Perhaps the outstanding clash of the recently concluded British championship in Hull, supported by Capital Developments Waterloo Ltd, was the last round battle between grandmaster Luke McShane and David Howell. The former has twice thwarted the latter at the finishing post in the past year. At stake was a final shootout for the title with Mickey Adams, plus the prizes allocated for the victor, £10,000 and runner-up £5,000. Luke has generously provided insights into this epic struggle.
Howell-McShane: British Championship, Hull 2018; Ruy Lopez
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 d6 5 0-0 Bd7 6 d4 exd4 7 Nxd4 Nxd4 8 Bxd7+ Qxd7 9 Qxd4 Nf6 10 Nc3 Be7 11 Bf4 11 b3, to place the bishop on the long diagonal, is a more popular choice. 11 … 0-0 12 Rad1 Qc6 13 Nd5 This simplifies the position and leaves Black without problems. Maintaining the tension with 13 f3 or 13 Rfe1 are both better tries for the advantage. 13 … Nxd5 14 exd5 Qxc2 15 Rc1 Qf5 16 Rxc7 Bf6 Now Black has no problems at all as his pieces are slightly better coordinated than White’s. 17 Qd2 Rfc8 18 Rfc1 It might have been advisable for White to play 18 Bxd6 Rd8 19 Bg3 Rxd5 20 Qc2 when although Black may have a tiny advantage the symmetrical structure makes a draw extremely likely. 18 … Rxc7 19 Rxc7 Re8 20 h3 h5 21 b3 g5 22 Be3 Re5 23 Rxb7 Rxd5 24 Qc1 (see diagram 1) 24 … Be5 Here 24 … Rd3 intending … Qd5 is a more incisive continuation. 25 Rb4 Qd3 26 f4 This is the decisive mistake. White has to play 26 g3. Although the reply 26 … Qe2 looks scary, after 27 Qc8+ Kg7 28 Qf5 White is OK. 26 … Qe2 27 Kh2 gxf4 28 Bxf4 Rd2 29 Qc6 Kg7 This is an excellent move, tidying up the black position by avoiding potential back rank checks. White is now helpless against the black attack. 30 a3 h4 31 Rc4 If White tries 31 Ra4 then the reply 31 … a5!! places White in an unexpected zugzwang. In general if the queen moves to b7/a8 then … d6-d5 wins, as Qc6-h6+ in reply is no longer possible. 31 … Qe3 32 Qe4 (see diagram 2) After 33 Bxg3 Bxg3+ 34 Kg1 Rd1+ mates.
Since last week’s column, the excellent news has come in that the Home Secretary has intervened to allow nine-year-old Shreyas Royal and his family to remain in the UK. Thanks to everybody who contributed to the campaign to keep this great prospect for future chess glory in the country.