eNewsletter January 2017 – Issue 10

The 10th edition of the Newsletter covering news in January and December. There will be a change in the deadline and the publication date for the newsletter in the new year, with any content required by the 25th of each month and the publication n appearing at the beginning of the succeeding month. Expect to see the February issue towards the end of the first week of the month. If you have any chess news you think we should know about or if you have any comments you would like to make on this newsletter, do contact us at manager.publicity@englishchess.org.uk – the deadline for the newsletter will normally be on the 18th of each month so don’t send us the info too late!

— Mark Jordan, Publicity Manager

THE BIG STORY – Sengupta wins the Hastings Masters [pictures by Brendan O’Gorman]

Round 7 saw the top 6 seeds, many of whom had had to recover from shock losses or unexpected draws in the earlier rounds, back at the top of the table and facing off against each other. All were in an uncompromising mood and observers were treated to 3 decisive games the most important of which was the victory of top seed, Sethuraman, over Rasmussen, who had been defending his position of sole leader with a 1-point lead. The result was a 4-way share of 1st on 5.5/7 going in to round 8 involving Sethuraman (2647), Sengupta (2575, above left), Karthikeyan (2530) and Ramussen (2502). Given that there was also a group of 5 players, including English GM, Flear (2428) and FM Haria (2382), on 5/7 and 10 on 4.5/7, there seemed to be a strong likelihood that 1st would be shared as, with all this bunching at the top and a shared prize being rather better than no prize for a professional player, an epidemic of GM draws in the final rounds was a definite possibility. Such a scenario seemed to be borne out by the events of round 8.

In Round 8, the top 6 games were all drawn, mostly quickly, which resulted in no changes among the leading quartet who were now on 6/8. Of the results of the chasing pack, FM Haria’s draw on Board 4 was a very welcome result as it means he had secured a second IM Norm provided only that his opponent in Round 9 turned up and played a move! India’s 11-year-old prodigy, IM Praggnanandhaa (RP for short as he’s beginning to be known!), was also in the chasing pack, clearly having recovered from his poor form during the LCC Open in December, and was living up to his growing reputation, riding his luck where necessary and playing some excellent Grandmasterly games on the way.  Wins on boards 7-9 expanded the group with IMs Galyas (2473) and Das (2399) and WGM, Maisuradze (2231) joining them on 5.5/8 and, with 11 players now on 5/8, a share of the prizes seemed even more likely. If observers, understandably underwhelmed by the draws at the top in round 3, were expecting the same in the final round, they were to be pleasantly surprised.

The Board 1 battle, Sengupta-Karthikeyan, saw a Catalan played in which the first player seemed better prepared but only retained a slight edge. Karthikeyan didn’t put much of a foot wrong until he played 23…Rdd8 which allowed a forced sequence, ending in 27 Qe5 which left him with a choice of sacrificing his a6 Bishop on e2 for a couple of pawns and probably insufficient compensation, or simply losing a pawn for nothing at all. He chose to sac immediately with 27…Bxe2, and at least had the satisfaction of making White’s King’s position look windy, but it was nothing that Sengupta could not handle. Karthikeyan continued to fight, playing mostly best moves, but Sengupta gradually increased his advantage and when Black blundered with 47…g6, the White win was only brought forward a few moves. The result secured at least equal 1st for Sengupta.

Board 2 saw the top seed, Sethuramen, who had fought his way from a 0.5/2 start to get back to 6/8, playing White against IM Galyas who was on 5.5/8. Sethuramen, who out-rated his opponent by nearly 150 Elo, must have been optimistic that he would least win a share of 1st, but he was to be disappointed. The game opened with a Scandanavian, featuring the currently fashionable 4…Qd6, and White failed to make headway against his clearly well-prepared opponent. White’s attempt to make progress on the Q-side came to nought and Black gradually built up K-side pressure, both won a pawn and partially denuded the White monarch with 26…Bxh3. From then on it was simply a matter of whether Sethuramen could survive but it was not to be. He finally resigned when Black’s attack yielded a decisive material advantage.

On Board 3, Praggnanandhaa (left), playing White against the former sole leader, Ramussen, opted for a Kings Indian Attack and a slow, manoeuvring battle resulted. If anything, Black obtained the upper hand and was gradually building pressure on the Queens-side. However, 26….Rxa1 was probably unwise and led to huge complications with both Kings looking vulnerable and with positions and lines that, at the board, must have defied confident assessment and analysis. Ramussen, who would receive a share of 1st if he won, was to be seen fiercely concentrating at the board, his head clasped in his hands. His young opponent, by comparison, spent a considerable amount of time checking out other games and looked entirely unruffled by events on the board. He actually looks younger than his 11 years but his calm demeanour, suggesting considerable confidence in his ability to navigate even the most choppy waters, bodes well for the future. It was Ramussen who failed to find his way and resigned when the promotion of White’s h-pawn became unstoppable leading to a decisive material plus for the young Indian. The players briefly analysed some of the lines after Black’s resignation and then a stunned looking Ramussen headed in the direction of the bar.

These three results, seeing 3 of the joint leaders lose, left Sengupta the only one standing and, rather surprisingly, he found himself sole winner for 2016-17. This is the second time his name has appeared on the Hastings trophy but, last time, he had to share the honours. Whilst these losses among the seeds had ensured a single winner, their opponents had, a little unexpectedly, secured themselves equal 2nd and could also be joined by some of their colleagues on 5.5/8.

On Board 4, IM Kjartannson (2468) faced IM Das (2399) and an English Opening was played from which a complex battle ensued, after White played a slightly dubious 8 Rb1 for which he could, perhaps, have been punished. However, advancing his g-pawn and then his h-pawn, Das built up some pressure on the Kings-side but at the expense of leaving his King vulnerable. Das had probably over-estimated his position as Kjartannson maintained a plus which he was able to build to decisive proportions until tragedy struck. 29 f7, threatening mate, would have be more than sufficient but he played Bc1??, walking in to a forced mate! A sad end to the tournament for Kjartannson and a large stroke of luck for Das who thus found himself finishing in =2nd and remaining undefeated through-out the event.

Board 5 saw the interesting pairing of Croatian GM, Lalic (2443), who has been based in the UK for some years, and French WGM, Maisuradze (2231, left). The latter was on a highly respectable 3.5/6 before defeating and off-form GM Arkell (2447) in Round 7 and then the talented young Australian IM, Bobby Cheng (2446) in Round 8 to transform a good tournament in to a potentially excellent one! A win against Lalic would bring her to =2, would make her the leading woman in the event and would also earn her an IM Norm. Maisuradze was born in Georgia but moved to France in 2003 and was Naturalised in 2009. She has won the French Women’s Championship twice, the last time in 2012, and her current low Elo is clearly not indicative of her current standard of play. The game began with a Queen’s Gambit Declined and developed into a battle on opposite wings. Both players missed opportunities but Lalic was able to hang on to and increase his advantage throughout, made fewer inaccuracies than his opponent, and eventually secured the full point. Securing a share of =2 at Hastings is undoubtedly Lalic’s best result for some while. His opponent, meanwhile, missed out on her Norm and a top prize, but won the top women’s prize and will have the satisfaction of putting in a performance that signals a possible fresh assault of the rankings.

Completing the survey of the top boards and, therefore, the fortunes of those in with a chance of top prize, there was a domestic battle on Board 6, GM Flear (2428) v FM Haria, with the latter securing his IM Norm with his opponent’s arrival. Haria met Flear’s Queen’s Gambit with a Slav and, playing more ambitiously than his GM opponent, easily equalised and gradually built up a superior position. To blunt Black’s progress, White initiated a tactical sequence with 23 Nxc5 which led to a material imbalance, giving Black 2 strong looking Knights and a more active position whilst White had a Rook and 2 pawns. Flear had chances of levelling the position but he made a number of small inaccuracies, although his position was nonetheless perfectly playable. However, the pressure told and, just when 31 Rd4 would have held the balance, he blundered with 31 Qc3 which lost the exchange and prompted his immediate resignation. A sad way for Flear’s campaign to end as he had had a very good event. As for his opponent, he had secured his share of equal 2nd, scored 4/5 against GM opposition, and will see his Elo go above 2400 again as well as being the surprise top-scorer of the English contingent.

Ravi Haria (left) made a huge jump in his Elo in September 2015, from 2243 to 2445, and was suddenly thrown in the spotlight as a great new junior prospect for the future. However, there are a lot of very strong juniors out there, he struggled to establish himself as one of the world junior elite in the World Junior Championships and his Elo, which was perhaps a little inflated at the time, and dropped back below 2400. A year on, however, he seems to have recovered and looks like a good prospect for a GM title in a year or two. He is at that crossroads age when A-levels are taking up his time, university beckons and he has to make decisions as to what part chess will play in his future. It is to be hoped that initiatives that are being taken at the moment and a more focussed performance from ECF will attract more funding in to the English game and make the decision to play chess professionally an easier one to take.

Of other English players in the event, GM Hebden (2492) was certainly in the frame for a top prize after 5 rounds but lost in Round 6 to Rasmussen and then to Haria in Round 7 which spoiled his chances. GM Gormally (2493) was in uncertain form, was obviously nursing a bit of a cold, and scored points in the earlier rounds but signed off with 4 successive draws. GM Arkell (2447) ended on a disappointing 50% and was clearly not on his best form. He has, perhaps, been playing too much recently, needs to re-charge his batteries, and is therefore looking forward to a month’s break from play after the 4NCL weekend. On the plus side for Arkell, he did win the Hastings Blitz tournament. IM Bates (2347) had a very good first half against exceedingly challenging opposition. He defeated third seed, GM Glendura (2584), in Round 1, and followed that up with draws against IM Praggnanandhaa and GM Lalic and a win over Norton (2069), which put him among the leaders. He could not quite keep up the momentum in the second half but still came away with a very respectable 5.5/9.

A surprise package in the English Contingent was 12-year-old Oliver Howell who, with a rating of 1575, might have been expected to struggle. He confounded these expectations by defeating several 2000+ opponents, secured a tournament rating of 2063, and ended up on 4.5/9, albeit his score was helped by a win by default in Round 8. Looked at a little more closely, his performance was perhaps not quite such a surprise (though he certainly took some of his opponents unawares!), as he also did well and won a grading prize at the LCC. His present Elo is clearly lagging well behind his actual strength and a jump towards 2000 might be expected in the next few months. Howell has just started at Millfield School where he will benefit from the coaching of GM Matthew Turner. We will see what the future holds.

Hastings International Chess Congress has a long and proud history but has been struggling to keep going in recent years with the support of Tradewise and Hastings Council being crucial for its continuation.  Problems with the economy in general and Brexit in particular had led to concerns that the entries this year would be adversely affected but, in the end, an impressive array of talent was on display. It was also a very exciting event with many thrills and spills and a great spirit among the players and one hopes the word will get around, generating similarly exciting line-ups in the events to come.

Chess Magazine – January 2017

Click here for an excerpt featuring Malcolm Pein’s editorial from this months edition

The Mating Game by Jovanka Houska & James Essinger
Published by The Conrad Press, 387 pages £14.99
Reviewed by IM Gary Lane

This story is not suitable for children. It is rare to hear authors discouraging readers, but this romantic chess novel has enough raunchy bits to make the average arbiter blush more than once. The star is Ivana Jones – known as Vanny – whose big weakness is that when she loses to a player she falls in love with them; at least for one night. It is all very lightweight, harmless fun but the chess details are absolutely correct. Essinger has written the words but the British Ladies Champion helped edit the book, provided information and ideas and confirmed some of the scandalous stories that circulate in the chess world. Although Vanny and Jovanka are both sassy, bright and pretty ladies, we are assured that there is no link between the fictional world and the real world. So why do both play the Caro-Kann?

The story follows Vanny at various tournaments and we follow her ups and downs. The plot twist, borrowed directly from 50 Shades of Grey, involves a billionaire turning up and falling in love with the heroine. Handily, he also flies his own helicopter! The big difference is that in only one book does the fortunate lady donate a chunk of her money to the English Chess Federation. There are plenty of real names to look out for such as Andrew Greet, David Howell and Richard Palliser, while Stuart Conquest is around long enough to lose a game to Vanny. Naturally, other players are claiming to be in it, but under different names, such as IM Thomas Rendle who excitedly pointed out that on page 101 a character called Tom lives in Gloucester Road just like he did. This is a man who had not yet read the rest of the book, as Tom turns out to have a number of strange obsessions but, surely, there can be no link to the real person as the fictional one draws with Caruana and beats Aronian!

I was hooked by this insight into the chess world where romance is possible after every victory.

National Prep Schools Rapidplay – December 17th, 2016

This year was the 16th year of holding the competition at Aldro School. The tournament was previously held at Oundle School and attracted schools from all over the country. Since moving to Surrey most of the teams have come from the south of England but it has become an annual fixture for many of the top chess playing schools and all the sections are keenly contested. Some of the players play for their counties and there is always the occasional player who has represented England. At the same time some of the players are new to competitive chess and it is good to see them enjoying the event. Entries were down a bit this year but it still proved to be a competitive days’ chess for those involved.

Prize winners in each age group —

Under 13
1st Henry Dorman (Grade 121, Hoe Bridge); 2nd Luke Prisk; 3rd= Charlie Carey and Robbie Lit (Twickenham Prep)

Under 12
1st Conrad Dickinson (Grade 94, Lockers Park); 2nd= Kylan Biagini (Lockers Park) and Siwei Han (Aldro)

Under 11
1st Ben Hammond (Grade 123); 2nd William Prisk (Twickenham Prep); 3rd Benji Bushnell (Aldro School); 4th= Ajahan Ahilan and Oliver Goodchild (Twickenham Prep), Caleb Monk (Kings College) and Patrick Wilmot-Smith (Lockers Park)

Under 10
1st George Starmer-Smith (Grade 99, Aldro); 2nd Gad Toko; 3rd Theo Kendall and Mattao Bouget (Twickenham)

Under 9
1st Max Camilleri (Grade 33, Twickenham); 2nd= Ben Hickey and Boris Taylor-Smith (Aldro); 4th Scott Hume (Aldro); 5th= Thomas Barnes and Max Sheridan-Oliver (Aldro) and Cameron Brown (Cranmore)

The team cup is awarded to the top school at the end of the prize giving and as usual it was a close competition. Only the top four scores from each school count towards the team competition.

1st Twickenham 17.5 points; 2nd Aldro 16.5; 3rd Lockers Park 12.5

My thanks go to all the players who competed so sportingly and to the Aldro parents who ran the refreshments and raised £52 for the schools charity.

DJ Archer, Aldro School