John Saunders reports: The presence of a chess legend has added an extra frisson to life at the Gibtelecom Chess Festival. One day I was waiting for the lift when I noticed a white-haired gentleman in his seventies move swiftly past me and put me to shame by using the stairs. Another day I was about to step into what I thought was an unoccupied lift only to notice at the last minute that it was occupied by the same man, who blinked at me in surprise as my rotundity briefly threatened to collide with his rather more svelte figure.
Chess legend: Boris Spassky
Yesterday I had my closest encounter yet with said gentleman, whom I’m sure you will already have guessed is the tenth World Chess Champion, Boris Spassky. I noticed him sitting in the bar with Stewart Reuben and Ruben Felgaer. At the time I was having difficulty finding somewhere to sit down and enjoy my chicken baguette and I was quite pleased to see them get up and depart, giving me an ideal place to sit down and have lunch.
About 20 minutes later a slightly perplexed Spassky returned to the same place. To my surprise, he bore down on me and asked “have you seen my glasses? I was sitting here before”. I was galvanised into action. Lifting the cushion on the chair, I caught sight of the great man’s spectacles on the floor under the chair. I fished them out and handed them to him. A trivial enough thing to do, of course, but Boris’s reaction was as if I had just given him a fully-worked, cast-iron refutation of the Benoni. Lifting his arms to the skies for added effect, he exclaimed: “This is a miracle! How did you do it?”
Trifling though the favour was, it was extremely pleasurable to have been of service to one of the greatest players who has ever lived. My life is now complete and my epitaph will surely read “here lies the man who once helped Boris Spassky find his specs”.
Chess leader: Jan Gustafsson
Now to business: 30-year-old German grandmaster Jan ‘Gusty’ Gustafsson moved into the sole lead in round eight of the Gibtelecom Masters, blowing away Natalia Zhukova with some ease though he has thirteen players still breathing down his neck as the tournament reaches its penultimate round. (I’ve been racking my brains for some more meteorological metaphors but I think I’ll call it a day at three. I don’t want a reputation as a windbag.)
Natalia Zhukova had so far been the surprise package of this year’s festival but her streak came to an end when she faced the Hamburg-born grandmaster. Despite having the white pieces, she soon found herself in a passive position and Gustafsson found a powerful tactical coup to end the game on move 33.
Other games between the eleven overnight leaders started brightly but gradually subsided into draws. Kamsky-Adams was a heavyweight encounter and promised a good struggle but after a number of exchanges the game reduced to a level endgame.
Five players in the next score group took the opportunity to move close to the leading score. Top seed Etienne Bacrot moved back into contention by defeating Alex Lenderman of the USA in a long, fluctuating struggle. Georgian International Master Lela Javakhishvili became one of two women players to reach the group in second equal place when she won impressively against Spanish grandmaster Josep Manuel Lopez Martinez.
The game of the day was almost certainly the one between Argentinian grandmaster Damian Lemos and French International Master Clovis Vernay. The Frenchman, playing Black, attempted to extract himself from difficulties with a remarkable tactical combination involving an eye-catching queen sacrifice. Many a player would have succumbed to such a dangerous attack but the Argentinian found an equally astonishing defence to neutralise the Black counterattack and convert the material advantage into victory. Great credit must go to both players for providing this feast of chess.
Damian Lemos (left) and Clovis Vernay put on a good show.
Leaders after Round 8: 1st Jan Gustafsson (Germany) 6½ points out of 8; 2nd= Etienne Bacrot (France), Sergei Movsesian (Slovakia), Paco Vallejo Pons (Spain), Michael Adams (England), Gata Kamsky (USA), Laurent Fressinet (France), Chand Sandipan (India), Humpy Koneru (India), Stelios Halkias (Greece), Damian Lemos (Argentina), Alexander Naumann (Germany), Lela Javakhishvili (Georgia), Drasko Boskovic (Serbia) 6 points.
Here’s the delectable Lemos-Vernay game.
Round 8, Gibtelecom Masters
1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 e3 Bf5 5 Nc3 e6 6 Nh4 Be4 7 f3 Bg6 8 Qb3 Qc7 9 Bd2 Nbd7 10 cxd5 Nxd5 11 g3 Bh5 12 Nxd5 exd5 13 Bd3 g5
A bold thrust. As things turn out, it may be considered rash but, without it, the entertainment quotient of the game would have been sadly depleted – so credit to the Frenchman for trying this.
14 Nf5 Bxf3 15 0–0 g4 16 Nh4 h5 17 Nxf3 gxf3 18 e4
18 Rxf3 is another possibility, but Black still gets a formidable kingside attack after 18...h4, etc.
This dangerous sacrificial move so very nearly deserves an unqualified exclamation mark (or even two).
19 dxc5 Bxc5+ 20 Kh1 h4 21 g4!
White's defence to the attack is as bold as the attack itself. 21 Qc3 forks two pieces, but Black can reply 21...0–0–0! when 22 Qxc5?? loses to 22...hxg3 and White has no defence to the threat of g2+ followed by Qxh2+.
Capture of the queen is punished by mate.
White is in the sort of predicament that would turn one's nerves to jelly. How on earth can White save himself?
Brilliant. White throws his first spanner in the works. 23 Rxg3? hxg3 24 Be3 Rxh2+ 25 Kg1 0–0–0! and White would have a hard job finding a defence to Rdh8 and mate, and his chances of winning have certainly evaporated.
23...Bxe5 24 Rxg3 hxg3 25 Bh7!!
There goes the second spanner.
25...Rxh7 26 Qxf3
We now discover why White played 23 e5 and then 25 Bh7. The point was to be able to capture on f3 with the queen, after which Black's adventurous play is ultimately shown to be unsound.
26...Rxh2+ 27 Kg1 0–0–0
27...Bd4+ is simply answered by 28 Be3 and Black has nothing. 27...f6 28 Bc3! d4 29 Re1 0–0–0 seems resilient but White now has 30 Rxe5 fxe5 31 Ba5 Rdh8 32 Qf5+ Kb8 33 Qxe5+ Ka8 34 Qxd4 and the various permutations of rook checks don't save Black as the white king can escape to safety.
28 Qf5+ Rd7 29 Qxe5 Rxd2 30 Re1 1–0