Gibraltar Junior Chess Festival 2016

Aug 25, 2016, 6:01 AM |

Last week, I played in the 6th Gibraltar Junior Chess Festival at the Caleta Hotel as part of the England Junior Squad. The junior tournament is very much similar in organisation to the main event, the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters, run in January/February, with excursions and a gala dinner at the end, along with masterclasses from top GMs such as David Howell and a simultaneous. This year, the field for the event was slightly weaker than normal (I last went in 2014) due to the concurrent European Youth Championships being held in Prague.


18th August - Opening Ceremony and Blitz


We flew from Heathrow and landed safely in Gibraltar at about 16:30. As the Opening Ceremony was at 17:30, this gave us only a little time to drop off our bags in our rooms, but the scheduling didn't turn out to be a problem. After the Opening Ceremony, we unpacked and then went down to the tournament hall for the Blitz. There is an unwritten rule that you do not play what you would normally in the Blitz, as otherwise you show everyone your openings, so I found myself playing 1.b3 in the 4th round (and winning due to the one trap I know in the line: 1.b3 e5 2.Bb2 Nc6 3.e3 d5 4.Bb5 Bd6 5.f4 exf4?? 6.Bxg7 ... .... 1-0). I came into the 5th and final round on 4/4, playing the top seed, but unfortunately lost playing 1...b6 as I didn't know how much money was available (=1st got £150, compared to =3rd with about 11 other players, which got £10! {and no, that's not a factorial sign!}).


19th August - Rounds 1-2, Masterclass


The first round was at 10:00, so there was a little time for opening prep before the game. I don't normally do this, but everyone else does at this tournament, so I felt it was pointless to give them an advantage before the game had even started.


My reward for this quick victory was an encounter with the 3rd seed (I was seeded 14th, which turned out to be a rather unfortunate number).
At 20:00 we attended a masterclass. This year there were two options for English speakers - GM David Howell's or WGM Jovanka Houska's. For the first masterclass I attended GM Howell's, a very interesting and instructive class where he showed how studies could be used in practical play by eliminating losing lines and calculating forced variations first. Unfortunately the room in which it was being held was really, really hot and humid, and I was more than a little relieved not to faint as none of us had brought along water!
20th August - Round 3, Rock Tour/Leisure Centre, Simultaneous
In the afternoon there was the option of either going on the Rock Tour (a tour around Gibraltar, visiting the apes and St Michael's Cave, among other attractions), which I went on when I visited in 2014, or going to the Leisure Centre. This year I chose the Leisure Centre as something different, and thus went ten-pin bowling. I won my individual game with 112 points, and came 4th overall (I think), despite being one of the slowest bowlers ever seen (about 7.4(!) mph (11.9 kph) - everyone else was over 10 mph (16.1 kph)). We had the option of going ice skating as well, but I usually count it as a success if I can get around the rink without falling over or touching the side, so I gave that a miss and just watched the bowling.
In the evening we had the simultaneous. Five titled players go round the boards playing alternate moves, which gives their opponents a much greater chance of victory. At least that's the theory. Normally it just turns into whoever reaches the board first plays the move, with GMs dropping out and back in. Their opponents are usually allowed to confer a little bit, so I won't give extensive notes. In 2014 I managed to score a nice victory in a KID Sämisch, so I was looking forward to the event, and again it turned a little wild.
21st August - Rounds 4-5, Masterclass
For some reason, the diagram hasn't put his rating in. He was a 1998.
By tis point I was rather tired, which hopefully explains my decision to take a fairly early draw in the following game.
There was a second masterclass in the evening, and this time I went to Jovanka Houska's, partly to balance the books, partly because it was outdoors! It was a bit more of a fun demonstration of blunders, perhaps a bit less instructive than the David Howell one, but good nonetheless.
22nd August - Round 6, Dolphin Tour, Gala Dinner
In the afternoon we had the Dolphin Tour. As usual, everybody got very excited at the sight of the first few dolphins, and then either got dehydrated, seasick, or bored (I took a precautionary cap this year, but it didn't help much). It was especially choppy this year, just to add to the fun.
The event was rounded off by the gala dinner, a big event attended by all the sponsors, the Minister for Sport, and all the participants including the arbiters and organisers which also includes the prizegiving. All the food was delicious, as would be expected. Unfortunately it was rather difficult to hear anything as we were at the back of the dining room, but it wasn't a major issue. I won £25 for =10th, which was nice, but not quite enough to pay for the travel expenses (£800). We flew home the following day after spending some time in the city, mostly buying food and trying to find the ice-cream shop which sold medium ice-creams with a cone for £2 rather than £2.50 (everything is more expensive over there (medium ice-creams with a cone are around £1.50 in England) - although it's duty free, the shopkeepers know that most people who goes to Gibraltar have more than a little money to spare).
Overall, I enjoyed the trip and would definitely go again, were it not for the fact that I'll be too old next year (I'll have to try to persuade the organisers to extend it to U18!). I lost 20 rating points, which is a little silly (my first round game didn't count for rating points as my opponent was unrated, and my round 3 and round 5 opponents were about 300 rating points too low (indeed, my round 5 opponent said that he was gaining 300 rating points this month alone)). I finished on exactly my seeding with tiebreaks taken into account (14th), but I only played one player who finished above me, which was unfortunate. Still, I did reach my target, and played some interesting games, which is the main reason I play chess.