Once again chess enthusiasts from across the country gathered on the first weekend in February for the Kidlington Chess Congress: we had (almost) a full house with 180 players in attendance.
- Round One: I kicked off as Black against a slightly lower-rated opponent and gradually got into difficulties. My position deteriorated and, in addition, I was running low on time. Facing immediate defeat, I sacrificed a knight as a last resort, with less than one minute left on my clock. As my opponent got into similar time trouble, and as we had been playing for approaching 3 hours 30 minutes, he blundered a perpetual check so I escaped with a Draw, much to my relief.
- Round Two: My first game as White went quickly awry against another slightly lower-rated opponent. He allowed me some counter chances, however, and I offered an exchange sacrifice which he probably should have accepted. For a few moments, I was even winning but didn’t quite have enough time left on my clock to convert the endgame, so this one ended in another Draw.
- Round Three: The evening round paired me as Black against a 10-year-old rising star. Rated similarly to me, possibly much higher given how quickly he is improving; he started the game very enthusiastically and confidently and quickly got into a very strong attacking position. My usual trick in such positions is to play moves which give my opponent an opportunity to make mistakes, which is exactly what happened. He slumped in his seat very quickly when he realised he’d erred. I almost felt sorry for him, but not until after he’d actually resigned! Was pleased to Win this one, thus keeping up my recent 100% record against young whippersnappers.
- Round Four: Starting Day Two on 2 out of 3 meant that I was certain to get tougher opposition and I did so, with White against a strong opponent. Fortunately he played an opening variation I knew very well and I was able to build up a very impressive, but not actually absolutely winning, position. He defended his passive position very well and it looked like I’d have to put up with another drawn game, but luck was on my side and he mis-stepped in time trouble and I was able to Win a straightforward endgame.
- Round Five: With a score of 3 out of 4, I was paired against one of the strongest players in the section and was up for a fight. A win would see me in the prizes if results of the other games favoured me. I had White and once again was fortunate enough to face an opening line I was familiar with, following a game won by Garry Kasparov. I reached an overwhelmingly strong position with an attack that looked monstrous, but couldn’t quite find the winning path. I ended up two pawns ahead, however, which should have been enough to win. But with lots of pieces on the board and tenacious counterplay from my opponent, it proved far from easy. If I’d had more time I would have found the winning line, but eventually we reached a theoretically drawn position. A win in the final round would have been spectualar, and I felt disappointed only to manage a Draw in the circumstances. However, given that luck had worked in my favour at some point in all my previous games, perhaps it’s churlish to complain!
So 3.5 out of 5, which is the best I’ve ever scored in this section, just a shame I didn’t edge out the last game to make it 4 out of 5, which would have given me a share of the Second Place prize! Still very pleased, I’ve estimated my grade for the tournament is about 175, which is fighting well above my weight (listed grade is 161). Staying unbeaten for the entire tournament is also a first for me (except for one occasion many years ago when I played in the lower-graded section against significantly weaker opposition) and so I should be extremely happy overall with my performance.
UPDATE 09.02.2020:My own analysis of my own games with commentary is available and also the full tournament results