Northumbria Masters: Haria, Harvey & Murphy lead GM norm hunt

Tim Wall

27 August 2021

The 2021 Northumbria Masters Congress was in full swing on Friday 27 August, with a record 212 players playing across a total of six events.

The biggest UK chess congress this year, the Northumbria Masters Congress kicked off on Thursday evening at the Marriott MetroCentre hotel in Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, firmly putting the North East on the international chess map.

Players from a total of 19 different countries played their first moves in the international congress – which is the first to take place in the North of England since the last Northumbria Masters in August 2019.

The congress has been sponsored by Chess in Schools and Communities, an educational charity that teaches chess to children in primary and secondary schols across the UK, and by the English Chess Federation, which is providing support to talented young players aiming to become Grandmasters and International Masters.

Four-way tie for first in GM event

After 2 of the 9 rounds, there was a four-way tie for first in the GM norm all-play-all, with England’s IM Ravi Haria and Marcus Harvey leading the charge for a Grandmaster norm, accompanied by GM Tamas Fodor of Hungary and Conor Murphy (Ireland) all on 1.5/2.

Harvey and Murphy have just qualified as International Masters after impressive performances in all-play-all tournaments earlier this month, also held in England as the country gradually restarts serious over-the-board competition after the pandemic.

Ravi Haria, who looks set to become a Grandmaster soon after scoring norm at the Wood Green Invitational just days ago, was in sparkling form in Round 1, notching up an enterprising 36-move win against IM Peter Roberson after a kingside pawn push set up Damiano’s Mate (with a pawn wedge corralling the king on g8) on the h-file.

form in Round 1, notching up an enterprising 36-move win against IM Peter Roberson after a kingside pawn push set up Damiano’s Mate (with a pawn wedge corralling the king on g8) on the h-file.

White: Ravi Haria (to play)

Black: Peter Roberson

After 36 g6! Black resigned, as there is no good way to prevent 37 Rdh4 and mate on h8.

Slovenian WIM Zala Urh leads IM norm chase

In the IM norm all-play-all, there was a clear leader – 18-year-old Women’s International Master Zala Urh of Slovenia on 2/2.

Also with a plus score were England’s Jonah Willow and James Moreby, both 18 years old, 13-year-old Yichen Han (Netherlands), and Im Andrew Muir of Scotland.

Moreby and Han are local talents residing in Newcastle upon Tyne, just a few miles from the tournament, but both are set for a move: Moreby to go to university in London, and Han to attend Magdalene School in Oxford.

James Moreby’s Round 1 win finished with a pretty tactic against Harry Grieve:

White; Harry Grieve (White)

Black: James Moreby (Black, to play)

After 38…Rxc1! Black wins, due to 39 Qxc1 Nf3+! 40 Kf1 Qh1+, winning White’s queen.

White played 39 Rxg6+ but then resigned.

Gormally has lucky Round 2 escape

In the Masters (Open) tournament, with a total of 81 players, there were plenty of thrills and spills, with top seed GM Danny Gormally of Northumberland coming close to defeat in his 2nd round game versus Welsh international Tim Kett, but eventually scrambling a draw.

After 2 rounds, there were 11 players on a maximum 2/2 points: GM Marian Petrov (Bulgaria), IM Brandon Clarke, GM Keith Arkell, GM Peter Wells, IM Michael Basman, Peter Sowray, Steven Jones and Thomas Eggleston (all England), Hamish Olson (Scotland), Roland Bezuidenhout (South Africa) and Bao Nghia Dong (Vietnam).

The veteran IM Michael Basman, 75, world-famous for his eccentric opening schemes, joined the leading group on 2/2 with a surprise endgame checkmate after he looked likely to struggle for a draw.

In the following position, Nigel Borthwhistle (White) has just blundered with 57 Qd6-d4??

After 57…Qf1+! a shocked Birtwhistle (White) had to resign, as he was faced with forced checkmate after 58 Ke4 Qf5 mate, or 58 Kg4 Qf5+ 59 Kh4 Qh5 mate.

Play continues at 2 rounds a day through to Monday evening in the two all-play-alls, the Masters (Open), the Challengers (Under 2000), Major (Under 1750) and Minor (Under 1500).

For live games from the Northumbria GM, IM and Masters, go to:

Pairings and crosstables can be found at: