Hastings even more exciting

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Who's going to win Hastings? Based on the round 6 standings there's no conclusion to draw whatsoever. No less than eleven players share the lead with 4.5 points: Neverov, Chatalbashev, Hebden, Conquest, Pert, Greet, Williams, Malakhatko, Mamedov and Lalic. Let's give Steve the microphone again. Update: photos added.

Reports (summarized) by Steve Giddins:

Round 3: Lucky for some

On top board in the third round, Simon Williams rebuffed a very early draw offer from Tahirov, but was soon in trouble, and only secured a draw after a long rearguard action.

williams03 Simon Williams

Sengupta and Gormally drew a fairly quiet game, but there was no continuation of the fairytale for round 2 giant-killer Mel Young, who was despatched in routine style by Malakhatko.

melyoung01 Mel Young

Mark Hebden turns 50 in a few weeks' time, but yesterday he looked as though he was trying to recapture his youth, as he wheeled out the Benk?ɬ? Gambit, an opening he stopped playing some 25 years ago.

Black has won a pawn, but with all pawns on one side, it looks as though a long endgame grind is in prospect. That probably would indeed have been the case after 35 Qe5, but instead Simon played 35.Rf1?, after which Hebden decided the game immediately with 35...Rxf2! 36.Kxf2 Rc2+ 0?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú1

The game Bates-Pavlovic was fairly extraordinary, as the English IM blundered in the opening and fell into a known trap:

1.d4 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.e4 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.h3 0?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0 6.Bg5 c5 7.d5 Qa5 8.Bd3?? Nxe4! 9.Bxe4 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Qxc3+ 11.Bd2? 11.Kf1 is somewhat better, though still good for Black. 11...Qe5 12.Ne2 Qxe4 13.0?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0 Qxc4

The result of the opening debacle is that Black has no less than three extra pawns, but incredibly, the grandmaster failed to win this position. By way of evidence, I append the remaining moves without comment: 14.Bh6 Nd7 15.Rc1 Qh4 16.Bxf8 Kxf8 17.Nc3 Nf6 18.Re1 Bf5 19.Qe2 Re8 20.Nb5 Be4 21.Rc4Qg5 22.Rxe4 Nxe4 23.Qxe4 Qf6 24.a4 a6 25.Na3 Rb8 26.Rb1 b6 27.Rb3 Qf5 28.Qc4 Qe5 29.f4 Qf6 30.Kh2 h5 31.Rf3 Ra8 32.Rb3 ?Ǭ??¢‚Ǩ‚Äú?Ǭ?

Round 4: Always look on the bright side of life

Mark Hebden took sole leadership after winning in short order against Simon Williams. He now has 3.5/4, half a point ahead of a gigantic group of 21 players, all on three points.

flearhebden Mark Hebden (right) talking to Glenn Flear

Hebden-Williams saw the latter forsake his favourite Dutch Defence, no doubt fearing Hebden's preparation. Instead, Williams chose the highly unusual line 1.d4 d5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 c4 e5?!. Further original play seemed to promise a highlyentertaining encounter, but it soon became obvious that Black's position was inreality just a consignment of geriatric shoemakers:

Hebden (2542) - Williams (2475) Hastings Masters Hastings (4) 2007 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c4 e5 4.Nxe5 Nxe5 5.dxe5 d4 6.g3 Ne77.Bg2 Nc6 8.0?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0 Nxe5 9.e3

9...d3 9...dxe3 gives White a big initiative after 10.Qxd8+ Kxd8 11.Bxe3 Nxc4 12.Rd1+, followed by Bd4, Nc3, Rac1, etc.10.f4 Ng4 11.Nc3?! This is not fully accurate. White should play 11.h3 and 12.g4 immediately. Now 11...h5 would have given Black reasonable chances. 11...c6? 12.h3 Nf6 13.g4! g6 14.Rf2 Be6 15.b3 h5 16.g5 Nd7 17.Ne4 Bg7 18.Bb2 Bxb2 19.Rxb2 f5 20.Nf2 Nc5 21.b4 Na6 22.Qxd3 1?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0

Black's resignation looks a trifle premature, but Simon was just disgusted with his position and saw no real hope. He cannot regain the pawn by 22...Qxd3 23.Nxd3 Bxc4, because of 25.Ne5, followed by b5, when his queenside collapses, so he must remain a pawn down, with a rotten position. Instead, Simon preferred to make an early start to his New's Year's Eve celebrations.

The other top games were all drawn, after varying degrees of fight, but wins for Malakhatko, Mamedov, Jones, Pavlovic and Lalic saw the five GMs join the three-point group. The finish of Pavlovic-Kwiatkowski saw a pair of white knights, that would have done credit to the late Hungarian grandmaster and knight connoisseur, Gideon Barcza:

gawainjones01 Gawain Jones

White exploited the pin on the c-file as follows: 28.Nd4 g6 29.bxc5 bxc5 30.Nb4! A nice self-fork. 30...Ra8 31.Nd5 Rb7 32.Nc6 1?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0

And with that, the players retired to celebrate New Year's Eve. Your correspondent, plagued with a cold virus, and pumped full of more antibiotics than the average Tour de France cyclist, spent the evening in his hotel room, watching The Life of Brian on TV. While I continue to contemplate the immortal question of what precisely the bl*ody Romans have ever done for us, I wish all of you a very happy and successful 2008.

Round 5: Waldorf salads and coastal erosion

Whatever you do on New Year's Day, you will do for the rest of the year, so the saying goes. There are a few people here who hope that this is not the case. Your correspondent's only achievement yesterday was to pull a muscle in my back, whilst the entire arbiting team ended the day by being thrown out of a local hostelry, after an innocent complaint about a grossly sub-standard meal turned into a repeat of the Fawlty Towers Waldorf Salad episode.

Malakhatko won his fourth straight game, and has now joined the leaders, after his first-round mishap.

malakhatko01 Vadim Malakhatko

Once again, it was an English GM who was on the receiving end, but one has to admire the Ukrainian's smooth positional play:

Malakhatko-Haslinger A Four Knights English has yielded White a rather better queenless middlegame. (For those of you who are wondering, this is definitely NOT a Nookie - too many pieces on the board!) Black has a few problems with the backward c-pawn, and is gradually squeezed. 21.Nfd2 Ra8 22.Nc4 Kf8 23.b5 c5 Black eliminates the backward pawn on the c-file, but now White has a ready-made plan to break through on the a-file instead. 24.a4! Rb8 25.a5 Bc8 26.axb6 axb627.Ra1 Bd7 28.Nc3 Re6 29.Bd5 Re8 30.Ra7 With Black devoid of counterplay, White methodically strengthens his grip. Note how the white central pawn structure controls the activity of his opponent's pieces. The knight on f5, forexample, although apparently actively placed near the centre, actually has almost no scope to move anywhere. 30...Be6 31.Bxe6 Rxe6 32.Ne4 h6 33.Rda1 Re834.R1a6 Re6

35.Ra8! Simple chess. Although White exchanges anactive rook for a passive one, the point is that the black rook is needed to defend b6. Once it is gone, the pawn is indefensible. Rxa8 36.Rxa8 Ke8 37.Rb8See previous note. It is drop-off time for the b6-pawn. f6 38.Nxb6 Bf8 39.Nd5 Bd6 40.Ra8 1?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0 Beautifully elegant positional play by the top seed.

Round 6: From the lower reachess

One of the great features of Hastings is the number of strong players and other interested characters that turn up as spectators, during the week. Earlier in the tournament, we had Guardian journalist Stephen Moss, whose "Rookie" column, with Nigel Short, was such a popular feature of the paper a couple of years ago. Yesterday, it was the turn of the ever-colourful Michael Basman, who is believed still to be on the run from an international arrest warrant, for "crimes against chess orthodoxy".

This is the man you want, officer!

Mike does not play so much chess these days, but he has built up his schools junior tournament into one of the biggest mass participation chess events in Europe. It has already produced many promising young talents, and its continued success must bode well for the future of British chess. Sadly, Mike did not stay very long yesterday, leaving after a couple of hours' play, possibly disappointed by the fact that none of the top four games opened 1.g4...

If he had stayed, he would have seen three very hard fights end in draws onthe top three boards, whilst Andrew Greet won decisively against Vladimir Georgiev:

Greet (2441) - Georgiev,V (2576) Hastings Masters (6) 2008 1.e4 e5 2.d4

An unusual choice at master level, but Andrew is currently writing a book on offbeat 1.e4 openings, and the Centre Game is one of the lines he is covering. A few months ago, he approached 2.d4 expert Jack Rudd, and asked him which lines he thought most troublesome for White. Perhaps the Bulgarian Secret Service was listening in on their conversation, because one of the two defences Jack mentioned was the very line chosen by Georgiev in the present game! 2...exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 0?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0 7.0?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0 Re8 8.Qg3

8...Rxe4!? An act of larceny that is also the critical choice. 9.Nxe4? Nxe4 allows Black to regain the exchange with a clear advantage, so White must continue in gambit style. 9.a3 Bxc3 10.Bxc3 d5 11.f3 Re8 12.Ne2 Bf5 This seems to be a new move, 12...Be6 having been played here previously. 13.Qf4 Bg6 14.g4

For his pawn, White has the bishop pair and a kingside initiative. Georgiev now decides to return the extra material, in order to seize the initiative himself. 14...d4!? 15.Nxd4 Nd5 16.Nxc6 bxc6 If 16...Nxf4, then White has the better ending after 17.Nxd8. Georgiev's move accepts pawn weaknesses, in return for opening up the b-file against White's king. 17.Qd4 Nxc3 18.Qxc3 Qg5+ 19.Kb1 Qe3?! From here onwards, Black's positions collapses surprisingly quickly. It seems that 19...Re3 20.Qxc6 Rb8 would have given reasonable chances,with the point that 21.Qxc7? is not good because of 21...Reb3! 20.Qxc6 Rab8 21.Bd3 Rb6 22.Qxc7 Reb8

Watching the game, my first reaction was that Black has a strong attack here, but after Greet's next move, it soon becomes clear that his king is much safer than it looks. 23.b4! Qe8 The obvious response is 23...a5, but then White wins simply by 24.Rhe1 Qf2 25.Bxg6 hxg6 26.Rd8+ Kh7 27.Ree8. Just as in the game, White's domination down the centre files outweighs Black's efforts to create counterplay on the queenside. Perhaps this is not so surprisingly - as Mark Hebden pointed out, "Well, it is called the Centre Game!". 24.Rhe1 Qf8 25.Qe7 Qc8 Now 25...a5 is met by 26.Qxf8+ and 27.c3, when White's king is as safe as houses. 26.Bxg6 hxg6 27.Rd7 Rf6 28.Red1 Kh7 29.Rd8 Qb7 30.Qe8 1?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú0


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