Chess

England-Sweden Challenge

26 March 2022

9:00 AM

26 March 2022

9:00 AM

Three summers ago, I was invited to the Swedish city of Eskilstuna, for a brief but exciting match against their top player, the affable Nils Grandelius. Earlier this month, Grandelius visited London, this time to play a match against my England team-mate David Howell. The England-Sweden Challenge match was staged as part of the 30th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the London Chess Centre and the relaunch of Chess magazine. It was held in refined surroundings at the residence of Sweden’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mikaela Kumlin Granit. Seeing the photos, one yearns to play more chess in rooms with library ladders.

The ten-game match saw a striking contrast between Grandelius’s active approach and Howell’s supremely patient brand of chess. Howell survived a scare in game 1 and took the lead in game 4, squeezing out a win from a position which I had naively assumed was bound to end in a draw. Grandelius caught up in the seventh game, with this energetic treatment of the Italian Opening.

Nils Grandelius-David Howell


England-Sweden Challenge Match, March 2022

1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bc4 Bc5 4 O-O Nf6 5 d3 O-O 6 Re1 h6 7 c3 d6 8 Nbd2 Bb6 9 h3 Ne7 10 d4 Nc6 11 a4 a5 12 Ra3 An imaginative way to maintain the central tension. The rook is well placed in case Black grabs a pawn on d4. Re8 13 Ba2 exd4 14 cxd4 Nxd4 15 Nxd4 Bxd4 16 Rd3 Ba7 17 e5 Qe7 18 Rg3 dxe5 19 Nc4 Kf8 20 Bxh6 gxh6 21 Qd2 Ng8 Stronger was 21…Ng4! since 22 hxg4 Qg5! puts a break on White’s attack. Instead 22 Rxg4 looks frightening but after 22…Qf6 (to defend h6) 23 Rg3 e4 (to prevent Rg3-f3) Black’s defences seem to hold up. 22 Nxe5 Qb4 (see diagram above left) A better try was 22…Qf6 23 Rf3 Bf5, though it looks terribly shaky. White can choose between 24 Qf4 and 24 Nd7+. But the move played allows a powerful shot. 23 Rf3! f5 24 Qxb4+ axb4 25 Ng6+ Kg7 26 Rxe8 Nf6 Recovering a knight, but White’s attack continues into the endgame. 27 Re7+ Kxg6 28 Rg3+ Kh5 29 Bc4 Bd4 30 Be2+ Kh4 31 Rg6 f4 32 Reg7 h5 33 Rxf6 Bg4 A clever try. Instead, 33…Bxf6 34 g3+ Kxh3 35 Bf1 is mate. 34 Rxg4+ hxg4 35 Rxf4 Kg5 36 Rxg4+ Kf6 37 Rxd4 Rxa4 38 b3 Black resigns

Howell regained the lead the very next day, on the way to a 5.5-4.5 victory. In the diagram above right, White looks obliged to defend the c3 pawn, but abandoning it is far stronger.

David Howell-Nils Grandelius

England-Sweden Challenge Match, March 2022

30 Qf5! Rxc3 30…Rb5 31 Qd7! is acutely embarrassing. 31 Qxd5+ Rf7 32 h4 Not 32 Rxb7? Rc1+ Qe7 33 Ne4 Rb3 34 Nc5 Rb2 35 Re1 Winning material, so Black resigns.

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