He claimed the second British Knockout Championship, which ended last week.
Almost every country has a national championship. But last year, Britain, not content with having only one (which dates back to 1904), created a second: the British Knockout Championship, which is held in December, at the same time as the London Chess Classic. This year’s Knockout Championship included all the top British players except Michael Adams, who won the regular championship and was playing in the invitational section of the Classic.
The winners of the four quarterfinals were Nigel Short, Gawain Jones, David Howell, and Luke McShane. At the moment none of the four has a rating over 2700, the level of the world’s elite, but all except for Jones have been over that mark at one time, so the semifinalists were an exceptionally accomplished group. In one semifinal, Short beat McShane, 3-1, drawing two slow or classical games, before winning the rapid playoff, 2-0. Howell advanced more smoothly in the other semifinal, defeating Jones, 1½-½.
Unlike the semifinals and quarterfinals, the final was a best-of-six game match instead of a best-of-two, and the winner was only determined in Game 6. The first three games were drawn, and then Short won the fourth, giving Howell his first defeat of the tournament. Howell sacrificed a pawn early on, and lost in the endgame when he failed to maintain compensation for his material deficit.
Short, Nigel vs. Howell, David
British ch-KO 2016 |London ENG |Round 3.4 |14 Dec 2016 |ECO: A35 |1-0
( 7... Be7is usual, only playing ...Ne4 when White plays c4-c5. )
( 8. Qc2!? )
8... Nxc39. bxc3dxc410. Bxc4Be711. Bf4White generally castles
here, but Short finds an interesting way of dispensing with it altogether. 11... O-O12. Qd3Bf613. Kf1!?
( 13. h4!?is another interesting option, and the
banal option of castling remained playable. )
13... e5!?Black certainly has
compensation after this sacrifice, but it doesn't seem necessary.
( 13... Qa5 )
( 13... b6 )
14. dxe5Qxd3+15. Bxd3Be7
( 15... Bd8improves, intending to put
the bishop on b6. )
16. Ke2Rd817. Rhd1h618. Nd4
( 18. Be4! )
( 18... Rd5! )
19. Nxc6bxc620. Be3Black has little compensation for the
pawn, if any. 20... Rd521. Bd4Ra522. a4
( 22. Be4 )
22... Be623. Rdb1
( 23. Be4Rc824. Rdb1 )
23... Bf824. Be4Bd5
( 24... Bc4+! )
( 25. Bxd5 )
25... Bxe4+26. Kxe4Bg727. f4
( 27. g3 )
27... gxf428. Kxf4Re829. Re1Rd530. Rab1Ra531. Rb7Bf832. Rxa7Rxa733. Bxa7Ra834. Bf2Rxa4+35. Re4Ra236. Kf3Bg737. Bg3Ra538. Bf4Rc539. c4h540. g4hxg4+41. Kxg4Ra542. h4Kh743. Kf5Ra1White has increased his advantage, step by step, and now
enjoys a clearly winning position. 44. e6?!The best way was
( 44. Rd4!Rf145. Rd6c546. h5Rf247. h6Bf848. Rf6Kg849. h7+Kxh750. Rxf7+Kg851. e6and White will win a piece and the game. A sample line: 51... Bh652. Ke5Bf853. Kd5Re254. Be5Rd2+55. Kc6Re256. Rf5Be757. Kd7 )
44... fxe6+45. Kxe6Kg6?
( 45... Rd146. Be5Bh6keeps up the resistance. White should
eventually win, but at least Black can hope to give up his bishop and c-pawn
for White's two remaining pawns. )
46. Be5!Trading bishops leads to an
elementary rook and pawn ending. White will win the c-pawn, and his h-pawn
doesn't matter; White will win using Lucena's method. 46... Bxe547. Rxe5Rd148. Rg5+Kh649. Rc5Rd450. Rxc6Kg751. Rc7+Kf852. Rc8+Kg753. c5Rxh454. c6Rc455. Kd6Rd4+56. Kc5Rd157. Re8Kf758. Re4Rc1+59. Kb6Rb1+60. Ka7Rc161. Kb7Rb1+62. Kc8Rb263. c7Rb1The rook is already on the 4th rank, so
White's king can come out. 64. Kd7Rd1+65. Kc6Rc1+66. Kd6Rc2
Howell immediately equalized the score by winning Game 5, giving Short his first loss of the championship. Short seemed to underestimate the danger to his king in the middlegame, and then hastened his defeat when a bid for piece activity led to his queen being trapped.
Howell, David vs. Short, Nigel
British ch-KO 2016 |London ENG |Round 3.5 |15 Dec 2016 |ECO: A05 |1-0
( 12... e5is also playable; indeed, it has been played in both previous games to reach
the position after White's 12th move. )
13. cxd5Nxd514. d4a4Black has
no problems here. 15. Nd2axb316. Nc4Qb517. Qxb3Qa6Short takes a
slightly risky approach, banking on the assessment that White's a-pawn is
weaker than Black's b-pawn. The risk is that he's decentralizing his queen,
assuming that White can't make anything of this.
( 17... Qxb3!18. axb3Ra2looks like an unimpeachably safe and sound alternative. )
( 18... Qxa2?!19. Qxb7 )
( 19... Qxa220. Rxc6Qxb321. Nxb3White is a little better due to his potential control in the center, together
with Black's potentially weak b-pawn. )
( 20... b4!?21. axb4Reb822. Rc4Bf8is more combative. )
21. Ne4Bf822. Qf3?!This gives
Black objective equality, provided that he keeps his kingside safe and secure.
( 22. Nc5Nxc523. dxc5/+/- )
( 22... N7b6!improves, clearing the 7th rank for a rook or the queen to help in the defense
of f7 while looking for the knight to jump into c4. )
23. Ra1b424. Nd6Rf825. e4Very surprisingly, Black has only one move to maintain rough equality,
and that move is counterintuitive at first glance. 25... Ne7?
( 25... c5!Returning the pawn and opening the long diagonal, but Black needs to hit back
in the center and get rid of the powerhouse knight on d6. 26. dxc5Nxc527. exd5Qxd6White's dark-squared bishop looks beautiful, but there's no way to
make anything of it. 28. Qe2Rac829. Be5Qb630. Qe3f6neutralizes White's attack. 31. Bc3bxc332. Rxa3c233. Rc1Rfd834. Rxc2exd535. Rd2Qb736. Kh2Kh837. Rc2Qb638. Qe7Qe639. Qxe6Nxe640. Rxc8Rxc841. Bxd5Nd4is completely drawn. )
( 26... Qb6keeps the queen, but after 27. Nc4Qc728. Nxa3bxa329. Bxa3Rfe830. Qc3White's unopposed bishops are too strong for the knights, and in
addition Black's c-pawn is unlikely to survive in the long term. )
27. Bc4?This works out well, but it's a mistake. Now Black's queen should retreat, and
take advantage of the fact that White is temporarily unable to put his knight
( 27. Nc4! )
27... Qc2??Simply an oversight.
( 27... Qa5! )
( 27... Qa7! )
28. Bxa3Rxa329. Rxa3bxa330. Bb3!Maybe Short was in time
trouble, and thought Howell had to play Ra1 instead to deal with the a-pawn.
Alas for the former world championship finalist, his queen is trapped. 30... Qxd1+
( 30... Qb231. Nc4finishes off the queen. )
31. Qxd1c532. Qc1cxd433. Qc7Winning even more material, so Short resigned.
In the final game, Short, who had White, chose an opening variation in which Black has often done well., But the position soon became so unusual that both players were improvising. Short did a better job of coordinating his forces and reached an ending in which he was up a pawn and there were also opposite-colored bishops and all four rooks on the board. Howell still had good drawing chances, but he blundered on move 30 and was unable to save the game, ceding the title to Short.
Short, Nigel vs. Howell, David
British ch-KO 2016 |London ENG |Round 3.6 |16 Dec 2016 |ECO: A10 |1-0
1. c4g62. Nc3c5!Probably the most precise reaction. White hasn't even
managed an equal score here from almost 5000 games in the database. 3. Nf3Bg74. d4cxd45. Nxd4Nc66. Nc2Bxc3+!7. bxc3Qa58. Qd2
( 8. Bd2Nf69. f3d6is hardly inspiring for White, and in case of the pawn sac )
( 8. e4Black
should simply decline: 8... Nf69. f3d6The engine may claim the position is
equal, but in practice the score is heavily in Black's favor. )
8... f5!?Practically a novelty.
( 8... Nf69. f3d6still looks good for Black, and
scores well for him too. )
9. g3Nf610. Bg2Ne411. Bxe4fxe4A fresh
position has arisen, and while it's difficult to assess White's trumps seem
clearer here than in the variations considered on move 8. White's sickly
c-pawns remain, but b5, d5, and whatever dark square(s) the bishop will reach
all look quite attractive. 12. Ne3Qe513. Rb1b614. Rb5Qe615. Qd5
( 15. Nd5 )
( 15... Kf7makes sense. The king isn't too exposed (he may castle
by hand if need be with ...Rf8 and Kg8), and Black avoids tripled e-pawns. )
16. Qxe6dxe617. Rg5Whose pawn structure is worse? 17... Na5
( 17... Kf7 )
( 17... Rf8 )
( 17... Rc8 )
( 18... Rc8 )
19. h4!Short finds a nice way
to create harmony in his position. The king stays on e1, where it covers the
d-file and protects the e-pawn, and activates the h1-rook via the h-file. As
this also weakens Black's kingside pawns even further, it's an excellent idea. 19... Rc8?!
( 19... bxc5 )
20. h5!Rg821. hxg6
( 21. Rh4! )
( 21... Rxg6 )
( 22... Rxc5 )
23. Bxe3Bb724. cxb6
( 24. c4 )
24... axb625. Rb5Bd526. Rxb6Kd7!27. Rh7Rxc328. Bg5Re829. Ra6Rc2It's unlikely that Howell missed Short's next move, unless he was in
serious time trouble (which has been a chronic problem for Howell over the
years); it's more likely that his aim was to shed his weak pawns while picking
off White's in reply.
( 29... Rc7! )
30. Bxe7!Rxe7??But this is
surprising, time trouble or not.
( 30... Rxe2+!31. Kxe2Bc4+32. Ke3Bxa6had to be tried. White retains winning chances with rooks on the board, but
Black's drawing chances are very good. )
31. Ra7+Kd632. Rhxe7Bc433. Red7+Ke534. f4+exf335. exf3Bxa236. Rd2Rc1+37. Kf2Bd538. Rf7!This is a
strong move, keeping Black's king from guarding the g-pawn. 38... Rh139. Re2+Kd440. Rf4+Kd341. Re3+Kc242. g4g543. Rf6Rh844. Rg6Kd245. Ra3The
( 45. Rexe6Bxe646. Rxe6wins, e.g. 46... Rg847. Rd6+Kc348. f4gxf449. Kf3Kc450. Kxf4Rf8+51. Ke4Rg852. Kf5Rf8+53. Rf6and the rest is
Dennis Monokroussos is a FIDE master who has written about chess on his blog “The Chess Mind,” since 2005. He has been teaching chess for almost 20 years and for the last 10 years has been making instructional chess videos, which can be found at ChessLecture.com. Between 1995 and 2006, he taught philosophy, including a four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame.
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