Michael Adams won the individual top board gold medal in the European Team Championship at Halkidiki in Greece, but the continued impressive advance of Gawain Jones, 23, was just as significant for English chess.
Adams celebrated his fortieth birthday on Thursday by regaining his place in the world top 20, a ranking list where his peak a decade ago was at No4.
Jones has just achieved a series of personal bests. His unbeaten 6/9 in the Euroteams followed quickly on a success at the Corsica Open, and he agreed an early draw in his final game in Greece to fly back to the UK in time for the opening weekend’s play in Britain’s 4NCL league. There he won both his games, including the elegant 16-move miniature featured below.
In the next world list due in January Jones’s rating is likely to soar to around 2650, equal to a place in the top 100 grandmasters. For almost the first time since the peak decade of 1985-1995, when England ranked second to the USSR, there will be five Englishmen in the active top 100-Adams, Nigel Short, Luke McShane, Matthew Sadler and Jones. Sadler, who has made an impressive return to top chess this year after a decade’s absence, has said that he will be available for the national team in the 150-nation Olympiad at Istanbul in 2012.
The England quintet can be serious Olympiad contenders both at Istanbul and at Tromso, Norway, in 2014, with the aid of rule changes which have halted the former USSR/Russia gold medal monopoly. Match points rather than game points are now the prime decider, enabling lower rated teams to score in key matches by narrow 2.5-1.5 wins while formerly the Soviet juggernaut would shrug off setbacks by some crushing 4-0 or 3.5-0.5 victories.
In the past six years the Netherlands and now Germany have won the European title, while Armenia and Azerbaijan have taken Olympiad and world team golds as top seeded Russia failed. England, with Sadler and Jones as potential lower board match winners, can aim high in 2012.