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March 2017
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Big Bucks Bring Bonus? (17.10.2015.)

As reported last week, I came 2nd= in the Minor section of the Bude Rapidplay and received £10 for my efforts, an event as rare as it was pleasing. After all, that’s as much as the great English player J. H. Blackburne won at the super-strong Hastings tournament in 1895. Yet the vast majority of chessplayers don’t play for money, but for the adrenalin rush as an unexpected win comes into view.

Bobby Fischer went some way to correcting this amateur outlook as he fought for vastly increased prize-money and public recognition and consideration for chessplayers. At the time it was, in some quarters, considered somewhat vulgar, but by 1972 he had certainly succeeded in his aims.

Now another American is pushing the cause even further. This is Maurice Ashley, the first African-American Grandmaster, with the support of Amy Lee, an entrepreneur from Vancouver, whose PokerStars company ran its first tournament with a $1,000,000 prizefund in Las Vegas last year, where probably the only UK participant was Exeter’s Tim Paulden who won £1,000 for his efforts. However, his entry fee, or “buy-in”, as they call it, was $1,000.

Last week, they launched into Britain when the prizefund of £35,000 attracted many of Europe’s top players to the PokerStars Isle of Man Tournament, making it probably the UK’s strongest-ever Open International. It finished last weekend in a 3-way tie on 7/11 points between Pentala Harikrishna (India), Laurent Fressinet, (France) and Gabriel  Sargissian, (Armenia). After various tie-rules were invoked and win-bonuses added in, Harikrisha got the title and £16,000, while Fressinet got £11,000 and Sargissian £9,000.

Ashley’s argument is that only big money prizes in chess will grab the world-wide general public’s attention. Bude still has some way to go – not that anyone’s worried about that.

In last week’s position White could have won by 1.Rxh7+ Kxh7 2.Rf7+ Kh8 2. Qg6 and Qh7mate cannot be prevented. But he missed it and eventually lost.

In 1996 Michael Adams was invited to take part in the New York Chess-In-The-Schools Tournament, which he won easily. He reported it in British Chess Magazine, noting (a) that the commentary room was full of inner-city children before whom each player had to go through their game afterwards and (b) all players had to wear a suit and tie throughout; (now there’s an idea). He didn’t mention this Rd. 8 game, but the sharp finish does appear in chess literature.

White: M. Adams (2660). Black: Joel Benjamin (2570).

Sicilian Defence – Alapin Variation. [B22]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.d4 cxd4 6.cxd4 b6 7.Bc4 Ba6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.0–0 Be7 10.Nbd2 0–0 11.Ne4 Nac7 12.Bg5 f6 13.exf6 Nxf6 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Rc1 d5 16.Ng3 Qd7 17.Nh4 Bd6 18.f4 f5 19.Nh5 Qf7 20.Rf3 Kh8 21.Rh3 Rg8 22.Nf3 Qe7 23.Qe2 Ne8 24.Rc6 Qd7 25.Ne5 Qe7 which brings us to this week’s position. How did Adams now demolish the American Grandmaster?

White to play and win.

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