Chess: England win three world titles as Ian Nepomniachtchi nears victory | Chess
England’s Over-50 and Over-65 teams achieved a historic gold double on Wednesday at the senior world championships in Acqui Terme, Italy. The two led their tournaments from start to finish, overcame some questionable positions along the way, and were pretty sure of victory one round to spare.
Seven-time British champion Michael Adams turned 50 last November, and the Cornishman played a key role in winning a seemingly drawless knighthood ending in the deciding match against the United States and then beating Italy’s Alberto David in a seemingly level end of turn. Other England matches can be viewed in the games section of chess-results.com. Nigel Short’s ninth and final victory against Canada is a model of how to play rook and pawn against bishop and knight.
Adams and Short stand out as the two greatest English players of all time, eclipsing the achievements of 19th century icons Howard Staunton and Joseph Blackburne in a less competitive era. Their elite GM skills were the difference in the close contest with the silver medal-winning American team, made up of former Russians trained by the Soviets.
England’s Over-65s, with seven wins, a draw and a final round loss to bronze medalists Israel, have been boosted by their top tips John Nunn and Paul Littlewood. Nunn is prominent as a chess writer, player, editor and world champion problem solver, while Littlewood is a former British champion.
Five English players have won individual gold medals: the top three 50+ draws (Adams 7/8, Short 6.5/9 and Mark Hebden 6.5/8) plus the top two 65+ draws (Nunn 6 ,5/8, Littlewood 6.5/9).
There was even a third English team gold medal. England’s 50+ women, lined up with Sheila Jackson, Ingrid Lauterbach, Natasha Regan and Petra Fink-Nunn, won a world title despite being the only team in their class. Ranked 17th out of 23, they finished 13th, beating men’s opponents from Norway and Poland and ahead of two of England’s four men’s teams. Jackson was part of the England team that won silver at the Haifa Olympics in 1976.
The result provided consolation after painful defeats in major finals long ago. Nigel Short lost to Garry Kasparov in 1993, Michael Adams was defeated in the Fide World Final in 2004, while Keith Arkell missed out on the 2014 Senior World title in a tiebreaker.
Acqui Terme proved an evocative and nostalgic occasion, one of the last cheers for a gifted generation. It was a throwback to the glittering era of the 1970s and 1980s when England fielded the second strongest team on the planet, winning silver medals in three successive Olympiads (1984, 1986, 1988) behind England. soviet gold.
Ian Nepomniachtchi, already the out-of-control leader of the Madrid Candidates who will decide Magnus Carlsen’s next world title challenger, won again with just three rounds to go on Thursday. He has an undefeated total of 8/11 and has two Whites to come.
China’s Ding Liren is the surprise late danger. Ding arrived in Madrid just two days before the start, lost his first round match against Nepomniachtchi due to jet lag and did not win any matches for the first eight rounds. But now he has won three in a row, last Wednesday against Fabiano Caruana in a draw, and is a clear second.
High scores heading into Friday’s 12th round (2 p.m. start) are Nepomniachtchi (Fide/Russia) 8/11, Ding (China) 6.5/11, Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 6/11, Caruana (United States) United) 5.5/11.
The 31-year-old Muscovite scored against Alireza Firouzja as the 19-year-old Frenchman launched a g2-g4 kamikaze pawn attack that only created decisive weaknesses in his own position. Earlier, Firouzja had “prepared” for the encounter by playing a 250-game hyper-bullet match (30 seconds each for the entire match) against New York Times columnist Daniel Naroditsky, a move welcomed with disbelief by Nepomniachtchi’s rivals.
Nepomniachtchi’s strategy in Madrid was a combative first half of the tournament, where three of his four wins came with direct attacks in the h-file against castling kings, then digging in for the second half keeping it simple and settling for half a point.
The approach worked surprisingly well, aided considerably by his opponents. Ding was tired, while Richard Rapport, faced with a forced draw from the Russian preparation, avoided it with a losing alternative. Nakamura failed to sink his big opening advantage, while Caruana opted to draw his first game with Nepomniachtchi from a superior position and then again missed chances created by his good opening preparation.
Second place will be priceless if Carlsen follows through on his statement that he is unlikely to accept a match against a player of his own generation. If that happens, Fide rules state that the top two in Madrid will play a match for the world championship.
The No 1 mostly stayed away from the Candidates. Instead, Carlsen confirmed that next week he will travel to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. Earlier this year he finished 25th out of 1050 at the Norwegian Poker Championship. It seems the carding and bidding skills have taken over from his off-road interest in the Fantasy Premier League, where he briefly ruled the world in December 2019.
3822 1 Nb7! Resign. If 1…Bxb7 2 Qxe7 pins and wins the bishop, just like 1…Rxd5 2 Qxe7 h6 3 Qe8+ and 4 Qxc8. But the real idea – congratulations if you spotted it – is the queen sacrifice 1…Nxd5 2 Nxd8! Nxb4 3 Re8 mat.