Once again a chilly weekend in February heralds the annual Kidlington Chess Congress. Playing for the fourth year in the Under-180 section, I was looking to improve on last year’s 50% score.
- Round One: I was drawn against a slightly lower graded, but very experienced opponent (he has played 175 graded games in the past 12 months!) and I had White. It was a long game and fairly even although I felt I had a small edge. Just as we reached the 3.5 hour stage, and while both our clocks were below 5 minutes, he misjudged a Queen exchange to leave me with a clearly winning pawn endgame. Nice to Win in the first round!
- Round Two: My prize for winning the previous game was a game with Black against one of the strongest players in my section. I managed to keep the opening fairly solid, although I felt under pressure throughout the game. After three hours play we had only reached move 30 and I was down to under 3 minutes. Soon he was in time trouble too and we blitzed out a further 30 moves in the next 5 minutes! He missed an immediate win, but in the end it didn’t matter and he managed to play correctly to force a result in his favour shortly afterwards. Shame to have Lost such a long game, but I felt that I played well and have no real complaints about this one.
- Round Three: The evening game for the first day paired me with White against a stronger player. I deliberately played an unambitious opening in order to simplify quickly because I was tired from two 3.5-hours games earlier in the day, but he then played very strangely: after playing normally for the first 10 moves, he undeveloped nearly all his minor pieces which left me with a huge advantage in space and, eventually, his position was so cramped he had no good moves at all. I used this advantage to force a win of material and he resigned almost immediately. He could have played on for a bit, bishop or knight down, but presumably decided he’d had enough. Very pleased to Win this one and end the day on 2 out of 3. The game finished in under two hours as well, which is very fast for this type of tournament!
- Round Four: Day Two began with a game against a very strong and rapidly-improving 15-year-old boy. I played one of the new openings I’d been studying for when I play Black, but perhaps didn’t choose the best variation. He had a good advantage heading into the endgame and I lost a pawn. This would have eventually proved fatal if I’d just played ‘normally’ so I mounted a last-gasp “bayonet charge” against his king, which was unfortunately repulsed. Shame to have Lost, first time I’ve lost to a teenager since being one myself: but I was never graded this high at that time! Interestingly, in my post-match computer analysis I found that I’d missed an astonishing move which would have saved the game and forced a draw! We both missed this during the game and during the post mortem immediately after the game had finished. Pesky kids.
- Round Five: Going into the last round on 2 out of 4 I played White against another rapidly-improving child: although this one was only 10! It’s easy to be complacent saying “Oh, he’s only 10…” but I had to remember that he had also managed to get to the score 2 out of 4 against similar opposition as me. The game was very even but I managed to keep control enough to have a very tiny edge as we approached the endgame. He had been playing very fast, however: at the critical moment, I had only 14 minutes left against his 38 minutes. I had an opportunity to play for a win in a very uncertain, theoretical endgame: it was *probably* drawn, but I knew there was a very small chance of winning; equally, there were plenty of opportunities to go wrong and lose, quite likely in time trouble. He actually offered a Draw and I gladly accepted. The computer tells me that it was indeed possible to win but far from simple to do so. I think I made the best decision, pragmatically. Perhaps if I’d been in the running for a prize I might have been more tempted to play for a win, I suppose.
Like last year I ended on 2.5 out of 5, giving me 50%: I suppose that’s pretty reasonable, but it would have been nice to have a win on the second day. Especially since the computer says I missed good moves in both those games. On the other hand, I won because of unforced errors in two other games, so maybe all this stuff evens out in the end.