This year’s tournament at Bunratty in Ireland was the celebratory 25th in the series and I was invited to deliver the closing peroration. The competition was particularly stiff on this occasion, with British champion Gawain Jones sharing first prize with grandmaster Sergey Tiviakov, ahead of Nigel Short, Jon Speelman, Luke McShane and a host of other grandmasters and masters.
To break the tie a sudden death playoff was required, from which Tiviakov emerged the winner. For the key moment see this week’s puzzle. The game I have selected demonstrates the great talent of the female grandmaster Dina Belenkaya, of whom no doubt we shall be hearing much more.
Belenkaya-McShane: Bunratty Masters 2018; Scotch Game
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 d4 exd4 5 Nxd4 Bb4 6 Nxc6 bxc6 7 Bd3 d5 8 exd5 0-0 Black can safely offer a gambit here and White does well to decline it, preferring to castle. 9 0-0 cxd5 10 Bg5 c6 11 Qf3 Rb8 12 Ne2 12 Bxf6 would give White the better pawn structure but after 12 ... Qxf6 13 Qxf6 gxf6 the black bishops provide ample compensation. In practice, Black has scored very well from this position. 12 ... Be7 If Black wants to draw he can play 12 ... Bg4 when 13 Bxf6 (there is nothing better) 13 ... Bxf3 14 Bxd8 Bxe2 15 Bxe2 Rfxd8 is completely equal. 13 b3 White could also play more directly with the immediate 13 Nd4. A possible line is then 13 ... Bd7 14 Rae1 and if now 14 ... Rxb2 then 15 Nf5 Bxf5 16 Qxf5 g6 17 Qf3 Ne4 leads to complex play. 13 ... Bg4 14 Qe3 Re8 15 Qxa7 Ra8 16 Qd4 c5 17 Qf4 Bxe2 18 Bxe2 h6 19 Bh4 (see diagram 1) 19 ... Bd6 19 ... g5 is far too weakening. White can continue 20 Bxg5 hxg5 21 Qxg5+ Kh8 22 Qh6+ Kg8 23 Bb5 Rf8 24 Rad1 followed by Rd3 with a winning attack. 20 Qf3 Be5 21 Rad1 g5 22 Bg3 Rxa2 Black would do better to play 22 ... g4 23 Qd3 Rxa2 when White no longer has the possibility of Bb5 and the position is equal. 23 Bb5 Re6 24 Qf5 Bd4 25 Bd3 Qe7 26 Kh1 White misses 26 c4 which is very strong. After 26 ... dxc4 27 Bxc4 White wins material as the rook on e6 cannot move due to the reply Qg6+. Black could have avoided this problem with 25 ... Qd7 26 c4 Re7. 26 ... Ne4 27 f3 Nxg3+ 28 hxg3 Ra7 This loses material. Black had to play the unintuitive 28 ... Rd6 29 Rde1 Re6! which, surprisingly, holds the balance as 30 Rxe6 Qxe6 is fine for Black. 29 Qh7+ Kf8 30 Bf5 (see diagram 2) Now Black’s problem is that if the rook moves White can continue 31 Rxd4 and 32 Qh8 mate. 30 ... Qf6 31 Bxe6 Qxe6 32 f4 g4 33 f5 With the extra material and the initiative, White is winning easily. 33 ... Qf6 34 Rf4 Re7 35 Rxg4 Re2 36 c3 Be5 37 Rxd5 Ke7 38 Qg8 Bd6 39 Ra4 Bc7 40 Rxc5 Qd6 41 f6+ Ke6 42 Qe8+ Kxf6 43 Rf4+ Qxf4 44 Qh8+ Ke7 45 gxf4 Bxf4 46 g3 Black resigns