Chess: Nigel Short checkmates three in a row at Bunratty weekender

Leonard Barden

Nigel Short, who challenged for Garry Kasparov’s world title in 1993 and en route scored his greatest success with a match victory against Anatoly Karpov in his prime, has won tournaments in six continents. He now plays in fewer events but was in vintage form last weekend at Bunratty in Ireland.

As a vice-president of Fide, Short was the global body’s supervisor at the women’s world title match where he trebled up as online commentator and appeals chairman. The 54-year-old has also played No 1 for England over-50s in the world senior team championship.

Like many English grandmasters, Short developed his early skills on the competitive weekend circuit and at age 10 scored with an elegant mate.

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He was still doing it last weekend at Bunratty, which has carved out a reputation as one of the best weekend congresses in Europe. Sponsors Blackthorne Transport have a team in the top division of Britain’s 4NCL league, and the tournament mixes international names with ambitious locals. Bunratty and Ireland’s other traditional international weekender at Kilkenny in November have become the arena for an Irish renaissance which has sparked young talents.

Short began Bunratty with a rare sequence, three games all ending in checkmate. In average tournament play, around 98% of games are decided by resignation or a drawn result.

The third in the sequence stole the show as Short mated another legend, former Czech No 1 Vlastimil Hort, in just 20 moves. Hort’s most memorable match was in 1977 when he narrowly lost to Boris Spassky after showing exemplary sportsmanship by taking one of his own timeouts to avoid a forfeit by his sick opponent.

A six-round weekender is not the ideal environment for a retired 76-year-old, but perhaps Hort wanted to publicise his entertaining new book with 64 chess stories. He went for a rare line which he had played before, the dubious Rio de Janeiro variation with 6…bxc6 and 7…Nb7, avoiding the much analysed Berlin Wall 6…dxc6 7 Qxd8+.

The game effectively lasted only one move when Hort, already under pressure, chose 11…c5? (better Kh8) 12 Nd5! with the point that 12…cxd4 13 exf6 Bxf6 14 Bxc7 traps the queen. Short clinched it by 14 Nf5! when Rxf5 15 Bxd6 Nxd6 16 Ne7+ wins. The end is a simple mate, but Black cannot escape by 17…Kf7 because of 18 Qc4+.

Nigel Short v Vlastimil Hort, Bunratty 2020

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 Nf6 4 0-0 Nxe4 5 d4 Nd6 6 Bxc6 bxc6?! 7 dxe5 Nb7 8 Re1 Be7 9 Nd4 0-0 10 Nc3 f6 11 Bf4 c5? 12 Nd5! fxe5 13 Bxe5 Bd6 14 Nf5! Bxe5 15 Rxe5 a5 16 Qg4 g6 17 Nde7+ Kh8 18 Nxg6+ hxg6 19 Qxg6 Ra6 20 Qg7 mate

Short won with an unbeaten 5/6, half a point ahead of Germany’s No 1 woman IM, Elizabeth Pähtz, GM Keith Arkell, IM Richard Bates, and the best Irish player IM David Fitzsimons.

Moscow Aeroflot is one of the world’s strongest opens, with an entry dominated by grandmasters from Russia, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Few Westerners take part, and there were no British players. Aeroflot’s strength in depth is such that the fight is normally among experienced GMs, but its 2020 edition this week was very different.

India’s Bharath Subramaniyam, aged 12, was the shock joint leader after four rounds while Azerbaijan’s Aydin Suleymanli, 14, became the second youngest winner of a major international when he shared first with three others, had the best tie-break, and so qualified for the Dortmund Open later this year. Suleymanli scored a crushing victory over Iran’s 2018 junior world champion Parham Maghsoodloo.

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The A group had a minimum 2400 rating, so that the little-known Subramaniyam at 2402 was ranked 96th out of 97. The 12-year-old is from the renowned squad of Chennai talents trained by the legendary coach Ramachandran Ramesh, who was British champion in 2002 before the rules were changed to require residence. Subramaniyam scored with a neat finish against the No 2 seed in the puzzle diagram, and met such a strong field that he was sure of his first GM norm before Thursday’s final round. He won it anyway.

Ramesh’s pupils Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa and Dommaraju Gukesh are both in their early teens and are among the youngest GMs in the world. The group had special coaching last summer from ex-world champion Vlad Kramnik, and they have two further advantages over their contemporaries from other nations. Some are individually sponsored, while they also benefit from the flexible education system in some Chennai schools which allow their students to play chess professionally for much of the year.

3660 1…Rxc6! and White resigned. If 2 dxc6 Rd1/Qd1 mate. If 2 Qxc6 Qxb4+ and Qxa5.