Chess24 Sopiko Scotch

7th Howard Staunton Memorial (3)

England win again in Round 3

The England team had a far better day than yours truly, winning the round 3-2 and taking a slender one-point overall lead in the match.

England win again in Round 3

Round 3 (August 10, 2009) UK 3 Netherlands 2
Short, Nigel D - Sokolov, Ivan 1-0 31 C58 Two Knights Defence
Howell, David W L - L'Ami, Erwin ½-½ 22 B12 Caro Kann Advanced
McShane, Luke J - Van Wely, Loek 1-0 43 B21 Sicilian Morra Gambit
Adams, Michael - Smeets, Jan 0-1 49 C42 Petroff's Defence
Jones, Gawain C B - Werle, Jan ½-½ 59 D35 QGD Exchange

Monday 10 August was not a great day for your correspondent. As regular readers will know, I suffer from a termite allergy, and the wretched creatures always seem to be in particular abundance around this time of the year. Yesterday, however, the usual irritations were compounded by a sudden and quite unexpected attack from a stomach bug (come to think of it, I guess bugs are another form of termite...). Blissfully, the symptoms proved as short-lived as they were virulent, but they prevented me from straying more than a few yards from the bathroom for much of the day. As a result, I was unable to attend any of yesterday's round 3 play, and the comments which follow are therefore based solely on my impressions from following the excellent live coverage (surely the best £5 I have ever spent!), and lack the usual insights gained from observing the post-mortems and speaking to the players. I therefore apologize in advance to my readers, and especially the players themselves, if any of the comments below prove to be a misrepresentation of what was actually going on in the games  - or perhaps I should say "even more of a misrepresentation than usual"....

The England team had a far better day than yours truly, winning the round 3-2 and taking a slender one-point overall lead in the match. The game Howell-L'Ami was a quiet draw, but Nigel Short maintained his 100% start with an unexpectedly one-sided win over Ivan Sokolov:

GM Short,N 2684 - GM Sokolov,I 2655

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4

Just as in round one, Nigel opts to avoid the customary 35-40 moves of Marshall Gambit theory, so often seen in games between the elite these days.

3...Nf6!?

This move already deserves comment. For over a century, the Two Knights was accepted as an excellent way to defend against 3.Bc4, with the world having accepted unchallenged Tarrasch's indictment of White's next as a "duffer's move". However, over the last 10 years or so, the influence of computers has swung the pendulum the other way, and the Two Knights now seems to be viewed much less favourably amongst the top players, almost all of whom prefer 3...Bc5. Two years ago, Short used the white side of 4.Ng5 to win a crucial last-round game against Mark Hebden, to clinch first place in the EU Championships at Liverpool, and he later described habitual practitioners of the Two Knights as "taking their lives in their hands". Most leading GMs nowadays play 3...Bc5, against which Nigel is wont to adopt the Evans Gambit, but he had clearly spotted that Sokolov had played 3...Nf6 in his first-round game against Luke McShane.

4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6 8.Bd3!?

Ivan Sokolov

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

Nigel Short

Position after 8.Bd3

Against Hebden, Short had preferred 8.Qf3, but the text move has become fashionable recently. It was originally revived by Dutch GM Daniel Stellwagen, who wrote an article on it in the popular New in Chess opening series, SOS. More recently, Nakamura used it to win his critical last-round game in the US Championships, and only a week ago, it featured in the key game Conquest-Howell, at the British Championships in Torquay. The main point of he move is to give the Ng5 a more convenient retreat square than f3 or h3.

8...h6 9.Ne4 Nd5 10.0-0 g6 11.Re1 Bg7 12.Bf1 0-0 13.d3 f5

Ivan Sokolov

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

Nigel Short

Position after 13...f5

This is a typical position from the variation. For decades, it has been accepted that Black's lead in development, active pieces and space advantage, gives him more than enough compensation, and indeed, many games have been won by Black in such positions. A mere glance at the position seems to confirm that Black has a wonderful game. However, the computer, untrammelled by human emotions and visual impressions, sees only that White has an extra pawn with no weaknesses, Black's knight on a5 is offside, and his queenside pawns split.

14.Nc5 Qd6 15.Nb3 Nb7 16.g3 Be6 17.c4

Weakening d3, but this pawn can be defended relatively easily, whilst White enhances his central control. Once he completes the satisfactory development of his pieces, he will have a clear advantage.

17...Nb6 18.Qc2 Nd7 19.Nc3 a5 20.Na4 g5 21.Bd2 Bf7 22.Bc3 Rfe8 23.d4 e4

Black cannot win material by taking on d4, in view of the line 23...exd4 24.Nxd4 Bxd4 25.Bxd4 Qxd4 26.Red1 Qe5 27.Rxd7.

24.Rad1 Bg6 25.c5 Qc7

Ivan Sokolov

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

Nigel Short

Position after 25...Qc7

Compare the last two two diagrams. Black has been unable to make anything of his early initiative, and is now virtually lost.

26.d5 cxd5 27.Rxd5 Bxc3 28.Qxc3 Ne5 29.Red1 f4 30.c6 Qxc6?

A blunder which hastens the end, but Black is more or less busted anyway.

31.Rxe5 1-0

A game which must surely have brought a smile to the celestial face of Wilhelm Steinitz, the one great player who always insisted the Two Knights was unsound!

The Dutch team struck back in style, as Jan Smeets bounced back from yesterday's disappointment to hit Mickey Adams with a very impressive piece of opening preparation.

GM Adams,M 2699 - GM Smeets,J 2632

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.cxd5 Nxd3 10.Qxd3 Qxd5 11.Re1 Bf5 12.Ne5 0-0-0 13.Qf3 g6 14.g4

Jan Smeets

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

Michael Adams

Position after 14.g4

14...Bb4

As far as I am aware, this and the next constitute a novelty, to which Adams reacts badly..

15.Re2?

15. Re3 would avoid the tactic which follows.

16...Bxg4! 16.Nxg4

Jan Smeets

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

Michael Adams

Position after 16.Nxg4

Or 16.Qxg4+ f5 17.Qf3 Qxd4 18.Bf4 Bd6 and the white knight on e5 is trapped.

16...Nc3!

The final tactical point.

17.Qxd5 Nxe2+ 18.Kf1 Rxd5 19.Kxe2 Rxd4 20.Ne3 Rh4

Jan Smeets

_ _ k _ _ _ _ r
p p p _ _ p _ p
_ _ _ _ _ _ p _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ b _ _ _ _ _ r
_ _ _ _ N _ _ _
P P _ _ K P _ P
R N B _ _ _ _ _

Michael Adams

Position after 20...Rh4

The upshot of the complications is that Black has a large advantage in the ending, and despite stubborn defence, Adams could not hold. Great opening preparation by Smeets, who thereby handed Adams his first defeat in four appearances at the Staunton Memorial.

Remaining moves:

21. Nf1 Bd6 22. Be3 Bxh2 23. Nxh2 Rxh2 24. Nd2 Re8 25. Rc1 b6 26. Kf3 Rh3+ 27. Kg2 Rh5 28. Rc4 Rd5 29. Kf3 Re6 30. b3 Kd7 31. Rf4 f6 32. Rh4 h5 33. Nc4 c5 34. Ke2 Rd4 35. Rh1 Ke7 36. Nb2 Kf7 37. Kf3 Rd5 38. Ke2 Rd4 39. Kf3 Rd7 40. Ke2 Re4 41. Kf3 Re8 42. Kg3 Rh8 43. f4 Ke6 44. Kf3 Kf5 45. Rg1 Rg7 46. Rd1 g5 47. fxg5 fxg5 48. Rd5+ Ke6 49. Ke4 h4 0-1

England's victory on the day was clinched by Luke McShane, who beat van Wely. I am delighted to able to present this game with some brief notes by the winner, kindly dictated after the game to Chief Arbiter, David Sedgwick.

GM McShane,L 2620 - GM Van Wely,L 2655

1.e4 c5 2.d3 g6 3.f4 Bg7 4.Nf3 d5 5.Be2 Nc6 .0-0 Nf6 7.e5 Ng4

Critical, but the tactics seem to work for White.

8.c3 d4 9.Ng5 Nh6 10.Bf3

If 10.Ne4 b6 11.Bf3 Bb7 is OK for Black.

10...dxc3 11.bxc3

Loek van Wely

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

Luke McShane

Position after 11.bxc3

11...Nd4

This is the point of Black's idea, but it falls short.

12.cxd4 Qxd4+ 13.Rf2 Qxa1 14.Rb2 Nf5

14...f6 was possible, but White can play similarly: 15.Ne4 fxe5 16.Nbc3 exf4 17.Qc2 Nf5 18.Rb1 Nd4 19.Qd2 and the queen does not escape.

15.Nc3 Nd4 16.Nge4 Nxf3+ 17.gxf3 b6 18.Qc2 0-0 19.Rb1 Qxb1 20.Qxb1 Rd8 21.Kg2 h6 22.Be3 Be6

Loek van Wely

r _ _ r _ _ k _
p _ _ _ p p b _
_ p _ _ b _ p p
_ _ p _ P _ _ _
_ _ _ _ N P _ _
_ _ N P B P _ _
P _ _ _ _ _ K P
_ Q _ _ _ _ _ _

Luke McShane

Position after 22.Be6

Black does not really have enough compensation, but winning requires a bit of care.

23.Nf2 f6 24.Ne2 Kh7 25.d4 Bc4 26.Qc2 cxd4

If 26...Bxe2 27.Qxe2 cxd4 28.Bd2 and White will blockade easily on the light squares.

27.Nxd4 Rac8 28.Qa4 fxe5 29.fxe5 a5

Maybe 29...a6!? would make White's task a little more difficult.

30.Nc6 b5 31.Qxa5 Rd7 32.Qa6 Rf8 33.f4 g5 34.fxg5 Bd5+ 35.Kg1 hxg5

If 35...Rf3 then 36.g6+! wins.

36.Nb4 Bf3 37.Qxb5 Rdd8 38.h3 Rf5 39.Nbd3 Be2 40.Qb1 Kh8

Loek van Wely

_ _ _ r _ _ _ k
_ _ _ _ p _ b _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ P r p _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ N B _ _ P
P _ _ _ b N _ _
_ Q _ _ _ _ K _

Luke McShane

Position after 40...Kh8

41.Nc1!

Makes use of a tactic to make life easy.

41...Rxe5 42.Nxe2 Rxe3 43.Qb6 1-0

Jones and Werle had both started with two losses, and might have been forgiven for putting up the shutters and agreeing an early draw, but in fact they fought out the longest game of the day. Black looked to have a clear edge early on, but matters eventually resolved themselves into a drawn rook and minor piece ending, and peace was finally concluded on move 59.

In the all-play-all group, Jan Timman took the sole lead, after his third straight win, against Wiersma. Simon Williams stayed within half a point, by beating Chapman, and now shares second with Cherniaev. The latter missed a golden opportunity to retain a share of the lead, after a curious double blunder in his game against Trent:

Alexander Cherniaev

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

Lawrence Trent

Position after 20...g6

Here, the game continued

21.Rg1?? Be5??

and was eventually drawn. However, both players overlooked the simple 21...Bxh2! when White can resign.

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

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