The London Festival Open + Women's Invitational

12/20/2010 – In our star-struck reporting of the London Chess Classic 2010 we sadly neglected some of the side events that were held at the spacious Olympia Conference Centre. One was the London Festival Open which, with 11 GMs and 16 IMs, was one of the strongest UK tournaments of the year in its own right. Then there was the Women's Invitational, all of which yielded some marvelous pictures.

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London Festival Open

Report by John Saunders – text and photos

The London Chess Classic was such a wonderful tournament (arguably the strongest ever played in Britain) that it overshadowed two other interesting competitions going on under the same roof – the London Festival Open and the Women’s Invitational tournaments.

But, before moving on to consider them, just a few thoughts about Nigel Short’s decision to end a commentary session with a song, which turned out to be the most interesting theoretical novelty of the event. Should it be made mandatory for all players to close their commentary sessions with a song? I remember my brother telling me there was a German TV programme about football where famous players did something along these lines after they had finished trotting out their usual clichés about ‘getting the ball and sticking it in the back of the net’, but that was decades ago.

Of course it is not unprecedented for grandmasters to entertain an audience with their singing. The late great Vasily Smyslov was a superlative singer and Lajos Portisch and Emil Sutovsky both have a fine pair of lungs. But if the stars of the Classic were to follow Nigel’s lead, what might they sing for us? I’ve a notion that Vlad Kramnik might have a rather splendid bass or baritone singing voice and I can picture him intoning the ‘Song of The Volga Boatmen’ or ‘Old Man River’. If he is more inclined towards popular music, perhaps Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in The Wall’ might be appropriate. Luke McShane has an Australian father so perhaps a spirited rendering of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ might go down well, though I’m not sure he himself has ever camped under the shade of a koolibah tree or knows what a billabong is. I’m not sure about Mickey Adams but perhaps he could hire some girl cheerleaders to perform Toni Basil’s ‘Hey Mickey’ as he enters and exits the commentary room. And the Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’ is the obvious choice for the premier Norwegian wood-shifter.

Anyway, enough of these musings: let’s turn our attention to some of the other events that happened at Olympia. As well as the Classic, there was another vast hall packed with chessplayers of all standards up to 2600+ competing for some great prizes.

The Open

The London Festival Open featured 11 GMs and 16 IMs and was one of the strongest UK tournaments of the year in its own right. England’s Simon Williams set a hot pace, ‘doing a Fischer’ with 6/6. It took a fellow Englishman, GM Gawain Jones to halt his progress in round seven, but Simon bounced back with a win against another English GM, Danny Gormally, in round eight. Gawain had only conceded draws with Danish FM Mads Andersen and Danny Gormally so they both had 7/8 going into the last round when Gawain and and Simon were paired with Neil McDonald on 6½ and Mark Hebden on 6 respectively. There were other players on 6 but it was already certain that an English player would win the tournament. This was quite a coup for the home nation, given that two 2600-rated players were in the field. Boris Avrukh of Israel lost games to both Jones and Williams, while former world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta lost to Jones.


Simon Williams with 6/6 in the nine-round Festival Open


Boris Avrukh is the top seed in the London Festival Open

Here is Simon Williams’ win against 2625-rated top seed Boris Avrukh of Israel in round 5.

B.Avrukh - S.Williams
London Chess Classic:
FIDE Open London Olympia, England (5), 12.12.2010
English Opening

1 c4 d6. What, no ...f5? Simon Williams is famous for his Dutch Defence but he eschews the move here (indeed the pawn stays on f7 until the end). 2 Nc3 g6 3 g3 Bg7 4 Bg2 c5 5 e3 Nc6 6 Nge2 e5 7 a3 Nge7 8 Rb1 a5 9 d3 0–0 10 0–0 Rb8 11 b3. Rather more games continue 11 Bd2 here in this familiar line of the Symmetrical English. The text has a less convincing track record. 11...Be6 12 Nd5 b5 13 Bb2 Qd7 14 Nec3 b4 15 axb4 axb4 16 Na4.

A new move. The knight has previously retreated to e2, or the other knight captured on e7. 16...h5 17 Ra1 h4. A little reminder that Black is thinking of softening up White's kingside. Not yet, but one day. These lines of the English seem to proceed in slow motion. 18 Nab6 Qd8 19 Ra6 hxg3 20 hxg3 Nxd5 21 Nxd5 Ne7 22 Nxe7+ Qxe7 23 Qa1. An alternative plan would be to play 23 Qd2 and then park the f1 rook on a1. 23...Rbd8 24 Rb6. This attempted invasion of the seventh rank (with Rb7) is easily parried but as often happens in the English the players have little options to work with. If 24 d4 exd4 25 exd4 d5! and Black will have no problems. 24...Rd7 25 Rd1 Bg4! An irritating move, but the loss of time for White is not too serious. 26 Re1 Qf6 27 Qa4 Rfd8 28 Qc6 Qe7 29 Ra1 Rc7 30 Qb5.

Simon Williams has been uncharacteristically restrained until this point but he now gives rein to his maverick instincts. 30...e4!? This involves a piece sacrifice. 31 Bxg7?! 31 d4 is equal but White decides to bite. He's probably wrong to do so. 31...exd3. It's too late to change his mind and play 31...Kxg7 now as 32 Bxe4 is a free pawn. 32 Bh6? 32 Bb2! d2 33 Rba6 d1Q+ 34 Rxd1 Bxd1 35 Qa4 is better as White still has reasonable hope of a queen/bishop battery along the a1–h8 diagonal.

32...Qf6. 32...Kh7 looks good for Black, e.g. 33 Bf4 d2 34 f3 Ra8! and one of the biggest threats is ...Bd7! 33 Qa5? White overpresses. 33 Ra2!? seems to hold: 33...Kh7 34 Bf4 Ra7 35 Rba6 Rxa6 36 Qxa6 g5 37 Bxg5 Qxg5 38 Rd2 Be2 looks about equal. 33...d2 34 Bf4 g5! 34...d1Q+? 35 Rxd1 Bxd1 36 Rxd6 Rxd6 37 Qxc7 leaves Black's pieces awkwardly placed and with only a small material advantage.

35 Rxd6. This bold try fails but there is nothing left. 35 Ra6 Rcd7 36 Qa2 d1Q+ 37 Rxd1 Bxd1 38 Qa1 Qxa1 39 Rxa1 gxf4 40 Rxd1 fxe3 also wins. 35...Rxd6 36 Bxd6 Qxd6 37 Qa8+ Rc8! 0-1. Not 37...Kg7? 38 Bf3 which leaves work to do. [Click to replay]

Both the leading games in the last round were drawn, which meant that the two Englishmen with the Welsh names, Gawain Jones and Simon Williams, finished first equal. Two IM norms were recorded, by the talented 15-year-old from Denmark, Mads Andersen, and 23-year-old Irish player Alex Lopez. It was the final norm for each of them.


England’s Gawain Jones plays Mads Andersen of Denmark in round 3. Gawain is now living in London after a period in New Zealand. The 15-year-old Danish FM scored his final IM norm in London.


Alon Greenfeld (2564, Israel) is one of the top seeds. His brightly-coloured shirt failed to distract his third round opponent, Pawel Stoma of Poland, who won despite a 200+ rating inferiority.


Abhijeet Gupta (2600 IND) is 21, comes from Bhilwara in Rajasthan, and won the 2008 World Junior Championship in Turkey when his unfortunate last-round victim was England’s David Howell. He won his last five games in a row to take the title. In London he lost his fifth-round game to Gawain Jones and finished on 6/9.


Yang-Fan Zhou, 16, 2326, is one of England’s most promising junior players and has already represented his country in the World Junior Championship. He attends Whitgift School, Croydon, to the south of London. He scored 5/9.

Top final standings (after nine rounds)

Rnk
Name
Pts
Nat.
Rtng
TPR
W-We
1
GM Jones, Gawain C B 7.5 ENG 2575 2699 +1.38
2
GM Williams, Simon K 7.5 ENG 2493 2684 +2.12
3
GM Avrukh, Boris 7.0 ISR 2625 2633 +0.15
4
GM Gormally, Daniel W 7.0 ENG 2470 2594 +1.45
5
GM McDonald, Neil 7.0 ENG 2449 2550 +1.14
6
IM Hanley, Craig A 7.0 ENG 2428 2465 +0.54
7
GM Thorhallsson, Throstur 7.0 ISL 2367 2538 +2.04
8
GM Greenfeld, Alon 6.5 ISR 2564 2491 -0.63
9
GM Hebden, Mark L 6.5 ENG 2560 2526 -0.18
10
IM Grover, Sahaj 6.5 IND 2432 2525 +1.18
11
IM Ansell, Simon T 6.5 ENG 2417 2429 +0.25
12
FM Astaneh Lopez, Alex 6.5 IRL 2405 2461 +0.76
13
IM Barle, Janez 6.5 SLO 2403 2466 +0.89
14
IM Hennigan, Michael T 6.5 ENG 2388 2406 +0.34
15
GM Gupta, Abhijeet 6.0 IND 2600 2491 -1.02
16
IM Llaneza Vega, Marcos 6.0 ESP 2479 2414 -0.54
17
IM Roy Chowdhury, Saptarshi 6.0 IND 2448 2359 -0.80
18
GM Summerscale, Aaron P 6.0 ENG 2434 2458 +0.39
19
IM Pena Gomez, Manuel 6.0 ESP 2429 2345 -0.82
20
IM Cox, John J 6.0 ENG 2398 2423 +0.37
21
IM Quillan, Gary 6.0 ENG 2385 2347 -0.23
22
FM Andersen, Mads 6.0 DEN 2382 2479 +1.25
23
IM Crouch, Colin S 6.0 ENG 2335 2408 +0.85
24
IM Wall, Gavin 6.0 IRL 2325 2284 -0.16
25
FM Getz, Nicolai 6.0 NOR 2317 2400 +1.11
26
IM Dukaczewski, Piotr 6.0 POL 2297 2382 +1.00
27
IM Afek, Yochanan 6.0 ISR 2283 2338 +0.65
28
IM Prosviriakov, Vladimir 6.0 USA 2280 2343 +0.69
29
Willmoth, Robert F 6.0 ENG 2238 2342 +1.25

Women's Invitational

The Women’s Invitational event started with a surprise result as Australia’s Shannon Oliver defeated the favourite IM Susan Lalic of England. That opened the door to second favourite Arlette van Weersel of the Netherlands and she went through it with alacrity, winning four games on the bounce and then holding Susan Lalic to a draw. Sarah Hegarty was Arlette’s closest rival but Arlette beat her in round seven. Arlette wrapped the tournament up with a round to go and finished two points clear of the field. Sarah came tantalisingly close to a WIM norm (set at 7/9), beating Susan Lalic along the way, but lost her final game to Rasa Norinkeviciute.

Rnk
Name
Pts
Nat.
Rtng
TPR
W-We
1
WIM Van Weersel, Arlette 8.0 NED 2186 2385 +1.84
2
WFM Ikonomopoulou, Maria 6.0 GRE 2160 2159 +0.12
3
WFM Hegarty, Sarah N 6.0 ENG 2080 2165 +1.05
4
IM Lalic, Susan K 5.5 ENG 2294 2121 -1.68
5
WIM Steil-Antoni, Fiona 5.0 LUX 2142 2077 -0.69
6
Hoare, Amy B 4.0 ENG 1921 2012 +0.97
7
WFM Norinkeviciute, Rasa 3.5 LTU 2028 1966 -0.80
8
WFM Oliver, Shannon 3.0 AUS 1926 1930 -0.08
9
WFM Fairley, Natasha 2.5 NZL 1785 1880 +0.76
10
Messam-Sparks, Lateefah 1.5 ENG 1917 1782 -1.49


Amy Hoare (left, of England) plays Natasha Fairley of New Zealand in the Women’s Invitational event. Amy, 14, is from Sussex and is already quite the veteran international, with several trips to championships behind her and some very good performances to her name. Natasha has played three Olympiads for New Zealand. She comes from Auckland but is currently domiciled in a famous chess town in the Netherlands - Groningen.


Shannon Oliver, 24, is from Canberra in Australia. She has spent some time in the UK recently as a medical student and will soon be back studying at the Australian National University in her home town. She represented her country at the 2008 Dresden Olympiad. Her win against IM Susan Lalic was a great result for her and opened up the competition from the first round.


Sarah Hegarty, 22, is from Bisley in Surrey and currently studying chemistry and law at Bristol University. She made an excellent debut for the England women’s team at the recent Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad, scoring 7½/9 which was the team’s best score.


Fiona Steil-Antoni is from Luxembourg and, despite being only 21, has already played five Olympiads for her country. She won an individual gold medal on board two at the 2006 Turin Women’s Olympiad.


Rasa Norinkeviciute is a WFM and has been resident in Sussex for some years though still registered for her native Lithuania. She is a regular competitor at the Hastings Congress.


IM Susan Lalic is one of the UK’s strongest women players. She has won the British Women’s Championship five times and competed at nine Olympiads. She plays in fewer major events these days but is still very active as a chess teacher and tournament organiser.


Maria Ikonomopoulou is a 21-year-old woman FIDE master from Greece who has represented her country at a number of major individual championships. She scored 6/9 to finish second equal in this year’s London Invitational event after scoring 5/9 last year.


Lateefah Messam-Sparks, 18, comes from Nottingham and won a chess scholarship at Wellington College, Berkshire, where she has been studying for her advanced level examinations. She’s had a pretty good chess year, taking the girls’ prize in the UK Chess Challenge Gigafinal and captaining England to team success in the Glorney Cup.


Last but far from least in our line-up of players in the Women’s Invitational event is Dutch woman IM Arlette van Weersel. She ran away with the tournament, scoring 8/9 for a TPR of 2385. Arlette is from Amsterdam and likes playing the guitar (perhaps she could accompany one of our singing grandmasters?). She has represented the Netherlands in two Olympiads and also competed in England in the 4NCL (British Team League).


About the author

John Saunders started playing competitive chess at school in High Wycombe and was lucky enough to join the Cambridge University Chess Club when it was the strongest club in the UK. He studied law and classics at university and spent two years living in Barcelona in the 1970s before starting a 20-year career as a IT specialist. In 1999 he tired of the day job and became a chess magazine editor – for the first 11 years of British Chess Magazine and (from 2010) of CHESS magazine. These two magazines have existed for more than 200 years between them, and John is the first person ever to have edited both.

John is the press chief and report writer for the London Chess Classic and regular webmaster/photo-journalist for the Gibraltar Chess Festival. He performed a similar function for the 2001-2007 Monarch Assurance Isle of Man Congresses and the 2008 European Union Championship in Liverpool. He writes the chess page for BBC TV’s Ceefax service. John plays hardly any chess these days but, when he did, he reached a FIDE Rating of 2255 and represented Wales in the 1997 European Team Championship. He is married, with two cats, and lives in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey. And plays guitar (folk, fingerstyle and classical) and sings (in English, Spanish and Catalan) when he thinks nobody is listening.

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