Monday 24 January – Thursday 3 February 2011

Stewart Reuben reports: It warmed the cockles of my heart that there were English players on both board one and two of the Masters. It was fascinating to look at the different approaches of our two English players. Nigel Short played a quite extraordinary new variation with the black pieces, taking the fight to his illustrious opponent right from the start. We couldn’t work out the ramifications of the game, but suspected that 17…Rxf3 18 Nxf3 Bg4, rather than the move 17…Nxe5 played might have given Nigel the better position. It isn’t clear whether he should have drawn the endgame, but he eventually went down. Meanwhile, Michael Adams rapidly exchanged off into an inferior endgame, but one which he drew with consummate ease.

Thus four of the top six games were drawn (a normal percentage). Many people think that drawn games must, by their very nature, be inferior to those with a positive result. This is nonsense. A perfectly correctly played game will be drawn. After all, a drawn football match may be much better than one which is decisive.

The games today were so complex and there were so many exciting encounters that it was impossible to keep up in the commentary room. We should have been allowed to go up to the players and require them to slow down. For some reason the arbiters seemed reluctant to do this!

Only later in the day did I come across the Dzagnidze-Vallejo Pons game which is utterly enthralling. Another clear candidate for the £1,000 Best Game Prize was that between Akobian and Mikhalevski. The Israeli played an unusual variation of the Benoni. OK, there may have been errors and imperfections, but it was exciting. Chess is a very complex game and the very best will still have mistakes.

Yesterday I rushed to contact my associate John Saunders to get him to take a picture of the wonderful double rainbow that could be seen from the playing hall (the photo can be found on our website). I thought of telling the players they could stop their clocks to see the phenomenon, but thought better of it. A pity – I could then have made the play on words ‘rainbow stopped play’.

We now know the number of entries in the whole event. 66 in Challengers B (there were 55 in the first event) 40 in Amateur B (30). The total number of players is 306 from about 54 federations. This is a record and the 231 in the Masters comes close to the maximum 240 the two halls can hold.

Round 6
Akobian, Varuzhan (2618) – Mikhalevski, Victor (2579)


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3 c5 4.d5 Bg7 5.e4 d6 6.Nc3 0–0 7.Bg5 h6 8.Be3 e6 9.Qd2 exd5 10.cxd5 Re8 11.Nge2 Nbd7 12.Ng3 h5 13.Be2 a6 14.0–0 b5 15.Bh6 A new move and possibly questionable. 15…h4 16.Nh1 16.Nf5!? was a possibility as taking the knight would allow 16…gxf5 17.Qg5 and after 17…Nh5 18.Qxh5 Black would have a shattered kingside structure. The knight has an unhappy life on h1. 16…Nh5 17.Bxg7 Kxg7 18.a4 b4 19.Nd1 f5 20.exf5 Nb6!? Very bold play by Black, which is richly rewarded. 21.fxg6 Rxe2! More of the same. White is strangely impotent in this position. 22.Qxe2 Nf4 23.Qe4 White has to be careful where he puts the queen. For example, 23.Qf2?? Qg5 and the best White can do is to play the gruesome 24.Ng3 losing a piece. 23…Qg5 24.g4 Black was threatening mate in two ways (Nh3 and Qxg2) so this was forced. 24…Nh3+ 25.Kg2 Nf4+ 26.Kg1 Bd7 The problem now is that the black rook infiltrates the white position, more or less whatever White plays. 27.Ne3 27.Nhf2 Re8 27…Nh3+ 28.Kg2 Nf4+ 29.Kg1 Re8 30.Nf5+ Kg8 31.Qb1 White is now wide open to threats and it is hardly surprising that Black finds a quick finish. First, though, he gains a little time on the clock. 31…Nh3+ 32.Kg2 Nf4+ 33.Kg1 Nh3+ 34.Kg2 Nxd5! 35.Nf2 35.Kxh3 Nf4 mate is optically pleasing. 35…Re2 36.Nxd6 Bxg4 0–1 White resigns because his opponent is having far too much fun.

Round 6

Dzagnidze,Nana (2550) – Vallejo Pons,Francisco (2698)

King’s Indian Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.g3 0–0 5.Bg2 d6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0–0 a6 8.e4 Rb8 9.h3 b5 10.e5 Ne8 11.Ng5 An enterprising try. 11.cxb5 axb5 12.Ng5 Na5 13.e6 has also been played in some quite elderly games. 11…Na5 12.e6!? A familiar move in several openings. White intends to disrupt the black position and prevent the co-ordination of his pieces. One GM commented that the Spanish GM had made an error when selecting his opening. 12…Bxe6 12…fxe6 is also possible but Black prefers to be rid of the pesky knight. 13.Nxe6 fxe6 14.c5 e5 15.dxe5 Bxe5 16.Bg5 Nc4 17.Nd5 Nf6 18.b3! Nana decides to bank on the strength of the a1–h8 long diagonal. It proves to be an inspirational decision. 18…Bxa1 19.Qxa1 Ne5 20.f4 Nd3?! 20…Ned7 21.c6 Nb6 looks a better try. 21.c6 Rf7 22.Rd1 Nc5 23.Re1! Suddenly Black is wide open to major threats and there seems to be no good way to defend. The game ends in a flurry of tactics. 23…Qf8 24.Rxe7! Rxe7 25.Nxf6+ Kf7 26.Bd5+ Ne6 26…Re6 27.Nd7 Nxd7 28.cxd7 Qh8 29.Qxh8 Rxh8 30.d8N+ Rxd8 31.Bxd8 wins. 27.Nd7 Qh8 28.Bf6 Qg8 29.Bxe7 Kxe7 30.Qf6+ 1–0

Round 7 (of 10) starts at 3pm (GMT+1) on Monday 31 January.

John Saunders, Webmaster
Alice Mascarenhas, Chess Press Officer or

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