Late summer is the traditional time for a new chess season, but this year clubs are reopening and weekend congresses resuming amid a basic uncertainty. On the one hand, Covid-19 wiped out almost all over-the-board chess activity in 2020; on the other, there has been a massive boom in the game online, sparked by Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit and by world champion Magnus Carlsen.

So far, results are mixed. Some English clubs such as Liverpool, Harrogate and Camberley are already in full swing, with an influx of new members, while others have yet to reopen. Congresses such as this weekend’s Northumberland event in Gateshead are oversubscribed, but popular events in Guernsey and Torbay have been cancelled.

The most striking positive has been with small tournaments giving opportunities for international titles and norms. Muswell Hill produced two master results, while the Wood Green Invitational, which finished on Monday, provided a second (of three needed) grandmaster norm for 22-year-old Ravi Haria and an IM title for Marcus Harvey. The tournament was played at Stafford, but got its name because most competitors represent Wood Green in England’s national league.

Haria made his mark earlier this year when he defeated strong GMs from France, Germany and Russia in the knockout World Cup. He won with 7.5/9 at Stafford, and now needs another 36 rating points and one more norm for the GM title. It should not be long delayed. 

Haria’s best win, against the Hungarian top seed, showed the power of two rooks on the seventh, also known as raging rooks, as they caught the white king in a mating net.

Next month the England team of six, including three women or girls, competes in the Fide online Olympiad, for which 150 countries entered. If international chess sounds too distant for FT readers, it is not if you are among the millions who play online.

Membership of the English Chess Federation opens the door for internet players of all standards from strong to weak to take part in individual and team national, and even international, contests.

Puzzle 2433

Yuri Averbakh vs Peter Dubinin, Moscow 1951. White to play. What was his winning move? Averbakh, at 99 the world’s grandmaster, was in intensive care with Covid-19 a few weeks ago, but has since been released from hospital.

For solution, click here

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