Update 5 February 2013: I’ve uploaded my game commentary and analysis for this year’s games.
Playing once again with the stronger players in the Under-180 section, my first round match got off to a slight false start: my opponent hadn’t turned up. In fact, two players (both with the same surname: “They’re brothers”, said someone) were both missing. I was re-paired with the person waiting for the other brother after the tournament controller contacted the brothers and discovered travel problems or similar. My revised opponent and I moved to a spare board, an interesting novelty for which was that we got to play using one of these new-fangled digital chess clocks:
Since I was a child, I’ve only ever used the standard, analogue, wind-up clocks:
How exciting. (For what it’s worth, the digital chess clocks have some advantages: they allow more accurate timing for a start and also permit some more creative time controls, such as a time increment for every move played. They do need batteries, though.)
Anyway, on with the show…
- Round One: playing my new opponent (graded 176) with White. We played an unfamiliar (to me) opening and, although I initially played correctly, missed the best way to continue and ended up a pawn down. While not normally critical, this is not something one wants to do against robust opposition. To be fair, I think that’s the only mistake I made, but my opponent played correctly throughout and it was only a matter of time before I Lost this one. A little frustrating because I’d played quite well, but at least it wasn’t a complete disaster. 0 out of 1
- Round Two: half-point bye; 0.5 out of 2
- Round Three: the Saturday evening game set me with Black against an opponent (graded 145) who played quite quickly. He played the Morra Gambit, which is usually good for White, but completely mishandled it. I just played solidly and calmly, letting my opponent make more and more mistakes! By the end I had a material advantage of rook, bishop, knight and three pawns for a queen: although my opponent still had a few chances to make a nuisance of himself with the queen, my material advantage was crushing. A nice Win to round off the day, 1.5 out of 3
- Round Four: after a good sleep, Sunday morning saw me playing White again against an opponent graded 148. He played a standard opening but left himself in trouble after my move 9: he then spent 30 minutes trying to figure out a way to defend against two independent threats. He chose poorly and on move 11 I won a knight. At this stage, he decided the game was a lost cause and to save his energy for the final round, and resigned. I don’t think I’ve ever Won in 11 moves in a serious competition before! Rather amusingly, the entire game fits in a single tweet Score 2.5 out of 4: already same total as last year, so I can’t do any worse.
- Round Five: I was initially paired against my old friend Steve Harris (from my teenage days at Ilford Chess Club), but he asked to swap and the controllers agreed: I’d have happily played him – he was somewhat my nemesis when I was 16-18 – but I was happy to go along with his choice. So, instead I played White against the same person I had played in the final round from last year: Karl Biswas (pictured on the right in the olive green sweatshirt of the photo above, as it happens). I beat him last year and he reminded me immediately that he recalled getting his queen trapped on the side of the board. However, it was not a re-run and after quite a well-played, tough game we agreed a Draw: equal endgame with rook and six pawns each. Final score 3 out of 5.
Once I’d finished I looked at the scores and remaining games and noticed that I was, at that stage, the highest-placed First Round Loser: a position for which there was a prize. There were two ongoing games where all four players had 2 out of 4 and had lost their first round game: so, if both those games were drawn I’d win the prize outright. However, both those games were decisive and I had to share with two others. That meant a Massive Cash Prize(TM) of one-third of £45.
Later on, it turned out that our little “team” (an ad-hoc collection of four players: one local girl who I know plus two of her friends, plus me) were in the running for the Team Prize: in the end, the Team Prize was also a one-third share of £45, because three teams tied on 12.5 points. So, each person on each winning team collected one-quarter of one-third of £45: £3.75
So after a good weekend where I played some good games and made very few mistakes, it was nice to pick up a grand total of £18.75 – of course, the money was just a nice bonus and didn’t even cover my entrance fee(!): it was satisfying to have played so well. My grade for the tournament was 168, pretty good: my listed grading might actually go down very slightly from 159 to 157 when next published, strangely, partly because my current rating is boosted by some good games I played in Kidlington 2010 and those games will “drop off” the end of the calculations; Kidlington 2011 wasn’t so good, grading-wise. A good tournament next year should push me over 160.