Raymond Keene

Gamesters of Triskelion | 28 September 2017

Gamesters of Triskelion | 28 September 2017
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The triskelion, or three-legged emblem, has been on the coat of arms of the Isle of Man since the late 13th century. The Isle of Man has now attracted one of the strongest ever lineups for an open competition in the history of formal chess tournaments. The lists include world champion Magnus Carlsen, former champions Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand, and Hikaru Nakamura as well as the former world title challengers Boris Gelfand and Nigel Short. The British contingent is joined by Michael Adams, the newly minted British champion Gawain Jones, and David Howell. Doubtless the munificent prize fund of £133,000 is a lure.

The first round saw the following impressive strategic performance by Nigel Short, who first gains control of the dark squares in his opponent’s camp, then converts this into material gain, finally infiltrating his opponent’s lines of defence and strangling him to death.

Short-Osmanodja: chess.com Masters Isle of Man 2017; Catalan Defence

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 d5 3 c4 e6 4 g3 In former times Short was a strict adherent of 1 e4. In recent years, however, he has graduated to becoming a fine exponent of the subtle flank openings such as the Catalan, which he employs in this game. By adding a deeper and richer vein to his openings arsenal, Short has revealed an innate talent for openings that lead to closed positions. 4 ... Bb4+ 5 Bd2 Be7 6 Bg2 0-0 7 0-0 c6 8 Qb3 b5 9 cxb5 cxb5 10 Rc1 Avoiding 10 Qxb5 met by 10 ... Ba6 followed by full activation of Black’s forces. By placing his rook on the open c-file White sets the strategic tone for the remainder of the game. 10 ... Ba6 10 ... Qb6 11 Bb4 Bxb4 12 Qxb4 Bd7 13 Ne5 was seen in Nikolaidis-Ricardi, Elista 1998. 11 Bb4 Strategically the key move. White trades off Black’s principal guardian of the dark squares, primarily the invasion point c5. 11 ... Bxb4 12 Qxb4 Qb6 13 Ne5 (see diagram 1) If Black could play ... Nc6 unmolested then he would be free of all his troubles. Hence White hastens to prevent this move. 13 ... Nfd7 14 Nxd7 Nxd7 15 e3 Rac8 16 Nd2 Nb8 Black is still seeking to regroup his forces , so that he can play ... Nc6. Short now demonstrates that the time lost in this manoeuvre permits White to extend his control of critical terrain. In fact, Black would do better to pass with, for example, 16 ... h6. 17 Bf1 Nc6 18 Qc5 Qb7 19 Qa3 Making way for the invasion by White’s knight. 19 ... Qb6 20 Nb3 Rc7 21 Rc5 Rfc8 22 Rac1 h6 23 h4 Nb8 24 Rxc7 Rxc7 25 Rxc7 Qxc7 26 Nc5 (see diagram 2) In spite of reduced forces White’s advantage has persisted and now the b5-pawn becomes a serious target. 26 ... Qb6 27 Qd3 Qa5 28 a3 Nc6 29 a4 Bc8 30 axb5 Ne7 31 Qa3 Qb6 32 Na4 Qc7 33 Qc5 Qd7 34 b6 axb6 35 Nxb6 Qb7 36 Bb5 Kf8 37 Qd6 g6 38 Qd8+

The decisive penetration. 38 ... Kg7 39 Bd7 Bxd7 40 Nxd7 Nc6 41 Qf8+ Black resigns