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British Championship Surpises. (05.08.2017.) 945

Of the 103 competitors in the British Championships, which reaches its climax tomorrow in the final round, 13 are Grandmasters. These tend to sail through the early rounds as they are drawn against players from the lower reaches, but their games get progressively tougher as their opponents will have the same score. Approaching the half-way mark at Llandudno, most of the GMs had avoided mishaps, with one or two exceptions.

In this game the veteran and 7th seed Mark Hebden (60 next year) took on a strong player (41st seed) who is not quite a household name in chess circles, and the outcome was probably the biggest upset of the opening 4 rounds.

White: John Merriman (210). Black: GM Mark Hebden (242).

King’s Indian Defence – Sämisch Variation [E81]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0–0 6.Bg5 a6 7.Qd2 c6 8.Bd3 Nbd7 9.Nge2 e5 10.d5 cxd5 11.cxd5 White’s pawns will take some shifting, and prove to be the key to the game. 11…b5 12.0–0 Nc5 13.Bc2 a5 14.a3 a4 15.Nc1 Bd7 16.Nd3 Qb6 17.Be3 Nh5 18.Ne2 Rac8 19.Rac1 f5 20.Nxc5 dxc5 Freeing up Black’s backward pawn, but also White’s advanced d-pawn. 21.Bd3 Qd6 22.g3 f4 23.gxf4 exf4 24.Bf2 c4 25.Bb1 25…Bh3 Attacking White’s rook, which normally one would expect to be moved, but White makes the decision to ignore that threat and pursue his own agenda – i.e. exploiting his 2 central pawns. 26.Nd4 Bxf1 27.Kxf1 Qd7 28.Ne6 Rfe8 29.Nxg7 Qh3+ 30.Kg1 The best place to attack a pawn chain is at its base, but Black must deal with the knight first. 30…Kxg7 31.Qc3+ defending his f-pawn – White can’t afford to be too generous with his defensive pieces. 31…Kg8 32.e5 Best to push the central pawns quickly, while knight + queen are stuck on the rim. 32…Rcd8 33.d6 Ng3 34.Re1 Nf5 35.Be4 Ng7 36.Bc6 Ne6 Now it’s Black’s turn to ignore an attack on a rook. 37.Bxb5 White doesn’t wish to simplify the position by exchanging pieces as he’s still the exchange down – better to maintain his grip on the position. 37…Ng5 38.Bc6 holding the vital f-pawn. 38…Kg7 39.Bb6 Kh6 40.Bxd8 Rxd8 41.Kh1 Rb8 42.d7 Rb3 43.Qd2 Rd3 44.Qxf4 1-0. With the knight pinned and the bishop still holding the f-pawn, the e-pawn is free to storm ahead. Play might have continued…. 44…Qf5 45.Qxf5 gxf5 46.e6 Nxe6 47.Rxe6+ Kg5 48.Re8 etc.

In last week’s position, White could simply take the rook because when its protective bishop retakes, White’s rook mates on the back rank.

Going in to the 6th of 9 rounds, the joint leaders are former child prodigies Luke McShane and David Howell on 4½/5, with no less than 11 players just a half point behind. When it finished tomorrow, it’s likely that a series of tie-break games will be needed.

This position arose in a game played at Walsall 20 years ago. Black is attacking both queen and c-pawn, so what is White’s best response?

White to play and win by force.

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