With team chess in the close season in Germany and the UK I thought I would wrap up the end of the Bundesliga and 4NCL. Both leagues ended happily for my respective teams Grenke Leasing’s Baden-Baden and Wood Green. I had contrasting seasons, several weekends containing only draws in Germany, but a memorable win in the key match v Werder Bremen which was helpful in retaining the title. I scored 5/5 back at home but all in matches that were not too competitive as Wood Green cruised home whilst out rivals floundered.
It was good to see that chess was one of the disciplines for the Adidas ‘Take the Stage’ advertising campaign. I was invited to mentor Yang-Fan Zhou for a day for the event which was quite a fun experience.
I haven’t updated for a while partly because we have been switching webhost, hopefully all the links should be working again now. I didn’t play the last 4NCL but was happy to see Wood Green squeezed past White Rose in a tight match. Looking at the live games the final position of this game from one of the games in the second team match versus Bristol confused me.
It seems Black resigned here but the position is a simple draw rook’s pawn aren’t that good in king and pawn endgames. Ivan used this concept neatly to make the easiest draw in the game below.
I made my first visit to the Bunratty event at it’s 19th edition, this was more my fault than theirs as I have been invited on a few other occasions. The once mighty weekend circuit in the UK is at a pretty low ebb at the moment and a number of the most interesting events take place across the Irish Sea. The generous support of Gary O’Grady and his company Blackthorne International Transport made for a fomidable field. With no FIDE rating points at stake I experimented a bit with my openings – rather more work required I’m afraid!
The games went by in a blur, after rather too good a Saturday night my first encounter with Nigel got off to an ugly start as I was forced to fianchetto my knight although I was pressing by the end. I finished with a win in the last round leaving Nigel, Gawain and myself tied on 5/6 drawing our individual games (spare a thought for the players who finished 4= for no prizemoney). The top 2 players played off for the title (Nigel and I) although if a tiebreak is considered reliable enough to decide this you might as well use it to declare a winner. Admittedly there was only the trophy and title at stake. The tiebreak games were 5 mins without increment sudden death. The generous number of live games was a positive feature of the event but for some reason the playoff games didn’t go out live.
My second game with Nigel was no prettier, I had White and ran into big trouble, facing a substantial material disadvantage but with the clock ticking relentlessly trying to avoid perpetual check my opponent erred and the material advantage reversed as I picked up a rook. Almost immediately we liquidated into a trivial 3v1 pawn ending and it was only a question of whether I could give mate with the time remaining.
The game proceeded until I gave mate (Nigel had no mating material remaining some time before ), at this stage my clock was showing zero (I think Nigel was also at zero on his clock at this point although it was clear my time elapsed first) so the result was a bit unclear. I thought I had won (although I wasn’t sure) as Nigel made no claim about the clock until after I had delivered mate which I had an idea concluded the game, I’m not sure at exactly the precise moment the clock ticked down to 0.00. Nigel also seemed uncertain as to what the correct outcome was and asked the arbiter to make a ruling.
The arbiter enquired as to whether we wanted to agree a result which seemed a bit odd, and then established not altogether surprisingly that I was hoping for a win and Nigel a
draw. He then declared the game should be a draw as my time had elapsed before mate was given.
I thought in that case he should have called the time forfeit when it occurred rather than waiting and then asking the players to agree a result first. He suggested I appeal the decision but that didn’t seem much in the spirit of the tournament. However I am a bit curious as to exactly what the rules say in such a situation.
Ray Keene asked me to try to reconstruct the games for the Times, my best recollection of the second game is below:
Ironically, for the Sunday night blitz with no prizes at stake the organisers reverted to a 3 min+ 2 sec increment!
Anyway it was great to get back to Ireland again and reminded me that a visit to one of my other favourite weekenders, Kilkenny, is long overdue.
The 10th edition of the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival, by far the strongest yet was as ever a tremendous event and it was great to hear that Brian Callaghan had received an OBE for services to tourism and chess in the New Year Honours List. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
After my London debacle it was good to complete a solid tournament, I had to work for it as game after game ended up in tricky endgames. Strangely with White I three times ended up on the better side of rook and opposite coloured bishop endgames, every time I had the dark squared bishop. I managed to win 2 although in probably the most promising I was foiled by careful defence by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.
With Black things were less happy as I managed to survive rook and knight endgames by the skin of my teeth against Zoltan Almasi and Viktor Bologan in the last 2 rounds ( I finished sub-optimally with a double Black). To continue the sense of déjà vu both games began with the same Lopez system . I was so busy I didn’t even get to check out the apes and although our room was ‘RockSide’ this year they didn’t swing down to visit the hotel. I wouldn’t be terribly distressed by some shorter games in the future.
Tournament chief sponsor Tradewise, Brain Callaghan and the staff of the Caleta Hotel pulled out all the stops for the 10th edition of The Gibraltar Chess Festival which was, as usual, a great success. To mark the anniversary Mickey and I were among the fortunate few to be invited to the Governor’s Dinner at the The Convent. Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns welcomed us all to the official residence and we were treated to a wonderful dinner that included the spectacle of the Ceremony of the keys where the Port Sergeant formally hands over the keys to the Governor before the start of the meal announcing “The fortress is secure!”. This was a wonderful piece of pageantry, very moving to witness. The keys themselves, positioned on a velvet cushion during the dinner, looked as if they must weigh well over 10lbs – hardly a set you could pop in your pocket! Happily this was one ‘post game’ engagement that didn’t succumb to the curse of the dinner plan and Mickey’s round 1 game did not run long so we were on time, though a couple of the other invitees including Nigel Short, weren’t so lucky and so were absent for the official photo. A very special event in honour of a very special tournament!
The Chess in Schools and Communities Charity is an integral part of the London Classic event and has made great strides in it’s short existence, having introduced an ever growing number of teachers in many schools.
In the spirit of this, I read in Chess Magazine that Malcolm Pein had made a visit to Scott Lake Elementary School in Miami, a school whose chess club has performed well in schools’ competitions at National level under chess coach Cheryl Polite and Principal Valerie Ward. As we were dodging the English winter with some holiday time in Florida after the LCC I asked him if it would be useful for me to do the same. Malcolm visited in May of 2011 along with Jeb Bush, Jr. through whom Malcolm had learned about this school and who also stopped by to watch my attempt. Malcolm had warned me that a couple of the students were quite strong: fortunately I did not get to find out as they had since graduated. The present batch of kids did keep me pretty busy however, both in terms of the chess and also from a physical point of view as the simul was a little hard on the knees as the boards in the middle had the lowest table I ever encountered in a simul, great for little ‘uns but a little tougher for me even though I’m not a giant!
I decided to demonstrate my game against Kotronias from 1992 hoping to inspire another generation of Marshall players!
It seemed to go down okay despite being played long before my audience was born. I then finished with the simul against the students. I brought over a 2010 London Classic program signed by all the players plus 2 impressive bonus signatures of Kasparov and Korchnoi to award for the best game which was secured by Davar Francois, congratulations Davar, keep up the good work!
The LCC has established itself very quickly and was as usual well organized. The addition of an extra player proving an inspired decision, as well as evening up the colours, the concept of having the player not playing that day involved with the commentary proved very popular both with spectators at the venue and large numbers of internet followers.
Even now with some distance from the debacle, it’s hard to explain exactly what went wrong during the chess, I don’t remember such a total wipeout for a long time. The opening positions in my 5 losses should have been quite playable but I made far too many errors thereafter.
I hope things will improve in the New Year!
It seems a bit late to write much about the European team championship held in Greece, so instead I will make some comments on the ECU decision to introduce some new rules for the future bringing in a dress code of staggering complexity and dubious enforceability (will the arbiter’s exam in future contain sections on the appropriate cleanliness and odour of clothes?).
They have also banned draws by agreement in less than 40 moves. Draw restrictions certainly have their place and a complete ban as in the LCC is appropriate for some events. I think it would be better for other events to make a less onerous generalised rule that would apply to all tournaments: 30 moves for instance seemed to work well in the Dresden Olympiad. The Bundesliga functions well with a 20 move limit. So perhaps a general rule for all rated games of 25 moves would be worth trying. There are already too many different rule variations with timecontrols so some uniformity would be very welcome. The ECU have already made an exception for senior events so adding to the confusion.
Instead of fiddling with these trivial details the ECU might consider employing proper pairing systems for their events. The Euro Cup and European Team Championships were both dismal in this regard.The idea that where possible the difference in strength between team’s opposition should be minimised seems self evident but no consideration appears to be given to this obvious point.
Another question is whether remote off season holiday resorts are the best venues to promote the game. I doubt spectators numbered double figures at the Eurocup and Euro team championships combined. This year at the Euroteams the entire complex was shut down other than for the chessplayers.