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Hastings Chess Congress 2009-10 (7)

Hastings Round 7 Report

Steven Giddins reports on Round 7 of the Hastings Chess Congress 2009-10.

Mors tua, vita mea

The latter rounds of Swiss tournaments can often be bloody affairs, in which "many must die, that a few may live". As we reach the business end of the tournament, draws are of little use to those battling for major prizes. It is usually only in the last round, alas, that wholesale grandmaster draws take precedence, as players seek to consolidate their earlier gains. Most often, the real battle for the prizes takes place in the penultimate and ante-penultimate rounds.

So it was in yesterday's seventh round of the Hastings Masters. Although the top two boards were both drawn, the next nine all saw decisive results, with White triumphing in eight of those games. Romain Edouard of France won another fine positional game, this time at the expense of Andreas Strunski. The German IM donated his dark-squared bishop in the opening, and spent the rest the rest of the game in chains on the dark squares:

Edouard,Romain (2620) - Strunski,Andreas (2386) [D44]

Hastings Masters (7), 03.01.2010

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 e6 6.e4 Bb4 7.Bg5 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Qa5 9.e5 Ne4 10.Rc1 b6 11.Qc2 Qd5 12.Bxc4 Qxc4 13.Qxe4 h6 14.Nd2 Qd5 15.Be3 Qxe4 16.Nxe4 Ba6 17.c4 Nd7 18.f4 Ke7 19.Bd2 c5 20.d5 f6 21.d6+ Kf7 22.0-0 f5 23.Nf2 Bb7 24.a5 g6 25.Rc3 Bc6 26.Ra1 Rhg8 27.Rh3 Rh8 28.Rha3 Rhg8 29.Rh3 Rh8 30.Kf1 Bb7

31.Rha3 g5 32.axb6 axb6 33.Ra7 g4 34.Nd1 Bc6 35.Nc3 Rhb8 36.Nb5 Rxa7 37.Rxa7 Rb7 38.Ra3 Rb8 39.Nc7 b5 40.cxb5 Bxb5+ 41.Nxb5 Rxb5 42.Ra7 Ke8 43.Ke2 h5 44.Kd3 Rb3+ 45.Kc4 Rb2 46.Ba5 Rf2 47.Ra8+ Kf7 48.g3 Rc2+ 49.Kb3 Rc1 50.Rd8 Rb1+ 51.Kc2 Rb7 52.Bc7 Nb6 53.Bxb6 Rxb6 54.Rh8 1-0

In the all-English clash Howell-Hawkins, the latter seemed to equalize without too much trouble against his opponent's main line Spanish, but an uncharacteristic rush f blood saw Hawkins sacrifice a piece for a couple of pawns in the queenless middlegame. It never really looked convincing, and he lost without too much of a fight thereafter.

Mark Hebden has been coming to Hastings for over 30 years, and is still battling for top honours. He did his cause a power of good by cashing in when Kjartansson lost his way in a tough King's Indian position:

Kjartansson,Gudmundur (2391) - Hebden,Mark L (2522) [E97]

Hastings Masters (7), 03.01.2010

1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 Bg7 3.d4 Nf6 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Ne8 10.c5 h6 11.a4 f5 12.Nd2 g5 13.Ba3 Ng6 14.Re1 Nf6 15.b5 Rf7 16.cxd6 cxd6 17.Nc4 Bf8 18.exf5 Bxf5 19.Ne3 Bd7 20.g3 Rc8 21.Bb4 e4 22.Qb1 Ne5 23.Nxe4 Nxe4 24.Qxe4 Qf6 25.Rf1 Bh3

Here, the computer is still optimistic about White's chances after 26.Bh5, but the young Icelander instead preferred the dubious 26.f4? After 26...gxf4 27.gxf4 Nd7 he was already in some trouble, and his attempt to hold things together by 28.Ng2? simply lost material. Play continued 28...Re7 29.Qd3 Bf5 30.Qd1 Qb2, and wriggle as he might, White cannot avoid dropping something. Hebden won after 31.Bd2 Rc2 32.Rb1 Qd4+ 33.Be3 Qxd1 0-1

Simon Ansell continued his fine run by beating Kolbus, whilst Keith Arkell was in trouble early on against Giffard, but turned the tables in the middlegame and won. On the next board, another English GM found himself in trouble with White, and for a fleeting moment, it looked as though Gormally was going to become the victim of the day's big upset:

Gormally,Daniel W (2479) - Anderson,John (2209) [A45]

Hastings Masters (7), 03.01.2010

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 g6 3.Bxf6 exf6 4.e3 d6 5.h4 h5 6.Bc4 Bh6 7.Nd2 f5 8.Ne2 0-0 9.g3 Nd7 10.Nf4 Bxf4 11.gxf4 Nf6 12.Qf3 Rb8 13.Rg1 Kg7 14.0-0-0 b5 15.Be2 Be6 16.Qg3 c5 17.dxc5 Qa5 18.e4? Qxa2 19.exf5 Qa1+ 20.Nb1

At this point, with the watching internet audience cheering him on, Anderson could have secured his second consecutive GM scalp, by 20...Ba2, eg. 21.Bd3 (21.fxg6 Ne4 -+) Qxb1+ 22.Kd2 Qxb2 23.fxg6 and now 23...dxc5 24.gxf7+ Ng4 wins, although the computer prefers 23...Rg8 instead. Instead, he ignored the classical injunction occasionem cognosce and chose 20... Bxf5??, after which the tables quickly turned.  21.Bd3 Bxd3 22.Rxd3 Ne4? 23.Qe3 Nxc5 24.Ra3 1-0. A narrow escape for the GM, and a major missed opportunity for Anderson.

By the end of round seven, therefore, we have no fewer than seven players sharing the lead on 5.5, with another six just half a point behind. Today's top 8 live boards should see some serious fighting chess, as those with the white pieces, for probably the last time in the tournament, make a desperate effort to put themselves in pole position for the final round. As the Spartan women used to tell their husbands and sons, when sending them into battle, "E tan, e epi tan!" - "Come back with your shield or upon it!".

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