The Vodafone Gambit – EU Championships begin

9/7/2006 – The top seed at the European Union Individual Championship (Sept. 6–15) began with a dangerous opening for top seed Nigel Short. After 90 minutes of play the British GM, who seldom plays on home soil, equalised neatly by switching off his cell phone, and then cruised to victory against Mika Karttunen. Steve Giddins reports.

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Round one: a near miss for the Vodafone Gambit

FM Steve Giddins reports on the EU Championships in Liverpool

The city of Liverpool is famous for its music and its sporting successes, notably football, but chess has not been a great feature of the city’s life for many years. However, that is all about to change, as the 2006 EU Individual Championship kicked off today, at the Liverpool World Museum. The huge playing hall is hosting some 85 players, who will fight out 9 rounds of chess, finishing on Friday 15 September.


The stunning Albert Dock in Liverpool

In today’s opening round, the accelerated pairings meant that none of the favourites had particularly easy games. The highest-rated casualty was fourth seed Thomas Luther of Germany, who went down against Sarakauskas from Lithuania, after an enterprising piece sacrifice proved insufficient. Bischoff, Hebden and Galego were top 8 players who all conceded draws, whilst 11th seed Zoltan Medvegy of Hungary was well beaten by Jack Rudd.


Round one of the European Union Individual Championship under way

The top seed and focus of most media attention is Nigel Short, the former world championship challenger, who is making a rare appearance in the country (and county) of his birth. He won smoothly enough against Finland’s Mika Karttunen, but here the game score does not tell the full story of how perilously close Short was to losing in the very opening. This had nothing to do with his moves, however. The truth is that some 90 minutes into the playing session, Short discovered to his horror that his mobile phone was still switched on! Fortunately, nobody tried to phone or text him during the period – as he agreed with me afterwards, it sometimes pays to have no friends...


Phone call and mate – top seed Nigel Short

Last year’s winner, Zoltan Gyimesi of Hungary, got off to a winning start against Craig Hanley. The latter’s pressure sufficed to regain the pawn sacrificed in the opening, but in the resulting position, the passed black c-pawn proved a tower of strength and overran White’s defences. Luke McShane made a rare foray into 1 d4 territory, only to run up against a sharp line of the rarely-played Chigorin Defence to the QGD. He did not look to have much out of the opening, but after Black’s 21st and (especially) 23rd moves, his kingside attack was always going to break through decisively.


The venue in the Liverpool World Museum

Stuart Conquest is another English-born, foreign-resident GM, who is making a rare appearance in Blighty. He featured in the last game of the day to finish, finally winning a marathon queen ending against the talented young Dutch player, Daan Brandenburg. However, Black was extremely close to drawing for a large portion of the ending. Immediately after the game, Conquest thought that Black may still have been drawing with 86...Ke8, whilst he himself should have played 48 Qf2, defending the a-pawn.


A view of the tournament hall from the controllers desks

One attractive feature of the tournament is the number of strong Northern players who have been tempted to play. They had mixed fortunes, with John Littlewood succumbing to Dutch GM van der Weide, but Brett Lund, Oliver Jackson and Mike Surtees all winning. The first-named wielded his favourite Botvinnik English formation to beat Scottish GM John Shaw. Meanwhile, connoisseurs of unusual openings should enjoy following Mike Surtees’games in this tournament. Today he won comfortably with his patent anti-Sicilian system 1 e4 c5 2 c3 d5 3 f3!??! – not a line you are likely to find covered in an opening survey in the New in Chess Yearbook!

Top results of Round 1

 Bd  WHITE                      Result  BLACK
  1 SHORT,Nigel           (0)   1 - 0  KARTTUNEN,Mika        (0)
  2 HANLEY,Craig          (0)   0 - 1  GYIMESI,Zoltan        (0)
  3 MCSHANE,Luke J        (0)   1 - 0  JONES,Gawain C        (0)
  4 SARAKAUSKAS,Gediminas (0)   1 - 0  LUTHER,Thomas         (0)
  5 CONQUEST,Stuart       (0)   1 - 0  BRANDENBURG,Daan      (0)
  6 KNOTT,Simon J B       (0)   ½ - ½  BISCHOFF,Klaus        (0)
  7 HEBDEN,Mark           (0)   ½ - ½  DEVEREAUX,Maxim L     (0)
  8 RADOVANOVIC,Jovica    (0)   ½ - ½  GALEGO,Luis           (0)
  9 DGEBUADZE,Alexandre   (0)   1 - 0  QUILLAN,Gary          (0)
 10 TAYLOR,Martin R       (0)   0 - 1  MIEZIS,Normunds       (0)
11 MEDVEGY,Zoltan (0) 0 - 1 RUDD,Jack (0) 12 CARLETON,John (0) 0 - 1 SULSKIS,Sarunas (0) 13 GORMALLY,Daniel (0) ½ - ½ PRITCHETT,Craig (0) 14 BRITTON,Richard (0) 0 - 1 PERT,Nicholas (0) 15 MIEJURS,Viesturs (0) ½ - ½ SWINKELS,Robin (0) 16 LUND,Brett (0) 1 - 0 SHAW,John K. (0) 17 WILLIAMS,Simon K (0) ½ - ½ GRANT,Jonathan (0) 18 LITTLEWOOD,John (0) 0 - 1 VAN DER WEIDE,Karel (0) 19 GORDON,Stephen (0) 1 - 0 WALLACE,Paul (0) 20 WHITE,Michael JR (0) 0 - 1 CIUKSYTE,Dagne (0)

Finally, I will leave you with a chess trivia question to keep you amused until the next round’s report is available. I mentioned above that Nigel Short is making a rare appearance in England. But how rare? Rack your brains, and try to work out when he last appeared in an international tournament on mainland Britain. I stress the words “international”, “tournament” and “mainland”– matches and team events do not count, nor do British Championships, nor tournaments in places such as the Isle of Man or Gibraltar. Answer tomorrow!


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