Staunton Memorial: Adams lead by a full point

8/17/2008 – We repeat the previous Staunton Memorial headline. Top British GM Michael Adams drew a highly complicated game against Peter Wells in round eight, and then beat Jonathan Speelman in round nine to score 7.0/9 point, one more than his nearest rival Loek van Wely. Jan Timman follows with 5.5, behind him Short and Smeets with 5.0 each. Rounds 8-9 reports.

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Round eight

Van Wely closes on the lead

Round 8 of the 2008 Staunton Memorial saw only one decisive game, as Van Wely defeated Bob Wade, to close to within half a point of tournament leader, Mickey Adams. Wade selected a solid QGD as Black, and although White obtained some pressure, Bob defended excellently and looked to have good chances to hold the half point. Keene's suggestion of 39...d4+ may have been one improvement, and even as late as four moves before the end, 47..Ke6 may still give Black chances of continuing to resist.

The game Smeets-Timman was the longest of the tournament so far, extending to a mammoth 134 moves. After a tough middlegame, Timman won the exchange shortly before the first time control, but White had substantial counterplay against the black king, and it does not look as though Timman ever missed a real winning chance. One obvious try was 40...Nxe6 41.Rxe6 Rd2, but White has a perpetual after 42.Re8+ Kf7 43.Re1 Rxc5 44.Ng6. Timman later overplayed his hand with 44...f5, and Smeets was winning comfortably around move 50. However, he was extremely short of time, and Timman engineered a miracle save, sacrificing a rook for the White passed pawn and eliminiating the last white pawn, to reach the notorious ending of R+N v R. This is a theoretical draw, but grandmasters have been known to lose it in practical play. Kasparov once beat Judit Polgar in the ending, whilst the most recent such case saw the strong American GM, Onischuk lose the position against Lenier Dominguez at the recent Biel tournament, but Timman showed his class by defending the ending perfectly.

Short played an excellent middlegame against Sokolov, manoeuvering subtly to exploit the dark square weaknesses in White's position. When the position opened up around move 27, Black's position certainly looked very promising:

Sokolov,Iv NED (2658) - Short,N (2655) [A40]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (8), 15.08.2008
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+ 3.Bd2 Bxd2+ 4.Nxd2 d6 5.g3 e5 6.e3 exd4 7.exd4 Nf6 8.Bg2 0-0 9.Ne2 Re8 10.0-0 Bg4 11.f3 Bd7 12.Ne4 Nxe4 13.fxe4 Bg4 14.h3 Bxe2 15.Qxe2 c6 16.Qh5 Re7 17.Rf2 Nd7 18.Raf1 f6 19.Qf3 Qb6 20.Rd1 Rae8 21.Qc3 c5 22.a3 Qc7 23.b4 b6 24.Kh2 Nf8 25.Rf5 Ne6 26.dxc5 bxc5 27.Rfd5

Here, the obvious move is 27...Nd4, but after an exchange sacrifice on d4, White could never lose. Short instead tried 27... Ng5 28.Rxd6 Nxe4 29.Bxe4 Rxe4 30.Qd3?! cxb4 31.axb4. The exposed position of White's king looks serious, but Black too has his back rank problems, and nothing clear is apparent. Short went into the rook ending with 31...Qxc4 32.Qxc4+ Rxc4, but after 33.Rd8 Kf8 34.R1d7 Rxd8 35.Rxd8+ Ke7 36.Rg8 Kf7 37.Rb8! he could not prevent Sokolov eliminating the queenside pawns, after which the 3v2 ending was a dead draw: 37...Rc2+ 38.Kg1 Ra2 39.b5 g5 40.b6 axb6 41.Rxb6 h5 42.Rc6 Re2 43.Ra6 Rb2 44.Rc6 Rd2 45.Ra6 Re2 46.Rb6 Kg6 47.Ra6 Kf5 48.g4+ hxg4 49.hxg4+ Ke5 50.Ra5+ Ke6 51.Ra6+ Ke7 52.Ra7+ Kd6 53.Ra6+ Ke5 54.Ra5+ Kf4 55.Rf5+ Kg3 56.Rxf6 Re1+ 57.Rf1 Rxf1+ 58.Kxf1 Kxg4 59.Kg2 Kf4 60.Kf2 g4 61.Kg2 g3 62.Kg1 Kf3 63.Kf1 g2+ 64.Kg1 Kg3 draw.

Wells-Adams was a highly complicated draw.

Wells,P (2526) - Adams,Mi (2735) [C65]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (8), 15.08.2008
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.0-0 0-0 6.d4 Bb6 7.Qd3

In the diagram, Adams initiated very obscure complications with 7...d5, after which play continued in spectacular fashion with 8.dxe5 dxe4 9.Qxd8 Rxd8 10.exf6 exf3 11.fxg7 Ne5 12.Bf4 Ng6 13.Bh6 Rd5 14.Re1 Bh3!? 15.Nd2!? As far as I can see, the balance was never seriously disturbed, but this is definitely one game where the players are the best source of information as to what was really going on! 15...Rh5 16.gxh3 Rxh6 17.Nxf3 Rxh3 18.Ne5 Rh5 19.Nxg6 Rxb5 20.Ne7+ Kxg7 21.b4 Kf8 22.Rad1 Re8 23.a4 Rg5+ draw.

Speelman agreed a draw in a position where he looked to stand clearly better, with Black's king stuck in the centre and a weakness on d5. Things were actually less clear than that, and White also had some mobilisation problems, but it was still something of a surprise that Speelman should offer the draw when he did. Finally, Werle and L'Ami played a very complicated game, which was agreed drawn at move 20; but it was all theory, as both players of course knew.

So, after 8 rounds, the leading scores are Adams 5.5, and Van Wely 5, with Timman, Short, Smeets and Speelman all on 4.

Finally, I must add a correction to my comments on the game L'Ami-Sokolov from round 5. Optically defeated by the time-troubled handwriting on both players' scoresheets, I committed the calumny of accusing the players of missing a simple win with 34.Rd8+. In actual fact, as both have since confirmed, Sokolov did play 33...Qa5, not 33...Qc5, so the mate was never possible. My apologies to both players, and my thanks to Erwin for helping me reconstruct the correct and complete score, which is now on the tournament website.


Round nine

Cooking the opponent's goose

Welcome to the round nine report on the 2008 Staunton Memorial, which comes to you from sunny Clapham, on a beautiful Sunday morning. As I type this, I am sitting at the window, watching the joggers exercising on Clapham Common, and still savouring a breakfast of foie gras and Muscat wine jelly. The chess world is not generally known as a place where money is in plentiful supply, but it is nice to know that there are some corners of Caissa where one can enjoy a lifestyle, that would make a university professor envious. As a wise man once said, money may not bring you happiness, but it certainly makes misery a lot more tolerable.

For the players in round 9, there was happiness and misery in equal measure. Four decisive results out of six games saw Adams re-establish a one point lead over Van Wely. The latter drew an uneventful Closed Sicilian as Black against Short, whilst Adams overcame Speelman in an obscure game.

Adams,Mi (2735) - Speelman,J (2524) [B14]
6th Staunton Memorial London ENG (9), 16.08.2008

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5. The alternative 6.Nf3 leads to a well-known and very drawish endgame after the sequence 6...Bg4 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qb3 Bxf3 9.gxf3 e6 10.Qxb7 Nxd4 11.Bb5+ Nxb5 12.Qc6+ Ke7 13.Qxb5 Qd7 etc. 6...e6 7.Nf3 Be7 8.c5 Ne4 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Qd3 Nxc3 11.Qxc3 0–0

12.Be2. Apparently a new move, 12.Bb5 being more normal, to clamp down on Black's programmed break e6-e5.

12...b6? During the game, watching GM Ray Keene was quite at a loss to account for this move, and afterwards, Adams confirmed that he should simply have taken on b6, when Black does not have adequate compensation for the pawn. Instead, 12...f6 looks like an eminently reasonable move for Black.

13.b4?! e5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5?! Possibly overlooking White's 16th. Fritz's suggestion of 14...Re8 offers better chances.

15.dxe5 a5 16.Qd4! A very classy move, and typical Adams. Now White maintains his extra pawn.

16...axb4 17.cxb6 Re8 18.0–0 Qxe5 19.Qxb4! The final point of White's play, initiated by 16.Qd4. Now 19...Qxe2? loses to 20 Rae1! (but not 20.Rfe1? Rxa2!, turning the tables). As a result, White keeps his extra pawn, and has two connected passed pawns on the queenside. Although Black has some initiative, and a passed pawn of his own on d5, he is unable to shake Adams's grip on the position.

19...Bb7 20.Bf3 Qe7 21.Qd4 Qa3 22.h3 Ra4 23.Qd2 Qd6 24.Rfb1 h6 25.Rb5 Bc6 26.Rb2 Qf6 27.Rab1 Rd4 28.Qc1 Bb7 29.Rc2 Rf4

30.Rb3?! Not the most accurate, the immediate 30.Qd1 being better. Speelman was by now in extreme time-trouble, and Adams has only to avoid falling for some tactical trick revolving around such moves as Rxf3. 30...Rc4 31.Rb1 Rf4 32.Qd1 Rd4 33.Rd2 Rxd2 34.Qxd2 Re6 35.Qb4 Qg6 36.a4 Rf6 37.Rb3 Qg5 38.a5 Rf4 39.Qd2 Qf6 40.Re3 d4 and here, Black lost on time in the act of playing his 40th move, but the position was hopeless anyway. 1-0.

Timman won in convincing style against Werle. The latter's early pawn sacrifice is well-known, but he followed it up badly with 17...b5 and 18...Ne7, after which Timman seized the advantage. The last moves were played with Werle in time trouble, but his position was already desperate and he would have struggled to hold the game even with another hour on his clock.

The tournament's two lowest rated players both had bad days at the office. After his tough defence on the previous two days, Bob Wade went down to a very heavy defeat against Smeets. Wade's opening left him with a very passive Exchnage QGD structure, with his bishop shut on c1. His pawn sacrifice at move 16 was borne of desperation at the threatened mating attack on the kingside, and Smeets easily realised his advantage. Cherniaev has thus far looked very solid with White, but in this round he got into an awful tangle against Sokolov and was mercilessly despatched. The exchange on b3 left White with a hopeless weakness on the square, and Sokolov merely had systematically to train his fire on the point in question, until it dropped off.

L'Ami-Wells followed the latter's successful game against Speelman from last year's Staunton Memorial, until the Dutchman varied with 18.Qb3, instead of Speelman's 18.c5. White maintained the initiative, but went astray around move 25, and when he offered the draw a couple of moves later, it was doubtful whether he really had enough for his two pawn deficit. However, Peter's clock was doing its usual nasty things to him, and he decided to settle for the bird in the hand, rather than the brace in the bush.

Standings after round nine

Steve Giddins

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