Raymond Keene


Text settings

The 2018 UK Knockout, won by Gawain Jones, ahead of Luke McShane (silver) and Michael Adams (bronze), was played in conjunction with the rather unsatisfactory finale of last year’s Grand Tour. The latter ended in victory for the US grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, who prevailed over Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the final. Sadly there was a dearth of decisive games. In contrast, the UK Knockout was packed with excitement. A fine example was this win by Gawain Jones, in the enterprising style of Mikhail Tal.

Jones-Howell: UK Knockout, London 2018; Giuoco Piano

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 0-0 Nf6 5 d3 d6 6 c3 a5 7 Re1 White has chosen the Giuoco Piano, which means ‘quiet game’. There are more vigorous alternatives for White involving a quick d4 but Jones has entered one of the quieter sub-variations of an already quiet system. 7 ... h6 8 Nbd2 0-0 Avoiding the aggressive 8 ... g5, along the lines of the game of the year published in this column on 5 January, which can here be parried by 9 d4 exd4 10 Nb3 since 10 ... dxc3 fails to 11 e5. 9 Nf1 Ne7 10 Ng3 Ng6 11 h3 An alternative is 11 d4 as in So-Nakamura, chess.com 2018. 11 ... a4 12 d4 exd4 13 Nxd4 Re8 14 Be3 Bb6 14 ... Nxe4 15 Nxe4 Rxe4 16 Bxf7+ Kxf7 17 Qf3+ wins. 15 Qc2 d5 16 exd5 Nxd5 (see diagram 1) 17 Bxh6 Black has been smoothly equalising hence White disrupts the situation with a sacrifice in the style of Mikhail Tal. 17 ... Rxe1+ 18 Rxe1 Bxd4 19 cxd4 gxh6 20 Nh5 Ngf4 21 Re5 Be6 22 Qc1 (see diagram 2) 22 ... Nxh5 It might seem logical to eliminate one of White’s attacking units but the trade in fact exposes the weaknesses in the black king’s field. The correct defence is 22 ... Qd6 which leads to great complications, for example, 23 Bxd5 Qxe5 24 Nxf4 Qxd4 25 Bxe6 fxe6 26 Nxe6 Qf6 when Black has survived the attack and has slightly better chances. 23 Rxh5 Nf6 24 Rxh6 Ra5 Again it seems natural to introduce a dormant piece into the defence.

However, the only way to proceed was 24 ... Ne8 25 Bxe6 fxe6 26 Rxe6 Qxd4 27 Rg6+ Kf7 28 Rg4 with a likely draw. 25 Bxe6 fxe6 26 Rg6+ Kf7 27 Qh6 e5 28 g4 A brilliant resource that leaves White with a winning attack. 28 ... exd4 29 g5 Rf5 30 gxf6 Rxf6 31 Qh7+ Ke6 32 Rg8 Qd7 33 Rg7 Qc6 34 Rxc7 Qb6 35 Rxb7 By establishing his major pieces on the seventh rank White scythes through the black position, gains material and leaves the black king fatally exposed. 35 ... Qc6 36 Rc7 Qb6 37 Qe4+ Kd6 38 Rc4 d3 39 Rd4+ Kc7 40 Qe7+ Kc8 41 Rc4+ Rc6 42 Qe8+ Kc7 43 Rxc6+ Qxc6 44 Qxc6+ Kxc6 45 Kf1 Black resigns