As previously alluded to by Colin in his earlier post about his Curate's Egg of a performance at the Atkins, I was a controller last weekend. As in previous years I had poled up on Friday afternoon to move tables and set-up boards, pieces and clocks. Having (eventually) got through the College reception, by fleeing the fierce receptionist by sneaking out the door and wandering around the back of the building I found Andy Morley, the Tournament Head Honcho in Sean Hewitt's absence, already hard at work.
Ben Vaughan had previously agreed to assist, but of him there was no sighting. (At this stage I wondered whether he had gone to that mysterious chess nirvana – Wyldland.) However, Hayley (sorry – don’t know her surname) did show up to assist. In addition to being an extra, enthusiastic, pair of hands, she added some glamour and brought our average age down considerably.
We were set up in good time, and once we’d finished Ben put in an appearance. (Better late than never…) At this stage Andy gave me my badge. Frankly, I was surprised that I was a controller, but having given the matter some thought, it is clear that Andy couldn’t get “Table Shifter, Setter-Upper & General Factotum” on a reasonably-sized badge. He’d obviously been on that training course about valuing employees, by giving them an important-sounding title and a badge. However, he didn’t fool me, cos I’ve done that course too.
As people appeared, my newfound status seemed to amuse one or two. (Well rather more than that – Colin, John, Rob, Steve Wylie, Stan Parsons, Andy Carter all spring to mind, to name but a few.) It also became clear that the badge made me a lightning conductor – on Friday evening, I received volleys from people about the lack of signage on the front of the building (fair enough) and the roadworks (not a lot I can do about that, folks). For the first round, we’d made a faux pas in that all the clocks were set to 80 minutes rather 100 minutes. I’ll plead a Nuremberg defence – we were just obeying orders, weren’t we Andy?
There was some interesting chess on the Friday night. Although I spent the majority of the time in the Minor room over the weekend, on Friday night I saw some of the game on the top board, where Mark Hebden was playing. He didn’t seem completely focused initially, and Mr. Morley noted fairly early on that that a win wasn’t going to be routine. (I wouldn't have dared venturing any opinion from where I stand in the chess food-chain.) In fact the game finished as a draw, making the Open section interesting for the rest of the weekend.
In the Minor section, there were good wins for Colin and John (who readers will remember I tipped weeks ago.) Ray used the majority of the available time, but lost to a higher-rated opponent. (Rob had originally been scheduled to play, but had taken a late half-point bye so as not to intrude on his busy social life.)
On Saturday morning after the first half an hour I bailed out to have a mosey around the fleshpots of sunny Leicester. After lunching, I returned to find that there was still one Minor game going on – surprise, surprise, it was Colin Ross. As noted in his blog, he spawned the most amazing win. Saturday afternoon saw both Colin and John drawing, in wildly differing circumstances. Colin agreed something verging on a Grandmaster draw, to keep his powder dry for Sunday, whilst John had ground out a small advantage in an endgame. It was the sort of situation that that you’d bet your house on John, but on inexact move led to the game ending in a draw. Ray, having lost in the morning, had a full point bye in the afternoon.
I turned up rather tardily on the Sunday morning, having taken the opportunity of going for a long run first (healthy body, healthy mind – I hope). At this point, it was clear that the Heathcote challenge for the Minor was hitting the buffers. Both Colin and John lost. John’s opponent, one of the eventual winners, rather comprehensively beat him up, and John tipped her as the winner. Frankly, I can’t remember what happened to Colin. Rob won again - being the last match in the Minors to finish, to get to 3 points. Unfortunately Ray lost again.
The other highlight of Sunday morning was seeing my fellow controller Ben resplendent in a white outfit looking, for all the world, like a walking advertisement for Persil or Daz. (Important! Other soap powders are available.) I was called into action by one of the younger competitors who needed help in opening his water bottle. I was also called into action to reset clocks – unfortunately, I cocked that up on one occasion, by moving one of the player’s clock to twenty to rather than twenty-five to. What a pillock. I also took an interest in the end of that game, as there was a time scramble, with the win occurring with less than 1 minute remaining. After the game, one of the spectators (no name, no pack-drill) took me to task for not intervening as he felt that the player short on time wasn’t playing fair, but his opponent didn’t complain, and I didn’t believe that there was clock abuse.
The final round of the Minor produced a win for John but losses for everyone else from the Heathcote. As a result Rob missed out on third place. Ray had the (dubious) honour of being the last game in the whole tournament to finish, his grindfest against Paul Martin finishing with Ray resigning very shortly after Rajan’s game in the other hall finished.
Roll on 2012…