Greengard's ChessNinja.com

In Howie's Footsteps

| Permalink | 41 comments

Mickey Adams has a strong claim to being the strongest English chessplayer since Howard Staunton himself. I would tend to eschew Elo and to side with Nigel Short's achievement of reaching a world championship match against Kasparov in 1993. Adams just took clear first at the 5th Staunton Memorial in London. His 8.5/11 score was a full point ahead of the other two big favorites, Ivan Sokolov and Loek van Wely. van Wely lost a pretty miniature to England's newest GM, Gawain Jones, in round 10 to knock him off the pace. Sokolov had his chances to catch Adams in their final round game but missed some superior lines in the endgame. Adams also won the tournament's best game prize for a nice demolition of Werle in the 9th round.

Jan Timman was as erratic as ever and at no time more erratic than in the final round. The Dutch veteran drew only two games with five losses and four wins. In the final round Timman fell into an ugly trap that many have fallen into before. According to the site report he was shocked by 13..Qg5! Apparently so shocked that he failed to find the bail-out move 14.Kf2 that various far less illustrious players have found over the years after making the same mistake of taking on g7 right off. Instead he gave up his queen for two minor pieces and eventually went down.


Adams v. Short is an interesting comparison. According to Chessmetrics, Adams has the higher absolute rating peak. But the long-term averages go to Short. So, all in all, I agree that the Nigel's serious World Championship bid probably gives him the slightest of nods, considering that Mikey seems stronger at the moment, especially at super-GM levels.

Although he clearly wasn't the strongest Englishman ever, everyone forgets Isidor Gunsberg, who also reached a world championship match.

Not too much fun to follow these types of tournaments from competitive standpoint. The question of how many times Adams, Van Wely & Sokolov will "not win" against clearly inferior competition says little about their skill as a chess player, especially over only a dozen games. But a lot of the games were fun to watch anyway and that's what it's ultimately all about.

I agree with Roger about Gunsberg. An extremely stong player in his time who (over time) has never received the accolades that he should have.

I'll go with Mickey's consistency over Short's shot-in-the-dark world championship bid (debacle).

@ chesstraveler
I certainly would never call it a debacle though the outcome was clear early on. In the final he played fantastic Sicilians, where in some games he outplayed the greatest ever player, not only in this opening. Not to mention the grand achievement to reach the final, on his way by beating Karpov still playing marvellous chess by that time (his 1994 Linares came afterwards!).


OK, the "first half" debacle. A debacle by any other name... Besides, as stated in previous threads, I don't like the guy.

I don't like the guy either. But I do think it was more like Fischer-Larsen where the style of both opponents let to a lot of decisive games and a final score that misrepresented the actual difference in skill than, say, Alekhin-Bogolyubov where the final score was a reflection of one player's far superiority.


I have to disagree with you on this one. Actually, I think the Alekhine-Bogolyubov comparison is appropo. It wouldn't surprise me any if Kasparov may have become a little complacent after the early results. I may be a little hard on Short, but Kasparov (at that time) was far superior. And Short wasn't (as we all know) the only world class player at that time that fell (oh boy) short.

I do remember that the vast majority of the chess world wasn't looking forward to a possible Kasparov-Karpov 6. Then again, when Short qualified it was treated pretty ho-hum except perhaps in Great Britain. Garry was petty much at his peak at this time, a scarry thought for any chessplayer.

Sorry, I don't believe that Garry is petty, but I know he's not pretty if you know what I mean. =8-)

My apologies for hogging this thread. But...It's sad to see the likes of Timman and Speelman finish with those results.

"Time waits for no man."

Sad to see Timman, a drunk, have those results... What is there to be sad about?

I actually like how Timman played it, if you could pull it off without looking shocked. It depends on the poker-ace you can pull it off with. I could see plenty of 2300 players just flipping out if Timman did that to them, but maybe 2500+ is too good.

Better a drunk than a dickhead!


First off don't worry about hogging a thread--I would rather see ten rational interesting posts from the same person than ten pieces of what some of other visitors here put on. It's useless to argue over Short's level especially since I don't consider myself strong enough a player and don't remember the match well. But I think that you will agree with me that with Nigel's style you will see more decisive games than with Karpov or even with an Anand. So no matter whether the difference between them was that between Alekhin and Bogo or that between Bobby and Larsen, the gap would be greater in a match with Nigel involved. I just find it hard to believe that a man who would score .6/game against Karpov and .58 against Timman in 92, would then only score a a .29/game over the first half against Garry. There are definitely other factors involved here.

"I would rather see ten rational interesting posts from the same person than ten pieces of what some of other visitors here put on."


You must have me confused with someone else.

I played through that Timman game Mig mentioned, and from my patzer perspective it looks like he put up quite a good fight before resigning. If I hadn't already known that he lost I would have thought he might get a draw out of it. I think he deserves credit for fighting on like that. Rather instructive the way he coordinated his pieces and pawns to defend too.

For the moment, I'll also give the nod to Short, by a whisker. His WC final plus the residual good feeling I get every time I remember him as a kid in the Master Game series gives him the edge.

BTW Mig, if there is any form of afterlife you know Staunton is coming after you for that "Howie", lock your doors and windows.

This is unrelated to Timman and Short, but Elizabeth Vicary just co-authored an amazing game with a fabulous variation remaining behind the scenes.



for that game.

The best British Chess Player ever was Tony Miles.

Short has had a better career than Adams. I guess Nunn and Sadler would be next on my list. Speelman was good for a while (1986-1992 or thereabouts).


Adams v. Short is an interesting comparison. According to Chessmetrics, Adams has the higher absolute rating peak. But the long-term averages go to Short. So, all in all, I agree that the Nigel's serious World Championship bid probably gives him the slightest of nods, considering that Mikey seems stronger at the moment, especially at super-GM levels.

Posted by: Jackson Showalter at August 20, 2007 08:22
Short only gets the better of Adams on the 15-year average, for the simple reason that Short's older and the 15 years 1990-2005 (when Chessmetrics stops) still include the time before Adams broke the 2700 barrier.

In terms of ratings Adams is clearly the stronger player, though I'd tend to agree that Short's had a better career (it's a shame Adams couldn't have won the World Championship tournament when he had the chance). That said, Adams has a style that sets him apart from other super-GMs, which makes him a great addition to any tournament at a time when most GMs are playing ever more like computers.

Adams- definitely stronger than Short- But in terms of competitions won and Candidates- Short has a major edge- you simply can't ignore the fact he won the Candidates including being the first person to beat Karpov in a match other than the great Kasparov. Short also won with Salov, Amsterdam ahead of Karpov and Kasparov. I don't recall Adams finishing ahead of Kasparov in any event.

Tony Miles was certainly the best British player in the mid-70s, but he was overtaken by Nunn, Short and Speelman. Sadly, it seems he never really came to terms with this.

He never won a single game against Kasparov - in fact, he was humiliated by him in a match (5.5-0.5).

The score of Kasparov-Short is somewhat misleading. There were a number of games where Short had a good or even winning position, but collapsed under the strain of constantly having to find "only" moves at the end of a long, exhausting session, with the clock running out. Even with an excellent position, beating Kasparov is incredibly difficult!

Of course, Kasparov was a stronger player than Short, but it was still a commendable effort.

Short was also responsible for the break with FIDE (by his own admission).

Adams is certainly the stronger player now, and it's not surprising if his average rating is better, although his consistency means he is unlikely to achieve any of the "peak" results that Short pulled off from time to time.

Surely Adams makes "Howard Staunton himself" look like a rabbit?

Oh come on...

Adams may be stronger, but I don't think that Staunton could ever qualify for the 'rabbit' title...

Fischer had him in his '64 list of the top 10 of all time - and he must have thought he could defend his choice.

James - I agree with most of your points except this one
"The score of Kasparov-Short is somewhat misleading. There were a number of games where Short had a good or even winning position, but collapsed under the strain of constantly having to find "only" moves at the end of a long, exhausting session, with the clock running out. Even with an excellent position, beating Kasparov is incredibly difficult!"

The score is misleading, if only because Kasparov could bring out his pipe and slippers after game 5 and relax. The match was completely dead as a contest after one or two weeks.

At least the Anand match in 1995 was a contest until game 12 (Kasparov only reached a 2 game lead in game 13). Likewise most of Kramnik's matches have been in doubt until the end. Short was thrashed. He may have put up a good fight for part of some games, but playing well for part of the game is like an amateur saying- "yeah but I killed him in the opening", meaning "I got to a position which was +/= and had no idea how to continue from there."

In a world championship match you should expect tenacious defence throughout, and it is no coincidence that the last 3 world champions, Karpov, Kasparov and Kramnik are all wonderful defenders, holding inferior positions for dozens of moves. Anand also has excellent record of saves, but he takes more risks in defence (he sees an ingenious try for a save and it's all or nothing) than the others and therefore against best play loses more games (his premature resignation vs Topalov at Wijk this year was truly horrible. I think if Kramnik or Kasparov had that type of position vs Topalov, at least one of them would have escaped with a draw.

I agree with whoever said that Adams adds something to a tourney with his unique style of play, but Short's candidates success in 1993 is an achievement which trumps Adams' impressive CV.

Isn't Ben Finegold originally English? I know he likes English food and is well-mannered. And he is one heck of an IM!

Alex, I like Indian food, work in IT and my favourite current player is Vishy Anand. I'm still Irish though...

Sorry to be facetious, but I couldn't resist...

According to Wikipedia "Ben Finegold (born September 6, 1969 in Detroit, Michigan) ..."

A while back, Short had a funny finger-note on ICC, quoting the Encyclopedia of Chess (or some such source) naming him as the strongest English player of all time, and Short wrote something like, "Who am I to disagree?"

Fischer had 11 names on his list. Perhaps Staunton was the "Waterboy" to the other 10 (full list [in no particular order?]: Fischer, Morphy, Staunton, Steinitz, Tarrasch, Chigorin, Alekhine, Capablanca, Spassky, Tal, Reshevsky) and had "tackling fuel." I would agree he was quite good at chess-set shapings. Hence the Staunton set.

I think Short got to #3 in the world at his peak.. whereas Adams hasn't got that high yet (I'm pretty sure...)

I think with the whole ELO inflation, comparing different period (ie early 1990's for Short's peak vs late 90's/early 2000 for Adams's) is a bit of a waste of time.

In, what, 300 years or so, I'll probably break the 3000 ELO barrier with the way the ratings are going! ;-)


Sorry, Mark, Fischer did not include himself on his own list.

Maybe Fischer can be re-interviewed re: his frame of mind when he constructed his 1964 list. Somebody seek him out in Iceland! I think he might have been kidding a little bit with the Staunton inclusion. Go Akiba Go!

PS http://nezhmet.wordpress.com/2007/07/28/1980s-photos/ bizarre old chess photos.

Has everybody forgotten about John Nunn? His win over Beliavsky in Wijk aan Zee 1985 is a classic imo.

al, I have to admit I haven't looked at the games since the match and was repeating some comments I had heard from someone else.

Quickly skimming through the relevant Informator last night, the only game that appeared to fit my scenario above was game 10, where Short had the advantage throughout, but fluffed his 40th move. Short also missed out in game 9, where he lost on time in a good position, but only after a comedy of errors in a position where Kasparov had outplayed him.

In fact, most of Short's "misses" came in games where Kasparov was much better but made a mistake, which Short failed to take proper advantage of. I don't think anyone can claim that justice was not done in the end.

Catpower, I agree about Nunn. Was his scientific career the reason he didn't achieve more?

Unfortunately, along with Andersson, he's not playing in the Youth v Experience tournament starting today. Khalifman and Nikolic are the replacements and, dare I say it, far more likely to hand out a few lessons to the young pups (although Nunn did have one nice win last year).

Going back to Staunton, he probably was the strongest player in Europe in 1843, as he won a match against Saint-Amant designed to establish that. However, he then suffered a respiratory illness which left him with a heart condition that affected his stamina.

As well as designing a widely used chess set, he invented the international chess tournament (London 1851) in order to prove his superiority. Unfortunately the other players hadn't read the script, and he only finished equal fourth. Which may explain why he turned to Shakespeare.

Even the sympathetic Golombek admits that Staunton would have had no change in a match against Morphy.

His strange life story - the unverifiable claims to be the illegimate son of an aristocrat and to have acted with Edmund Kean (not to be confused with Raymond Keene), the delusions of being a great Shakespearian scholar - gives the impression of an egocentric fantasist.

Good response James, I think it was game 1 where Short lost on time - it seemed to set the tone for the whole match.

I seem to remember Ray Keene singing Rule Britannia on the TV commentary when Short was in a winning position, which I think he proceeded to blow. Not a pretty sound...

I think that Short has to be considered to be the better player. He has obtained a higher peak ranking, and he really whipped Karpov in the Candidates Semi-Final Match in Linares, 1992. Even Kasparov had not shown such mastery of Karpov.

Short in his prime was probably a bit more talented, but he was always a bit lazy in his opening preparation.

Adams certainly played in a World Championship match, even if not as "Serious" as Short's. Granted, his opponent, Rustam Kasimdzhanov, was not exactly of the same caliber as Kasparov....

Still, Adams was equal over the 6 Classical games, and only lost the WC Match in the Rapid games

World Chess Championship
2004 FIDE Knockout Matches

Tripoli, VI-VII, 2004.


Round 7 (2004-07-06/-13)
SG : RP1
Tot - 1 2 3 4 5 6 : 7 8
Adams,Mi 3.5 - = 0 1 0 1 = : 0 =
Kasimdzhanov,R 4.5 - = 1 0 1 0 = : 1 =

The Question is whether or not Adams' match against Anand in the FIDE Knock-Out Match counts as a World Championship? Adams held Anand to draws through 4 slow games, then 2 sets of Rapid games, before finally losing a SD Blitz game to Anand. Vishy won, and then immediately had to face Karpov just after the New Year (in a match that he lost). But for those few days, was Anand considered (by FIDE) to be the Official World Champion? If so, then Adams played in another title match

World Chess Championship
1997 FIDE Knockout Matches

Groningen, XII, 1997.

Round 7 (1997-12-26/-30)

SG : RP1 : RP2 : SD

Tot - 1 2 3 4 : 5 6 : 7 8 : 9

Adams,Mi 4.0 - = = = = : = = : = = : 0
Anand,V 5.0 - = = = = : = = : = = : 1

Al, yes it was the first game (I got the numbers mixed up - I meant to say something about game 9, where they both messed up a basic R+P ending).

In game 1, Short played a new move on the Black side of the Anti-Marshall, but went wrong a couple of moves later. Had he not considered Kasparov's reply when analysing at home? Did he find something he didn't like during his last-minute check? Did the tension cause him to mix it up with another variation, or perhaps even forget his analysis altogether? Whatever the reason, a very strange thing to happen.

Kasparov built up his position, but rushed his attack. In the resulting comedy of errors, Kasparov made the last error on the board, but then Short made the decisive error on the clock. As you say, it was all downhill from there.

I think the best thing you can say about Short's performance is that he managed to induce so many errors - Kasparov was capable of steamrollering even very strong GMs without giving them the glimmer of a chance.

He put up a good resistance (Kasparov's notes are generous with exclams and only move symbols), but not enough to make a proper match of it.

As for Keene singing, that's one chess video that I won't be looking for on Youtube!

Mark Ginsburg's old photos are awesome, Kramnik's hair a wonder to behold.

I recall that someone (Hans Kmoch? Reuben Fine? I dunno) remonstrated with Fischer regarding the omission of Lasker from his list of the 10 greatest players of all time, whereupon Fischer took a fresh look at Lasker's games and decided that he belonged on the list after all.

Re: Mark Ginsburg's old photos. Wow!! Kramnik's hair !! Great photos, Mark. Thanks r for mentioning it.

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 20, 2007 6:38 AM.

    Anand Decries FIDE Favoritism was the previous entry in this blog.

    Viva Fidel! Viva Leko! is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.