British Championships 2022 Weekend Open

In a last-minute rush, three University players entered the weekend open tournament running alongside the British Chess Championships in Torquay. Half of the A team made the trip with the captain Dan Savidge, incoming president Tom Shepherd and Ian Gallagher was also there. We also Dan’s old school friend, James Clark, whose name was close enough to one of our players to also get a mention in this report. With 5 rounds in 3 days and over 100 players registered to take part, it was a tough to say who would finish first from Bristol University with the luck of the draw potentially playing a big role. We all agreed that if any of us were paired against each other, then we would agree a quick draw and settle things on the adventure golf course like professionals.

I was very pleased to have a quick win on Friday evening after a warm train journey down to the coast and having a wonder around the town in a more pleasant temperature.

8.d5? This allows Black to undermine the centre due to a refutation of a tactic. 8…e6 9.Bd3 This appears to break the pin with tempo but there is a sting in the tail. 9…Bxf3 10.gxf3 Qh3 In this position played 11.Bf4 with no material to compensate for the weakened king. The point is that 11.dxc6 Bd6 12.cxb7+ Kb8 13.f4 Ng4 and the threat of mate wins the queen.

Tom had a good result drawing with the second seed in the first round until the computer brutally told him that he was clearly better in the final position. Dan continued where we finished off last season by beating a Downend player.

A 9:15am start on Saturday morning was not too kind to the University players. Dan and I both lost, although Tom managed to hold what appeared to be a much worse rook ending by letting his opponent give up his rook to queen a pawn but keeping a dangerously advanced pawn of his own. Computers say he was still worse but perhaps this balanced his bad luck from the day before. It also put all the University players on 1.0/2 with the adventure golf looming.

Things improved in round three with James Clark (not that one) scoring his first over the board long-play win. True to our styles, Tom won an exciting Exchange Slav, I had a won position from a Scandi by move 10, and Dan fell into a perpetual trying to rush his winning position when his opponent was in time trouble. A long day of chess so we all had early nights with the promise of doing something to celebrate on the Sunday evening to make up for it and it paid off.

Sunday was an incredible day for the University players with everyone going 2.0/2 on the day. Having spoilt the results, this means that Tom and I finished in equal 4th on 4.0/5, while Dan finished equal 11th on 3.5/5. Sadly, not such a great day for University-adjacent James who lost a completely winning position by making two illegal moves and having to forfeit. I’ve never heard of that ever happening and James Clark (not that one) was in good spirits all things considered. A story to tell in future when he’ll get lots of drinks out of pity.

Everyone finished the tournament with nice combinations, which cheered everyone up for our post-tournament drinks. First to win was Dan with a brutal checkmating attack when his opponent was completely tied down.

White had been in complete control soon out of the opening and can leisurely finish off his attack while Black can only sit and watch. Still the end was satisfying. 31.R1d3 Nf5 32.Rb3 Kb8 33.Qa6 Nxd6 34.exd6 The pawn is just as unpleasant on d6 as the rook. It can’t be taken as the queen needs to defend the b7 square. 34…Qc8 35.Rxb6+ axb6 and Black resigned before mate next move.

Tom managed to beat a very strong opponent after drawing with two highly rated players earlier in the tournament. If there were any tiebreakers, it’s fair to say that Tom would have finished way above me despite being on equal points.

Black has survived the attack and goes on the counter. The next move is relatively easy to spot but I imagine the second was quite the shock to White. 29…Qxb2 when the rook can’t leave the back rank due to mate, however after 30.Rf3?? Qxb1+! there is more than one way to remove a defender. The point is 31.Bxb1 Rc1+ mates next move.

My game dragged on longer than expected but I was the same as a young player hoping for stalemates, but the winning tactic demonstrated some nice geometry.

28.Nd1? Things aren’t great for White, but this is too defensive and allows a decisive invasion. 28…Qd3! 29.a4 My opponent suddenly realised the queen is here to stay since, for example, 29.Nf2 Rxa2! 30.Nxd3 Rxa1+ 31.Kb2 R8a2# is very pretty. 29…Qxb3+ 30.Rb2 Qxa4 31.Ra2 Qb3+ 32.Rhb2 After toying with the rooks, not surprisingly Black has a killer blow. 32…Rxa2! 33.Rxb3 Rxa1+ 34.Kc2 Rxc1+ 35.Kxc1 Be1 This would have been a good time to resign.

Overall, a good set of performance from University 1 and hopefully we can send a larger contingent to the British Chess Championships 2023. Best of luck to former University player Seb Skalski, who is currently halfway through the Major Open. Nine days is just a little too long for the rest of us!

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