National Chess Championship 1997-Peshawar:
National Chess Championship 1997-Peshawar:
The championship was held in the northern city of Peshawar, the capital of the province now called Khyber PukhtunKhwah, in those days it was the North West Frontier Province. The name is associated with adventure, romance and danger since time immemorial. Almost every invader of India has passed this city when on his adventure trip to India.
But in 1997, the chess players invaded the city!The armies were on the chess boards and the chess was not friendly!It was cut throat and bloody and in the end there was a new champion, winning by the narrowest of margins. This was a tournament in which 70 players participated, out of which 18 were titled (IM, FM or NM). Compare this with the tournament of 2014 in Lahore, where 86 players played and only 10 were titled. I leave it up to the reader to decide which tournament would have been more closely fought or more evenly balanced.
From the beginning there were indications that the tourney was not going to be an easy one. In the firstround: Aftab Ahmad Khan beat the talented Aziz Farooqui, a player known in the Karachi chess circles as one who is well read and with good theoretical knowledge. Khush Bakht (2050) shocked Akhtar Hussain (2300) by standing up to him, fighting for his share of space on the board and not being impressed of the ratings. NM Asad Rampuri it appears also underestimated his opponent and tried too hard, miscalculated and lost.
Aftab Alam may have thought; “I am very nervous in this game with Aziz Farooqui. He is a very well known and good player, with much more experience. I think that the best line of action would be to try to play solidly, and see what happened. I will think for long about every move and try not to blunder.
The second round showed the same trend, with NM’s Mahmood Mir, Prof. Zaidi and future champion Tanvir Gillani falling to their untitled opponents. NM Mahmood Mir did not have a good tournament and in the end managed only a 50%score. FM Omer Khan sacrificed the exchange and attacked resourcefully, but his opponent Imtiaz could have defended better. So Grandmaster Rudolf Spielmann was once again proven right when he said that a sacrifice lifts the spirits of the attacker and depresses the defender!So much so that (in his depression and worries) he does not make the best use of opportunities offered to him.NM TanvirGillani’sopponent played out of the books and exchanged at every opportunity. A draw would have been a just result but Tanvir wanted the two birds in the bush and lost the one in hand!
Round 3 shows us the defending champion battling with NM Sabir Khan. If Sabir had played more coolly hecould easily have won the game, but perhaps due to time pressure and resourceful defence by Lodhi, he was forced to split the point with Lodhi, after having missed several opportunities to win. Incidentally, it shows one side of Lodhi. Once down, Lodhi keeps on fighting and does not go down easily. Who knows what he might have achieved if Pakistan had been a developed country like Britain or Germany or with a chess culture like an eastern European country. He would certainly have achieved the GM title, along with several other players of Pakistan who are only part time players and work at other professions.
In the same round Shahzad Mirza gave an endgame lesson to Rafique Alam Butt. He shows that he is in top form and keeps on making the most of positions where play is quiet but with possibilities. Chughtai was completely outplayed by Haseeb Ahmed who showed that he is in a different class than Chughtai. Omer Khan also did a demolition job of his opponent. Whereas AzharJaved, who used to work at the State Bank of Pakistan, and every year took time off from work to participate in the National Chess Championship showed his understanding of tactics and strategy. His last move is as beautiful a finishing move as any. Feroz’s game against Mehmood Khan shows us another strategy to follow against experienced players. To get them out of the books and experience bank and rely on analysis on the board in front of them. Of course there is a danger!That you might not get your opponent out of his experience bank and then he will destroy you! 1…Nc6 was such an attempt, but it transposed into the Scotch game and a fighting draw.
Round 4 shows us what in my opinion is the best game of the tournament. ShahzadMirza plays beautifully to defeat NM Haseeb, who is certainly not a way side player. Omer beat M. Waqar in a well executed counter attack. Waqar showed his attacking intentions early by castling long and playing g4. But Omer successfully exchanged several pieces and then managed to place a monster knight on d6. Lodhi beat Sabih Alam Butt in a game which was equal for a long time but Sabih lost the thread of the game and was outplayed. Zohaib Gillani showed that with a little more hard work and luck he could have been an NM. He drew a hard fought game with Touseef Sarwar. Mahmood Khan won a long equal ending in which NM Rahat Ali missed his chance to win back the pawn and draw.
In round 5 ShahzadMirza again reminded everyone again that he was in top form by beating Omer Khan in a classic Slav Exchange variation. Omer must have been baffled by this game. One thinks, where did I go wrong? How can I go wrong? But go wrong he did, in simple positions and he paid for it with a pawn. This is another beautiful game. Sabir Khan appeared to be in depression of letting Lodhi off the hook in the last round. This time TouseefSarwar showed how a Grunfeld should be played by black. Asifur Rehman is now a NM. He was only a young aspiring player then. Being inexperienced, Asif misplayed his opening and then made an unjustified attempt to attack on the king side. He was duly punished by Haseeb for this. He could still have made a fight of it but probably did not consider the unlikely 32. K-f1. NM M. Waqar made short work of Pervaiz Chughtai in the black side of Pirc defence. In this collection, Chughtai is on the losing end of many games. This does not do justice to his talents as he is not only a very competent player but a very friendly person. His friendly nature accounts for many draws that he makes. I remember that once when playing him in a tournament I had to leave from the tournament early due to a prior commitment. We played nevertheless and I made a mistake, resigned and then quickly left. The next day he asked me that if I had such a compelling commitment, why did I not tell him and he would have gladly split the point with me. Such is the nature of the man! Sabeeh Alam Butt has left playing chess for reasons best known to him. It is chess’s loss undoubtedly. Here he won a smooth victory against Mehmood Mir in a Ruy Lopez. Zohaib Gillani won a nail biter against NM Abdul Rasheed in which he either sacrificed or lost the exchange but built up a vicious attack. In the end the position was being repeated as Abdul Rasheed himself was about to deliver mate if Zohaib had stumbled. One must remember that in those days there were analog clocks, not digital ones that add back seconds after a move. So he must have lost on time. Professor Zaidi once told me that he had won the first Pakistan Chess Championship held in 1951 or 1952. But it was declared unofficial. He never repeated his success on the national scene but was always among the better players. He enjoyed teasing and testing new players with dubious gambits like the Ponziani, the Albins counter gambit or playing 1.d4, d5 2 c4 c5! And then he would smile quietly to himself when we squirmed, suffered and worried. With me, he always showed later the correct line to follow after I had resigned and in a few rare case when I won, he graciously congratulated me on a game well played (well played or not that is not the question, he always said well played!). I treasure a book by Capablanca (My Chess Career) that he gave me. Here he played a fighting draw with Mumtaz Ali Shah. Mehmood Khan must have been surprised by Shahzad Mirza’s opening choice. Shahzad Mirza varied his openings subtly during the tournament and mixed them up so that his opponents were always guessing what opening he would play. Here Shahzad Mirza played the Queen’s Gambit Accepted. Their game was equal till the 40th move when Mehmood Khan tragically blundered and resigned.
In round 6 Touseef Sarwar and M. Waqar were involved in an uncompromising battle which turned out favorably for the white side.Haseeb Ahmed and TanveerGillani battled it out in a by-line of Sicilian Sveshnikov. Haseeb did not choose the strongest line and was clearly losing when Tanveer, who was later was to win the National Championship,not only lost his advantage but even lost the game literally in two moves. The computer said that he resigned a bit early. Aziz Farooqui finally got into positions he likes best. He beat Zohaib Gillani but not after the latter had missed his chance to inflict another shock defeat on a National Master. Mumtaz Ali Shah halted NM Shahzad Alam to a draw although a pawn down. His queen rook worked overtime and certainly deserved all the credit for its hard work. Akhtar Hussain drew with Asifur Rehman. He must have been relieved because after the last move of the game I think Asif held the advantage. His pawn structure was better, Akhtar had a passed pawn which was not supported by another pawn and Asif had every opportunity to fight on. I believe today Asif would not agree to a draw but being inexperienced, he agreed. Muhammad Feroz drew with NM Mehmood Mir in a crazy unorthodox game he easily could have won. Karachi had three Barlas brothers, Munir, Faheem and Azim. All were very keen chess players and very friendly. Azim was perhaps the youngest. He was very over weight because of an accident that left him unable to exercise. This certainly did not lessen his enthusiasm for chess and he could be found in every chess tournament that would be held in the city. I considered myself lucky to be among his friends. The whole chess community was immensely saddened to find out about his untimely passing away. Unfortunately he did not study chess and here he was beaten by another chess player who is also sadly not with us, Riaz Khan who was also a very kind and sweet person.
In round 7 Shahzad Mirza continued with his winning ways by beating NM Touseef Sarwar. He had a symmetrical pawn structure and probably Touseef thought it would be a draw. But Touseef was practically playing with a rook down as it remained on its original square throughout the game. When Shahzad Mirza placed his rook on the 7th rank it was with devastating effect. There was no choice for Touseef but to resign. Sabeeh Alam Butt and Haseeb Ahmed both have many similarities in their playing styles. Here Haseeb played the Caro Kann defence in a very interesting game. But when Haseeb resigned on losing his queen, he had not appreciated the position fully. The computer points out that he has a slight advantage! As he has two more pawns than white and if his pieces are placed correctly, a queen is not enough to win. Instead of resigning, black should have played 32… Ne7 and he is able to play on. FM Omer Khan must have thought he has a won game when he won the exchange in his game with Aziz Farooqui. Unfortunately he followed it up weakly and lost when Aziz was more alert to the tactics. A win Aziz Farooqui could be truly proud of. Nobody plays the Catalan as well or as often as IM Mahmood Lodhi in Pakistan. He is also very good at pawn storms. Here he combined both, i.e. a pawn storm with the Catalan to beat NM Rahat Ali. NM Abdul Rasheed accepted to have a weakened king position and doubled pawns in order not to lose a pawn against NM Asad Rampuri. White eventually lost two pawns! This was the result of the prolonged attack that took place. But all of this consumes time! The clock was most probably the reason why Asad accepted a draw when he was two pawns up with a winning position. Azhar Javaid challenged NM M. Waqar in an openingWaqar was well versed in. He was gradually outplayed, which clearly showed Azhar did not know about its finesses. 13… f6 is certainly not a thematic kings Indian move. Pervaiz Bashir Chughtai showed his talent by obtaining a winning position against NM RafiqAlam Butt. He then showed his mild and agreeable nature by agreeing to a draw where he had two connected passed pawns and would have been justified to try for a win. Incidentally, the presence of 5 games of his I this collection shows that his games, win, lose or draw were good enough to merit its presence in a best games collection. Zohaib Gillani lost to AkhtarHussain when he captured with the wrong rook and lost. Riaz Khan beat Abdul Hafeez Bajwa when the latter missed a zweinchenzug in his calculations and lost a piece. Bajwa showed his fighting spirit when he fought on till move 47 before resigning.
In round 8, Aziz Farooqui shocked ShahzadMirza. The game warmed up when Shahzad Mirza playing black advanced aggressively with his queen side pawns. This turned out to be a mistake as the pawns were over reached and Farooqui showed that the advance was premature when he countered in the centre and then made an attractive exchange sacrifice and with his powerful knight placed deep in enemy territory made threats and Shahzad Mirza did not play the best defence. TouseefSarwar and Sabih Alam Butt played a game in which either player was never in danger of losing. Mahmood Lodhi educated Shahzad Alam about the dangers of playing the Kings Indian. It is a very good counter attacking system. The great Fischer once said about it that “I know it’s dubious, but I keep on winning with it!” He did not venture with it in his world championship match in 1972, perhaps because he knew that the Russians would be prepared to their teeth with it. Shahzad did not make a big blunder but played several inferior moves which killed his counter play. Haseeb Ahmed played very actively to beat Sabir Khan in an attacking game. The AdeelHaidry- TouseefSarwar is a curiosity because it was probably played in an earlier round. AdeelHaidry found out that there are many things he has yet to find out about the Caro-Kann advance variation. He cooperated and made things easy for his opponent when he exchanged all the pieces he had instead of complicating matters once he had lost a pawn, resulting in a lost king and pawn ending. Abdul Rashid would have been quite happy on the outcome of his opening, but must have sensed something was going wrong when Omer placed his rook on the 7th rank. It was a massacre after that. AsadRampuri did not have to work very hard for his win against Mahmood Mir. Muhammad Shafiq played the Winawer variation of the French defence against and on move 32, in an equal position, his rook committed suicide. Imtiaz Ahmed played well against NM (and future champion) TanveerGillani but then allowed his opponent to infiltrate with his rook into his position and his game collapsed. Pervaiz Bashir Chughtai again agreed to a draw just when after having defended well, he agreed to split the point just when his position was getting better. Muhammad Sadiq got a clear advantage against AzharJaved, but in the ensuing melee he was unable to keep up with the tactics and probably overlooked Azhar’s bishop move which lost him the exchange and soon the game. FahimBarlas lost his game when he allowed Sadiq’s rook into his position and failed to exchange it.
In round 9, SabihAlam Butt attractively made use of an oversight by Aziz Farooqui.Haseeb greedily grabbed a pawn from Waqar, and never gave it back! One can sense Waqar’sdesperation in subsequent moves and in trying to win back his pawn he lost a piece as well and thus the game. This is not the first time Haseeb has done this to Waqar! I remember that in the National Junior Championship, held in Karachi, in 1983, Waqar played the Albin-Chatard attack against Haseeb’s French Defence. Haseeb to my surprise took the gambit pawn which is offered in this line, held on to it and eventually won the game. He also won the championship as well. TouseefSarwar was winning the game by move 44, and in a game which was down to a simple pawn ending. But only a chess player can tell you about the ghosts and devils that haunt one’s mind. Touseef’s mind must have played tricks on him and he lost by playing practically the one move that lost. It must have been a very bitter defeat. Rahat Ali resigned to Omer Khan in a position which the computer deemed equal. But a human is imperfect and Rahat Ali,who must have been struggling for a long time to equalize against two connected passed pawns! He must have thought that further struggle against Omer is futile. Better to conserve energy for the next round! AsadRampuri used his experience to confuse and pressurize Mumtaz Ali Shah and forced him to give up his queen for a rook and a knight, but he soon lost a piece and had to give up. Mahmood Khan played the black side of the Guioco Piano impressively to beatPervaiz Bashir Chughtai. FaheemMalghani played very well to have a clear advantage by move 38 against Abdul Rashid. Then a move lost him his advantage and he even lost the game when Abdul Rashid’s queen and rook made way to his second rank.
The 10th round saw SabeehAlam Butt agreeing to a draw with ShahzadMirza in literally a winning position. One can judge the narrowess of ShahzadMirza’s win. If Sabih, who probably agreed to the draw because of time trouble, had pressed on, if Sabih had won, he would have been the national champion. Naimatullah clearly did not know how to handle the PircDefence and Waqar first won one pawn and then anotherand white’s position collapsed. Haseeb and Omer are cousins. That does not mean that they are friendly over the board. Their games are always very interesting because they know each other so well. This time Omer came on top. If Haseeb had won, he would have replaced Omer in the top five. Here Haseeb sacrificed a knight for two pawns but Omer defended coolly andHaseeb had to admit defeat. MahmoodLodhi beat TanveerGillani. But one senses that this game is incomplete, that is that the moves are not all written down or due to a notation error, could not be reproduced in the booklet or Tanveer touched a piece, realized it was an error and resigned. But just when the game was getting interesting, it terminated. AsadRampuri came under pressure as black against Aziz Farooqui. He defended well to secure the draw. The tournament book gives a result in favor of ShahzadAlam in his game against Mehmood Khan. Mehmood Khan was only one move away from delivering mate. So either the result in the book is erroneous or Mehmood Khan’s flag dropped. There seems to be a story in the AkhtarHussain-AzharJavaid game as well. Akhtar is a confirmed 1.e4 player. He almost always plays the exchange variation against the French defence (which the reader might have guessed that Azhar plays) But the French Exchange is considered to be drawish. This was not what Azhar Javaid wanted as he had a genuine chance of becoming a national master if he won! So Azhar for once plays a defence he is not really comfortable playing. This is the only reason he did not castle long on the eleventh move and let his queen wander to an exposed position and be trapped. By winning this game AkhtarHussain comes within a win of becoming a national master himself! Mumtaz Ali Shah played the Sveshnikov which turned into a Maroczy bind and was too much for NM Abdul Rashid to handle. An impressive game by Shah. Haji Afzal played superbly to mate NM Rahat Ali on the black side of the Sicilian defence.
Seeing the draws of the last (11th) round, Akhtar Hussain must have been disappointed. A game against an in-form IM, ShahzadMirza couldn’t have given him too much confidence, so he agreed to the draw. He finished just outside the top eight. A very painful ninth and missing out on the NM title. Omer Khan and Mahmood Lodhi also agreed to a short draw. Asad Rampuri and Sabih Alam Butt agreed to a short draw as well although both had the technique to beat the other on any day, but this was the last round and if one makes a slight mistake, he would be down in the masses! But in the Aziz Farooqui-Haseeb Ahmed game, both were in a fighting mood and played riskily. The opening of the Haseeb-Waqar game was repeated and the game could have gone either way. Haseeb overlooked an exchanging possibility (and possibly a win) and allowed his king to be caught in a mating net and had to resign. The M. Waqar-ShahzadAlam game also followed a tense course as both players had everything to play for, and it seems both don’t compromise easily! Finishing in the top eight meant everything to them and there is no shame in losing a well fought game. So they fought on the board! The game was becoming drawish when Waqar made a mistake and Shahzad didn’t miss his opportunity. Professor Zaidi played one of his favorite openings, popular in the 19th century and developed a devastating attack, ending with a sacrifice and eventually mate or loss of queen for RafiqAlam Butt. Muhammad Feroz was the better player on the day when he ripped open Riaz Khan’s position and marched his king rook pawn to the queening square. Haji Afzal was in no mood to give an easy victory to TanveerGillani but Gillani eventually prevailed. Mehmood Khan won from M. Sadiq, and MirzaMunawarBaig blundered away a piece against NM M. Sabir Khan in a totally won position. AzharJavaid played his favourite english opening against Naimatullah Khan to beat him.
In the end, a most interesting tournament. There are bound to be disappointments, heartbreaks and joy for some. There are many who took part in the 1997 Nationals who are not with us today, like Professor Zaidi, Imtiaz Ahmed, AzimBarlas and perhaps a few I don’t know about. Let us spare a thought for them. They were good people. Let us enjoy the games they created and learn from them. And remember a colleague of mine who made a funny but profound comment,” Chess in Pakistan has improved a great deal. If we can only improve in 3 more areas, we will be world class. These are the opening, the middle game and the endgame!”
|NATIONAL CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP 1997, PESHAWAR|
|1||Shahzad Mirza – IM||8.5|
|3||Sabih Alam Butt – NM||8.0|
|4||Aziz Farooqui- NM||8.0|
|5||M. Omer Khan- FM||8.0|
|6||Shahzad Alam – NM||8.0|
|7||Tauseef Sarwar – NM||7.5|
|8||Tanveer Gillani – NM||7.5|
|10||Asad Rampuri – NM||7.5|
|11||Mehmood Khan – NM||7.0|
|12||Haseeb Ahmed – NM||7.0|
|13||Muhammad Waqar – NM||7.0|
|14||Azhar Javed –||7.0|
|15||Muhammad Feroz –||7.0|
|16||M. Sabir Khan – NM||7.0|
|17||Mumtaz Ali Shah –||6.5|
|18||Rahat Ali – NM||6.5|
|22||Prof. S.R.H. Zaidi||6.5|
|26||Mirza Munnawar Baig||6.0|
|27||Shaikh Barkat Ali||6.0|
|28||Aftab Alam Khan||6.0|
|33||Rafiq Alam Butt||5.5|
|36||Fahim A. Malgani||5.5|
|41||Amjad Hafeez Bajwa||5.5|
|46||Pervez Bashir Chughtai||5.0|
|54||M. Khan Afridi||4.5|
|55||M. Anwar Khan||4.5|
|65||Dr. Abid Baloch||3.0|
|67||Dr. Attaur Rehman||3.0|
The 1997 championship was actually the second championship that had some of its games published. The first one was the 1993 Championship, where myself, Riaz Khan and his son took upon ourselves to write down the moves on the now unknown program called Wordstar 4. The idea was of Riaz Khan, a wonderful and cheerful person. Those who knew him only have good words to talk about him.
I would like to thank first of all International Master ShahzadMirza who first selected and then composed the games of the 1997 Championship in booklet form and then freely distributed it to everyone. He should get all the credit for it. Many thanks to him for providing me with a copy of the games. Credit should go to him as well.
Secondly, thanks go to National Masters Anwar Qureshi and Waqar Ahmed Madni for their endless encouragement assuring me that there are people interested in these games. Waqar has selflessly provided a platform for chess enthusiasts in this unknown corner of the world and invests time and energy while being largely unappreciated. We should give a moment of thought to him for his effort as well.
Please bear with me on my rejoicing when an unknown beats a master. I am by nature a supporter of the underdog, a person who beats the odds to come out on top of the chess Goliath who out ranks the ordinary player by many rating points. I am sure any of our national masters would not mind this, as they also encourage each and every person who take up chess as a hobby.