Raymond Keene


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Matthew Sadler was the star of the evening on the night of the Royal Automobile Club annual dinner which I mentioned in this column on 14 April. It is traditional that a grandmaster takes on the assembled forces of the RAC, who this year won the Hamilton Russell Trophy. On this occasion it was Matthew who put to the sword 30 opponents simultaneously.

He also distinguished himself this year by defeating the British champion Gawain Jones in the semi-final, and the former champion Jon Speelman in the final.

Thanks to Matthew for his notes to this game, upon which my comments are based.

Sadler-Jones: King’s Head Blitz memorial 2018; English Opening

1 Nf3 g6 2 c4 Bg7 3 Nc3 c5 4 g3 Nc6 5 Bg2 d6 6 0-0 Bf5 Adventurous. Black could aim to maintain symmetry with 6 ... Nf6. 7 d3 Qd7 8 Nd5 Nf6 9 Nxf6+ Bxf6 10 Bh6 Gawain had offered his b-pawn in the previous game, so I felt like doing the same. 10 ... Bxb2 11 Rb1 Bf6 12 Nd2 Bh3 (see diagram 1) The first choice of software engines, but I had an idea prepared against it when I played 12 Nd2 so I was able to whip off the b-pawn instantly. 13 Rxb7 Qxb7 14 Bxh3 The bishops prevent the king from castling and moves such as Qa4, Rb1 and Ne4 are in the air. Grandmaster Luke McShane was very sceptical when analysing this — and probably rightly so. However Black’s position is difficult in a blitz game, especially as the most natural blitz moves lead to great difficulties. 14 ... e6 15 Ne4 Be7 16 Qa1 Kd7 17 Rb1 Qa6 18 Qg7 (see diagram 2) Gawain had missed this idea. 18 ... Ne5 18 ... Raf8 was more tenacious. The text loses a crucial pawn. 19 Nxc5+ Even stronger is 19 f4 as 19 ... Rhg8 can be met by 20 Nf6+. 19 ... dxc5 20 Qxe5 Qd6 21 Rb7+ Kc8 22 Qxd6 Here 22 Qxh8+ Kxb7 23 Bg2+ would have won on the spot. 22 ... Bxd6 23 Rxf7 Re8 24 Rxh7 White has three pawns for the exchange and very active pieces. The position is hopeless for Black. 24 ... Be5 25 Be3 Bd6 26 Rg7 Rb8 27 Rxa7 Rb2 28 Bg4 Re7 29 Ra8+ Kc7 30 Rg8 Rxa2 31 Rxg6 e5 32 Bg5 Rf7 33 h4 e4 34 dxe4 It is unusual for one side to have five extra pawns in an endgame. 34 ... Be5 35 h5 Rc2 36 h6 Rf8 37 Re6 Bd4 38 Bf4+ Kb7 39 e5 Rxc4 40 h7 Rh8 41 Bf5 and, in this hopeless position, Black soon resigned.

Next week I will compare the performances of world champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Fabiano Caruana in their recent outings in Shamkir and St Louis. The two face off for the world title in London this November.