Sunday, 24 December 2017

9th JZ Open

The annual Presidential chess tournament was held at the Sibusisiwe Hall in Mandeni on 22nd December 2017. This was the 9th such event. The hall comfortably accommodated almost 300 players, who pitched up from all over KZN. The A section was open to all players, many of whom entered on the day, which delayed the start of play. Another reason for the delayed start was that we could not access the hall until it had been cleared by the sniffer dogs. The B section was for teams of 10 juniors (5 boys and 5 girls) with the hosts Mandeni being the top seeds. Play started in both sections at about 11 am. We could have started play earlier in the B section, but the conditions were far too noisy, with the DJ blasting non-stop music at full volume.

Each round took about an hour to complete. Most of the games in the A section finished quite quickly, as there were lots of easy points on offer for the top players. Things were different in the B section, where the top teams started meeting each other from the second round. Pairings for round 5 in the A section were ready when we heard the presidential chopper fly over the hall, so this round went ahead as usual. The last few games from round 4 in the B section were still being finished as this happened, so we stopped play in this section, pending the imminent arrival of President Zuma.

Prizewinners with President Zuma, with Mabusela holding the cup
Mandeni were clear winners in the team event, with Ethekwini in 2nd place, and Ugu surprised us with 3rd place. I have published all the details on The open section was still undecided after 5 rounds, as there were 6 players tied with 5 wins each, namely Cyril Danisa, Wanda Khanyile, Johannes Mabusela, Bheki Mgobhozi, Tshediso Mpya and Musa Nyathi.

Whilst the president visited the junior players from the team event and played a few games against them, a round robin blitz play-off was held for the A section. This was won convincingly by the new South African champion, IM Johannes Mabusela, with 4 wins and a draw, so he took home yet another trophy!

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Novotny theme

The last few months I have been playing through games from old issues of the magazine "South African Chessplayer" and also trying to solve the positions from "Test Your Chess" and "Test Your Chess 2". These volumes are all about South African chess, and they were all edited by Leonard Reitstein. You are probably wondering, what is the Novotny theme? I first came across it in puzzle 217 from "Test Your Chess":

Korostenski vs Friedrich, Transvaal League 1978
The solution is given at the bottom of this article. Korostenski is a well known problem composer as well as a former SA champion, so he probably found the winning idea very quickly. According to an article on Wikipedia, "The Novotny theme occurs extremely rarely in actual play." Imagine my surprise to find a previously undiscovered Novotny in the pages of the "South African Chessplayer":

Naylor vs Parkin, Randburg Open 1984, after 36.Rf7
Black has just promoted his passed a-pawn, so he ought to be winning, but is threatened with tricks like 37.Rg7+ Kh8 38.Rxd7 and 39.Rf8#. The game continued with 36... Rxd8 37.Rg7+ Kh8 38.Bxd8 Qf1+? 39.Kh2 Qc1? 40.g5! Nf6? 41.Rxf6 Qa3 42.Bxc7 Qb4 43.Kg3 Be2 44.Rf4 Qa3+ 45.Kg2 and Black lost on time. How can Black escape this fate? The answer is given below.

Solution 1: 1.Bg6! so that White can mate on h7 or g7.

Solution 2: either 36... Nf6!! or 36...Qf1+ 37.Kh2 Nf6!! is a rare Novotny theme, with the Knight en prise to 4 different pieces, but it forces the swap of an attacker and wins on the spot. Some lines are 37.R3xf6 Rxf7 38.Rxf7 Rxd8 or 37.Rxc7 Bf1+ 38.Kg3 Qxe5+ or 37.Bxf6 Rxf7 etc.

Game of the year

After an extended break, my blog returns with an award for game of the year. There is little doubt that this was Nashlen Govindasamy's game against visiting GM Sahaj Grover, played in round 3 of the South African Open, on 15 July 2017. The game was broadcast live and attracted considerable interest, mainly because of some brilliant sacrifices, and the feeling that Nashlen was beating the GM. You can download the game here with brief notes by myself.

Nashlen could not have expected the GM to go pawn grabbing on move 7, which makes the Rook sacrifice (diagram above) on move 15 absolutely brilliant. He must have found 15.Rfb1!! over the board, rather than preparing it at home, as a similar sacrifice has only been played once before in a master game. By move 19 all the engines concur - Black is dead lost! I'm not sure why Nashlen spent so much time on his 19th move (nearly 34 minutes) as he dearly needed that time later in the game. On move 20 he consumed another 23 minutes, leaving him just 11 minutes plus increments to make the time control. All went well until move 27, when White missed two easy wins, then tragically blundered on move 28 with less than a minute left on the clock. This could have been the game of Nashlen's life, but alas it was not to be. It is hard to defeat a GM!