Saturday, 25 February 2017

Synchronicity in Belfast

On Thursday 16th February 2017 English GM Mark Hebden, en route to the super-weekender at Bunratty in County Clare, provided the opposition for 31 Ulster players at the now well-established annual grandmaster simultaneous exhibition at Belfast Inst in College Square East.

One of Hebden's three losses was to Mikhail Pavlov and Brendan Jamison was on hand to capture the precise moment that the GM realised he was in trouble. If you enlarge the picture you can see the mixture of surprise and consternation as Hebden sees his Bishop attacked by a pawn and with nowhere safe to go.

The circumstances that the modern GM simul-giver found himself in reminded me of a game played nearly a hundred years earlier in another simultaneous exhibition. Less than a year and a half before he became World Champion, Cuban superstar José Raúl Capablanca was in Belfast, facing 39 amateur players in simultaneous play at the Clarence Place Hall, May Street.

[Event "simul x 39"] [Site "Belfast"] [Date "1919.12.10"] [Round "?"] [White "Capablanca, Jose Raul"] [Black "Allen, William John"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "A53"] [PlyCount "107"] [EventDate "1919.12.10"] [EventType "simul"] [EventCountry "IRL"] [SourceTitle "Ulster Archive"] [Source "David McAlister"] [SourceDate "2008.03.19"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 d6 3. Nc3 Nbd7 4. e3 e5 5. Bd3 g6 6. f4 Bg7 7. Nge2 O-O 8. O-O Qe7 9. Qc2 (9. f5 {is the usual move, which Black now prevents by threatening to advance the e-pawn.}) 9... Re8 10. fxe5 dxe5 11. d5 {White evidently did not want to allow exd4, and overlooked for the moment the Bishop's danger.} e4 12. Nd4 exd3 13. Qxd3 Ne5 14. Qe2 Bg4 15. Nf3 Rad8 16. e4 {Giving up an other pawn for the sake of getting the Queen's Bishop into play.} Qc5+ 17. Be3 Qxc4 18. Qf2 Qa6 ({A weak move, which loses the exchange. Black was considering} 18... Nxe4 {but had not satisfied himself about its soundness when Capablanca returned to his board.It would probably have turned out well, for if then} 19. Nxe5 Rxe5 20. Qxf7+ Kh8 {with the possibility of Rf8 to follow.}) (18... Nd3 { was also available.}) 19. Nxe5 Rxe5 20. Bd4 Rde8 21. h3 Bd7 22. Bxe5 Rxe5 23. Qf4 Qd6 24. Rac1 Qe7 25. b3 c6 26. Kh1 Qe8 27. Qf2 a6 28. Qb6 Qc8 29. Qf2 Bxh3 {The sacrifice is hardly good enough. Black should have played to win one of the centre pawns instead.} 30. gxh3 Qxh3+ 31. Qh2 Qxh2+ 32. Kxh2 Rh5+ 33. Kg2 cxd5 34. exd5 Nxd5 35. Nxd5 Rxd5 36. Rc7 Rd2+ 37. Kh1 Rh2+ (37... f5 {followed by Rxa2 would have lost very quickly.}) 38. Kxh2 Be5+ 39. Kg2 Bxc7 40. Rd1 Be5 41. Rd7 b6 42. Kf3 Kg7 (42... a5 {seems best here.}) 43. Ke4 Bh2 ({And this is fatal.} 43... Bg3 {was necessary if Black was to hold his Queen side pawns.}) 44. b4 Bg3 45. Ra7 Bf2 46. Rxa6 f5+ 47. Kf3 Bd4 48. a4 g5 49. a5 bxa5 50. bxa5 h5 51. Rd6 {The Bishop is now forced to leave the diagonal, and White ultimately Queens his pawn.} Be5 52. Rd5 g4+ 53. Kg2 Kf6 54. Rxe5 {and White won.} 1-0
The game and annotations were sourced from the Belfast News-Letter chess column for 18th December 1919. W.J. Allen was the editor of the column, so it is highly likely that these are his own notes to the game.

A full report on Capablanca's visit to Belfast can be found in our 1919 page.

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