New Chess Festival for the 2018 World Championships in London

Move over Glastonbury!  There is a new festival in town. Freshly announced this week, the first Ginger GM Chess Festival will be running throughout the duration of the world championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana in November.  Lets find out more.

Regular readers will remember my call to action in March about coming together as a chess community to enjoy the world championship in a more social setting, much akin to football fan parks. Whilst details are still emerging it seems the talented folks at Ginger GM have only gone and bloody well done it!

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 13.21.02
Screenshot from official London Chess Festival Promotional video. Credit to @londonchessfest

From 9th to 28th November 2018, GM Simon Williams and friends will be taking over The Plough pub in Bloomsbury (home of the Drunken Knights chess team) for a community fun fest including live commentary on the match, blitz sessions, and beer (other drinks also available).

At the time of writing a holding webpage and video have been set up and the Ginger GM team have promised more details on the exact format of the festival soon.  Non-obligatory donations of £10 are requested to help cover costs which seems like a bargain given the fun times that the festival will bring, especially when compared to the official ticket prices of £42.

When we have more information I will update everyone but in the meantime here are some screenshots from the promotional festival video (unfortunately I could not embed the video).

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Screenshot from official London Chess Festival Promotional video. Credit to @londonchessfest
Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 13.22.13
Screenshot from official London Chess Festival Promotional video. Credit to @londonchessfest
Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 13.22.36
Screenshot from official London Chess Festival Promotional video. Credit to @londonchessfest

To see the full video and to keep up to date on the festival:

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

The Forgotten Lady Champion who defeated Emanuel Lasker

Here on the Bristol Chess Times we have previously written about the often over looked Mary Rudge who could be considered the unofficial first womens’ world champion. Not many of her games survive but one of note is her adjourned victory against Emanuel Lasker in a simultaneous display in 1898.  Even in a simultaneous display, defeating the reigning men’s world champion in the 19th century was no mean feat. Lets take a look.

Before continuing if you are wondering “Who is Mary Rudge?” then I strongly recommend you read John Richard’s excellent thesis on her life and times as a pioneering female chess player in the 19th century.

Very little is known about this particular simul other than it was held in the Imperial Hotel but whether that is Bristol, London or elsewhere is unknown.  It is understood that Lasker was running out of time in general and a number of games went to adjournment. He graciously conceding defeat due to best play resulting in a win for black (modern computer analysis of the final adjourned position indeed shows a sizeable advantage to black of -3.23).

The combatants, Emanuel Lasker and Mary Rudge

With little more historical context available, lets look at how one of the finest female players of the 19th century handled the second world chess champion.

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 13.43.15
The final position shows whites sacrificial play has come to nothing and as soon as blacks king gets safe, then the world champion is lost

So a calm defensive approach from Mary seals her a famous win against the second world chess champion.  At no point in the game does she really probe the world champions defences but she comes away with the full point through solid defence and tempting her romantic era opponent into some profoundly unsound sacrifices.  Indeed, one of the common observations of modern GM’s is their super defensive powers compared to their predecessors.  Its interesting to note how disruptive a good defender would have been in the 19th century when swash buckling sacrifices were the expectation of the day.

Our previous article on Mary Rudge was very warmly received so I am pleased to finally get an annotated game of hers on The Bristol Chess Times. I hope you enjoyed this historic game, especially if you are interested in the history and development of the womens’ game.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

Season preview and August news

We take a look forward to the season – starting tomorrow! – and a look back at our predictions last time around.

First off, a few tournament results:

Mike Meadows (Downend) won the Downend Summer Rapid tournament with a great last night to pull ahead of clubmate Oli Stubbs and David Painter-Kooiman – congratulations! A thorough – totally unbiased – report is on Downend’s site.

The Steve Boniface Memorial was missing GM Arkell, and the heavy favourite IM Alan Merry could not repeat his Spring victory – instead Graham Moore won it with a perfect 5/5! Tim Woodward took another victory in the major, and Jonathon Gould scooped the minor.

No joint winners this time in any section! Results available on chessit.co.uk, and an annotated game by Toby Kan here.

2018/19 season predictions

It’s scary to think its almost 2019 – so let’s have a quick review of our predictions from last year:

Division 1: Clifton A – WRONG (Actual winners: Horfield A – our ‘Dark Horses’ pick)

Division 2: South Bristol B – WRONG (Actual winners: Clevedon B)

Division 3: Yate A – WRONG (Actual winners: Keynsham – our ‘runners-up’ pick)

Division 4: Downend F – WRONG (Actual winners: North Bristol B – our ‘runners-up’ pick)

So, let’s try to beat that score shall we? Here are all the competitors:

tables
A fresh start – what surprises are in store this season?

Division 1

Champions: Horfield A

We are going for a successful defence of the title for Horfield (again, totally unbiased). They have lost star player Aaron Guthrie, but they remain strong and are hungry for more.

Dark Horses: Bath A

Bath are always knocking around the top of the table and it is tough to play them away – can they step up this year?

Division 2

Champions: Clevedon B

A great season last time around for the club and a strong junior presence – surely they’ll be ruffling a few feathers.

Dark Horses: North Bristol A

Can they consolidate their squad and put out a regular mean team? We think maybe!

Division 3

Champions: Cabot A

With Yate A and Keynsham A stepping up, division 3 is surely wide open – come on the Cabot!

Dark Horses: South Bristol B

The strength of the team is unknown as yet but South Bristol have always been able to produce strength in depth.

Division 4

Champions: Clevedon C

I’m running with the confidence theory with all those fresh trophies in the cabinet.

Dark Horses: Congresbury

Welcome back to the league! An unknown quantity this season so certainly worth a punt.

Well let’s see if I can do better than Jon with 8 predictions rather than 12. Right, season begins tomorrow – time for some preparation!


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of BCT and plays regular league and tournament chess

Game of the Season 2017/18 – the winners!

It’s officially the start of a new season, so we better get the prizes for last year wrapped up.

Newsflash: BCT reaches 100 articles! Thanks to all contributors – we have had 13 authors from 7 different clubs, and lots of engagement from readers. What’s next for BCT? Well I’m sure we’ll write an article on it! Meanwhile its (digital) founder, Jon Fisher, welcomes his second son into the world earlier this very day – congrats buddy! Well, on with the chess and two other fine specimens to admire in wonder:

We gave you ten ‘Games of the Month‘ last season – you have picked your winner and so have we. Prizes will be awarded at a convenient time (i.e. when I next play against the winners’ club in a match), so without further ado…

GotS

People’s vote

The deluge of votes from the great chess public went for…

Aron Saunders! (Downend) – “Beware 3 Greeks bearing gifts”

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.O-O Nf6 5.d3 Ng4 6.h3 Nxf2

This is a common tempt in the opening – a bishop and knight for a rook and a pawn. As Aron ruthlessly demonstrates, the extra minor pieces can be immediately useful whereas the extra rook takes a while to get going, so this trade is often not advised for the offender.

7.Rxf2 Bxf2+ 8.Kxf2 O-O 9.Nc3 d6 10.Bg5 Qd7 11.Nd5 h6 12.Bf6

Bf6!! This is the first of 3 minor piece ‘offerings’ which earns this game its name. The first one can’t be taken because of the knight fork.

12..Na5 13.Qd2 Nxc4 14.dxc4 c6 15.Ne7+ Kh7 16.Nf5 g5 17.Nxg5+

Nxg5+! can’t be taken because of the impending queen invasion.

17..Kg6 18.Nh7

Nh7! An accurate finish. The knight gets out the way for the queen and doesn’t mind sacrificing itself, but elegantly defends the f6 bishop in the process.

18..Qxf5+ 19.exf5+ Kxh7 20.Be7 Rg8 21.f6 Rg5 22.Qxd6 Be6 23.b3 h5 24.Re1 Rf5+ 25.Kg1 Rg8 26.Rxe5 Rfg5 27.Rxg5 Rxg5 28.Qd3+ Bf5 29.Qd2 Rg6 30.Kh2 Be4 31.Qe2 Bxg2 32.Qxh5+ Kg8 33.Qxg6+ fxg6 34.Kxg2 1-0

The queen was given up in the hope of defence but it was all over – replay below. Nice one, Aron!

Editors pick

We agonised long and hard over a few different games; it was a close call but we went for an original game where both sides played with plenty of adventure and spirit. And the winner is…

Ethan Luc! (University) – “I’d rather be Luc(ky) than good”

Comments are from both Ethan (EL) and us (BCT):

Well done Ethan and great stuff everyone!

More games this season please!

This season (18-19) we are hoping for more games to showcase not just for Game of the Month but as educational articles like this one on the Hippo. So don’t be shy! Games will not be analysed to within an inch of their lives – just enjoyed by chess-lovers alike. Here are some ideas:

  • Send in other people’s games – (there are no rights issues here!)
  • Send fragments of games (e.g. just an endgame is fine!)
  • Send games from tournaments (often longer time-controls make for better games)
  • Send in puzzle-like variations of games
  • If you’re that way inclined – send in computer analysis (maybe you played a ‘perfect’ middlegame?)

We’ll do our best to publish all games and will be continuing Game of the Month – so always appreciate more fodder.

Have a great season everyone!


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess, sometimes underwater.

Three challenges facing Chess960: A fan perspective

So I recently suffered a serious accident resulting in me spending a lot of time in bed watching chess videos (everything in life has a silver lining). In the past week I have been enjoying the excellent coverage of the Sinquefield Cup being broadcast by the St Louis Chess Club during which the topic of Chess960 has cropped up on multiple occasions amongst the commentary team and the worlds elite players.  Indeed on the 10th – 14th September the chess club will be hosting five matches of Chess960 between 10 elite players (including the 960 debut of Gary Kasparov) with a total prize fund of $250,000. With interest in Chess960 supposedly growing (especially at the top levels of chess) I thought I would take a moment to highlight three challenges facing this variant of chess from my own personal perspective as an “average” chess fan. 

What is Chess960?

Very briefly, Chess960 is a variant of classic chess first proposed by Bobby Fischer in 1996 in Buenos Aires.  It involves the randomisation of the home rank pieces for each player therefore rendering each players home preparation moot.  There are 960 possible combinations for randomising the starting positions of the home rank pieces, hence the name Chess960.  The classical setup of pieces (you know the one which can take a lifetime to master) would be considered position 1 of 960.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 14.39.04
One of 960 starting position for a game of Chess960. Guess we aren’t playing a Berlin then…

Routinely Chesss960 is often referred to as the ultimate test of pure chess skill.  Whilst I recognise that this can appeal and be an interesting variant for some fans and players, in my opinion there are a number of challenges from an entertainment perspective that need to be resolved if Chess960 is to garner a large following and interest in the established chess community.

Challenge 1: Identity

The number of chess fans tuning in to watch the Sinquefield Cup has been impressive with the show broadcast in over 200 countries and daily YouTube videos racking up views in excess of 100,000 in 24 hour periods.  Indeed the St Louis Chess Club broadcasts are easily setting the bar for the pinnacle in chess broadcasting.

In round 8 of the Sinquefield Cup Alexander Grischuk played 1.f4 (Birds Opening) to an explosion of delight to the fans in the YouTube chat, on Twitter and around the globe. Several people phoned into the live studio to ask excited questions of Jen Shahade, Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley about the Birds Opening.

Why?

Because, putting chess ability to one side for a moment, many chess fans love to construct their identities and styles of play (“I’m Karpovian, quiet and positional” or “I attack like Tal“) and openings (“You just can’t beat my London“).  To the average club player, identifying with a particular opening helps anchor them in the exceedingly complex game that we all love.  They know that they will never be a GM (or hit 2000 ELO for that matter) but in some spheres and realms it is enough to dream that we understand a little of this great game.  Hence when Sasha Grishchuk casually tosses the f-pawn forward on move 1, amateur fans around the word rejoice because they feel a connection, they relate and (whisper it) connect with it.

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Even Chess Arbiter Chris Bird enjoyed seeing 1.f4 on the board. Photo credit to @LennartOotes

Chess960 kills an amateur players identity dead.

There is nothing to hold onto. Nothing that is recognisable or relatable. Those openings that I’ve worked so hard on and are the reason we follow certain GMs results is suddenly gone and the amateur is set adrift in the sea of “pure chess skill”.  Leading us nicely to the second challenge in my view.

Challenge 2: Complexity

Chess is hard. Thats why we love it.

But the consistency of the starting position atleast helps give some level of understanding (even if often we are only just holding on with our fingernails) to the average chess fan.  A chess fan rated 1800 would be considered a strong club player. But when those players watch classical chess we are already starting with a 1000 point deficit compared to a Super GM.  By randomising the starting position to one of 960 possible variations, as a spectator, my ability and understanding plummets even more.

Now for a game that already suffers from an accessibility issue in terms of new people learning the game, do we really want to be making it harder for people to engage?

Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand why elite players would be interested in Chess960 as they have already mastered the classical position.  But if elite players find 960 more challenging then it is especially so for your average chess fan and infinitely so for newbies to the game.

From an entertainment perspective, in what other sport would organisers say: “Hey you know what?  Lets make it more complicated for the viewers“.

Challenge 3: History & Commentary

Chess players love history.  They love the mystique of famous matches and clashes. They love the cool names of variations and places.  They love the great stories that Yasser Seirawan casually drops into conversation when commentating about the time he was blitzing with Boris Spassky or some other such legend of chess.

Again Chess960 eliminates this aspect to the entertainment side of the game.  Admittedly, Chess960 is very young in comparison to classical chess so does not have such a rich history.  However, by reducing (a deliberate choice of word) the game to one of 960 possible starting positions it makes it very difficult to commentate on or make accessible to the casual chess fan.

At no point can someone say, “Ah yes this reminds me of the 2017 match between Carlsen and Nakamura using starting position 758“. Even if they could it will take decades for comparisons and useful commentary to start to appear.

Also, how do you name variations when a variation very very very rarely ever appears again? The short answer is you don’t.

Which leaves the commentary team just talking about the “pure test of chess skill” on the boards in front of them.  Maybe I’m old fashioned but I personally feel the chess viewing experience is lessened when the rich tapestry of chess history is removed.

Conclusion

In conclusion, It is not my intent to attack Chess960 itself. Im sure a great many players around the world enjoy the variant.  My intent was to raise question marks over how this version of chess can be marketed and promoted to the masses.

The St Louis Chess Club and others such as Chess.com are doing sterling efforts to promote chess and raise participation levels globally.  But with so much effort and research gone into making chess exciting and engaging to watch, is Chess960 really a step forward or is it a niche sub-variant for players of a certain high standard?

With $250,000 prize fund it certainly looks like Chess960 is starting to be taken seriously.

My question is by making it harder to follow, removing any sense of chess identity and eliminating chess history from the commentary are the chess masses going to as easily engage? Is the ultimate test of pure chess skill really what your average chess fan is really looking for?

Until next time.


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

 

 

 

UK Open Blitz Championship comes to Bristol

The UK Open Blitz Championships is an innovation by the ECF, with 8 qualifying tournaments across the UK. Qualifiers range from Belfast to London, Edinburgh to Cardiff, but perhaps the most important qualifier being Bristol! Each qualifier will provide 2 main qualifying places to the Grand Finals as well as 2 female qualifiers to the Women’s Final held later in the year.

9_open

“Blitz chess kills your ideas. ~ Bobby Fischer”

“Like dogs who sniff each other when meeting, chess players have a ritual at first acquaintance: they sit down to play speed chess. ~ Anatoly Karpov”

On the 8th September, we will be making a usual return to Bristol Grammar School but instead playing in the newly built 1532 theatre rather than the 6th form centre. Starting at 11am, strap in tight for a whopping 15 rounds of FIDE-rated blitz chess to find out who will qualify for the Finals! There will be several grading prizes on offer as well to everyone playing, so players of all ages and abilities can come and compete for a prize. Also prepare for one stressed out arbiter trying to keep everyone under control, including regular writer for the Bristol Chess Times, Mike Harris!

“In blitz, the knight is stronger than the bishop. ~ Vlastmil Hort”

The Grand Finals will then take place on the 1st December in Birmingham with a prize pool of over £5000, with 1st prize in the Grand Final being £1000 and the Women’s Champion taking home £500; not bad for one day of Blitz chess! Everyone who qualifies to the Finals Day will receive a prize, so qualifying is not only honourable, but profitable!

“He who analyses blitz is stupid. ~ Rashid Nezhmetdinov”

For full details, rules and to enter the tournament, visit:
https://www.englishchess.org.uk/uk-open-blitz-championship/


TomThorpe

Tom Thorpe

Tom is an International Arbiter and used to play for North Bristol in the Bristol League. Now based in Exeter, he still pretends to play chess in-between organising events.

Problems in August 2018 with GM Jones

I’ve previously referred to the late Norman Macleod, the second British problem composer to receive (in 1991) the title of Grandmaster of Chess Composition, who was a strong player (scoring 7 / 16 on Board 3 for Scotland in the 1958 Olympiad) and who latterly played for Gloucestershire. His chess composing talent spread over many styles of chess problem, and is seen to good advantage in this fairly traditional one:

 

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 20.42.07

1st Prize, Variantim 1988
Mate in 3

Solution Below

An experienced solver looking at this position might note that White is lined up against e5 (Bxe5# is thwarted only by the bRe1) and d5 (Rxd5# is thwarted only by the bBg2). This might lead the experienced solver to consider what happens if White places a piece on the intersection of Black’s two lines of guard, e1-e5 and g2-d5, i.e., on e4. If we ignore for the moment Black’s other two main defenders, the Rd1 and the Bh2, then moving either wN to e4 would do the trick, threatening both Bxe5 and Rxd5, and if …Bg2xNe4 then Bxe5# and if …Re1xNe4 then Rxd5#. (These moves to e4 are termed by problemists Nowotny interferences. They do occasionally crop up in actual games!)

However, Black’s other two defenders come to his rescue. Whichever white Knight goes to e4, a new line of guard is opened – so if 1.Nde4+? then 1…Rxe4! and if 1…Nge4+? then 1…Bxe4!.

So we need to hold these possibilities in mind while seeing if we can make a different threat, which may induce Black to weaken his defences. And the move we’re looking for is 1.Bf6!, threatening 2.Bd8 and 3.Bc7 (and if 2…Ne6 3.Be7). This threat is difficult to meet. In fact, the only way that Black can defend is by threatening a check, which, if allowed, would prolong proceedings beyond 3 moves. One way Black does this is by 1…d4, enabling him to meet 2.Bd8 by 2…Bb7+. But this move blocks the d1-d5 line, so we can now move the d2N to e4 (which is check!), and we do now have 2…Rxe4/Bxe4 3.Rd5/Bxe5#.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 20.49.39

One potential solution starting with 1…d4

Similarly, 1…f4 meets 2.Bd8 with 2…Bh3+ but blocks the h2-e5 line, allowing 2.Nge4+! Rxe4/Bxe4 3.Rxd5/Bxe5#.

Screen Shot 2018-08-23 at 20.54.30

A second try beginning with 1…f4 also falls to checkmate.

Excellently matched play on diagonal and orthogonal lines – I’m not surprised it won a First Prize!


chriscircle

Christopher Jones

Christopher holds the Grandmaster title for Chess Problem Composition and uses his skills to write a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times. He is also a longterm Horfield Chess Club player (where he is acting secretary).

The Preview – Steve Boniface Memorial

We take a quick look back at the spring congress to see what’s in store this weekend – and an update on my training for the diving chess world champs.

The last bit of tournament chess before the season begins! Bristol will once again battle for five intense rounds in three sections – in honour of legendary arbiter Steve Boniface.

It’s yet to be confirmed whether regular GM Keith Arkell will return to seek revenge on IM Alan Merry for the final round defeat in the Spring – the 26-move French is shown below. Alan won the tournament along with FM Mike Waddington. The top of the player lists for all three sections is shown below – watch out for the return of the irrepressible Frank Palm, now resident in Germany.

entrants

Here is the miniature from Alan (or is a miniature less than 25 moves? I forget, but its a nice handling of the French defence anyway).

All three sections are packed with past champions so it should be a bloody weekend! Sadly neither of your editors will be playing. Jon is currently nursing multiple injuries (not chess-sustained) and expecting a second child imminently, whilst I am (perhaps more importantly) playing in the world championships of diving chess. If you don’t know what that is, watch this video on YouTube. But it’s basically chess – underwater. The clock is your ability to keep breathing.

Here is me on a recent intensive training camp in Tuscany:

chess1

Wish me luck, won’t you?


mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

 

 

 

 

 

Game of the Season 2017-18! Votes please…

All 10 Games of the Month from last season in Bristol&Bath. Please submit votes for your favourite! We have made our choice just in case, but there is a people’s vote as well as an editor’s pick, so get choosing! Comments, emails, and Facebook votes all welcome.

This season was the first full one for the Bristol Chess Times – one of our initiatives was a ‘Game of the Month’ (GotM). This relied on submissions from players, or captains, but also on us to look around at tournaments or on other websites where games are published. This is a known bias – one month we were so starved of games that we had to go with one of mine – but hopefully this will only spur on more game suggestions for next year!

GotS

*Rest assured as co-editor my effort in October is exempt from winning Game of the Season (GotS) but let’s have a recap of the 10 ‘Games of the month’ and we’ll let you decide the rest:

September

Remember September? Perhaps this swift ‘Greek Gift’ win from Aron will jog your memory:

October

This lively game was a crucial part of Horfield B’s surprise win over Downend A early in the season:

November

Perhaps this all-out war between Lewis and Oliver, who clearly agreed to a ‘no castling’ rule before the game, will get your pick:

(December had no GotM)

January

We went with a bumper edition in January, to pull out 4 defensive/counterattacking  wins with Black. First up was Rich Wiltshir’s cool defence to claim joint first in the Clevedon Congress major:

Next was tournament organiser Graham Mill-Wilson showing disregard for a knight settling next to his king for most of the game and getting the job done to win the minor section:

League newcomer Waleed Khan played a classical game here from a Sicilian position, developing and centralising until a deadly pin was enough to force resignation:

And finally for January, a deadly and accurate finish emerging from another seemingly normal Sicilian by Steve Woolgar:

February

Devon didn’t know what hit it when Thornbury’s Lynda Smith won the day with a smooth and controlled attack:

March

Back to the league and the ever-enterprising Mike Meadows was elegantly unhinged here by university’s Ethan Luc:

(April had no GotM)

May

Finally, Jerry Hendy was under some pressure in this league game but gives up three pawns for a resignation:

Phew! 10 is a lot of chess games. But we have picked a winner! We’ll announce both the ‘people’s vote’ and the ‘editor’s pick’ soon.

One thing I notice is that all of these games are wins. A draw can often be an epic struggle and worthy of any prize, so maybe next season we’ll have of few more of those.

 


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

Two Latvian Gambit games from the Bristol Open 2018

Avid readers will recall that on June 15th I gave this advice for a must-win tournament situation against 1.e4: Play the Latvian Gambit – “…2.f5… Bd6, sack a rook and win the tournament in a blaze of glory”. That very night the Bristol Spring Congress commenced and as if I had scripted it – a player called Mike played the Latvian twice, won twice, and (jointly) won the tournament in a blaze of glory.

Unfortunately for me it was FM Mike Waddington – who in a cruel twist of fate also beat me with White after I played an ambitious f5, miscalculating after arriving 27 minutes late. But that’s another story.

Mike appears to also have a soft spot for the Latvian Gambit (and a better understanding of it). Here are his two wins which helped him on the way to 4.5/5 in a very competitive open field:

Gambit accepted: the exf5 line

“The best way to refute a gambit is to accept it”. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 White can play 3.exf5 – and the game is on.

latvian1

Mike appears to have read my advice (scroll to 3. exf5) and goes for e4, Qe7, Nc6 and rapid bishop development:

After Nxc6 dxc6, d3 and Bxf5 Black has some control and is not any material down – the engine gives it -0.44 (small advantage for Black). After a few more moves (play through the game below) the queens come off and Black is fine with the pieces on good squares and White’s d-pawn isolated.

The middlegame was not a typical Latvian tactics fest – but Mike eventually wins the endgame after a favourable exchange of the last piece.

Main Line

Mike got a second chance to play the Latvian and got the main line where the queen enjoys an early outing to g6: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 6.Nc3 Qg6

The engine gives it around +1 here, but as I discuss in the original article it is often officially good for White but actually difficult to play. For example in our game here, it becomes a dangerous prospect for White to castle on either side of the board.

Mike manages to get in d5 and gets the classic Latvian bishop to d6 after: 7.Ne3 c6 8.Bc4 d5 9.Bb3 Nf6 10.Ne2 Bd6. Looks comfortable enough:

And it gets uncomfortable for White after some pretty natural moves – f4 was played here to try to avoid the oncoming assault on the king:

After f4 we have Bg4 and the pressure switches to the centre and White’s queen is quickly needing some space. Lewis gives up the exchange instead but there is no real compensation. Mike ends up three pawns up after giving back the exchange to get a comfortable ending:

Well done to Mike who also won against 4th seed Graham Moore (and against me, but that’s less impressive), to tie 1st place with IM Alan Merry.

We hope to see some more Latvians played at the top level soon!

…And in fairness to Mike’s other victims, here is my game:


mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular Bristol chess