Staunton Memorial: England beats Netherlands 26.5 23.5

by ChessBase
8/18/2009 – In the final round the Dutch team were three points down and ready to fight for victory. Jan Smeets did the necessary against Luke McShane, but just as Loek van Wely appeared to have Nigel Short on the ropes the Rejuvenated One struck back and took the full point. Nigel is now over 2700 on live ratings and, at 44, once again Britain's top grandmaster. Final report by Steve Giddins.

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Howard Staunton, 1810 – 1874

Seventh Howard Staunton Memorial

The 2009 Staunton Memorial, which pits top British grandmasters against their Dutch counterparts, took place at Simpsons-in-the-Strand, from Saturday 8 August until Monday 17 August inclusive. The tournament website carried daily reports by Steve Giddins, who described the highlights of each round's play. Steve was assisted by some silicon friends, and the carbon-based entity of Tournament Director, GM Ray Keene. These reports are available free of charge.

Round ten (final) – Dulce et decorum est...

There is something about team events, especially national ones, which brings out the hero in people. Players who are sometimes a little lacking in motivation when playing for themselves, frequently find that extra bit of incentive when representing their country. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, etc.

In yesterday's final round of the 2009 Staunton Memorial tournament, the Dutch players needed a bit of this national pride and team spirit, as they faced a three-point deficit, and England required only three draws from the five games, to secure overall match victory.

At first, however, things did not look great for the Dutch team. L'Ami achieved very little as White with his Catalan, and agreed a draw with Adams at move 19. Shortly afterwards, Sokolov-Jones went the same way, the Englishman having equalized very comfortably with some active play in the King's Indian. Already, England could not lose the match, and another half point would do the trick. However, the situation on the other boards was less clear. Jan Smeets had achieved an imposing position against McShane, whose Berlin Wall proved every bit as fragile as its political namesake:

Smeets,J (2632) - McShane,L (2620) [C67]
7th Staunton Memorial London ENG (10), 17.08.2009

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 9.Nc3 h6 10.h3 Ne7 11.Be3 Ng6 12.Rad1+ Ke8 13.a3 Be7 14.Rfe1 Nf8 15.Nd4 c5 16.Nd5 Bd8 17.Ne2 b6 18.Ng3 Ne6 19.Ne4 Kf8 20.f4 c6 21.Ndc3 g6 22.Nd6 Kg7 23.Nce4 h5

24.f5 gxf5 25.Nxf5+ Kg6 26.Rf1 Ng7 27.Nxg7 Kxg7 28.Nd6 f6 29.exf6+ Bxf6 30.Nxc8 Raxc8 31.Rd7+ Kg6 32.Rd6 Rhf8 33.Bd2 Rcd8 34.Rfxf6+ 1-0.

So Dutch hopes remained alive. In the two remaining games, van Wely had a nice advantage against Short, whilst Werle had misplayed the opening against Howell and was struggling. English hopes clearly rested on Howell, but this was not to be. Nigel Short has been the player of this year's event, and had one more shot in his locker.

It all came down to Nigel Short to defend the glory of England

Van Wely,L (2655) - Short,N (2684) [E34]
7th Staunton Memorial London ENG (10), 17.08.2009

1.d4 e6 2.c4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 d5 5.cxd5 Qxd5 6.e3 c5 7.a3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 0-0 9.Nf3 b6 10.c4 Qh5 11.Be2 Bb7 12.0-0 Nbd7 13.a4 Qg6 14.Qxg6 hxg6 15.Bb2 a5 16.Rfd1 Rfd8 17.Nd2 Rac8 18.f3 cxd4 19.exd4 Ba6 20.Kf2 Rc7 21.Rac1 Rdc8 22.Ba3 Ne8 23.f4 Bb7 24.Re1 Bc6 25.Bd1 Ndf6 26.g4 Rd7 27.Ke3 Rcd8 28.Bb2 Nd6 29.h3 Rc8 30.Ba3 Bb7 31.Be2 Ba6 32.Bd3 Rc6 33.Rc2 Rdc7 34.Rec1 Rc8 35.Ke2 Kh8 36.Kd1 Nfe8

If there is one player in either team who can be relied upon to fight to the death, it is Loek van Wely, and such was the case here. After achieving some advantage in the opening, he had manoeuvered most adroitly in the queenless middlegame, and indeed, after the game, Short was full of praise for his opponent's play. However, Short's defence had been stubborn and had cost van Wely a great deal of time on the clock, and this now played the decisive role. After the game, the players established that 37.Bf1! would have placed Black in an extremely serious position. However, Loek continued 37.Ke2 Nf6 38.Ke3 Kg8 39.g5 Nh5

Now, on the last move of the time control, van Wely committed the fatal mistake, with the breakthrough 40.d5?? exd5 41.cxd5 Rxc2 42.Rxc2 Re8+! The move the Dutch GM had missed. White is lost. 43.Kd4 Bxd3 44.Rc6. After 44.Kxd3 Nxf4+ White will end up two pawns down. 44...Nf5+ 0-1. England had won! One had to feel for van Wely, who was left to recall the Latin tag, immortalized so bitterly by Wilfred Owen:

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
["It is sweet and right to die for your country"]

Loek did not look as though he felt it was very sweet or fitting, but at least he had tried. From an English point of view, victory was sweet, and it was also fitting that Nigel should score the decisive point. His overall score was a remarkable 8/10, and included victories against all five of the Dutch players.

In the final game, Werle and Howell battled to a draw, with the latter missing at least one clear win with 31...Bd4.

So, the overall result of the Anglo-Dutch contest was a win for England by 26.5 – 23.5. At the Prize-Giving later that evening, Jan Smeets won the prize for the best score by a Dutch player, and Short for the best English result. Best Game prizes went to Smeets, for his win against Adams, and David Howell, for his victory over Ivan Sokolov.

Smeets, Jan
McShane, Luke
Werle, Jan
Howell, David
Van Wely, Loek
Short, Nigel
L'Ami, Erwin
Adams, Michael
Sokolov, Ivan
Jones, Gawain
Final score: England: 26.5 – Netherlands: 23.5

Individual score and performances

After his 2862 performance at the Staunton Memorial Nigel Short, former World Championship challenger, has gained enough points to push him over the 2700 line, the only English player in this elite Super-GM group. Nigel has also overtaken Michael Adams who for many years now has always been the top British GM.

Nigel with his father David Short (photos by Barry Martin)

All Play All Group

In the all-play-all group, Cherniaev beat Chapman with Black, to give himself a chance of shared first, but it was not enough, as Timman beat Davies to take outright first. And in another truly fitting moment, the last game to finish, in the entire event, involved, who else but Victor Korchnoi. The amazing Victor ground out a long endgame win with black against Peter Wells, to complete a 3/3 finish and secure third prize. If my calculator does not deceive me, Victor played a total of 549 moves in his nine games, for an average of 60 per game!

And with that, my coverage of the 2009 Staunton Memorial comes to an end. I thank our sponsors, Jan Mol and Terry Chapman, plus all the players and organisers, for what has been another wonderful event. I hope you have enjoyed the reports, and hope to see you all again next year.

FM Steve Giddins


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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