Harry Grieve, a 21-year-old Cambridge maths student, is the surprise new British chess champion after a week-long battle at Torquay ended in a significant generational breakthrough. Grieve, who learnt his chess skills in Guildford, scored 7.5/9, and was half a point ahead of the defending champion Nick Pert.

Grieve’s final round game with his fellow Cambridge student Matthew Wadsworth, 22, was a 75-move epic and one of the best-ever championship deciders. It had everything — a sharp opening with a material imbalance, a knight retreat from f3 to its starting square g1, two exchange sacrifices, a winning king march, four queens on the board at the same time, and a queen sacrifice to force checkmate. It was a tumultuous and memorable encounter, worthy of its occasion.   

The five GMs who represented England in the 180-nation Olympiad at Chennai were all absent due to  the near-overlap of events, so that is a challenge to come.

The outcome highlights the importance to British chess of the annual Varsity match. First staged in 1873. it is the game’s longest-running fixture, and is now played at the Royal Automobile Club on London’s Pall Mall in ideal conditions.

Grieve played one of the best games of the championship too. His sixth-round win over the experienced Danny Gormally opened with the Richter Attack against the Sicilian: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Nc6 6 Bg5 e6 7 Qd2 Be7 8 0-0-0 0-0.

Decades ago, when I used to play the Richter with both colours, the usual moves were 9 f4 or 9 Nb3. Once I met 9 h4, preparing a pawn storm against the black king.  

Grieve, however, followed up 9 h4 a6 by 10 Nxc6 bxc6 11 Rh3! d5 12 Rg3! putting the black king under immediate pressure, and it turns out that this is the recommendation of the ubiquitous Stockfish computer. He went on to score in powerful style in 23 moves, finishing with a queen sacrifice.

Puzzle 2483

Judit Polgar vs Vishy Anand, Wijk aan Zee 1998. White to move and win. Polgar played her next turn, and Anand resigned. What was the winner (easy) and why did Black give up (harder)?

For solution, click here

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