Monday, 9 March 2020

It's Official - Lady Luck is English! - WSTCC 2020 Day 4

At the third time of asking three of the five English teams at the 2020 WSTCC scored their first match wins yesterday, and with the all GM 50+ England 1 scoring a third consecutive victory, it was a very good day all round. But unlike the other England victories, the 65+ England 1 win over Wales Deheubarth was very, very luck,y indeed.

For most of the session, we were staring down the barrel of a comprehensive defeat, being totally lost on one board and as good as totally lost on another (mine!). But Lady Luck then intervened, and from being 3 or 4 pawns down on Board 3 we were gifted a whole rook when the Welsh player blundered a discovered check. By that time Board 4 had already been drawn, while on Board 1 FM Tony Stebbings was ending a very smooth kingside attack by delivering checkmate to win the match. (Giving me a 100% match record in my one and only game as England "captain"!)

So at least the pressure was somewhat off for me, which was just as well, since I had enterprisingly but erroneously sacked a piece straight out of the opening. The White king was stranded in the centre, but I just couldn't get my pieces out quickly enough to capitalise. The position was still very tense, though, when my opponent, the redoubtable and well known Rudy Van Kemenade, sensibly returned the piece to go into an endgame a pawn up, and with every prospect of winning a second. Somehow, though, he neglected to take the second pawn and then compounded his error by blundering away his extra pawn. It was still tense as in a bishop ending he had a better king and stronger bishop, but playing far too quickly he gave away all his advantage and for a few moments I thought I was winning, even with only 3 pawns each left on the board. However, I wasn't, and I had to settle for a draw. But given the desperate straits I had been in for most of the game, I could hardly be that disappointed!

As I write this, Round 4 is underway - but don't worry about me being caught using a computer during play, as I am having a rest day and am safely ensconced in my hotel room.

I spent the first part of today making a fairly major expedition out into the Czech countryside to visit the town of Terezin.  You've probably never heard of it, but if I mention that in German it is known as Theresienstadt, it might ring a bell or two with the more historically savvy KCC member.  For this was the infamous site of a Jewish ghetto during WW2, as well as being the home of a notorious Gestapo prison.  Being a sensitive creature, I am rather hesitant to engage in genocidal tourism, but sometimes you just have to be a witness to man's capacity for evil, as a reminder of the human values we need to hang on to for dear life.

Possibly the 3 most chilling words in any language - at the Small Fortress, Terezin

Alhough Terezin was never a concentration or execution camp, thousands of people died by execution, or disease or starvation during its awful wartime years. It is an intensely dark story, but also one laced with bitter irony. It was here that the Red Cross, in one of the great whitewashes of history, was duped into thinking that the ghetto (housed in the walled garrison known as the Large Fortress) was a model community of Jewish self-government. And of course, the visitors from Geneva were kept well away from the Small Fortress on the other bank of the River Ohre, which housed the Gestapo prison. Incidentally, this was where Gavrilo Princip died, after several years of incarceration following his assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. So WW1 and WW2 are horrifically linked in this one small town.

The National Cemetery, Terezin, with the Small Fortress behind

Right, that's enough history and enough misery for one report. Today the headline match is England 1 v USA in the 50+ section, while my team are in action against Czech Republic 3 - but too far down to be on the live boards, so I have no idea what is happening. Nothing new there, I hear you say, and I wouldn't disagree with that! And I promise to lighten the mood a bit in the next report.

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