2022 has proved a vintage year for English senior chess, half a century after the Fischer v Spassky match which triggered a global boom and, for a while, made England the world No2 chess nation behind the former Soviet Union.  

Earlier English team golds in the world 50+ and 65+ and the European 50+ set a high barrier for John Nunn at the world 65+ individual championship in Assisi, Italy, but the eminent author of 30 high-class books and former top-10 grandmaster rose to the occasion and triumphed in a tense final round last Saturday.

Nunn scored 9/11, winning all his six games with White and converting in the logical style of his best years. He sacrificed his queen for checkmate in round three, and refuted unsound play energetically in round five

It was a highly competitive event of 192 players, and victory almost escaped the 67-year-old from Bude, Cornwall. Nunn lost in round eight to Jens Kristiansen, but the Dane blundered to defeat in the final round in a drawn bishop ending. A Fide online report gives fuller details, plus photos from the award ceremony

There is scope for England’s current dominance of world senior chess to continue and even accelerate. 

Due to Covid, Fide was unable to stage the individual 50+ and 65+ events in 2020 and 2021, but the global body boosted the 2022 prize fund to €37,000 and pledged increased support for senior chess in future.

Given that many of England’s active amateur players are seniors who grew up with and admire Nunn and other older GMs, there is a case for the ECF to give a higher profile to major senior events.

Michael Adams, now 51, and Nigel Short, now 57, challenged for world titles in their peak years, and both legends were key performers in June when England fought off a strong US challenge to win the world 50+ teams. They would have been the top seeds had they played in the 50+ world individual last week.  

It would be better, of course, if England had the players and financial resources to compete against the leading nations and individuals in open competition, or even to develop a world class junior squad as in the 1970s.

But the chances of either happening are small, while in senior chess there is a realistic opportunity for a decade of English dominance.

Puzzle 2497

Alistair Hill v Kayden Troff, Abu Dhabi 2016. White to move.  How did the English amateur checkmate the US grandmaster?

Click here for solution

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