A JOLLY AUGUST CHESS BANK-HOLIDAY
Or Three Go Mad(der) in HinckleyThis story started a few weeks ago one Club night evening. John “The Grinder” Manger said that he’d seen that Sean was organising an e2e4 Congress at the Hinckley Island Hotel over the Bank Holiday weekend. It was a seven round event, with a game on Friday evening and two games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I said that if John entered, I would too. Imagine my horror when I received a text the following morning saying he’d entered. I texted back to say what great news that was (or words not exactly to that effect.) Anyway, being a man of my word, I followed suit. Then the Chess Player formerly known as Raymondov (“TCPFKAR”) said he’d come too.
Friday Evening - Round 1
On arriving at the Hotel, we perused the draw. Our two former compadres at Littlethorpe, Stan Parsons & Mick Slater, who now grace the Red Admiral team, had also entered, and as our grades were contiguous, we played in the first round on four boards next to each other. As we were in the lower half of the draw we got players who outranked us by a margin.
I played Neil Graham who was graded 125. I was White and played a d4 opening. Due to some phaffing about and losing a pawn pretty carelessly on move 15, I wasted a number of tempos and having castled long, I couldn’t hold out against a ferocious attack on my Queen’s side, and resigned after my opponent’s 30th move, a Knight check, which would lead on move 31 to my King & Queen being forked. It might be time for me to dust down my campaign to remove the Knight as a chess piece.
The game time control was all moves in 90 minutes with a 30 second increment per move. I resigned after an elapsed time of 2 hours. By this point Stan had lost, and John had won.
On the adjacent board Ray was black, and although he put up a strong fight, he eventually, after 2 hours 50 minutes, resigned against his opponent John Woollard. Some time later Mick got a good draw against his higher rated opponent. Stan joined Raymondov and I in not bothering the scorers.
There were a couple of other matters of interest: one being an extremely noisy pre-wedding party going on in the vicinity, which was a distraction, to say the least. The other was a visitation by the recently wedded Mr & Mrs Vaughan – at least I wasn’t dazzled by Ben being dressed in all white on this occasion.
The song that might best sum up the evening is “Cum On Feel the Noize” by Slade.
Saturday – Rounds 2 & 3On examining the draw for Round 2, there was both good news and bad news for me. The good news was that I was White once again, but the bad news was that my opponent- Stephen Crockett - was graded 132. I enquired of Sean whether there had been some mistake, but he said, with a smile, “That’s the beauty of a Swiss.”
Despite my stunning lack of success in Round 1 with a d4 opening, I persevered with it. Early on, I was beginning to regret this, as the position seemed to become fairly sticky early on, and despite saying to Ray beforehand that my ambition was to avoid losing a pawn on move 15 I’d managed it by move 13. However, due to some nifty play (if I say so myself) I’d equalised material on move 23, and at this point I employed some “Biggg Boss Ross” tactics and offered a draw, which was accepted. This is by some distance my best result for a very long time. The elapsed playing time for the game was 1 hour 25 minutes.
The Grinder seemed to be in a good position, but somehow managed to lose. (His post-game quote: “I had too many options” – into the Top Ten of Excuses proffered for a loss?) Stan had a good position in a pawn endgame, but couldn’t quite cash in and ended up with a loss. Mick was mated very neatly by his opponent.
One of the longest games in the round was that involving Ray and his 119 graded opponent Nigel Redmond. Ray, with White, had all the threats, and as the game entered its final phases, the time. His opponent bravely sacrificed his bishop for two pawns, and so the game became a King, Knight and h pawn versus King endgame. Unfortunately Ray didn’t know the theory so his opponent’s King snuck into the corner after the pawn hit the seventh rank, and so a draw resulted. This game had an elapsed time of 3 hours 35 minutes. A further incident of note was that Raymondov was pulled up (very politely by Alex the Abiter for not writing his moves down, so he was forced to do so to catch up whilst his clock was running. Mind you he didn’t seem to be phased by this and it was helpful that he had plenty of time. (This game was an interesting illustration of the Fischer time control, as Nigel seemed to spend a very long time with between 4 minutes & 6 minutes on his clock. I am not sure what the procedure about being able to stop writing your moves down, as you can get your time up again.)
In the afternoon, both Ray & I had black. Ray played my morning opponent, and although he reported that he was better out of the opening, his opponent mated him in (in terms of a Ray game) in pretty quick time (2 hours 5 minutes).
I, for a pleasant change, outgraded my opponent Jo Woollard, for all the good it did me. She played the English and I frankly was completely flummoxed in my response. I made one exceedingly poor move (suitably annotated with ?? by my Silicon Buddy Fritz), which dropped a Knight and then swopped off my Queen for two Rooks. After that it was just a question of playing for pride, as I was singularly unsuccessful in attempting to join my two Rooks together. I hung around for 41 moves (2 hours 45 minutes) before the inevitable resignation. Once again the biggest pain was inflicted by a marauding Knight. (More grist to the mill of my currently dormant “Ban Knights Campaign.”) I also accidentally spilled a cup of water on the adjacent board, where Mick was playing, which led to lots of jokes subsequently from the Red Admiral Crew about not spilling my pint, etc., etc.
John won, but Ray and I didn’t hang about to see it.
Saturday’s song might be “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters (which I confess is one of my guilty pleasures.)
Sunday - Rounds 4 & 5The draw for Sunday morning pitched me against another lady player – Dorothy Blampiad, with Black. Without dissing my opponent who is slightly lowlier graded than me, my performance was an utter debacle. My response to a c4 opening was hopeless.
Above is the position I found myself in – after White’s 12th move. Unfortunately, the Knight steadfastly refused to move for the rest of the game, corralling my King on d8. Needless to say although I once again hung about for a few more moves, I was utterly busted, and resigned on move 26 (1 hour 55 minutes). The d pawn & Knight took up 7 moves of the 12 to get to their positions. If anyone is writing a book on how you shouldn’t play an opening, I’ll supply the moves if you want a great example.
Ray was playing another lady, who sounded like she was one of Raymondov’s compatriots – Monika Gergelova. Although she is rated at less than 60, she has a razor sharp concentration at the board and plays in a very steady and considered style. Watching her in action, I think that I could learn from her approach. Although Ray was White, Monika put a ferocious kingside attack in, having castled long. Unfortunately (for her, not Ray) Monika dropped a piece, and ultimately lost. Ray clocked up another 3 hours 10 minutes.
The longest game in the Minor involved the Grinder, doing what he does best – grinding away with an infinitesimal advantage and spending hours making it miniscule and then minute! (John asked at one point over the weekend why he had the tag – the obvious response is look at that game.) John eventually won in about 4 hours and 20 minutes, so had just enough time for a brief drink and relax before the commencement of Round 5.
Once again the draw threw up a surprise for me – although I was White, I’d been floated up to the Major section. Obviously, given my run of distributing points freely to my opponents in the Minor (can I register as a charity?), it was felt by the organisers that the area of my largesse should be increased further. I played Amy Milson. Bucking the trend of opening d4, I played e4, and Amy played c5 - an opportunity for the Grand Prix. After the opening exchanges, I sacrificed the exchange and gambited a pawn for a big attack. According to Fritz we both made mistakes, but rather terminally I missed a chance to fork my opponent’s King & Queen with my Knight. I over pressed with the inevitable consequences and I resigned after my opponent’s 40th move (3 hours 0 minutes.). Although I lost, I had thoroughly enjoyed the game and felt that I’d got my mojo back.
Ray played Aron Buxton (126), and although he fought hard, it was in vain. (3 hours 45 minutes.)
John, after his morning’s exertions, was playing the section leader John Murfit, and lost in reasonably short order.
As the bookstall had arrived, the chess bookstall homing instincts of Biggg Boss Ross kicked in, and he put in a brief appearance. (Although he is “A Biggg Boss” he was under orders from Mrs “Obviously Even Bigger Boss” Ross not to be too long.)
Position at the end of Day 3 John 3/5, Ray 1.5/5, moi 0.5/5
Sunday’s song: “Every Loser Wins” by Nick Berry (which is definitely not one of my guilty pleasures.)
Monday - Rounds 6 & 7The draw pitted me, playing White, against Monika. Raymondov gave me a pep talk, so I took on board his exhortations not to be too passive (see game against Dorothy above), or too aggressive (see most of my games). I reverted to d4. It was a game of significant swings, with initial advantage to me, but having castled Queen’s side, I faced a tricky period. Having escaped there, as we both played a bit less than optimally according to Fritz, I tried to develop some activity on the King’s side. As a result, I trapped a knight, but it ultimately cost me two pawns. Fritz reckoned I was then up in a Rook, minor piece(s) & pawn endgame, but Monika marched her King up the board, and Fritz reckoned we were now level. Fortunately, as we approached the four-hour mark, I “inadvertently” left my bishop en-pris, and this bait was taken, resulting in two nasty knight forks. (A start to the rehabilitation of Knights in Ricketts-land, I wonder? One of my early Knight moves was described by Fritz as “In the Style of Nimzovich.”) A win at last! (3 hours 55 minutes.) I can’t see Monika being lowly graded for much longer, if her games against Ray & I are representative. Dorothy, who was losing to Stan on the next board, reprimanded me for unconsciously clicking my water beaker in agitation as I was being pummelled on the Queen’s side reasonably early on.
Ray won against Roy Watson in relatively short order, although I can’t tell you anything about the game, as I didn’t see it (1 hour 50 minutes.) John won again against my first round conqueror Neil Graham, who I warned before the clock start that based on Sunday morning, his lunch was possibly in jeopardy. This win meant that if John ground out a win in the final round, then, except in one set of circumstances, he’d be on the prize list.
There was clearly a fix in the final round, which saw the draw being Raymondov vs. Stan, and Mick vs. me. So we had a little Red Admiral vs. Heathcote match. Mick opened e4, and in response to e5, he played Bc4. After a fairly level game we got into a Rook and Pawn endgame, and I was looking better with an extra pawn. Mick offered me a draw, which I politely declined. About three moves later, the boot was on the other foot, so I offered a draw, which Mick (rather less politely) declined. Eventually, we got down to a Rook & Pawn vs. Rook position, but fortunately Mick’s pawn was on the h file, and I could get my King in front of it. Mick took a bit of convincing that it was drawn, but after move 65, a draw was agreed. (2 hours 55 minutes.)
Ray and Stan also ended up in an endgame, but Ray converted his position into a point, taking 10 minutes less than our draw. So victory to the Heathcote Arms by 1.5 – 0.5! Ray ended up with 3.5/7. John won his game, to end up on 5/7, which meant he ended up in a three-way tie for second place.
Monday’s song: "Zombies” by The Cranberries.
Brandon Clarke was playing, and he lost twice during the weekend, in both cases to IMs. In the Open another notable result, in the first round, was Rajan Ganger claiming the scalp of Martin Burrows. John Manger also reckoned he’d seen Robbie Coltrane in the corridor, although what he was doing in Hinckley is anyone’s guess.
Summing up my tournament statistically: played 7, won 1, drawn 2 and lost 4 with a grading performance of 80. Total playing time of 17 hours and 55 minutes (viz Ray 20 hours exactly) making 265 moves. I know exactly what I need to do to improve, too – opening, middle game and endgame.
I’d sign up again next year, as the venue was very nice, with (Indian wedding aside) great playing conditions, and copious water supplies to hand. The only (very) small gripe that we could unearth is that the pairing sheets on the wall weren’t immediately updated with the results, which is something we done at the Atkins in the past.