Leighton Watch. Leighton wins again to go to 5Ѕ out of 6 with a rating performance of 2785. He remains in the lead for the Board 1 Gold Medal hunt but, more importantly for him, he needs to play another GM to have a chance of a GM norm. Lately we just havent been lucky in drawing the right teams.
Wales 2 - 2 Algeria
Leighton Williams 1-0 Adlane (IM, 2424)
Richard Dineley 0-1 Haddouche (IM, 2279)
Tim Kett 1-0 Seba (2236)
Jac Thomas 0-1 Bouhaddad (2099)
Leighton’s game exploded off the blocks with one of the hottest current theoretical lines (4....d5 against the Qc2 Nimzo). Most of us were worried as the opponent seemed to be playing with great confidence but Leighton was totally at home in the tactical melee and duly won a piece. He made hard work of it after that with some inaccurate play and Black obtained two strong passed pawns in compensation. He missed one drawing opportunity with Qxf2 before Leighton was able to regain his grip and close the game out.
Richards tournament is turing into a bit of a nightmare as his confidence is visibly draining away. He has very manfully indeed shouldered the responsibility of playing Black in game after game (6 out of 7) without ever complaining - even welcoming it to give others their chance. His form has now dipped though and once again he was struggling right from the opening against a lively and fast-moving opponent.
I have been one of the beneficiaries of Richards generosity and yesterday had my 3rd White in a row. My opponent belied his decent rating with a strange mix of opening variation ("the Dragon-dorf" ?). After that he resisted tactically for as long as he could but with his king in the middle it was only a case of getting my central pawns going forward to open him up and then finish off.
Jac had a perfectly good position out of the opening (Pirc, Austrian Attack) and if he had taken the opportunity to exchange queens could have enjoyed a slightly better ending. Unfortunately he didnt see enough winning chances there and so kept them on. The game then bore considerable resemblance to his earlier one against Ireland but where White was trying to break through to Blacks cornered king. This time Jac was on the receiving end and unfortunately there was no route to the safety.
The result still leaves us on the good score of 18Ѕ out of 36 ("plus 1") and ahead of seeding. Today we play Mongolia who have again tricked us from Leightons point of view by placing their sole GM on board 6 !
The women managed to avoid the total symmetry of our double meeting with Botswana by beating Algerias women 2-1.
Julie and Megan managed creditable draws while Suzy was again the heroine with her fourth win in a row, bringing her total score to 5Ѕ out of 7 (rating perf. 2040).
She has already achieved the score for Women Candidate Master and needs only 0Ѕ more for WFM. We think that WIM may be just out of reach unfortunately, but she is having a tremendous tournament.
Round 8 Wales 2Ѕ - 1Ѕ IBCA (Blind / Partially-Sighted team)
Richard Jones 1-0 Berlinsky (IM, 2319)
Richard Dineley 0-1 Dukaczweski (IM, 2371)
Tim Kett 1-0 Pribeanu (2277)
Alan Spice 0Ѕ Antonini (2123)
The Qxf7 Match
Richard J won a smashing game in his favourite anti-Najdorf (Bc4 and Bg5). Black reacted provocatively with Bb7 and b4 after which Nd5! rapidly followed. Although he and Leighton consider Black's position "busted" after this, if you need to find moves like Qxf7!! in order to prove it then I think the rest of us can be excused for not keeping up. This game is well worth a look if you’re downloading the games.
Richard D unfortunately got blown away equally quickly. White's tame looking opening (after 1.e4 e5) developed momentum after Richard exchanged twice on c3 to allow a favourable Vienna like structure. By total coincidence he also then missed a nice Qxf7! follow up to effectively end the game.
I decided on a change from 1.e4 by punting my occasional English variant to which he replied with a KID setup. I had won a pawn on b7 with the standard Q-side pressure but he still seemed to have some K-side counterplay when he blundered horribly with Qxd3?? after which his queen was lost to Rd1.
Alan's opponent seemed intent on avoiding a "proper" French by playing f4 and e5 but keeping back his d-pawn. Eventually though Alan coaxed it forward and then continued to press on the Q-side. It then became a race between this Q-side pressure and White's slow-building attack on Alan's king on the other wing. White may have missed one chance (we think, analysis not yet conclusive) but in the end it was effectively a dead heat as White only had time to force perpetual check.
The women lost 3-0 to Bosnia / Herzogovina although that scoreline doesn't reflect a tough battle. Megan was particularly unlucky as she was definitely better in the middlegame (2 pieces for R) but eventually went down in a K&P endgame after mistakenly exchanging the last pair of rooks.
Today - by another uncanny coincidence - both teams (Men and Women) play Algeria. I've never known this happen before and now twice in the same tournament.
LeightonWatch. Some of you are probably getting a bit curious about Leighton's recent non-appearances. Its not due to illness, its mostly because he is looking to "hand-pick" the right opponents for his and Richard's norm possibilities. The 12-game full title option is now no longer allowed, so its 9 games for a single norm (but that would be a double-norm, for reasons best known to FIDE) and we are trying to maximise their chances.
Round 7. Wales 3 - 1 Hong Kong.
Richard Dineley 0Ѕ Corke (WGM, 2203)
Tim Kett 1-0 Tsang (2154)
Alan Spice 0Ѕ Chau (2196)
Jac Thomas 1-0 Yu (2032)
No more than a par result against a weakish Hong Kong as we win our Whites and draw our Blacks.
Richard's game didn't last long as White showed no particular ambition in a Trompowsky and Richard was disinclined to take risks to try to force the issue.
I "move-ordered" my opponent out of his intended Pelikan by playing 3.Nc3 and the game ended up as a Sicilian Dragon, a line he knew little theory about. I perhaps could have finished things more sharply somewhere in the middlegame but was always on top and eventually just picked off a couple of pawns while keeping a handy initiative.
Alan's game was unfortunate in that he played the first part well (to get a winning position) and the last part well (to hold an almost lost one) but unfortunately had a tactical lapse in the middle where he overlooked a back-rank combination which forced him to return the piece he thought he'd just won.
Jac demolished his opponent in convincing style. He met the Caro-Kann with his favourite 3.f3 variation and declining the pawn just didn't help Black to get any sort of foothold. Basically you could just see the K-side attack coming the whole way. Black never looked like he was ever going to stop it - and he didn't.
Those victories combined with Abigails in a tremendous 3-0 victory for the women over Bolivia meant that all three squad members so far without wins have now got one so we're all off the mark in that important measure of confidence.
It was a good day for the squads in general in that both teams are now on exactly 50%. Men 14/28 Women 10Ѕ/21. Tough games today obviously (Men v the International Blind Team, Women v Bosnia/Herzogovina) but lets hope we can keep afloat at this high level.
LeightonWatch. Leighton rested again yesterday so remains on 4Ѕ/5. He still leads the Board 1 Medal hunt in which he needs to play at least 8 games. He would need to play 9 for a GM norm chance of course.
Wales 1Ѕ - 2Ѕ Syria
Leighton Williams 0Ѕ Hamad (2286)
Richard Jones 0-1 Mohammed (2298)
Richard Dineley 0Ѕ Hakki (IM, 2459)
Tim Kett 0Ѕ Omearat (2274)
A slightly disappointing result although at game point rather than match point scoring, the team situation is not serious - the only real damage done was to Richard J's norm chances.
Leighton Watch. 4Ѕ/5. Rating Performance 2742. Still in Board 1 Gold Medal position.
Leighton's opponent was extremely thoroughly prepared with his Scandinavian Defence (3....Qd6) and played the first 15 or so moves in no time building a useful lead on the clock. Leighton missed one chance in the middlegame to take advantage of some temporary uncoordination of Black's pieces but missed it and was soon in a lost ending an exchange down. From here his legendary tenacity took over though and helped by some inexact technique from his opponent saved the half.
Richard J's KID (Samisch variation) counterplay never really got going and his position was fairly soon looking a bit ragged. His opponent kept a firm grip and Richard accepted the inevitable soon enough. His form with White is fine but his performance with the Black pieces needs to improve if he's going to score that second norm.
Richard D had the dubious honour of playing Mr Hakki, clearly Syria's strongest and most experienced player, on board 3 - how do FIDE allow this sort of thing to go on so much ? He prepared well against his opponents famous Dragon variation (Hakki shocked Tiviakov with a TN in this recently) and successfully steered the game to a 'controllable' Q & minor piece ending which didn't cause too many alarms.
I punted the Leningrad Dutch with ....Nc6 in an attempt to work up a K-side hack but my opponent had other ideas. He defused all those chances and kept the initiative by sacrificing a pawn and later the exchange to maintain a vice-like grip on the position. If he'd followed with Rc1 rather than Qe4? at the end he'd probably still have been winning. As it was I again could have continued at the end but would probably have had to return material and put the game back in the balance.
Today we face a relatively weak opponent in Hong Kong (mostly 2100's) and the talk is of resting the top two since the low gradings won't do their norm chances any favours.
The women had a creditable 1Ѕ all draw with the higher-rated Albanians.
Abigail holding another slightly worse ending after missing a chance in the middlegame. Suzy was the heroine showing great tenacity to win a tough game against an opponent 200 points above her but Megan was always going to struggle facing an even stronger opponent (dubious board orders again).
Round 5 Report
Men. Wales 2 - 2 Botswana
Women. Wales 1Ѕ - 1Ѕ Botswana
The remarkable symmetry of the draw was then neatly reflected in the actual scores of the matches too. Good news for the aesthetic purists among you but less good for the Welsh chess camp, we felt.
Leighton Williams 1 - 0 Khetho (IM, 2238)
Richard Jones 1 - 0 Njobvu (2236)
Alan Spice 0 - 1 Molale (2211)
Jac Thomas 0 - 1 Notha (u/r)
Leighton Watch. 4/4. Board 1 Gold Medal position. Rating Performance 2764.
It hasn't gone unnoticed round here that the bottom three need to buck their ideas up ! Scores in summary so far Top 3 boards 8/11 Bottom 3 boards 1Ѕ/9 !! Today was no exception to the general pattern.
Leighton (with Black) was unfortunately sitting furthest from the spectator area so I could see the least of it and afterwards in the bar he is always the one who (modestly !) refuses to see any merit or interest in playing over the game so I must admit to not even having seen it yet ! As far as I can make out it was slightly messy and unorthodox in parts but his body language always seemed to indicate he was comfortable with the complexity and level of risk.
Richard had another of his classic attacking games with White, never compromising in his quest for mate but these days playing with ever more control and no hint of recklessness. Even after his opponent shed material in order to stave off one wave of attacks and apparently set up some counter chances, Richard just consolidated in the centre and then refocused his own plans, still getting to the other king first.
Alan's opponent took the unusual but apparently effective step of preparing a line of the Exchange French in enormous detail ! Its not a variation that seems worthy of so much work but he played the first 15 moves (including 4.c4) absolutely instantly which was rather disconcerting. The twenty minutes or so advantage on the clock persisted and came in handy too. Although Alan sooner or later demonstrated total equality he eventually missed a straightforward tactic in a level middlegame and that was that.
Jac had another highly exciting and eventful game - the one difference from before being that this time I don't think he could say he was unlucky. His opponent played a good game from start to finish despite a highly entertaining and almost productive King walk from Jac into (and through !) an armada of Black pawns. What the seniors in the squad are hoping it convinced Jac of is the need to take up more heavyweight openings rather than the Guioco Piano variation he employed here.
For the women, we were all delighted for Megan who won her first game after winning a pawn early on and carefully preserving through to the endgame. She gave us one heart-stopping moment after that but the win was never out of control. Abigail drew but Julie unfortunately lost to bring the overall scores level.
Today is the first rest day so no doubt various museums, city squares and shopping arcades will be calling. Tomorrow the men play Syria and the women Albania.
Round 4 Report
The dramatic start to the day was the news that Leighton wouldn't be playing.
He woke up feeling unwell and, since the team sheets have to be handed in by 9 o'clock in the morning, decided it was best not risk it. As it turned out he wasn't as bad as he first feared and by lunchtime would have been fit enough to play - but of course it was too late by then.
For a while it looked like we might even win this match, which since the Irish are our regular drinking companions during these events, would have been totally tremendous for our bragging rights for the rest of the tournament !
Sadly it all went wrong in the final hour, but in such an unfortunate way that even our opponents were too embarassed to crow over it.
To start from the top though, Richard J had a very careful game against 'Babs'. Expecting the Alekhine he prepared to play the Modern variation as solidly as possible and waited to see if the GM wanted to take any chances. As it turned out, apart from the slightly unorthodox Nc7 instead of Nb6, he hardly did anything at all and instead proposed a draw as soon as the major pieces were off.
Richard D met a quietly determined Brian Kelly. I guess the sort of tame-looking Q-side openings he plays are aimed specifically at reaching endgames with a small but nagging edge and sure enough that’s what happened this time. Although Richard had opposite coloured bishops to console him he dropped a pawn around move 30 and looked likely to go down slowly on the Q-side. He therefore tried to stir some counterplay on the K-side only for Brian to then penetrate there and force an imaginative mating net.
I finally got on the scoreboard with a largely uneventful game against Sam. Another Alekhine transposed (via 2.Nc3) to, I suppose, a favourable French for him since he'd got his QB out before playing e6. Going into the ending he had a small advantage which he then threw away with a disastrous King sortie (Kg8-g7-f6) leaving me a clear pawn up although with a long battle ahead. As others have pointed out, if I'd scored before now I'd certainly have played on, but with my nerves and confidence rather poorly after the first two rounds I chickened out and offered a draw.
And so to Jac's game. He completely outplayed Colm Daly with the Black pieces to the extent that it took at least 4 outright blunders before it finally turned around. In an English vs KID setup Jac pressed forward with the normal K-side expansion while comfortably rebuffing any Q-side threats for White. With mate imminent White started running left with his King but that simply allowed Black's advanced pawn to promote.
By this time, since Blacks Queen was no longer home, White was getting somewhere on the Q-side and Jac at first missed the easiest ways to keep that under control. Then he under-promoted to a N so that it would be check and win a rook with tempo.
By now he was yards of material ahead but White's king had mostly escaped and he just needed to put out the fires at home. Unfortunately the position was by now so 'random' that at one stage he understandably even confused which way the pawns were moving and put a piece en prise for nothing. By now it was really getting difficult and while his own nerves were and clock time were almost gone Colm was gaining in confidence with every move - and the end came shortly after.
A great disappointment but he's kept his chin up remarkably well and hopefully this afternoon's game against Botswana will finally bring some joy.
By a strange coincidence the women are playing the same opposition.
Yesterday they won a hard-fought match against Jamaica with Suzy the winner and Julie and Abigail contributing draws.
Round 3 Report
Wales 4 - 0 Bahrain
They may be the weakest team we'll play while we're here (seeded 124 out of 146 countries) but you can only beat who they put in front of you and the boys did a highly efficient job yesterday.
Talking of what they put in front of you, the start of the match was delayed for an unusual reason ..... 'the dodgy pieces incident'.
On our and an adjacent match (South Africa vs Malta) were pieces of a completely non-standard i.e. non-Staunton pattern. These pieces (8 sets in other words) had actually been in use on the top boards in round 1 but after the GMs there complained they were moved down to the low boards where the patzers wouldn't mind or notice. I hope you tell the irony in my voice here as this kind of lazy, officious arbiting so winds me up I can't tell you.
Anyway the 4 teams involved staged a display of solidarity and said 'we're not playing with these'. The local arbiters initial reaction, unbelievably, was not 'yes, sorry youre right, we'll do our best to get some other ones' but 'this is all we've got, there are no others. 'Are you officially refusing to play after we've instructed you start the game then ?' In other words threatening our players with default !!
I'm delighted to say we stuck to our guns and eventually they backed down and some more pieces were found from the shop or the analysis room or somewhere, I mean this is an Olympiad for goodness sake, how difficult could it be to find more chess pieces ?
You get this more and more these days though. Arbiters should see their role in the world as helping the top chess players to have a fair and enjoyable sporting contest. Instead many seem to see it as an opportunity to exercise their power through confrontation and finding new ways to impose their limited personalities by punishing chess players for an ever-wider range of offences.
Sorry, that’s probably put an end to my hopes of a future role in chess diplomacy but I had to get it off my chest. I let Gerry Walsh (ECU Presidential candidate) know what I thought about it later as well as he was trying to defend the arbiters over this
Anyway - enough of that nonsense. Here's the game reports
I have never seen Leighton look so bored or uninterested. His body language just said 'who is this patzer you've put in front of me today and why do I have to even be bothered finishing him off ?'. After winning a pawn within 10 moves as Black it did indeed take a little while finish off but the issue was never in serious doubt.
Richard J had the White side of a Steinitz type French where nearly all the pieces stayed on quite a long time but Black went too passive too early to really get any counterplay until it was too late. He retreated pieces to cover the K side rather than keep them pressuring the Q side or centre. All that succeeded in doing was delaying the end but not avoiding it.
Richard D joined the squad the night before and will make a big difference as we climb through the ranks over the next few days (!). Despite the inevitable jetlag and tiredness he started with a win from a Closed Sicilian which became a sort of French structure. Playing the Black pieces more energetically he broke through on the Q side and won Whites Q for R+B. White did still have a glimmer of hope but failed to take his one chance to hold the ending later on.
Alan's game was similar to Leighton's in a way in that his opponent misjudged a standard pawn break in the opening moves of a Vienna Game and lost a pawn for nothing much. Thereafter the way ahead was clear as Alan had no chance for a quick win but just had to consolidate and gradually impose his extra pawn until a later tactical skirmish finished things off.
That puts the team on 6Ѕ out of 12 and so back in the top half ! Today we play the Irish (again, groan, its amazing how many local derbies we get at these things).
It also puts Leighton in Gold Medal position with 3 out of 3 and only one other board 1 equal to that (the boy from Brazil). Can he keep it up ? Time will tell.
Abigail suffered her second loss (more than in the whole of the last Olympiad !) in unfortunate manner. She lost on time in what looked a clearly drawn position. Playing with increments on a digital clock can be disconcerting as you can easily 'lose yourself' in thought during that permanent final minute and think you have 10 seconds more until its too late. An accident that can and will happen to most of us before long.
Suzy got the solitary half point but even she was disappointed as she was a clear pawn up in the middlegame.
Megan made another decent opening but then misjudged a tactic in a tricky position and lost a piece after which everything collapsed.
Another respectable result against a former Soviet republic but entirely down to the heroics of our leader ! It is truly impressive to see Leighton so fired up and determined - Olympiads really do bring out the best in him. Its a long way to go but 2 out of 2 and a 3000+ performance so far.
Yesterday he played his and Richard's pet hacking line against the Sicilian Najdorf. He played the almost standard Bxe6 and when the GM declined by castling K-side he just kept hacking until he won 2 pieces for a rook. The initiative then subsided somewhat but he next phase when he need to regroup and consolidate was probably most impressive of all. In the end it was the GM who cracked and blundered as time pressure kicked in.
Richard subsided slightly strangely on the Black side of a Najdorf. His opponent castled short then played e5 as precursor to attacking on the Q-side. Instead of giving up Q for R,B+P as he should have with reasonable chances, Richard felt that he hadn't 'done anything wrong' so declined this line .... only to lose a piece instead. Chess sometime doesn't go as your instinct says it should.
The next two guys were the 'dark horses' in their team. Mine was an up-and-coming youngster who had beaten a GM the day before, Jac's a gnarled veteran who clearly had played lots of good chess in domestic (non FIDE) events.
I just can't hack this new faster international time control. You get 90 minutes at the start and then 30 seconds per move from then on. What this means in practice is that after 30 or so moves I am down to half a minute a move for the rest of the game. I've just got to adapt and learn to play faster earlier on.
For the second day running I was happy enough with opening and middlegame and reached an endgame where I honestly felt all results were still possible. I had N+5 vs R+3 but with two connected passed pawns. Over the next 40 moves though the inevitable mistakes appeared and after missing the final draw (e7 instead of Nxa7) went down in another 70 mover.
Jac, as everyone here has been quick to point out, got a taste of his own medicine ! His opponent played the Austrian Attack against his Pirc and sacrificed the exchange and a pawn for vague but dubious attacking chances. It wasn't trivial to simplify or shake it off though and after slightly misplaying an attempted counterattack he only succeeded in driving Whites king up the board to finish his own attack off ! An exciting game but an unlucky debut.
The Women got on the board with a 2-1 win over the US Virgin Islands. Abigail rested while Julie and Suzy had nice wins. Megan unfortunately also lost her Olympiad debut after what seemed a confident and promising opening.
Wales 1Ѕ - 2Ѕ Belarus
Well, you'd have settled for that before that start you reckon and yet we should really have drawn it at the end !
Richard was first to finish and it was without even leaving the Kings Gambit theory book. His mid-2500 GM opponent seemed happy enough to acquiesce in a 'standard' perpetual check after sac'ing a rook in the Kieseritsky variation.
Leighton's opponent looked rather askew at this as if to say "why are you giving these patzers a draw so easily ?" He should have been concentrating harder on his own game though ! After a QGA in which he emerged with only a marginal advantage he was battling away to convert it, a pawn up in a multiple-minor-piece ending. Clearly though he was just thinking of his own threats and allowed a very simple knight fork (Be3-d4 ?? Nf4-e2+ and Nxd4) after which he had to resign immediately.
Alan, made a solid start from 1.Nc3 which transposed to a quiet sort of middlegame (like a Sicilian Dragon where White has castled short, fianchettoed his KB and omitted e4 !). It looked relatively harmless and a long struggle would be in progress. Like Leighton's though this game this came to a sudden end as, after exchanging light-squared bishops he overlooked ...Qh3 ! leading to sudden demise around his king.
That left me to fight it out for the match but sadly my lack of endgame technique let me down. I decided to punt the Schliemann against the GM (I'll save the more sensible preparation for other opponents !) but I suspect he was quite prepared as he whipped out 15 moves of theory to reach one of those pawn up positions where Black just has some nebulous compensation.
I hung on as hard as I could though and eventually reached a R + 2 rook pawns v R + 1 rook pawn ending. But under constant pressure from the clock (we had both been down to 30 seconds a move since about move 35) I eventually blundered the draw away. The lesson is to learn those standard endgame positions - then you don't have to try to work them out over the board !
The women sadly lost 3-0 to a highly rated Slovenia team but all three players (Abigail, Julie and Suzy) gave good accounts of themselves and put up a considerable fight