Chess: Howell wins title Tuesday as cellphone saves Short from teenager | Chess

David Howell picked up a rare England victory in top international competition this week when the three-time British champion won chess.com’s weekly Titled Tuesday. The 31-year-old Sussex had just returned from Warsaw, where he performed well in the World Rapid with 8/13 but faded in the World Blitz with 10/21.

Titled Tuesday is free to all Fide Titled players, up to 2,200 Ranked Master Candidates, and regularly attracts hundreds of entries, who play an 11-round Swiss with a time limit of three minutes per game plus a one-second increment. .

This week’s top seeds were No. 1 blitz and five-time American champion Hikaru Nakamura, along with Russians Ian Nepomniachtchi and Alexander Grischuk. Nakamura is Titled Tuesday’s most prolific winner and has competed despite still being stuck in Warsaw after testing positive and withdrawing from the World Blitz.

3797: White to move and win. Black seems to be winning this 1914 endgame composed by Vassily and Mikhail Platov, but there are hidden resources.

Howell’s shrewdest move on Tuesday turned out to be his unintentional third-round loss to an underdog, creating for himself a “Swiss bet” where a player is behind the pack in points but benefits from weaker opponents while that its rivals are paired.

The crunch came in the final round where Howell met No. 5 seed Jeffery Xiong in a sharp Scotch Game where Black chose the ambitious 12…Qg6? instead of safe 12…f6. The queen looked active but Harry the h-pawn and a white rook trapped him in just six moves and Howell quickly finished the game. His web user name is howitzer14, and he is believed to be the first English winner in all years of Titled Tuesday, which started as a monthly event in 2014 and has since gone weekly.

It has been an unusual week for Nigel Short, who last month was hospitalized with coronavirus and Tweeted a selfie from his hospital bed with the caption: “Hello everyone. How’s your day going?”

This week, Short felt recovered enough to accept an invite to the Vergani Cup in Cattolica, Italy (Beniamino Vergani is best known for finishing 22nd and last with 3/21 in the 1895 Hastings Grand Tournament). The 1993 world title challenger’s uncertain start could have been much worse: in the second round, he overlooked a tactic and lost to Lorenzo Candian, a poorly rated 14-year-old, only escaping because the cellphone of the teenager rang, triggering an automatic default under Fide Tournament Rules.

Back at the 2008 European Union Championship in Liverpool, Short himself had dropped a point on his mobile. He had turned it off at the start of the game and put it on the table in full view of his opponent, Keti Arakhamia-Grant, but the low battery warning overrode the off state.

The next round at Cattolica was better and Short won the point when his opponent, under position and pendulum pressure at move 36, missed that he could draw by Rg8 or Rf5 and instead blundered in the defeat.

Another win came in Thursday’s sixth round, which, despite some inaccuracies, was played out in the simple yet elegant style of Short’s best years. As a result, he jumped into a multiple tie for second place on 4.5/6, behind Iranian No. 2 Amin Tatatabaei on 5/6.

Ahead of his seventh round match on Friday, Short tweeted, “This tournament is an experiment to find out if I have brain fog.” His energetic attacking victory over 10-time Greek champion Vasilios Kotronias was anything but a long Covid indicator as the 56-year-old plays beat the exposed White King, although Short missed the possible brilliant final 24 …Qxf2+ 25 Ke2 Bf8! 26 Rxf2? Bb4 mate. Kotronias is Greece’s best-known player and Short’s home is in Athens, so this was an important win.

The final two laps, with Short now in a six-man tie for the lead at 5.5/7, will be tense and taxing. Round eight, starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, and round nine, at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, should be interesting to watch, especially for English chess fans.

Hastings is cancelled, the London Classic has had no Open, next 4NCL league weekend is postponed and England’s more than 2,600 other grandmasters have been inactive in major competitions. It feels like an echo of a century ago in the 1920s when Bradford bank clerk Fred Yates and badminton baronetcy Sir George Thomas were virtually alone as regulars on the European tournament circuit.

Last Titled Tuesday, GM Gawain Jones (handle VerdeNotte), who is normally doing well, retired after starting with 1/4; and otherwise there were only two IMs and one CM from England. Still, Titled Tuesday is clearly an invaluable free training tool for some of the world’s fastest rising stars. It’s been suggested that English players don’t like the event due to its 6pm GMT start and late night finish, but the timezone issues are much bigger for Russian and Asian GMs and IMs, who compete in large numbers.

It should be possible to encourage many more titled English players to participate in Titled Tuesday. ECF Awards for the top scores of England juniors and female players, groups for which the national federation has dedicated funds; a requirement that more than 2,600 GMs must play the event as part of their preparation for the Olympiads and European Team Championships; prizes for the best-placed sub-2600s – some or all of them might work. There would also be a ripple effect as strong players without Fide titles would have an incentive to qualify for them.

In the near or distant future, when Covid-19 is a distant memory, there will be better alternatives for strong English players than an online Masters tournament. But for now, Titled Tuesday is an inexpensive, available, and useful experiment that the ECF should do a lot more to support. If the event had existed in the 1970s, England’s golden generation would have jumped on it.

New fast world champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov helped hone the skills that defeated Carlsen et al by racing the title Tuesday most weeks for many months. This week, the 17-year-old was honored in Uzbekistan with a cash prize of €20,000 and the keys to a two-room apartment, at a ceremony held at the National Olympic Committee in Tashkent.

3797: 1 Nxf4! Kxf4 2 Kd3 (stops Bd4) Bh4 (plans Bf2) 3 g3+! Bxg3 4 Re2 (stops Bf2) Bh2 5 Kf1! (stops Bg1) and the queens of the a5 pawn.

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