A weird week of English chess achievement

International chess is highly competitive. The top of the world game is dominated by Magnus Carlsen, who this Saturday at 1pm GMT starts his eagerly awaited campaign at Wijk aan Zee with his new ambition to reach the chess Everest of a 2900 rating.

Carlsen’s major rivals at Wijk and generally are from Russia, China, the US and France. The best young talents include teenagers from Uzbekistan and India, while the major centers of tournament activity, especially since the pandemic, are in western and central continental Europe.

In contrast, English chess has been hit by the Omicron spike, which caused Hastings to be cancelled, the national 4NCL to be postponed, and the London Classic to move to much smaller numbers. Despite this negative background, both established and emerging English talents across a wide age range have recently scored notable and even historic achievements.

The three-time British champion and popular online commentator David Howell became the first English winner of Titled Tuesday, the weekly 11-round speed competition from chesscom. which is open to all players with a master title. The Sussex 31-year-old finished ahead of the world ranked Hikaru Nakamura and Ian Nepomniachtchi, and in the final round defeated America’s rising star Jeffery Xiong, neatly trapping the errant US queen in mid-board.

England’s greatest player, Nigel Short, who challenged for the world title in 1993, was in intensive care with Covid a few weeks ago, and tweeted a selfie from his hospital bed. Meanwhile his new book, titled Extraction and an account of the ups and downs of eight successful tournaments, proved a best-seller which was placed highly in two Book of the Year awards.

Recovering at home, Short was concerned about brain fog and Long Covid. He decided to test himself at a strong open tournament in Cattolica, Italy, where he played one of his best attacks but lost on time in a winning position in the final round. It was only his second tournament in the past two years, so rust was always a hazard.

Harry Grieve, a Cambridge mathematics student, shared first prize and scored his first international master norm last weekend at Roquetas, Spain, finishing in style as he checkmated his final round opponent.

A few weeks earlier, six-year-old Bodhana Sivanandan was the only English competitor in the European girls under-8 blitz and rapid championships at Novi Sad, Serbia, and won silver medals in both categories. This is a significant result, for many of the best teenage talents made their debuts at under-8 level, including the new World Rapid Champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov.

Puzzle 2452

Jonathan Rowson v Simon Knott, British Championship 2007. White to move and win. It looks difficult, because although Black is two pawns down the bishops of opposite colors seem to prevent the white pawns advancing.

Click here for solution

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