Last weekend I took part in the South Lakeland chess congress at Grange-over-sands. There were five sections and I was entered in the Minor 1 section (135-121). There were 24 competitors and mine was the thirteenth highest grading, so I was pretty much bang in the middle of the field. I took a bye on the Friday night and on Saturday morning had white against Ahmed Abbas (123) from Manchester 3Cs. I played Ahmed in the same tournament two years ago and lost a close game. This time we agreed a draw after 52 moves and a really good, hard and evenly matched game. The afternoon brought black against Ian Blencowe (129) from Gloucester. Ian played really slowly – even slower than me! – which meant that we were one of the last games to finish, even though our game only went to 40 moves. I had a clear positional advantage but was starting to suffer from chess fatigue after over seven hours’ chess that day, and gradually I allowed my advantage to slip away and was obliged to force the draw by perpetual check. Still, 50% so far was OK. Sunday brought white against Nigel Kerby (122) from Bishop Stortford. He turned up 15 minutes late and proceeded to play whirlwind chess, so that by the end of the game he had used an hour (for 15 minutes of which he had been absent) whilst I had used two hours! He outplayed me in the opening, I had the better of the middle game, then he came again in the endgame to checkmate me as my clock fell on something like move 75. It turned out that two years ago his grade had been 160, but he had a high-powered and very demanding job, was working all hours and his grade was in free fall. I certainly felt I had given a good account of myself against a stronger player. And so to the final round, with a win necessary to achieve my 50% target. I had black against Douglas Bromley (123) from Spondon, Derbyshire. This was my poorest game, with a couple of miscalculations each costing me a pawn, which proved decisive. I resigned on move 60 with mate imminent. By now I had played about 14 hours’ chess in two days and my head felt ready to explode, so I made my way home with my tail between my legs! One point out of four was not exactly a glorious result, yet I felt I had learned quite a lot, and I had certainly had four tough games, which is what a congress is all about.
A report on this event can be found on the South Tyne League website.
This event was held in Jesmond on Sunday March 16th 2014 and involved five rounds at 30 minutes per player per round. Three Tynedale members took part. Gary Murphy was seeded twelfth of twenty in the Open and had a day of mixed fortunes. He started well, drawing with Clive Waters (201), before losing to Kyril Fomin (175) and Martin Seeber (158). Then he really got into his stride, beating Chris Wardle (161) and Zheming Zhang (175) to finish on a very respectable 2.5 out of 5.
In the Major (under 160) Peter Crichton was seeded 5th out of ten. He started well, beating Gary Clarke of Consett, then getting a fine draw against young James Moreby (155) and another against Geoff Harrison (132). Then the gas ran out rather as he lost to Bob Mitchelson of Barrow, graded 155, and to Max Turner of Berwick, graded 128, to finish on 2 out of 5.
In the Minor, Steve Larkin was seeded 2nd of 25 entrants. He started well enough, beating Peter Blackmore of Cockermouth, then drawing with James Pharaoh (117), despite blundering a queen to the latter! However, the afternoon session was an unmitigated disaster as he lost to Fred Stobbart (111), John France (122) and Johnny Wall (47) to finish with a distinctly modest 1.5/5.
Overall the event was well supported, with a fine range of age and ability, and ran without a hitch. I recommend next year’s event, particularly to our speed merchants, without reservation.
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!
Tim, David F Snr and Peter C crossed the Pennines to participate in the recent Carlisle Rapidplay. Tim and David found themselves the lowest graded players in the Open and Major sections respectively and suffered accordingly. Tim remarked that his games improved as the day progressed and that it was only the results that lagged behind! David saved his best performance for the highest graded player in the section but otherwise preferred to forget the occasion. Peter ended in the middle of the pack drawing some fairly boring games and losing the only interesting one. Still an enjoyable day well organised by Bill Hardwick.
The 34th edition of this congress was held at Houghton le Spring on April 5th-7th, 2013. Just two Tynedale players took part, both in the Minor section for players under 125 grade. Of the 18 entries, Steve Larkin (109) was seventh highest graded and Dave Foster junior (89) eleventh.
Steve took a bye on the Friday night, but Dave had the misfortune to be pitched in against the top seed, Dennis Beagarie (124) from Tynemouth. Dave was in the match till the endgame, when he blundered.
It was the same story for him in round 2, on the Saturday, when another miscalculation in an otherwise even endgame presented Dave Watson (112) of Morpeth with the point.
In the same round, Steve had a surprise win against Peter Wright (80) of Hetton Lyons. The surprise took the form of what seemed to Steve a premature resignation. He was a couple of pawns up, but both players had queen, two rooks and a bishop on the board and there seemed to be plenty to play for. The epitome of politeness, Steve did not argue and took the point!
In the afternoon, Dave raced to an emphatic win over Russell Wides (estimated grade 77) and was one of the first to finish.
By contrast, Steve was one of the last as he locked horns with Stan Johnson (119) of South Shields. A risky kingside foray involving knight and bishop backfired and for the next 15 moves or so Steve was sweating, trying desperately not to go a piece down. A slip by Stan meant that they emerged from this phase of the game equal. In the endgame, Steve had the edge but not enough for it to be decisive and a draw was agreed after an exhausting three and a quarter hours of play.
A shadow was cast over Sunday morning’s activities when Colin Gilroy was taken ill mid-game and had to be hospitalised. (We learned the following day that he had died in hospital – a sad loss to chess in the north-east). By then, Dave had long since despatched young Rowan Rawat (80) of Jesmond. Dave pressed his Bird’s opening vigorously and it was all over in 20 minutes!
Steve’s charmed existence in congresses this year came to an end when he lost on time (but also on the board) to Alan Harris (115) of Tynemouth, who still had an hour left on his clock! He may play very quickly but he was also very accurate, exploiting the weaknesses in Steve’s pawns to great effect in the endgame.
The final round saw Dave paired with William Metcalfe (115) of Darlington. The game came down to a level ending, each player having a rook and four pawns, but for the third time at this Congress Dave blundered in the endgame and lost, finishing on 2/5. With tighter play at the end, there is clearly scope for a big improvement on that score.
Meanwhile, Steve faced top seed Dennis Beagarie, whom Dave had played in round one. Steve managed to lose his e pawn early on and things were not looking good. However, a vigorous kingside attack worked out very nicely, with a pawn on f6 proving decisive in a mating combination which Dennis was powerless to resist. So Steve finished on 3/5 and may even have sneaked his way into the prizes (though he awaits confirmation of that).
Hopefully, there may be a slightly larger Tynedale contingent present next year.
Once upon a time there was an ageing chess player whose enthusiasm for the game far outstripped his ability, but who nonetheless dreamed of success one day. And so he entered the 2013 Cumbrian championships, in the bargain basement section for players graded under 125. The event was held at the Crown Hotel, Eamont Bridge, just outside Penrith on March 15-17th. Entries were disappointingly low in all three sections, the best supported being the Open with 16 entries, while the Major (under 160) and Minor had just ten entries each. Of those ten, the Ageing Player’s modest grade ranked him fifth.
He was grateful for a gentle opening round on the Friday evening, when he had black against Peter Hanks of Ulverston, graded 66. White blundered a bishop for a pawn on move 8, and further miscalculations followed, permitting the A.P. to queen a pawn. However, white was in no mood to resign, even when he was down by a Queen, rook and bishop to two pawns! Fortunately, black was able to trap his king quite rapidly, otherwise play might have continued till the cut-off point of 11p.m.! 1/1
Saturday morning saw the A.P. with white against Peter Blackmore of Cockermouth, graded 100. The two had played each other several times before and their games had always been close affairs, this one being no exception. The Four Knights opening was very cagey on both sides, with Peter striking first, swapping bishop and knight for rook and pawn, thereby weakening white’s castled king. However, despite doubled rooks on the f file, Peter was unable to break through. When white eventually launched his own kingside attack, it led to a flurry of exchanges from which white emerged with a knight and 3 pawns to black’s 5 pawns. It was just a matter of time before the extra mobility of white’s knight took its toll and Peter resigned. 2/2
On Saturday afternoon, the A.P. had black against the top seed, Chris Underhill of Barrow, graded 124. Black played what he thought was a clever variation of the Benko Gambit, but instead of emerging a pawn down with a strong attack, he emerged two pawns down with no attack at all! White’s unopposed pawns on the open a and b files were a particular worry but, more by good luck than good judgement, black managed to eliminate them and the game petered out into a dead drawn position – phew! This left the A.P. on 2.5/3, half a point off the pace being set by Kurt Moreby of Jesmond, who had a perfect 3.
Sure enough, Sunday morning brought an encounter between the A.P., with white, and Kurt, graded 123. The game was one of the most curious the A.P. had ever come across. His e4 was met by b6, which was duly followed by Bb7 and e6. In no time at all huge pressure was being exerted on white’s e pawn, forcing the A.P. to forget about castling and concentrate on plugging the gaps in his position by using his Queen. His position was defensible, but only just, when on move 12 Kurt played his Queen to g5, where it could be – and was! – taken by white’s f pawn! Kurt resigned on the spot, giving white another win, but hardly a deserved one. 3.5/4 and the A.P. leads the field!
In the final round, on the Sunday afternoon, the A.P. had black against young Holden Davis of Penrith, graded 86, who was on 3/4 and was therefore one of only two players – the other being Kurt – who could overtake the A.P. Holden played a Tarrasch in answer to the A.P.’s French, but allowed his bishop to be trapped on move 9 and had to swap it for a pawn. Later exchanges enhanced the significance of that lost bishop and on move 44 Holden resigned, when a bishop and two pawns down in a clearly lost ending.
So the A.P. finished on 4.5/5, a full point ahead of the field. It was the first time he had ever won a tournament, which only goes to show that sometimes dreams do come true!