AoaLCP #3: Winning another major!
So I played a major in Harrogate over the weekend, and as the title suggest I ended up in a tie for first for the second time in a few months! I would be temtped to drop the 'lowly' from the blog title, but in the interim I had a couple of bad experiences in h3 najdorfs (playing the white side) in the local league that I might get round to writing about when it's less painful. There's something about the focus a congress requires that often seems to make me bring my best chess to the table, and fortunately the 12th 2ncl congress was no exception!
I was origially on the fence about entering as I didn't want to take a first round bye and also didn't want to stay in the hotel. This would have worked fine for the Saturday and Sunday games, but I wouldn't have been able to catch a train home after the Friday first round. Fortunately a friend (thanks Yousuf!) stepped in and very kindly offered a lift to and from the venue and so my mind was made up. The same friend also played the major, his brother played the open and a second friend played the minor so it was set to be an all round good weekend.
Friday came round and I got paired against Paul May with the black pieces. At this point, as I've already touched upon, playing in congresses seems to have a placebo effect on my chess and I felt very confident especially as I was on the right side of the slaughter pairings. As it turned out I was very nearly paired against Yousuf who played on the board next to me, also as black. The round started and soon a KID was on the board.
It became clear that Yousuf had a lost position at around my 20th move, but my friend in the minor (Ryan) had a great start and won his game so the mood all round was quite light. The next we all convened and I found I was playing Martin Burns with the white pieces on board five, and soon my favourite opening was on the board.
Things also went well for Ryan, and again went wrong for Yousuf, who was now gracing bottom board with his presence. In contrast I'd reached board two, where I had the black pieces against Nigel Holroyd who for some reason took my scoresheet so I don't have a record of the game on me and I'm too lazy to get it from chess results. I drew in a very uneventful King's Indian-like position when white offered in a position I considered slightly worse for me, so I accepted to enter Sunday on 2.5/3.
Sunday came, and I knew I'd have to win a game to get into the prizes, round four being my preferred candidate to reduce last round pressure. I had the white pieces and I was against John Cawston, a player I know from the York chess scene.
And so it came to be that I reached 3.5/4 for my second consecutive major. In other news, Yousuf drew in a hilarious position when his opponent had a mate in 3, but instead offered a draw thinking he only had perpetual and Ryan lost his game but was still on 3/4 in the minor with chances of a share of second place. Yousuf's brother in the open was on 2.5 (I think) and in with a shout of the grading prize. But back to me.
I knew going into the game that a draw would give me a share of first unless a chap called Harry won second board in which case I'd have a share of second instead. I was incredibly nervous, and all I could think about was offering a draw. Eventually at move 13 I offered a draw, not caring if he accepted or not as if he didn't I could at least stop obsessing over it and if he did I'd be guaranteed some money. He took his time thinking, and as I expected he accepted in the end leading to a couple hour wait for board two to finish. So long as black (Harry) didn't win I had the share of first, and eventually the two players shook hands and I won my second major in spite of extreme cowardice.
So in the end I shared first. Ryan won his final game and shared second, also with 4/5. Yousuf finally won, but his brother lost at which point the chess was once again over and real life resumed. Harrogate will certainly be one of my last majors as soon I'll have to enter opens and winning congresses will become a distant memory. Hopefully the January ECF ratings have me below 170 so I can at least have fun until July!
Until next time, happy chessing everyone!