7th Howard Staunton Memorial (7)
The War of the Spanish Succession
FM Steve Giddins - Saturday 15th August 2009
UK beat the Netherlands 3.5-1.5 in round 7.
The War of the Spanish Succession
|Round 7 (August 14, 2009) UK 3.5 Netherlands 1.5|
|Jones, Gawain C B||- Van Wely, Loek||½-½||60||B23||Sicilian Closed|
|Howell, David W L||- Sokolov, Ivan||1-0||29||C45||Scotch Game|
|McShane, Luke J||- L'Ami, Erwin||1-0||44||B11||Caro Kann Two Knights|
|Adams, Michael||- Werle, Jan||½-½||66||C49||Four Knights Metger|
|Short, Nigel D||- Smeets, Jan||½-½||16||C42||Petroff's Defence|
According to that most reliable of information sources, Wikipedia, the War of the Spanish Succession was fought between 1701 and 1714, as various European powers got together to prevent the Spanish and French thrones being unified under a single Bourbon monarch. I have to admit that my knowledge of such matters is not something about which I feel able to boast. Indeed, it was not that long ago that I thought bourbons were just those rather tasty biscuits, with the chocolate in the middle. However, it all rings true. I recall an episode of Yes Minister (a programme which I regard as the source of all political wisdom in this country), in which Sir Humphrey explains to his political master, that the only reason Britain joined the EU was in order that it could sow discord amongst the various member states. "Britain has had the same foreign policy for at least 500 years - to create a disunited Europe", he explains. "In that cause, we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see." Incidentally, on the subject of the EU, I cannot help mentioning an interesting chess connection. A few years ago, Nigel Short played a chess event in Reykjavik, and found himself sitting next to the Icelandic Prime Minister at the closing dinner. Nigel asked the latter when Iceland would be joining the EU, and received the prompt reply "Straight after North Korea!". That seemed clear enough, but times do change - a week is a long time in politics, as our own former PM, Harold Wilson, once pointed out. Just a fortnight ago, the Icelandic parliament voted to apply for membership of the EU. Cynics have suggested that it has something to do with collapsing banks, but I am sure that the nation which did such a wonderful job in rescuing Bobby Fischer from oriental incarceration, must have nobler motives.
However, returning to the subject of Spanish successions, it seems to me that we in the chess world are witnessing a new war on the subject, namely a battle over which opening will replace the venerable Ruy Lopez or Spanish, as White's main weapon after 1.e4 e5. For most of the last 100 hundred years, the Spanish has been almost automatic amongst serious players, but in recent times, an increasing number of White players have been exploring alternatives. The main problem is that the Spanish has been analysed to death in recent years, especially the Marshall and anti-Marshall lines, with "improvements" now regularly turning up at move 30 and beyond. Despite having defied Euclid with the number of permutations of h3, a3 and c3 that White can play to avoid the Marshall, the clear consensus is that White has two tenths of very little in such lines. Throw in the fact that the Petroff is also looking ultra-solid these days, and one understand that today's GMs no longer feel that they can net a guaranteed edge by wheeling out 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5, and "milking the cow", as David Bronstein once described it.
The 2009 Staunton Memorial has reflected this trend very clearly, with non-Spanish alternatives scoring very well for White. Nigel Short has already won with 3.Bc4, whilst the Scotch Game has now scored 3/3 for White. It all seems highly appropriate that this should be the case here, since in Staunton's day, the Spanish was one of the least popular openings. The Scotch's latest triumph came in yesterday's seventh round, and saw David Howell play the game of the event so far:
GM Howell,D 2614 - GM Sokolov,I 2655
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 Bb4+ 5.c3 Bc5 6.Be3 Bb6 7.Qg4
The first round game Jones-L'Ami saw White achieve a pleasant advantage after 7.Nf5 but Ivan, of course, must have prepared something against that move. David instead selects Kasparov's line, which is the sharpest option in this position.
The text looks a little strange, but has been played at high level recently. Theory considers 7...Qf6 8.Qg3 Qg6 as best, and good enough for equality, but it is probably significant that leading players are now avoiding this line - one suspects that they know something!
8...Qe7 was seen in the game Radjabov-Aronian, Sochi 2008.
9.Qh4 Nxd4 10.cxd4 d5
An interesting pawn sacrifice. David admitted after the game that he was not certain whether he had enough compensation, but thought it looked very interesting. The computer prefers 11.Qf6 Rf8 12.0-0-0 Qd6 13.Bb5+ Bd7 14.Bxd7+ Kxd7 15.Qf3, which also looks strong.
11...Bxd4 12.0-0-0 h6 13.exd5 hxg5
13...Bxf2 14.Qxf2 hxg5 15.Ne4 Bf5 16.Bb5+ Kf8 17.Nxg5 Nxd5 18.Qc5+ Kg7 19.Nxf7 Kxf7 20.Rxd5 Qg5+ 21.Rd2 Rhd8 is the computer preference, which it assesses as roughly equal. I am not surprised that Ivan avoided this, however, as it is very hard to judge which of the exposed kings is the more vulnerable. Nonetheless, the text soon leaves Black in serious trouble on the dark squares, so I guess the computer's line had to be tried.
14.Qxd4 Rh4 15.Ne4 Bf5 16.f3 Bxe4 17.fxe4 Kf8
A terrible concession to have to make, but with the white queen ensconced on d4, Black has no chance of ever being able to castle queenside.
18.g3 Rh7 19.Bc4
White simply piles up his pieces on the f7 square. Black already has no adequate defence.
19...Qd6 20.Rhf1 b5 21.Bxb5 Rxh2?!
Objectively, 21...Qb6 looks like the best practical chance, but after 22.Qxb6 axb6 23.Rd2 Rxa2 24.Kc2 the ending is pretty grim for Black as well. Ivan prefers to seek his chances in the middlegame.
22.Rf6 Qxg3 23.Rdf1 Rh7 24.Bc4
With the crushing threat of d6.
24...Ke8 25.Bb5+ Kf8 26.Bd7 Nc8
Allowing a beautiful finish, but there is no hope anyway. At the very pleasant drinks party hosted by sponsor Jan Mol in the evening, Ivan explained to me that he had intended Rd8 at some point round here, with a variation in which his king managed to run, still with unclear play. However, at the last moment, he realised that there was a hole in his calculations. Unfortunately, a combination of senility, drunkenness and general stupidity means that I am quite unable to reconstruct the variation in question, so I am unable to share it with you. I can only apologize, both to my readers and to Ivan himself.
Of course, taking the queen leads to mate after 28...Rxh8 29.Rxf7+ Kg8 30.Rf8+ Kg7 31.R1f7+ Kh6 32.Rxh8#.
All roads lead to mate: 29...Rxf7 (29...Kd6 is mate in four after 30.Qf6+ Kc5 31.Qc3+ Kb6 32.Qc6+ Ka5 33.Qb5#) 30.Qe8+ Kd6 31.Qe6+ Kc5 32.Qc6+ Kd4 33.Qc3+ Kxe4 34.Re1+ Kxd5 35.Qc6+ Kd4 36.Re4+ Kd3 37.Qc4# !
Wonderful stuff from David, who thus adds another queen sacrifice to the collection we have seen at the Staunton Memorial over the past few year (I can think of four, at least!)..
Whilst the new British Champion was strutting his stuff with such style, his teammates were having mixed success. Nigel Short's attempts to turn the Petroff into something slightly less mind-numbingly tedious failed dismally, and he felt obliged to offer a draw as early as move 16. Gawain Jones repeated the Grand Prix Attack against van Wely's Sicilian, hoping to rekindle memories of his own queen sacrifice triumph against the same opponent two years ago. However, lightning did not strike twice, and he spent most of the game struggling to justify his early pawn sacrifice. He wriggled effectively, and despite coming within a few seconds of losing on time at move 40, when the smoke cleared, he had reached a rook and minor piece ending, which was drawn.
Mickey Adams was another who abandoned the Spanish after 1.e4 e5, settling instead for the Four Knights. He obtained a large space advantage, but Werle managed to block the position so completely, that Adams was unable to make any progress, despite Black being so bereft of activity that he spent most of the last 30 moves of the game shuffling his bishop to and fro between c8 and d7.
The remaining game of the day brought another English success, as Luke McShane overcame Erwin L'Ami:
White had been somewhat better for some time in a Two Knights Caro-Kann, but Black was holding until this moment, just two moves before the time control. 39...axb4 would leave the position unclear, but instead Erwin chose the fatal pawn snatch
he was suddenly lost. The game ended
40...Nd6 41.Rxf6 Rd8 42.Rf8 Rb7 43.Nxb7 Kxb7 44.Qe7+ 1-0
So, a great day for England, who take a two-point lead in the match. There was also drama in the all-play-all group, as the amazing Victor Korchnoi threw the tournament wide open, by defeating leader Jan Timman with the black pieces! Timman now shares the lead with Cherniaev, who drew with Hendricks. In the day's other two decisive results, Williams beat Wells and Davies beat Chapman. Saturday is a rest day in the all-play-all group, whilst in the Scheveningen section, the game van Wely-McShane will start early, at 12.00 noon.
|7th Staunton Memorial Scheveningen London (ENG), 8-17 viii 2009
Round 7 Standings
|3||Howell,David W L||2614|||||||||||3.5/7|
|5||Jones,Gawain C B||2554|||||||||||||||||2.0/7|
|7th Staunton Memorial GM London (ENG), 8-17 viii 2009||cat. IX (2463)|
|2.||Timman, Jan H||g||NED||2569||½||*||.||0||1||½||1||1||.||1||5||2599|
|3.||Davies, Nigel R||g||ENG||2493||½||.||*||½||½||0||.||1||1||1||4½||2553|
|5.||Williams, Simon K||g||ENG||2527||0||0||½||.||*||1||½||1||.||1||4||2488|
|6.||Wells, Peter K||g||ENG||2498||.||½||1||.||0||*||0||½||½||1||3½||2448|
|10.||Chapman, Terry P D||ENG||2232||.||0||0||0||0||0||0||.||1||*||1||2194|
|Round 7 (August 14, 2009)|
|Timman, Jan H||- Korchnoi, Viktor||0-1||59||C07||French Tarrasch|
|Williams, Simon K||- Wells, Peter K||1-0||38||E17||Queens Indian|
|Wiersma, Eelke||- Trent, Lawrence||½-½||9||E94||King's Indian Classical|
|Hendriks, Willy||- Cherniaev, Alexander||½-½||35||C55||Two Knights Defence|
|Chapman, Terry P D||- Davies, Nigel R||0-1||48||A13||Reti Opening|
Report by Steve Giddins. Official site: http://howardstaunton.com/hsmt2009/Home.html