The purpose of this playoff was to have a reserve player should any of the Montpellier Candidates (1985) players withdraw or be unable to attend. "The winner of a match between the fifth-placed players in each of the Interzonals will qualify as the reserve should any candidates drop out." (1) The three fifth-placed players were Gavrikov from the Tunis Interzonal (1985) (and the ensuing Moscow Interzonal Playoff (1985)), Speelman from the Taxco Interzonal (1985) and Van der Wiel from the Biel Interzonal (1985) (and the Biel Interzonal Playoff (1985)). The goal overall was to select a challenger for the winner of the Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Match (1985), or as it turned out (because of the rematch condition announced in Biel in July 1985), the winner of the Karpov - Kasparov World Championship Rematch (1986).
The event took place in the London Docklands Museum (2) on the Isle of Dogs, (3) and was organized by Raymond Keene. (4) It was sponsored by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), (5) who had provided Nigel Short (qualified in Biel for the Candidates tournament) with £800 for his World Championship campaign. (5) The guest of honor at the opening was LDDC's Vice President, Lord Mellish. (4, 6) To accommodate Van der Wiel, who had originally withdrawn, three matches of four games between each pair of players were scheduled. A series of 1-hour games was the proposed tiebreaker. (4) The playing time was 1-6 pm, (7) and the prizes were £1000, £650 and £350. (8)
The first match of four games was between Speelman and Van der Wiel. It is not clear who the seconds were. Speelman was perhaps assisted by William Nicholas Watson, who was present in London (8) and had been his assistant at the Interzonal. "Van der Wiel must lack the support in London of his usual second Gert Ligterink. His place may be taken by Van der Wiel's city rival Rini Kuijf." (9)
Speelman had won the British Championship (1985) in August and must have reckoned he had good chances, but promptly lost the first game with White. In a rare variation of the English Opening, earlier tried by Anthony Miles, he played not 9.d5 but 9.Nh4?
click for larger view
9...Qxd4! was Van der Wiel's reply and the exchange could not be saved without losing pawns. The second game and the third ended in draws. In the fourth game, an Old Indian Defense, Van der Wiel launched a violent attack and had a winning position, until he played the tempting, but fatal 25.Bd6? 0-0-0! (late castling) 26.cxd5?
click for larger view
Speelman played 26...Nf6 and now he was winning! The next match was between Gavrikov and Van der Wiel. After three drawn Sicilian games, Gavrikov easily won the fourth by exploiting a mistake on move 15 (15...Nc5? 16.Bb5+!). Gavrikov was leading, Van der Wiel was out, and Speelman had to win his match against Gavrikov (who only needed draws) to win the playoff. Three draws followed and Speelman had to win the last game. In a Neo-Grünfeld Defense, Gavrikov attempted to close the game with 8...f5. Speelman placed his king on f2 and attacked by pushing his h- and g-pawns. At move 50, this method proved successful.
London, England, 4-17 September 1985
None of the Montpellier Candidates (1985) players withdrew. Speelman was left with £1000 and a small rating gain. He became a candidate in 1988.
Elo 1234 1234 1234
1 GM Speelman 2530 **** ½½½1 0½½1 4½
2 GM Gavrikov 2570 ½½½0 **** ½½½1 4
3 GM Van der Wiel 2520 1½½0 ½½½0 **** 3½
The Docklands Chess Festival (2-28 September) was the overall event. Erik G J Knoppert managed to break the world record (499 games by Israel Gelfer) for one man playing non-stop, consecutive 5 minutes games: 500! He had to score at least 75% against an Elo average of 2000. His opponents included Speelman and Keene.. Play started 9:19 am on Friday 13 September, and ended 5:17 am the following Monday. There was commentary on the playoff games and on the live feed of moves from the World Championship match in Moscow, with Short, Speelman, David Norwood,
Graham Lee, Andrew David Martin and Robert Wade participating. From the USA, Billy Colias and Eric Schiller also commented. Vaidyanathan Ravikumar played matches against top English juniors, losing to Michael Hennigan and drawing with Ali Mortazavi. There was also a series of lectures for the public to attend. (8)
(1) David Simon Charles Goodman in The Spectator, 12 July 1985, p. 35.
(2) Photo: http://cdn.ltstatic.com/2007/March/...
(3) Raymond Keene in The Times, 5 September 1985, p. 5.
(4) Leslie Stephen Fraser Blackstock in British Chess Magazine, November 1985, p. 498.
(5) Raymond Keene in The Spectator, 28 September 1985, p. 41.
(6) Wikipedia article: Bob Mellish, Baron Mellish.
(7) Raymond Keene in The Times, 7 September 1985, p. 16.
(8) Eric Schiller in CHESS, October 1985, p. 172.
(9) Het Vrĳe Volk, 28 August 1985, p. 19.
Original collection: Game Collection: London Candidates Reserve Playoff 1985 by User: Tabanus. Game dates are inferred from the Dutch newspapers at http://www.delpher.nl/nl/kranten/ and The Times. Thanks to User: Paint My Dragon for information from CHESS and BCM. User: OhioChessFan improved the English.