Round Four Overview by James Harrison
There was potential for an upset on the second board, but it wasn’t to be, and the two pre-tournament favourites (Adrian and yours truly) did the business. That sets up a big decider in the last round. There was also plenty of intrigue and drama in the other games, and once again we saw bloodshed everywhere with all decisive results and no draws. If only the world’s best GMs played with such spirit…
1 Peter Hamill-Stewart 2.5 0-1 3 James Harrison
The opening was uneventful as we both developed all our pieces and castled. Peter played a slightly slow move pawn to a3, which gave me time to manoeuvre my knight to c7. I played pawn b5 trying to undermine his pawn on c4 and secure the d5 square, a strategic idea that I was very pleased to have found. Peter reacted by pushing pawn d5 himself, and for a moment I thought he’d found a very strong move. However there was a tactical refutation, as I could take twice on d5 and he couldn’t take back due to a discovered attack winning his queen. Then I was up a pawn, although with doubled pawns on the kingside it might not be easy to win. After the game we figured out that he could have headed straight for the endgame with decent chances to draw. However instead he kept pieces on, which suited me since his king was also a bit more exposed. I tried to attack but he defended it well. However when I eventually forced the endgame, he now had almost no time left so he couldn’t put up any resistance.
2 Stephen Harrison 2.5 0-1 2.5 Adrian Breakspear
Adrian played a piece sacrifice which was very aggressive but turned out not to be sound. Steve found the right moves and was able to stop the attack and maintain the extra piece. It looked like he was on the way to pulling off an upset. However the tide started to turn in the endgame. With his remaining pieces already on the best squares, Steve didn’t see the way to make progress. He retreated in the hope of attacking from a different angle, but this gave Adrian time to activate his rook and create counterplay. Then there was a moment when Steve could have repeatedly checked with his knight and made a draw, but he was still optimistic and played on. Adrian began to pick off the white pawns, and then the position was unclear. Steve was probably unhappy with the trend of the game, and I can say from experience that it’s very hard to stay objective in that situation. He made a further mistake and was punished.
3 Darren Birch 1.5 1-0 1.5 Ashley Norton
The opening was Bogo-Indian and the play was completely correct for the first 8 moves. Ashley then made a bit of a positional mistake by putting the knight on c6 in front of his c-pawn. There was no immediate damage but the knight was a liability later. The tactics started on move 13 when Ashley played pawn takes pawn and opened up a double attack on Darren’s bishop. However Darren brilliantly played two intermezzos in a row with the bishop, refusing to recapture the pawn. (As mentioned in the round 3 recap, an intermezzo is where you play another threatening move instead of automatically responding to a threat). A bit like in my game, Darren then had an extra pawn but doubled pawns on the kingside. Ashley might have had drawing chances but chose the wrong defensive plan by going after white’s king, which wasn’t a realistic target. It would have been better to play against the b2 pawn – very often pawns become the focal points in the endgame. Anyway Darren engineered the trades of all the rooks, leading to a winning knight endgame.
I would say Darren’s play was very impressive, and Ashley didn’t play badly but made a couple of errors which will be good learning moments.
4 William Smith 1 1-0 1.5 Perry Moore
I don’t have the moves for this one. Perry has mentioned that the game was actually going very well for him, until he fell into time trouble which cost him dearly.
5 Henry Booth 1 1-0 1 Cara Birch
Sadly the scoresheets contain some errors and Darren and I have not been able to reconstruct the game. All I can say is that there was a phase in the middlegame where Henry’s queen did a lot of damage, capturing no less than six pieces in a row (!), and that the game ended in checkmate after 29 moves.
6 Chester 0 0-1 0.5 Cade Birch
I’m sure Chester won’t mind me saying that he’s had a bit of a nightmare tournament so far. In fairness I don’t think he’s played a slow chess tournament before, and the learning curve is very steep. He made some tactical mistakes early on which lost material, and wasn’t able to recover. Cade for his part played very clinically and took full advantage. After consolidating his material lead, he also began to infiltrate with his queen and knight around white’s king, which finished the game off.