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London Chess Classic Results (19.12.2015.)

Wiltshire marked their return to the West of England Inter-County competition with an 8-4 win over Cornwall in the U-160 section at Chudleigh Knighton Village Hall. Compensation for the Cornish was the continuing emergence of 9 year old Adam Hussein as a force to be reckoned with. Details as follows: (Wilts names first in each pairing).

1. T. Woodward (154) 1-0  C. Sellwood (157). 2. M. Bowhay (152) 1-0  R. Smith (143). 3. D. O’Byrne (149) 1-0 R. Stephens (142). 4. Fenella Headlong (148) 0-1 M. Hill (136). 5. C. Snook-Lumb (139) 1-0 N. Robinson (129). 6. T. Cooper (133) 1-0 D. R Jenkins (124). 7. C. Callow (130e) 1-0 D. Lucas (124). 8. B. Headlong (126) 0-1 R. Clark (124). 9. R. Morris (122) 0-1 I. Renshaw (121). 10. R. Carver (115) 1-0 D. Hutchinson (UG). 11. M. Walters (104) 1-0 B. Parkin (115). 12. R. Sparks (80) 0-1 A. Hussein (82).

The London Chess classic finished on Sunday evening in a 3-way tie for 1st place, after top seed Magnus Carlsen (Norway) won from what was at one stage was a lost position to draw level with Anish Giri (Holland) and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France). This necessitated a play-off which Carlsen won, thus going from potential zero to hero in the space of a few hours.

The other notable achievement was that of Cornishman Michael Adams who drew every one of his 9 games against the World’s best. His defensive qualities were severely tested at times but no one could get the better of him. In fact, wins were rare throughout. Of the 45 games played there were only 9 wins.

Here is the Rd. 9 game that brought Carlsen level with the other leaders.

White: Magnus  Carlsen. Black: Alex Grischuk [B51]

1.Nf3 c5 2.e4 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.0–0 a6 5.Bd3 Ngf6 6.Re1 b5 7.c4 g5 8.Nxg5 Ne5 9.Be2 bxc4 10.Nc3 Rb8 11.Rf1! h6 12.Nf3 Nd3 13.Ne1 Nxb2 14.Bxb2 Rxb2 15.Bxc4 Rb4  16.Qe2 Bg7 17.Nc2 Rb6 18.Rab1 0–0 19.Rxb6 Qxb6 20.Ne3 e6 21.f4 Kh8 22.f5 a5 23.a4 White has a positional and time advantage and seems destined for an easy win.  Qd8 24.h3 Qe7 25.Ba6 Bxa6 Black could have defended his a-pawn but thinks there might be chances for himself. 26.Qxa6 Nh5! Opening lines for his queen and bishop, with an eye on g3. 27.Rf3 Rg8! 28.Nb5? Moving a piece away from his attacked kingside. Be5 29.Ng4 Qh4 30.fxe6!? fxe6? 30…Rxg4! would lead to winning chances for Black. 31.Nxe5 dxe5 32.Qxe6 Qe1+? 32…Qg5! would have been good enough to draw. 33.Kh2 Rxg2+ 34.Kxg2 Qxd2+ 35.Kg1 Qe1+ 36.Rf1 Qe3+ 37.Rf2 Qe1+ 38.Kg2 Black suddenly realises he has no perpetual check in hand. 38…Qxe4 39.Kh2 and suddenly it’s all over.1–0

In last week’s position, White played 1.Nxc6 and Topolov blundered by retaking with his bishop instead of rook, which allows 2.BxN and Black can’t retake because there is a back-rank mate, so he loses significant material.

This week’s position is a hitherto unpublished 3-mover by Dave Howard. Black is clearly set to lose, but how can it be done neatly in just 3 moves?

White to mate in 3

Gloucestershire beat Devon & The London Chess Classic (12.12.2015.)

Gloucestershire beat Devon recently for the first time in years, probably due to a combination of Devon missing several of their top players for this match and the fact that Gloucestershire is starting to draw more on players from the north Bristol League area. Details as follows:- (Devon names 2nd in each pairing).

1.M. Townsend (203) ½-½ J. Stephens (196) 2.J. Stewart (200) 1-0 J. Underwood (186). 3.I. Robson (199) 1-0 L. Hartmann (190). 4.M. Ashworth (190) ½-½ T. Paulden (185). 5.J. Jenkins (185) ½-½ S. Martin (184). 6.N. Hosken (184) 1-0 D. Regis (180). 7.P. Masters (182) ½-½ C. (179). 8.P. Kirby (181) ½-½ B. Hewson (176). 9.C. Jones (180) ½-½ J. F. Wheeler (177). 10.P. Meade (169) ½-½ P. Sivrev (172). 11.P. Dodwell (14 9) ½-½ O. Wensley (170). 12.R. Ashworth (145) ½-½ T. Thynne (167). 13.P. Baker (141) ½-½ G. Body (163) 14.C. Haynes (138) ½-½ W. Ingham             (158). 15.B. Whitelaw(137) ½-½ P. Brooks (158). 16.A. Richards (125) 0-1 N. Butland (155).

Another feature of the match was the high percentage of draws (75%).

This is also the case in the London Chess Classic, with only 3 wins from the first 20 games. They are using a different scoring system, sometimes referred to as “Bilbao Rules”, players earning 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw and none for a loss. “Sofia Rules” also apply, whereby players cannot agree a draw without the arbiter’s permission, and then only granted when there is deemed to be no purposeful play left in the position. There is also the added incentive of best game prizes.

Yet the preponderance of draws continues. Most of the games have been well-contested, but almost inevitably, when the world’s top players are involved, things will gravitate towards a draw as irresistible attack meets immovable defence. Striving too hard for wins will certainly invite the danger of losses, handing 3 pts to an opponent. Early on, sharp attacking openings like the Sicilian Defence have been largely absent, in favour of the more solid and safer, Ruy Lopez. The event finishes today.

Here’s a rare win from the early stages.

White: V. Topalov. Black: A. Giri.

Grünfeld Defence [D71]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.g3 c6 4.Bg2 d5 5.Qa4 Nfd7 6.cxd5 Nb6 7.Qd1 cxd5 8.Nc3 Nc6 9.e3 Bg7 10.Nge2 0–0 11.0-0 Re8 12.b3 e5 13.dxe5 Nxe5 14.h3 Bf5 15.Nd4 Bd3 16.Re1 Ba6 17.Qd2 Nd3 18.Rd1 Bxd4 19.exd4 Qf6 20.a4!? Qxd4!? 21.a5 Nd7 22.Ra4 Qe5 23.Nxd5 Nxc1?! 24.Rxc1 Nf6 25.Nc7 Rad8 26.Qf4 g5 27.Qb4 Qb2 28.Raa1 Re2 29.Qc5 h6 30.Nxa6 bxa6 31.Rab1 Qd2 32.Bf3 Ne4! 33.Qxa7?? Nxf2! 34.Bxe2 Nxh3+ 35.Kf1 Qd5! 36.Bh5 Qh1+ 37.Ke2 Qg2+ 38.Ke1 Re8+ 39.Kd1 Nf2+ 40.Kc2 Ne4+ 0-1 After 41.Kd3 Qd2+ 42.Kc4 Rc8+ it’s mate next move.

In last week’s position, Anand lost to the queen sacrifice 1.QxP+! forcing 1…RxQ 2.Ng6+ Kg8 3.Rh8 mate. Here’s a Topolov loss from some years ago. White to play and win.

White to play & beat Topolov

London Chess Classic 2015

Many of the World’s top players have been gathering in the capital this week for the London Chess Classic, the strongest tournament ever held in the UK, which started yesterday at Olympia and will run until next Sunday.

The 10 players forming the top section, with their nationality and world rankings,   are Magnus Carlsen (Norway – World Champion); Veselin Topolov (Bulgaria – no. 2); Vishy Anand (India – no. 3); Hikaru Nakamura (USA – no. 5); Fabio Caruana (USA – no. 6); Lev Aronian (Armenia – no. 7); Anish Giri (Holland – no. 9); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France – no. 12); Alexander Grischuk (Russia – no. 14) & Michael Adams (no. 18).

Today’s Rd. 2 pairings are:- 1. Giri vs Adams. 2. Aronian vs Anand. 3. Carlsen vs Caruana. 4. Nakamura vs Vachier-Lagrave & 5.Topalov vs Grischuk. The games may be watched live on the event website. Interestingly, the football league system of awarding 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw is used, to reduce the risk of short, dull, grandmaster draws, and increase the likelihood of spirited fighting chess.

Among the many other sections available to players of more modest talents is a new knockout tournament involving 8 of Britain’s top players, in which England’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th, & 6th grades, David Howell, Luke McShane, Nigel Short and Gawain Jones are joined by the 2 most promising juniors, Yang-Fan Zhou and Daniel Fernandez plus Scottish No. 1 Jonathan Rowson.

Visitors will also be able to play them as several, including Nunn, Speelman and McShane will be taking on 20 at a time – simultaneously.

This game came from the London Classic Knock-Out 2 years ago.

White: Michael Adams (2754). Black: Peter Svidler (2758)

Sicilian Defence – Sveshnikov Variation. [B90]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 The signature move of the Sveshnikov, in which Black accepts a weakening of his d-pawn and a weak d5 square, in return for buying time to develop his pieces.  7.Nf3 Qc7 8.a4 Be6 9.Be2 h6 10.0–0 Nbd7 11.h3 Be7 12.Nh2 0–0 13.Ng4 Qc6 14.Qd3 Rfc8 15.Rfd1 Rab8 16.a5 Nc5 The power of the check comes into play. 17.Nxf6+ Bxf6 allowing his already weakened d-pawn to fall. If 17…gxf6 18.Bxc5 Qxc5. 18.Qxd6 Qxd6 19.Rxd6 Be7 20.Rd2 Bg5 21.Bxg5 hxg5 22.Bg4 b5 23.axb6 Rxb6 24.Nd5 Threatening Ne7+ winning a rook. 24…Rb7 25.f3 Rcb8 26.b4 1–0 After 26…Bxd5 27.Rxd5 Ne6 28.Bxe6 fxe6 and Black’s doubled pawns can be picked off at leisure.

Last week’s position was ended by 1.RxP+! with the threat of 2.Ne6+ forking king & queen.

Last year’s winner of the London Chess Classic was former World Champion, Vishy Anand. This position from a game in 1987, however, was not one of his finest moments. White to play and administer a knock-out blow.

White to play and demolish Anand.

What’s So Royal About the Royal Beacon?

The Royal Beacon Hotel – How Come


Since the millennium, the Royal Beacon Hotel, Exmouth has become one of the best-appointed and popular venues for small to medium chess events. It also has an interesting background: so, what’s so “Royal” about the Royal Beacon? 

First of all, the Beacon. The hotel is situated on the highest point of the old cliff-top nearest the town centre, the site of the original beacon, which probably dated back to Elizabethan times. At that time, with the constant fear of invasion by Spanish Catholic forces, the whole of the English south coast was linked by a series of beacons on every prominence, each visible to those adjacent when lit. In this way, news of an approaching Armada could travel from Land’s End to London in a matter of hours – the nearest thing the Tudors had to e-mail. The cliff-top would have been kept well clear of the kind of scrubby bushes and trees that so annoyingly obscure the sea view today, so the beacon-keepers at Exmouth were in visible contact with Berry Head, near Brixham, and as soon as that was seen to be alight, Exmouth would spring into action, relaying the danger message eastward along the coast.  The original beacon has long since gone, of course, but a modern structure, symbolic of the original, still stands outside the Hotel’s front door. (see left)

The hotel’s origins can be traced to the French Revolution of 1789, which, after the guillotining and general Terror died down, was hijacked by the Corsican corporal, Napoleon Bonaparte, who for the next 20 years stomped up and down Western Europe with his armies, from Madrid to Moscow, fomenting further revolutions and was viewed at the time as being at best a bit of a pest, and at worst a dangerous megalomaniac. 

These troubles made it too dangerous for the British aristocracy to take their traditional Grand Tour, during which they would tour the Continent in general and Italy in particular, drinking in the culture of warmer climes. Now they had to make the best of things and make do with the English seaside – a novel idea at the time. This saw small towns like Sidmouth and Exmouth rise from fishing villages to become fashionable resorts for the moderately wealthy. Young Victoria herself had a place in Sidmouth, while Exmouth’s Beacon area became filled with fine Regency houses and hotels. Lady Nelson and Lady Byron lived there, and in 1810, with the Battle of Waterloo still 5 years away, the hotel was built, and named the Marine Hotel. 

And what of the royal connection, and how “royal” is it?  This is another fascinating story, woven into the mainstream of European history. At the recent 15th Seniors’ Chess Congress held there in November 2015, one of the players, Roger Scowen, ever the scholar, put me on to the story of how it all came about. 

Germany in the early 19th century consisted of a patchwork of small kingdoms, dukedoms, electorates, states etc. each with its own hierarchy of aristocrats. The Kingdom of Saxony (1806 – 1918), as it emerged from the post-Napoleonic upheavals, was centred around Dresden and Leipzig in the east of modern day Germany. 

In June 1836 Frederick Augustus II became King of Saxony. He was intelligent, liberal, popular with his people, and keen to learn about the natural world. To this end, in 1844 he organised an informal tour of the UK accompanied only by his personal physician, Carl Gustav Carus. After paying his respects to Victoria and Albert at Windsor he set off with Carus along the south coast, noting among other things, interesting flora and fauna, human activities, geological formations etc. 

Carus himself was a true polymath, being a doctor both of medicine and philosophy, scientist, artist, naturalist, psychologist and goodness knows what else besides. En route, he made regular notes about anything that interested either man, which were later written up into a book entitled The King of Saxony’s Journey Through England and Scotland. 

After purchasing a large ichthyosaur skeleton from Mary Anning herself in Lyme Regis, the pair proceeded westward. This is the relevant extract from pp 200 & 202 of the journal. 

Exmouth: July 1st  Evening. 

……. ‘At the top, the road passes through a deep cutting, and, after a short drive, we arrived at this place, which takes its name from its situation at the place where the river Ex empties itself into the channel. Exmouth is also very much visited by those who wish to enjoy the benefits of sea air and bathing. In my “Road Book of England”, Exmouth is said to be “the oldest and best frequented watering place in Devon;” and the height on which our small hotel (The Marine Hotel) is situated, it can clearly be perceived that the wide bay, with its numerous and boldly projecting promontories, must be a place in which ships can lie in perfect safety, sheltered from every storm. We went down to the shore and found it covered with the finest sand, in which here and there were specimens of the violet convolvulus (Convolvulus Soldanella), and the blue flowering Eryngium maritimum, and multitudes of shells of various colours. The evening had become gloomy, but calm and warm; merchant vessels at anchor were scattered about in the bay; small fishing-boats were cleaving the glassy waters, enclosed by the beautiful projecting headlands; whilst two ships, with their full-set sails flapping loose and scarcely able to catch a breath of wind, were being towed out to sea by a fishing-boat. The whole scene was charming; and when we remembered the noon-tide heat, the cool air proved doubly delightful and refreshing. 

Next morning: 

Exmouth bay penetrates deeply into the land, so that it would have added greatly to the distance to have travelled round; the carriages were, therefore, early in the morning put on board boats and thus conveyed across the water to a sandy promontory on the opposite side (Dawlish Warren) from which they were drawn by horses, sent for the purpose, to the high road on the further side. We, ourselves, passed the bay in a small row-boat, enjoying the delightful morning air and glorious sunlight reflected in all directions from the clear waves”………. 

And that’s it. One evening in Exmouth is all it took to establish that royal connection. Actually, the pair were travelling incognito, as they didn’t want a lot of fuss and fanfare to impede their progress, and the hotel staff may not have known at the time exactly who these bed & breakfast guests were, but word must have got out at some point. When it got back to the Proprietor, he wasn’t slow to spot an opportunity, and changed the name from the Marine to the Royal Beacon Hotel, and that’s how it’s been for the past 170 years. 

What happened to our pair of Saxons? Exactly 10 years after his Exmouth escapade, he was making a trip through the Tyrol and fell beneath the hooves of a horse that stepped on his head, and being childless was succeeded to the throne by his younger brother, Johann. 

Carus died in 1869 aged 80, and his work influenced, among others, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories and Carl Jung’s theories on the role of the unconscious in the psyche. In 2015, his grave in Dresden is currently due for removal due to non-payment of fees.

Roger Scowan with a problem

Carl Gustav Carus - Polymath.

King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony