Opening move of 2011 British Championship

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.