A line-up of seven mid-aged men, five of them in matching blue shirts, one holding a trophy
England’s over-50 team at the European championship tournament in Swidnica, Poland. In blue, from second left: Glenn Flear, Mark Hebden, John Emms, Keith Arkell, Chris Ward © Kamil Gałuszka/European senior chess teams 2023

England’s over-50 team have retained the European championship they won in 2022 — but only after a tense final round against Slovakia where they trailed 0.5-1.5 before fighting back to win the last two games.

The team of Mark Hebden, John Emms, Keith Arkell, Glenn Flear and Chris Ward were brilliantly led by Hebden, 65, who scored 7.5/8 and took the board one gold medal. England over-50 women’s team also won gold, England over-65 silver, and England over-50 B bronze in the tournament at Swidnica, Poland.

The next hurdle, the World over-50 team championship at Struga, Lake Ohrid, North Macedonia, from September 18 to 29, will be more difficult. In 2022, England won a tight race with the United States that was decided only when Michael Adams scored against Gregory Kaidanov in a delicately played knight ending.

It seems likely that the 2023 US team will be significantly stronger. The 2023 US Senior Championship is currently just ending, with a mammoth $75,000 prize fund derived from FT reader Rex Sinquefield, whose generosity has in effect made St Louis the world’s global chess capital. This incentive has sparked a formidable competition, where nine of the 10 players are grandmasters, while seven learnt their skills in the hard school of the former Soviet Union.

Nigel Povah, the English Chess Federation’s manager of senior chess, invites any over-50 FT readers who are current or former strong players (1800+ rating or 150 grade) and interested in a place in one of the England teams to compete in Ohrid, to email him at nigel.povah52@gmail.com in the next few days to receive further details. The team registration deadline is July 31, so a quick response is needed. Retired grandmasters or masters working in the financial sector are particularly welcome.

China’s world women’s champion, Ju Wenjun, has retained the title she has held since 2018 after a hard struggle with her compatriot Lei Tingjie in which the 12th and final classical game proved decisive. Ju won the match 6.5-5.5, and her prize was €300,000 against €200,000 for the loser.

The critical game was an unusual reversed Queen’s Gambit, a sharp opening line that Ju had prepared in depth beforehand and eventually gave her a material balance of two knights for a rook and pawn. It was still level until Lei’s mistake 22 . . . e5? which weakened her pawn chain and allowed the white pieces winning activity.   

Ju is a worthy champion, although her successes do not compare with the retired and semi-retired all-time No1 and No2 women, Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan, who both preferred to play against men.

Puzzle 2530

White mates in two moves, against any defence. Simple once you see it.

For solution, click here

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