World sport may have ground to a halt in the last week but thankfully there is still the FIDE Candidates tournament currently taking place in Russia to entertain…..oh, hang on…..it’s just been stopped! Today Russia announced that as from tomorrow all flights out of the country will be stopped so today was the last chance for the candidates to get home. There has been opposition among some of the players almost from the start and certainly Ding Liren and Fabiano Caruana have not been at their best. On the opening day Alexander Grischuk only gave the tournament a 50% chance of being completed and yesterday there was doubt that the players would be able to get a flight home. When asked about this, one grandmaster replied: “They won’t get home – they’ll stay with the winner and prepare him for the (world title) match!” All of this is of no consolation to the Azerbaijani GM, Teimour Radjabov who, having qualified for the tournament but not wishing to take part in the circumstances, pleaded with the organisers to postpone the event. When his request was turned down, he pulled out to be replaced by the French number one, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, who was unlucky not to qualify in his own right. Keen football fans remembering when Denmark replaced Yugoslavia in the 1992 European Championships and went on to win, wondered whether history might repeat itself. After four successive draws, MVL was drawn against the current leader, Ian Nepomniachtchai.

 

White:  Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2767)    Black:  Ian Nepomniachtchai (2774)

FIDE Candidates Round 7

As a result of this win, MVL joins Nepo on 4½/7 at the half-way point in the tournament. It may be a game of two halves but when the second half begins is anyone’s guess.

Monday night chess club has taken on a new appearance with the restrictions placed by the Coronavirus outbreak. With plenty of club members already playing online, it did not take long for the idea of a Monday evening online tournament to take off. Credit for this must go initially to Richard who proposed the idea and then to Arnaud who took up the baton and set up the first mini-tournament on lichess.com last night. For those who were new to lichess, it took a bit of getting used to but the important thing is that we were all able to play some chess with those we would normally be playing at the club on Mondays. Already eleven players have signed up which is over half of the club and it would be encouraging if we could add some more so if you have not already done so, sign up now!

What of the chess? Well, first of all there were some strange names so it was not clear at first who you were playing. There was Coolhand, Bogstairs, Pugmug and Wasplake for a start. It was billed as a tournament but for some of us it was simply a chance to play some chess and lose a few games. In the end, I think Wasplake –  who I think is David – was the overall winner and BobbyPG (whoever he is) finally got a win with his last game. It was a pleasant surprise to welcome back Nick McBride (Bogstairs), formally of this parish, and perhaps if he enjoys himself enough in these online sessions he might be persuaded to rejoin the club when/if we return to normal over the board play.  If any Broadstairs members (or guests) would like to join us, first you need to register with lichess (we also have a club group set up with chess.com which we might try next week and you don’t have to pay for either site) then choose a user name and password.

Don’t forget that the Candidates Tournament is in full swing in Russia and there will be a report on it here in due course. Daily commentary can be followed on Chess 24 and other sites. In the meantime, if you did not catch Trefor’s puzzles emailed out recently, here is one for you to solve.

White to move. Which pawn is the weak point in Black’s position?

Ah! Here’s a trip down memory lane, a return to those carefree days when you could stroll along to your local chess club, shake hands with your opponent, converse freely within three feet, enjoy your game win or lose and then retire to the pub – remember them! – either to celebrate your glorious victory or drown your sorrows, consoled by team mates with a pint or two. Goodness, how long ago was that? What do you mean, it was only last week?

Well, for those of you who have forgotten how to play chess in the last seven days and are looking for anything to bring some cheer to your self-isolation, here is the crucial game from our match with Bridge way back on March 2nd. If we were to win the Millar Cup for the first time in over forty years, this was a match that we really did not want to lose. We could still win the competition if we lost but it would mean having to beat Margate and possibly Folkestone, too. With the score 3½-1½ in Bridge’s favour, it did not look good. Somehow, Arnaud managed to force a win from what looked like a drawn position to most observers which left Paul Carfrae’s game against Graeme Boxall on Board 7. Paul thinks he did not play well and the computer points out a few missed opportunities by both players. However, it is worth playing through to see how Black forced a win after a mistake by White in time trouble right at the end and thanks to Paul for sharing it with us.

White:  Graeme Boxall (86)    Black:  Paul Carfrae (131)

Millar Cup v Bridge

Game of the Week returns with a key game from last week’s crucial Millar Cup match against Margate. This is an excellent game from David Faldon and it is thanks to Trefor Owens that we have it. Trefor, who was on the next board and witnessed it, described it as ‘a brilliant, attacking masterpiece’, and sent it in but while David thought this was ‘overgenerous’ he conceded that it ‘pretty efficient from move 31 onwards’! Play it through and decide for yourself. Thanks to David for his notes.

 

White:  David Faldon (178)    Black:  Harry Sharples (149)

Millar Cup v Margate

Broadstairs’ success in winning the Millar Cup owes much to David Faldon. I don’t know what his overall record is on Board 1 but he has not lost many games in the all the years he has played for the club. He beats the lower-graded players and invariably draws against the stronger ones. It’s a standing joke in the club that a team captain cannot stand down until he wins his respective league competition. On that basis we knew that we could all sleep at night because Broadstairs would never win the Millar Cup so David had a job for life. Perhaps when we finally re-group – the club is shut for a minimum of four weeks because of the coronavirus but realistically it will be longer – David might have forgotten all about it and decide to carry on regardless.

As he wrote in his notes above, David’s victory gave Broadstairs a 3½-2½ lead ‘with just Chris Stampe to finish’ and in his match report he said that once he had finished his game, he rushed over ‘just in time to see that Chris was a queen up and about to win’. Well, that doesn’t tell the whole story because a few moves earlier this was the position:

White:  John Clarke (92)    Black:  Chris Stampe (141)

Millar Cup v Margate

Black to play and win.

                                     Broadstairs  4½        Margate   2½

1 David Faldon (178) 1-0  Harry Sharples (149)
2 Arnaud Wisman (168) ½-½  Peter McGill (145)
3 Trefor Owens (165) 1-0  Colin Gregory (127)
4 Manoj Natarajan (149) 0-1  Keith Findley (125)
5 Richard Clement (145) 0-1  Clive Le Baigue (121)
6 Chris Stampe (141) 1-0  John Clarke (92)
7 Paul Carfrae (131) 1-0  Chris Wyer (19)

David Faldon writes:   

Normally our Millar Cup matches are pretty stress-free. We enjoy the match, file the result and move on to the next. This one was different. Bridge beat Folkestone earlier in the week and consequently we had the chance to win the Millar Cup ourselves ahead of both Bridge and Folkestone if only we could defeat Margate. Broadstairs have not won the Millar Cup since 1976 and I personally have never even seen the trophy. Does it exist? On paper, beating Margate looked reasonably easy because we outgraded them on all seven boards, but the match itself was anything but. The fun started, unusually, on board one. I saw the chance to sacrifice my queen for a whole bunch of smaller bits, but there was a good alternative – swap queens and win a nice safe pawn. I spent maybe half an hour on the calculations. The sacrifice looked great, but what if I got something wrong? A loss could be disastrous. In the end I chickened out and took the pawn. Meanwhile, all was calm. Chris and Paul were doing well and the other games looked level. Arnaud was first to finish. Lots of pieces were exchanged and a draw agreed. No problem.

Soon, however, the situation changed, and not for the better. Manoj and Richard were both in trouble and Trefor was down to a rook and a few pawns each. He had a big choice: either agree a draw or sacrifice a pawn to get his king into the action. He chose the sacrifice. It soon proved to be the correct decision. As Trefor was wrapping up his win, Paul finished his game off too and we were two points up. Great. Then Richard lost. Not so great. Then Manoj lost too – unluckily. He fought back well in a difficult ending and achieved a position that should normally be drawn, but in the process used up all his time. With no increment in the Millar Cup there was no escape. A shame, but now the match was level at two wins each. My opponent and I were both short of time too, so I couldn’t keep up with how Chris was doing. Things were becoming too interesting for comfort. In the end I managed to use my precious extra pawn as a decoy to set up a mate on the other side of the board and we were one up with one to play. Could Chris avoid a loss and seal our victory? With fingers crossed, I rushed over, just in time to see that Chris was a queen up and about to win. Panic over. We had won the match by four wins to two. Comfortable? Not! Anyway, now we will finally get to find out if the famous Millar Cup actually exists. Many thanks to the whole of the Broadstairs Millar Cup team (not just those who played in this match) for getting us to where we are, and many thanks to Margate for being such cheerful hosts and for providing tea and biscuits.

Editor’s note: As David said, the Millar Cup was last won by Broadstairs in 1976 and even then it was shared with Herne Bay. This year is only the fifth time the club has won the trophy outright, the others being 1956, 1965, 1966 and 1969. The other teams competing in 1969 were Birchington, Chatham House, Dane Court, Margate, Pfizer, Ramsgate and St Lawrence College. Thanks to Ian Hames for this information.