Category Archives: Tournaments

The Battle of Hastings 2013

As the one and only time I had ever played in the long-running Hastings Chess Congress was back in the mid-1950s, I thought it about time I made a return appearance. Having been comprehensively outplayed by Damian in the club championship shortly before my departure for the south coast, it is fair to say that I was not brimming over with confidence.
I had entered the lowest possible competition, the weekend event for players under 120 (grade, not age!). There were 26 entries and I had the 12th highest grade. On the Friday night, my first opponent was young Laura Davidson, with a grade of just 39. She was no more than 12 and had been playing chess for just one year. An anxious two hours later, I was greatly relieved to mate her on move 39! In my defence, I allege the following factors. 1. She had white. 2. She played very carefully. 3. It seems she is coached by a grandmaster.
Saturday morning brought me white against Alan Fraser, graded 113. He is a veteran of the chess scene and I had seen him in action at the British championships this summer. After a hairy spell mid-game, with my queen just about covering all the holes in my position, the game evolved into a dead level endgame and a draw was agreed after nearly three hours play and 37 moves.
After a quick break, it was time for round three, which saw me with white again, but up against top seed Frederick Coleman of Sussex Juniors, a young but extremely sharp player with a grade of 117. I was very chuffed early on to play a clever move which both attacked his queen and produced an exposed check. Convinced I had won his queen, I was feeling very excited, till he played a move which forced a swapping off of queens instead. Ah well, at least I was two pawns up – I counted them to make sure. Yes, two pawns up, but inexplicably a bishop down. Oh dear, oh dear! So it was a case of battling on to the endgame, where I was two pawns to a knight down but threatening to win a third pawn. With the outcome highly unpredictable – we each had a rook cruising around the board – we agreed a draw after 45 moves. I emerged into the night air feeling as though my head was full of porridge and hoping I could survive the following day.
On Sunday morning I had white against Neil Lang, graded 111. He made an early and, as it seemed to me, unfounded offer of a draw which I declined. Not long afterwards I won bishop for pawn, at which point he started to play very aggressively. His queen was hyper-active and I had to be on my toes as he pushed a pawn towards the eighth rank. However, this proved to be his undoing, as it allowed me to trap his king after 44 moves.
Another short break, then into round 5 with white against Lee Bullock, graded 113 and who I had played and lost to in the British Championships last summer. This proved to be a really hairy game and he had me under the cosh, with queen, two rooks, bishop and knight all bearing down on my king. More by luck than judgement, I kept him at bay, then initiated a series of exchanges which relieved the pressure and led into an endgame where I was just a pawn down. At this point I offered a draw which he declined very briskly. He had king and seven pawns to my king and six, but his extra pawn was a doubled one. Fortunately for me he played the endgame badly, allowing me to capture two pawns and gain what I thought was a winning position. So when he in turn offered the draw I turned it down. We played on, he convinced a draw was inevitable, me thinking first that I would win, then that I would lose, before achieving a position where he could not prevent my queening a pawn, whereupon he resigned on move 53. I was shattered but elated to finish on 4/5.
In due course I learned that young Frederick Coleman and I had finished equal second behind the winner, Mason Woodhams of Hastings, graded 98, who was on 4.5 and whom neither of us had met during the five rounds. So all in all it was a good congress, very tiring but a much-needed confidence booster.

Scarborough Chess Congress

I entered the Foundation section, for players graded 120 0r under, and found I was seeded 21st of the 62 entries. My first game, on the Friday night, was against Michael Kitching of Northallerton, 49th seed with a grade of 90. I pressed from the start, picked up a pawn, then a knight and reached a forced mate on move 22. The game lasted just an hour and a quarter and I was relieved to get an early night after a long day.

On Saturday morning I had black against J. G. Clayton of Leyland, 45th seed with agrade of 95. This was a real humdinger of a game which lasted almost three hours. White castled long and black short, so both sides pushed attacks against the opposite king. I was fortunate in that I had a small edge with my attack, given that the a and b files were open and I could exploit them more quickly than could my opponent on the closed f, g and h files. In the end that edge told and white resigned on move 34 when facing serious material loss and, possibly, a mating attack.

By the afternoon I was feeling a bit punch-drunk and found myself playing white against the equal top seed, Tony Robinson, graded 120. He opened by fianchettoing both his bishops, allowing me a big centre. Then I was able to trap one of his knights for a pawn, whereafter I built up a kingside attack. Mental fatigue was kicking in and trying to maintain mental concentration was a full-time job, but I cranked up the pressure on his king and he resigned on move 25, by which time we had been playing for two and a half hours.

So here I am on 3/3 and it all feels a bit unreal, especially after I had played so poorly at Morpeth just a couple of days earlier. Will tomorrow bring a reality check? Incidentally I note that someone in the Foundation section with a grade of 0 (yes, zero) has two and a half points. What’s the betting the missing half point was a bye?!

Sunday brings me back to earth with a bump. In the morning I have white against Barry Williams of Aughton, Sheffield, another player graded 120. It’s a long game (three and a half hours), evenly balanced till move 29 when I miscalculate a complex exchange and emerge a knight down. I struggle on, not helped by a couple of weak moves, and succumb on move 52. My opponent will go on to record a straight 5/5.

On Sunday afternoon the final round sees me drawn against the zero-graded player mentioned above, young Thomas Hill, who it seems lives in France and plays for a club there (and so ought, presumably, to have an elo grade?). He certainly knows his onions and plays at a rate that would make DF senior look positively sedentary, witness the fact that we played 43 moves each in a total time of one hour fifty minutes (most of it mine). Pieces flew off the board from early on and when the dust settled I found myself a pawn up in a rook and 5 against rook and 4 ending. There should have been a way through but I couldn’t find it and, terrified of blowing it completely, I settled for a draw.

Normally speaking a final score of three and a half out of five would have left me delighted, but on this occasion I felt a shade disappointed after such a splendid start, though it did bring me a share of a grading prize. It’s the second time I have played this congress and I certainly hope it won’t be the last. The venue is excellent, the sea is just outside the window and the fish and chips are superb!

Carlisle Rapidplay

A gallant trio of members ventured west for the Carlisle Rapidplay last Sunday. Bruce and Peter C had hopes in the under 150 class whereas Dave F Snr planned to take advantage of his outrageous handicap in the under 120 category. Bruce and Peter’s hopes were dashed at an early stage when it was announced that, because of a shortage of numbers, their category was being absorbed into the Open section [details of their performances are available on request]. David however performed admirably and at the end was only half a point behind the winners with his prize money covering the cost of his lunch.

Northumberland Congress 2012

Five members of the club took part in the 48th Northumberland Chess Congress at the Parks Leisure Centre in North Shields on September 21-23, 2012.

David Wrigley was our only entry in the Open, where he was seeded 22nd of the 23 entries. He took a bye on the Friday night, lost to Pratik Shriwas (grade 203) of Middlesborough and to Christopher Izod (163) of Jesmond on the Saturday, and to Ron Plater (174) on the Sunday, before rounding off the weekend with a draw against Raymond Illett (171) of Peterborough, to finish on 1/5. It’s tough in the Open!

Peter Crichton flew the flag for us in the Major (165 and under), where he was seeded 20th of the 21 entries. On Friday he lost to Richard Parry (158) of Bushbury. On Saturday he lost to Dean Hartley (148) of Amber valley, then beat Ian McKay (140) of Austin Friars. On Sunday he drew with top seed Kevin Shaw (164) of Yarmouth, a fine result in a game which went to the wire, then took a bye to go and watch Newcastle United. 2/5

We had 3 entrants amongst the 43 in the Minor (135 and under), Phil Taylor being seeded 14th, Bruce Reed 18th and Steve Larkin 32nd. On the Friday Phil beat Graham Marshall (96) of Hartlepool. On the Saturday he drew with Stephen LeFevre (133) of Cosham and with David Stewardson (130) of Leam Lane. On Sunday he lost to Stan Johnson (119) of South Shields (to spare Phil’s blushes I shall not go into details!), then bounced back with a draw against top seed Graham Matthews (135) for a score of 2.5/5.

Bruce beat Andrew McCulloch (93) from Scotland on the Friday. On the Saturday he lost to Peter Ridsdale (133) of Great Ayton and beat Lex Thomson, ungraded, of South Shields. On Sunday he lost to Ted Jarah (129) and then, like Peter, went to watch Newcastle United. 2.5/5

Steve took a bye on the Friday. On Saturday he drew with David Ramsey (124) of Preston and with Geoffrey Garnett (119) of Elmwood. On Sunday he beat Brian Kerr (131) and lost to Richard Oxnard (133) of Tynemouth. 2.5/5

So none of us covered ourselves in glory but we all had a good time and will doubtless be back for more!

British Chess Championship round-up

Five members of the club took part in these championships, which were held at North Shields. from July 22 to August 4th.

Bruce Reed had an excellent week in the under 140 category. With a grade of 121 he might have expected slim returns but he emerged with a fine score of 2.5/5, including two wins, one of them over Ted Jarah.

Messrs Wrigley played in the weekend rapidplay event. David didn’t get too much joy in the Open, but Tim had a wonderful time, recording four wins and two draws out of six to win the under 160 contest. A fantastic achievement!

Week 2 of the Championships saw Tim back in action together with derek Blair in the under 160 five day event. Alas, Tim had obviously left his form on the rapidplay board, for he ended up with just half a point from 5 games, I will spare his blushes by not going into details! Derek, graded 26th of the 49 contestants, had two wins over players graded significantly below him, but lost his three games against higher graded opponents, two of the losses coming from blunders on his part.

Steve Larkin played in the under 120 event, where he was equal second highest graded of the 25 players. Round 1 was a hard fought affair, lasting three and a half hours, against Andrew Camp of Colwyn Bay, graded 98. Steve won the endgame with passed pawns after various near mating scares along the way. In round 2 he faced Anantha Anilkumar of London, graded 70. Steve achieved total control of the board and initiated a big attack, but totally overlooked a forced mate in two! Round 3 saw another very long game (2 minutes short of 4 hours and the very last game of the morning to finish) against David Archer of Godalming, graded 99. In a very close game, Steve let a pawn slip in the closing stages and only rescued a draw by the skin of his teeth. In round 4 he faced Lee Bullock, graded 94, and played gung-ho chess, sacrificing a pawn for a full-blooded kingside attack, only to leave a bishop en prise. By the time the attack petered out, he was a rook down – game over. More gung-ho chess in round 5 against Gregory Bailey, graded 97. Steve pushed his queen deep into enemy territory on move 9, prompting an error which left him a pawn and the position up. Black resigned after two hours as Steve had every prospect of two passed and connected pawns. So a huge sigh of relief from Steve as 50% and respectability (just about) was achieved. Curiously, Steve scored 2.5/3 with black and 0/2 with white!

Steve at the South Lakes Congress

Steve Larkin was the only Tynedaler brave enough to venture way out west to Grange last weekend:


I paid my first visit to this event, held at the Cumbria Grand Hotel in Grange-over-Sands on June 8-10, 2012. Despite the “Grand”, the huge hotel complex is rather run-down, but playing conditions in a large ground-floor room were excellent. The organisers limit the entries to 180 so that everyone will fit in and there is just the right amount of space for all concerned. Players are given a generous time allowance of two hours each per game with no quick finish, so that even I was able to finish my games without time trouble.

Playing in the lowest of the low sections (Minor 2 for players graded under 120), I found myself third highest graded of the 42 entries, but any expectation that I would finish in the top three was quickly dashed when I lost my first game (having taken a bye on the Friday night) to an opponent graded 99. And yes, I had white, and yes, I was outplayed! Saturday afternoon brought some relief in the form of a win, largely off the back of a couple of blunders by my opponent, graded 98. On Sunday morning, I “swindled a draw”, as one onlooker put it, after going two pawns down and leaving my opponent, graded 85, with two apparently unstoppable queening pawns. Somehow I managed to stop them and the game petered out into a draw. And so into the final round on 50% and faced by an opponent with an estimated grade of 59. Some estimate! He proceeded to play the most cunning and aggressive chess I had encountered all weekend. For the first three quarters of the game I was hanging on by my toenails with only a much-beseiged knight between me and a mate in one! So it was a source of particular pleasure to emerge from that battering and go on to mate my opponent in quite a neat way.

Finishing on 3/5, I came away happy. I know that in terms of my grading I had performed significantly below par, but these days I readily settle for 50% and anything more is a bonus. I enjoyed the event, which was well organised. Though there were many familiar faces there, every one of my opponents was new to me, which is always a pleasure. For any members thinking of a trip to the South Lakes next summer, I would definitely recommend the 2013 version of this event.

Steve Larkin