David Howell scored a rare English victory in a high-level international competition this week, when the three-time British champion won chess.com’s weekly Titled Tuesday. The 31-year-old Sussex had just returned from Warsaw, where he performed well in the World Rapid with 8/13, but faded in the World Blitz with 10/21.
Titled Tuesday is free to all Fide title players, up to 2200-rated Candidate Masters, and regularly draws hundreds of entries, playing an 11-round Swiss with a time limit of three minutes per game plus a one-second raise.
This week’s top performers were the blitz No. 1 and five-time US champion, Hikaru Nakamura, plus Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexander Grischuk. Nakamura is Tuesday’s most prolific winner, competing despite still being trapped in Warsaw after testing positive and withdrawing from the World Blitz.
Howell’s smartest move on Tuesday turned out to be his accidental third-round loss to an outsider, creating a “Swiss gamble” for himself where one player is behind the pack on points, but gains the advantage of weaker opponents while his rivals are tied together. linked.
The crunch came in the final round where Howell met the number 5 seed, Jeffery Xiong, in a sharp Scotch Game where Black defeated the ambitious 12…Qg6? instead of the safe 12…f6. The queen seemed active, but Harry the h-pawn and a white rook captured him in just six moves and Howell finished the game quickly. His web handle is howitzer14, and he is considered the first English winner in all years of Titled Tuesday, which started as a monthly event in 2014 and has since gone weekly.
It’s been an unusual week for Nigel Short, who was hospitalized last month with coronavirus and… Tweeted a selfie from his hospital bed with the caption: “Good morning everyone. How are you doing today?”
This week, Short felt sufficiently recovered to accept an invitation to the Vergani Cup in Cattolica, Italy (Beniamino Vergani is best known for finishing 22nd and last with 3/21 in the 1895 Hastings major tournament). The shaky start for the 1993 world title challenger could have been much worse: in the second round, he overlooked a tactic and lost to a low-rated 14-year-old, Lorenzo Candian, who escaped only because his cell phone was stolen. the teen passed, leading to an automatic default under Fide tournament rules.
Short himself had dropped a point on his mobile during the 2008 European Union Championship in Liverpool. He had turned it off at the start of the game and put it on the table in view of his opponent, Keti Arakhamia-Grant, but the low battery warning overrides the disabled state.
The next round in Cattolica was better and Short took the point when, under pressure from both position and clock on move 36, he missed drawing with Kg8 or Rf5 and instead blundered into defeat.
Another win came in Thursday’s sixth round, which, despite some inaccuracies, was played in the simple yet elegant style of Short’s best years. As a result, he jumped in a multiple tie for second place at 4.5/6, behind Iran’s No. 2 Amin Tatatabaei at 5/6.
Before his seventh round match on Friday, Short tweeted: “This tournament is an experiment to find out if I suffer from brain fog”. His energetic attacking win over ten-time Greek champion, Vasilios Kotronias, was anything but indicative of long-lasting Covid as the 56-year-old’s pieces pounded the exposed white king, although Short missed the potentially brilliant final 24…Qxf2+ 25 Re2 Bf8! 26 Rxf2? Bb4 mate. Kotronias is Greece’s most famous player and Short’s home is in Athens, so this was a significant win.
The final two laps, with Short now tied six points ahead of the lead at 5.5/7, will be tense and testing. Round eight, which starts at 3pm on Saturday, and round nine, at 9.30am on Sunday, should be interesting to watch, especially for English chess fans.
Hastings is cancelled, the London Classic did not have an Open, next weekend’s 4NCL league weekend is postponed and England’s other 2600+ grandmasters are inactive in major competitions. It seems to be an echo of a century ago in the 1920s, when Bradford bank clerk Fred Yates and badminton lord Sir George Thomas were virtually alone as regulars on the European tournament circuit.
In the final title Tuesday, GM Gawain Jones (handle VerdeNotte), who normally does well, retired after starting with 1/4; and otherwise there were only two IMs and a CM from England. Still, Titled Tuesday is clearly an invaluable free training tool for some of the world’s fast-rising stars. It has been suggested that English players may not like the event due to its 6pm GMT start and evening’s end, but time zone issues are much greater for Russian and Asian GMs and IMs, who are competing in large numbers.
It should be possible to encourage many more English players to participate in Titled Tuesday. ECF prizes for the best scores of English juniors and players, groups for which the National Federation has set aside money; a requirement that the more than 2,600 GMs must play at the event as part of their preparation for Olympiads and European Team Championships; awards for the highest ranking sub-2600’s – some or all of these could work. There would also be a knock-on effect as strong players without Fide titles would have an incentive to qualify for them.
Sometime in the near or distant future, when Covid-19 is a distant memory, there will be better alternatives for strong English players than an online master tournament. But for now, Titled Tuesday is a cheap, available and useful experience that the ECF should do a lot more to support. Had the event taken place in the 1970s, the golden English generation would have jumped on it.
The new fast world champion, Nodirbek Abdusattorov, helped hone the skills that beat Carlsen et al. by competing for months in the title Tuesday in most weeks. This week, the 17-year-old was honored in Uzbekistan with a cash prize of €20,000 and the keys to a two-room apartment, at a ceremony at the National Olympic Committee in Tashkent.
3797: 1 Nxf4! Kxf4 2 Kd3 (stops Bd4) Bh4 (planning Bf2) 3 g3+! Bxg3 4 Ke2 (stops Bf2) Bh2 5 Kf1! (stops Bg1) and the a5 pawn queens.