The Return of GM Jonathan Rowson

An article, Rowson Returns!, appeared at the website of the United States Chess Federation dated February 7, 2023 (, which was written by John Hartmann. The article includes a nice picture of the older, pensive, Rowson, obviously lost in thought.

Jonathan Rowson (courtesy Brendan O’Gorman)

Event: Mindsports Masters GM
Site: London ENG Date: 09/13/2022
ECO: E20 Nimzo-Indian defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bd2 c5 5.d5 O-O 6.f3 d6 7.e4 exd5 8.cxd5 Nh5 9.g4 (Jahn Hartmann attaches a !?, to the move, which means “A move deserving attention.” I’ll say!

Position after 9 g4

It is difficult to believe any GM, or any titled player for that matter, would play such a weak, losing move. The Rowson page at shows he only played nine games between 2014 and 2017. There is a gap from then until 2022. Any player returning after such a long layoff could be considered “out of form.” Let us think of him as “Rusty” Rowson. Still, no matter how out of form was Rusty Rowson, the fact is that no Grandmaster, whether in, or out of, form, would play such a move, violating as it does many Chess ‘rules’. If teaching the Royal Game to a student any Chess teacher would CRINGE upon seeing such a move. With that in mind, why did the Rusty one play a losing move? Your guess is as good as mine… Maybe someone will bring this post to the attention of Rusty and he will leave a comment explaining why he played a losing move so early in the game.

In his annotations to the game John Hartmann writes, “A remarkable concept. White gives up the exchange for hamstringing the black queen.” Say WHAT? After this move white is BUSTED, Buster! Mr. Hartmann needs to replace that exclamation mark with a second question mark.

9…Qh4+ (Duh) 10.Ke2 Ng3+ 11.hxg3 Qxh1 12.Kf2

Position after 12. Kf2

(The annotator gives the move a “!?” and writes, “A remarkable concept. White gives up the exchange for hamstringing the black queen.” Say WHAT? After this move white is BUSTED, Buster! Mr. Hartmann needs to replace that exclamation mark with a second question mark.) 9…Qh4+ (Duh) 10.Ke2 Ng3+ 11.hxg3 Qxh1 12.Kf2 (I had quickly gotten to this position in my mind because there is a pause for, “This position is well worth analyzing without an engine because there are options at every turn.” Say WHAT? That sentence is the definition of superfluous as it could be said about most Chess moves. Regardless, the fact is that while reading and replaying the game on the USCF website I noticed colorful variations, not in the sense of a “colorful” Chess variation, but variations in different colors. Being a straight, no chaser, kinda guy

I decided to input the moves up to this point into 365Chess and play it out on a board sans annotations. After imputing 9 g4 I saw there were two games in the database so I clicked on and… It was necessary to click onto all the moves until 12.Kf2, which was when this game, in addition to “Aronian v Efimenko,” was found, blowing what’s left of my mind… Not one, but TWO, different GMs had played a losing move on the ninth move of the game! Inquiring minds MUST KNOW, so off I went to see the Fish, Stock, that is. After thrusting the g pawn Stockfish gives -2.0. Like I said earlier, BUSTED! No doubt a doubly remarkable concept.)

Rowson, Jonathan (2561)
Willow, Jonah B (2385)
Event: Mindsports Masters GM
Site: London ENG Date: 09/13/2022
Round: 8.5 Score: ½-½
ECO: E20 Nimzo-Indian defence
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Bd2 c5 5.d5 O-O 6.f3 d6 7.e4 exd5 8.cxd5 Nh5 9.g4 Qh4+ 10.Ke2 Ng3+ 11.hxg3 Qxh1 12.Kf2 c4 13.Be3 h5 14.Bg2 Qh2 15.Nb5 Nd7 16.Ne2 hxg4 17.f4 Nc5 18.Kf1 Nd3 19.Qc2 Bc5 20.Bxc5 Nxc5 21.Nxd6 b6 22.b4 cxb3 23.axb3 Ba6 24.Rxa6 Nxa6 25.e5 Rad8 26.Nf5 Rfe8 27.d6 Qh5 28.Ned4 Nc5 29.b4 Ne6 30.Nc6 g6 31.Nfe7+ Kg7 32.Nd5 Qh2 33.Qf2 Rh8 34.b5 Rh3 35.f5 gxf5 36.Nxd8 Nxd8 37.Qxf5 Rh6 38.Nf4 Qxg3 39.Qg5+ Rg6 40.Nxg6 Qd3+ 41.Kg1 Qd4+ 42.Kh1 fxg6 43.Qf6+ Kh7 44.Qe7+ Kh6 45.Qh4+ Kg7 46.Qf6+ Kh7 47.Kh2 Qe3 48.Qe7+ Kh6 49.Qh4+ Kg7 50.Qf6+ Kh7 51.Qe7+ ½-½

Aronian, Levon (2693)
Efimenko, Zahar (2620)
Event: EU-ch 6th
Site: Warsaw Date: 06/28/2005
Round: 10 Score: 1-0
ECO: E20 Nimzo-Indian, Kmoch variation
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 c5 5.d5 O-O 6.e4 d6 7.Bd2 exd5 8.cxd5 Nh5 9.g4 Qh4+ 10.Ke2 Ng3+ 11.hxg3 Qxh1 12.Kf2 Nd7 13.Bg2 Qh2 14.a3 Bxc3 15.Bxc3 Qh6 16.f4 Qg6 17.Bf3 Re8 18.Kg2 f6 19.Qc2 b5 20.Nh3 Nb6 21.f5 Qf7 22.b3 Nd7 23.Nf4 Ne5 24.Rh1 h6 25.Ne6 Bxe6 26.dxe6 Qc7 27.Rd1 Nxf3 28.Kxf3 a5 29.Bd2 Ra6 30.Rh1 d5 31.exd5 Qb7 32.Qe4 Rd8 33.Re1 Qxd5 34.Qxd5 Rxd5 35.e7 Ra8 36.e8=R+ Rxe8 37.Rxe8+ Kf7 38.Re2 Rd3+ 39.Be3 Rxb3 40.Rc2 Rxa3 41.Rxc5 Rb3 42.Rc8 a4 43.Ke4 a3 44.Ra8 Rb4+ 45.Bd4 Ra4 46.Rxa4 bxa4 47.Kd3 a2 48.Kc2 Ke7 49.Bc5+ 1-0

Grandmaster Rowson is a very interesting fellow whom I had the pleasure to meet and talk at a World Open. One of the book reviews found at this blog concerns one of his books, and the multi-part review elicited this from a reader concerning the review. “This is, with a doubt, the longest, and best, book review I have ever read!” That may, or may not, be hyperbole, but I will take it because more condemnation has been received concerning what has been written on the blog than praise…Check out part one here:

The Moves That Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life: Part One

Hastings Last Round

We will look at how the players profiled in a previous post on Hastings fared in the tournament.

Adam Taylor

finished with a score of 5 1/2 out of 9, which included the upset win over Sengupta in the first round and three draws with GM’s. He drew with Black against GM Alexander Cherniaev (2436) in the second round; Alexandr Fier, with White, in the penultimate round; and Bogdan Lalic (2415),

also playing White, in the last round. Mr. Taylor’s performance rating was 2452, over 200 points higher than his FIDE rating.

Adam C Taylor vs Bogdan Lalic

Last round

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Bg4 3. Bg2 Nd7 4. O-O e6 5. c4 Ngf6 6. b3 Bd6 7. Bb2 O-O 8. d3 c6 9. h3 Bh5 10. Nbd2 a5 11. a3 Re8 12. e4 1/2-1/2

GM Deep Sengupta

won his last round game with Danny Gormally (see below) to tie for first place with IM Yiping Lou,

who settled for a short draw with Arghyadip Das

in the final round to finish with 7 points.

Yiping Lou vs Arghyadip Das

Last round

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. Qxc3 O-O 7. Bg5 dxc4 8. Qxc4 b6 9. Nf3 Ba6 10. Qa4 c5 11. dxc5 bxc5 12. Rd1 Qb6 13. Bxf6 gxf6 14. Rd2 Nc6 15. Qg4+ Kh8 16. Qh4 Kg7 17. Qg4+ Kh8 18. Qh4 Kg7 1/2-1/2

After his first round draw with GM Daniel Gormally in round one Kim Yew Chan (2299) beat an FM with Black in the second round. Then the wheels came off as he first lost to GM Alexander Cherniaev with White in the third round. He drew with the Black pieces versus a player rated 1961, Mikolaj Rogacewicz, in the fourth round before losing to a titled woman player rated only 1993 WFM Rasa Norinkeviciute in the fifth round. Unable to take the woman’s Chess punch, he withdrew. His PR was only 2151.

GM Jens Kristiansen (2415),

playing White, managed to draw a long game versus John N Sugden (2059). The GM is sixty five years young, showing fighting spirit the above named players who agreed to quick draws should envy, if not emulate. There is no shame in a game of 70+ moves which ends in a hard fought draw, unlike the aforementioned gentlemen with short drawers.

Jens Kristiansen vs John N Sugden

Final round

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Bd3 cxd4 6. exd4 d5 7. Nf3 O-O 8. O-O dxc4 9. Bxc4 Nbd7 10. Bg5 Nb6 11. Bb3 Be7 12. Qd3 Bd7 13. Bc2 g6 14. Bh6 Re8 15. Ne5 Nbd5 16. Qg3 Nh5 17. Qf3 Bf6 18. Nxd5 Bxe5 19. dxe5 exd5 20. Qxd5 Bc6 21. Qxd8 Raxd8 22. f4 Rd2 23. Rf2 Rd4 24. Rd1 Red8 25. Rxd4 Rxd4 26. f5 Ng7 27. f6 Ne6 28. Bb3 Rd7 29. Be3 a6 30. h3 Kf8 31. Kh2 Nd4 32. Bxd4 Rxd4 33. e6 fxe6 34. Bxe6 Bd5 35. Bxd5 Rxd5 36. Re2 Rd7 37. Re6 Kf7 38. Rb6 g5 39. Kg3 Kg6 40. Kf3 h5 41. Ke3 Kf5 42. a4 h4 43. a5 Ke5 44. b4 Kf5 45. Kf3 Rd3+ 46. Ke2 Rd7 47. Ke3 Ke5 48. b5 axb5 49. f7 Rxf7 50. Rxb5+ Kf6 51. Kd4 Ke6 52. Rxg5 Rf2 53. Ke3 Ra2 54. Kf3 Kf6 55. Rg4 Ra3+ 56. Kf2 Ra2+ 57. Kg1 Rxa5 58. Rxh4 Rb5 59. Rh8 Rb2 60. h4 b5 61. Kh2 Rb3 62. Rb8 Kf5 63. Rg8 b4 64. h5 Rc3 65. h6 Rc7 66. Rg7 Rc8 67. g4+ Kf4 68. h7 Rh8 69. g5 b3 70. g6 b2 71. Rb7 Kf5 1/2-1/2

Jonah B Willow (2152), with the Black pieces, beat Brian Hewson (2007) in the last round. He also won the previous round game to finish with a flourish. Unfortunately the games between his opening round draw with GM Kristiansen and the penulitmate round were not kind to Mr. Willow.

Hewson, Brian W R vs Willow, Jonah B

Last round

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 c5 4. d5 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 7. e4 a6 8. a4 Bg4 9. Be2 Bxf3 10. gxf3 Bg7 11. Be3 Nbd7 12. Qd2 O-O 13. Bh6 Re8 14. h4 Nh5 15. Bg5 Qa5 16. Nd1 Qc7 17. a5 f5 18. Nc3 f4 19. Bxf4 Nxf4 20. Qxf4 Rf8 21. Qg5 Be5 22. Qd2 Bf4 23. Qc2 Ne5 24. Nd1 Qf7 25. Ra3 Rae8 26. Ne3 Bxe3 27. Rxe3 Qc7 28. Qa4 Rc8 29. Kd2 Rf4 30. Kc2 Rcf8 31. Qa3 h5 32. Qb3 R8f7 33. Qb6 Qxb6 34. axb6 Nxf3 35. Kd1 Ne5 36. f3 0-1

The Najdorf was my weapon in the 1970’s. Like many other players who also played The Najdorf, Bobby Fischer had a tremendous influence on making The Najdorf my weapon in the 1970’s. Returning to Chess from years of playing Backgammon professionally I no longer played The Najdorf simply because of not having the time to keep up with the ever changing and developing theory of the opening. The Najdorf is so much more than just an opening; it is an opening SYSTEM. Players who challenge The System have thrown EVERYTHING against it, yet The System prevails. The System works unless and until someone screws up The System more than Donald J. Trump has screwed up the US system of government. GM Gormally’s handling of The System is such an example.

One thing learned from my time attempting to play The Najdorf is that many of the same moves feature in The System. What is important is WHEN they are played, and in what ORDER. Once one learns The System the moves sort of fall into place as one gets a “feel” for what to play and when to play it. The first thing that hit me when playing over the game was that the move 7…Qc7 is not good because White can obtain a very good position by taking the Knight immediately, playing 8 Bxf6. I never played anything other than 7…Be7. I studied other ways of playing without the move, but found none appealing. Deep refused to play the best move and played 8 Qf3, cutting the Gorm much slack. Unfortunately, the Gorm once again refused to play Be7. When he did finally play Be7 on his ninth move it was the wrong move. He should have played 9…b5. Gormally never played b5. The reason one plays a3 in the Najdorf is to follow with the move b5 ASAP. If one is not going to play b5 then one should not attempt playing The System known as the Najdorf. Frankly, this is a pitiful effort by GM Gormally, especially considering it was the last round. The way he played The Najdorf System resembles something a player learning The Nadjorf System might produce, not something one would expect from a long time veteran like the Gorm. I continue reading his fine book, Insanity, passion and addiction: a year inside the chess world, with his constant comments questioning why he continues playing Chess. After this game the Gorm needs to do some SERIOUS soul searching. Maybe he should get a job, or become one of the GM’s he writes about who stay home and give lessons via the internet.

Deep Sengupta vs Daniel W Gormally

Last round

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 cxd4 5. Nxd4 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qc7 8. Qf3 Nbd7 9. O-O-O Be7 10. g4 h6 11. Bxf6 Bxf6 12. h4 Qb6 13. Nb3 Nc5 14. Nxc5 Qxc5 15. e5 dxe5 16. Ne4 Qc6 17. Bg2 Be7 18. fxe5 O-O 19. g5 Qb5 20. Qg3 h5 21. Nf6+ Kh8 22. Nxh5 Bd7 23. Qg4 Rac8 24. Nf6 gxf6 25. gxf6 Bxf6 26. Qh5+ 1-0

Hastings Upsetting First Round

The first round of any strong open tournament invariably captures my attention and the Hastings tournament was no exception. Replaying the upsets, which includes any drawn game by a much lower rated player, is enjoyable. The first game I wish to bring to your attention is a player who has been on my pages recently. GM Daniel Gormally was held to a draw by Kim Yew Chan, rated 2299. Not much to say when the Queens come off on the tenth move, other than that the ‘Gorm’ could have played something like 1…f5!

Daniel Gormally (2477) vs Kim Yew Chan (2299)

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. b3 Bg7 4. Bb2 d6 5. d4 c5 6. g3 Ne4 7. Nbd2 Qa5 8. Qc1
Nxd2 9. Qxd2 Qxd2+ 10. Kxd2 Nc6 11. e3 Bg4 12. Bg2 O-O 13. Kc1 e5 14. dxc5 dxc5
15. h3 Bf5 16. Ne1 Rfd8 17. Bxc6 bxc6 18. g4 Be6 19. Nf3 f6 20. Kc2 h5 21. Rag1
Kf7 22. e4 1/2-1/2

The next game features GM Jens Kristiansen, who won the 22nd World Senior in 2012, also earning the GM title. Born in 1952, Jens should be eligible for the ‘older’ Senior division which is 65+. His opponent, Jonah B Willow, born in 2002, was rated 2252.

Bobby Fischer said every game has a ‘critical’ moment. Since everyone has an ‘engine’ I want to provide the moves then interject a diagram at what hit me as a ‘critical’ moment. In the best world, you the reader, would have a Chess board with the position set up so as to cogitate a little.

Jonah B Willow (2252) vs GM Jens Kristiansen (2415)

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 b6 4. Bd3 Bb7 5. O-O Be7 6. c4 c5 7. Nc3 cxd4 8. exd4
d6 9. d5 e5 10. Nh4 g6 11. f4 Nfd7 12. Nf3 f5 13. Bc2 O-O

After attempting tournament Chess I decided to review my games in order to ascertain why I was losing so many games. It was apparent I was making mistakes around move 13. I do not have Triskaidekaphobia, but the number 13 stuck with me. Having a somewhat rational mind I concluded my problem was with the transition from the opening to the middle game. The GM’s next move reminded me of some of the ‘salvo’s’ fired around my 13th move.

14. g4 fxg4 15. Ng5 Nc5 16. Qxg4 Bxg5 17. fxg5 Rxf1+ 18. Kxf1 Qf8+ 19. Kg2 Bc8 20. Qe2 Bf5 21. Be3 Qc8 22. Bxf5 gxf5 23. Rf1 Nba6 24. a3 f4 25. Bg1 Qf5 26. b4 e4 27. Kh1 f3 28. Qd2 Nd3 29. Be3 Qh3 30. Kg1

Qg4+ 31. Kh1 Qh3 32. Kg1

Qg4+ 33. Kh1 Qh3 1/2-1/2

OH NO, MR. BILL! Did you see the move? After outplaying his GM opponent Mr. Willow must have wept when seeing the beautifully centralizing move 30…Ne5! Then he missed it again on move 32!

The last game we will focus on was THE UPSET of the round.

Adam C Taylor (2242) vs GM Deep Sengupta (2586)

1. Nf3 d5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 Bg4 4. Ne5 Bf5 5. c4 c6 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. O-O e6 8. d3
Bd6 9. Qa4+ Nbd7 10. Bf4 Qe7 11. e4 dxe4 12. dxe4 Bg4 13. Nxd7 Qxd7 14. Qxd7+
Kxd7 15. Bxd6 Kxd6 16. h3 Bh5 17. f4 Ke7 18. g4 Nxg4 19. hxg4 Bxg4 20. Bf3 Bxf3
21. Rxf3 Rhd8 22. Nc3 Rd2 23. Rf2 Rad8

24. Raf1 a6

25. Rxd2 Rxd2 26. Rf2 Rd3 27. Kf1 h5 28. Ke2 Rg3 29. e5 f5 30. exf6+ gxf6 31. Rh2 Rg8 32. Ne4 Rh8 33. Kf3 h4 34. Rc2 f5 35. Ng5 Kd7 36. Rd2+ Ke7 37. Re2 Rh6 38. Kg2 Kd7 39. Kh3 Ke7 40.Re3 Kd7 41. a4 b6 42. Nf3 Kd6 43. Nxh4 Kc5 44. Kg3 Kb4 45. b3 a5 46. Nf3 Rg6+ 47. Ng5 Rg8 48. Kf3 Rd8 49. Nxe6 Rd7 50. Ke2 Ka3 51. Kf3 Kb2 52. Kg3 Kc2 53. Kh4 Rd6 54. Kg5 Kd2 55. Re5 Kc3 56. Kxf5 Kxb3 57. Re4 1-0

The move that would have brought the house down vividly illustrates why I was known as the coach who had the mantra of “Examine All Checks!” A teacher should be able to impart the three golden questions:
“Why did my opponent make that move?”
“What move do I want, or need, to make?
“Am I leaving anything en prise?”

Then the student is ready for what follows: “Examine All Checks!” If your King is in position to be checked after making your move a player better know how the King will get out of check before moving.