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Hastings Chess Congress 2009-10 (5)

Hastings Round 5 Report

Steve Giddins reports on Hastings Round 5 which took place on New Year's Day.

Aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus

Blunders. Don't you just hate them? Nearly all of the most dramatic moments in chess history concern those inexplicable moments of tragic weakness, when a player throws away the fruits of hours' of hard work. Chess is especially cruel in that way. It is often said that blundering in a winning position is the chessboard equivalent of a cricketer getting himself out when on 99, but the late Hugh Alexander pointed out that the chess situation is even worse. Disappointed though he may be at missing out on a century, at least the batsman who gets out on 99 is allowed to keep his 99 runs. The chess player, who works like a Trojan for four or more hours to establish a winning position, and then blunders, gets a zero in the scorechart, just as surely as if he had allowed Fool's Mate - parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus, he can be heard to wail.

The other thing about blunders is that all players make them, no matter how great the players concerned may be. I am sure we all remember the tragic case of Chigorin, the great Russian master of the latter part of the 19th century, who blundered into a simple mate in 2, when a piece up against Steinitz in game 23 of their 1892 world championship match. More recently, Kramnik suffered the embarrassment of overlooking a mate in one threat, against the computer Deep Fritz, in their match in 2006. And the list goes on - name a great player, and you are sure to be able to find a few examples of his committing one-move howlers, that would not look out of place in the 4th Division of the Little Ditchford  Evening League.

Here at the 2009 Hastings, it was the British Champion, David Howell, who had cause to curse the fickle fates. After establishing a winning advantage against Andrei Istratescu of Romania, Howell blundered fatally:

 Howell,David W L (2597) - Istratescu,Andrei (2624) [C07]

Hastings Masters (5.2), 01.01.2010

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.exd5 Qxd5 7.Nb5 Na6 8.c4 Qc6 9.Nf3 b6 10.Be2 Bb7 11.0-0 Be7 12.a3 0-0 13.Nbd4 Qc8 14.b4 Rd8 15.Qb3 e5 16.Nc2 e4 17.Nfd4 Nb8 18.Bb2 Nc6 19.Rad1 Nxd4 20.Nxd4 a5 21.h3 axb4 22.axb4 Bf8 23.Rc1 Qc7 24.Rfd1 Rac8 25.Nf5 Rxd1+ 26.Rxd1 Qf4 27.Ne3 Ne8 28.Bg4 Ra8 29.c5 Nf6 30.cxb6 Nxg4 31.Nxg4 Re8 32.Rd7 Re7 33.Rd8 e3 34.Nxe3 Qg5

 

Having turned down a draw offer at move 22, Howell had worked up a winning advantage, but now disaster struck. 35.Rd2 would adequately meet the threat of 35...Rxe3, but instead, a time-trouble-ravaged Howell played the catastrophic 35.Rd5??, after which he was lost, following the reply 35...Rxe3! The game ended 36.Qxe3 Qxe3 37.fxe3 Bxd5 38.Bc3 f6 39.Kf2 Kf7 40.g4 g5 41.Ke2 Be4 42.Kf2 Ke6 43.Kg3 Bd6+ 44.Kf2 Be5 45.Bd2 Kd5 0-1 Sic transit gloria mundi, as my old Medway Chess Club match captain used to say at such moments.

That stroke of good fortune allowed Istratescu to assume the outright lead. Close behind him come Edouard and Drozdovskij, who halved out after 16 moves of Queen's Gambit theory, and Keith Arkell, who beat Simon Knott. This last game was vintage Keith - queens off at move 12, into a level ending, in which he soon picked off a pawn, and won the double rook position in a canter. With all due respect to his opponent, Keith made it look like shelling peas.

Arkell,Keith C (2464) - Knott,Simon J B (2348) [D76]

Hastings Masters (5.6), 01.01.2010

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.Nf3 g6 5.g3 Bg7 6.Bg2 0-0 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d4 Nb6 9.e3 Re8 10.b3 e5 11.Nxe5 Nxe5 12.dxe5 Qxd1 13.Rxd1 Bxe5 14.Bb2 c6 15.Rd2 Bf5 16.Rad1 a5 17.Ne2 Bxb2 18.Rxb2 Rad8 19.Rc1 Re7 20.Nd4 Be4 21.Bxe4 Rxe4 22.b4 Na4 23.Rb3 axb4 24.Rxb4 c5 25.Rxa4 cxd4 26.Rd1 Rc8 27.Rb1 Re6 28.Rxd4 Rc2 29.Rf4 b6 30.a4 Ra2

31.g4 g5 32.Rf5 h6 33.Rb4 Kg7 34.h4 gxh4 35.Rbf4 f6 36.Rb4 Rc6 37.Kg2 Rc5 38.Rff4 Rg5 39.Kh3 Ra1 40.Kxh4 h5 41.Rxf6 Rxg4+ 42.Rxg4+ Kxf6 43.Kxh5 Kf5 44.Rf4+ 1-0

Hracek, Philippe and Greet all won, to join the chasing group on 4 points, the latter also including Hebden, who could not overcome Simon Ansell's defence in a theoretically drawn 3 v 2 rook ending. Lower down the tournament, Simon Williams won his second straight game, but despite this, he is still not the highest-placed player called Williams in this tournament! 13-year old namesake Peter continued his outstanding performance, by holding Kjartansson to a draw, after a long defensive struggle. There is something about this youngster which reminds me rather of the late Tony Miles - like the latter, Williams seems to have a robust self-confidence and absence of respect for reputations, and also a penchant for slightly offbeat openings (notably his regular use of 1.f4 as White). He is definitely a player to watch for the future.

Although youth has been to the fore in this event, Russian veteran Boris Furman struck back for the more mature generation, by outplaying Sam Collins with Black. Finally, on board 24, there was more evidence, as if such be needed, that the magnificent monument of chess literature that is 101 Chess Opening Traps is in dire need of a reprint - anyone from Gambit Publications listening out there?

Griffiths,Ryan Rhys (2148) - Webb,Laurence E (2321) [A29]

Hastings Masters (5.24), 01.01.2010

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nc3 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.a3 0-0 9.b4 Be6 10.Rb1 f6 11.d3 a5 12.b5 Nd4 13.Nd2

13...Nd5?? A highly plausible move, which has ensnared many a strong player. 14.Bxd5! Bxd5 15.e3 And suddenly, Black is losing a piece! Laurence fought on all the way to move 71, but eventually had to bow to the inevitable. 

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