Friday, February 3, 2012

Nigel Short’s Rapid Win At Gibraltar Masters 2012 Playoffs

 Nigel Short receives his trophy
Pix 1. Nigel Short receives his trophy. (PHOTO by Zeljka Malobabic)
3 February 2012, Kuala Lumpur – Have a look at GM Nigel Short’s rapid game playoffs win against GM Hou Yifan of China during the Gibraltar Masters 2012. With this emphatic win in the first game of the rapid game playoffs gave Nigel the needed confidence to simply draw as black in the second rapid game playoffs. The Closed Sicilian opening transpired during the game.

The Gibraltar Masters 2012 produced one last press release and the release praised Hou Yifan’s efforts in this tournament. Here is an abstract of the press release:

“… A bridge too far for Hou Yifan? No! She played a counterattacking line of the Najdorf Sicilian made famous by Bobby Fischer – the Poisoned Pawn variation. This was a statement that she intended to go toe to toe with her famous adversary. A great chunk of opening theory ensued – the women’s world champion knows her theory extremely well – and Shirov innovated by taking her b-pawn. But it seemed to be laced with more poison than his own b2 pawn and his position started to wilt as Hou Yifan’s position gradually got better. Eventually it came down to a level ending but one where Hou Yifan’s pair of pawns were just a little bit more advanced and threatening than Shirov’s and the Latvian’s super-GM’s king was trapped on the back rank. Would she start getting nervous and blow it? No – she hung and won.

I guess it was at this point that most of us realised that Hou Yifan had broken through some sort of barrier. Two barriers, actually: the big deal a couple of rounds previously had been the face-off between the two top women players but that had become almost an irrelevance. Hou Yifan had already moved on and was showing that it wasn’t just about beating Judit. She had proved that she was capable of dishing out punishment to any 2700 who sat in front of her.What we were seeing was a player who had made a large jump in standard in a very short time.

The clue was there in her world championship match last year with Humpy Koneru. On paper the two were closely matched but the evidence of the chess and the ease of the result suggested that Hou Yifan had put a distance between herself and her Indian challenger. After the last round, Michael Adams joined the commentary team for the play-offs and made much the same point. Basically, the rating list hasn’t quite caught up her rapid rate of improvement. Her playing strength is that of a 2700+ player.The win against Alexei Shirov had done something else. Hou Yifan was now in the lead on her own! There was still one round to go. Would she suddenly get nervous and experience fear of success, like a tennis star serving for their first Grand Slam title? …”


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The ninth round game between GM Alexei Shirov and GM Hou Yifan gave chess enthusiasts a greater measure of the depth of her chess strength as she beat Shirov in this game. Let’s watch the game here.

Zhukova - Closing Ceremony

(source of games: Internet Chess Club and official website of the tournament)

(source of press release: Susan Polgar’s Daily Chess News Blog)

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