Lothians Congress

January 7-9 2000

report by Douglas Bryson

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Grandmaster Jonathan Rowson won the first Scottish tournament of 2000 with victory at the Lothians Championship held in Wester Hailes, January 7-9. The new Edinburgh resident didn't have things all his own way and was lost for a few moves against Oliver Penrose, the title-holder for the previous two years.

Penrose, 71, is the elder brother of 10 times British champion Jonathan Penrose. Oliver thought the following game was his best this year.

Lothians Championship, White: Oliver Penrose (Lasswade, 2005), Black: Graham Paterson (Musselburgh, 2050), Opening: Sicilian Sveshnikov. 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 e5 6 Ndb5 d6 7 Bg5 a6 8 Na3 b5 9 Bxf6 gxf6 10 Nd5 f5 11 Bd3 Be6 12 0-0 White doesn't want to face the line 12 Qh5 Rg8! and invites Black to transpose to 12 0-0 Bg7 13 Qh5 f4.

12...Bxd5! 13 exd5 Ne7 14 c3 Bg7 15 Qh5 Qd7 16 Rad1 0-0 17 Nc2 e4 18 Be2 GM Neil McDonald discusses this position in his new book The Sveshnikov Sicilian (Batsford £14.99). 18...Rac8 is now correct with ideas of Rc5 to attack White's weak point - the d5 pawn. McDonald points out that 19 f4 (as in the game) would here be an error after 19...Rc5 20 Ne3 Qa7 21 Kh1 Rxc3! 22 bxc3 Qxe3 23 c4 b4 when Black has a great position for the exchange.

18...Ng6? 19 f4 Ne7 20 Kh1 Rfc8 21 g4! fxg4 22 f5! Black is lost.

22...f6 23 Qxg4 Kh8 24 Qxe4 Re8 25 Qg2 Ng8 26 Nd4 Re5 27 Ne6 Bh6 28 Rd4 Be3 29 Rg4 Bh6 30 Rg1 Ne7 31 Bd3 Qc8 32 Rg7 Nxd5 33 Rxh7+ Black resigns.

If an opponent 500 points higher rated offers a draw what would you do? If that opponent is GM Jonathan Rowson should you accept immediately and congratulate yourself on surviving against the reigning Scottish Champion? You should be brave and play on - if Rowson is offering a draw it either means he is ill or he thinks he has a lost position. Either way you have a rare chance to defeat a high rated player.

In round four of the Championship Oliver Penrose was offered a draw by Jonathan in this position. White: Oliver Penrose (Lasswade, 2005) Black: Jonathan Rowson (Edinburgh, 2525).

White to play his 21st move. 21 Nfe6! This strong move wins rook for knight.

21...Qg4 22 Qxg4 Nxg4 23 Nxd8 Rxd8 24 Bb6 A difficult decision since 24 Rae1 Nxe3 25 Rxe3 Rd2 gives Black counterplay. The undeveloping move 24 Bc1, to guard b2, may be the best choice intending 24...Nd4 25 Nxf7 Rf8 26 h3 when White should be winning.

24...Rb8 25 Bc7 Rc8 26 Bg3 Bxb2 27 Rae1 Nf6 although Black is still the exchange down he gradually gains the upper hand because of White's weak queenside pawns.

28 Rd1 Na5 29 Rf2 Nc4 30 Re2 e6 31 Ne4 Nd5 32 Nd6 Nxd6 33 Bxd6 Nc3 34 Red2 Nxd1 35 Rxd1 a5 36 Rd2 Rd8? 37 Rd3? White misses 37 Bxb4! which should hold. Rowson eventually won at move 54, but regardless of the final result Penrose was correct to reject the initial draw offer.

Lothians Prizewinners: Championship: 1st Jonathan Rowson (Edinburgh) 4/5, 2nd= Jonathan Grant and Paul Roberts (both Edinburgh West); Open: 1st= Ian Robertson (Dunfermline) and Robert Thoma (Austria) 4/5; Challengers: 1st James Hamilton (Cathcart) 4.5/5; Major:1st Gerrard Oswald (Sandy Bells) 5/5; Minor:1st= Derek Rooney (Holy Cross) and Keith Anderson (Edinburgh) 4.5/5; Giant Killing Prize:Aaron Straub (Oban) defeating an opponent 290 points higher - an innovative prize idea which could be copied by other tournaments.