Friday, 6 April 2007

Brit Biffs Belarussian

(Diagram left shows the position after 23...Qc5 from the game N.Pert-Aleksandrov, Euro 2007)

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: the above title may seem rather tactless or even tasteless in view of what happened the last time an English chess team went abroad. But I am only following the English Chess Federation’s robust lead when they titled their Dresden press release “‘Team England’ Launch an Assault on the European Chess Championships”. And let me reassure nervous readers that no innocent Belarussians were physically injured in the creation of this blog. The title refers to Nick Pert’s wonderfully brutal win against Alexei Aleksandrov. But I’ll get to that presently.

So far in my coverage of Dresden I have concentrated attention on mad gamescores. Bernard Cafferty spotted this one, which must rank as the maddest of the mad:

Khairullin,I (2586) - Kalvaitis,S (2216) [B07] Round 3
1 e4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 Nxe4 4 Bd3 Nc6 5 0–0 Nb4 6 c4 Nc3 7 Be2 Nc6 8 Nbd2 Nxd1 9 Rxd1 Nb4 10 Nb3 Nd3 11 Be3 Nxb2 12 Rd2 Nd3 13 Rad1 Nb2 ½–½

What’s the German for “you’re ‘avin’ a laugh”? I wouldn’t know where to start trying to repair a gamescore like that, though there is something faintly reminiscent of a position from the Petroff in the minor piece configuration around move 6. But surely there is a potential grandmaster of gamescore recovery out there somewhere who could solve it in a trice. Bernard suggests that a prize be offered for anyone who could crack the puzzle. He suggests that the Euro 2007 organisers put up the first prize, which would be an express ticket to Dresden with the message “Komm schnell!”.

Here's my own idea: FIDE could consider running a ‘European Gamescore Solving Championship’ to run concurrently with the main event. As soon as a chess round ends, all the rubbishy gamescores could be handed over to the solving championship competitors to fix in (say) two hours. Not only would the organisers then not have to pay people to unravel the scores, they could even charge them a $200 entry fee, ramp up the hotel charges, make a handsome profit – and end up with a clean set of gamescores. How come those clever people at FIDE didn’t think of that before me?

In truth, the event which styles itself the European Individual Championship is not really worthy of the name. In many sports, such a championship ranks only slightly below a world championship but that is a long way from being true in chess. Most elite players give it short shrift because of the poor conditions and FIDE time limit (for any non-chess readers out there: ‘FIDE’ is a chess jargon word which, when used adjectivally, roughly translates as ‘silly’ or ‘ridiculous’). True, it counts as a world championship qualifying event, but even then the promised events to which it is a ticket do not always take place.

However, viewed purely as a tournament which attracts large numbers of 2600+ grandmasters and strong chess tourists, Euro 2007 is a worthwhile and important event for young or promising players looking for tough competition. To this end, the English Chess Federation has done very well to get together a squad of players who should derive great benefit from the opportunity. For this, all credit to the ECF International Director Peter Sowray and other officials behind the initiative; and also posthumous credit to my old friend John Robinson whose incredibly generous bequest to the ECF helped make the squad’s participation possible.

I won’t go into any great detail about how each of the squad is faring. Suffice to say that most of them are doing OK at the time of writing (after round three). But the following game stood out:

Nick Pert (2525) - Alexei Aleksandrov (2609)
Round 3
1 d4 d5 2 c4 e6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 Nc3 Bb4 5 Bg5 Nbd7 6 e3 c5 7 Bd3 cxd4 8 exd4 dxc4 9 Bxc4 Qc7 10 Qd3 Bxc3+ 11 bxc3 0–0 12 0–0 b6 13 Rfe1 Bb7 14 Bb3 Rac8 15 Rac1 (A fairly unremarkable position which could perhaps have arisen from a number of other openings, e.g. the c3 Sicilian.) 15...Rfe8 16 Ne5 Nxe5 (16...h6 17 Bh4 Nxe5 18 dxe5 Nd5 19 Bc2 f5 20 exf6 gxf6 is another possibility, when the apparent breach in Black's kingside is not so easy to exploit as it may first appear.) 17 dxe5 Qc6 (After this, things get more difficult for Black. 17...Qd7!? is an ingenious move, with a view to the f6 knight relocating to e4. If 18 Qh3 Ne4 19 Bf4 h6 though 20 Qg4 appears to retain an edge for White.) 18 Qh3 Nd7 (18...Ne4? now runs into 19 Rxe4! Qxe4 20 Bc2 Qxg2+ 21 Qxg2 Bxg2 22 Kxg2 when the two bishops for rook and pawn constitute a hefty plus for White.) 19 Re3 Nf8 20 Qg4 (Amazingly, this is the first new move. Erashchenkov-Kornev, Voronezh 2003, continued 20 Bc2 Rc7 21 Qg3?! Kh8 22 h4 Qb5 23 Rb1 Qa5 24 h5? (24 Bf6 Ng6 25 h5 Qxa2 26 Bd3 gxf6 27 exf6 is unclear) 24...h6 25 a4?? hxg5 26 Rb5 Qa6 27 Qxg5 Nh7 and White resigned.) 20...Kh8 (A pass move. Black has little scope for any counterplay and must sit and watch as White deploys his heavy armour on the kingside.) 21 Rce1 (Played so that the other rook can go to g3 or h3 without having to worry about Black playing Qe4.) 21...Rc7 (21...h6 22 Rh3 Ng6 23 Bc2 looks equally unpromising in the long run.) 22 Rg3 Ng6 23 h4 Qc5

(Diagram at top of the blog)

24 h5! Nxe5 25 Qf4! Nd7 (25...Nc4 26 Bf6! is crushing. The best that Fritz could come up with is the ludicrous 25...Nf3+, demonstrating how utterly hopeless Black's position is.) 26 h6! (Not falling for 26 Qxf7? Rf8! 27 Qxe6 Qxf2+ etc.) 26...g6 27 Qxf7 Qf8 28 Bf6+ Nxf6 29 Qxc7 Rc8 30 Qe5 1–0

An excellent win for the young English grandmaster.

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