Tuesday, 10 April 2018

UK chess needs more tournaments like the Northumbria Masters

This article has been provided by Ed Player:


The Northumbria Masters is a new five day, nine round chess event sponsored by Capital Bridging Finance Solutions Ltd, which was held in February this year in the upstairs function room of the Chillingham Arms Pub in Newcastle. The function room had excellent sound proofing and complimentary hot drinks and biscuits. After each round of chess players were able to use the large downstairs rooms of the pub to analyse their games with their opponents with some decent pub food and drinks.

The tournament consisted of around 50 competitors from 14 different countries. Many strong players entered the event which was eventually won by German International Grandmaster and top seed, Alexander Donchenko. Donchenko, pictured in the middle of the picture below wearing a blue top, scored 7.5 points from 9 rounds, beating Suffolk's Alan Merry in round 2.

Prizewinners: (left to right)
Ravi Haria (IM), Martin Percivaldi (IM), Jakhongir Vakhidov (GM), Alexander Donchenko (GM), Daniel Gormally (GM), Tim Wall (Organiser/FM) and Alexander Raetsky (GM).

You may (or may not!) ask yourself, "why was the tournament so strong"? One reason is obvious: money. The bigger the prize fund, the more likely it is that stronger players, including professional players, will turn up to play. The top prize of £1200 may at first sound like a good deal for a working week for a top player like Donchenko, but if you consider that each game can last up to 4 hours and players usually spend additional time preparing before the tournament and for opponents in advance of each game, then it doesn't sound quite as glamourous, especially since there's absolutely no guarantee at all that any of them will end up on a winning score; there are only very fine margins in terms of the difference in strength between the top players. Another reason why the tournament was so strong was because the tournament was advertised for players with a FIDE ELO rating of 2200 or higher. This is appealing because it offers better opportunites for players wishing to achieve a FIDE title.

There was a good representation of Suffolk players present including myself, and International Masters Alan Merry and Adam Hunt. Also, former Suffolk-based International Master, Justin Tan played. The organisers allowed some weaker players like myself to enter to make up the numbers, so they ended up using an accelerated pairing system for the first five rounds, giving the likes of Adam, Justin and Alan stronger pairings than they would get with a standard swiss pairing system, and therefore a stronger chance of achieving Grandmaster normsa, although sadly none of them quite managed it this time.

Scores on the doors:

  • Adam Hunt and Alan Merry scored 5 points, finishing in joint 14th place.
  • Justin Tan scored 4.5 points, finishing in joint 23rd place.
  • Edmund Player scored 4 points, finishing in joint 31st place.

The Chess Results website lists the final standings and most of the games are available on chess-db.com.

The tournament organisers did a grand job and fingers-crossed the event will keep running and continue gaining support and sponsorship for many years to come. I hope the tournament will inspire similar international events to pop up in other areas of the country. There are now a number of good FIDE-rated weekend congresses in the UK, which is helping British chess a lot. Some of these tournaments disperse the prize fund evenly across the different sections, instead of awarding a higher prizes to the winner(s) of the top sections. I do hope such events will reassess their prize fund allocations as it would surely attract stronger players, which would end up sending a positive vibe through all of the sections - a bit like we see in Suffolk with the wonderfully organised Bury St Edmunds Congress.

Over recent years there have been some fantastic initiatives involving chess in UK schools and Suffolk junior chess is thriving. If the British chess nations wish to compete better against chess superpowers such as Russia, Ukraine and the US, as well as the rapidly emerging chess nations such as India and China, there needs to be more tournaments like the Northumbria Masters, giving UK players more local opportunities to play chess at a higher level. At the moment, promising youngsters often have to seek opportunites abroad in order to fulfil their potential, which can be inpractical and ends up costing a lot in terms of money and time.

The more chess events in the UK that can tempt larger numbers of professionals and top players to enter, the better the outcome should be for UK chess players of all strengths and ages. Chess orgnanisers should always allocate larger prizes to the top section of any chess event and should keep trying to find innovative ways to attract even greater levels of sponsorship for international, national and regional competitions.

From a personal perspective, I managed to gain 1.5 FIDE rating points - not bad for 36 hours of chess! Things would have been better if it wasn't for a horrific blunder in my last round game (see below). I also met up one evening for a few beers with Adam Leigh, a former Bury St Edmunds Chess Club member and Bury Knights Junior Chess Club coach. Adam is studying for a Masters degree in Archeology at Newcastle University, and hopes to return one day to the Suffolk chess scene.

Edmund Player

[Event "Northumbria Masters"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.02.18"] [Round "9"] [White "Storey, Charles"] [Black "Player, Edmund."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C07"] [WhiteElo "2250"] [BlackElo "2172"] [PlyCount "76"] [SourceDate "2017.12.13"] [SourceVersionDate "2017.12.13"]

1.e4 e6 {The French Defence.} 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 {The Tarrasch Variation. Now there are many options for Black, including 3...Nf6 (Botvinnik Variation) and 3...Be7 (Morozevich Variation), as well as the less common moves: 3...a6 and 3. ..h6. However, I've been opting for the open game more recently.} c5 4. exd5 Qxd5 (4... exd5 {This recapture results in a classic isolated queen pawn (IQP) position and was played seven times by Korchnoi against Karpov in a 1974 World Championship Candidates Final match. All seven games resulted in a draw!}) 5. Ngf3 cxd4 6. Bc4 Qd7 $5 {This is currently in fashion. The idea is to delay the development of the kingside knight, so that it has the option of travelling to g6 via e7, providing a more solid defence against any attack White might throw at the Black King.} (6... Qd6 {is the main line.}) 7. O-O Nc6 8. Nb3 a6 9. Nbxd4 (9. a4 $5 {is also playable. White can aim to play Qe2, followed by Rd1, capturing the d4 pawn with more force.}) 9... Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Qc7 11. Bd3 $5 (11. Bb3 Bd6 12. h3 (12. Qh5 {Now both knight moves are possible.} Nf6 (12... Ne7 13. c3 O-O 14. Rd1 Rd8 (14... g6 $2 15. Qh4 e5 $4 16. Bh6 {threatening Qf6.}) 15. Bc2 g6 16. Qh4 e5 17. Nf3 Nf5 18. Bxf5 Bxf5 19. Bg5 Re8 20. Rd5 {should be ok, although Black's pawn structure and pieces don't feel as coordinated as White's.}) 13. Qh4 {Despite the computer engine saying that this position is equal, Rublevsky has had success with the White pieces here on three occasions. Although Rublevsky's success is probably partly down to the fact that on paper he outgraded his opponents, it is also probably partly due to the cramped positions Black ends up in, improving White's practical chances.} Bd7 14. Bg5 h6 $1 (14... Be5 $2 15. Rad1 h6 $2 16. f4 { 1-0 (35) Rublevsky,S (2702)-Bluebaum,M (2588) Berlin 2015}) 15. Bxf6 gxf6 16. Rad1 (16. Qxf6 $2 Bxh2+ 17. Kh1 Be5 $15) 16... Be7 (16... O-O-O $5 17. Qxf6 Bxh2+ 18. Kh1 Qf4 19. Qe7 Qg5 20. Qxf7 Rhg8 21. Qf3 (21. g3 $4 Bxg3 22. fxg3 Qxg3 $19) 21... Be5 $44 22. Qh3 Qg4 23. Qxg4 Rxg4 24. Nxe6 (24. Nf3 Bxb2 $11) 24... Rh4+ $11) 17. Rfe1 O-O-O $11) 12... Ne7 13. c3 O-O 14. Qh5 e5 15. Nf3 Bf5 16. Bg5 Bd3 17. Bxe7 Qxe7 18. Rfe1 Bg6 {1/2-1/2 (18) Sjugirov,S (2653) -Lupulescu,C (2618) Baku 2016}) (11. Qe2 Bd6 12. h3 Ne7 $11) 11... Bd6 12. h3 ( 12. Qh5 $5 Nf6 13. Qg5 Bxh2+ 14. Kh1 Be5 15. Nf3 Nd7 16. Nxe5 Qxe5 {White has compensation for the pawn, but nothing more than that.}) 12... Ne7 13. Re1 O-O (13... e5 $1 14. Nf3 O-O $11 {would have been fine for me.}) 14. Qh5 {I saw this coming.} Ng6 15. Nf3 Qc5 {I thought for half an hour about this move as I couldn't find a plan against 16.Qg4.} 16. Bxg6 $2 {Charlie played this almost immediately, which took me totally by surprise.} (16. Qg4 $14 {Pretty much anything Black plays here results in a good game for White where Black has to contend with many nasty tactical ideas.} Bd7 (16... Qc7 17. Ng5 h6 18. Bxg6 hxg5 19. Bd3 {is good for White.}) (16... Rd8 17. Bg5 Re8 18. Rad1 {is also good for White.}) 17. Be3 Qc7 18. Rad1 $14 {with ideas of Ng5 and Qh5, weakening the Black King.}) (16. Qxc5 Bxc5 17. Bd2 {was another option for White.}) 16... hxg6 17. Qxc5 Bxc5 18. Be3 Bxe3 (18... Be7 19. Ne5) 19. fxe3 $5 {Nor was I expecting this method of recapturing. Despite the weakend pawn structure, taking with the pawn didn't turn out as badly for White as I first thought it would.} Rd8 (19... f6 $1 20. Rad1 e5 21. Rd6 Kf7 {with ...Be6 to follow, would have been more efficient.}) 20. Red1 Bd7 21. Rd4 Kf8 22. Rad1 Ke7 23. Kf2 f6 24. e4 e5 25. Rd6 Bc6 (25... Rac8 {Why not add this move in, before thinking about exchanging everything off! Now Black also has the option to play ...Rc7 followed by ...Rdc8.}) 26. Rxd8 Rxd8 27. Rxd8 Kxd8 28. Ke3 g5 { At this point I felt that I'd played the endgame pretty well, planting my pawns on opposite coloured squares to my remaining bishop.} 29. c4 g4 $6 { Too clever! I was short of time and foolishly sensed a chance to win by attempting to tie up White's knight and King. Although Black should still be fine, it turns out that White's extra pawn and Black's resulting weakness on f6, give White the only winning chances.} (29... Ke7 {is just totally equal.}) 30. hxg4 g5 31. Ne1 Bd7 32. Kf3 Be6 33. b3 b5 {playing actively is vital now.} 34. cxb5 axb5 35. Nc2 Kd7 36. Ne3 Kc6 37. Nf5 Kc5 $2 {Another bad move! I came close to giving this a double question mark as making a draw is now very tricky.} (37... b4 {is totally drawn.}) 38. Ng7 $1 b4 $4 {A horrific blunder. Here I resigned after Charlie shrugged his shoulders politely.} ({I originally intended to play} 38... Bd7 {but things would have probably ended badly anyway, since there are lots of ways for Black to go wrong, for example:} 39. Nh5 Bc6 40. Nxf6 Kd4 41. Nd5 Bd7 42. Ne7 Kc3 43. Nd5+ Kd4 44. a3 Kd3 45. Ne7 Kc3 46. b4 b3 47. Ng6 Kxa3 48. Nxe5 Bc8 $1 {the bishop is safe here.} (48... Be8 $4 49. Nd3 Kb3 50. Ke3 Kc4 51. g3 {Zugswang! If the bishop moves to a vacant square White lands the knight on e5 with check!} Kc3 52. e5 Kc4 53. e6 Kd5 54. Nc5 $18 {the end is nigh...}) (48...Be6 $4 49. Nd3 Bc4 50. Ke3 $18) 49. Nd3 Kb3 50. Ke3 Kc4 51. e5 Bxg4 52. Nf2 Bf5 53. Ne4 Kxb4 54. Kd4 Ka3 55. Nd6 Bd7 56. Kc5 Ka4 $11 (56... b4 $4 57. Nc4+ $18)) 1-0

 

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