My first British Championship

Aug 7, 2010, 5:17 AM |

I've spent the last two weeks in Canterbury at the British Championship, working on the bulletin but also doing a bit of arbiting. I thought I'd write a blog of my fortnight there.

When I went to Canterbury last Monday, I had just got 3/5 in the Major section of a very good weekender in Worcester. Given I'm usually an organiser these days, I was happy to do so well! The journey from Birmingham to Canterbury was fine. The London Underground was fairly easy to navigate through given I hadn't been there before. Getting from the station in Canterbury to the University of Kent was a problem! The signing was poor. To get to the venue, I had to haul my luggage up a massively steep hill. I knew the playing venue was a sports centre, but the University didn't make the whereabouts of this centre obvious... but I eventually found my way there.

For the next two weeks, I would be based on the balcony overlooking a smaller sports hall, which is where I'd be heping with the Daily Bulletin. Basically, if you play a game at the British Championship, in any section, it comes to the bulletin editors. We key them into databases, and then add them to the bulletin. These are given to Championship competitors for free, and go on general sale for £2. A mega-bulletin is then sold for about £18 after the Championship. The main compiler was J. Arnold Lutton, and I must say his work is fantastic. I was very impressed. The other major inputter was International Master Jack Rudd, who was also playing in the Championship. His speed at inputting, and ability to decipher even the most illegible scoresheets is amazing. He annotates the games for the bulletin with certain smilies, ranging from a smile for a "generally good quality", a bomb for "original subversive ideas", and a plane for "leave the country immediately". The latter is usually reserved for short draws (or long draws that means he has to spend ages keying the game in!).

My friend, Ryszard Maciol was also playing in the Championship, and he played this game in the opening round, against Grandmaster Danny Gormally. He played the only move on the board that fell for a mate-in-two!

This wasn't the only horrible blunder in Round One. My bulletin colleague Jack Rudd also profited from a howler by Keith Arkell.
The Championship went on, and Jack continued to beat Grandmasters, and went on to 3/3 with a win against Simon Williams, where Simon played a dodgy sacrifice. This meant after day 3, he was tied for the lead with Michael Adams! Unfortunately, Jack couldn't keep up his great start, which meant he had a TPR of well over 3000 by Thursday morning!
On Friday, I left the comfort of the bulletin editing, and instead went to control the Yates section of the Weekender. It's basically a section for people with the English grade 125 or less to play in. Yates was a British Champion back in the early 1900s, and it is he who the event is named after. It was a rather hectic weekend! I was happy that my pairings were right, and made no clangers with the arbiting. I handled one dodgy situation well, where one player claimed a win on time for 39 moves, and another had got to move 40. Turned out that he'd just missed a move, and the time control had been reached. An appeal to get out of a default when someone's phone went off also fell on deaf ears.
The Friday night had another highlight; the longest game (in terms of the number of moves) in British Championship history. Keith Arkell was playing George Salimbeni, a promising youngster. The time control in use for the Championship was 40 moves in 100 minutes, then 20 moves in 50 minutes, plus 15 minutes for the rest of the game, plus 30 seconds for every move. So the games could go on... Stewart Reuben explained one game involving Sheila Jackson and Tony Miles (I think?) many years ago that lasted three days. Using 40 moves in 150 minutes, then 16 moves per hour forever, they had four adjournments before the game was finally settled! Luckily the British Championship doesn't cling to such archaic practices these days. The afternoon session started at 2:15pm, and Salimbeni successfully claimed a draw by the fifty-move rule just after 10:30pm!
After the excitement of the weekend play, (including a rapidplay where a digital clock switched itself off, and was a pain to reset...) I ventured back to the bulletin offices for the second week.
Two of my friends were playing in the Under 10 section, and one of them won it! Here is his final game, where he secured the title.
There was a rules disaster in the Major Open, the second tier event to the Championship. Two players were scheduled to play each other. However, one phoned the organisers to say that his credit card had been swallowed by an ATM, and he had to sort that out. This meant missing his train, and that he'd arrived late. This information didn't get to the controller of the Major Open, or his opponent. In principle, the start of the game would be delayed for him. No problem at all. British chess tournaments are not bound by daft 0-minute default times that FIDE like to insist on, and they are also flexible when things like this happen. When he arrived, just after 2:45pm, his opponent claimed a win by default (the default time was half an hour). The controller said that they should play the game. This was appealed to the appeals' committee, and they came to a decision that the instruction to play the game was the correct decision. However, they then decided that since it was now past 5pm, this would be impractical. So, they gave the appealer a win by default, and the person who missed his time for a valid reason a half-point bye. This gave the effect of scoring the game 1-1/2, but not really, because the game wasn't played. Since this happened on Board 2 of the Major Open, the other competitors were mortified; suddenly it was much harder for them to win both the tournament and the competition, since 1.5 points had been awarded for that game, rather than 1. A counter-appeal appears to have fallen on deaf ears. I'm not sure that anyone thinks the decision arrived at was a fair one. For what it's worth, I'd have scored the game 0-1 to the person who phoned ahead to say he'd arrive late. The player who appealed the decision had rendered the game impossible to play, so he should be penalised. This way, the person who wanted to play chess scored less points than the person who didn't. Whatever the circumstances, this means that the wrong decision was made - I don't know what the right one was.
However, the story does not end there! Since the game was a default, guess who should be paired together to meet the following day! The same two opponents played in the final round, and played out a rather drab draw.
I left on Friday afternoon, with Michael Adams safely winning the Championship with a score of 9.5, one of the highest winning scores ever.
The good news is that the ECF President, CJ de Mooi (off Eggheads) said before the final round that he has the agreement that Nigel Short, Luke McShane and David Howell will be playing in the 2011 British Championship, along with Michael Adams, who will defend his title, and at least ten other Grandmasters. The prize money in the Championship will be doubled. This should make it the strongest British Championship since the halcyon days of the early 1970s, when Keene, Hartston and Miles would try to wrestle the title from Penrose.
Sheffield 2011 promises to be a great event!