“Searching for Bobby Cheng!” No, it’s not the title of the latest chess movie. It’s what I have been doing for the past few weeks. Bobby decided to skip the Australian tournaments over the holidays and instead went to Europe in search of his grandmaster title. A few weeks ago he was playing in a tournament in England, then he popped up at the Gibraltar Open … scoring OK results but no GM norm. Last week I discovered that he was playing in the 9th Batavia Invitational tournament so I presumed that he was somewhere in Eastern Europe. It turns out he is actually in Holland, playing at the Batavia Cafe, and Bobby was doing quite well.
After 4 rounds Bobby led the event with 4/4 and so needed only 2.5 points from his last 5 games to achieve a GM norm. Alas, he came unstuck in the next 3 rounds scoring 2 losses and a draw but he bounced back in the penultimate round with a win against one of the lower players. This left him needing to defeat GM Baron Tal, rated 2544, in the final round with the Black pieces to secure his norm. I sat up all night watching the game, which fortunately started early, and Bobby’s opponent did not play solidly for a draw but instead attacked right from the start and gambited a pawn for attacking chances on the kingside. It was a good sign when White thought for 34 minutes on move 10 and it was soon apparent that White had nothing for his pawn. Indeed Bobby just developed logically, with better placed pieces and more options for pawn play, and after only 24 moves his opponent threw in the towel.
Even better, Bobby’s rival for top spot, the young Dutch player IM Van Foreest who Bobby had defeated in round 1, lost his final game so both players tied for top place on 6.5/9 with Bobby winning on count-back. They both had secured a GM norm so would be very happy with the result.
For today’s puzzle let’s see if you can do as well as Bobby (or perhaps better!) in his crucial first round game against Van Foreest. In the diagram below Bobby found a winning move …. but not the best move! What move would you play?