Round 5 report – Stewart Reuben

As you would expect, many poker players are extremely superstitious. Thus they hate to lose their first pot of the year, or have a losing session. I have never before thought to discuss this with chessplayers. If they felt the same way here you would expect them to shut up shop and have a high percentage of draws. The very reverse was true; there were just 10 draws from 55 games.

David Howell (3½) v Wang Yue (3½) – the rare opening variation they played had been seen just twice before, 8 Be3 being played on both occasions. Then 8…dxe3? runs into Bxf7ch winning the queen. Instead David innovated with 8 Kf1, an unnatural position for his king. Whether he should have drawn is unclear; he put up rearguard defence for many moves before succumbing in the endgame a pawn down. The final position where David resigned is a text book instructive example of counting moves and knowing basic queen v pawn technique.

Simon Williams (3½) v Andrei Istratescu (3½) travelled an early new highway and byway. I was puzzled by Andrei’s game plan as I thought he was an extremely rational player. But Simon has this effect on opponents, which is why his games are so popular. He achieved an extra pawn and we felt he had a winning endgame had he played 41 Rd4 b3 42 Rb4. In the final position 44…b2 would draw. Simon popped into the commentary room, but Chris Ward didn’t notice as he was engrossed in another game. A pity, it was a lost opportunity to explore another exciting game by one of England’s most entertaining players.

Romain Edouard (3) v Padmini Rout (3) 15 f4 was a novelty and seems rather odd. The natural reaction would have been 15…exf4 16 Bxf4 Ne5. Padmini perhaps showed her inexperience not playing this line. I first came across this idea in 1957 of allowing an isolated backward d pawn in exchange for a strong outpost for the knight. Chris found 15…f5 very ugly and after this Romain wrapped things up pretty quickly.

Jovanka Houska (3) v Yuri Vovk (3) – 8 Bxf6 gxf6 (not Qxf6 9 axb5 axb5?? 10 Qe4) looks better. As it 8e4 looks a little like an anti-Meran, but inferior. 13 e5 looks like a blunder. Jovanka struggled on for many moves, but the result was never in doubt. Thus Yuri has won 4 games in a row after his first round loss. Therein lies the pride and sorrow of a Swiss. A player can recover from a poor start, but is it fair that a player can stage such a come-back?

Thomas Rendle (2½) v Alfredo Luaces Rubio (2½) – one of the joys of this event is that players often come into the Commentary Room and provide pearls of wisdom about their games. Black, a long-term resident of England, wasted too much time in the opening and paid the price. 20 Bf6! Ouch.

BT seems finally to have got their act together and we should have 18 boards live tomorrow. Perhaps they should ask us to take over Hastings’ telephone system? It has placed a considerable burden on our staff. Lara Barnes has not only been an arbiter, but she has also coordinated the efforts of many people in inputting the games. Tomorrow she returns home to work, i.e. to have a rest!