Gibraltar round 5 report

I feel that any tournament in which I have a game for prize money can basically be deemed to be a success regardless of the result of that game. Going into the last round of the Gibraltar Amateur a win would have secured (as it turned out) a share of second place and £400 prize money. Unfortunately my game as black against Klaus Kuenitz (1680) of Germany went wrong more or less straight after the opening, and although my opponent did make some mistakes which I could have exploited to get back to an equal position I missed the opportunities and was defeated.

Black to play
Black to play

In this position I considered three plans. Firstly I could push the c pawn with 10…c4 11.Bc2, but I was concerned that white’s central pawn majority would give him a long term advantage. What I probably should have done was play 10…b4 giving up the c4 square, but controlling c3, and preventing white from opening the a file. Instead I decided to give white an isolated Queen’s pawn, and then play against it.

10… cxd4?! 11. axb5

I was surprised when he did this, as I had calculated this through to an endgame where I thought I would be better.

11…dxe3 12. Bxe3 axb5 13. Rxa8 Qxa8 14. Bxb5

Black to play has made an unpleasant discovery
Black to play has made an unpleasant discovery

Now I made an unpleasant discovery. Here I had intended 14… Bxf3 15. Qxf3 Qxf3 16. gxf3 which I assumed would be better for black. My reasoning was that although white has the bishop pair, but his pawns are so weak I couldn’t possibly be worse. I belatedly discovered that it is very difficult for black to complete development because of the pin on d7. For example after 16…Nd5 17.Nc3 threatening to take twice on d5 and then on d7 is just winning, or 16…Bb4 17. Bg5 Nd5 18. Rc1 N5b6 19. Rc7 Be7 20.Be3 is losing a piece. The only line that works for black is 16…Kd8, which I did see, but didn’t believe in because the king is walking into an attack by the two bishops and the rook. What is even worse is that instead of 15.Qxf3, 15.gxf3 is stronger. So after much cogitation I gritted my teeth and played

14…Bc6 15.Qc4?

After the game my opponent was very critical of his play.  He felt he played too fast, and gave me some chances to escape. This was the first opportunity. He should have played 15.Nd4 Bxb5 16. Qxb5 and there is just no way for black to develop.

15… Bd5?

Here I looked at the line 15… Bxb5 16. Qxb5 Be7 17. Ne5, but I missed that 17…Qb8! hits the queen and knight, and therefore forces 18. Qxb8+ Nxb8 equalising.

16. Qc7 Qd8 17. Qa7 Bd6


White to play
White to play

18. Bg5?

White should have played 18. Nc3, after which the best idea for black is to abandon the d pawn with 18…O-O 19. Nxd5 exd5 20. Bxd7 Nxd7 21. Rxd5. Obviously this is lost.

18… Ke7??

And I miss opportunity number two. For some reason I cannot now understand I thought if I castled I would be losing material. In fact the position after 18… O-O 19. Nc3 is more or less equal.

The game now finished

19. Nc3 Re8 20. Nxd5+ exd5 21. Rxd5 Ke6 22. Bc4 Ke7 23. Bb5 (23. Rxd6 is a quicker win here) 23… Ke6 24. Qd4 Qc7 25. Bc4 Ke7 26. Bb5 Rb8 27. Bxd7 Qxd7 28. Ne5 Qc7 29. Ng4 Rb6 30. g3 Kf8 31. Nxf6 gxf6 32. Qxf6

The final position - black resigned.
The final position – black resigned.

In this position I was unable to think of a sensible move as both 32…Be7 and 32…Qe7 allow 33.Qh8# so I resigned. The line of greatest resistance is 32… Ke8 33. Rd1 Rb5 34. Qh8+ Kd7 35. Bf4 and appropriately the pin on the bishop wins the game.

So my tournament ended on 3/5. This is probably a fair result – I didn’t play any particularly good games, but I didn’t on the whole play terribly. As a result of the tournament my FIDE rating will go down a little bit, and my Chess Scotland rating will go up slightly. I guess the result was about par.

Gibraltar is a fascinating place to visit, and has a much nicer climate than Scotland in winter. The tournament is very professionally organised, and is held in an excellent venue. The masters tournament gives the opportunity for ordinary players to complete with the world’s best. The morning challengers and amateur tournaments give the opportunity for ordinary players to play internationally rated games in the morning and watch the Grandmasters in action in the afternoon. Players with excessive enthusiasm can do both. There is live commentary of the games and chess activities organised in the evenings, such as blitz tournaments, and master classes with well known Grandmasters such as Veselin Topalov and Richard Rapport.

Gibraltar in January
Gibraltar in January

I would highly recommend  the Gibraltar chess festival to just about any chess player. I hope to be able to participate again next year.

Gibraltar Round 4 Report

Yesterday I managed to make it to the top of the rock and took the following picture of the tournament venue.

An ideal venue for some serious chess
An ideal venue for some serious chess

Today I made it onto the live boards. To celebrate this fact I played my dullest game of the week

I was white against Frenchman Romain Christophe-Hayot (1793), and after 21 moves we reached the following position

White to play
White to play doesn’t understand the position

Here my idea had been to play f3 followed by e4. This would be fine if black exchanges his f pawn after for example 22. f3 Ng7 23. e4 fxe4 24. fxe4 dxe4 25. Bxe4 or 23… dxe4 24. fxe4 f4, but I started to wonder what would happen if he just played pushed his pawn to f4 and kept it there – say 23…f4 24. exd5 exd5 and then say 25. Re1 Ne6. (See diagram)

Analysis Diagram
Analysis Diagram

His knight seems to be the best piece on the board. Houdini thinks white still has a small edge after 26.Bb2, but I wasn’t convinced. Instead I played

22. f4

This move was an attempt to close the game down and force a draw. I had found it hard to find good moves early in the game, and was now down to about twenty minutes.

22… Ng7 23. h4 Kh7 24. Kf2

Here I made a draw offer, which was declined. In hindsight black should have accepted the draw here, or played h5 on one of the next two moves to seal up the king side. Instead by playing for a win he gives me an opportunity that I do not take.

24…Rh8 25. Rh1 Nh5?! 26. Bf3 Rcf8

White to play and, to his great surprise, win
White to play and, to his great surprise, win

I had assumed this position was dead drawn. After the game to my great surprise I discovered that 27. g4 is a decisive breakthrough. For example  27…fxg4 28.Bxg4 Ng7 29. h5 Rhg8 30. hxg6+ Qxg6 31. Qxg6+ Kxg6 32. Rh2, and the h pawn is incredibly weak and will drop, and black also has a very bad bishop.

Instead the game continued.

27. Rag1 Rhg8 28. Qd2 Ng7 29. Qd3 Kh8 30. Qe2 Ra8 31. Ra1 a5 32. Qb2 axb4 33. axb4 h5 34. Rxa8 Rxa8 35. Ra1 Qe8 36. Ra3

The final position - a dead draw
The final position – a dead draw

The computer thinks that white still has a small advantage in the final position, but I am pretty sure after 33…h5 it is totally drawn.

This pusillanimous performance leaves me on 3/4. I am out of the running for the first prize, but I may get something if I play a decent game tomorrow.

I spent much of the afternoon watching the live commentary of the masters given by Grandmaster Simon Williams and International Master Elisabeth Paehtz. A particular highlight was a brilliant attack in the game Harikrishna vs Chrilia which can be seen″style=”width:567px;height:720px;border:none;margin-top:30px;

Bon Accord Bishops vs Newmachar

The Bon Accord Bishops vs Newmachar match in the North East Scotland chess league was played on the 27th January 2015 at Ferryhill community centre.

The result was the following:

Bon Accord Bishops Newmachar
1 B Mike Cavanagh 1856 1 0 Joy Durno 1732
2 W Richard Jennings 1820 0 1 Gerald Lobley 1649
3 B Hugh Holmes 1724 0.5 0.5 Steve Sawaryn 1453
4 W Ian Grieve 1445 1 0 David Smith 1102
2.5 1.5

Gibraltar round 3 report

Neil Irving writes:

I am finding it hard to write something intelligent about my game against Anna Cramling Bellon this morning as the decisive factor was my opponent’s use of her time.

The time control for the Amateur tournaments in Gibraltar is an hour and fifty minutes for all moves with ten seconds increment.

We join the game after 11 moves. The opening was a line of the Chigorin’s defence that I looked at over Christmas. Unfortunately I had forgotten my analysis and white now has a significantly better position.

White to play
White to play

Up till this point my opponent had used an hour and sixteen minutes, and had forty-six minutes (plus increment) to complete the game. She now thought for half an hour and came up with

 12. Rc1

which is indeed the best move. I can’t defend the c pawn, so need to counter-attack against one of her pawns with

14…Rc8 13. Be3

Houdini suggests that instead 13. Nxc4 Nxc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc6 15. Bxa6 Rxa6 16. O-O Rxa2 17. Bxb4 is very much better for white.

13… Rc7 14. Be2

This move took eight of her remaining twelve minutes. White could have kept the advantage with 14.Nf2 now the position is about equal.

14…Be7 15. Bxc4 Nxc4 16. Nxc4 Rxc6

White to play
White to play

17. Ne5?!

Very short of time she bashed out this move, which is a mistake. If she keeps the c file closed with 17. b3 the position is equal.

17… Rxc1 18. Bxc1 Bd6 19. Nc6 Kd7

White to play
White to play. Note the helpful arrows to indicate what might go wrong!

20. Nd4

She was now down to less than a minute. Consequently I had been hoping for 20. Nxa7? Ra8 winning the rook and the game. Instead she does a good job of defending against the threat of a rook penetrating the c file.

20… Rc8 21. Bd2 Be5 22. Nb3

About here I felt I needed to regroup. I wouldn’t want to lose to a knight fork on c5 for example. I thought that if I could bring the knight into the game this would probably decide things. White meanwhile was desperately keeping up with the ten second increment.

22…Bd6 23.Ne3 Ke7 24. Kd1 Nd7 25. Ke1? (25.Nc2 was necessary) Ne5

White to play and lose on time
White to play and lose on time

Here white lost on time playing 26. Kd1, but this would have lost to 26…Nd3 when there is no way of defending f2 and b2.

I don’t really know how to assess this game – the main thing I did right was play faster than my opponent. I haven’t played any particularly good games, and I still have 2.5/3! This evening I am attending a masterclass given by Grandmasters Richard Rapport and Bela Khotenashvili so maybe that will help.

Tomorrow I have white against Romain Christophe-Hayot (rated 1785) of France. Wish me luck.

Gibraltar round 2 report

Neil Irving writes:

Today I was white against Hatim Bendriss an unrated player from Morocco. I managed to obtain a position that was clearly worse by about move 15. I decided that grim defence was the order of the day and after 25 moves the following position was reached:

White to play and win
White to play and gain a significant advantage

Here I would like to highlight the position of white’s dark squared bishop and c2 knight, neither of which have any useful squares at all! In fact in this position white has an opportunity to gain an advantage. The solution can be seen below – after the picture of the monkey.

The game proceded with my opponent missing a couple of opportunities to re-gain the advantage. After 47 moves we reached the following position with black to play:

Black to play
Black to play

Here my opponent offered a draw which I accepted. I am now somewhat better, but I was at a serious time disadvantage (7 minutes to about 25) and was relieved to escape with half a point.

Tomorrow I have black against Anna Cramling-Bellon of Sweden. I am hoping she knows less about chess than either of her parents – both of whom are grandmasters.

Meanwhile this afternoon I went and visited some of the local Gibraltar residents.

Little Monkey
Gibraltar resident

Solution to  move 26 – white could have played 26. Nxc5! Bxc5 27. Rxe6 Bxe6 28. f5
Bxf5? (black should counter sacrifice with 28… Bxc4 29. fxg6 Bd5 30. Bxd5 Qxd5 31.Ne3 is only slightly better for white)  29. Bxc6 Qxc6 30. Qxf5 when white is picking up the g pawn, and probably the d pawn as well.

Instead I played 26. Nf2?

Chess club – Tuesday 27th January

Ferryhill community centre are holding their AGM in the general purpose room on Tuesday 27th January. This means that the chess cupboard will be unavailable and the chess club will be meeting in the coffee area. Chess sets and clocks should already be out so this should not cause us a problem.

From personal experience I would recommend exercising extreme caution when using the chairs in the coffee area.

Gibraltar Round 1 – Report

Neil Irving writes:

I have never played chess outside of the United Kingdom, so I decided to give Gibraltar a try this year. For a sunlight deprived Scot Gibraltar is a more appealing location than (for example) Hastings, and there is also a very strong open (starting tomorrow) so there should be some interesting games to watch.

The venue for the tournament is the Caleta hotel on the East side of the territory. I have following view of the Mediterranean from my room in the hotel.


The tournament has been running for thirteen years, and has become very popular. The playing conditions are excellent, although the air conditioning in the tournament hall is a bit aggressive. During the following game my opponent changed from a summer dress to a tracksuit while sat at the board!

I am playing in the week 1 amateur tournament for players rated under 1900 FIDE. In terms of rating the field is pretty closely bunched together. My FIDE rating is 1809, and I am the 14th seed.

I started the tournament with black against Kimiya Sajjadi (1634), a 15 year old Norwegian, and was very lucky to win.

After white’s thirteenth move we reached the following position:


The computer rates this position as equal, although I feel it is slightly easier for black to do something constructive. I now have a decision to make – do I start attacking the kingside with my pieces, or do I use pawns.

13… g5?

The wrong decision – I should have gone for 13… Qg5 when I have various attacking ideas .Nf6 followed by Bh3 or Rf6-g6 are two possibilities. White now has the opportunity to play 14.Nd4! securing a clear advantage – the point being 14…exd4? 15.Qxd4 winning the bishop. Best play is 14…Nf6 15.Ne6 Bxe6 16.dxe6 and white has the advantage because she is breaking through in the centre. Instead the game proceeded:

14.Na4? Nf6 15.Qd3 g4

Sajjadi_Irving_W15Here I got a big shock


Didn’t see that one coming. Quite by luck this isn’t actually winning for white, but there is only one good move. By accident I found it.


Over the board I correctly evaluated 16…exf4 17.e5 Nxd5 18.Qxd5 as basically being losing for black, but I didn’t see that after 16…Nfxe4 17.fxe4 Rxf4 black is picking up the d pawn with check after 18.Bg3.

Fortunately I did work out that 16…gxf3 seemed to lead to a better version of the 16…Rfxe4 line.

17.gxf3 Rfxe4 18.Ng6+?

My opponent starts to go wrong here. The straight forward 18.fxe4 Rxf4 19.Bg3 Qg5 is equal according to Houdini

18…hxg6 19.fxe4 Qg5+


My opponent used most of the rest of her time in this position, and found the best move.


I had seen 20.Kh1?? Rxf2 21.Rxf2 Rxc1+ winning a rook, however I had not appreciated how strong black’s position after 20.Bg3 Bh3 21.Rfd1 22. Qg4, and the arrival of a rook on the f3 square will decide the game.

20…Nxe4 21.Qxg5 Nxg5 and black has won a clear pawn. White’s position went rapidly downhill from here. A few moves later we reached this position


When 29… Nxd5+ 30.Ke1 Rxf1+ 31.Kxf1 Ne3+ won a piece.

My progress can be followed at Tomorrow’s opponent is  Hatim Bendriss, a Moroccan player who does not currently have a rating.

Richardson Cup – Bon Accord vs Edinburgh West

The Richardson cup quarter final between Bon Accord and Edinburgh West was held on January 24th 2015. In a match between two very evenly matched teams Edinburgh West edged out Bon Accord 4.5-3.5.

27/01/15 – The full results were as follows:

Bon Accord Edinburgh West
1 B Adam Bremner 2157 0 1 GM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant 2400
2 W Hamish Olson 2087 1 0 George Neave 2166
3 B Daniel Maxwell 2081 0 1 Neil Farrell 2085
4 W Murad Abdulla 1983 0.5 0.5 Walter Buchanan 2076
5 B Duncan Harwood 1988 0 1 Alan Bell 1920
6 W Mike Cavanagh 1856 1 0 Ian McLean 1803
7 B Richard Jennings 1820 1 0 John Watkins 1789
8 W Anna Milton 1594 0 1 Alistair Campbell 1695
3.5 4.5

Anna Milton – winner of the 2014 Cherie Booth award

Congratulations to Anna Milton for winning the Cherie Booth award for the top Scottish girl chess player of 2014.

Anna was given the award for excellent tournament results, including an unbeaten 4/5 for second in the 2013 Lothians Major, representing Scotland in international competition in the Faber cup, the European Union Youth and the Euro Youth, and also for arbiting and coaching at Junior events in the North East of Scotland.

For more details see