Saturday, 2 August 2008

British Championship - Part 2

Despite telling you previously that I am not so keen on following week one at the British, I must confess that there have been some fascinating struggles in the last couple of rounds. Going into round six, we now have six players tied on 4/5, with no fewer than 30 players still within reach of the 'magic score' of 4/6 which means they still have chances of finishing first. Perhaps, as in the golf Open, there should be a 'cut' after six rounds so that all those out of contention for first prize can go home (and save hotel expenses). By the way, the 30 in contention still include 100% of the female contingent. Susan Lalic, Jovanka Houska and Meri Grigoryan are all on 3/5 so the competition for the women's title is still wide open.

Susan Lalic nearly went one better in round five when she had top-rated Gawain Jones at her mercy at one point. Of course, I speak with benefit of Fritz: it was a very complex position and far from easy to find the winning sequence, but our German friend seems adamant that Susan was close to victory.

I'm not proposing to analyse any of the top board games here but just have a quick look at some of the thrills and spills further down the board order. The two diagrams above have something in common. In both cases the player to move tried a piece sacrifice to expose the enemy king to attack. But there the comparison ends. In one case, the operation was successful but in the other it was the surgeon (and not the patient) who died.

In the top-left diagram, play continued with 14...Nxb2!? 15 Kxb2 Na4+. At this point White should have played 16 Ka1 when computers find nothing decisive after 16...Nc3 or 16...c6 though it is fairly clear that Black would get a useful kingside attack. Instead White decided to walk the plank with 16 Kb3? but was shocked by 16...c6! 17 Bxb5 Qa5!! - as powerful a zwischenzug as you are likely to see. White resigned since it is mate in three.

But, for every published combination, there are probably 1,000 unpublished miscombinations. I'll try to restore the balance by showing you what happened in the game shown in the top-right diagram. White is fairly well placed here. He had previously played a useful exchange for pawn sacrifice, though he had then missed a much stronger follow-up which might well have won. However, things are still looking good: 21 Nc5+ is strong, when 21...Ka8 is answered by 22 Bd3! and the resultant complications seem to favour White. Instead, White thought he could lure the black king into the open and win with 21 Ba6+ but let's see what happened: 21...Kxa6 22 Nc5+ Ka5 23 Nb7+ Kb6 24 Nxd8 Rxd8 25 d5+ ... when you see a discovered check resulting in a double attack on a piece at the end of your tactical analysis, you understandably get excited. But, sadly for White, his analysis ended too soon... 25...Kb7! - the only good square for the king. White resigned. The point is that 26 dxc6+ is illegal because the pawn is pinned and that 26 Rxc6 allows 26...Rxd5+ and 27...Kxc6. Life is unfair.


  1. Just been away for a week so missed the excitement of week 1. Good to see Mark 'Jimmy White' Hebden in contention.
    On the subject of having a cut after week 1 I would definitely not be in favour - one of the good points about the British is that taking part is almost as important as winning, otherwise why would the likes of, for example, Simon Knott, play year after year, for an inevitable score of around 6.5 - 7 points.

  2. My comment about having a 'cut' was not entirely serious. Re Hebbo: I remember putting the mockers on a previous Hebden challenge for the title by doing a big write-up on him, after which he dropped out of the picture, so I'm keeping quiet this year. Not that I'm superstitious, you understand.