Besides the Grand Chess Tour final, an abundance of chess was played at this year’s London Chess Classic. More than 2,000 children visited the festival, which was organised by the charity Chess in Schools and Communities. Fittingly, two talented youngsters shared first place in the Fide Open event — 14-year-old Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa from India and 18-year-old Anton Smirnov, from Australia.
Michael Adams added another title to his collection by winning the British Knockout Championship. He had a close shave in the quarter finals, narrowly surviving an Armageddon game against the promising young player Marcus Harvey, who sailed through a qualifying tournament with 8.5/9 the previous day. So, like last year, I battled Adams in a hard-fought semi-final which was only
decided in the final blitz game. This year, he got the better of me and went on to beat David Howell in the final. This week’s game is a crucial one from their match.
In the Pro-Biz Cup, held at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, grandmasters were paired with leading business brains to raise money for the charity. Players alternated moves, and each duo was permitted two brief time-outs for consultation. I teamed up with Russell Picot, who chairs the trustee board of the HSBC Bank (UK) Pension Fund. Paired against the entrepreneur Etan Ilfeld and the world no. 4 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the first round, we won a sharp game — see the puzzle. With a good finish, we tied for first with Magnus Carlsen and Demis Hassabis, CEO of artificial intelligence company DeepMind, and Russell showed admirable composure to win a one-on-one blitz playoff against Demis.
Michael Adams–David Howell
British Knockout Championship (Rapid), 2019
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 d3 Bc5 5 Bxc6 dxc6 6 O-O Nd7 7 Be3 Qe7 7… Bxe3 8 fxe3 gives White play along the open f-file. 8 Nc3 Bd6 9 Nd2 Nf8 10 Nc4 Ne6 11 Nxd6+ Qxd6 11… cxd6 was perhaps better, but White keeps an edge. For example, 12 d4 exd4 13 Bxd4 Nxd4 14 Qxd4 and the pawn on d6 is a bit ‘soft’. 12 Ne2 With a lead in development, White is keen to open the position with a pawn advance to d4 or f4. 12… c5 13 f4 exf4 14 Nxf4 Nxf4 15 Bxf4 Qd4+ 16 Kh1 Qxb2 17 Qh5! Posing an uncomfortable question. 17… Qb6 17… Qxc2? is much too greedy. Black will be quickly overwhelmed, e.g. 18 Rac1 Qxd3 19 Qe5+ Be6 20 Rcd1 Qa6 21 Qxg7 Rf8 22 Bh6 wins. Instead, 17… O-O 18 Qxc5 gives White a strong preponderance of pawns in the centre. 18 Be3 Be6 19 Bxc5 Qc6 20 Qg5 The queen and bishop slice across the Black king, which cannot castle in either direction. 20… Kd7 21 d4 Qxe4? 21… Kc8 was called for. White maintains a healthy edge, but must avoid 22 d5? Qxc5 22 Qe7+ Kc8 (see diagram) 22… Kc6 23 c4 wins, as d4-d5+ is too strong a threat. 23 Rxf7! A crushing move, as the bishop on e6 is pinned. 23… Qc6 24 Rf8+ Rxf8 25 Qxf8+ Kd7 26 Qxg7+ If you see a good move, look for a better one! Adams pots a couple of red balls before sinking the blue in the corner. 26… Kc8 27 Qh8+ Kd7 28 Qxh7+ Kc8 29 Qh8+ Kd7 30 Qg7+ Kc8 31 Qf8+ Kd7 32 Qxa8 Black resigns
Anyone desperate for a chess fix in the lull after Christmas will enjoy tuning in to the King Salman World Rapid and Blitz Championships, which take place in Moscow from 26 to 30 December. Magnus Carlsen heads a powerful lineup. (wrbc2019.com)