Stuart Conquest: "I've never ordered tomato juice in a pub before in my life"

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Saturday, August 9, 2008 was probably the best day so far in the chess career of GM Stuart Conquest. For the first time, he became Champion of Britain. "I can say that this victory is not only one of my best results, but also one of my proudest." An interview.

The 95th British Championship took place July 27 August 9, 2008 in St. George's Hall, Liverpool. Stuart Conquest defeated Keith Arkell 1.5-0.5 in a two-game (20 minutes + 10 seconds per move) tiebreak match, after finishing shared first with 8/11.


Stuart was born 1 March, 1967 in Ilford, England. At a young age he was already considered a very talented chess player. In 1981, at the age of 14, he won the World Youth Chess Championship Under 16. Other achievements include the British Rapidplay Chess Championship in 1997 and shared victories at the 1995 and 2000 Hastings Premier. His highest rating was 2601, in the October 2001 FIDE rating list.

Before winning the British Championship, you played a dreadful Irish Championship. So tell us, what happened?

- Well, it's true that I had a really awful result in Dublin shortly before this tournament. In fact that was meant to be my warm-up event! The strange thing was that I didn't feel that I was out of shape or even playing that badly. It felt like I was almost at full power but not quite. Maybe the way I play these small differences in form can produce a much wider variation of results than with other players of my strength.

Also I guess subconsciously I knew that the Irish Ch. didn't actually count for a great deal on a personal level - I mean it was just another tournament, and I wanted to do well, but I didn't attach any huge importance to it. The British is a special event, a big occasion. I can't be sure of course, but it's possible - even likely - that I would have been less determined to prove something at Liverpool had I just had a normal result in Ireland.

Conquest in his game at the British against GM Mark Hebden

Do you consider this your best result ever?

- I can say that this victory is not only one of my best results, but also one of my proudest. I mean I really think I deserved to win. I fought hard and played some nice games. Of course you need some luck over 11 rounds. I was dead lost in one game (vs. Nigel Davies in round 6), and in big trouble against Bogdan Lalic (round 9). [You can replay Stuart's games below the article - PD.] Against Davies I turned down a draw for no objective reason and the position gradually got worse. Against Lalic I defended really well and hung on. In another game (vs Andrew Ledger in round 8) I made a silly 1-move blunder when I stood better which fortunately he didn't take advantage of. That was just the tension getting to me. But this is chess. When you fight and you provoke imbalance then stuff happens.

Right after the tiebreak against Keith Arkell (Conquest-Arkell 1?Ǭ?-?Ǭ?)

Many chess fans were surprised that the Staunton Memorial again coincided with the British Championship. Why is this? And does it bother you that Short and Adams, but also former champs like Rowson and Aagaard were not playing?

Well, it's true that Mickey and Nigel were at the Staunton, also Jon Speelman and Peter Wells. I don't know why these events clash. They did last year too. Aagaard was playing in Denmark. And Jonathan Rowson has been busy this year with academic work. I have heard that there were issues regarding conditions, invitations. It looks like something has happened with the Scottish entry this year, because unless I am mistaken none were playing. Ketevan (Arakhamia-Grant)wasn't there. This might be something to do with the ECF (English Chess Federation - formerly the British Chess Federation), because it certainly does look odd. But I simply don't know. I was offered reasonable conditions to play, though less than last year I must say. Actually I accepted quite late. But then I usually have trouble deciding where to play. Luckily I decided to go!

Discussing the final position immediately after the second game ended.

What is 'form' and can you influence it?

- This question of form is so hard to judge. You can feel great and play terribly. I was very disciplined in Liverpool. I stayed on my own and didn't go out much. I stuck to a routine and didn't change too many things. Also I quit drinking alcohol ten days or so before the event (when I was back in Spain), and only had a few beers after the chess was over. I did this just as a kind of exercise in mental discipline, not for any proper health reasons. It was just a small comfortable challenge, something easy to do but also presumably beneficial. A de-tox! I was going to the same Liverpool pub each night and ordering tomato juice - it was pretty funny! I mean, I've never ordered tomato juice in a pub before in my life. The final night when I asked for a pint of bitter the woman who worked there couldn't believe it - she was already reaching for my 'usual'! I met some nice people there. Actually it was John Lennon's local pub when he was a young man, before the Beatles had taken off.

You're very active on Facebook - can you say something about that?

- Yes, I'm quite active on Facebook, but then I'm pretty active on the chessboard too! It's hard to change activity for passivity! And why should I?! I had a congratulatory Facebook message from Peter Svidler after I won. That was nice.

Triumphantly holding the trophy! | Photos: Stephen Connor

Here are all 11 Championship games by Conquest, plus the 2 tiebreak games, for replay:

And here's the decisive 2nd tiebreak game on video. Many more videos can be found at the excellent tournament website.



Peter Doggers

Peter Doggers joined a chess club a month before turning 15 and still plays for it. He used to be an active tournament player and holds two IM norms.

Peter has a Master of Arts degree in Dutch Language & Literature. He briefly worked at New in Chess, then as a Dutch teacher and then in a project for improving safety and security in Amsterdam schools.

Between 2007 and 2013 Peter was running ChessVibes, a major source for chess news and videos acquired by in October 2013.

As our Director News & Events, Peter writes many of our news reports. In the summer of 2022, The Guardian’s Leonard Barden described him as “widely regarded as the world’s best chess journalist.”

In October, Peter's first book The Chess Revolution will be published!

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