Islington Open 1976 Part 1

Continuing my series featuring some of my less bad tournaments from the 1970s, we reach the 1976 edition of the famous Islington congress, which, in the 1970s, used to attract a very large entry every December.

In 1976 I played in the Open section and in my first game had White against a promising junior with a grade of 148.

We’ll whizz through the first part of the game:

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 g6 4. O-O Bg7 5. c3 e5 6. d4 cxd4 7. cxd4 exd4 8. Nbd2 Nge7 9. Nb3 O-O 10. Nbxd4 Qb6 11. Be3 Nxd4 12. Nxd4 Qa5 13. Qb3 a6 14. Bc4 Nc6 15. Nf3 Ne5 16. Nxe5 Qxe5 17. Rab1 Rb8 18. Rfd1 b5 19. Bd5 Bb7 20. Bc5 Bxd5

21. Rxd5

No idea why I gave up a pawn like this. Looks like some sort of miscalculation. Instead Qxd5 was equal.

21… Qxe4
22. Rbd1 Rfe8
23. f3 Qe6
24. Qa3 Rbc8
25. Rd6

Making matters worse. Now my computer tells me that Qc4 gives Black a winning advantage.

25… Qe2
26. R6d2 Qe6
27. Bf2 Qc6
28. b3 Bc3

Black’s last few moves have not been the most accurate and now I win the pawn back.

29. Rxd7 Bg7
30. R7d6 Qc2
31. Qxa6 Ra8

I’m now a pawn ahead (perhaps I shouldn’t have taken on a6) but Black can gain compensation by playing 31… Bf8 32. R6f5 Re2. Instead he obligingly heads for an ending which I manage to win.

32. Qxb5 Qxa2 33. R6d2 Qa6 34. Qxa6 Rxa6 35. Rd8 Ra8 36. Rxe8+ Rxe8 37. Kf1 Bf8 38. Re1 Ra8 39. Rb1 Bd6 40. h3 Kf8 41. b4 Ke8 42. b5 Kd7 43. b6 Rb8 44. Ke2 Kc6 45. Kd3 Rd8 46. Kc4 Kb7 47. Rd1 Rc8+ 48. Kb5 Rc6 49. Ra1 Rc2 50. Ra7+ Kb8 51. Bd4 f5 52. Rxh7 Bf4 53. Bc5 Be5 54. Re7 Bf6 55. Rf7 Bd8 56. Bd6+ 1-0

My second round opponent was the US master Ed Formanek, who would become an international master the following year. He often played in England and had a BCF grade of 228 at the time. I had the opportunity to use my pet line against the French Advance, with which I scored very heavily for several years.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c3 Nge7 6. Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nf5 8.
Bxf5 exf5 9. O-O Be7 10. Nc3 Be6 11. Qb3 Qb6

Qd7 and Rab8 are the usual choices in this position. Heading for an ending with two sets of doubled pawns might not be wise against a Heffalump.

12. Qxb6 axb6 13. b3 h6 14. h4 Kd7 15. Bd2 Rhc8

It’s natural to double rooks but I should have preferred f4, freeing my bad bishop.

16. Rfc1 Ba3 17. Rcb1 Nb4 18. Ne1 Rc6 19. Kf1 Rac8 20. Nb5 Nc2 21. Nxa3 Nxa3 22. Rc1 Nc2 23. Nxc2 Rxc2 24. Rxc2 Rxc2 25. Ke1 h5 26. Kd1 Rc8 27. a4 Ra8 28. Bb4 b5 29. a5 b6

Giving White a passed a-pawn doesn’t turn out well.

30. a6 Kd8

Incomprehensible. Ra7 or Kc8 would keep me in the game. Now it’s just lost.

31. Bd6 Kc8 32. a7 Kb7 33. Bb8 Rxb8 34. axb8=Q+ Kxb8 35. Ke2 Kb7 36. Kf3 Kb8 37. Kf4 Kb7 38. Kg5 g6 39. Kf6 Kb8 40. Ke7

Richard James

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About Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard is currently the Curriculum Consultant for Chess in Schools and Communities ( as well as teaching chess in local schools and doing private tuition. He has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966 and currently has an ECF grade of 177.