Nigel Short visits ACC

On Monday June 18, 2012, GM Nigel Short came to Annex Chess Club in Toronto to deliver a chess lecture and hold a 20-board simultaneous exhibition. His lecture featured one of his games from the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters tournament at the beginning of the year – which he won on tie-break over Hou Yifan.

Nigel Short’s chess lecture at ACC
(photo by Dave Bitton)

The game he chose for the lecture was from the tenth round of the Gibraltar tournament, where Nigel played a Benoni against India’s number two player, Krishnan Sasikiran. Asking the audience if anyone played the Benoni, he called those who did (including himself, apparently) “masochists.” When one of the audience also admitted to playing the Stonewall, Nigel said that was even worse. “The point of the Stonewall,” he quipped, “is to give yourself weaknesses at the start.” Its redeeming feature, however, is that “you know what they are.”

The same Stonewall logic – that playing a move you understand is more important than playing a move you know is “correct” – seemed to guide him in his own play against Sasikiran. With respect to his choice of 9…Nbd7 and 10…h6 in the game, he explained that he had asked Garry Kasparov why everyone plays 9…a6 in that position. “Garry said it was so you could put your queen on c7 without being disturbed by a knight on b5.” Nigel didn’t dispute the correctness of the move. “But I was thinking,” he continued, “why in the hell do I want my queen on c7?” The anecdote served as an opportunity to teach an important lesson: “You shouldn’t just follow what other people do. You’ve got to think for yourself.” And that is what he does in his lecture game. “I go my own way. It’s not that my understanding of the Benoni is correct, but at least I know what I’m trying to do.”

While it’s important to understand your own reasons for the moves you make, Nigel insists it’s equally important to be flexible and willing to change plans. “You have your basic ideas, but – in chess as in life – when the circumstances change you have to alter your plans.”

His lecture entertained a broad audience of beginners and experts, old and young. It was peppered with British humour, had a number of references to well-known figures in chess, and even contained several facetious evocations of the basic guidelines that every beginner learns – such as the point system of piece values (a queen is worth nine points, etc.). With reference to the classic question of the relative strength of bishops versus knights, for instance, he jokingly pointed out that “rooks are better than knights, especially in the ending.”

One of the most well-received pieces of wisdom he imparted was the emphasis on tactical play. “There is no such thing as a good strategic player who can’t play well tactically. You very often have to use tactics to achieve your strategic ends.” Later in the lecture, he put it more emphatically: “Games are decided by tactics, really. Cheap tricks. All this stuff about strategical play is rubbish. I may look like a quiet person, but… I always keep my eye open.”

Here is the game featured in his lecture:

After the lecture, the simul began. The following are the 20 players who tried their luck against Nigel. The final result, though, was 20-0.

1. Shabnam Abbarin
2. Jeff Back
3. Brett Campbell
4. Geordie Derraugh
5. Rowan James
6. Jim Mourgelas
7. Zehn Nasir
8. Razvan Preotu
9. Ian Prittie
10. Alejandro Renteria
11. Manuela Renteria
12. Rolando Renteria
13. Carlos Romero
14. Josep Sobrepere
15. Michael Song
16. George Supol
17. Michael Sutton
18. Daniel Wiebe
19. Marcus Wilker
20. Yuanchen Zhang

Some players may be embarrassed by their games (some of which ended after a dozen moves or so), but I’ll post here the ones I get. If you’re not too ashamed (and you shouldn’t feel bad – he is 2700 after all), please send your gamescore to info@annexchessclub.com.

Nigel Short simultaneous chess at ACC
(photo by Dave Bitton)
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