I'm going to jump backwards in time from my last post. I've only played one game since (a rather disappointing and fairly uneventful draw) since my team got a bye in the cup. So I've decided to go back in time to the 21st-23rd of October in the seaside town of Scarborough when one of the biggest congresses in England took place. Scarborough and Blackpool are acknowledged as the two pillars of northern England congresses, and this year the open had a few FMs and IMs along with GM Mark Hebden, a staple of open section scenes. In these large events the lower sections are always very competitive, and I entered the U170 major rated 163. The thing about these majors is that to win you need to perform well above your grade even if you're highly seeded, so being the top seed doesn't really do any more than paint a target on your forehead (something I found out last year in the U150) and I can usually play quite solidly so I was hoping I could snick a couple of wins and leave with a score near the prizes.
Anyway, the first round was on Friday evening, and for once I didn't need to take a bye as I had no lectures in the afternoon. I turned up and found out I had the black pieces against a 150 who's name I can't remember but was definitely difficult to pronounce. He played e4 (yey!) and I got the chance to play my favourite Dragon which he, probably wisely, chose to steer into the classical. Now, sadly I don't remember this game (don't worry, I remember the others), but I will post it in the comments when I have access to the scoresheet. It is suffice to say that I won, but only after my opponent unfortunately blundered a pawn in a position where only he could have been better.
Game 2 was a cleaner affair to me, and was interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly it was another classical dragon, this time as white, and secondly I had already played my opponent about ten times before. Noel is a stalwart of the York chess scene and a great guy who I think I have an even lifetime score against, though I've had the upper hand recently after improving my game.
This is already the best start I've had in a major (albeit this was only my third), and it only got better in round 3! Happily, I got given the white pieces again, playing a 165 on top board.
This game finished so quickly that my friends all thought I'd gone and taken a quick draw! My opponent got unlucky to a degree in that he encountered this probably unfamiliar variation in an important tournament (the reason I haven't changed my repertoire in the last two years), but missing the Bxh7 sacrifice is unforgiveable. I was of course very happy with a 3/3 start, and spent the day splitting my attention between my friends' games in the open and the top boards in the major. It turned out I had company at the top going into Sunday, with Sydney Jacob and David Lord both winning their games (and both with the black pieces).
I shall now briefly take an interlude and move away from strictly chess related stuff. That Saturday was very surprisingly a great night out in Scarborough. We started the evening with a bit of pool and then had some drinks in a Wetherspoons before moving on. It turns out that Scarborough's karaoke scene is pretty incredible, and a few drinks were drunk and a few songs were sung that night until closing time eventually came around and we had to head home. What a night!
Unfortunately, I started the next round with the black pieces and a mild hangover, so there was a consequence. Fortunately my opponent was not in a fighting move, and offered a draw immediately after the board next to us drew, which I accepted. Off I went to an early lunch with a guaranteed share of the lead in the fifth and final round on 3.5/4. Again there was only one question: how many would join us there?
In the end only one person could, so there were four of us on 3.5 with twelve players a half point back. First place was worth £500, so a win would be massive, but a loss would spoil the whole tournament and earn nothing. A draw would guarantee prize money between at least £80 and at absolute most £250 (1st gets 500, 2nd gets 250, 3rd gets 150 and 4th gets 100), so there were high stakes.
We finished the game, and as expected the other guys on 3.5 nearly immediately drew to the chagrin of the arbiters who knew an umpteen-way tie for first was going down. My and David went to the bar to look at our tournament games over a pint and then went up to check how the games on 3/4 were going. To our disappointment four of the six finished decisively with some particularly bad defending in one game reducing our haul by £15. Nevertheless, I was perfectly happy with my 4/5 and share of first place. I do regret not playing on in the final round, but ultimately I was proud of my lack of blunders and generally solid play throughout. And, horribly cliche as it sounds, I enjoyed it and that is the most important thing at the end of the day.