James wins on board one and Jonas and Fergus claim draws against GM and British Chess Champion, Nick Pert in a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable simul
by Rasi Kahane
Thankfully for yours truly (writing my first report of the year and giving Ian a well-earned week off), there were lots of talking points from Sunday’s simul, as the university put up an excellent challenge against Nick Pert in what was the club’s marquee event of the year. In fact, there is so much to talk about, I have decided to split this report into two sections – the first analysing the memorable matches and moments from the simul itself, the second section discussing some of the wider talking points from the social afterwards and all the weekend’s chess antics.
Our strategy as a club had been to begin the day by buying enough rounds for Nick at the balloon bar downstairs to render him completely mentally incapacitated before the competition started. Unfortunately, the SU thwarted us at the first hurdle, closing the bar as usual on Sundays. Instead, we were only able to offer Nick a solitary can of Kronenbourg and attempt to intimidate him with our ‘sea of chess fleeces.’ It seems even the uniform tactic didn’t work, as Nick turned up looking equally menacing in his official ECF jacket (see below). It seems Grandmasters really are always one step ahead.
We began with a presentation from Nick despite an ordeal getting the projector to work and having to switch rooms. Nick showed us a recent league match in which a long-term weakness in his opponent’s position was eventually exploited and some nice tactics left Nick with a quick win. The second match was one in which the importance of exploring interesting moves that you’ve seen in other similar games can lead to a decisive advantage. In the match, a new move allowed Nick to find a big advantage from the opening in a line of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Overall, Nick’s relaxed style and clear explanations made for an interactive and informative analysis.
In the simul itself, the entire club put up a strong performance, and at 7pm (after more than 2 hours of play), all 25 games were still ongoing, and more incredibly, Nick was in trouble in more than a few of them. Nick said afterwards that we “all put up a tough fight,” quite the compliment coming from one of England’s best players.
Unfortunately for this club president, it looked like I’d be first to finish when in my game a difficult line which I’d missed led to my queen becoming trapped, a decisive advantage had it not been for my next move. I found a brilliant move, which even Stockfish couldn’t see, transforming my game from totally lost to a nice won endgame. I switched the board around and played on as if Nick’s position had been mine all along. Sadly though, Nick noticed my last-ditch cheat and I resigned shortly after.
I can only imagine that my cheap trick played on Nick’s mind and helped my teammates, because only a few moves later, James grabbed the club’s lone victory. Nick resigned in the position below, in which sacrificing pieces would only prolong the inevitable.
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. Nc3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 c5 8. Rb1 O-O 9. Be2 Nc6 10. d5 Ne5 11. Nxe5 Bxe5 12. Qd2 e6 13. f4 Bc7 14. O-O exd5 15. exd5 Ba5 16. d6 Rb8 17. Rb5 Bf5 18. Kh1 b6 19. Ba3 Qf6 20. Rxa5 bxa5 21. Bxc5 Rfd8 22. Ba3 Rb6 23. Rd1 Rb1 24. Rxb1 Bxb1 25. c4 Be4 26. h3 Qh4 27. Kh2 Qf2
James’ game was even until 26. h3 allowed James to position his queen on h4 and give mating threats on f2 and g3 (with the threat on white’s a3 bishop), and force white to simplify a position in which the material advantage was with James. Nick likely missed James’ continuation because Kh2 loses quickly after 27…Qf2, with a pin on the white bishop and a mating threat. James had this to say after the match: “James beat a GM, what a legend.” A great achievement and one that I’m sure will come with bragging rights at their shared home chess club, Sandhurst.
Fergus’ game was perhaps the game of the match, ending with Fergus deliberately stalemating Nick rather than playing on in what would’ve been a winning endgame (albeit a difficult win to find).
Fergus’ struck good fortune in his game when in the below position, Nick blundered by capturing the pawn on e6. This allowed 23…Qh5 which is winning the bishop on h6 eventually.
Fergus’ position looked nice and, in the position below, Stockfish saw a forced mate in 11 which everyone had missed! The pivotal move is 31…Qc3! allowing black to hoover up white’s pawns and eventually win with a bishop manoeuvre. Explaining why this move is so strong is a bit beyond my capabilities as a commentator, so I’m not surprised Fergus missed this great opportunity to win at the time.
The moment of the game came when Fergus missed a chance to win the game quickly with a strong manoeuvre which even Nick missed. Credit has to be given to Stan for noticing this tactic during the match, Stockfish even took some time to find the winning line.
As we can see, Fergus is deep in thought after having played 43…Bf1?. Whilst his position is still winning after moving his bishop, with the queens on the board and other games finishing (allowing Nick to focus more carefully on defending his position), Fergus would have had a quicker win if he found Stan’s move in the above position. The winning move is 43…Qc8+! and after white is forced to take the black queen, Be6+! again forces the queen to take the black bishop. After black recaptures, the queens are off the board and the b-pawn will promote before the white king can get to it. Stockfish recommends Kg2 instead of recapturing with the queen, and this allows white to keep the b-pawn from promoting, but the position is still evaluated at -60 after Kg2 so I wouldn’t exactly say that it’s any better. If only Fergus had seen Qc8!
With all the other games finished, and the remaining players itching to head to the pub to drown their sorrows, Nick played the tricky 65. Qd6, hoping that Fergus would miss the stalemate. Fergus saw the stalemate, and despite being a bishop and a pawn up, diplomatically captured white’s queen and accepted a draw (no one tell Fergus that the computer evaluates the position at -66 if he had played Ba3 instead). A draw is still a great result for Fergus and for the club – getting to the Barrelhouse half an hour earlier than if we’d watched Fergus painfully try to promote his B-pawn without getting three-folded.
Fergus’ full game, for those interested:
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 Bg7 4. Bg2 d6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. O-O O-O 7. d5 Nb8 8. e4 e5 9. dxe6 Bxe6 10. Bf4 Nc6 11. Re1 Nd7 12. Qd2 Nde5 13. Bg5 Nxf3+ 14. Bxf3 Bxc3 15. bxc3 Ne5 16. Bg2 f6 17. Bh6 Re8 18. f4 Nc4 19. Qf2 Bf7 20. Rad1 c6 21. Bf1 Qa5 22. Bxc4 Bxc4 23. Rxd6 Qh5 24. Qd4 b5 25. Bg5 fxg5 26. Rd7 Qh6 27. fxg5 Qf8 28. h4 Rad8 29. Qxa7 Rxd7 30. Qxd7 Rd8 31. Qxc6 Rd2 (31… Qf3 32. Rb1 Qxg3+ 33. Kh1 Qxh4+ (33… Qh3+ 34. Kg1) 34. Kg1 Qg4+ 35. Kh1 Be2 36. Qe6+ Qxe6) 32. Qb6 Rxc2 (32… Qe7 33. a3) 33. Rd1 Qe7 34. Rd8+ Kf7 35. Qd4 Rc1+ 36. Kh2 Rc2+ 37. Kg1 Rc1+ 38. Kf2 Rc2+ 39. Kf3 Rxc3+ 40. Qxc3 Qxd8 41. Kg2 Bxa2 42. Qc6 Bc4 43. Kh3 Bf1+ (43… Qc8+ 44. Qxc8 Be6+ 45. Kg2 (45. Qxe6+ Kxe6) 45… Bxc8 46. Kf2 b4 47. Ke3 Ba6 48. Kd4 Ke6 49. e5 Bf1 50. g4) 44. Kg4 Qe7 45. Kf4 Bc4 46. g4 Kg7 47. h5 Kf7 48. h6 Kg8 49. e5 Bf1 50. e6 Bc4 51. Kg3 Qxe6 52. Qa8+ Kf7 53. Qf3+ Ke7 54. Qb7+ Qd7 55. Qe4+ Be6 56. Kh4 Qc7 57. Kh3 Qc3+ 58. Kh4 Qc7 59. Kh3 Kf7 60. Qd4 Kg8 61. Qf6 Qd7 62. Kh4 Bxg4 63. Qf4 Bf5 64. Qb8+ Kf7 65. Qd6 Qxd6
Regrettably, I have spent all my energy discussing Fergus’ and James’ games, and there were many more interesting and noteworthy games. Such are the challenges of reporting on 25 separate games. I will finish this section with notes on Ian’s and Jonas’ games, and if I had more time, believe me, I would’ve analysed all 25 of the games!
Ian played a defiant, even game, and resigned in the above position. Stockfish thinks it’s drawn, but Ian unfortunately missed it. The decisive move is to situate the black bishop on d1 to prevent white from winning his b-pawn after moving Kb5. Ian noted: “Black resigned, which was easily the biggest mistake of the game. The position is drawn, but I assumed that the king getting to b5 was just winning for White and it seems the GM thought the same. With just three games remaining, I didn’t spot the idea with the quick turnaround, so resigned on the third pass.”
I wasn’t paying much attention to Jonas’ game at the time so I have decided to delegate analysis responsibilities to Jonas himself and leave the full game below for your convenience. Don’t let my laziness detract from the result though, a draw is an excellent result and strong evidence of Jonas’ meteoric improvement over the year.
Jonas had this to say about his match: “Was up a pawn out of the opening, Tom and Fergus are convinced it was a tactical sacrifice (LOL). Got [thoroughly outplayed] (editorial note: the verbatim wording Jonas used instead is certainly not fit for publishing…) from then on out and he missed a bishop sacrifice for the win, instead continuing to build his attack. My defence was OP (his words) and he ended up sacking a knight to break through, which ends up being a blunder. This sends us to an endgame where I was down three pawns, two of which were connected outside passers, we both had rooks, but I had a bishop. Ended up winning the pawns and had a completely winning position, which wasn’t obvious to me, but was for Stockfish. However, having entered blitz time controls against a GM, I confessed to him that I felt like my Bxg4 move was a mistake, and it turned out to be, as it went from winning to equal, and Nick offered a draw.”
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ngf3 cxd4 8. cxd4 Qb6 9. O-O Nxd4 10. Nxd4 Qxd4 11. Nf3 Qb6 12. Qa4 Be7 13. Qg4 g6 14. Bg5 Qb4 15. Qg3 a6 16. Rac1 h6 17. a3 Qb6 18. Bxe7 Kxe7 19. b4 Nf8 20. Qf4 Nd7 21. h4 Qd8 22. Rfe1 Ke8 23. Nd4 g5 24. Qg4 Nf8 25. Nf3 Bd7 26. hxg5 h5 27. Qf4 Ng6 28. Bxg6 fxg6 29. Qf6 Rg8 30. Nd4 Qe7 31. Rc7 Rc8 32. Nxe6 Qxe6 33. Rxb7 Rf8 34. Qxe6+ Bxe6 35. Rb6 Kd7 36. Rxa6 Rc2 37. Ra7+ Kc6 38. Ra6+ Kd7 39. Ra7+ Rc7 40. Rxc7+ Kxc7 41. Rc1+ Kb6 42. a4 Rf4 43. a5+ Kb5 44. Rc5+ Kxb4 45. Rc6 Bf5 46. a6 Kb5 47. Rd6 Ra4 48. Rxd5+ Kxa6 49. f3 Ra2 50. g4 hxg4 51. fxg4 Bxg4 52. Rd6+ Kb7
I won’t report on any of the games which Nick won, because who wants to read about a GM crushing a casual club player… but I will say that he was extremely impressive – wriggling out of tricky positions and ruthlessly winning seemingly even endgames, all the while barely spending longer than 10 seconds at a time thinking about each move and managing plenty of other games too. It was certainly not lost on any of us how challenging it is to give a simul, and it is a testament to our performance that we left with anything other than 25 losses – let alone a win and two draws!
The Social and Other Memorable Moments
Before the simul had even began, some of the keener members of the club had been to the third Bristol League Open Blitz Championship on the Saturday. Ian placed highest among BUCC members in =11th and improved his Fischer number to 3 with a win over Jim Sherwin, making him the highest-ranking player at the club by Fischer number (probably?). Jonas won £15 for his efforts, an excellent result which began a dream weekend for him.
Jonas continued to the regular chess club meeting on Saturday afternoon and played in yet another blitz tournament on Sunday morning, before getting to the simul and managing a memorable draw! Jonas played more chess last weekend than sleep. This guy is really living the dream.
The simul itself was not without its entertaining moments, and I’d like to give a lot of credit to Nick for being such a friendly and approachable host! The presentation was light-hearted and informative and the games themselves were competitive but nicely relaxed, if we wanted to think a little longer, Nick passed us, and we were able to really throw everything at Nick. Nick also generously donated a selection of books and DVDs as prizes, I know I’m excited to start “an attacking repertoire for 1. d4! with Nick Pert”.
With so many participants, the idea of a first club social was enticing, albeit difficult to put together on a Sunday night. Our social sec, Dan Savidge was still at home recovering from a 21st the night before and hadn’t planned much other than to go to the pub. En masse, we headed for the Barrelhouse (round the corner from the SU), exhausted from Nick’s onslaught.
We still had around 20 people left by the time we got inside, but regrettably, Nick had a long drive home, otherwise he would’ve had a few chess stories to tell us in the pub, I’m sure. As soon as we got in, we headed for a quiet corner to set up some chess boards and play some weird variants and more casual games – you never do get tired of chess do you! As it turns out, another table was sat with a chess board, which was a shame (for them). I can’t think of anything more intimidating than playing chess in an empty pub only for 20 loud uni students to walk in, most wearing “bristol chess” fleeces, some of whom having just got results against the reigning British Chess Champion.
Unexpectedly, the pub was doing a jazz night, which was an irritating distraction for our group, wanting to focus on chess and the well-earned beers. I was dealt a thorough lesson in atomic chess by Seb, while some immersed themselves in the bughouse games and others just had a drink and a laugh at Downend and Fishponds’ expense (they’re chess club has given us quite a bit of grief over the course of the season). Dougie even got involved with the jazz, who knew we had a jazz pianist in the club?
As the night seemed to be wrapping up, the last chess club revellers headed on to mbargo’s to continue the party. Ian, Fergus, Julien, Jonas and yours truly were all that was left of the simul group.
Mbargo’s was a weirdly perfect stage for the chess club social – cheap drinks and almost completely empty, the night was spent almost entirely making chess club puns. I think it was the first time the bouncer had seen anyone try to smuggle a DGT3000 chess clock in, and I for one was worried that someone would steal my “The modern Dutch for the attacking player,” a desirable book if a thief ever saw one. A stranger asked Fergus in the smoking area if he wanted to hear something stupid, to which I replied “1. a4,” probably my best pun of the night.
Julien had been missing for a little while when Ian and I left, and luckily, we found him outside. “Honestly, I’ve never been this drunk before” was his assessment if I recall correctly (he certainly doesn’t XD). We thought he wouldn’t be in a fit enough state to walk home by himself, so we did the test. Jonas began by shouting “1. e4”, not wanting to test Julien with anything too fancy out of the opening. To our amazement, Julien forced out reply after reply, until he reached a quiet but equal middlegame. I think if you’re sober enough to hold your own playing blindfolded chess, you’re sober enough to make it home. Fergus and I walked back with him though, just to be safe. Bizarrely, as we were getting Julien back into his house, the paparazzi showed up, presumably impressed with Fergus’ performance. We thought some weirdo was taking photos of us outside Julien’s house at 4am, although luckily, the photographer recognised Julien from speaking to him at the pub earlier that night. I don’t know if that makes it more or less weird… Needless to say, I haven’t received his photos for the report yet.
Overall, Sunday was an eventful and successful simul, and an evening of fun for everyone involved!
I’d like to personally and on behalf of everyone involved quickly say thanks to everyone who helped to make the simul such a great event.
Thanks firstly to the participants, who put up a great fight and made it so challenging for Nick.
Thank you to Jerry for providing us with additional equipment to accommodate the large number of games being played at the same time. I’d also like to thank Jerry for taking the bulk of the photos during the simul, they captured a lot of the excitement and emotion on the day.
I doubt the Richmond building staff read our match reports, but without their help in finding a room with a working projector, we wouldn’t have been able to listen to Nick’s great presentation. We are very grateful for their help.
Finally, special thanks are of course in order for Nick Pert GM. He was an excellent guest and gave us all exciting games and I think we all learnt a lot from him. We are very grateful that he gave up so much of his time to be with us, especially given that we ran an hour over schedule. Thanks again Nick, and if you’re reading this, good luck with all your future chess and we hope to see you back at the BUCC soon!
President Rasi Kahane NM (Not a Master)