well-known theory. 13.Nxe5 Nxe5 14.Bd4 f6 15.a4 b4.

16.f4. This is the first new move. A game Svidler-Carlsen, Melody Amber 2007, saw White prefer 16.cxb4, but without any special success, the game being drawn in 31 moves. 16...Bg4 17.Qd2 Nc6. Adams had expected 17...Nc4 18 Qd3, which the players later concluded was unclear. However, there is probably nothing wrong with Timman's choice.

18.Bf2 Bh5 19.c4 b3! White's main point is that 19...dxc4 is strongly met by 20.Be4, so Black instead deflects the bishop from the e4-square. 20.Bxb3 d4 21.c5 Bf7 22.Bxf7+ Kxf7 23.Qd3

23...Qd7? Probably the crucial turning point. The text results in the rook being shut in on h8 after White's next move. Instead, Timman should have played 23...Rhe8!, with a satisfactory position. Then 24.Qxh7 is well met by 24...Qd5, whilst playing along the same lines as the game by 24.Qc4+ Kf8 25.b4 can be answered by 25...Qb8, with excellent counterplay.

24.Qc4+ Kf8 25.b4. Now Black has serious problems, since he cannot create counterplay on the queenside, his KR is out of play, and the pawn on d4 will eventually come under pressure. Timman continues to fight hard, but Adams' technique from here on is relentless.

25...a5 26.b5 Nb4 27.Nd2 Qd5 28.Qxd5 Nxd5 29.Nb3 Kf7 30.Rad1 Nb4 31.Bxd4 Rhd8 32.Rd2 Rd5 33.Red1 c6 34.b6 Na6 35.Be3 Nb4 36.Rxd5 Nxd5 37.Bd2. 37.Rxd5 was the expectation of many spectators, and should indeed win comfortably enough, but Adams sees no reason to take the slightest risk.

37...Ke6 38.Kf2 Kd7 39.Kf3 f5 40.Rc1 Bf6 41.Ke2 Bb2 42.Rc4 Ba3 43.Nxa5 Bb2 44.Kd3 Bf6 45.g3 Re8 46.Rc1 Ra8 47.Rb1 Be7 48.Kc4 Bf6 49.Re1 Rb8 1-0.

This is Mickey's third appearance in the Staunton Memorial, and according to my calculations, this game brings his cumulative score with the white pieces to 11.5/13!


Michael Adams in the Staunton Memorial 2008

The day's other winner was Alexander Cherniaev, who brought himself back to 50% by defeating Bob Wade. The latter's Antoshin Philidor yielded a satisfactory position from the opening, and only a serious tactical blunder later on cost him the game. With an extra exchange and several ways to win, and perhaps remembering that he was in the building where Anderssen played his Immortal Game, Cherniaev chose the most attractive knockout, involving a temporary queen sacrifice:

Cherniaev,A1 (2431) - Wade,R (2167) [C41]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (4), 11.08.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.g3 Nc6 7.Bg2 0-0 8.Nde2 Be6 9.0-0 Nd7 10.Nd5 Bf6 11.Nxf6+ Qxf6 12.h3 Nb6 13.f4 Bc4 14.Rf2 Rfe8 15.Nc3 Rad8 16.Bd2 a5 17.b3 Ba6 18.g4 g6 19.Rc1 a4 20.Qf3 axb3 21.axb3 Nd4 22.Qg3 c5 23.h4 h6 24.Be3 Ne6 25.e5 dxe5 26.fxe5 Qg7 27.Ne4 Nd5 28.Nd6 Nxe3 29.Nxe8 Rxe8 30.Qxe3 Nd4 31.Re1 f6 32.Bd5+ Kh7

33.exf6 Rxe3 34.Rxe3 Qf8 35.Re7+ Kh8 36.Bf7 Bb5 37.Bxg6 1.0.

Sokolov -Werle was a carefully-played draw, as was Wells-Short, whilst van Wely and Smeets hard a rather harder fight, which also ended peacefully. Incidentally, I must apologise to Peter Wells, for having quite unjustly deprived him of a hard-earned half-point, in the round 3 scores that I quoted in yesterday's report. With the draw against Nigel, he now has 2.5/4.

So after four rounds, the scores are: Adams 3.5, Timman, Wells and van Wely 2.5, Speelman, Cherniaev, Werle, Smeets and Short 2, Sokolov and L'Ami 1.5, Wade 0.


Round five

A question of mobility A question of mobility

One of the changes which the "white heat of technology" has brought to chess has been in the responsibilities and required skills of the arbiter. In the old days, the latter was required to know the rules, watch the clocks, silence the spectators, etc. In the 21st century, however, he also needs a good measure of technological ability as well. When it comes to setting the clocks at the start of the game, for example, the main skill of the arbiter of yesteryear lay in preserving a stock of those little metal winders, that Murphy's Law decreed would always be missing from every chess clock in the land of Caissa. Nowadays, however, with clocks having ceased to possess minute and hour hands, and instead offering a bewildering array of buttons and programming instructions, the arbiter needs a degree in advanced electronics, just to be able to set the wretched contraption to show 2 hours.

Another problem is mobile phones. With the draconian penalties in force for players whose mobiles ring during the game, most players hand in their phones to the arbiter, at the start of the session. Judging by the tempting selection of expensive-looking gadgetry which I find lying in front of me each day at Simpsons, an unscrupulous arbiter could make a fortune if he absconded with the loot in mid-round. But the honest arbiter can still face a few problems, as I witnessed recently at a weekend congress. Halfway through the round, a player's mobile lying on the arbiter's desk suddenly rang. The arbiter pressed a few buttons, satisfied himself that he had now turned it off, and went back to his work. Moments later, it rang again. Once more, assorted buttons were pressed and the phone put down, only to be picked up again suddenly when voices emerged from it. The red-faced arbiter was then heard muttering profuse apologies down the line, having inadvertently dialled the emergency services!

Fortunately, no such problems arose in Monday's 5th round of the 2008 Staunton Memorial. Speelman and Timman played the event's first real grandmaster draw, but most of the other games saw stirring battles. Bob Wade was paired with what was jokingly described to him before the game as a "promising youngster", namely Mickey Adams. The latter had little if any advantage, until Wade weakened at moves 29 and 30, after which a pawn was lost and the White position soon collapsed.

Short-Cherniaev was a strange game. The latter's opening play looked horrific, and after less than 10 moves, he was objectively dead lost. However, Short failed to play very incisively, and at move 28 he even came to me and jokingly suggested that I start drafting his obituary, on the grounds that he would probably do away with himself if he failed to win the position - "...and I am doing a very, very good job of screwing it up!". However, Chernaiev immediately erred again, and then resigned in a position which did not really look that much worse than he had had for most of the game.

Peter Wells gained a dangerous-looking attack against Smeets' king, but used a huge amount of time on the clock. A massive time-scramble saw Peter finally lose the thread at move 34, and when his flag fell three moves later, he was already losing on the board as well.

L'Ami-Sokolov was another hugely complicated game, which culminated in a major time-scramble. Sokolov's 23...Na3+? should have lost (23...f5 is better), but L'Ami returned the compliment with 26.Qxa3? instead of 25.Nf6+. However, an even more striking miss occurred a few moves later:

L'Ami,E (2610) - Sokolov,Iv NED (2658) [D10]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (5), 12.08.2008
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.e3 Be6 5.Nh3 Bxh3 6.gxh3 Nf6 7.Bxc4 e6 8.Qf3 Nbd7 9.Bd2 Rc8 10.0-0-0 b5 11.Bb3 a5 12.Kb1 a4 13.Bc2 Nb6 14.e4 a3 15.Bg5 h6 16.Bh4 axb2 17.d5 cxd5 18.exd5 Be7 19.d6 Bxd6 20.Ne4 Nc4 21.Bxf6 gxf6 22.Rxd6 Qc7 23.Rhd1 Na3+ 24.Kxb2 Qxc2+ 25.Ka1 f5 26.Qxa3 Qxe4 27.R6d4 Qe5 28.f4 Qc7 29.Qb4 Rg8 30.Qxb5+ Kf8 31.Qb2 Rg6 32.a4 Kg8 33.Rd7 Qc5

Here, with both flags hanging, Sokolov blundered with 33...Qc5?? and should have lost at once after 34.Rd8+. Instead, L'Ami played 34.Qd4??, and the game eventually simplified to a drawn queen ending.

The day's other game saw Van Wely score an important win over his compatriot, Werle:

Werle,J (2591) - Van Wely,L (2644) [D43]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (5), 12.08.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4. The ultra-sharp Moscow Gambit, one of the most trendy lines at top GM level over the past year or so. Van Wely has spent a lot of time working with Kramnik over this period, and can be presumed to have devoted many hours of analysis to this line, so it was certainly brave of Werle to head down the main line. 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.h4 g4 11.Ne5 Nbd7 12.Nxd7 Qxd7 13.Be5 Qe7 14.b3 cxb3 15.axb3

15...Bg7. To the best of my database's knowledge, this is a new move, although a more natural one is harder to imagine. 16.0–0 0–0 17.Bxg4 c5 18.Nxb5 Rfd8 19.Bf3 cxd4 20.Nd6? Imaginative, but not good after Van Wely's brilliant reply. Simply 20 Rc1 would have retained some advantage.

20...Ng4!! An even more imaginative response! 21.Bxg4? After this, the resulting opposite-coloured bishop position favours Black. 21.Bg3 was better. 21...Bxe5 22.Nxb7 Qxb7 23.f4 Bg7 24.Qd3 Rac8

The weakness of the dark squares in White's camp, especially c3, gives Black a clear initiative and Werle was now running short of time. 25.Rac1 Qe7 26.Rc4. 26.g3 Rc3 is no better. 26...Qxh4 27.Bh3 Rxc4 28.bxc4 e5 29.c5 exf4 30.c6 Be5 31.Rc1 Bc7 32.Bd7. Here, too, 32.Rb1 Rd6, with moves like f3 in the air, is no better for White. 32...Rb8 33.e5 Rb2 34.Qe4 d3 0-1.

Standings after round five

Steve Giddins

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