Preston Congress 2016 - Open
I recently participated in the Preston Chess Congress 2016, a 5 round Swiss tournament held over a weekend nearby. This was the second time I had been to this congress, the first time being 2 years ago. I travelled to the tournament with another Lancaster Uni player, Stan. With a grading of 130, he was competing in the u145 section.
Due to my grading, I was ineligible to enter any section but the Open (which I would have gone for anyway!). It was a strong section - I started out as seed no. 23 out of 33 by rating. The top player had a rating of 213 (~2300)! This being the first time I had competed in the Open section of a congress, I was unsure on what to expect.
Stan and I both played all 5 rounds, which meant we made the trip for the dreaded Friday night round, starting at 6.15pm! Time controls were 1 hour 50 minutes, with 10 second increment, so 4 hour games were a reasonable possibility.
My first game was a tense encounter in the Maroczy Bind:
I was a little bit disappointed checking the game when I got back to find out that I probably accepted the draw prematurely, as that's not a good trait to pick up in my opinion. However, I was pleased with my play in the game, so it didn't affect my mood too much. Anyway, Stan won a good first game against a 134, so he was leading his section going into Round 2! A decent first round for us both.
Round 2 on the Saturday morning saw a lot more players in the playing hall. Many had taken byes for the first round, but no-one was absent for this round. I felt a little apprehensive, since in the first round on the Saturday morning all the players are fresh (working against my youthful stamina, I thought!) and out for a win to set them up for a good tournament. But, I felt in good form.
I will not give any description of this game ahead of showing it except to say that it was in the 3...c5 variation of the Caro-Kann. See below for how it went.
Nothing to say, except credit to my opponent for playing a great game. Afterwards, though, I was angry. I felt that I had sat at the board for about 3 hours concentrating on this game, and had seen precisely none of my opponents ideas until it was too late! Later, once I had calmed down, I attributed the loss mainly to my lack of opening knowledge (the Qa4 theme in particular), which contented me a little, since taking my openings to the next level is exactly what I had identified as the next step and I am working on that at the moment. But right then I was so mad!
Stan also lost, against a 139. Looking over it, I felt Stan had played another good game, and was unlucky to lose against the chap who would eventually win his section with a perfect 5/5.
By the afternoon, I had not calmed down. I was still raging at myself for getting completely schooled and frankly was not really in a proper mood to play chess. However, I received what was a very kind draw against the lowest rated player in the section, a 135. (Stan's opponent for this round, at 138, was higher rated!). At first, I was a little suspicious that my opponent would be severely underrated, perhaps a tricky player capable of beating strong players on his day. This didn't turn out to be the case,with no disrespect to my opponent; he was brave to enter the Open section and admitted to me that he just wanted the experience. He had a peculiar playing style in that he would always move within about half a minute of me moving. When I questioned this, he said: "I never see very much, so I just move right away!"
My game was not a particularly good one, but here it is:
This game was very uninspired and I have a feeling that if I had been playing anyone with a higher rating, I would have given into rage and crumbled. However, fortune was on my side, for some reason.
Stan drew; we both now stood at 1.5/3, so chances of first place had gone. However, with grading prizes on offer, we both knew we still had money to fight for - if tomorrow went well.
Back on Sunday morning for Round 4, my mood had completely changed. Well, okay, I was still super-mad about my Round 2 loss. But, I remembered how Kasparov used to channel his anger at a loss into destruction of his next opponent, and I tried to do the same. I was extremely motivated to just play aggressive, ruthless chess and wipe my opponent from the board.
I was given a chance - my round 4 opponent (only 15 years old - good to see some younger players playing strongly) played 3...Bc5 against my Italian game, and I went in with 4.b4 - the Evans Gambit - a suitably aggressive opening choice! Here's the game:
I felt good about this game! Actually, there are plenty of innacuracies in there but I feel like I played in an aggressive spirit and it was just what I needed to get back on track.
Stan also won a crazy game against a 126. He blundered a piece on move 5/6, but then came with a strong initiative and attack which his opponent couldn't stand up to. So we both made it to 2.5/4, meaning there was lots to play for in the last round!
Round 5 - the money round. Both Stan and I were pumped to win. The pairings were out quite late and Stan's came out much earlier than mine - he was playing a 130 rated Indian girl whose mother was standing behind her chair, giving her pre-game tips! However, Stan is not a guy to be intimidated by this in the slightest and so I felt he had a good chance.
My pairing came out and I saw I had White again - great! - against a 205 - eek! - that's ~2235 FIDE. About as high as I've played in a tournament game before. I decided that money was probably now out of the question, but settled down to do the best I could.
The game was a rollercoaster for me, and there's again no apt way to introduce it, except to say it was a Sicilian Kan:
A game which I do not think I deserved to win, but a game that I can be proud of in any event, and my highest-rated victory to date.
Stan won also! We both won both games on the Sunday therefore, and both got prizes.
In Stan's case, behind the guy with 5/5 was a 6-way tie for 2nd, which Stan got a share of, including a share of some grading prizes, which was great.
In my case, 3 people in the Open managed 4/5, so I was in a 4-way tie for 4th place. However, I did snag the u175 grading prize. Great results for both of us considering our seedings (Stan was around 13th seed in his section)! A truly enjoyable congress.
Thanks for reading!