Monday, 16 June 2014

Adventures on the Dorset Coast

I've just returned from a brief sojourn on the south coast, to take part in the Bournemouth chess congress. The weekend did not start promisingly as, after a somewhat tedious train journey in a carriage with some rather overly excitable football supporters, I arrived just in time for the first round on the Friday evening. My opponent proceeded to play the French against me (boo) and I was so enraged by this opening choice I managed to blunder the exchange after about 20 moves, leading to a swift and rather depressing loss.

I awoke on Saturday morning to find I had a bye in the morning round (the risks of losing your first game). Normally when I play in congresses I find this an annoyance as it means you’ve travelled all that distance and paid your money to end up not having a game. However, in view of my appalling play the previous evening, I decided a morning off would probably do me some good, so set off to explore the town. Having never visited Bournemouth before, I was interested to see if there was anything in the town worth visiting; there was not. However, there is some very nice countryside in the surrounding area, so I decided a 10 mile walk might suitably prepare me for the afternoon’s contest.

Somewhat surprisingly for an idea of mine, this actually proved a good strategy, and I sat down feeling fresh for my game with black against a 193. Managing to get the Balogh defence on the board (1.e4 d6 2. d4 f5) raised my confidence somewhat, and I managed to ground my opponent down in a good bishop versus bad knight endgame to claim the win. In the evening there was a handicap rapidplay tournament, with each game lasting twenty minutes but the two players having different proportions of this time depending on their grade. The net result of this (at least for those of us towards the higher end of the grading range) was many games against 100-110 rated juniors, where they had 18 minutes and we only had 2. Needless to say, these were not easy games to win. The success of the format can probably be best judged from the fact the winner was graded 107, with the joint runners up respectively a 60 rated 7 year old and GM Keith Arkell. Certainly a format worth exploring in the future.

On to the Sunday where, in a tribute to the victors from the night before, I decided to play the Italian game with white. After a handful of logical looking moves from both sides, I was reminded of the perils of deciding ones opening choices based on football results, as I realised I had absolutely no idea what plan I should be adopting in the resulting position. Cowardice being the better part of valour (at least I think that is the phrase), I decided to swap everything off into a completely level endgame. Not hugely exciting but I suppose a reasonably comfortable draw against someone graded 198 is not something to be too disappointed by.

Unfortunately, as so often happens when I play players graded higher than myself, none of the games were particularly interesting or worthy of publishing. This is mainly because I have far more faith in myself to defend slightly worse endgames than I do to play well in complicated tactical positions, so I tend to try and keep the games as simple as possible. I’ve therefore decided to show my game from the final round with black, which was another successful outing for the Balogh defence, this time securing a draw against a 203 graded FM. Not the most aggressive play from either side, but an interesting (at least to me) rook endgame, where black just has sufficient resources to hold on despite a threatening looking white position.

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