As movies go, Whisky Galore! ranks right up there not only as one of my all-time favourite British movies but also one of my favourite movies, period. Alexander Mackendrick’s fondly remembered 1949 Ealing comedy, an adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s novel that itself drew on real events, never fails to cheer me up – even on its umpteenth viewing, it raises many an affectionate smile, if not full-blown belly laughs.
The classic movie makes mirth of a real event that happened in 1941 when a vessel bound for the United States with a cargo that included 28,000 cases of Scotch Whisky sailed into a sudden storm and was run aground on the island of Eriskay – and with added comedic licence in the movie, the canny inhabitants of the little fictitious Scottish island of Todday in the Outer Hebrides, in a bit of acceptable and understandable law-breaking, cannot resist the temptation to conspire against the authorities to replenish their much-depleted war-time supplies!
The reason I mention this, is that I might just need a wee dram myself to settle my nerves, as news reached me last week of what could well be the chessic version of Whisky Galore!, as late next month, four of the world’s top players are set to play in a one-off chess tournament in Scotland that will be staged…inside a whisky distillery!
The ancient site of Lindores Abbey in Fife, where monks perfected distillation more than 500 years ago, will see World Champion Magnus Carlsen, five-time ex-champion Vishy Anand, China’s No.1 Ding Liren, and a yet-to-be-announced fourth player go head-to-head to mark the opening of the Lindores Abbey Distillery, near the grounds of the old abbey, after a wealthy Russian blended his passion for whisky and chess.
The two-day event, the Lindores Abbey Chess Starts Tournament, will be held at the distillery on 25 and 26 May. And to mark the occasion, the distillery will also be releasing a special commemorative edition of its Aqua Vitae, Aqua Vitae Thabill – and only 500 bottles will be produced, which will cost £150 per bottle. A proportion of the sales will also be donated to the distillery’s chosen charity, STAR, which offers centres for siblings separated in foster care to be reunited.
We revelled recently at Carlsen’s dramatic finish to the Gashimov Memorial. Two of his brilliant wins – Anish Giri and Alexander Grischuk – featured a masterclass on playing with the bishop-pair. There was also another masterclass that demonstrated the power of the two bishops, and that featured Grischuk himself, against Veselin Topalov, in a game that could well have been dubbed the “Grishop pair”, as the Muscovite very methodically squeezed the life out of his opponent’s position.
Photo: Alexander Grischuk shows the power of the bishop-pair | © Shamkir Chess
GM Alexander Grischuk – GM Veselin Topalov
Gashimov Memorial, (5)
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 Grischuk follows Magnus Carlsen’s recent trend in opening choice. 5…0-0 6.e3 Nbd7 7.Be2 dxc4 8.0-0 c5 9.dxc5 Nxc5 10.Bxc4 b6 Not a bad move per se, but it doesn’t look quite right, although it does fit in with Topalov’s dynamic streak of always looking to avoid any such early queen trades. More accurate was 10…Qxd1 11.Rfxd1 b6 12.Nd4 Bb7 and this queen-less middlegame scenario – but then we wouldn’t have the coming fun, would we? 11.Qc2 After 11.Qxd8 Rxd8 12.Rfd1 Bb7 13.Rac1 Rxd1+ 14.Rxd1 a6 15.a3 Rc8 Black would have slightly the better side of equality. 11…Bb7 12.Rfd1 Qc8 13.Nb5! The hole on d6 is an obvious target – and Grischuk heads right there. 13…a6 14.Nd6 Bxd6 15.Bxd6 Rd8 16.Rac1 Nce4 17.Bb4 Rxd1+ Marginally better was 17…Bd5 18.b3 a5 19.Be7 Rd7 20.Bxf6 Nxf6 21.Ne5 Rc7 where Black at least avoids having to deal with the bishop-pair. 18.Qxd1 Qe8 19.Be2 Rd8 20.Qb3 Bd5 21.Qa3 a5 22.Be1 Admittedly, it does look as if Black is forcing White’s pieces back – but this is only a temporary measure because, when Grischuk rearranges his pieces, his bishop-pair will come into their own. 22…h6? It all starts to go wrong for Topalov from here. He had to play 22…e5! that would at least have avoided Grischuk’s next move. 23.Ne5! The knight dominates from e5 – and to shift it, Topalov has to compromise his game. 23…Rc8 24.b3 Rxc1 25.Qxc1 Qb8 26.Qb2 Nc5 27.f3 Nfd7 28.Bg3! Now the bishops are coming to life with a vengeance. 28…Qc8 29.Nc4 The knight is now heading to the more troublesome outpost of d6 – and to stop this, Topalov takes the radical step of now facing a long, tough defence with his knights having the daunting task of trying to compete with the bishop-pair. 29…Bxc4 30.Bxc4 Qc6 31.Qe2 Grischuk teases a few minor concessions out of Topalov – but they all soon mount up. 31…f6 32.Bb5 Qd5 33.Bc4 Qc6 34.Qb2 Kf7 Topalov could try 34…b5 but after 35.Be2 b4 36.Bf2 long-term, there’s the worrying prospect of Black’s queenside pawns being fixed and liable to being picked off in the endgame. Hence his reasons for avoiding any further pawn moves. 35.h3 Nb7 36.Qd4 Slowly but surely, Grischuk rearranges his pieces in an effort to gain more real estate. To do this, he must open the game up, as that’s where the bishops will be at their best. For Topalov, his job is to try and keep the position as closed as he possibly can now. 36…Ke7 37.Qg4! Kf7 38.Kh2 Ndc5 39.a3 g6? It’s the final move before the time control, and Topalov cracks with one weakening move too many. He had to try 39…b5!? 40.Be2 Nd6 41.b4 axb4 42.Qxb4 and take the fight from here. It’s going to be a tough defence as the bishops are dominant, but this position, with accurate play, Black should be able to hold without too much danger. 40.b4! With the last move before the time control, Grischuk strikes with the best possible move – and from here in, the Muscovite gives us his masterclass on how bishops dominate knights. 40…axb4 41.axb4 h5 42.Qf4 Nd7 Everything is tough now for Topalov, but better first was throwing in 42…b5! 43.Be2 g5 44.Qd4 h4 45.Be1 Nb3 46.Qd1 Nc1 47.Bxb5 Qxb5 48.Qxc1 e5 and, despite being a pawn down, there’s still a lot of play left in the position, and the win isn’t a gimme for White. 43.Ba6 Nd8 44.Qh6 The queen and the two bishops are now pulling at weaknesses in the Black position, continually forcing Topalov into even more passivity for his pieces. 44…Nf8 45.Bd3! The threat now is Bxg6+ followed by Qh7+ and Qxg6 – and to stop this, the only move Topalov has, allows the game to bust open for the bishops to control the board. 45…f5 46.e4 Qd7 47.Qe3 Qc6 48.Qd4 Qd7 49.Qc3 g5 50.exf5 Stronger was 50.h4! – but I guess Grischuk was now spoiled for choice for his route to victory. 50…exf5 51.Bc4+ Nde6 52.Qh8 With each move, Grischuk is systematically pulling Topalov apart, as there’s no way to stop the bishops running rampage. 52…Kg6 53.Be5 Qe7 54.Qg8+ Ng7 The knights are getting pushed further and further to the edge of the board – not where knights should be! 55.Qd5 Qd7 56.Bd6 Nfe6 57.Qe5 h4 58.Bb5 Qc8 59.Qd5 Qc3 60.Be8+! Kh7 61.Bd7 [see diagram] It’s an aesthetically dominating diagram moment, as Grischuk’s rampant bishop-pair and queen aligned on the d-file control the board, with the Black pieces all tied down – and despite some dogged defence from Topalov up till now, something has to give. 61…Qe1 62.Be5 f4 63.Qd3+ Kh6 64.Bc3! Stopping Topalov’s only hope is with a …Qg3+ and …Qe1+ perpetual. 64…Qe3 65.Qc4 Kg6 66.Bc6 The knights are paralysed, and with it, Grischuk moves in for the kill. 66…Kf7 There’s not even a glimmer of hope. If 66…Nf5 67.Be4! and one or even both of the knights will fall. 67.Bd5 Ne8 68.Bd4 b5? It’s hard to be judgmental, as Topalov is in dire straits here – and not in a good way, with Mark Knopfler on lead guitar! – but this is a move of pure desperation now, brought on by being frustrated at being squeezed to death, and not even having the energy to fight on a little longer after the accurate 68…Qe1 69.Qc6 Nf6 70.Bc4 Ke7 71.Bf2! Qe5 (If 71…Qxf2 72.Qxe6+ Kd8 73.Qxf6+ Kc7 74.Qe7+! covering the …Qg3+ and …Qe1+ perpetual. 74…Kb8 75.Ba6 and a forced mate.) 72.Qxb6 Nd7 73.Qa6 followed by the b-pawn rapidly pushing up the board. 69.Qc6 1-0