British players defeating reigning world champions

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Christopher Kreuzer
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British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:33 am

I got my copy of BCM today (nice job, John!) and I noticed the following on page 439:

"[Jonathan] Penrose was the first British player to defeat a reigning world champion since Blackburne beat Emanuel Lasker in 1889".

This got me thinking and (apart from wondering how the definition of British varied over that period) I was wondering what the list looks like after that. Was Karpov world champion when Miles beat him? How many British players have notched up wins against reigning (or even ex-) world champions since that game by Penrose in 1889, or even had the *chance* to play the reigning world champion?

The other question is how many times did British players even get the *chance* to play a reigning world champion in the period between Blackburne (1899) and Penrose (1960)? I suspect the chances were not that many, but if there were a few, how close did other British players come to beating Penrose to this honour?

Roger de Coverly
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:56 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote: The other question is how many times did British players even get the *chance* to play a reigning world champion in the period between Blackburne (1899) and Penrose (1960)? I suspect the chances were not that many, but if there were a few, how close did other British players come to beating Penrose to this honour?
Milner-Barry, Alexander and Golombek played both Alekhine and Capablanca in the thirties. Probably they played Euwe as well.
Yates beat Alekhine from time to time, presumably not when he was world champion. Other than that you tend to find British players in the best game collections only as "Mister Victim". After 1945 opportunities to play the Soviet dynasties were limited.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:13 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Christopher Kreuzer wrote: The other question is how many times did British players even get the *chance* to play a reigning world champion in the period between Blackburne (1899) and Penrose (1960)? I suspect the chances were not that many, but if there were a few, how close did other British players come to beating Penrose to this honour?
Milner-Barry, Alexander and Golombek played both Alekhine and Capablanca in the thirties. Probably they played Euwe as well.
Yates beat Alekhine from time to time, presumably not when he was world champion. Other than that you tend to find British players in the best game collections only as "Mister Victim". After 1945 opportunities to play the Soviet dynasties were limited.
I can try and look those games up, thanks.

I looked up Karpov-Miles, and it was 1980:

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1068157

So that was a reigning world chess champion.

The wins (or was it one win?) by Short in his match against Kasparov in 1993.

To do it systematically, the world champions (just the classical ones) from Tal onwards were:

Tal (1960-1961) - one so far, Penrose
Botvinnik (1961-1963)
Petrosian (1963-1969)
Spassky (1969-1972)
Fischer (1972-1975) - none (didn't play again)
Karpov (1975-1985) - one so far, Miles
Kasparov (1985-2000) - one so far, Short
Kramnik (2000-2008)
Anand (2008-present)

I suspect Adams will have a win or two in there somewhere at the right times. I've put 2008 for the Kramnik/Anand switchover, though it could be 2007, not sure about that.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:39 am

I've looked up some of these games and some other ones (I only searched for games by Adams and Short, though presumably other British players played and hopefully beat the reigning world champion at some points):

Lasker-Blackburne (1899): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1029418
Penrose-Tal (1960): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1105990
Karpov-Miles (1980): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1068157
Short-Kasparov (1993): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1070688
Adams-Kasparov (1993): http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1014405

Adams also beat Kasparov in a simul in 1988!

http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1013712

Short also beat Kasparov 5 other times while Kasparov was WC, according to chessgames.com, one in 1986, three times in 1987, and once in 1990. No luck for Short against Kramnik or Anand. Ditto for Adams against Anand. But Adams has beaten Kramnik several times while he was world champion, once (depending on the timing) in 2000, and once each in 2004 and 2005.

That's probably just a starting point, though. Unless there are databases that you can reliably search by nationality.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Tue Aug 10, 2010 1:55 am

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Short also beat Kasparov 5 other times while Kasparov was WC, according to chessgames.com, one in 1986, three times in 1987, and once in 1990. No luck for Short against Kramnik or Anand. Ditto for Adams against Anand. But Adams has beaten Kramnik several times while he was world champion, once (depending on the timing) in 2000, and once each in 2004 and 2005.
Actually, some of those might be rapidplay games, as when Short beat Kasparov in 1993 some of the after-game quotes referred to it being the first time in 7 years he had beaten Kasparov. Short's clenched fist reaction when he beat Kasparov in that game in that 1993 match was very memorable!

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:16 pm

Miles also beat Karpov (again, with Black) in the final of the last Master Game in 1983. It was never actually shown on TV due to an industrial dispute :(

(Chandler had missed an amazing win v AK - also with Black!! - earlier in the competition)

Short's only win against WC Gazza at classical chess prior to the 1993 match was at the end of 1986. The others were rapidplay.
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:32 pm

I recall Adams beating Kramnik around 2002, though whether you count Kramnik as World champion is almost akin to being a religious question.

Speelman beat Kasparov in a televised rapidplay in 1989, if that is of any interest (a couple of years after Kasparov beat Short 4-2, all games decisive, in a televised rapidplay match).

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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Jonathan Rogers » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:23 pm

Actually I also recall Adams beating Karpov on the White side of a Caro around 1995, so whatever your religion, he has beaten at least one reigning World Champion.

Actually, how many British players have even beaten ex-World Champions? (A nice puzzler, which would require some research into the careers of Nunn, Speelman and Miles).

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Matt Mackenzie
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Matt Mackenzie » Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:07 pm

Let us not forget Sir George Thomas, who at Hastings 1934/35 defeated past and future WCs in successive rounds! :D
"Set up your attacks so that when the fire is out, it isn't out!" (H N Pillsbury)

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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by James Pratt » Tue Aug 10, 2010 10:49 pm

Blackburne played Lasker 18 times, beating him at Hastings 1895 and London 1899. On both occasions he was black (culled from Whyld 1998).

Penrose's victory was all the more amazing since he played 1.d4, something he so rarely did. The line became known after them.

Today it is difficult for me to remember exactly who the World Champion actually is. If it isn't still Botvinnik, I'd be surprised.

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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:04 am

James Pratt wrote:Penrose's victory was all the more amazing since he played 1.d4, something he so rarely did. The line became known after them.
In an interview a few years ago in "Chess", he attributed Barden's help with this game in showing him a game where a relatively unknown player defeated Keres. Barden was of course a human ChessBase when a database was a card index in the Moscow central chess club.

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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:28 am

Matt Mackenzie wrote:Let us not forget Sir George Thomas, who at Hastings 1934/35 defeated past and future WCs in successive rounds! :D
I might expand to past and future WCs. The best way to tackle this (presuming someone hasn't done so already) is to simply list all the games played by World Champions (pick a suitable starting point to define your list) and to look for the games they played against British players. You can differentiate between games played before they were WC, when they were WC, and after they were WC, as needed. And you can limit to games at classical time controls, or all games as needed. I started to do this but quickly realised that pressing a button to get a database to spit out "list of all games played by World Champions" isn't that easy. Well, for some it might be, but I don't have the right databases. I do have some statistical questions, though, and I'll ask those in another thread.

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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Leonard Barden » Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:48 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
James Pratt wrote:Penrose's victory was all the more amazing since he played 1.d4, something he so rarely did. The line became known after them.
In an interview a few years ago in "Chess", he attributed Barden's help with this game in showing him a game where a relatively unknown player defeated Keres. Barden was of course a human ChessBase when a database was a card index in the Moscow central chess club.
What actually happened was not quite so rationally planned.

The postman arrived just as I was leaving the house on the departure day for Leipzig, delivering inter alia the latest issue of the Deutsche Schachzeiting. I hastily jammed the mail into the rest of my luggage, which included my opening indexes, then around 40 thick looseleaf files, effectively a handwritten ChessBase. There was a significant excess luggage charge at the airport.

On the morning of the final round when we were paired with the USSR who had already won the Olympiad, Jonathan Penrose asked me for suggestions on what to play against Tal. I presented him with half-a-dozen bulging files, provoking a glazed look, and then as an afterthought added the Deutsche Schachzeitung which led on its first two pages with the game Ojanen-Keres from a friendly Finland v Estonia match.

Jonathan was immediately hooked and quickly decided this was his weapon for that afternoon. It succeded rather easily, and afterwards JP described his feeling during the game as being like an Essex v Middlesex county match. Tal failed to suss out Ojanen's key white plan of e5 dxe5 f5 with Ne4 and a mighty attack down the f file, erred early with Re8, fell into awful time pressure, and was crushed.

Tal had left Riga for a pre-Olympiad engagement causing him to arrive two days late in Leipzig (where on the morning he arrived I witnessed him in the Olympiad barber shop having a haircut while whizzing through the bulletins of the previous rounds) so hadn't received his DScz. Keres didn't mention his own disaster against Ojanen before Tal took on Penrose. Tal was apparenly quite annoyed at that.

What isn't generally known is that we had a fleeting chance that afternoon to draw with or even defeat the mighty Soviets at their peak. No thanks to me, as when Korchnoi as Black transposed my g3 Scheveningen Sicilian into a kind of f4 French, I was bemused and fell into a tactic where my Kh1/Ph2/Bg1 formation backed a d4 knight faced Black's Ba8 Rc8 and Qd7. I played Bd3-b5, Viktor took a brief swig at his cigarette, and played Qxb5 Nxb5 d4+ (check from the a8 bishop) forcing Qg2 Bxg2+ Rxc2+ and the rook ate my pawns. I felt a real idiot for that.

However during the time pressure Keres, who had been better against Peter Clarke for most of the game, made an error and Clarke had a brief chance for advantage, which he missed. Meanwhile Bob Wade was defending tenaciously against Petrosian and had good chances for a draw.

These two games were adjourned and I remember looking up at the scoreboard which said England 1 Sowjet Union 1, cursed again my stupidity and vowed that if I ever got a chance to get even with the Russians I would take it. I did remember that moment when working with juniors in the 1970s.

When Jonathan came into the dining hall, he was accorded a standing ovation. I think it was the only game the USSR lost at that Olympiad.

We spent ages on the adjourned games but by then Clarke was under the cosh again. If I recall right, Bob's game could still be salvaged but their adjournment analysis was better.

The opening did become known as the Penrose-Tal system, which upset Ojanen who had worked out the entire plan before his game with Keres and deserved the credit. Jonathan has recounted how Ojanen came up to him at the next Olympiad in Varna saying something like 'Penrose-Tal, MY variation'.
Last edited by Leonard Barden on Thu Aug 12, 2010 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:27 pm

It's posts like Leonard's above that restore my faith in internet fora. A fascinating report.
"Kevin was the arbiter and was very patient. " Nick Grey

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Paul Littlewood
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Re: British players defeating reigning world champions

Post by Paul Littlewood » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:48 pm

Yes..it is fascinating to hear from the players who were actually involved. I happened to be present at Skara when Tony Miles unleashed his 1...a6 against Karpov's 1.e4. It was an amazing game.....I think that part of the problem for Karpov was that he was incensed that Tony would insult him by playing such a crass 1st move and consequently he didn't take the opening moves seriously enough and soon had an inferior position.
Interestingly at Skara there was also a very young looking Kasparov playing on bottom board for the Soviets and he was murdering all his opposition of course. The most amusing thing was watching all the older members of the team trying to refute Kasparov's sacrifices in the post-mortem...but not even Karpov was successful !
Another happy memory of Skara is a snowball fight in which I got the better of Ray Keene...but that is another story.

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