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Adams Wins Again…. but it wasn’t easy!

The final 3 rounds of the British Championship finished with the result most people would have expected, but not without a few twists and turns along the way. In Rd. 7 Adams beat the defending champion, Gawain Jones and thereafter, maybe thinking “job done”, played steadily to get draws against Nick Pert and Danny Gormally. Meanwhile, Luke McShane drew against Hebden in Rd. 7 but finished strongly to beat Fodor and, perhaps surprisingly, former champion David Howell, leaving Adams and McShane tied on 7/9 pts, necessitating a Rapidplay play-off.

Adams won the first game (see this week’s position) and only needed another steady draw to clinch the title. But no; McShane hit back to inflict Adams’ only loss in all the games he’s played in this event since 1989. So, at 1-1 this meant 2 further play-off games had to be played at an even quicker pace – Blitz games, so fast that the computerised board and internet couldn’t keep up with transmitting the moves on screen, but not too fast for Michael who won them both.

This was Michael’s 6th title, having first been champion in 1989 in Plymouth, – the greatest number since Jonathan Penrose won his 10th in 1966. Here is his solitary loss, played at the speed of 20 minutes for all moves, plus an extra 10 seconds per move, which for this game is an average of 18 seconds per move.

White: L. McShane (2669). Black: M. Adams. (2706).

Guioco Pianissimo [C50]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 Also called the Italian Game. 4.d3 This constitutes the quietest form of this opening. Nf6 5.0–0 0–0 6.h3 h6 7.c3 d6 8.Re1 a6 9.Bb3 Re8 10.Nbd2 Be6 11.Nf1 Bxb3 12.axb3 d5 13.Qe2 Qd7 14.b4 Bf8 15.Ng3 Rad8 16.Kf1 g6 17.Qc2 Re6 18.Qa4 dxe4 19.dxe4 Qd3+ 20.Kg1 Red6 21.Be3 Qc4 22.Rac1 Kh7 23.b3 Qe6 24.c4 R6d7 25.c5 Rd3 26.Rc4 Na7 27.Bc1 Nd7 28.Qa2 Nb8 29.Bd2 Nbc6 30.Nf1 Nb5 31.Ne3 Nbd4 32.Nxd4 Nxd4 33.Bc3 Nb5 34.Bb2 c6 35.Ba1 h5 36.Rc2 Bh6 37.Nc4 Nd4 38.Bxd4 R8xd4 39.Qb2 h4 40.Rce2 Bf4 41.Qc2 Kg7 42.Rf1 Kg8 43.Ree1 Qd7 44.Nd6 Rd2 45.Qc3 R2d3 46.Qc2 Rd2 47.Qb1 Rxb4 48.Nc4 Rd4 49.Rd1 Rb5 50.b4 a5 51.Rxd4 Qxd4 52.Nd6 Trapping Black’s rook. 52…Qxb4 53.Nxb5 Qxc5 54.Nc7 White is now a rook up, but if his 3 connected passed pawns can get moving there may yet be a chance, especially at this speed.  54…b5 55.Rd1 a4 56.Qd3 Bg5 57.Qd7 Qc4 58.Qe8+ Kh7 59.Qxe5 Qc2 60.Rf1 Qd2 61.Ne8 Bh6 62.Nf6+ Kg7 63.Ng4+ Kh7 64.Qf6 Bg7 65.Qxh4+ Kg8 66.Nf6+ Bxf6 67.Qxf6 a3 68.e5 Qc3 Black defends his c-pawn at the expense of allowing the rook to grab the d-file. 69.Rd1 Kh7 70.Rd8 and Black can’t avoid mate on h8. 1–0

In last week’s position, Adams (B) was let off the hook by playing 1…g5+ 2.PxP would lose his queen, so he must play 2…Kh5, but then Black has 2…Qxh3 mate.

Here is the final position from the 1st play-off game against McShane. Adams (W) to move and seal the win.

McShane Shines (17.12.2011.)

Malcolm Pein’s excellently organised London Chess Classic, ended on Monday with a win for the Russian, Vladimir Kramnik who finished with a score of 16 points from 4 wins, 4 draws and no losses. Hikaru Nakamura was runner-up with 15 pts. and Magnus Carlsen third on 14.

The star of England’s quartet was Luke McShane, the only other player with a double digit score (13), while Westcountryman Michael Adams was completely out of form, coming last of the nine on just 3 points, having lost 5 games. This is in stark contrast to his recent performance at the European Team Championship where he won the gold medal for the best score by any Board 1 player. The two are probably not unconnected as, although a sedentary game, top level chess is extremely draining on the brain and nervous system and one needs adequate time to recuperate fully and be fresh for the next challenge.

McShane, who now works for Goldman-Sachs, beat all his English opponents, including this game between the two former child prodigies.

White: Nigel Short (2698). Black: Luke McShane (2671).

King’s Gambit Accepted [C34]

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 h6 The Becker Defence, named after Albert Becker (1896–1984) not Boris, although he was present at the tournament. 4.d4 g5 5.Nc3 d6 6.g3 fxg3 7.hxg3 Bg7 8.Be3 Nf6 9.Qd3 Ng4 10.0–0–0 c6 11.Re1 Nd7 12.e5 dxe5 13.Bh3 Nxe3 14.Rxe3 0–0 Black must take the risk of castling K-side as his Q-side pieces will take too long to develop. 15.Ne4 Nf6 16.Bxc8 exd4 17.Bxb7 dxe3 18.Bxa8 Nxe4 19.Qxe4 Qb6 Protecting his advanced pawn and threatening mate. 20.Ne5 Rxa8 21.Qxc6 Qxc6 22.Nxc6 Re8 23.c3 Re6 24.Nxa7 Black doesn’t mind giving up this pawn as it sidelined the knight and allows him to concentrate on maximising his own dangerous e-pawn. 24…Be5 25.Nb5 e2 26.Kd2 Bxg3 27.Re1 Bxe1+ 28.Kxe1 White has sacrificed his e-pawn to win the exchange, but now his other pawns must race on. h5 29.Nd4 Ra6 30.a3 h4 31.Kxe2 g4 32.c4 h3 33.Kf2 h2 34.Kg2 Rh6 35.Kh1 g3 36.Nf5 g2+ 0-1 To the h-pawn goes the honour of queening, except that White has seen enough.

In last week’s position, Reinfeld’s “obvious” move was 1.Nf5 forcing Black to play Rg8, but then 2.Be5! adds a second mating threat that cannot be avoided.

This position came near the end of a 1953 game between Reshevsky (W) and Kotov. Black has just played 34…Qd3-e2 threatening the rook in the knowledge it can’t be taken because of the back rank mate. Yet White now found a winning move. Can you see it?

White to play and win.