Gawain Jones of England punched his ticket to the Masters section of next year’s Tata Steel Chess Tournament with a narrow victory in the Challengers section last Sunday. He edged out Markus Ragger of Austria, the top seed, on tiebreaks as both scored nine points.
Jeffery Xiong of the United States, who led after 11 rounds, but lost in Round 12 to allow Jones and Ragger to leapfrog him, finished in third with 8.5 points.
Jones’s margin over Ragger was partly built on his victory in their face-to-face meeting in Round 6. Had Ragger not lost, it was unlikely that anyone would have caught him. In the game, Jones, who had White, used a subtle idea in the Scotch that gave him good long-term pressure for a pawn. He then went on to win a nice rook-and-minor piece endgame.
Another key victory for Jones was against Vladimir Dobrov of Russia in the penultimate round. As in the previous game, Jones found an interesting and unobvious new idea in the opening – this time a 2.c3 Sicilian – and was rewarded with an overwhelming advantage in the middlegame. An error by Jones gave Dobrov a chance to survive, but Dobrov was outcalculated in the complications, allowing Jones to win in style.
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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