Nigel Short took advantage of his visit to this country for last weekend's 4NCL fixtures to earn a little pocket money when he entertained 30 players and about double that number of spectators in a Simultaneous Display at the Shell Club, Corringham. Since becoming Britain's first ever chess millionaire after he was runner-up to Kasparov in the 1993 World Championship, Short has lived in Greece, his wife's native land.
Shell has a history of staging events of this type, and some of the old photographs were on display. Shell's long-standing member Jim Luck, who with the support of Ron Prickett and Richard Weeber was the driving force behind this latest spectacular, featured in several of the photographs. In the early 1970s, Bent Larsen and Anatoly Karpov (before he became World Champion) took on all comers, around the time that the Ilford Club invited, in fairly quick succession, former World Champions Tal and Botvinnik.
The value of such gatherings was apparent even before Nigel had entered the playing hall. Two of his more experienced opponents, former Ilford player Phil Turp and former Grays player Ian Pheby, greeted each other cordially: "It must be at least 20 years since I last saw you!"
About 30 years ago, of course, if you wanted a player of genuine World Class to give a simul, there was no point in asking an Englishman. Russians were clearly the strongest players, with one notable American exception, and attracted a great deal of interest. Today, now that the fine bunch of young lions who were the first English Grandmasters are firmly into middle age, it is possible to hire a local to perform in a simul. The drawback is that there is nothing particularly exotic about a Grandmaster these days - enter any weekend tournament and you might well bump into one, and he looks and sounds very much the same as all the other players in the room.
However, Nigel Short has few, if any, English rivals to his highly impressive tournament record and that was, without a doubt, an attraction. He also took the games extremely seriously, even in the opening stages pausing for lengthy periods at each board to consider his move. "When Tal came to Ilford, he really whizzed round," Jon Manley told me. Apparently, Short had warned that his simuls had been known to last until 4 a.m. One way or another, the players, who had each paid £35 for the privilege, were going to get their money's worth.
It was clear early on that there were one or two competitors who were not experienced chess players. Tim Rider, whose stated organisation the Basildon Evening Echo, reached a position after a mere 8 moves which was eccentric indeed. For a long time this was a strong candidate for the shortest game, but that privilege went to Matt Ross, who allowed a combination leading to Qa8 mate. Amongst the more experienced, Aidan Corish (Upminster) played the French Defence and succeeded in giving white tripled c-pawns, but Short's handling of this situation indicated that it was no problem at all to him. Steve Murray's game also engendered a good deal of interest in the early stages, but there was a communal sharp and sceptical intake of breath as Steve castled queenside, although it was not apparent to any of us quite how ruthlessly Short would exploit this weakness. Once Steve's position deteriorated (and the final blow was when he lost his queen after a discovered check on the open b-file) a great deal of interest centred upon the two adjacent boards where Kevin Thurlow and Ian Pheby were playing. Kevin, who at 187 was the highest-graded of Short's opponents, had played a Sicilian defence, and the apparent weakness of the a1-h8 diagonal (White's king was on a1 and Black's bishop on a3) gave the watching hopefuls the opportunity to anticipate, wrongly as it turned out, some spilled Grandmasterly blood. Kevin sacrificed his knight for a couple of pawns and when his queen reached the long diagonal the mood amongst the spectators almost reached one of excitement. However, try as he might, Kevin was unable to open the c-file, also rejected picking up the exchange and instead plumped for the capture of white's g-pawn. After this, his game went downhill fast as his bishop was sealed in on a3 by a black pawn on b4. John Anderson summed it up succinctly: "In effect, Black is two pieces down". Kevin hastened the end with the unfortunate blunder of a rook, but he was already aware of the hopelessness of his position.
There were two drawn games, courtesy of M. J. Hogarth (Kingfisher Club) whose Sicilian Defence involved the exchange of almost all the pieces and a peace offering as early as move 23, and local man Barry Sheppard, who defence against the Queen's Gambit led to a great deal of piece shuffling, but little direct conflict. When the draw was agreed after White's 28th move, the only exchanges had been a couple of minor pieces and a pawn each.
Amongst the Juniors, Julian Winkworth appeared to have some play, but the end came suddenly after the exchange of queens. George O'Toole played classically against the King's Gambit, but white had forced an early pawn weakness and this game was one of Short's "bankers" in that he was always going to gang up on the weakened king side pawns. It didn't help the 9-year-old's cause that he was still attempting to defend his position until nearly midnight. Brother Antony had established a really stodgy position of the sort that he seems to find appealing, and was hoping that Nigel would simply be unable to pick his lock. The father & son team of Ashley and David Haydon also lasted a long time, and although the senior partner had an extra rook at the end, it was to no avail as he was mated by a king, knight and three pawns. Short appeared to be somewhat irritated that David played on for 13 moves after heavy material loss, but that is his privilege: he paid good money for the game and at roughly a pound a move (the shortest game was 16 moves, the longest 48) the Great Man had no real reason to complain.
In some cases, the lateness of the hour had a good deal to do with the resignation. Michael Bridger was in a difficult position a pawn down, but the fact that midnight loomed and there were A-S levels to be studied for was a significant consideration. It would have been a pleasant gesture if Nigel were to have chatted briefly to his opponents at the end of each game but he seemed to be there for one purpose only and that was to win his games. This he did very effectively, beating his opponents 29 - 1, but one feels that for the sort of money that was changing hands perhaps half an hour's entertainment at the demo board, followed by a faster move rate, might have provided better value, as well as the possibility of a winner, which adds considerably to the spectators' evening. A Simultaneous Display is the nearest chess comes to showmanship, but for it to be a great success, one needs a showman.
Short,N - Hogarth,M [B76]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.g4 Be6 10.Nxe6 fxe6 11.0-0-0 d5 12.g5 Nxe4 13.Nxe4 dxe4 14.Qxd8 Raxd8 15.Rxd8 Rxd8 16.fxe4 Bd4 17.Bxd4 Rxd4 18.Bg2 e5 19.c3 Rd6 20.Kc2 Nd8 21.Bf1 Kg7 22.Bc4 h6 23.h4 hxg5 ½-½
Short,N - Sheppard,B [D35]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Nge2 h6 9.Bf4 0-0 10.Ng3 Nb6 11.Qc2 Bd6 12.Bxd6 Qxd6 13.0-0 Re8 14.Rae1 Be6 15.f3 Rad8 16.Nce2 Qf8 17.b3 Bc8 18.Qd2 Qe7 19.Nf4 Na8 20.Kh1 Nc7 21.Nf5 Bxf5 22.Bxf5 Nb5 23.Nd3 Nd6 24.Bh3 Nd7 25.Re2 Qf6 26.Rfe1 Nf8 27.a4 Ng6 28.Rf2 ½-½
Short,N - Thurlow,K [B48]
|19...Bxe4 [19...Nc4 20.bxc4 Bxe4 21.cxb5 Bxh1 22.Rxh1 axb5 23.Bf1 b4 24.g4 Qc3+ 25.Qxc3 bxc3 26.Nb5 Bb2+ 27.Kb1 Ba3 28.Bd4 Rxb5+ 29.Bxb5 Rb8 30.Bxc3 Rxb5+ 31.Ka1 d6 32.Rb1 is almost certainly drawn] 20.fxe5 Qxe5 (diagram) [20...Bxh1 21.Rxh1 Bc5 22.Bf4 Bxd4+ 23.Qxd4 Qxc2 gives White a slight plus] 21.c3 b4 [21...Bxh1 22.Rxh1 Qc7 23.Ne2 d5 24.Bf4 Bd6 25.Rc1 Qe7 26.Bxd6 Qxd6 27.Qd4 e5 28.Qh4 Rc5 29.Rh1 b4 30.Bg2 h5 31.g4 bxc3 32.gxh5 Rc4 33.Qe1 Qa3 34.Qc1 Qxc1+ 35.Rxc1 Rc5 36.hxg6 d4 37.Be4 fxg6 38.Bxg6 a5 39.Kb1 a4 40.Bc2 Kf7 41.Rf1+ Ke7 42.g6 axb3 43.axb3 and it's still level] 22.c4 Qxg3 23.Rdg1 Qc7 24.Bg2 Bxg2 25.Rxg2 John Anderson commented, "Black is busted here - in effect, he's 2 pieces down" 25...d5 26.cxd5 Qc3+ 27.Kb1 exd5 28.Rgh2 h5 29.gxh6 Kh7 30.Rf2 Rb7 31.Rhf1 Rcc7 32.Qxc3 bxc3 33.Kc2 a5 34.Kd3 Bb2 35.Bg5 f5 36.Bf4 Rb4 and Black hastens the inevitable in one of the last games to finish 1-0|
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|Aidan Corish makes his move against Nigel. Men in Black Jon Manley and Ivor Smith look on.
In the immediate foreground are the top of Mark Hogarth's head, and the other Tony Miles.
|After only 8 moves, Tim Rider's position is strange indeed.
John Wright and David Payne can see the funny side of the situation.
|Nigel considers his move against Alex O'Toole.
George defends against the King's Gambit.
|White to play and win.||Last week's solution (Henri Rinck, 1903): A Celebration of Skewers. 1 Ra8! Qa2 2 Rxa4! Qg8 all other queen moves lose to a skewer or pin 3 Ra8! Qh7 4 Bg6! Qxg6 5 Ra6 and wins. Rinck, a Belgian, is regarded along with Troitzky as "... the principal founders of modern study composing" (Ken Whylde). A copy of his book, "1414 Fins de Parties" (published 1952) was buried with him.|
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