Kings Place Rapidplay, London July 11

Kings Place Rapidplay, London July 11

Sep 20, 2015, 8:36 AM |

A piece I wrote for a chess magazine:


Mark A Jordan


Kings Place, designed by the architects Dixon Jones, who were also responsible for the Royal Opera House is, in modern architectural and town planning parlance, a mixed use building. Situated within a short walking distance of Kings Cross Station, it comprises conference and events facilities, space for the visual arts, a bar, restaurant and café and, upstairs via a separate entrance, very substantial office space. The residents include Guardian Newspapers Group which, if you happen to be organising an event literally under the feet of their editors, is surely no bad thing!

On the 11 July Kings Place played host to the 3rd Kings Place Rapidplay which has established itself as the strongest one-day tournament in the UK but, with 260 entrants across the five sections, it is a real chess fest for all playing strengths. The venue is pretty much ideal for chess with plenty of room between boards, even given the large entry, excellent lighting, full air conditioning and doors that swing shut silently. The Open and Major shared a large theatre/conference hall which could hardly be bettered for chess purposes and featured a spacious stage on which were accommodated the top 5 boards of the Open. Spectators could view events on the top four boards on giant electronic screens set high on a wall just outside the playing hall and, for a blow by blow account of the crucial games, could visit the commentary room where GM Chris Ward held forth in informative and entertaining fashion.   I was somewhat underwhelmed by the available food which tends towards the rather overpriced alleged gourmet fare which seems to be obligatory in public venues these days, but you can’t have everything!

The Open, which boasted no less than 12 Grandmasters (Leonard Barden stated 8 GMs in his article in the Guardian which is incorrect ) and numerous IMs and FMs, looked set to be very competitive, especially since there were only two main prizes. Expectations were met: it was competitive indeed!


Top seed was GM David Howell, who has subsequently broken through the 2700 Elo classical rating barrier, closely followed by GM Luke McShane and the formidable. Gawain Jones. Offering serious challenges from slightly further down the rating list were GM Jonathan Hawkins, the reigning British Rapidplay Champion, and veteran GM, Mark Hebden, who has won the British Rapidplay no less than 6 times; the last title being as recently as 2013. An added bonus was the participation of Scottish GM, Jonathan Rowson, who plays infrequently these days.

The first 3 rounds saw the leading trio, Howell, McShane and Jones, plough through the field to top the table on 3/3 where they were joined by Hawkins, GM John Emms and IM David Eggleston. Hebden, meanwhile, had dropped a ½, in round 2, to Michael Healey and, in the same round, Rowson lost to Robert Eames and was probably out of the running. So round 4 saw the crucial pairings that would probably decide the destiny of the top prizes: Jones v Howell, Emms v McShane, Hawkins v Eggleston.


After a hard battle, Gawain Jones defeated the favourite, David Howell, whilst Luke McShane triumphed over John Emms, and Jonathan Hawkins joined them on 4/4 when he beat David Eggleston. Meanwhile Mark Hebden, making up for his draw in round 2, was ½ a point behind the leaders and looking to overhaul them. Now with 3 players on 100%, the pairings were, McShane v Hawkins and IM Richard Pert v Jones. McShane and Jones came out on top and, therefore began the final round on 5/5 with Hebden still playing catch-up on 4 ½.


Pairings: Jones v McShane, Hawkins v Hebden.


There being only a first and second prize (£1000 and £500 respectively), if Jones and McShane drew then they ran the risk of a three-way tie if Hebden won. Hebden  needed to beat Hawkins with Black for a chance to share first or come clear second, whilst a draw would almost certainly leave him in a multiple tie for second at best, but more likely out of the prizes. Unfortunately for Hebden, Hawkins proved very much up to the challenge and claimed an emphatic and swift victory. Jones and McShane subsequently drew and, finishing on 5 ½ /6, shared 1st and 2nd prizes, going home with £750 each. All the other GMs went home with nothing!


The Under 210 prize was shared by Rob Eames, Chris Briscoe and Natasha Regan on 4/6 and Chris Davison, also on 4/6, bagged the under 180 prize.


The Major (u170), in which I competed, was pretty much a one horse race with the Danish player, Helge Hjort, galloping his way through the opposition in the first 5 rounds and, ending with a draw, securing 1st prize and a £100. Mathew Peat, recovering from a loss in round 3, came in second. Sussex Junior, Sandip Ahluwalia, who drew with Hjort in the last round, won the U155 grading prize. My own performance was underwhelming. Having got off to a reasonable start (1 ½ /2), with a rather nice win in the round 1, I frittered away a number of good positions, was completely outplayed in the last round, and only managed one further point in round 5. One day soon I’ll play up to my own expectations!


The Minor (u145) was rather more of a battle for the prizes with a number of players in contention until the last. The competition was eventually resolved with Erika Orsagova (Slovakia) and David McNish (England) sharing the top two prizes.


The Amateur (u120) was a triumph for 11 year old Lohia Siddhanth who swept to 1stplace with 100% and will presumably see his ECF 103 grade increase rather rapidly.


My First Tournament (u85) certainly seemed to live up to both its billing and intention with ungraded players easily in the majority and, with 44 entrants, it was clearly a success in drawing new players to the competitive chess environment. It was won by the presently ungraded junior, Shahjahon Saidmurodov on a triumphant 6/6 with three players sharing 2nd.


So a very satisfying day of a chess in an excellent central London venue which, I understand, is more than happy to host the event for at least the next couple of years.