|A busy scene during the final round’s play at the British Chess Championship|
The boards and clocks have been packed away and the players have returned home weary and battle scarred after (for those in the Open anyway) two weeks of exhausting action at Sheffield Pond’s Forge. Sadly, I’m one of a small number of players who will have left feeling slightly traumatised by falling at the final hurdle. I couldn’t write a diary post last Friday because the emotions were all still a bit too fresh. Readers will gather from this that, having worked so hard to get to 3½/4, I lost in my final round game in the Under 160 Championship. All I can say is that a simple straightforward loss would have been easy to take than what actually happened.
On Friday morning I found myself pitted against Roger Greatorex on the top board with an opportunity to take the title. I gathered that my opponent was a seasoned weekend congress veteran and I imagined that he would play solidly with the White pieces. This turned out to be the case as he deployed the Torre Attack against me. Normally this is the kind of opening that I’d just set myself up for in a solid fashion and accept a draw if my opponent decided to behave peaceably. I couldn’t afford to do that here so I tried to organise my play in a slightly more dynamic fashion by allowing him to double my f-pawns and then later exchanging my d-pawn for his c-pawn in order to open the centre and try and create an environment where I would get some winning chances.
You will see from the game below that I succeeded in my efforts and in fact my opponent seemed to get a little frustrated and struck out on the king’s side in a fashion that left him weakened there in the longer term. I was able to repel his sortie and then took the initiative eventually winning a pawn and then getting to a pleasant endgame. I got into a little time trouble again but handled it sensibly to reach time control at move 40 and felt confident enough in my position to decline a draw offer from my opponent even though it appeared it would be difficult to break through in a blocked position.
I found a way to achieve the break through and forced him to give up his remaining rook when I queened on f1. That should have been it. Game over. I had a rook against his two connected passed pawns and enough pawns of my own to be able to sacrifice this piece if I needed to and still win. But that’s when it all went wrong. I was struggling with the clock again and after nearly 4 hours play the exertions of the week finally caught up with me. I couldn’t find the right plan and my opponent managed to get both his d and e pawns to the seventh rank. The game was up. To make matters worse, as we were pretty much the last game to finish, I had a host of kibitzers demonstrating for me just how I could have won the end game in straight forward fashion.
That was that then. Off I sloped, feeling too sick with myself to eat anything before the final game of the second competition I had entered that afternoon. The last thing I felt like was playing another long game of chess but in the end I decided that I had to get back on the horse and try and win my last game so that I could leave Sheffield with the taste of victory in my mouth. I at least succeeded in this regard as I managed to win another game with my Classical Spanish. This game is also featured in the viewer below.
I was at least in good company in my disappointment. Nigel Short tied with Michael Adams in the Championship itself after 11 rounds had failed to separate them by more than half a point at any stage and they had drawn their individual encounter. This meant they had to play off for the title on Saturday morning with two rapidplay games which Adams won by 1½-½. Short must have felt even more disconsolate than I after that. There must also have been other players who tasted bitter defeat in the final rounds of their competitions. For those of you who are looking for some slightly better quality games to digest than those of mine above then I can heartily recommend the bite sized chunks you’ll find on Andrew Martin’s “Game of the Day” pages on the Championship website. These are expertly annotated and very instructive.
In the end I have to look for some positive things to take out of my week at the British Championships. I think generally I played well. I scrambled to save games when I got into trouble and I won a couple of very nice efforts as well. In the U160 I calculate my performance to have been rated at approximately 174 which is a good result. Nevertheless, the game I’ve been thinking about the most since last Friday is that rook vs. passed pawns ending. I think I’ll be thinking about it for a while longer yet…