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London Chess Classic

The London Chess Classic is underway, with Round One played yesterday (12/8). Two of the four games were decisive, with Magnus Carlsen defeating Vladimir Kramnik, and Luke McShane grinding out a 163-move win against Nigel Short in a Scotch Game.

Official tournament web site

The McShane-Short game lasted more than seven hours. Although it might sound as though it was a dull game, it was actually quite a battle of wits (TV commentators broadcasting other sports would refer to such a battle as a “chess match”, but I can’t use that overworn cliché here). The protracted endgame is actually pretty instructive, and my brief comments in this post can’t begin to do it justice.

The start of McShane-Short (Photo courtesy of ChessBase GmbH)


London Chess Classic, 2009

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Bc5 5. Nxc6 Qf6 6. Qf3 bxc6 7. Nc3 d6 8.
Qg3 Qg6 9. Bd3 a5 10. Bd2

{This looks to be something of a novelty, proving
that players can still find new ideas in old openings.}

(10. e5 Qxg3 11. hxg3dxe5 12. Rxh7 Rxh7 13. Bxh7 Nf6 14. Bd3 Be615. Ke2 Bd4 16. Ne4 Nxe4 17. Bxe4
Bd5=) 10… Nf6 11. f3 Ba6 12. Ne2 Nd7 13. Bxa6 Rxa6 14. Qxg6 hxg6 15. Nf4
Bd4 16. Nd3 c5 17. c3 Bf6 18. O-O-O

{White finally commits himself.}

18…a4 19. Kc2

{A surprising move which probably wouldn’t even occur to most players. The
King can support a pawn advance while remaining relatively safe in the absence
of a Black light-squared Bishop.}

19…g5 20. h3 Be7 21. Nf2 Nf8 22. Ng4 Ne6 23. Ne3
f6 24. Nc4 Kf7 25. Be1 Nf4 26. Rd2 g6 27. Bg3 Nh5 28. Bh2 Ng7 29. Bg3 Nh5 30.
Bh2 Ng7 31. Re1

(31. Bg3 Nh5 would be a draw by threefold repetition.) 31…Rb8 32. Rdd1 Rba8

33. Rd2 Rb8 34. Ra1 Rba8 35. Rc1 Rb8 36. Bg3 Nh5 37. Bh2 Ng7
38. Rg1 Rh8 39. Rf1 Rh7 40. Rd3 Rh8 41. Rdd1 Ne6

{Computer engines give White
a slight edge here (and have done so for the past 10-15 moves). But it’s hard
to see how McShane can make any progress here. The dance continues…}
42.Rh1 Ng7 43. Rhe1 Rha8 44. Bg1 Ne6 45. Rd2 Rh8 46. Be3 Bf8 47. Rh1 Bg7 48. Rd5

{It looks bold, but it’s hard to see a point to it.}

48…Ke7 49. Rh2 Raa8 50. Rh1
Ra6 51. Rd2

{Now we see a possible point to the Rook shuffle on the d-file:
repetition avoidance.}

51…Raa8 52. Re1 Ra6 53. Bf2 Raa8 54. Bg3 Ra6 55. Ne3 Kf7
56. Rd5 Bf8 57. Rdd1 Bg7 58. Rh1 Raa8 59. Rh2 Ra6 60. Rdh1

{With a Rook battery established on the h-file, it looks like we might see some action.}
61…Raa8 61. h4 gxh4 62. Rxh4 Rxh4 63. Rxh4 Ra7 64. Rh1 Ra8 65. Bf2 Nf8 66. Be1
Ra7 67. Bd2 Ne6 68. Bc1 Ra8 69. Bd2 Rd8 70. Bc1 Re8 71. Rh4 Ra8 72. Kd3 Ra6 73.
g3 Nf8 74. f4

{And White begins to put the squeeze on the Kingside, gradually winning space.}

74…Nd7 75. Rh2 Ra7 76. Bd2 Rb7 77. Be1 Bf8 78. g4 Kg7 79. Bg3 c6
80. f5 g5 81. Rd2 Nb6 82. Ke2 Rd7 83. b3 d5 84. c4 axb3 85. axb3 dxe4 86. Rxd7+
Nxd7 87. Bc7 Kf7 88. Nd1 Ke8 89. Nc3 Be7 90. Nxe4

{Short has overprotected the c5-pawn, which frees his Bishop for other duty. (The
d7-Knight is frozen, otherwise White’s Bishop can make it to a7 or b6)}


{But Short chooses the wrong move. (90… Bf8 would have prevented White’s

91. Nd6+ Ke7 92. Nc8+ Ke8 93. Nd6+ Ke7 94. Nc8+ Ke8 95. Bg3 Nb6 96.
Nd6+ Kf8 97. Nb7 Ke8 98. Nxc5

{And White finally wins the pawn. This last
sequence of moves is worth several replays for players who are studying minor
piece endgames.}

98…Be7 99. Ne4 Kd8 100. Be1 Nd7 101. Bc3 c5 102. Bb2 Ke8 103. Kf2
Kd8 104. Kg2 Ke8 105. Kh3 Kf7 106. Kg3 Ke8 107. Bc3 Kd8 108. Kh3 Kc7 109. Bb2
Kc6 110. Nc3 Nb6 111. Kg3 Bd8 112. Kf3 Be7 113. Ke3 Bd8 114. Kd3 Be7 115. Ke4

{Nicely centralizing the King.}

115…Bd8 116. Nd5 Nd7 117. Bc3 Kd6 118. Be1 Kc6 119.
Bg3 Nf8 120. Kd3 Nd7 121. Kc2 Nf8 122. Be1 Nd7 123. Bg3

(123. b4 could work
too: cxb4 124. Nxb4+ Kd6 [124… Kc5 125. Kc3 Ba5 126. Kb3])

123… Nf8 124.Kb2 Nd7 125. Ka3 Ba5 126. Ne7+ Kb6 127. Bd6 Ka6 128. Nd5 Bd8 129. Bg3 Ba5 130.
Ka4 Bd2 131. Bc7 Bc1 132. Bd8 Bb2 133. b4 Bd4 134. b5+

(134. Be7 Kb7 135. Kb5
cxb4 136. Nxb4)

134… Kb7 135. Kb3 Be5 136. Kc2 Bd4 137. Kb3 Be5 138. Be7 Bd4
139. Bd6 Bf2 140. Kc2 Ka7 141. Kd3 Kb7 142. Ke4 Bd4 143. Be7 Be5 144. Ne3 Bf4
145. Ng2 Bg3 146. Kd5 Bf2 147. Ke6

{Black’s had a losing game for quite a
while, but the King’s penetration clinches the game for White.}

147…Ne5 148. Bxf6
Nxc4 149. Bxg5 Na3 150. f6 Bd4 151. f7 Bg7 152. Bf6 Bf8 153. Be7 Bg7 154. Bxc5
Nxb5 155. f8=Q Nc7+

(155… Bxf8 156. Bxf8 Nd4+ 157. Kf6)

156. Kf7 Bxf8 157.Bxf8 Kc6 158. Nf4 Kd7 159. g5 Nb5 160. g6 Nd4 161. g7

{Just for fun, check
this position out using a computer engine with tablebases enabled. With just a
partial set of 5-piece tablebases, engines will report this as a forced mate
in 35 moves.}

161…Nf5 162. g8=Q Nh6+

{The strain of the seven hour contest tells
on Short, who blunders badly. But the game was lost in any event.}

163. Bxh6 1-0

Learn more about the Scotch in this fine selection of instructional products from ChessCentral!

Have fun! — Steve


3 Responses

  1. Hi, I was at the London Chess Classic, I got some good footage of Korchnoi, would you like to see it?


  2. I really enjoy the quality information you offer to your visitors… Will be back often to check up on new stuff you post!

  3. I really like this blog. Please continue the great work. Regards!!!

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