Brightening Northern Skies: Northumbrian Masters

Mike Basman, September 2021

The Northumbrian Masters was a triumph for organiser Tim Wall, who has moved on since his “Coal not dole” days.

Held in the dynamic Newcastle-on-Tyne Metro Centre, south of the river in Gateshead, it featured two all-play-all sections for Grandmaster and Master aspirants, an Open Master section, a Challengers, plus Major and Minor events.  All in all around 200 players went head-to-head (and face to face), to bring chess back with a bang.

I played in the Open Masters event (won brilliantly by Brandon Clarke, ex UK Chess Challenge Terafinal STRAT 2012), with Grandmasters Peter Wells, Keith Arkell, Danny Gormally and Marian Petrov in equal second place.

For much of the tournament I felt like Bjorn Borg trying to make a tennis comeback, but playing with a wooden racket; I was constantly outgunned by the younger players.  I did not even win the veterans prize – that deservedly went to Peter Sowray, who played on the top boards for most of the tournament.  But he is only 62!  Therefore I suggest an improved scale of veteran prizes:

Veteran prize – over 60 years old

Super-veteran prize – over 75 years old

Mega-veteran prize – over 85 years old

Giga-veteran prize – over 100 years old

Tera-veteran prize – over 120 years old

This will undoubtedly incentivise our increasingly fit and healthy elderly population

Meanwhile, here is one game where the young’un, 22 year old Thomas Eggleston, did not have it all his own way:-

White: Michael Basman Black: Thomas Eggleston

Northumbria Masters, August, 2021

1 g4 d5

2 h3 e5

3 Bg2 h5

4 d4 exd4

5 g5 c6

6 Nf3  

The so-called Grob Ga-Ga Gambit, which has caught many an unwary opponent

6 … Qa5+?

Black gets into the swing of things and plays this strange check which leads him into murky pastures.  Possibly he is hoping for 8Bd2 Qb6, when he guards d4 and threatens b2.

7 Nbd2 c5

8 0-0 Bd6

9 e3

Cracking open the centre before the black king can reach a safe haven

9 … dxe3

10 Nc4!

The pin on the d file accelerates white’s attack.  Of course, if 11 … dxc4 white plays 12 Qxd6 and the black king is feeling distinctly groggy.

10 … Qd8

11 Qxd5!

And now black wanted to win the white queen by 12 … Bh2+, but then discovery meets discovery as after Nxh2, the queen is defended by the bishop at g2

11 … Bc7

Black has no alternative but to go into an ending where his king will be torn apart by the white rooks along the centre files.

12 Qxd8+ Kxd8

13 Bxe3 Nd7

14 Rad1

The pins begin; white threatens 16 Bxc5 and 16 … b6 is hopeless after Nfe5 with forks galore and an attack on the rook at a8 from the bishop lurking on the long diagonal.

14 … Ke8

15 Rfe1

Now the other rook takes aim along the centre file

15 … Ne7

16 Nd6+ Bxd6

17 Rxd6

One doesn’t like to exchange pieces in the middle of an attack, but this seemed the best way break through.  Black would dearly like to castle, but unfortunately has already moved his king twice.

17 … f6

18 Nh4 Kf7

19 g6+!

A little combination squashes black’s dreams of security for the black king.  If 20 … Nxg6 21 Bd5+! ensures that black must let go of the knight at g6, and 20 … Kf8 runs into 21 Bxc5! Nxc5 22 Rd8 checkmate.  So black must return to the painful potential pin along the central e file.

19 … Ke8

20 f4!

Stopping the blocking defence 21 … Ne5, and preparing to retreat the white bishop to f2, thus opening the e file for the white rook, while still keeping the pawn at c5 under surveillance.

20 … a5

Black must get some air somehow, and prepares to challenge the rook at d6.

21 Bf2

Now the threat is 23 Nf5, winning the pinned knight at e7.

21 … Kd8

There is nothing better, but now while can exploit the d file pin.

22 Bxc5

And here, after 23 … Kc7, white will play 24 Rxe7, and the pin along the seventh rank means the knight at d7 cannot capture the bishop at c5.

22 … Ra6

Black must accept the loss of the exchange

23 Rxa6 Nxc5

24 Rxa5 Na6 

Despite shedding material, black’s troubles are still not over as the rooks can continue to torture the black king.

25 Ra3 Re8

26 Rae3

Imposing another pin; the knight at e7 is paralysed.

26 … Nb4

27 Rd1+ Kc7

28 a3 Nbc6

The pawn at c2 cannot be taken due to 29 Rc3+ forking king and knight.

29 b4

White exploits his 3-1 pawn majority on the queenside

29 … Bd7

30 b5 Na5

31 Rc3+ Black resigned

Black has had enough.  After 31 … Kd8, 33 Rcd3: the final pin nets another piece.

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