It was Short and it was not short

Four Rathmines players were involved in the Nigel Short simul on Tuesday night – Killian Delaney, Michael Kennedy, Ian Maloney, and myself, Tony Scannell. And what a night! Play started about 8.30pm, after a fascinating lecture from Nigel, and only finished around 1am. I sat for the entire time period and only had to play one game and yet was exhausted. Nigel looked shattered. He certainly gave good value for money. He won 26 of 30 games and drew just 4. Here’s one of the draws…(which could have been a win, but read on…)

Short Simul Wynns Hotel, 22nd February, 2011.
White: Short, Nigel, 2658 vs. Black: Scannell, Tony, 1822
Replay Game

Sicilian Scheveningen
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Be2 Nc6 I wanted a relatively calm game, so this move avoids the current theory around 6… e5. 7. f4 Qc7 8. O-O Bd7 9. Be3 e6 10. Qe1 Be7 We have transposed into a Sicilian Scheveningen. White has lots of space but black still has his compact e6, d6 little centre.
11. Qg3

Position after 11. Qg3
11… g6
(11… O-O Castling into it is theory, but I didn’t fancy defending this position! 12. Kh1 b5 13. a3 Nxd4 14. Bxd4 Bc6 15. Rae1 Qb7 16. Bd3 b4 17. axb4 Qxb4 18. Ne2 is one sample variation)

12. Rae1 h5 13. h3 O-O-O

This is a logical (if slightly risky) follow-up to g6: instead of hunkering down on the kingside, black aims to use his pawns to launch an attack against white there. 14. Qf2 Targeting b6 immediately 14…Rdg8 15. Nf3 Bd8 16. Rd1 Ne8 Petrosian would be proud. Black is struggling to contain white’s threats. I wanted to play f6 and g5 and could find no other way to do it. Plus, the knight can defend d6. Aside from that, it is a terrible move. 17. Rd2 (17. e5 d5 (17… dxe5 18. fxe5 Nxe5 19. Nxe5 Qxe5 20. Bd4) 18. Na4 Ne7 19. Bb6 Qc6 20. Bxd8 Kxd8 21. Nc5) 17… Na5 To stop Na4 and to try for Nc4. A knight on the rim…
18. Rfd1 f6 19. Bd3

A mysterious move to me on the night and still I cannot fathom it. Was he being too subtle for his own good? 19… g5 20. f5 g4! I was delighted to make this move, if only because my rooks are now activated and I have threats that might make black think a little harder. He spent slightly longer over this next position than previously.
21. fxe6 Bxe6 (21… gxf3 22. Nd5 Rxg2+ 23. Qxg2 fxg2 24. Nxc7 Kxc7 25. exd7 Kxd7 26. Kxg2 wins for white)
22. Nd4 Qf7 23. Nxe6 Qxe6 24. h4 g3 25. Qf5 I couldn’t believe it! I seemed to have survived white’s middle game attack and was into an endgame. I knew he had a large advantage just 5 moves before but I felt more confident now. This move, to swap off queens, is objectively dubious, but probably absolutely the best thing for a GM to do against a patzer in a simul, hoping for technique to take over.
25…Qxf5 26. exf5 Rg4 Activity and threats!

27. Nd5 Nc4 I wanted to swap bishop for bad knight. And I thought that Rxh4, Bf4 was dubious for black but it actually looks quite interesting. If the h and g pawns can be pushed, the two rooks against the king would be very dangerous. (27… Rxh4 28. Bf4 Rg4 29. Re1 Nc6 30. Re4 h4 31. Rc4 h3 32. gxh3 Rxh3 and who knows? ) 28. Bxc4 Rxc4 29. Bd4! I had missed this in assessing Nc4. Suddenly, I am in a bind. His Nd5 dominates the board and the bishop targets f6 while also cutting off the rook from winning h4. b3 is a threat. 29… Ng7 30. b3 Rc6

Black is completely busted here. White is dominating 100%. I felt close to resigning, but thought I would get my money’s worth by playing the endgame and seeing how he would beat me.
31. Rf1 Ne8 32. c4 Rg8 33. a4 Rg4 Activity! Threats!

34. Rf4?! Ng7 35. Rxg4 hxg4 36. Bxf6 Bxf6 37. Nxf6 b5! Done to exploit white’s weak back rank. Short stopped short (sorry!) and spent lots of time over his next move, probably the most of the game. He seemed to consider it very dangerous and it is indeed.
38. Rd4 Nxf5

Black is fully equal now, probably with better chances to win. White has to guard very carefully against the back rank threats. 39. Rxg4 bxa4 40. bxa4 Rb6 Threatening mate! As Nigel himself said, avoiding mate is a rather good thing in chess. 41. Rg8+ Kb7 42. Kf1 Rb1+ 43. Ke2 Rb2+ 44. Kd3 Rxg2 45. Ne4?! Ra2! 46. h5 g2 47. Nd2??

Wow!! Played quickly and a huge blunder. It is hard to see why it is a blunder, which is why, eh, I didn’t spot it. But Karl McPhillips pointed it out to me afterwards, so spotters badge to him. I briefly considered the winning move (something in my unconscious prompted me) but immediately thought it was just daft. How could a GM let me win with such a quick move? And also, I saw a simple draw looming and was beyond thrilled to play for it.
47…Ra3+ ? I always wonder if making a blunder or not spotting a blunder is the bigger mistake. (47… Ng3!! Wins instantly. White can resign 48. Rxg3 (48. Nf3 Ra3+ 49. Kd2 Rxf3) (48. Rg7+ Kc6 49. h6 g1=Q 50. h7 Qf2 51. h8=Q Qxd2#) 48… Ra3+ 49. Ke2 Rxg3 50. Nf3 Rxf3 51. Kxf3 g1=Q). So I was one move from beating Nigel Short. But I’m not annoyed about it, it would have been a travesty if I had won!
48. Ke2 Rg3 (48… Ng3+ 49. Kf2 Nxh5 50. Rxg2 Rxa4 is still drawn) 49. Rxg3 Nxg3+ 50. Kf2 Nxh5 51. Kxg2
And GM Short offered me a draw, which I delightedly accepted.
1/2 – 1/2

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3 Responses to It was Short and it was not short

  1. Darren says:

    Well done Tony!

  2. John Burns says:

    Well done Tony, and what a super game. As a spectator on the night, I can testify to how much effort Short put into this simul. ….Ng3 was not an easy move to see, and I imagine you didn’t have a lot of time to think at that stage..

  3. Michael says:

    Great achievement Tony! Almost rope-a-dope. Shame you missed that winning shot, but as John commented there was very little time to think by that stage. The play sped up a lot with so few games remaining.

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