Winning Ugly

In contrast with the British Championships last year, this time I found the chess hard work. My first game was a gruelling 94 move struggle and I didn’t have many smooth wins. I was also certainly in bad shape at various stages of my games against the other three highest rated players and 2 points was a very flattering return from these encounters.

Some of the problems I mentioned last year persisted; it still seems odd to me that all participants in the British do not have to be members of a qualifying Federation, particularly as membership fees remain such a bone of contention in the ECF.

I can’t compete with the fulsome denigration that Nigel dished out to the accelerated pairing system in the commentary room after round three, however it seemed to me that with a small field and 11 rounds it proved particularly pointless this time, the mini-matches between the 4 highest rated players had been completed by round 8 leaving the tournament to conclude in a flurry of downfloats.

I think one detail of the rules for the playoff could well be in improved for the future. Starting with two games of 20 minutes + 10 seconds seems reasonable, but if this is tied going directly to an armageddon game is ridiculous. In general these contrived affairs which create more than their fair share of disputes are resorted to far too often. There are occasions where a genuine shortage of time makes it necessary, such as at the World Open where the tiebreak game began after 11 pm, but at the British there seems to be no reason not to play normal blitz games. If time is considered so short, at least sudden death blitz has the advantage that a draw would not decide the Championship. If the playoff is considered a serious affair this would be a better option; as well as being fairer to the players, the spectators (many stayed to watch after the prize-giving) rarely complain if there are more games in this kind of situation.

I have never been too interested in trophies, but it seemed odd that there was nothing presented for the British Championship. I was told the British trophy was in for repairs last year, and I guess these were not an unqualified success as apparently it is now too fragile to be moved. In addition, for reasons that I’m sure make perfect sense but to me seem a little obscure, the playoff does not also decide the English Championship.

I was a bit distracted by the playoff to witness all the drama associated with stonewallgate (see Tara’s comments below) but it was a great shame that given the huge efforts CJ de Mooi had made with the event that he ended up not distributing the prizes.

Michael Adams Written by:


  1. December 23

    Keep your posts coming michael. It is always enlightening to read your thoughts and your experience about playing chess at the highest levels. It seems that even you have your off days and you think you are not playing at the top level. However, I know that players like you would be able to bounce back to form.

  2. Jonathan Rogers
    September 16

    Do you mean the top two English players on the FIDE list, or the top two English players among those who entered?

    If the former, then I imagine the answer might perhaps be Speelman and arguably yourself in 1990 (won by Plaskett ahead of Hodgson and Mestel). Oddly the two of you played in the last round with absolutely nothing at stake!

    I agree that the top English player should get the title. Stewart’s approach of giving it to the runner up in the play-off (only if there’s a play-off?) as a consolation is rather the sort of thing one expects to see in junior competitions.

  3. Stewart Reuben
    September 12

    Historically there has always been a playoff for the British Championship. (Indeed there used to be one for the British Ladies.) It used to be a separate event and was sponsored by Grieveson, Grant in their period. However they didn’t consider it to be adequate value and that was discontinued. There are various ways in which the rules of a playoff can be written. None is perfect. Michael will remember he didn’t want the playoff in 1997 to stretch on and on.
    The alternative would be to use some tiebreak rule. If it had been the greater number of games with black, Nigel would have won this year. An alternative is the rating average of the opponents, discarding the individual encounter. I haven’t looked that up, but probably Michael would have won.
    The British Championship trophy was pensioned off in 2008 and resides in the library in Hastings. There should be a new one.
    I disagree with Michael about the playoff for the English Championship. I think it is better that the loser of the match should have the consolation of the English title.
    Stewart Reuben

    • September 13

      It is unfortunate that you don’t consider an English Championship to be an important event. There are very few countries where a national championship doesn’t exist and the incorporation of the title into the British is a small but welcome step forward which I hope can be built on in the future, as I mentioned last year. I am somewhat staggered that you consider the title to be an unimportant consolation prize to be tossed to the loser. Personally, I value the Tony Miles cup very highly due to its association with a player I much admired.

  4. Alan Burke
    September 12

    I can understand the reason for not having a play-off for the English Championship. Suppose the top two English players in the British Championships finished eg: equal fourth; would people really be interested in waiting for a play-off for that title to take place, with the main Championship having already been decided ?

    • September 13

      Of course I would not encourage a separate play-off but if there are two or more English players involved in the play-off for the British Championship then I think the English should also be at stake. How many times have the top two or more English players finished equal fourth or below in the history of the competition?

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