Wednesday, 22 February 2017

JR Mthembu Memorial

The first JR Mthembu memorial took place over 2 days, on 18th and 19th February 2017, at the Open Air school in Durban. JR was well known in Durban as a teacher, arbiter and organiser of chess activities. I never knew his first name as everybody just called him JR! He taught chess at the Gordon Road girls school for many years. Some of JR's best known pupils were Tasnim Amra, Cheshni Jeena and Kriti Lalla, who all became female South African champions in their age groups.

The tournament was a close contest, with Henry Oliver leading all the way, until he took draws against Sayen Naidu and Joseph Mwale in the last 2 rounds. Henry came within a whisker of defeating top seed Joseph Mwale in the last round, when he had a completely winning Rook and pawn ending. With 6 seconds left on the clock, he claimed G4 and Joseph had little choice but to accept the draw offer. These two players were joined by unrated Joseph Ambali on 5 points out of 6.

The B section was won by Thacian Reddy, who defeated second placed Archana Datharam in a crucial round 5 encounter.

Here are the section A results and the section B results.

Some interesting endgame positions that caught my eye were:

from round 2, with White to move
White tried 1.Rg3, hoping for 1...Rxg3+ 2.Kxg3 with a drawn pawn ending, and resigned when Black played 1...Kf4. Possibly 1.Kh2 was a better try, although 1...Rb3 looks winning. Why did you resign, asked the spectators? After 1.Rg3 Kf4 2.Rxf3+ Kxf3 3.b5 Black said he intended 3...e3 4.bxa6 e2 5.a7 e1=Q with mate on g3 or h1, and nearly fell off his chair when he was told that 6.a8=Q is check, so White wins! On reflection, simply 3...g4+ forces 4.Kh4 when it is Black who queens with check and wins the game. The next position was even more instructive:

from round 4, with White to move
This came from one of the father-son pairings that my pairings software liked. The game ended with 1.Ra8 a3, draw offered and agreed. Again the kibitzers wanted to know, doesn't Black win after 2.Rxa3 Kb2 3.Re3 c1=Q 4.Rxe4 etc. Indeed, but a little home analysis convinced me that there was a draw by either 2.Ra7! or even 2.Ra6. The point is that 2.Ra7 a2 3.Rxa2 Kb1 4.Rxc2 Kxc2 5.Ke3 is drawn. Even more interesting is that 2.Ra5 fails to draw, because the King can zigzag backwards by 2...Kb2 3.Rb5+ Kc3 4.Rc5+ Kb3 5.Rb5+ Kc4 and one of the pawns will queen.