Last-Minute Substitute Nick Pert Steals Show At British Knockout

Last-Minute Substitute Nick Pert Steals Show At British Knockout

| 4 | Chess Event Coverage

He substituted for Nigel Short, knocked out Luke McShane and is now in the final of the British Knockout Championship: Nick Pert. His opponent is David Howell, who eliminated Gawain Jones in the semis.

Nick Pert (34) has been stealing the show so far at the British Knockout Championship, a new side-event at the London Chess Classic. With coffeehouse chess and a special feel for knight forks, Pert has now reached the final.

Pert, whose twin brother Richard is a strong IM, was the world under-18 champion in 1998 but chose math and statistics studies over a chess career. He came close to an early elimination when he faced reigning British champion Jonathan Hawkins in the first round.

The format is similar to the FIDE World Cup, with the exception that both classical games and the playoff are played on the same day. Pert was down 2-1 after losing the first rapid game, and then went all out on a late Tuesday night:

With a time control of 15 minutes plus 5 seconds per move, this was coffeehouse chess at its best.

Pert then got to play the black pieces in the Armageddon game (six minutes vs five minutes with three seconds per move increment from move 61), and so Hawkins had to win this one. He never got close, and became the first victim of the Pert Knight Fork:

Nick Pert, a surprising finalist. | Photo John Saunders.

On Wednesday a bigger name awaited Pert: Luke McShane. Three years younger than Pert, McShane is another former world youth champion who chose a career outside chess. After working in the financial sector for about a decade, he recently returned to playing chess.

This match also started with two draws in the classical games, and then it was Pert who struck in the first. His 8...g5 is a known idea in the Bb5 Sicilian, and it worked out pretty well. The ending should be about equal but Pert played better chess:

McShane had to win the second rapid game as Black, but failed to do so and even lost. Again, Pert showed skill with his knight(s):

Luke McShane, upset by Nick Pert. | Photo John Saunders.

Pert's opponent in the final is David Howell, who eliminated Yang-Fan Zhou in the quarterfinal and then Gawain Joines in the semis. 

That semifinal was a very close affair. Both won their white games at the standard time control, and the two rapid games ended in draws (with Jones getting close to a win). Howell won the toss, chose to play Black in the Armageddon and was in full control there:


David Howell will be Pert's opponent. | Photo John Saunders.

It was nice to see Jonathan Rowson playing again. He was eliminated in the first round, but definitely had his chances, especially in the first game, where he came close to winning:

Gawain Jones. | Photo John Saunders.

In the second classical game, the Scottish GM missed a rather brilliant way to force a draw:

Rowson in his white game vs Jones. | Photo John Saunders.

But Rowson is excused. These days he is busy as the director of the RSA's Social Brain Centre, a think tank that in recent years has focused on climate change, education and spirituality. And the best excuse might be that he is a young father! 

A busy man these days: Jonathan Rowson. | Photo John Saunders.

The quarter- and semifinals were played in the Kensington Olympia Hilton Hotel. The final, between Howell and Pert, will move to Olympia, the venue where the London Chess Classic is held as well. (See our preview here.)

The final consists of six classical games. If a playoff is needed, it will be played on Thursday, December 10. The rapid games will have a time control of 25 minutes plus five seconds per move followed if necessary by an Armageddon game.

The winner will take home an impressive first prize: £20,000, with £10,000 for the runner-up. Gawain Jones and Luke McShane earned £5,000 and the round-one losers, £2,500.

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