The Staunton Memorial Tournament is being held five minutes from where I work in Simpson's in the Strand, home of half the famous 19th Century romantic battles, and I've been along twice now. It's four rounds in and I thought I'd post up my impressions.
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Simpson's really is a beautiful old 19th Century venue. They play in a room with classical murals in the friezes, overlooked by a chandalier. Not even the equipment is modern: wind-up rather than electronic clocks. The remarkable chief-arbiter Bob Wade ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Wade_(chess_player) ) shuffles about, doing his best to instruct the slow people who've volunteered to update the display boards (not automatic, not electric, either) as they leave pieces hung in ways beginners wouldn't, or rather than turn a king upside down (to signify resignation) move it from g8 to h7. "Upside down?" "Yes, upside down!" - and move it to h8. It takes about five minutes.
On the tables, Timman looks bored, ruddy faced and ready for a drink - even when he's winning, which he's been doing a lot of. He fidgets and strolls about. Adams look tired, but utterly devoid of emotion, occassionally stretching his legs to take his concentrated gaze away from the 64 squares for a brief break. He's has been winning some long games against weaker opponents, whilst safetly steering to a draw against the more dangerous players. Ivan Sokolov cuts the most striking figure: an assassin's uniform of black suit with a white shirt, long and thin, he plays positional chess backed up by crisp tactics, staring intently at the board and then moving quickly, full of confidence. Does he ever blunder? In round 2, his 23. ... Ne3!, set up neatly by 22. ... Qe8, visibly rocked Jonathan Levitt, whose play then deteriorated rapidly and who should have resigned a long time before he did:
1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 a5 5. a3 Bxd2+ 6. Nbxd2 Nf6 7. e3 O-O
8. Be2 Nbd7 9. O-O Qe7 10. Qc2 c5 11. cxd5 Nxd5 12. Bb5 cxd4 13. Nxd4 N7f6
14. Rac1 Rd8 15. Rfd1 Bd7 16. Bxd7 Rxd7 17. Nb5 Rad8 18. Nb3 Ra8 19. Qc5
Qd8 20. Qc2 Qb6 21. Qc5 Qd8 22. Qc2 Qe8 23. e4 Ne3 24. fxe3 Rxd1+ 25. Qxd1
Qxb5 26. Rc5 Qb6 27. Qc2 Rd8 28. Nd4 Ng4 29. Rb5 Qd6 30. e5 Nxe5 31. Qc5
Qxc5 32. Rxc5 Ng4 33. Rxa5 e5 34. h3 exd4 35. exd4 Nf6 36. Ra7 b6 37. Rb7
Nd5 38. Kf2 g6 39. Ke2 Rd6 40. g3 h5 41. Kd3 Kg7 42. Kc4 Ne3+ 43. Kb5 Nf5
44. Rxb6 Nxd4+ 45. Kc5 Rxb6 46. Kxb6 f5 47. Kc5 Nb3+ 48. Kc4 g5 49. Kd3 Kf6
50. Ke3 Ke5 51. a4 f4+ 52. gxf4+ gxf4+ 0-1
Whilst his round 1 game against the dishevelled Lawrence Day was a white-side masterclass in the Queen's Gambit Declined:
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Nbd7 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 Be7 7. e3 c6
8. Bd3 Nh5 9. Bxe7 Qxe7 10. O-O O-O 11. Qb1 g6 12. b4 Ndf6 13. b5 c5 14.
dxc5 Qxc5 15. Qb2 Qd6 16. Rfd1 Be6 17. a4 Rfd8 18. a5 Rab8 19. h3 Qe7 20.
Nd4 Rd6 21. Be2 Ng7 22. Qa3 Nfe8 23. a6 Qg5 24. Nxe6 Nxe6 25. Ne4 dxe4 26.
Rxd6 Nxd6 27. Qxd6 Rd8 28. axb7 Rxd6 29. b8=Q+ Rd8 30. Qxa7 Nc5 31. Bc4 Rd7
32. b6 Qe7 33. Qb8+ Kg7 34. Ra7 Rd1+ 35. Kh2 Nd7 36. Qf4 Rd6 37. Bb5 f5 38.
In a tournament like this, with such a wide standard of players, this kind of play might well take him close to first prize. He's already played out a quick draw against Adams, dodging what might have been his toughest fight. He leads with 3.5/4.
Of the British players, young David Howell is struggling to acclimitize and is equal bottom on 1/2 out of 4, alongside out-of-form countryman Jon Speelman. The Speelmania magic is yet to materialize, for instance, in this round 3 loss in 20 moves he suffered to Peter Wells (who as a result has a barely better 1 out of 4):
1. e4 g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 c6 4. Nf3 d5 5. h3 Nf6 6. e5 Ne4 7. Bd3 Nxc3 8.
bxc3 c5 9. O-O c4 10. Be2 f6 11. exf6 exf6 12. Ba3 Kf7 13. Rb1 Qa5 14. Bxc4
dxc4 15. Qe2 Qc7 16. Rfe1 Bf8 17. Qe8+ Kg7 18. Bxf8+ Rxf8 19. Re7+ Kg8 20.
The young Dutch players are faring well though. Jan Werle has 3 from 4, but far more remarkably, so does Tea Bosboom-Lanchava, rated a relatively-poor 2389 and the only girl in the competition. Her score includes the defeat of one GM, and draws against two others. Many higher rated and more experienced players would take that. The rest of the tournament promises much interest: Results, games, everything else, here: