This was the tenth occasion I’ve played the Kidlington Chess Congress: I had a good year last year and was hoping for a repeat performance. As it turned out, not quite as good as last time, but not as bad as That Year We Don’t Talk About (2016). I played some incredibly long games and it was a rather tiring weekend, but enjoyable nonetheless.
- Round One: This game with White against a higher-rated opponent started well. I played my favourite London System and an opening inaccuracy from my opponent gave me a very slight edge. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take full advantage and blundered a piece. With time trouble approaching, my opponent returned the favour. We then played on to move 86, I had been playing on increment since about move 35! I was always on the defensive in the endgame and, despite throwing a few tricks out, there wasn’t much I could do. My opponent played well and so ultimately this one was Lost. I was very tired after playing on increment for the final hour of the game, the next round due to start only 40 minutes later.
- Round Two: With barely a chance to draw breath after the first game, I wolfed down a quick bit of lunch, then we were playing again. Here I was playing Black against a slightly higher-rated opponent. I tried to simplify early on in the hope of having a shorter game. However, the game still went out beyond three hours. I sacrificed a pawn for a good initiative and got a strong passed pawn. I nearly blew it as time trouble approached, but my opponent miscalculated in his own time trouble. Very pleased to Win this one.
- Round Three: The evening game found me playing White against a very strong opponent, although he’s someone I’ve played and beaten previously. We played the opening very quickly and swapped off lots of pieces. It looked like we were both going to settle for a quick draw, but then he changed his approach. Maybe he realised how many grading points he’d lose by drawing against me. I started playing rather too slowly in an attempt to force the draw and soon found myself worse. In a repeat of my first game, I played for nearly an hour on increment and once again tried to scatter a few banana skins in my opponent’s path just for a chance to avoid defeat. He played very exactly and deserved the win in the end. I was disappointed to have Lost this one, especially since it was another very long game.
- Round Four: Day Two opened with another game against someone I’d played previously, this time I was Black and looking to improve on my current 1 out of 3 score. Annoyingly, it was one of those games with lots of complications where, after the dust settled, I just had a slightly worse position. My opponent played very well, though, and deserved the win. I was somewhat despondent at having Lost despite not actually playing particularly badly.
- Round Five: The final game of the weekend drew me against a 9-year-old boy rated the same as me. One of those no-win situations, psychologically-speaking. One half of my brain was saying “He’s only nine, how hard can this be?”, but the more rational half was telling me: “He’s just as strong as you, might be improving quickly and probably won’t have found this weekend as tiring as you!” So I played the London System as White again and quickly found myself in a very nice position. I think he was just unfamiliar with it and didn’t realise how strong a King-side attack can result from such positions. So after less than 90 minutes I was able to play a very pretty sacrificial combination leading to checkmate on move 26. A very satisfying Win to finish the tournament!
As it turned out, my grade for the tournament was almost exactly my current grade, therefore my 2 out of 5 score is exactly what I might be expected to achieve against these opponents. The final pretty game helped me view the whole tournament slightly more positively than that, despite a feeling of disappointment at having lost three games. Roll on 2019 🙂