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7th Howard Staunton Memorial (8)

The lull before the storm

Saturday was rather a quiet day at the 2009 Staunton Memorial. It was especially quiet physically, as the all-play-all group enjoyed their rest day, and there were consequently only five games going on in the playing room, as opposed to the usual ten.

The lull before the storm

Round 8 (August 15, 2009) UK 1.5 Netherlands 3.5
L'Ami, Erwin - Howell, David W L 1-0 51 D93 Gruenfeld 5.Bf4
Van Wely, Loek - McShane, Luke J 1-0 65 E94 King's Indian Classical
Werle, Jan - Jones, Gawain C B ½-½ 54 E94 King's Indian Classical
Smeets, Jan - Adams, Michael ½-½ 11 C64 Ruy Lopez Classical
Sokolov, Ivan - Short, Nigel D ½-½ 29 D53 Queens Gambit

Saturday was rather a quiet day at the 2009 Staunton Memorial. It was especially quiet physically, as the all-play-all group enjoyed their rest day, and there were consequently only five games going on in the playing room, as opposed to the usual ten. It was also much quieter in terms of spectators, despite being a weekend. On most days, we have been packed to the gunnels with spectators, but yesterday, the audience was fairly sparse. It is not hard to guess the reason - with the all-play-all group resting, there was no Victor Korchnoi. There is no question that the great Victor Lvovich has caught the public imagination in this tournament, and the chance to see this living legend in the flesh has brought the chess public to Simpsons in droves.

On the chessboard, though, the battle royal that has become the Anglo-Dutch match continued apace. After England had grabbed a two-point lead the previous day, our Dutch visitors showed their mettle by striking back in identical style, to tie up the match score again. There was a slight disappointment in the game Smeets-Adams, which produced the first really short draw of the match. Smeets seemed completely surprised by his opponent's 3...Bc5 against the Spanish, although this is a move which the Englishman has played a few times over the past year or so. But as Nigel Short commented about pre-game preparation, "You can't look at everything", and the venerable 3...Bc5, probably the oldest of all defences to the Spanish, had clearly slipped below the young Dutch GM's radar screen. He reacted by choosing the quietest possible treatment, including an early queen exchange, and there was absolutely no reason for either player to reject the draw at move 11.

Sokolov-Short was also drawn, this time in 29 moves. An unusual form of QGD also saw the queens come off early, but the game continued, and Short showed very accurate defence to neutralise his opponent's ambitions, Indeed, in the final position, it was White who had to be a little careful, and Ivan was unable to find anything better than a repetition. The post-mortem suggested that the immediate queen exchange by 15.Qc5 would have been better, the follow-up b3 and a4 potentially yielding a significant plus. This was indeed the plan Sokolov had intended in the game, but his execution thereof proved too slow.

Chronologically, the day started with the game van Wely-McShane, which begun at 12 noon, rather than the usual 14.30. As a late entrant to the tournament, McShane already had a prior engagement on Saturday evening, so he requested an early start, to which van Wely sportingly agreed. However, there the latter's generosity ended, as he took revenge for his loss against the same opponent in the first cycle. In a King's Indian Defence, McShane repeated the Chebanenko regrouping line, which he had already played against both L'Ami and Werle, earlier in his same tournament. This time, however, things soon went badly wrong:

GM Van Wely,L 2575 - GM McShane,L 2620

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Be3 Re8 9.d5 Nh5 10.g3 Bf8 11.Ne1 Ng7 12.Nd3 f5 13.f3 a5

In both the earlier games, McShane had played the immediate 13...Be7 here, although it does not change the position fundamentally.

14.a3 Be7 15.Rc1

Van Wely's last two moves constitute a new treatment for this event. He dispenses with the move Qd2, which both his compatriots had played, and just proceeds with the most natural plan, which is the  preparation of b4 and c5.

15...b6 16.b4 axb4 17.axb4 Ba6 18.Nb5 Nf6 19.Nf2

Luke McShane

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

Loek Van Wely

Position after 19.Nf2


A radical decision, which surrenders control of a lot of white squares, and also leaves Black with a permanent and rather crippling weakness on the c-file. It is easy to criticise the move, but less easy to suggest a clearly superior alternative, as the white knight on b5 is a tower of strength, which also ties Black down to the defence of the c7-pawn.

20.cxb5 f4

This pawn sacrifice is a thematic idea in such positions, but here van Wely seems especially well-prepared to meet it.

21.gxf4 exf4 22.Bxf4 Nfh5 23.Bd2 Bg5 24.Nh3!

I like this counter-intuitive move. The more obvious 24.Nd3 would be less effective, since it does not take control of the square g5.

24...Bxd2 25.Qxd2 Qh4 26.Kg2 Re7 27.Rc4 Qf6 28.Rfc1 Ra7 29.R1c2 Ne8 30.f4

Luke McShane

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

Loek Van Wely

Position after 30.f4

Black's attempts to establish a dark-square blockade on f4 have failed, and it is clear that he has inadequate compensation for his pawn minus. Luke resisted long and hard, but was eventually ground down in 65 moves.

The game Werle-Jones contained some excitement, with the Englishman apparently missing a winning chance in the complications:

Gawain Jones

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

Jan Werle

Position after 16.Bd3

Black has no way to defend his h7-pawn, so the following complications are virtually forced.

16...Nxd5 17.Nxd5 Qxg5 18.Nxc7?

This should lose. Instead, 18.Bxh7+ Kh8 19.Nxc7 is better for White.


A classic pawn sacrifice, unmasking the King's Indian bishop.

19.Nxa8 exd3??

But this misses the win. I am not sure what Gawain overlooked here, but the natural follow-up 19...Bd4+ wins, as the computer confirms: 20.Rf2 (Forced, since 20.Kh1 Nf5 wins, eg 21.Be1 (21.Bxf4 Qxf4 22.g3 exd3 23.Qxd3 Nxg3+ is decisive; as is 21.g3 Nxg3+) 21...Ng3+ 22.Bxg3 fxg3 winning.) 20...Bh3 21.Kh1 exd3 22.Qxd3 Bxf2 23.gxh3 Rxa8.

20.Qxd3 Be6 21.Qe4 Qc5+ 22.Kh1 Be5 23.g3 Bf5 24.Qxb7 Qc8 25.Qxc8 Rxc8 26.Bxf4 Bxf4 27.gxf4 Rxa8

Gawain Jones

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

Jan Werle

Position after 27...Rxa8

White looks as though he should win this ending, but in a time-troubled run-up to move 40, the half point slipped through Werle's fingers, and the game was drawn at move 54.

The in the day's other game, Erwin L'Ami bounced back from two consecutive losses, to defeat David Howell. The latter was gradually pushed back into an increasingly passive position, and it was soon just a question of whether White could break through. L'Ami supplied the answer with a neat rook sacrifice in the endgame:

David Howell

_ _ _ _ _ R _ _
_ p _ r k _ _ _
_ P p _ _ _ p _
_ p _ p _ p P p
_ _ _ P _ P _ P
_ _ _ _ P _ _ _
_ P _ _ K _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Erwin L'Ami

Position after 44...Ke7

White won as follows:

45.Rb8 Kf7 46.Kd2 Re7 47.Kd3 Kg7

Black looks to be holding back the enemy king, thanks to the attack on e3, but it is an illusion.

48.Kc3! Kf7

It turns out that even taking the pawn with check does not help Black: 48...Rxe3+ 49.Kb4 Re7 50.Kc5 etc.

49.Kb4 Rd7 50.Kc5 Ke7

And now the final coup:

51.Rxb7! 1-0

The b6-pawn costs Black a rook, and the resulting K+P ending is an easy win.

So the match score is all square, with just two rounds to go. Action also resumes today in the all-play-all group, where Timman and Cherniaev share the lead, also with two rounds to play.

7th Staunton Memorial Scheveningen London (ENG), 8-17 viii 2009
Round 8 Standings
1 Short,Nigel D 2684 |   6.0/8
2 McShane,Luke J 2620 | | 4.0/8
3 Adams,Michael 2699 | | | 4.0/8
4 Howell,David W L 2614 | | | |   3.5/8
5 Jones,Gawain C B 2554 | | | | | 2.5/8
1 Van Wely,Loek 2655 ½ 01 ½½ 1 5.0/8
2 Smeets,Jan 2632 ½ ½1 1 5.0/8
3 Sokolov,Ivan 2655 11 ½ ½0 1 4.5/8
4 L'Ami,Erwin 2593 ½ ½0 ½ ½1 10 4.0/8
5 Werle,Jan 2575 00 0 0 ½½ 1.5/8

Report by Steve Giddins. Official site:

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