Chess24 Sopiko Scotch

7th Howard Staunton Memorial (1)

7th Edition under way

The 7th edition of the Staunton Memorial tournament's 21st century incarnation got underway shortly after noon yesterday, with a formal opening ceremony at Simpson's in the Strand.

7th Edition under way

Round 1 (August 8, 2009) Netherlands 3 - UK 2
Short, Nigel D - Werle, Jan 1-0 41 C77 Ruy Lopez Anderssen
Adams, Michael - Van Wely, Loek ½-½ 32 B85 Sicilian Scheveningen
Howell, David W L - Smeets, Jan ½-½ 52 C24 Bishop's Opening
Jones, Gawain C B - L'Ami, Erwin 0-1 41 C45 Scotch Game
McShane, Luke J - Sokolov, Ivan 0-1 34 C54 Giuoco Piano

The 7th edition of the Staunton Memorial tournament's 21st century incarnation got underway shortly after noon yesterday, with a formal opening ceremony at Simpson's in the Strand. Tournament Director Ray Keene welcomed the players of both tournaments, who were then treated to a fascinating speech on human brain development and the importance thereto of the right type of nutrition, by Professor Michael Crawford. Professor Crawford has been Director of Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University since 1990, and is the world's leading expert on the role of fatty acids and lipids in the cellular signalling system. Given the essential role of the brain in the playing of chess (well, allegedly, anyway; most chess players can recall moments when their moves appear to have been generated by other parts of their anatomy!), this is a subject which should be dear to every player's heart. The basic message was clear enough - eat plenty of fish! Professor Crawford then went on to practice what he preaches, by tackling Simpson's spectacular salt-encrusted sea bream, in the delightful lunch which followed the opening ceremony. One other fact which was discussed over lunch is that Professor Crawford is an enthusiastic beekeeper, a topic which led to a quite egregious outpouring of dire "bee" puns by Messrs Keene and Martin. The nadir was reached with the former's description of a mysterious condition, which causes bees to become unusually clumsy and unable to pick up pollen, otherwise known as The Blight of the Fumble Bee. At this point, unable to beelieve my ears, I was forced to intervene and demand that all parties beehave themselves.

A couple of hours later, the players assembled at their boards for the start of round one. The unavoidable near-overlap with the British Championships, which finished on Friday afternoon, meant that several of the English players had to make a Saturday morning dash up the M4 from Torquay, but all but one arrived on time. The exception was David Howell, who was late for the very best of reasons - having just become the second-youngest-ever British Champion, for which we offer our heartiest congratulations, he had to stay behind to attend Saturday morning's prize-giving! Fortunately, his opponent, Jan Smeets, sportingly agreed to delay the start of their game until David had arrived, and they eventually set to work some 75 minutes after the rest of the players. The first round of a tournament is always liable to be subject to a few gremlins, but I am delighted to say that everything ran remarkably smoothly. This included the live game relays, which were being attempted at the Staunton Memorial for the first time. Thanks to the efforts of Steve Hughes, all five games of the Anglo-Dutch match went out live, without any major technical problems. The proximity of the British Championships meant that too few sensory boards were available to relay the games of the all-play-all group, but with a further batch having arrived from Torquay late yesterday afternoon, we should be able to put out the games of both tournaments from today. Predictably enough, there have been a few termitic tantrums about the derisory £5 charge being made to view the games, but given that the provision of live game relays is costing the tournament several thousands of pounds, it seems only reasonable that those who use this service should make some contribution to its cost. Indeed, in the week when the world's largest news media group announced that it intends to start charging for online news content, it would appear that the days of everything on the net being provided for free are numbered, and hallelujah to that. Of course, we at the Staunton Memorial always like to be at the cutting edge of new developments, and are once again proud to be so on this occasion!

In the A Group, the first game to finish was Adams-van Wely. Appropriately enough for the first game in a Scheveningen event, the game saw the Dutchman essay the Scheveningen Sicilian. Adams' kingside pawn push looked dangerous, but 26.h6 proved too slow, and he soon decided that his advantage had largely disappeared, and settled for a repetition. Nigel Short later described his play as "rusty", although acute distress at the news emanating from Headingley cannot have helped his mindset either. However, in recent years, he has made a healthy living from avoiding the most popular main lines after 1.e4 e5, and today his choice fell on 5.Nc3 in the Lopez. His opponent, Jan Werle, seemed unfamiliar with the line, and used up a considerable amount of time, to choose a slightly dubious-looking set-up. The resulting position resembled a Four Knights (another Short speciality!), with White's bishop usefully tucked away on a4, immune from the usual knight attacks following Nd4. Short picked up a pawn, and although Black's bishop pair looked to offer reasonable compensation, Short eventually consolidated to an ending which offered Black nothing but a life of suffering. Another pawn soon dropped off, and Werle resigned when faced with the loss of a third.

The Dutch struck back on board 3, which saw Luke McShane making a welcome return to top-class tournament chess. If Nigel was feeling rusty, then Luke can certainly claim such, and this soon became apparent in his game with Ivan Sokolov. A slow 4.d3 Two Knights led to a  manoeuvering battle, in which the Englishman was soon worse:

GM McShane,L 2620 - GM Sokolov,I 2655

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.c3 Bb6 6.Bb3 d6 7.h3 Ne7 8.Nbd2 c6 9.Nc4 Bc7 10.Qc2 Ng6 11.g3 d5 12.Ne3 h6 13.Bd2 Be6 14.c4 Ne7 15.g4 d4 16.Nf5 Bxf5 17.exf5 e4!18.dxe4 d3 19.Qc3 0-0

Ivan Sokolov

r _ _ q _ r k _
p p b _ n p p _
_ _ p _ _ n _ p
_ _ _ _ _ P _ _
_ _ P _ P _ P _
_ B Q p _ N _ P
P P _ B _ P _ _
R _ _ _ K _ _ R

Luke McShane

Position after 19...0-0

In this position, faced with such unpleasantness as 20.Qd4 Qxd4 21.Nxd4 Nxe4 22.Be3 Ba5+! 23.Kf1 Bb6, and 20.e5 Ne4 21.Qc1 Nxd2 22.Kxd2 c5 23.Ba4 Nc8, followed by Nb6, McShane decided instead to try to change the course of the game with the highly imaginative piece sacrifice

20.Bc2?!

However, it would be extraordinary if White's initiative were really to compensate adequately for the material investment, and the game and the post-mortem duly confirmed  that all of White's tries come up a little bit short. Sokolov won after the further moves 

20...dxc2 21.Qxc2 c5 22.e5 Nd7 23.0-0-0 Nxe5 24.Bxh6 Qb8 25.Bxg7 Kxg7 26.Ng5 Ng8 27.Qc3 Nf6 28.Kb1 Nc6 29.Rd7 Nd4 30.Ne6+ Nxe6 31.g5 Nxg5 32.Rg1 Bf4 33.h4 Qe5 34.Rxg5+ Kh8 0-1

In Howell-Smeets, the new British Champion chose a Bishop's Opening, presumably to avoid his opponent's habitual Petroff. Although Black conceded the two bishops early on, his position was rock solid and the symmetrical structure left White little scope to exploit the prelates. The players fought down to a rook and pawn ending, but the balance never looked to be seriously disturbed and the draw was agreed at move 52.

The most exciting game of the day was the encounter between Gawain Jones and Erwin L'Ami:

GM Jones,G 2554 - GM L'Ami,E 2593

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bb4+ 5.c3 Bc5 6.Be3 Bb6

This line was a great favourite of the late Tony Miles, but after White's next move, Black soon lands in a passive position. Indeed, after the game, Erwin was lamenting his opening choice, having already suffered as Black in this variation in a previous game.

7.Nf5! Bxe3 8.Nxe3 Nf6 9.f3 0-0 10.c4 d6 11.Qd2 Ne5 12.Be2 Be6 13.Nc3

White has the classic Scotch structural advantage, with the outpost on d5, which Black can rarely afford to cover by means of c7-c6, in view of the resultant weakness of the d6 pawn. Black must also find a way to handle the threat of a later f4, driving his pieces from the centre.

13...Kh8 14.f4 Neg4?!

Erwin L'Ami

r _ _ q _ r _ k
p p p _ _ p p p
_ _ _ p b n _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ P _ P P n _
_ _ N _ N _ _ _
P P _ Q B _ P P
R _ _ _ K _ _ R

Gawain Jones

Position after 14...Neg4

Based on a miscalculation.

15.Nc2!

Leaving the enemy knights very awkwardly placed. Erwin later admitted that he had intended to meet this with 15...Nh5, thinking that 16.0-0-0 was then impossible, due to 16...Nf2. However, he had completely missed 17 Bxh5, simply winning two pieces for a rook. Now he will be driven back in total disarray.

17...Nh6 16.0-0-0 a6 17.f5 Bd7 18.Qf4 Bc6 19.g4 Nd7 20.g5 Ng8 21.h4 Re8

Erwin L'Ami

r _ _ q r _ n k
_ p p n _ p p p
p _ b p _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ P P _
_ _ P _ P Q _ P
_ _ N _ _ _ _ _
P P N _ B _ _ _
_ _ K R _ _ _ R

Gawain Jones

Position after 21...Re8

22.f6?!

White clearly has an enormous position, but he has to find a way to break through, and Gawain was somewhat short of time. The text looks strong, but may in fact be the start of the downward path. A slower build-up with 22.Rdg1 would be more unpleasant for Black to face in practice, since he has almost no counterplay.

22...gxf6 23.Bg4 Ne5 24.Bf5 Bd7 25.Ne3 Be6 26.Kb1 b5 27.c5 b4 28.Ncd5 Rb8 29.gxf6?

And this is a serious error, after which the advantage soon swings round to Black. 29.b3 is the computer's suggestion, whilst 29.Bxe6 fxe6 30 Nxf6 is also still strong.

29...Nxf6 30.Qh6 Bxd5 31.Rhg1 Ng6 32.Nxd5 Nxd5 33.h5

Erwin L'Ami

_ r _ q r _ _ k
_ _ p _ _ p _ p
p _ _ p _ _ n Q
_ _ P n _ B _ P
_ p _ _ P _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
P P _ _ _ _ _ _
_ K _ R _ _ R _

Gawain Jones

Position after 33...h5

 33...Nc3+!?

Black seizes the chance to counterattack the enemy king, but it appears that White is still on top.

 34.bxc3?

The cold-blooded silicon monster prefers 34.Ka1!, after which White still has a very strong attack.

 34...bxc3+ 35.Kc1 c2 36.Kxc2?

This seems to be the final mistake. Very short of time, it is hardly surprising that Gawain did not find the computer's remarkable idea 36.hxg6!, when White is still very much in the game, eg. 36...cxd1(Q) + 37.Kxd1 fxg6 38.Rh1 Re7 39.Qxg6, etc. After the text, however, the white king soon succumbs to the counterattack.

36...Qh4 37.Rd2 Rxe4 38.Bxe4 Qxe4+ 39.Rd3 Qc4+ 40.Kd2 Rb2+ 41.Ke3 Qe6+ 0-1

In the all-play-all group, there were wins for Timman, Wiersma and Cherniaev. The latter overcame the legendary Victor Korchnoi in the longest game of the day, after the latter overstepped the time limit, one move short of the second time control, in a position that is probably a draw with correct play. The entire game was desperately unclear, and typical of Korchnoi's fighting play, and had the audience enthralled throughout its six-hour duration.

Report by Steve Giddins. Official site: http://howardstaunton.com/hsmt2009/Home.html

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