The Conquest of Weeks

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Stuart Conquest's win in the 2008 British Championship (see The Conquest Of Britain for details) reminded me of a game I played against Conquest when he was an up-and-coming IM. The game was played in the third round of the 1990 Paris Championship, my first all-master event (all players rated over 2200), and my first opportunity to observe the rising stars Kamsky and Shirov.

The tournament started badly for me. I lost in the first round to an IM, but the TD recorded the game as a win for me. That led to a second round pairing against another IM, when the mistake was discovered. The TD just shrugged his shoulders, as if to say it didn't make the least difference, and mumbled that it was too late to change the pairing. After I went down for the second straight game, I was paired against Conquest who must also have been having a miserable event, since he was paired in the pool of players at 0-2.

The opening followed the Zukertort Variation (9.c4) in the Berlin Defense (3...Nf6) against the Ruy Lopez. This wasn't the variation that later became famous in the 2000 Kramnik - Kasparov match as the Berlin Wall, which was 4.O-O Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8. This was rather a line often played by Emanuel Lasker a century ago, where the Knight ends up in a curious position on b7 after 5...Be7 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nb7.

To make a short story even shorter, I lost my third straight game to an IM, after trying out an original idea involving ...f6, ...Qe8, and ...Qh5. I'm not sure where I should have played differently, except in choosing another opening. Conquest said after the game that the opening was 'a tough nut to crack', but I think he was just being pleasant. The game is a good example how an IM beats a mere master. My light squared Bishop never moved off its original square.

I went on to salvage the event by scoring +2-1=3 in the last six games for a final score of 3.5-5.5. Conquest finished in a tie for 3rd-9th with 6.5 points, a half point behind the winners Pinter and Lobron. There were 93 players with an average Elo of 2345.