At the beginning of August, seeing his outstanding performance at the Fide World Cup in Sochi, I wrote that Ravi Haria ‘must now sense that the grandmaster title is well within reach’. But who could expect that he would achieve two more grandmaster ‘norms’ before the month was out? Haria, 22, now has all three norms (tournament results at grandmaster standard) he needs, and requires just a small boost to his international rating before he is awarded the title.
Over-the-board chess has sprung back to life this summer, and Haria is one of many players making up for lost time. Earlier this month, he took first place at the Wood Green Invitational, the same event at which 25-year-old Marcus Harvey qualified as an international master (‘IM’ — the title below grandmaster).
Both were back in action at the Northumbria Masters, held in Gateshead at the end of August. Backed by several sponsors, including Chess in Schools and Communities and the English Chess Federation, the event attracted more than 200 players.
First place was shared between Haria and 22-year-old Conor Murphy, who represents Ireland, with each earning a grandmaster norm. Murphy had wrapped up his own IM title at the Muswell Hill Masters event just three weeks earlier. The game below features a finely judged exchange sacrifice from another bright prospect, 21-year-old IM Matthew Wadsworth, beginning with 13 Bxb7!. Despite this loss, his opponent 29-year-old Callum Kilpatrick scored his final IM norm at the Northumbria Masters, and is also now eligible for the title.
Matthew Wadsworth–Callum Kilpatrick
Northumbria Masters GM, August 2021
1 c4 Nf6 2 Nc3 e5 3 g3 g6 4 Bg2 Bg7 5 d3 O-O 6 Rb1 Nc6 7 b4 d6 8 Nf3 h6 9 b5 Ne7 10 O-O Be6 11 Ba3 Qd7 12 Nd2 Bh3 13 Bxb7 Bxf1 14 Qxf1 Rab8 15 Qg2 (see diagram) The contours of the game are in place. Wadsworth has bishop and pawn for rook, and aspires to a vice-like grip on the h1-a8 diagonal, which he later achieves. But it was wiser to retreat the bishop to g2, because in this position, Kilpatrick could have thrown a spanner in the works with 15…e4! After 16 Bxe4 Nxe4 a surprising situation arises — after a recapture from either White knight, f7-f5 wins material. Or, 16 Ncxe4 Nh7! and in view of the dual threats f7-f5 and Rxb7, White should probably opt for 17 Nb3 Rxb7 18 Nec5 dxc5 19 Qxb7 with a messy position. Nh7 16 Bb4 f5 17 Nd5 f4 18 Nxe7+ Qxe7 19 Bd5+ Kh8 20 Ne4 fxg3 21 hxg3 Nf6 22 Nxf6 Bxf6 23 Qe4 Kg7 24 Kg2 Wadsworth has skilfully realised the vision of his sacrifice on move 13. Black has no counterplay, but numerous weak spots on a7, c7, g6 and h6. h5 25 Rh1 c5 26 Be1 Bg5 27 a4 h4 28 Qg4 hxg3 29 fxg3 Rh8 30 Rxh8 Kxh8 31 a5 Kg7 32 Be4 Qf6 33 Qd7+ Qe7 34 Qg4 Qf6 35 b6 a6 Better was 35…Rf8 36 Bf3 axb6 37 axb6. Black’s chances are better when there is only one pawn to contend with. 36 Qd7+ Qe7 37 Qa7 John Nunn called moves like this ‘collinear’, when opposing pieces move along a line of attack without capturing. They are often hard to spot. Rh8 38 Qxe7+ Bxe7 39 Bb7 Rb8 40 Bxa6 Bd8 41 Bb5 Kf6 42 Kf3 Ke6 43 Kg4 d5 44 Bc6 dxc4 45 dxc4 Bxb6 46 axb6 Rxb6 47 Bd5+ Kd6 48 e4 Rb3 49 Bd2 Rd3 50 Bh6 Ke7 51 Bg7 Kd6 52 Bf8+ Kd7 53 Bxc5 Black resigns