With an event being played over the New Year it is hardly surprising that there are always a few withdrawals. This year there have only been about 5, possibly due to the very mild weather.
Most of the top games were wins. This contrasts sharply with the ‘good old days’ when there would be many drab draws. Of course I may be writing too soon; we still have the ninth round to come. But we have a hidden weapon. Unlike most events the last round starts at the same time as all the others. Seville which starts on Saturday has rounds 1-8 at 5pm and the last round at 9.30am. Of course we have other events on in the morning. Here the Prizegiving will take place at approximately 9.30pm of course in Horntye Park.
Wang Yue (6) v Andrey Vovk (5½) – the younger Ukrainian brother felt his position was fine. We didn’t discuss it for long; one doesn’t with somebody who lost. It was only tonight that I realised they were unaware of the nature of the Commentary Room. My apologies for that. 10…d5 would not have been to my taste before completing his development, but what do I know. Chris criticised 16…Bf5, but Black disagreed. Andrey felt 23…Re7 was incorrect and 23…b6 should have been played.
Sundar Shyam (5½) v Romain Edouard (5½) – it is likely that there was a theoretical novelty as soon as 7 h3; certainly both players played slowly at this juncture. Perhaps 9…Nd7 was better than the text. Surely 13…h5 was too slow. Sundar joined us in the Commentary Room and he felt that after 14 Bd1 he had the game in the bag. 16 Ne6! is certainly very convincing and he had wrapped up the game by move 21.
Babu Lalith (5½) v Deep Sengupta (5½) – 31…Re6 was a terrible blunder in a difficult position.
Andrei Istratescu (5) v Glenn Flear (5) was an engrossing game. Andrei secured the bishop pair and a big centre. The pressure enabled Andrei to win a pawn, but we thought 39…f5 might have presented him with more problems. It is difficult in a Commentary Room to come to definitive conclusions. After that Andrei wrapped it up clinically.
Yuri Vovk (5) v Simon Williams (5) – perhaps Simon went wrong on move 1! After all, he could have played the Dutch. The older brother again played well after a poor start to the tournament.
The English do not play together as a formal team. Nonetheless they generally have very good personal relationships. Usually this works out to their benefit. But this year in Hastings perhaps the relatively poor results have had a domino effect. Still, the year is young.