In the first of a series matching business leaders with experts in their leisure interests, NatWest Group chief executive Derek Wanless takes on chess grandmaster and author Raymond Keene, who provides the following account of the game impact they can have but, argues and use them to their advantage.
I first met Derek Wanless at Cambridge in the late 1960s when I was playing on top board for Trinity College and he was playing on first for Kings. The qualities which characterised his play then - reliable openings and a solid strategy - have not deserted him since. Now, as chief executive of NatWest Group, he naturally has less time for competitive chess and has not played a 'serious' game for 26 years. He does, however, keep up-to-date with a computer and has taught all of his five children.
The arena for our game was Simpson's-in-the-Strand, the haunt of the 19th century greats. Today its past is still much in evidence: on display in the foyer is an ancient board with matching pieces that records the names of the past champions who have played within its portals. One game in particular stands out for its brilliance - that between Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritsky in 1851. Our game was played in the same room.
What qualities does one associate with chess? Mental discipline and flexibility of thought, certainly, together with careful logical analysis and decisive action in moments of crisis. The ability to calculate numerous branching trees of possibilities means that many chess players have a background in mathematics. Note that this was the subject in which Wanless gained a double first.
The Game (White: Keene; Black: Wanless) Four moves in to the game White opts for the Evans Gambit - named after a 19th century British sea captain - and pushes his pawn into the path of Wanless's bishop. Seeing no danger Wanless seizes the chance for immediate profit but the sacrifice earns White an advantage in both space and time. Three moves later White castles and Wanless responds by bringing out his knight to protect the king - an excellent step. He appears to know exactly when to stop taking material.
After White takes a pawn, Wanless castles: his first weak move of the game. White swiftly gains the advantage. At the ninth move Wanless brings out his knight. He may have been over-cautious in castling, but now circumspection is called for. It might have been better to bring out his pawn to stop White's knight invading - a move White immediately makes. Up until this point Wanless has played well. His problem is that White controls far more territory and the blockading bishop nails down his queenside forces so that they cannot easily enter the game. White's long-term strategy is to use the space advantage to attack the black king directly. Having been slow to develop his pieces, Wanless finds it correspondingly difficult to bring them to the defence of his monarch.
From here on White starts turning the screws, though by move 24 has bishop and knight in exchange for rook and pawn. The overall balance is six points each but, if anything, White's advantage has increased. His highly mobile pieces can now strike directly at the black king. Wanless accurately spots that White is threatening checkmate with his queen. He parries by using a pawn to block the diagonal. White brings up more reserves to target the pawn in front of the black king. Wanless prudently increases the pawn's defences but White's rook is a deadly threat. Wanless's attempts to defend allows a drastic finish. Checkmate is unavoidable.
The Verdict Wanless's play against a newly fashionable opening was well-informed, dependable and solid. Yet as the middle game progressed he proved over-cautious, with White establishing an unshakeable grip. Thereafter he defended logically within the restricted space available.
1 e2-e4 e7-e5 2 Ng1-f3 Nb8-c6 3 Bf1-c4 Bf8-c5 4 b2-b4 Bc5xb4 5 c2-c3 Bb4-a5 6 d2-d4 e5xd4 7 0-0 Ng8-e7 8 c3xd4 0-0 9 d4-d5 Nc6-b8 10 d5-d6 c7xd6 11 Bc1-a3 Ba5-c7 12 Nb1-c3 Nb8-c6 13 Nc3-b5 a7-a6 14 Nb5xc7 Qd8xc7 15 Ba3xd6 Qc7-d8 16 e4-e5 h7-h6 17 Ra1-c1 Rf8-e8 18 Qd1-b3 Re8-f8 19 Bc4-d3 Qd8-e8 20 Rf1-e1 Kg8-h8 21 Bd3-b1 Nc6-d8 22 Qb3-a3 Nd8-c6 23 Rc1xc6 d7xc6 24 Bd6xe7 Rf8-g8 25 Qa3-d3 g7-g6 26 Be7-f6+ Kh8-h7 27 Qd3-e3 Bc8-e6 28 Re1-d1 Qe8-f8 29 Rd1-d4 Rg8-g7 30 Qe3xh6+ Black resigns.