Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Intermezzo's British Chess Championship Diary

Thursday the 4th of August

I think Alex Ferguson would have called yesterday at the British Chess Championships "squeeky bum time" as the penultimate rounds took place in all competitions.

Do not let appearances deceive you.
Kevin Winter was a very resiliant opponent!
It was all on the line in the Under 160 section in the morning where I had to win with White to give myself a shot at the title on Friday. I played against Kevin Winter who is seasoned weekend player and I knew he'd be hard to break down. That was exactly how it was as he played a closed variation of the French Tarrasch (1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7). This opening has been kind to me and it was again as I played actively but solidly and managed to build a big positional advantage on the back of only a couple of small inaccuracies from Kevin. Eventually I won a pawn but once again I had used a lot of time to get into that situation and was left with only 6 minutes for my last 10 moves. Kevin sensibly went in for complications and so I was very pleased to have been able to refute his play despite my time shortage. The critical moment in the game came on move 29 when Black played Qh3, threatening my pinned knight on e6. I then found 30.Ng5 after which Qh6 runs into a pretty combination and so Kevin was forced to swap off the queens. He then fell into a little trap so that I was able to pick up an extra piece. Job done! The game is in the viewer at the end of this post.

So I now face Roger Greatorex on Friday morning for my chance to win the title. He and I and one other have 3.5 points so it's still all to play for.

Raymond Wynarczyk. Top bloke!
Having put myself in contention in the Under 160 the last thing I needed in the afternoon was a long drawn out struggle in the Open competition where a defeat and a draw had already put me out of contention. I had drawn another very strong player in the form of Raymond Wynarczyk (178) from Tyneside. I decided not to commit myself 100% to the game but to nevertheless have a go. He played a Sicilian Defence and confused me a bit with the move order. I tried to steer the position towards a sort of Classical Schevenigan and managed to do so but with some important differences. Raymond defended my desperado attack very accurately and in the end I was losing my queen. The game is also in the viewer below.

The game was over in 3 hours but it was exciting enough to merit some analysis and I didn't want to miss the chance to pick the brains of such a good player so we had an enjoyable 45 minutes or so of analysis which was really useful for me. Thanks to Raymond for being so generous with his time. After that I decided to go to the gym for an hour to let off some steam and left Pond's Forge feeling energised for action on Friday!

Wednesday the 3rd of August

A really tough day today and I left Pond's Forge feeling totally hollow despite having picked up a point and a half. The fact of the matter is that I stole my points today and made some bad mistakes that I was fortunate to avoid being punished for. On the plus side I've successfully negoatiated two more games with Black and my reasonable level of physical fitness was, I believe, a major factor in my success today. I managed to outlast two opponents over a total of 9 hours of play and benefited from tired mistakes at the end of epic struggles!

In the morning I played Graeme McCormick of Northern Ireland. He arrived 20 minutes late for the start of the game (a fateful error as it turned out) and we got down to business in a Classical Spanish (3...Bc5). He played 4.c3 and I decided to be brave and venture the Cordel Gambit 4...f5!? Objectively it's a bit dubious but, as with so many gambits, it's hard to meet over the board and I got a great position in the middle game as he played a series of inaccurate moves. Looking at the game tonight was a bit depressing though as I overlooked a simple trick to win a pawn early on and he then missed a golden opportunity to win a piece! I applied great pressure in the middle game but, in trying to find the best moves to put him under pressure I strated to chew up clock time and in the end I had to rush my last 7 or 8 moves at a critical point in the game and missed what would have been a very beautiful conclusion to the game (though it was hard to see even with lots of time) in the form of 38...Qe6!!

We ended up in an endgame where I had a nice bishop, queen and four pawns vs his temporarily passive knight, queen and four pawns. I missed yet another golden opportunity when could have played 44...Bxa2 winning a pawn (for some reason I thought he could play 45.Qe8+ but my queen is guarding that square! On we bowled into a bishop vs. knight ending and we both had just 2 minutes left at each by this point. To my utter amazement he then sat thinking for all of that time and forfeited. I couldn't believe my luck as the end game could only have been winning for White by that stage. He'd just "forgotten" about the clock. I think he needs to read my post from Monday! This game can hopefully be seen in the game viewer below (I've added it into the code so I hope it works.)

After this epic encounter I found it hard to get motivated for the afternoon game. Especially as I was playing Alexander Freeland again (I played him in round one of the U160) and was already out of contention for the prizes. We both played the opening casually and he avoided the theory books this time. Again there were lots of errors. He won a pawn and I failed to spot that I cold win it back immediately with 16...Nb4. Then things got tough as I desperately sought counterplay. I was pleased with my plan to get two connected pawns in the centre of the board but he should have been winning with his queen's side passers and made a pigs ear of it. At the end after 5 long hours (surely I must now be a candidate for my own "Obduracy Award") my resiliance paid off when he made a terrible error (my last throw of the dice) with 68.Kb7?? and the game was drawn!

Tomorrow's morning game is now massive as I'm one of 9 (!) players on 2.5 and there is one leader on 3. I have White and I must win...

Tuesday the 2nd of August

Well readers, I promised you a Championship diary and by jingos you shall have one! I had hoped to post every day but after travelling to and from Sheffield from Hebden Bridge yesterday (as well as playing for 8 hours!) I just didn't have the energy last night. Tonight, and for the rest of the week, I'm staying with family and friends and so I'll have the opportunity to tell my story and give you the news.

Before I dive into the action some general thoughts. The British Chess Championships is being held at Pond's Forge in Sheffield this year and there have been around 1,000 entries across the range of competitions taking place across the fortnight's competition. The venue itself is pretty good. My only minor compliant would be that it is far too hot in the sports hall. For such a big room capable of holding so many folks and a bunch of sweaty sporty types you'd have thought the air-conditioning would have been a little bit more effective. All the competitions are taking place in the same room and this lends the event a really nice atmosphere. In the afternoons when most of the competitors are in there is a real buzz in the room.

Of course the main event is the Championship itself in which the main contenders are GMs Adams, Short, Howell, Jones, Pert et al. It's a strong line up. Grandmaster Andrew Martin is providing expert and excellent commentary on proceedings in the analysis room and I managed to pop in there for a while this afternoon to try and get my head around some of the action. Today was Round 8 and a real battle of the big beasts was in prospect as Nigel Short played Michael Adams and Gawain Jones played David Howell. The action was not disappointing for Short put Adams under huge pressure before finally having to concede a draw and Jones won very nicely against Howell. This leaves Short and Adams in co-lead on 6.5/8 and Jones, Nicholas Pert and Jonathan Hawkins just behind on 6. Then come Howell and Simon Ansell on 5.5 and a vast army on 5. Anyone interested in the games can replay Andrew Martin's commentary or just look at the moves on the Championship website.

So what of me? I'm taking part in two competitions this week. In the mornings I'm contesting the Under 160 Championship and in the afternoon taking part in an Open competition for all comers. Lets start with my progress in the U160 which is the one I probably have the best chance of performing well in.

The draw with Mark Szymanski was no peace
treaty between club colleagues.
In yesterday's first round I drew the third seed, Alexander Freeland, and played pretty well to win with Black in a King's Gambit. I acceped it and found myself facing the Allgaier Gambit (where White puts his king's knight on g5). After a couple of months without competative chess I could have done without such a sharp opening to be honest but it worked out ok in the end . I didn't play the book line (which is to force White to sacrifice the knight on f7 early in the game) as I figured my opponent would be well prepared for that and instead gave back the gambit pawn and tried to develop as quickly as possible. Eventually my opponent forced off the queens and tried to defend an unfavorable ending but I managed to convert my advantage.

Today's round 2 draw me against the 5th seed and my club mate from Leeds Chess Club, Mark Szymanski.
Mark is a top bloke and an excellent player but I nevertheless gave myself a chance with White against him. Normally I'd have expected him to opt for the Caro-Kann against 1.e4 but today, perhaps weary of my preparation, he elected to play the Scandinavian. I built up a good advantage in the opening with some accurate play but then threw it all away on move 13 with one careless move which provided him with counterplay. We fought on in a middle game in which he always had a slight edge and my king's security was not great. Mark won two pawns in a queen and rook ending but then allowed me to swindle a draw from him just as victory seemed to be in his grasp. I was happy with a draw after a terrific see-saw game that I'll be analysing for weeks.

Peter Leggett. A friendly fellow.
Monday's round 1 draw of the Week 2 Afternoon Open was not kind to me as I drew the top seed with Black! Andrew Smith is a FIDE Master. Needless to say I wasn't expecting to win the game but merely put up spirited resistance for as long as possible. In this endeavour I was not helped by his chice of opening, the off-beat Centre Game - 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4!? Nc6 4.Qe3. It only required a slightly inaccurate move order for me to hand him a positional advantage and after that it was pretty mich a forgone conclusion although I tried to go down fighting.

Round 2 was this afternoon and I had a much easier task at hand in the form of Peter Leggett. The opening of this game was bizarre. I tried to lure him into a Four Knights Opening so that I could try a wild gambit that I fancied experimenting with. However it all took a strange turn and it took me quite a while to get anything going at all. In the end the closing stages were quite aesthetic.

All four of my games so far can be seen in the viewer below. I haven't had chance to add many notes yet but I hope readers will nevertheless find them interesting.


Pete said...

What ill fortune, drawing seeds in both competitions! Still, you appear to have made a good fist of it.

Incidentally, unless you're working on octal, I think you'll find that August is the eighth month, not the tenth. :D I don't think I'd be as lucid after 16 hours of chess in two days.

Nick said...

Hard Luck Dave I think you performed really well! Look forward to hearing about the experience in person