The pandemic has pretty much shutdown all over-the-board chess. Especially large events like congresses: the idea of 200 chessplayers crammed into a village hall playing chess for hours at a time in close proximity sets my nerves on edge even thinking about it. I strongly expect my favourite Kidlington Chess Congress not to take place in February for this reason which is a great shame.
So I’ve been playing online chess a bit: there’s nothing unusual in that, but last weekend I played in an actual properly-organised online chess tournament, the Witney Rapidplay.
There are various online chess sites to play on, Chess.com and LiChess being the two most popular currently. The Witney tournament was played using the latter and it worked very well. The tournament website shows you the pairings, along with the LiChess usernames of the players, and the player with White challenges the player with Black on LiChess for each round.
It must be said that the whole experience is very different from playing a ‘real’ tournament: there’s none of the occasion or atmosphere associated with an over-the-board competition. No opportunity to chat with your opponents or other players, and during the game one doesn’t see the expressions and behaviour of your opponent as he reacts to your moves: is he confident? Did he play his last move with a flourish or did he look worried? Who can tell. All you get with online chess is the length of time it takes before the move appears on your screen with a clinical ‘click’. And I miss playing with a real board and pieces: I enjoy the tactile nature of using a real set, pressing a real clock and find that I visualise complicated combinations much better over the board than on screen.
Despite the difference in circumstances, once the games begin I became engaged and focused very quickly. Some things are always the same: you worry that you’ve played a dodgy opening or that you’re making a fool of yourself. Still, on this occasion I actually did quite well.
It was a six-round Rapidplay tournament: each game was 20 minutes per player, plus 10 seconds per move. Meant that games which ‘go the distance’ probably last about an hour. I settled into that pace quite well: I won four games, drew one and lost one, giving me 4.5 out of 6. This was enough to tie for Third Place overall (although technically I lost out on a tiebreak) and a tournament grade of about 185, which is higher than I expected (and well above my currently-posted grade of 163) and I am very pleased with the outcome.
Tournament results are at http://chess-results.com/tnr535330.aspx?lan=1&art=1&rd=6&fed=ENG&turdet=YES&flag=30 and my games are here with my own brief comments and analysis.