We start the week with Malcolm Pein’s Daily Telegraph column, looking back on the road to the 4NCL final.
The semi-finals of the Four Nations Chess League brought some surprises, tense games and missed opportunities.
Let us see which episodes caught Malcolm’s eye…
Malcolm Pein on…the Road to the 4NCL Final
There was a major surprise in the semifinals of the 4NCL Online League, as Guildford Young Guns were stunned by ChessPlus Kingston, despite out-rating them by 174 points a board on average.
Swedish chess legend Pia Cramling showed that she can still compete at the age of 57, holding fellow GM Maxime Lagarde to a draw on top board. The decisive moments came on bottom board:
O. Vakulenko – H. Griev
27.g4! b5? (27…fxg4 28.Kg3 Kb7! 29.Kxg4 Kc7 30.Kg5 Kd7 31.Kg6 Ke8 would have still left White with plenty of work to do) 28.g5! (Decisive. Black cannot allow g6, but preventing it cedes White a passed pawn) 28…g6 (Or 28…Be7 29.Rg8) 29.Rg8 bxc4 30.bxc4 Ka5 31.Rxg6 Kb4 32.Rf6! Rxf6 33.exf6 1-0
ChessPlus Kingston will face Wood Green in the final on December 15. Wood Green scored a small upset in the other semifinal, eliminating the slightly higher-rated defending champions, Chessable White Rose with Daniel Fernandez having the better of a draw with Gawain Jones on top board. The match rested on board two. A complex position had left neither side with much time, and Black only needing to draw to take the match on tie-break.
J. Adair – R. Haria
White to play
What did White miss here? 46.Qe2? Qg6 47.Rc6 Rh7+ 48.Kg1 Qg8? (Time-trouble. 48…Rd6 then Qh6 was indicated) 49.Qf3? (49.Qa6! prevents 49…Qh8? due to 50.Rg6+ and so retains good winning chances after 49…Qg7 50.R1c3) 49…Qb8 50.Qa3 Rd6 51.Kf2 Rxc6 52.Rxc6 Qb1! (White’s own king is now too exposed for him to hope to win) 53.Qf8?? Qb2+ 54.Kf3 Qb3+ 55.Ke2 Qb2+? (Black is happy to keep checking, but 55…Qe3+ 56.Kd1 Qd3+ followed by 57…Rh1+ would have forced mate) 56.Kd3 Qd4+ 57.Kc2 Qxe4+ 58.Kb2 Qd4+ 59.Rc3 Qb6+ 60.Kc2 Qf2+ 61.Kb3 Qb6+ 62.Kc2 Qf2+ 63.Kb3 Qb6+ 64.Kc2 Qf2+ 1⁄2-1⁄2
Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.
46.Rh3! would have threatened Qf2-h4 and after 46…Kg6 (and not 46…Kxg4? 47.Qf2 Qf6 48.Qf3+ Kg5 49.Qh5#) White can either go 47.Qf2 or 47.Rh5! Kg7 48.Qf2 with a winning attack on the kingside after 48…Qf6 49.Rc6! Rd6 50.Rc3 and Rch3.