Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Avoiding humiliation in a Grandmaster simultaneous exhibition

GM Nigel Short in a simultaneous exhibition

On Wednesday, March 16, 2016 I attended a Lecture and Exhibition at the Melbourne Chess Club in Brunswick (suburb of Melbourne, Australia), given by an absolute legend: Grandmaster Nigel Short MBE. 

Short was one of the best chess players in the world in the 1980s and 90s. He was a child prodigy and arguably the strongest English player ever. Last time I looked he was still rated in the top 100. He played (but lost) a match against world champion Kasparov in 1993, has defeated ex World Champion Karpov in a match as well as many other top players in his long career.

In the 1993 match against Kasparov he drew with him in the second half of the match, quite a feat given Kasparov’s legendary preparation, arguably the best of any world champion to date. Short lives in Greece with his Greek wife and two children. He is now 51, a commentator on the game and tours the world lecturing, giving exhibitions and playing in open events.

I found his lecture very interesting, clear and instructive. He demonstrated two recent games he played and won, explaining the strategy of the openings and how the games unfolded. One thing I took out of it was that chess wisdom requires you to play moves you have to rather than those you want to. In difficult positions you must, like Korchnoi, play ugly/play hard. Many young players are selfish and see only moves they want to play. His two games illustrated this theme (one was a Nimzo-Indian, the other a Caro Kann). I applied this lesson myself in my game against him and it is a right and true principle. I was pleased that I independently saw key moves in his lecture before he demonstrated them.  Maybe I am finally getting some understanding of this game in my older years.

The simultaneous exhibition was Grandmaster Short against 30 players and I was on Board 10. I prepared the Modern and Old Indian against him, just in case. I wanted to avoid lines he would obviously know well. He played e4 and I replied g6 and then in the tense atmosphere promptly forgot my preparation because of nervous tension and I also do not normally play the Modern. I got into a bad position but applied the Korchnoi rule; fought back, defended really well, held on and was finally defeated in a Bishop ending where he squeezed out the technical win where I had a weak pawns including one isolated. I resigned on move 51 (coincidentally, his age) and he signed my scoresheet. He scored 26 wins, 3 Draws and 1 defeat where he just blundered a piece in an even position.

I had been dreading the humiliation of being among the first to lose. I have not played a cross-board tournament in 16 years and to say I am rusty is an understatement. But, I did play quite well and was the last or near last opponent he had to finish off, which he did deep into the ending. I thought I had a draw, maybe even a win at one stage but as players dropped out he came around to my board quicker and quicker so in the end it was almost blitz and I had no chance against a GM. He played carefully and classically, waiting for his opponents to make errors. This is a very professional simul-style which makes use of a GMs superb knowledge and patience.

Simultaneous exhibitions are very tough on players: the Master has numerous games and positions to work out; the other players have to make moves quicker than they normally would in a proper game. As players fall away the situation approximates blitz conditions.

But I did enjoy the energy and need to think quickly and pragmatically which is a feature of cross-board play. Real chess, let it be said.

Because I was pleased with my effort I am starting to think quite highly of the Modern; even when played badly by myself, it provided lots of complexity and counter-chances, even against a GM of Short’s class.

Short’s official website is at https://www.facebook.com/GM.NigelShort

The following is analysis of the game from my friend Clive Murden (ICCF IM) who used his computer program/engine to clarify the position. I have retained some of the engine values assessing the variations. It is interesting to see what could have been played if more time had been available to the players. Even the GM missed some strong moves.
Short,N - Eraclides,G [B06]
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 b6 [3...d6 4.h3 Nf6 5.Nc3 0-0 6.Be3 c6 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Qd2 ...0-1, Eliet Nicolas 2434 - Bacrot Etienne 2725 , France 5/ 5/2005 Ch France (team) 2005; 3...d5 4.e5 c5 5.dxc5 Bg4 6.c4 Qa5+ 7.Nbd2 Nd7 8.cxd5 ...1-0, Svidler Peter 2735 - Chernyshov Konstantin 2569 , Voronezh 2003 Match; 3...c5 4.d5 d6 5.Be2 Nf6 6.Nc3 0-0 7.0-0 Na6 8.Re1 ...0-1, Pelletier Yannick 2589 - Morozevich Alexander 2758 , Biel 2003 It (cat.16); 3...Nf6 +0.29; 3...Nf6 +0.29] 4.c4 Bb7 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be3 e6 7.Bd3 Ne7 8.Qd2 0-0 9.h4 h5 10.Bh6 Nd7 11.0-0-0 e5?! [11...a5!? 12.Kb1 Nf6 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.d5 e5 15.Ng5 Bc8 16.Rhf1 Neg8 17.Be2 +0.80] 12.d5? [12.dxe5! Nxe5 13.Nxe5 dxe5 14.g4 hxg4 15.h5 Qd6 16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.cxd5 Rad8 +1.27] 12...Nf6?! [12...Nc5!? 13.Be3 a5 14.Kb1 Bc8 15.Be2 Bd7 16.g3 a4 17.Ng5 a3 18.b3 +0.37] 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Ng5 Bc8 15.g3 Nh7?! [15...a5!? 16.Be2 Bd7 17.Kb1 Neg8 18.f3 Nh6 19.Rdf1 Qe7 20.Nd1 Rfb8 21.Ne3 +0.80] 16.Rdf1 f6?! [16...Ng8!? 17.f4 Nhf6 18.f5 Nh6 19.fxg6 fxg6 20.Bc2 Nhg4 21.Ba4 Kh8 22.Bc6 +0.89] 17.Nxh7?! [17.Ne6+!? Bxe6 18.dxe6 c6 19.f4 f5 20.exf5 gxf5 21.Be2 e4 22.Bxh5 d5 +1.45] 17...Kxh7 18.f4 Bg4 19.Nd1 Qd7?! [19...Ng8!? 20.Ne3 Nh6 21.Nxg4 Nxg4 22.f5 Qe8 23.Be2 Nh6 24.fxg6+ Qxg6 +0.76] 20.Ne3 f5 21.exf5?! [21.Nxg4!? fxg4 22.f5 Qe8 23.Qg5 Ng8 24.Rf2 Nh6 25.Rhf1 Rg8 26.Qf6 gxf5 +1.27] 21...Bxf5?! [21...gxf5!? 22.fxe5 dxe5 23.Rf2 e4 24.Be2 Qd6 25.Rf4 Bxe2 26.Qxe2 Qg6 27.Rhf1 +0.80] 22.fxe5 dxe5 23.Qc3? [23.Nxf5! Nxf5 24.Re1 Qd6 25.g4 Ng3 26.Rhg1 e4 27.Bxe4 Rae8 28.Bd3 Rxe1+ +1.22] 23...e4?! [23...Bxd3!? 24.Qxd3 Nf5 25.Nxf5 gxf5 26.Qe2 Qe8 27.Rf3 e4 28.Ra3 a5 29.Rc3 +0.11] 24.Be2 Bh3?! [24...Ng8!? 25.g4 Bxg4 26.Nxg4 hxg4 27.h5 g5 28.Qd4 Rae8 29.Rxf8 Rxf8 30.Qxe4+ +0.85] 25.Rf6? [25.Rfg1! Rf2 26.Qe1 Rf3 27.Bxf3 exf3 28.Qf2 Rf8 29.Re1 Kg8 30.Rh2 Nc8 +1.36] 25...Rxf6 26.Qxf6 Ng8?! [26...Nf5!? 27.Rxh3 Nxe3 28.Rh2 Ng4 29.Bxg4 Qxg4 30.Qf7+ Kh6 31.Qf2 Kh7 32.Qe3 +0.18] 27.Qg5 Nh6 28.Rd1?! [28.g4!? Bxg4 29.Bxg4 Nxg4 30.Rg1 Qf7 31.Nxg4 hxg4 32.h5 Rf8 33.hxg6+ Qxg6 +0.76] 28...Rf8 29.Rd2?! [29.Rd4!? Qe8 30.d6 cxd6 31.Qd5 Nf5 32.Rxe4 Qd7 33.Nxf5 Bxf5 34.Re3 +0.00] 29...Bf5?! [29...Qd6!? 30.c5 bxc5 31.Nc4 Nf7 32.Qe3 Qe7 33.a3 Bf5 34.Na5 Ne5 35.Nc6 -0.52] 30.Bd1 Nf7 [30...Qd6 31.Bc2 Ng4 32.Nxg4 Bxg4 33.Bxe4 b5 34.Qe3 Re8 35.Rf2 Qe5 36.Rf7+ +0.00] 31.Qf6 Qd6 32.Qxd6 Nxd6 33.Rf2 Kg7 [33...a5 34.Kc2 Kg7 35.Kc3 Kf6 36.g4 hxg4 37.Nxg4+ Kg7 38.Ne3 Rh8 39.h5 +0.33] 34.Kd2 [34.b4 Rf6 35.c5 bxc5 36.bxc5 Nb7 37.Rc2 Bh3 38.Kb2 Rf7 39.a3 Kh6 +0.68] 34...Bd7?! [34...a5!? 35.Kc3 Kf6 36.g4 hxg4 37.Nxg4+ Kg7 38.Ne3 Rh8 39.h5 Bd7 40.Rg2 +0.33] 35.Rxf8 Kxf8 36.Kc3 Ke7 37.Kd4 Kf6 38.b4 Nf5+?! [38...c5+!? 39.dxc6 Bxc6 40.Bc2 Bb7 41.a4 Ke6 42.Bd1 Ba8 43.Bb3 Kf6 44.Bc2 +0.85] 39.Nxf5 Bxf5 40.c5 Ke7?! [40...e3!? 41.Be2 Bb1 42.a3 bxc5+ 43.bxc5 Ba2 44.Bf3 Bb1 45.Bd1 Bc2 46.Be2 +1.27] 41.Be2 Kf6 42.a3 Ke7 43.Ke5 Kd7 44.Bf1 a5 45.Bb5+ Ke7 46.bxa5 bxa5 47.Bf1 Kd7 48.Kd4 Kc8 49.Bg2 Kd7 50.Bxe4 Bxe4 51.Kxe4?! [51.c6+!? Kd6 52.Kxe4 Kc5 53.a4 Kd6 54.Kd4 Ke7 55.Ke5 Ke8 56.d6 Kd8 +156.50] 1-0

As you can see I avoided humiliation by playing ugly/hard moves in a defence which tends towards complexity and counterattack. I also worked very hard at the board, making sure not to miss any obvious threats and losing a piece or conceding an early checkmate. Also I was lucky and I will take that every time.

Until next time pilgrims may you have good fortune.

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