Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Who's The Leader?

Last night saw the latest round of the Malitis Memorial at the MCC. The top 2 seeds, IM Mirko Rujevic and Malcolm Pyke met, and their game ended in a draw which keeps them in joint first place. Surprisingly the only player half a point behind them before the round started was Ray Yang, but Ray couldn't keep up his great start and lost to David Lacey. David finds himself in the chasing group, a point behind the leaders, along with Justin Penrose, Tom Kalisch, Anthony Hain and Paul Kovacevic. With this being only a 7 round tournament, and there only being 3 rounds left, I think we can say that this group is where the main prizewinners will come from. Of course, with a run of 3/3 players from behind this could still challenge for minor places.

Meanwhile at the British Championships David Howell maintained his half point lead with a draw against Mark Hebden. Hebden remains close behind in second along with Ameet Ghasi, Keith Arkell and Simon Williams. There is then a big chasing pack a further half point behind including top seed Gawain Jones who has started the tournament with a number of draws in the first week. I was able to catch the start of the games before going to bed last night (damn time zones!) and it was great to see Hebden playing the Hungarian Defence, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7. I know it has a reputation for leading to cramped positions for black, but it is solid enough, and a tough nut for white to crack. Certainly 2639 rated Howell could only draw and it was a fully fledged battle, though I don't think black came out the opening badly. Simon Williams continued in his cavalier (coffeehouse!) style to take out Stephen Gordon. Williams again ditched a pawn for activity and and all of a sudden Gordon's king was wide open and Williams pieces were penetrating. In the end, a rook sacrifice was enough to gain the time to deliver mate. From move 16 onwards, Williams is interested in one thing, developing an initiative to generate a direct attack against white's king activating his pieces.

A fascinating match up is the game Williams-Howell on top board of round 8 (of 11). Howell is an excellent player, but he can expect Williams to throw everything at him. Equally fascinating for me is the board 2 game Hebden-Arkell. Having played the weekend circuit in the UK for many years, I saw these 2 GM's regularly cleaning up these small swiss weekend events. I've played both Hebden and Arkell numerous times and never managed even a draw against either of them, and have witnessed them both playing at the same weekender lots of times. In fact, I would have no clue how many times these great battlers have actually played each other, but I'd guess it would be hundreds of games! On board 3 Ghasi-Zhou brings 2 young talents together. Well, I understand Ameet Ghasi is not exactly a junior but I always think of him as a youngster from my days in the Birmingham league. I guess it just shows that I'm getting old!

A couple of nights ago I was following Aussie GM David Smerdon's progress in Denmark. Well, unfortunately he lost that game and dropped down the standings to equal 14th, whereas a win would have taken him to equal second. It just shows how brutal these big swiss events can be. Still it was agreat effort by David, who played his typical combative style of chess. The winner was Indian GM Parimarjan Negi who won a quick game against joint leader Sabino Brunello of Italy in the last round. Both players were evidently unhappy with the draw that would have secured equal first, and it was Negi that took the victory in an exciting game. I found white's use of his doubled h-pawns really interesting in this game.

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