Chess24 Jan Gustafsson on Alpha Zero

7th Howard Staunton Memorial (2)

English fightback in day of bloodflow

Round 2 of the 2009 Staunton Memorial saw some wonderful fighting chess, and just two draws out of ten games.

English fightback in day of bloodflow

Round 2 (August 9, 2009) Netherlands 2 - UK 3
Sokolov, Ivan - Howell, David W L ½-½ 57 D90 Gruenfeld Flohr
Van Wely, Loek - Jones, Gawain C B 1-0 31 E94 King's Indian Classical
L'Ami, Erwin - McShane, Luke J ½-½ 52 E94 King's Indian Classical
Smeets, Jan - Short, Nigel D 0-1 31 B04 Alekhine's Defence
Werle, Jan - Adams, Michael 0-1 40 D58 Queens Gambit Tartakover

Round 2 of the 2009 Staunton Memorial saw some wonderful fighting chess, and just two draws out of ten games. After losing the opening round of the Anglo-Dutch Scheveningen match, despite having the white pieces, the English were very much on the back foot, when round two started. However, spirited defence in some suspicious positions, plus the requisite slice of luck here and there saw the home team emerge from the day as 3-2 winners, thus equalizing the match score.

The game Werle-Adams saw the English no. 1 defend the QGD with the Tartakower Variation, an opening which seems only to have entered his opening repertoire recently. For almost his entire chess career, Mickey has been a faithful disciple of the Queen's Indian, whereas it is Nigel Short who has been the great practitioner of what he is wont to refer to as "the old Tart", winning many fine games on the black side. However, so far in 2009, I have seen Adams play the line three times, and he has won all three games! Against Werle, his 12...cxd4 was an attempted improvement on 12...Nd7, which was seen in Werle-T Kosintseva, from Corus 2009. The players reached an IQP structure fairly typical for this line, although White certainly looked at the time to have the better chances, and indeed, somewhere around move 17, Ray Keene opined that Black's position was rather lifeless. However, Adams defended adroitly and never looked in serious trouble, and with Werle drifting into time-trouble, the position swung round suddenly, and the young Dutchman found himself being mated in the heavy piece ending.

There was much excitement on board two, where Jan Smeets showed much imagination against Short's Alekhine Defence, sacrificing a piece for a strong attack. Indeed, he confessed afterwards that for a while, he thought he might be on the way to winning the brilliancy prize against Nigel, for the second year in succession! However, it was not to be:

GM Smeets,J 2632 - GM Short,N 2684

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 dxe5 5.Nxe5 c6 6.Be2 Bf5 7.0-0 Nd7 8.c4 N5f6 9.Bf4 Qb6 10.Nxd7 Nxd7 11.Qd2 e5 12.dxe5 0-0-0 13.Nc3 Nc5

Nigel Short

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

Jan Smeets

Position after 13...Nc5

Black's opening certainly looks highly risky, and now the simple 14.Qe3 should give White a solid advantage. However, after long thought, Smeets produced an imaginative piece sacrifice, which certainly looks (and looked at the time) very dangerous for Black. As Nigel commented in the post-mortem, though, "this is the sort of position where Rybka makes fools of us all", and indeed, the merciless silicon machine dismisses the sacrifice as objectively incorrect..

14.Nd5?! cxd5 15.cxd5

Nigel Short

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

Jan Smeets

Position after 15.cxd5


This is inaccurate. As the post-mortem quickly established, and the silicon beast confirms, the immediate 15...Ne4 is stronger. After 16.Qc2+ Kb8 17.Bd3 Rc8 18.Qe2 Qg6 (stronger than Short's 18...Qd4, on which the post-mortem concentrated), Black is better.

16.Be3 f6?!

And here, 16...Re8 is stronger.

Nigel Short

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

Jan Smeets

Position after 16...f6


The key mistake of the game. Instead, 17.Rfc1, followed by 18.b4, is very strong. After the text, Black crawls out.

17...Ne4 18.Bxb6 Nxd2 19.Bxd8 Bxb4 20.a3 Rxd8 21.axb4 Nxf1 22.Bxf1 fxe5 23.Bc4

Objectively, this ending should probably be a draw, but it is more dangerous for White, and Smeets admitted afterwards that he was unable to adjust his mindset to the need for defence.

23...a6 24.Re1 e4 25.g4 Bxg4 26.Rxe4 Bf5 27.Re5 g6 28.f4 Kc7 29.Re7+ Rd7 30.Re8 Kd6 31.b5?

Hastening the end, but the position is difficult anyway.

31...a5 0-1

Nigel Short

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

Jan Smeets

Final position.

Resignation may have appeared a little premature to some of the spectators, but with all his queenside pawns in danger on the light squares, the passed black a-pawn and the enemy king penetrating on the dark squares, White's game is hopeless.

Loek van Wely struck back for the Dutch:

GM Van Wely,L 2655 - GM Jones,G 2554

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nh5 8.g3 Bh3 9.Re1 exd4 10.Nxd4 Nf6 11.Bf1 Bxf1 12.Kxf1 Nc6 13.Nc2 Nd7 14.Ne3

Gawain Jones

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

Loek Van Wely

Position after 14.Ne3

Black's unusual choice 7...Nh5 has yielded an excellent position, and after something simple, such as 14...Nc5, he would have "a fine game", as Loek confirmed afterwards. However, Gawain took the very interesting decision to shatter the white pawn structure, at the cost of his King's Indian bishop.

14...Bxc3!? 15.bxc3 Nc5

Of course, Black is taking some risk, and will pay the price if White ever gets his bishop to f6 or h6, supported by other pieces. However, this is much easier said than done, and if White does not manage this, his dreadful pawn structure is likely to cost him. Objectively, Black is fine here.

16.f3 Ne5 17.Ba3

Gawain Jones

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

Loek Van Wely

Position after 17.Ba3


The turning point of the game. After this move, White seizes the initiative, and Black is soon in trouble. The post-mortem looked at 17...Ned3 18.Re2 c6, when the threat of Qa5 is in the air. The conclusion was that Black is OK, and a balanced struggle ensues.

18.Bxc5 dxc5 19.f4 Nc6 20.Nd5 Qd8 21.Qa4

Loek subsequently described this as the hardest moment of the game for him, because he has a choice of very tempting continuations. 21.e5, followed by 22.Nf6, is also extremely strong.


Black cannot live with the enemy steed on d5, and must prepare its eviction.

22.Rab1 c6

Giving the exchange, but otherwise he has no moves.

23.Nb6 Qd3+ 24.Kg1 axb6 25.Qxa8 Qxc4 26.Qxb7 b5 27.Rbd1 Qxc3 28.e5 Qc2 29.Qe7 Qc3 30.e6 Kg7

Gawain Jones

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

Loek Van Wely

Position after 30...Kg7

Loek now finished the game neatly.

31.Qxf8+! 1-0

As Ray Keene pointed out, the finish has a piquant touch about it, as two years ago, at this tournament, Gawain won a sensational game against Loek, finishing him off with...a queen sacrifice on the f8 square!

The other two games of the top group were both drawn, after long fights. Ivan Sokolov, in particular, will have been disappointed at failing to convert an extra exchange.

In the all-play-all group, it was a nightmare day for the black players, who lost all five games. Timman and Cherniaev lead the tournament with 2/2, whilst Victor Korchnoi added another 66 moves to the 59 he played yesterday, and finally overcame Lawrence Trent in a rook ending.

Report by Steve Giddins. Official site:

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