So here I am, sat in the lobby of Hotel Ambassadeur, and not on the plane back to London, preparing myself for an important 5-a-side football match this evening. No I didn’t have a debaucherous night and find myself face down in some ditch in St. Helier unable to regain consciousness, nor did I do something silly like forgetting to set the alarm or bring my passport with me. Quite simply, Jersey has been hit by a snow storm. The worst since 1987. In March. IN MARCH. When it’s supposed to be spring. When I should be listening to smallish birds chirping, and not gale force winds battering the windows. They say it’s only going to get worse, so leaving today is looking highly unlikely. Keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to catch an early morning flight. As long as I make it back before the Candidates…but let’s not even go there.
Rant over. Could be worse really, couldn’t it? At least it’s warm in here. And I’ve got quite a few episodes of The Wire to catch up on. And they serve a good Full English Breakfast (not the Full English Breakfast that you can listen to at www.thefeb.com and www.facebook.com/thefeb). And of course it means I have enough time to tell you wonderful people how the first Jersey Masters played out.
Before I delve into the particulars, it was my first trip to Jersey (of course I am referring to Jersey, the British Crown Dependency, largest of the Channel Islands not Jersey, New Jersey, Arkansas, Georgia, or any other town in the US of A), a place that has never really been on my must-visit list but I’m always happy to check out new places!
I found out that Jersey is in fact not part of the United Kingdom nor the EU, but has some sort of “special relationship” with it for trade related purposes. People here certainly consider themselves British though. Actually they use the pound here (they even have a £1 note which made me laugh, I was just imagining myself trying to use that back home, the looks I’d get!) and drive on the left. And have similar shops and restaurants. But they also have their own language, Jèrriais, which is apparently on the decline, despite some efforts to revive it by traditionalists.
The tournament itself took place in the Hotel Ambassadeur at the bottom of the island (St. Clements), a nice little place which overlooks the sea. The tournament schedule was rather gruelling though – 2 games a day and a very short break between them, so unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to explore the island bar one evening where we took a wrong turning from a meal in town and drove past the wonderful Gorey Castle. Hopefully next time I’ll get a real chance to see the sights.
I got off too a good start, despite having some difficulties against much lower rated opposition, reaching 3/3 to lead outright. The tournament itself was quite polarized with 4 GMs (Krasenkow, Rozentalis, Hebden & Rausis) and myself playing, the next seed being around 200 points below me.
On 3/3 I played Krasenkow with White and had a tough struggle, but managed to reach an ending where I almost certainly missed a draw but lost a crucial tempo to blow it:
I then played Hebden with Black and managed to get a satisfactory position out of the opening against his pet line the Barry attack (or is it defence?). I managed to snag a pawn but failed to play the correct continuation leading to a position which was never bad for me, instead blundering and losing quickly thereafter. I suppose the game with Krasenkow in the morning knackered me out somewhat, I wonder if I would have played it had I been a bit fresher…
After two losses I was downbeat but knew I could revive my tournament with a win against Rausis the following morning. I played a line which I have recently scored terribly with, losing against GM Sutovsky in Gibraltar and terribly against IM Palliser about 2 weeks ago. This time however, I got the upperhand in the opening but Igor played very precisely to keep some initiative for the pawn and we agreed a draw in a position which was a lot more difficult for me to play, despite my material advantage. To be honest I was relieved because I don’t think I could have taken another loss!
After beating another lower ranked player in the evening, I was then paired against the last of the top seeds GM Rozentalis (who was leading the tournament on his own from round 4 until the end!) with the Black pieces. Funnily enough he played the exact variation that I played against Rausis so I was well versed in how to counter it, and indeed after move 14 I was doing absolutely fine until I played the following horrible move:
Instead the natural 14…Ng4 was much stronger, threatening Nge5 with a nice game for Black. However I saw ghosts and thought that 15. Ng5 might be a problem, since after 15…Nxf2 he might be able to trap my knight with a move like 16.Qc2. As the machine quickly pointed out however, he can never trap the beast and I simply remain material up.
I quickly lost after the game continuation and felt bitterly disappointed, scoring a measly 0.5/4 against the titled players. I managed to win my final game unconvincingly against WFM Manuela Schmitz, finishing on 5.5/9 and coming 5th outright (my starting seed). Rozentalis was the deserved winner with 8/9, and apart from being a lovely bloke, he quite clearly played the best chess. Hebden came 2nd with 7.5/9 (despite surviving a couple of dubious looking positions), Krasenkow 3rd with 7/9 (Michal really struggled this tournament, having been lost in at least a couple of games but somehow managing to convert them into wins) and Rausis 4th with a solid 6.5/9.
A big thanks to the organizers, especially Tito Kahn, Adam Raoof (FIDE organizer), the sponsors Appleby and Jersey Tourism. Many thanks to the staff at Hotel Ambassadeur too, if you’re looking for a place to stay in Jersey, this is the place to stay.
Will be posting another blog shortly. Assuming I get home that is!