Archive for category Games

London Classic Revisited

After my debacle last year, I approached the London Chess Classic with a certain amount of trepidation, but after a good start winning a couple of decent games against Gawain Jones and Judit Polgar things went considerably better. However, I lost to Magnus Carlsen, where I made one of the least excusable errors in chess allowing my time to run very low in a pleasant position thinking the position was too safe to lose. As some players in the candidates have also found the 40 moves in 2 hours time control without increment means you have to handle your clock responsibly or pay the penalty. I then scored a rather fortunate victory versus Viswanathan Anand, but it was nice to beat the World Champion! I slipped up against Luke McShane in a lengthy struggle, generally well played by both players but I have highlighted a couple of key moments where we went wrong.

It is great to have such a special event in London and just as pleasing to see the evolution of the Chess in Schools Charity which supports the event, making massive strides with an ever increasing number of coaches and pupils involved. Malcolm Pein has also pulled off a great coup in securing additional funding of £689,000 from the Education Endowment Foundation.

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Bunratty Masters Champion!

To bring things up to date, and because for a change I won a chess tournament, I am writing about my most recent event and will wrap up the LCC, Baden-Baden, and Gibraltar soon. I garnered a lot of enjoyment and chess education in weekend tournaments, and it is sad to now see few interesting events of this type in England. Fortunately the scene is much more vibrant in Ireland and they are very welcoming to English players, so I was happy to make my second visit to Bunratty for their event.
Although the tournament has a big social side ( one of my opponents almost fell off his chair during our game, and needless to say it wasn’t due to shock at my move) the chess is quite serious, and due to the magic of sensitive boards rather than trying to decipher my Guinness stained scoresheets evidence of my play remains. I have made a few comments to my first 5 games (round 6 was a bit brief!)
In round 1 I was happy to adjourn to the bar with a point on the board fairly quickly, admittedly more due to luck than judgement.

The next morning game with Mark Orr I have annotated in a little more detail, his rook ran into trouble in an unusual manner.

Round 3 I was lucky again as I gambled in an unpromising ending and got rewarded for it.

In the stamina sapping third game on Saturday I managed to avoid major errors, which is often good enough at that stage.

On Sunday I achieved a more promising moves played to drinks consumed ratio as I scored a swift victory in the morning and halved out in the afternoon.

Thanks to all involved with the event especially ,Gary O’Grady and Gerry Graham for their great efforts.

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Gibraltar Master Class

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Back To School

The Chess in Schools and Communities Charity is an integral part of the London Classic event and has made great strides in it’s short existence, having introduced an ever growing number of teachers in many schools.

In the spirit of this, I read in Chess Magazine that Malcolm Pein had made a visit to Scott Lake Elementary School in Miami, a school whose chess club has performed well in schools’ competitions at National level under chess coach Cheryl Polite and Principal Valerie Ward. As we were dodging the English winter with some holiday time in Florida after the LCC I asked him if it would be useful for me to do the same. Malcolm visited in May of 2011 along with Jeb Bush, Jr. through whom Malcolm had learned about this school and who also stopped by to watch my attempt. Malcolm had warned me that a couple of the students were quite strong: fortunately I did not get to find out as they had since graduated. The present batch of kids did keep me pretty busy however, both in terms of the chess and also from a physical point of view as the simul was a little hard on the knees as the boards in the middle had the lowest table I ever encountered in a simul, great for little ‘uns but a little tougher for me even though I’m not a giant!

I decided to demonstrate my game against Kotronias from 1992 hoping to inspire another generation of Marshall players!

It seemed to go down okay despite being played long before my audience was born. I then finished with the simul against the students. I brought over a 2010 London Classic program signed by all the players plus 2 impressive bonus signatures of Kasparov and Korchnoi to award for the best game which was secured by Davar Francois, congratulations Davar, keep up the good work!

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Of Course My Horse

Metro Chess TrophyToo soon after the conclusion of the British, Tara and I jumped on a plane to LA. Ankit Gupta, the organiser, had persuaded me, rather against my better judgement to act as instructor at a 4-day Chess camp. As I had never done anything remotely similar before, this was to say the least somewhat a daunting prospect not aided by a severe lack of preparation time. It was an interesting and highly educational experience (at least for me – not sure about the students) but in general didn’t go too badly apart from a sticky period towards the end of day 3 when I was running a bit low on material.
After a tough simul the following day and some whirlwind sightseeing it was time for the tournament with the common US timetable of 9 games in 5 days. I wasn’t too optimistic about surviving the demanding schedule as I was still having problems with jet lag and was a little fatigued.
A couple of lucky breaks early on changed the dynamic of the event. My first game began (I was Black) 1.d2-d4 Ng8-f6 2.c2-c4 e7-e6 3.g2-g3 d7-d5 4.Ng1-f3 d5xc4 5.Bf1-g2 a7-a6 6.0-0 Nb8-c6 7.Nb1-c3 Bf8-e7 (7..Ra8-b8 is the main theoretical move). Now 8.Qd1-a4 would have been errr.. a bit awkward but my adversary was hypnotized by my incompetence and passed up the opportunity. I wasn’t even aware of what had happened until someone mentioned it to me the following day.

I also had a bit of luck in the 3rd round. I actually got a good opening in this game but after slowly but surely dissipating my advantage I got away with a bad oversight around the time control:

After this things continued to go my way and I finished with a hefty 7.5/9 and took home a dazzling trophy.

Many thanks to Ankit for all his efforts in putting together this excellent event and I wish him the best of luck with his plans for the future.
Photo Credits:

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Nice Technique

It is sometimes said that winning a won game is the hardest thing in chess. Not strictly speaking true but I managed to drum up some support for this theory at the 4NCL and Bundesliga that followed. In the positions below particularly bearing in mind the fairly healthy clock lead in several of them you might expect to make more than 2/4.

As you may have noticed actually I was rather lucky to make that, as the one position I did convert was off the crossbar.

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Simpson’s Simul Swindle

One of the nice touches at the London Classic is the simultaneous display that accompanies the closing dinner: all the participants give a tandem simul making one move each in turn which leads to a happy kind of chaos. The event is quite competitive as several of the boards (each having 4 players consulting) have on their team a GM including  Speelman, King, Rowson, Norwood, Watson, Keene  and several other handy players;  last year the tournament participants had a fairly heavy loss.  Chess players are maniacally quite competitive and this year we were paying a bit more attention (whilst making sure not to miss out on their Yorkshire pud and glasses of claret).  Malcolm Pein gave a running commentary on the mic, eventually he announced that the score was even at 8 all with just  1 game remaining, at this stage Magnus took over the game , a not unwelcome development that I wouldn’t have minded availing myself of on a few other occasions. Still the game seemed destined for a draw as there were only queens and a few pawns remaining, the Black players were the presidents of three federations :CJ de Mooi of the ECF ,Tomas Sielicki of the Polish Federation, Viktor Kapustin of the Ukraine Federation and Frederic Friedel of Chessbase fame who had put up stiff resistance in a Stonewall Dutch.

Magnus has just nudged his king forward to h4, a move which contained a rather vicious trap.

I hope all my visitors have had a happy holiday season – all the best for 2011!


This Year: Canterbury

Canterbury seemed, to a rare participant, to be an above average venue for the British championships:  a nice town with a decent playing hall and reasonable accommodation available at the university.  The main drawbacks seemed to be the failure of the university to open any restaurants during the weekend, a move which cost them a lot of money as well as causing considerable inconvenience due to the lack of other options nearby.  Failing to keep the bar open on the last night as they had done on other occasions was probably also not financially astute.  During my longest stay on a campus my main problem was the extreme temperature in my room, until I managed to circumvent health and safety by acquiring the requisite Allen key to open the window more than a crack my room closely resembled a sauna.

Some of my games have already been annotated for the Telegraph, and others will appear in BCM and Chessbase but I will mention an interesting moment in my game with Richard Pert in the third round. Read the rest of this entry »

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French Cup Fortress

I enjoyed reading Eric Hallsworth’s columns on chess engines’ failings in 2 recent editions of Chess magazine and found that a similar silicon bemusement had occurred in one of my games.  It took place in the final of the French Cup, which was not my finest hour, perhaps affected by “First Game Syndrome” in my opening appearance for a new team. The word lucky is completely insufficient to describe the amount of good fortune I needed to win the game but the fortress possibility at the end is fairly unusual.

After the game I got the happy news that the football had finished 4-1 to Germany!

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Number Crunching

Lets return as promised to Open Tournament number 2, the European Individual Championship in Rijeka.  Here things defaulted back to my traditional open routine, as despite starting with 3.5/4 I was out of the money even before the last round began. This was a ridiculously strong event in relation to the prize fund, perhaps as several federation’s cover all the player’s expenses. The ECF doesn’t prioritize the event in the same way, so it isn’t a greatly appealing event for English players and this was the first time I had played. The event is one way to qualify for the World Cup but perhaps given the continually ‘evolving’ status of that event most players didn’t seem too interested in this preferring to throw the dice hoping for a big payday instead. In general the organisers did a decent job, but the bus transfers between the hotels and playing hall left a lot to be desired especially given the transfer fees they had received from the participants. The unseasonably cold weather with snow on some days didn’t add much to this aspect of the tournament either.

I did achieve one curiosity, my second round game reminded me of a game from the dim and distant past. John Emms achieved an impressively spectacular drop in computer evaluation (despite retaining a winning position) in his game with Fressinet back in the Istanbul Olympiad when he erred on his 30th move.

I was intrigued by this and was always on the lookout for similar “achievements”, but was unaware my second round game had thrown up a similar curiosity until I saw Mig mention it in his Blog.

In the game after some cooperative play from my opponent, I had managed to remedy a fairly dodgy opening and put the boot in on the kingside, strangely again it is the 30th move that sends the numbers tumbling like BP’s share price. Read the rest of this entry »

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