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Monday, April 23, 2018

A Modern Rare Bird: double N-sac, K-hunt, mate

     The Phillips & Drew “'King's” Tournament held in London in 1980 was composed of some of the West's strongest players plus England's most promising players, including 14-year old prodigy Nigel Short. 
     It promised to be an exciting event and Harry Golombek waxed eloquent in describing the players: the dynamic energy of the “vice-champion” of the world, Korchnoi; the powerful play of Miles; the wonderful subtly of Andersson who Golombek described as “the wisest head on young shoulders I have ever met.” The intelligent solidity of former Soviet, then Dutch GM, Sosonko; the lively resourcefulness of Speelman; the elegant attacks of Gheorghiu; the explosive and fiery spirit of Ljubojevic; the sheer talent of Timman; the typical panache of Sax. 
      Neither Ljubojevic nor Sax quite lived up to expectations nor did the colorful Browne who only occasionally gave evidence of his tactical ability. Larsen also was only a shadow of himself and Stean only came alive in the last two rounds to strut his attacking style. Nunn suffered from a nasty cold throughout the whole tournament. And, Short, who had performed brilliantly at Hastings only a few months earlier, seemed to suffer the bad effects of his failure to force a win against Miles in the first round. 
     The tournament was conceived when a fellow named Len Harris was elected to the Greater London Council ans persuaded them to put up two weeks worth of lottery money towards the tournament which convinced the BCF to persuade stockbrokers Phillips and Drew to put up the rest of the money. 
     Not quite sure how to put on a first class GM tournament one of the organizers flew to Tilburg to see how it was done and in the process spoke to Karpov who agreed to play. However, the Soviet Chess Federation said they couldn't send anybody, but according to Karpov it had to do with the Soviet Union not liking the British attitude towards the situation in Afghanistan. That was unlikely though because Soviet players had recently participated in Lone Pine. 
     Soviet officials claimed they had too many team events scheduled, but they would try to get two players. By then their offer was refused because Korchnoi had agreed to play if his match with Petrosian was over. It had been hoped that Huebner would be able to play, but he couldn't because he was playing a match against Adorjan. Hort withdrew at the last moment claiming that he had to play in the West German league. 
     The distribution of the record breaking prize fund was somewhat unusual. First, all 14 players received prize money and second, there was a big difference between first prize and second. First was 3000 pounds and second dropped off to 1750. Some even suggested the rather novel idea that all the prize fund be distributed as appearance fees before the tournament and let the players just come and play. The hours of play were 1:15pm to 6:15pm, adjournments from 8:30 pm to 10:30pm and there were three rest days during to event. 
     From early on Miles and Korchnoi were in the lead, but by round 9 Andersson, Korchnoi and Sosonko were tied for first with 6 point while Miles was a half point back. 
     At the end of round 12 Andersson and Korchnoi had 8 points and Miles had come back to tie them while Sosonko's score stood at 7.5. 
     The last round promised to be exciting as Miles was paired against the tough Ljubojevic while Andersson was paired against Korchnoi. 
     Unfortunately for the many spectators (and the organizers) the last round was a farce. Even though Miles had a promising position out of the opening, he offered a draw at move 10 which was gladly accepted. Andersson and Korchnoi split the point at move 18. 
     That left Sosonko, who was paired against Stean, a shot at tying for first if he could win. He played aggressively in the center, but he had misjudged the situation and found himself with a weak d-Pawn which was lost at move 18. After that he could put no real resistance and resigned at move 31. The disappointing lack of fighting spirit by the the leaders left a three-way tie for first.

 1-3) Miles, Korchnoi and Andersson 8.5 
4-5) Sosonko and Speelman 7.5 
6-8) Timman, Gheorghiu and Ljubojevic 7.0 
9) Sax 6.5 
10-12) Stean, Browne and Larsen 5.5 
13) Nunn 4.5 
14) Short 2.0 

One of the more exciting games of the tournament happened in the second round.  The players: 
     Jonathan Speelman (October 2, 1956) is a GM, mathematician and chess writer. He won the British Championship in 1978, 1985 and 1986. He qualified for two Candidates Tournaments. In the 1989–1990 cycle he qualified by placing third in the 1987 Interzonal Subotica, Yugoslavia. After beating Yasser Seirawan in his first round 4–1, and Nigel Short in the second round 3.5-1.5 he lost to Jan Timman in the semi-final 3.5-4.5. In the next event he lost 4.5-5.5 in the first round to Short. He has written a number of books on chess.
     Michael Stean (September 4, 1953) is a GM, chess book author and tax accountant. He learned to play chess before the age of five, developed into promising junior winning the London under-14 and British under-16 titles. He was awarded the IM title in 1975 and the GM title in 1977. 
     In 1971, he placed third at a junior event in Norwich and in 1973, he won a tournament in Canterbury ahead of Adorjan which lead to speculation that he might become England's first GM. In 1973 at the World Junior Championship he finished third behind Alexander Beliavsky and Anthony Miles. Both Stean and Miles defeated Beliavsky, but couldn't match his score against the lesser players. He tied for first in the 1974 British Championship, but lost the play-off to George Botterill. 
     In 1977-78 and 1980-81 he served as one of Viktor Korchnoi's team of seconds for the world championship campaigns. Stean's role was mostly involved with opening preparation and he and Korchnoi became good friends.  There were some well-documented divisions in the camp, with fellow second Raymond Keene standing accused of treating his book writing and journalistic duties as his first priority. 
     Stean served for a while as the manager of Nigel Short. In 1982, at the age of 29 and in his prime, Stean retired from chess to become a tax accountant. Stean wrote two books, one on the Najdorf Sicilian and one titled Simple Chess which has become a classic. I reviewed this excellent book HERE.  
     The following game from round two was a game in which Speelman took some chances in the opening, got nothing, but Stean drifted into time pressure and as the storm clouds gathered, a double Knight sacrifice lead to a good old fashioned King hunt that culminated in mate.

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