Durham County Chess Congress

The 34th edition of this congress was held at Houghton le Spring on April 5th-7th, 2013. Just two Tynedale players took part, both in the Minor section for players under 125 grade. Of the 18 entries, Steve Larkin (109) was seventh highest graded and Dave Foster junior (89) eleventh.
Steve took a bye on the Friday night, but Dave had the misfortune to be pitched in against the top seed, Dennis Beagarie (124) from Tynemouth. Dave was in the match till the endgame, when he blundered.
It was the same story for him in round 2, on the Saturday, when another miscalculation in an otherwise even endgame presented Dave Watson (112) of Morpeth with the point.
In the same round, Steve had a surprise win against Peter Wright (80) of Hetton Lyons. The surprise took the form of what seemed to Steve a premature resignation. He was a couple of pawns up, but both players had queen, two rooks and a bishop on the board and there seemed to be plenty to play for. The epitome of politeness, Steve did not argue and took the point!
In the afternoon, Dave raced to an emphatic win over Russell Wides (estimated grade 77) and was one of the first to finish.
By contrast, Steve was one of the last as he locked horns with Stan Johnson (119) of South Shields. A risky kingside foray involving knight and bishop backfired and for the next 15 moves or so Steve was sweating, trying desperately not to go a piece down. A slip by Stan meant that they emerged from this phase of the game equal. In the endgame, Steve had the edge but not enough for it to be decisive and a draw was agreed after an exhausting three and a quarter hours of play.
A shadow was cast over Sunday morning’s activities when Colin Gilroy was taken ill mid-game and had to be hospitalised. (We learned the following day that he had died in hospital – a sad loss to chess in the north-east). By then, Dave had long since despatched young Rowan Rawat (80) of Jesmond. Dave pressed his Bird’s opening vigorously and it was all over in 20 minutes!
Steve’s charmed existence in congresses this year came to an end when he lost on time (but also on the board) to Alan Harris (115) of Tynemouth, who still had an hour left on his clock! He may play very quickly but he was also very accurate, exploiting the weaknesses in Steve’s pawns to great effect in the endgame.
The final round saw Dave paired with William Metcalfe (115) of Darlington. The game came down to a level ending, each player having a rook and four pawns, but for the third time at this Congress Dave blundered in the endgame and lost, finishing on 2/5. With tighter play at the end, there is clearly scope for a big improvement on that score.
Meanwhile, Steve faced top seed Dennis Beagarie, whom Dave had played in round one. Steve managed to lose his e pawn early on and things were not looking good. However, a vigorous kingside attack worked out very nicely, with a pawn on f6 proving decisive in a mating combination which Dennis was powerless to resist. So Steve finished on 3/5 and may even have sneaked his way into the prizes (though he awaits confirmation of that).
Hopefully, there may be a slightly larger Tynedale contingent present next year.

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