Scarborough Chess Congress 2013

Held on October 25-27, this popular event was very well supported: 50 in the Open, 74 in the Major, 65 in the Intermediate, 77 in the Minor and 77 in the Foundation! I was playing in the Minor (135 and under), my grade ruling me out of the Foundation (120 and under) in which I had played last year. Of the 77 entries I was 38th in the pecking order.
In round 1 I faced Paul Kent of Widnes, graded 125 like me. As black he played Alekhine’s Defence which had me guessing from move 2 onwards! I was soon a pawn down and every time I tried to exert some pressure, Paul came up with a move which not only removed the threat but also posed me problems. To ease the pressure on my kingside, I had to swap rook for bishop, and then proceeded to throw away bishop for pawn through a bad miscalculation. I soldiered on in the hope that, with both queens still on, Paul might overreach himself and blunder, but he didn’t and I resigned with mate imminent. Paul later told me that he had spent quite a bit of last season playing in events above his grading in order to sharpen up his game. An interesting tactic which certainly worked against me!
Saturday morning saw me with black against David Hartley (grade 122) of Poulton chess club. My Benko Gambit gave me a positional advantage but not a material one and around move 25 David offered a draw. We both had a single passed pawn and, as mine was much closer to queening, I felt I could make something of it and declined the offer. Sure enough, we quickly reached a position where only by sacrificing rook for pawn could he prevent my pawn from queening. As that would have left me with rook and five pawns to his six pawns, he resigned.
As a reward (?!) for that win, I was paired with one of the top three seeds, Omer Namouk (grade 135) of Hastings chess club. I had white and Omer gambitted a pawn early on for a lead in development which proved shortlived. I hoped the pawn advantage might prove decisive, but unfortunately I allowed him to build a very strong attack with queen and rook together on an open file. I managed to exchange queens but that left him with a rook on my second rank, with another rook threatening to join it. The only possible response was to attack his rooks with mine. Our rooks danced to and fro a few times before we agreed a draw. So I went home feeling pretty pleased with my Saturday’s work.
Sunday morning brought Paul Horman (grade 133) of Morecombe, who had white. Evidently he didn’t much feel like playing chess, as he turned up almost 20 minutes late, then asked me if I wanted a draw after 8 moves! I declined, since I at least was there to play chess for up to 4 hours, not 14 minutes. On move 13 I picked up a pawn and on move 15 saw the possibility of forcing an exchange of queens and strengthening my pawn structure in the process. Idiotically I opted instead for two moves which chased first his knight, then his queen to squares from where they, together with a bishop, bore down on the h pawn in front of my castled king. I could do nothing to defend it and mate followed a few moves later. A classic example of how to throw away a potentially strong position in favour of a calamitous defeat!
In the final round I had white against Keith Noons (grade 121) of Barton upon Humber. We sparred for quite a while in an even position, till I attacked his knight, which it seemed I could win. Alas, there was just one escape square and from there, operating in tandem with his other knight, this one proceeded to tear my position to pieces.
So Sunday, like Friday, brought me “nuls points” for a dismal overall score of 1.5. Nonetheless I enjoyed the occasion and the masochist in me, as in all chess players, will no doubt be back for more!

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