26th Leamington RapidPlay
One hundred and five players including four titled players took part in the 26th Leamington RapidPlay tournament held at the Town Hall on Sunday 9th September 2012.
The tournament was split into four sections; Minor, Intermediate, Major and Open. Amongst the competitors were plenty of local players as well as some of the country's top junior players along with some participants from overseas which added a bit of a cosmopolitan flavour to the event.
Deriving it's name from the River Leam, which meanders through it's centre, Royal Leamington Spa is a vibrant English town located in the pretty county of Warwickshire and the older parts of the town date back to Roman times having first been mentioned as "Lamintone" in the Domesday book of 1086.
Returning to modern day, the venue of this years' congress had changed to the Town Hall. This is an impressive grade II listed building which was constructed in the late 1800's.
The main hall was used for the tournament which afforded plenty of space, meaning that all four sections could be held in the main hall with analysis rooms available nearby.
Your author was placed (on grading) in the Major section - too strong for the Minors and Intermediates and too cowardly to enter the Open! I was ranked 17 out of 26 in this section so life was never going to be easy, especially after a good night out the previous evening (on the advice of one who shall remain nameless)!
Round 1 saw me up against fourth seed, Helge Hjort, from Denmark. Playing with the black pieces, I got into a position that seemed secure, if not entirely comfortable. We moved on into an endgame with pawns and knight and each on level material. I believed my knight was better placed and did seem to be outplaying my opponent. Both short on time, though, I am sure I misplayed the position and we both ended up Queening a pawn and although at that point, I was a pawn ahead, it was clear that there was no way to make progress with so many checks available to each player and so we agreed a draw.
Round 2 was a different kettle of fish. Playing a home made variation of the Barry Attack against my opponents' Kings Indian Defence, I had a completely crushing position. With time running short against my opponent, a junior player, Philomena Lip, I attempted to liquidate into a clearly "winning" position. What actually happened is that although I was a Knight up, she had two connected passed pawns. I did feel that I would have been able to stop these but fortunately for me and unfortunately for my opponent, I didn't have to try as she walked into a checkmate trap in time trouble!
In round 3, I was paired against a local player, Gary Jackson. Gary is a decent player but he conspired to lose a pawn in the opening. I held extra material and eventually won a second pawn. This advantage was too much for Gary to defend against and he found himself going backwards before finally blundering a piece when he did the "right thing" and resigned. Overall, despite feeling somewhat under the weather with a bit of a cough and a lot of a hangover, I was quite pleased with my start to the tournament. No losses and 2.5/3 - I was already thinking about possible glory!
In round 4, my opponent was another junior female player. This time the very talented Astghik Stepanyan. The excesses of the previous night were probably starting to show and even though I had the white pieces, my dreams of another crushing attack were soon put to bed by the very polite, well mannered young lady sat in front of me. I proceeded to spend much of the game trying to work out how not to lose and also wondering why my opponent seemed to be choosing what I felt to be the wrong plan to finish me off! Perhaps my position wasn't quite as bad as I thought it was and the funny thing is that when you are winning, you do seem to get the "rub of the green" so to speak. A horrible one move blunder by my opponent turned the tables and I emerged from a combination the exchange ahead having got all the pressure (including the Queens) off the board. A simple matter to mop things up for the full point then. Well, not so.... The pesky Knight owned by my opponent was pretty much dislodgeable in the time remaining and in the end I "gave" the Rook back for the Knight. The truth of the matter is that I thought my opponent had blundered (and so did she when she picked up her King). After some thought, she deiceded she could move the King to a square which allowed the Knight to be captured - I was capitalising on a pin. I quickly realised that I was having to give a rook back after another clever King move and although I was a pawn up in a rook and pawn ending, my opponent actually had better activity. I was not in danger of losing the game but by the same token, trying to win in the time available was not an option and so I accepted her offer of a draw. So, still unbeaten and still getting away with murder over the chessboard!
Round 5 proved to be a round too far. Paired against someone with the same rating, Tom Robinson, this felt like it would be a real crunch game with the winner surely having a big chance of a prize. Blundering a pawn in the opening, I never recovered and decided to try something completely ridiculous in attempting to win the pawn back. Well, I won the pawn back but had to give up a Bishop to do so. With no counter play. In hindsight, despite having played like a lemon for the last two games, I did feel that I may have had a chance to build up pressure and win the pawn back without losing more material but sadly it was not to be and I suffered my first loss of the day.
In round 6, I was paired against a real gentleman, a very nice chap by the name of Chris Budd. Chris had been sat near me on many of the previous rounds and we had already exchanged pleasantries. This time, things were different as we were facing off against each other over the board! Yet another game with an opening blunder (this time NOT by me!) found me in a very comfortable position. A full rook ahead with a good position. Only I could blow it from here and I did my best to, I have to say! Trying something way too clever for me instead of just winning the game, I actually thought I might be losing. Chris had played his coup de gras move and offered me a draw. I just did not want to go out with a draw, it was all or nothing..... Chris actually had a position over the board that was slightly better than me despite me being the exchange up. How I had allowed this to happen, only Jack Daniels and a 2.30am bedtime would be able to explain!
And so I finished the tournament in joint 3rd place with 4 points out of 6 having won 3, drawn 2 and lost 1. I calculcated my rating performance at 173 which was very pleasing.
I won £30.00 for the grading prize into the bargain. The prize was based on the best score over the "expected score" given each individual's ratings against their opponents' ratings. A complicated forumula which left me up on the day!
I proceeded to have a bit of fun at the prize giving... me being me... instead of going up, shaking Chairman Peter Leggett's hand and returning to my chair, I (very tongue in cheekedly!!) ran accross the stage waving my prize in the air. Clearly the spirit of Uncle Jack and his Old No. 7 was still residing within!
A word has to be said about the organisers of this congress and about how well it was run. This was a "paperless" congress in that there were no pairing boards or cards and everything was run by computer (apparently a "first" for Leamington and probably for Congresses in this country - surely a sign of things to come?!). This made the work of the organisers and arbiters easier and certainly enhanced the playing experience for those competing.
Without the hard work of the committee (I am on the LDCL Committee but take no credit for the Rapid Play other than turning up to do my victory jig!) this event would not be possible.
Nice as it is, the majority of us are not there to collect prize money but to have a good day out and to play some chess and enjoy ourselves. Of course, it's nice to come away with a prize and/or some recognition but for me it's the spirit of the game and getting to have a good chat with people that otherwise you would not have met or that you would not normally get the time to chat with.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day, as I have in the past and hopefully this event will continue to be well supported in the future.