Saturday, 7 March 2020

And They're Off! - WSTCC 2020 Day 2

Round 1 got underway a bit before/after/right on schedule yesterday. None of the players know which, since no watches are allowed inside the playing hall, whether smart, analogue or an old Sekonda your aunt gave you for Christmas in 1964. No phones either, of course, and the anti-cheating measures don't stop there. As soon as you finish your game an arbiter comes and retrieves the little pink tag that signifies you as a player in that round, and you have to leave the playing hall and can't come back in. Except as a spectator, which is worse than useless, as you are restricted to a little roped off pen from which you can see about 4 games if you are lucky - and none of the top matches. And while 8 games were projected for view in an ante-room, yesterday these were all from the 50+ tournament, so there as no way of knowing what was happening in the 65+ event taking place right next door. Except to go back to your room and watch the action unfold on the laptop.  (Which thankfully I didn't leave on a train at Crewe this year!) Assuming the match you want to observe was on the live boards! This all seems a bit excessive. I know it's a World Championship, but we're only a bunch of old codgers after all.

Moan over, and onto the chess. Thankfully it seems as though nearly everyone who was expected has actually turned up, except in England's case. On that point Jim Plaskett arrived yesterday, having answered a late call-up to replace the non-travelling Jon Speelman in the 50+ England 1 team. I think he is sitting out today's encounter against TU Magdeberg after yesterday's late arrival.

The organisers had failed to adjust the ranking of the teams to reflect the actual personnel who had shown up so in the 65+ section, England 1 was seeded 4th for Round 1, despite the fact that we should now have been 14th in the absence of Messrs Nunn, Povah etc. Even so, the fact that we couldn't beat a Czech club team from Pardubice (venue of a famous Grand National style horse race each year) was disappointing. We drew our two black games readily and were clearly winning on both of our white boards at times, but the match against the 29th seeds ended up with all 4 games drawn. My venerable opponent (age 77) had clearly been a strong player in his day, but now he is rated the same as me. I got a clear advantage from the opening with black (1.6 or more according to Fritz), but failed to maintain the edge and a timely draw offer before he realised he had at least equalised saw me make a solid start.

The England 2 team, who were England 3 until 2 days ago, got an excellent draw against Scotland, who had IM David Levy on Board 3! Most of the top seeds steamrollered their opposition, though Germany 1 only got home by the minimum margin against an Austrian club team. Did I just imagine it, or was GM Knaak distracted and anxious after he spied me in the room? Is he still haunted by our game at Rhodes last year??

I saw nothing of the 50+ event as its being held in a separate hotel about 100m away, but England 1 beat the German Women's team 4-0 and while England 2 went down by the same score against the very strong Czech Republic 1, the England Ladies avoided a whitewash against number 2 seeds Lasker Schachstiftung GK, when Ingrid Lauterbach got an excellent draw against GM Meister.

I have seen absolutely none of Prague's many sights as so far I haven't ventured more than about 400m in  any direction from the hotel - ie as far as the nearest restaurant/bar! But I'm sure that will change, especially when I get a day off.

One very nice touch by the organisers has been the presentation of some goodies to every player. The desk diary is very nice, though rather useless to those of us who don't do very much all year, but the special can of WSTCC beer is much appreciated!

I love a freebie or three!

Today we have been up-floated to play Switzerland, when I will be facing an even more venerable opponent than yesterday, who has been well over 2300 in his prime. It will be quite something if I can keep this sequence of increasingly old opponents going for the whole tournament!

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