Reports | July 05, 2010 22:14

Victorious comeback for Matthew Sadler

Victorious comeback for Matthew SadlerHe didn't play an official tournament game for eleven years, but this weekend he returned to the arena in Haarlem, The Netherlands where he won a 6-round weekender: Matthew Sadler. The English grandmaster finished on 5/6, half a point ahead of GMs Kravtsiv and Maxim Turov and IM Chiel van Oosterom.

Matthew Sadler, for the first time in a classical chess tournament since 1999 | Photo © Peter Binkhorst

Perhaps inspired by Dutch GM Paul van der Sterren, who will return to the chess scene in September to play in the Dutch league for chess club Caissa (Amsterdam), this weekend another strong grandmaster made a comeback in The Netherlands. Former British Champion and Olympiad gold medalist Matthew Sadler (2617) played in the annual weekender in Haarlem and duly won the first classical tournament he played in eleven years.

Just how strong Sadler was, before he retired from tournament chess in 1999 to start a professional IT career in The Netherlands, becomes clear from the following facts (borrowed from Wikipedia). He won the British Championship in 1995 at the age of 21 and again in 1997 (jointly with Michael Adams). He represented England at the 1996 Olympiad in Yerevan, Armenia, scoring 10½/13 and winning a gold medal for the best score on board four. Two years later he scored 7½/12 in Elista.

Sadler made 7/9 on board four for England at the European Team Championship in Pula in 1997, the best individual score by the five-man English team. It helped in winning the gold medal in a major senior event for the first (and to date only) time in English chess history. Sadler also proved a good writer, winning the British Chess Federation's book of the year award for his 2000 book Queen's Gambit Declined.

Since 1999 Sadler only played in team competitions, but on May 5th this year he returned to the tournament scene. He participated in a rapid tournament in Wageningen, his first in eleven years, and finished clear first with 7/7, ahead of strong grandmasters Jan Timman, Friso Nijboer and Daniel Fridman.

This weekend in Haarlem, Sadler won with 5 out of 6. He beat Bart von Meijenfeldt (2191), IM Chiel van Oosterom (2381) and GM Martyn Kravtsiv, and then drew with GM Robin Swinkels (2485) and GM Erik van den Doel (2576). In the last round he beat GM Zhaoqin Peng (2388) to stay half a point ahead of Kravtsiv, Turov and Van Oosterom. We certainly hope Mr Sadler will play more tournaments, as his chess still looks fresh and original. (What about starting with 1...a6 and 2...h6 with Black against an IM, undoubtly to avoid theory, and winning in 22 moves? All of his games can be found below in the game viewer.)

NOVA Tournament (Haarlem) 2010 | Final Standings (top 20)

NOVA Tournament (Haarlem) 2010 | Final Standings (top 20)

Games of the top boards

Game viewer by ChessTempo


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Norbert's picture

So no one spoke to him whether his re-appearance can be considered a comeback? It is time for an interview, Chessvibes!

kees's picture

The tournament wasn't fide-rated.

Meppie's picture

I was surpised by the number of 7 (seven!) GM's in this tournament.

noyb's picture

Wow, Sadler's win with Black (1... a6, 2... h6) vs. Van Oosterom is a real treat! Well played!

Old IM's picture

please visit Martyn homepage

john's picture

wow that IM played like I do a pawn up. Not surprised he got crushed lol

Ben's picture

Sadler won this year already the Wageningen Open.

Stephen's picture

A very nice guy despite ceann's rather childish comments. His father worked for the same bank as me in the 1980s. Matthew gave a simul against the players in the bank's chess club. Although he was only about 13 at the time he beat us all up pretty bad ! It would be nice to see him play more frequently.

Peter Doggers's picture

Which is mentioned in this report.

Sergio's picture

I loved that game where he started with a6 and then h6. I would get frustrated if someone plays that against me and even get more frustrated if i would get crushed in just 22 moves.

ceann's picture


Horst's picture

And tonight, Hicham Boulahfa (2064) paid tribute to this nice game with a6 and h6 by Sadler by trying his luck with...
exactly the same opening with black against...
tournament favourite GM Sergey Tiviakov (2634)!
However, Boulahfa did not manage to repeat the result, losing after 27 moves.

Horst's picture

By the way, this happened at the first round of the Leiden chess tournament, the game is shown here:

Billy's picture

Matthew was a fool to give up chess when he did. He has an awesome talent and was well capable of reaching 2700+ ... if he comes back, that should be his goal - 2700+ - and to fulfil his amazing talent once and for all. Yes, it will be hard, but he can do it, there is no doubt about it. The question is: has Matthew Sadler got the guts, the passion, the desire, the will to win, the mind of a world class boxer to get to 2700+ and then perhaps challenge for the world title, which he should have done many years ago. I like to think so, but I think he needs to do a Fischer and totally absorb himself into the game, otherwise he'll fall short, but if he can give it his all, and enjoy very moment of it, I think Sadler could exceed anything he has ever done before in chess. It's up to him to prove it to himself.

Ian's picture

I wonder if he'll make himself available to the England team ? We were at our best when MS played his part.

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