Coulsdon Chess Fellowship Congress
Okay, it has been a bit too long since I blogged - various things including time have prevented me from doing so sooner.
One event which took up an enjoyable weekend in late December was the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship Christmas Long Play Congress.
My friend (and dare I say, "coach"?) CM Chris Ross has attended this one before and recommended it to me. Hotel rooms were therefore booked at fairly short notice as I decided to enter almost on impulse in the week running up to the congress.
The format was a five round swiss, time controls of 90 minutes each per player with an additional time bonus of 30 seconds per move (making a 40 move game a maximum of 3 hours and 40 minutes). Games were to be rated at both ECF level and for FIDE purposes.
Chris was playing in the Open section and with an impressive 2200 FIDE rating, was top seed. I settled for a place in the Premier section (where my rating dictated I ought to play) and I found myself ranked halfway down the field.
My aim in this situation is to finish on at least a 50% score which means if I get off to a bad start, that I don't crack up and have a disastrous tournament. Having looked at the strength of the field, backed up by some half decent form, I thought I ought to be able to do some damage in this section.
What I didn't bargain for (despite having played a few times for Bedfordshire County which is two games in one day) was just how tiring this would be. Three games on the Saturday and the final two rounds on the Sunday.
My first round game was against the top seed (my punishment for being joe average in this section!). Oh, and I had the black pieces too. Still.... If I can overcome this, I can overcome anything!
I'd forgotten that players from different areas might have their own pet lines. I faced a Saimisch variation. A lack of knowledge of this sort of system led me into an inferior position which I then kind of managed to wriggle out of before finally making a complete mess of things, as you will see!
So, with the first round out of the way, there wasn't much time before round two started and I found myself with the white pieces against someone rated 125 ECF. My opponent shocked me completely as early as move 4 where he played Qb6. There ensued (for me at least) a relatively long think before deciding that if his intention was indeed to snaffle my b2 pawn, then he was welcome to that little soldier as I would have plenty of developmental compensation. The alternative (a wimpish move such as b3) just did not seem like the right thing to do. When your opponent is threatening you with overly aggressive moves (and playing them very quickly) the enlightened phrase "remain calm" is one well worth remembering.
Psychologically speaking, I had already got my opponent sussed... this opponent was someone like my mate Dan Rowan (but on steroids). All I had to do was NOT crack under the pressure. However, this sort of position, when thrust upon me (rather than building up into a pressure cooker situation) does tend to unnerve me and I had all the symptoms of a tachycardic hyperthyroidosis sufferer with a side order of extreme psychotic paranoia thrown in. I MUST NOT LOSE to a 125!
Despite my internal torment, I managed to come up with a half decent plan of getting some activity and compensation for the pawn, even though it looked like my opponent knew exactly what he was doing. I couldn't seriously believe that he could hold on to his extra pawn, could I?
The truth is that my opponent DID know what he was doing. He's the owner of a book on the "Sniper" which is apparently what this is. He did point out to me on the Sunday that the variation I played wasn't in the book. Don't believe everything you read or hear, folks! There's no substitute for relying on your own intelligence and on the basic principles of chess. Incidentally, the book must be flawed since even Fritzy baby gives 4....Qb6 the equivalent of a silicon question mark.
This game finished quite quickly but this apparent rest did me no favours since it just gave me time to reflect on who my next opponent might be. I was like a hot potato, jigging from the separate rest area, back to the tournament hall.... a good two hour wait before the next round and all my nervous energy had long since gone, leaving me very tired and mentally addled!
Round three was a bore draw. I really didn't want to take any chances as I was so tired and mentally I had "gone" so the important thing for me was not to lose. My opponent in this round had an exceptional tournament and is surely better than his rating suggests.
Having finished so late on the Saturday, Chris and I returned to the hotel and ordered pizza. Which was yummy. We then stayed up until the early(ish) hours enjoying the 24 hour hospitality on offer at the bar and looking over some chess.
Sunday was more of the same though by this time, I confess, I was probably ready to go home! I was pitted against Dominic Warner (now I'm not a religious man myself so I am not sure whether he is "reverend" or "pastor" etc.. but we did have a joke about him having the "big guy" looking out for him!).
I got (in my opinion at least) outplayed in this game having decided on a slightly different plan of attack against either a French or a Sicilian.
The King's Indian Attack does have it's merits but from this game, it is clear to see that although it is a system which can be employed against most defenses to 1.e4, it has it's drawbacks.
In the great tradition of "Tim at congresses" by round 5, I really did just want to get back home for a few beers with Chris and to take a look at our games. I'd have been happy with a quick draw in the last round. No such luck there then.... This was probably my worst game of the tournament in terms of missing a clear winning chance and I was disappointed. I then did the best I could to mess up a drawn ending. To steal a phrase from some of my students, I "kept spamming my opponent with draw offers"..... he eventually agreed. The idea in the endgame is that I should simply have played h5 (securing the g4 square) and I sholud also at some point have had my rook on a2 (threatening Rxg2+) at the appropriate time. Still, not to worry... I got there in the end!
All told, despite the torture of a five game tournament in two days, I did enjoy myself!
The full results can be found here and in summary, I can highly recommend the CCF congress. It was very well run and I look forward to going back at some point in the future!