Raymond Keene

Sir Gawain

Sir Gawain
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Grandmaster Gawain Jones triumphed in the 99th British championship. However, his path to success was not exactly problem free. Far from storming to victory, Gawain tied for first prize with grandmaster Stephen Gordon, thus necessitating a play-off to break the tie, an echo of last year’s championship, when Michael Adams defeated Nigel Short after a neck and neck performance in the main event.

Having reached the play-off, Gawain proceeded to lose his queen for patently insufficient compensation. Resisting what must have been an overwhelming temptation to resign on the spot, Gawain struggled blithely on, and pulled off a miraculous win, rather like a conjuror extracting a very large rabbit from a very small hat. Here is a more conventional victory by the new champion.

Jones-Hawkins: British Championship, North Shields 2012; Nimzo-Indian Defence

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4 4 e3 0-0 5 Nge2 d5 6 a3 Be7 7 cxd5 exd5 8 Nf4 This is an improvement on the concluding game of the 1937 World Championship where Euwe (versus Alekhine) played 8 Ng3 allowing 8 ... c5 9 dxc5 Bxc5 10 b4 d4. The point of 8 Nf4, as opposed to 8 Ng3, is to pressurise d5, thus preventing Alekhine’s freeing manoeuvre ... c5. 8 ... c6 9 Bd3 Re8 10 0-0 Bd6 11 f3 Qc7 12 Qd2 Bxf4 13 exf4 b6 14 b4 Ba6 15 b5 Black would be more than okay if he could arrange to exchange light-squared bishops. White’s play is designed to prevent this, holding Black down on the queenside. Meanwhile, White intends to set his mass of kingside pawns in motion to blast the black king. 15 ... cxb5 16 Nxb5 Qd7 17 a4 Nc6 18 Rb1 Na5 19 f5 Nc4 20 Qf2 h6 21 g4 All according to plan. 21 ... Nh7 22 Bf4 Na3 23 Rb3 Nc4 24 h4 Rac8 25 g5 h5 26 Kh2 Rc6 27 f6 (see diagram 1) A bold stroke to which Black’s best response is an equally bold 27 ... gxf6. As played Black’s kingside is severely restricted and exposed to the eventual rolling up manoeuvre f4-f5. 27 ... g6 28 Rbb1 Nf8 29 Rfe1 Rxe1 30 Rxe1 Ne6 31 Bg3 Nd6 32 Re5 If 32 Bxd6 Bxb5 followed by ... Qxd6+. 32 ... Nc4 33 Re2 Nd6 34 Re5 Nc4 35 Re2 Nd6 36 Qe1 Declining a draw by repetition White gears up for the final assault. The immediate threat is Bxg6. 36 ... Nf5 37 Bxf5 gxf5 38 Qb1 Rc4 39 Qxf5 Rxa4 As the game reaches its climax White goes for the throat against Black’s king, leaving his queenside pieces to be hoovered up as a decoy. 40 g6 Bxb5 41 Qxh5 fxg6 42 Qxg6+ Kf8 43 Bf4 (see diagram 2) This is a brilliant concept which Black had doubtless overlooked. 43 ... Nxf4 44 Re8+ Qxe8 45 Qg7 checkmate