Sunday, 21 April 2019

GM Survives by a Whisker - Days 5 & 6 at the World Seniors

There was almost a massive shock at the World Seniors in Round 5, as 5 times East German champion, GM Rainer Knaak (just the 2482 ELO!), had to hang on for grim death for about 30 moves to avoid losing to little old me! I had an extra pawn in a rook and pawn ending, and tried my very hardest to notch a second GM scalp of 2019 (and my entire lifetime!) to save the match for England 2 against the mighty German first team, but in the end his natural talent, and my lack of it (plus the fact that all rook and pawn endings are drawn), meant I had to concede the half point as he was about to capture my last pawn. In fact neither of Germany's GMs could beat their far-from GM opponents, and it was only on Board 3 where they were able to exploit their significant rating advantage.

The whole game had been a strange experience for me, as he played the excruciatingly boring London System, which even attempts to spice up with 5 h4, cannot be described as anything other than the opening of the anti-chess player. (Sorry Paul (and Jude!), but that is simply the truth!) I wondered if GM Knaak had perhaps been having lessons recently at the CCA? Anyway, after finding himself unable to deliver mate, or even get close to opening the h file, he suddenly found his kingside and centre pawns under serious assault from my queen and rook. But rather than play safe he pushed a bit to hard and went past the drawing point. Although he got his own rook to f7, he had to be very careful about his own king safety (the biter bit!) and so ultimately felt obliged to swap off queens and drop a pawn. Then the torture began, but at the end, he had his half point, though I had the glory - but not as much as I would have liked!

While all this was going on(over 5 hours), Andy had an enterprising, but decidedly brief draw against an Austrian FM, in which he sacrificed a pawn just out of the opening and did enough to convince his strong FM opponent fairly quickly that it gave full compensation. Being a man who understands an extra pawn far more than positional niceties, I was less than sure. Andy's England 3 team went down narrowly to a strong Vienna team, to remain just one point behind my England 2 team - and also England 1, who had another disastrous day at the office by losing 3-1 to Austria.

At the top of the 65+ tournament, Russia restored some sense of order by convincingly seeing off the previously 100% scoring Finland (who would have lost to England 3 in Rd 1 if Andy had found a relatively easy winning move against his GM opponent!!) and joining them at the top of the table. As I write this report, 2.5 hours into Rd 6 (I am having my first rest day, to celebrate the arrival of Mrs Club Organiser) Russia are pushing hard against Israel, while Finland are on the back foot against Iceland, though all 8 games are still in progress and there are plenty of blunders waiting to be made. My England 2 team are looking like going down to the Danish club team Norresundby, but Andy seems to hold the destiny of the England 3 v Turku match in his hands. He is better against a slightly lower graded player (the first non-titled opponent he has faced!) but faces plenty of work to bring home the full point.

In the 50+ section, the USA marched on by seeing off Italy yesterday, while England 1 stuttered to an unconvincing win over a much weaker Canadian team. However, this still put them in joint second place, and has produced a real medal-showdown encounter against Armenia today. Current verdict (of Stockfish, not me!) is that the match will be very close. (Speelman and Vaganian have just drawn on top board and the other 3 games are about equal.) USA are already 1-0 up against Iceland, and better or winning elsewhere. And they have rested their Board 1, Alexander Shabalov, who has 4.5/5, so you might have expected them to be vulnerable today. The sooner Russia decide to enter a team, or Mickey Adams reaches 50 the better, as otherwise they seem simply too strong for the opposition.

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