South Lakes Congress

Held on June 3rd, 4th and 5th at Grange-over-Sands, this congress was as ever well supported. I was the only Tynedale member taking part, but there was a significant Carlisle contingent present, as well as players from several Tyneside clubs. I entered the Minor 1 section, for players of 130 and below (there was also a Minor 2 section for players of 110 and below). I took a bye on the Friday night, and on Saturday morning found myself with black against the second top seed (I was ranked 19th 0f the 35 entries), Marcel Taylor (129) of Radcliffe and Bingham. The game was a close one throughout, though Marcel declined my offer of a draw after about two and a half hours of play, only to accept another offer when we had about 8 minutes of the four hours’ playing-time left! There was just about an hour’s break before another four hour session, this time with white against Tim Bowler (120e – those estimated grades always spell trouble!) of Maryport. With fatigue kicking in, I made a hash of the opening third of the game and for a while was in serious danger of being swept off the board. Somehow I managed to stabilise things and emerged into the endgame just one pawn down. The situation finally resolved itself into queen and 5 pawns against queen and four, but with the pawns scattered, it was easy enough for me to hold the position together and we agreed a draw with about 8 minutes left again! To say that I was tired as I left the venue at 6.30 p.m. with a 70 minute drive ahead of me is an understatement!

I certainly didn’t feel confident about my prospects on Sunday, and that feeling was reinforced on finding that I was due to play Martin Beardsley (115) of Gosforth, who had beaten me in our final league game just a few weeks earlier. I opened as black with the French Defence, to which he responded in a most unorthodox manner. The threat was that he would block me in on the queenside, and leave me totally undeveloped on the kingside. As things turned out, I managed to get queen, rook and both bishops fully operational on the queenside, and when it became clear that he could not prevent me winning at least one piece, Martin resigned. We had played for just 90 minutes, so I had over three hours in which to relax before the final round – bliss after yesterday!

In the afternoon, I had white against an old friend, Ahmed Abbas (116) of Manchester 3Cs. He too had experienced some long games and we both joked that a quick finish was desirable, especially given how nice the weather was! And a quick finish we had. The game was over in 55 minutes as my kingside attack tore open his position. The game came down to rook and 6 pawns for white and rook and 3 pawns for black. When I succeeded in forcing a swap of rooks, Ahmed resigned and we both headed for home early!

3.5/5 was my best congress result for quite some time and it came as a very pleasant surprise. Interesting too that one can sweat for nearly 8 hours to achieve a couple of draws, then pick up two wins in less than a third of that time!


Scarborough chess congress 2015

Steve Larkin was the one club member to attend this event, which had a total of 330 participants spread over five sections. Steve was competing in the Foundation event, for players graded under 121. His grade of 111 ranked him 23rd of the 80 players involved. Round 1 on the Friday evening brought a simple win in 11 moves against Junges-Stair (Morpeth estimated grade 91). Round 2 on the Saturday morning produced what was arguably Steve’s biggest blunder of the weekend, when he convinced himself that his opponent, Morven Petrie (East Kilbride 100), could force a draw by repetition, when this was not in fact the case and Steve was a bishop up. Not surprisingly, his offer of a draw was accepted with alacrity! Saturday afternoon brought a long, hard game against Peter Brannan (Ecclesall 99), who accrued a one pawn advantage and proceeded to press with a pair of connected passed pawns. More by luck than good judgement, Steve managed to hang on for a draw. Sunday morning saw another hard game, this time against James Waddington (Bolton 95). Steve gained a pawn in the middle-game and went on to achieve a won endgame with two passed pawns. At this point a final score of 4/5 was on the cards and so it should have proved, for Steve’s final opponent, Kenneth Parkin (Enigma 97) – yes, Larkin versus Parkin! – played the opening terribly. Steve pressed hard but proceeded to play the ending even worse than Kenneth’s opening, finally succumbing to a passed pawn which could not be stopped. So in the end it was 3/5, which sounds OK till you reflect that every one of Steve’s opponents was graded 100 or below, that in round 2 he succeeded in turning a clear win into a draw, and that in round 5 he blew what should have been a decisive lead. If only one could see at the time even a fraction of the possibilities which Fritz points out later!

Northumberland chess congress 2015

This event was held at North Shields on September 25-27, and Tynedale were well represented.
Our two new Romanian members, Klauss and Mariana Mosnegutu, competed in the Open event which had 23 entries, with Klauss ranked second and Mariana fourth. Klauss started strongly, defeating Szymon Palusha (ranked 14th) on Friday night and Paul Roberts (ranked 3rd) on Saturday morning. In the afternoon he was up against the top seed, Charlie Storey, and lost on time. On Sunday he lost to James Turner in round 4 and drew with Mick Riding in round 5, to finish on 2.5. However, it should be pointed out that between the Saturday and Sunday games Klauss worked a 12-hour shift, which must surely have affected his performance on the Sunday! Mariana lost her opening game against Mick Riding, then drew her next game with Szymon Palusha. In round 3 she had a neat win against Zheming Zhang, lost to Roger Coathup in round 4, and finished with a win against Ron Plater in the final round, so she too finished on 2.5.
Tim Wrigley played in the Major, where he was ranked 14th of the 30 entries. In round 1 he drew with Dave Stebbings of Gosforth (grade 131) and had another draw in round 2, this time with James Turner of Berwick (grade 134). Round 3 brought a win against Geoff Harrison of Gosforth (grade 136) and there was another win in round 4 against John Marsh of Leam Lane (grade 153), but this excellent run came to an end in round 5 when Tim lost to Mauro Usai of Durham (grade 156), to finish on 3 points.
Alex Ashworth and Steve Larkin both played in the Minor, with Alex ranked 15th of the 39 entries and Steve ranked 23rd. Alex tore into the opposition, winning his first 3 games, against John Eddershaw (grade 84), Rolf Millar of Forest Hall (grade 122), and Peter Harker of Hartlepool (grade 130). Sunday brought a change of fortune, with a draw against Mark Mallard of SASRA (grade 119), followed by a loss to the overall winner, Joe Chan of Gosforth (grade 127), which left Alex on 3.5 points. Steve took a bye on the Friday, lost his opening game against Peter Harker, and then beat Bill Hardwick (Carlisle 102). Sunday brought another defeat, this time by top seed Bill Noble (Gateshead 136), and a draw with David Watson of Morpeth (grade 99), making Steve’s total 2 points.
And finally in the Foundation event, Dave Foster jr was seeded 5th of the 11 entries. Here the format was 2 one-hour games against each of 5 opponents. Dave won one game and lost the other against each of his first two opponents, Jared Watson (Jesmond 34) and Brendan Glasper (South Shields 74), before winning twice against Harry Wilson (Darlington 65) and Sebastian Palusha (Durham 91). He finished with a win and a loss against Jamie McIntosh (Jesmond 73) to record 7/10 or 3.5 points and take first prize.
So a good Tynedale turn-out, with almost all making 50% or more, which bodes well for the coming season.

Chester le Street summer congress

This event took place on August 21-23, 2015, with three sections: Open (15 entries), Major (under 171 grade, 29 entries) and Minor (under 136, 31 entries). Steve Larkin was the only club member to enter (why is it that, as a club, we make such a poor showing even at our local congresses?). He played in the Minor, where he was rated 22nd of the 31 entries. After a half-point bye on the Friday, he played Brian Whitaker of Thornaby, graded 111, on the Saturday morning. After the opening (a French Defence, Advance version), Steve had won a knight but had lost 3 pawns. However, this meant he had open files for his queen and rook to go marauding, trapping his opponent’s king on the queenside before delivering mate. In the afternoon he met Eddie Czestochowski of South Shields, graded 122. Steve’s improvised opening with black was wholly inept, leaving most of his pieces with no effective squares, and Eddie punished him accordingly.

Sunday morning saw him facing John France of Gosforth, graded 130, Playing with white, Steve produced one of his best games ever, making all his pieces tell, especially doubled rooks on a half-open file, before producing a move to which black could find no answer, even in the analysis room, and which led directly to a forced checkmate. Highly satisfying! Needless to say, the afternoon provided the usual antidote, as Steve was always on the back foot against Barry Edgar of Hetton, graded 133. The game came down to king and pawns on both sides, but Barry’s extra pawn proved decisive. So with 2.5 from 5 rounds, the outcome overall was average, but the game against John France will sustain Steve’s enthusiasm for months to come!

In the Major event, Ian Mackay of Haydon Bridge likewise recorded 50%, a creditable performance considering that he was rated 25th of the 29 entries.

In the Major, Ian Mackay of Haydon Bridge

South Lakes chess congress 2015

Two Tynedale club members took part in this event at Grange over Sands on June 12-14. Both entered the Minor 2 section for players graded 110 and below. There were 33 entries in this section, with Steve Larkin being ranked 8th and Stephen Rowley (who had been given an estimated grade of 95 which was clearly much too high) ranked 16th. Both took half-point byes on the Friday night.

On Saturday morning, Steve L had a fairly straightforward win over Jo Woollard (81) of Sheffield Nomads, though it took him 2 hours and 35 minutes to finish the job.Stephen played Robert Smialek (80) of Aigburgh and was still going strong after 2 and a half hours, with material even and Stephen enjoying a slight spatial advantage. The outcome, a loss for Stephen, was only decided in a time scramble in the last few minutes.

On Saturday afternoon, Steve L had a long game (c3 hours and 20) with Stuart Wood (97) of Kynock. Steve developed a strong attack and was pressing for two-thirds of the game but Stuart, though he dropped a couple of pawns, defended well and took full advantage of weaknesses in Steve’s defensive set-up. In the last 20 minutes, Steve made a series of errors, culminating in the loss of a knight. When Stuart offered a draw, in the belief that that reflected the overall run of play, Steve accepted gratefully, for by then the game was clearly lost. Stephen found himself up against Bill Burgess (107) of Austins, a really tough assignment for him. Blundering his queen early on ensured another loss.

On Sunday morning, Steve L faced Nick Holmes (92) of Teleport Shrewsbury. At one point Nick had 3 pieces en prise simultaneously and Steve felt sure a decisive advantage was coming his way, but a check by Nick transformed the situation into a series of exchanges and the game petered out into a draw after 90 minutes’ play. Meanwhile, Stephen was playing Jo Woollard (81), Steve’s opponent the previous day. Stephen mounted a strong kingside attack but Jo defended stoutly, picked up some loose pieces and went on to win. Even so, Stephen enjoyed the experience.

In the final round, Steve L played Dave Broderick (104) from Newport. Steve sacrificed a bishop for a potential mating attack early on, and Dave had to play very carefully for half a dozen moves and had to sacrifice a knight to see off the attack. Though only 20 moves had been played, over 2 hours had elapsed, at which point Dave offered a draw which Steve accepted, as the fatigue factor was kicking in yet again. So he finished on 3/5 and to his great surprise won a grading prize! Stephen was paired with Raphael Romaya (estimated grade 50), who by this point had played and lost 4 games. After 2 and a quarter hours Stephen was a pawn up and was taking the game to his opponent, but the latter was playing extremely slowly and when I left the venue the outcome was far from clear. What is certain is that Stephen will have leaned a lot from his first ever congress.

Also competing in the Minor 2 section was Tom Bradford of Haydon Bridge. He recorded an impressive 4/5 to share second place. Former Tynedale player Colin Davison competed in the Major event for players graded 170 and below and picked up a grading prize.

South Tyne Jamboree

A date for the diary. This information has come through Bill Hardwick from Steve Larkin, who is organising the Jamboree.

This year’s Jamboree will be held at the Haydonian in Haydon Bridge on Tuesday May 19th. As in previous years, the format will be two one hour games (30 minutes per player) with a break for refreshments midway. So round 1 will start promptly at 7.30 p.m. and round 2 at 9 p.m. The charge for refreshments will be somewhere between £2 to £3 per head.

To help make the organisation of the event less of a last-minute scramble, I am asking all teams, whether complete or incomplete, to register with me at by midnight on Monday May 18th at the latest. This should allow me to organize composite teams where necessary in advance of the event and should remove uncertainty surrounding late arrivals. So any team or individual arriving after 7.30 p.m. will find that their clocks have been started in the normal way.

In an attempt to avoid a repeat of the four-way tie for first which we had last year, the following tie-break rules will apply this time:

  1. The team with the most wins, excluding any wins by default, is the winner.
  2. If two or more teams are still tied, board 4 results will be discounted.
  3. If two or more teams are still tied, they will share the trophy.

I realize that the first rule can be tough on the team with a win by default, but in an event with only two rounds, a default assumes a disproportionate significance; and a win over the board should surely count for more. So I fear that everyone competing will just have to accept that, where defaults are concerned, it is down to the luck of the draw!

Northumberland rapidplay championships

This event was held at Forest Hall on Sunday March 15th. Three club members took part. Peter Crichton played in the Major (under 160) where he was ranked 6th of the 14 entries., while Steve Larkin and Damian Rudge played in the Minor (under 130), where they were ranked respectively 19th and 24th of the 26 entries. The format was 5 rounds of one hour each (30 minutes per player), with 2 rounds before lunch and 3 afterwards.

Peter’s first game was against Manoj Arora (Gosforth 130). With mistakes on both sides, the game ended in a draw. In round 2 he had a good win against Andy Robinson (Gosforth 151) and in round 3 drew with the top seed, Robert Mitcheson (Morpeth 157): this game was even throughout, coming down to an opposite-coloured bishops ending – another good result for Peter. Round 4 produced another draw, this time against Darren Laws (Tynemouth 147), so Peter went into the final round undefeated. Alas, he came unstuck against his lowest-graded opponent, Mark Younger (Forest Hall 121), who was having a blinder of a championships. With white he launched a strong kingside attack which Peter was unable to repel. So Peter emerged with 2.5/5, a good result in a strong field.

Steve’s first game in the Minor was against Ralph Firth (Alnwick 123). Steve looked good for at least a draw and maybe a win till he allowed Ralph’s knight to fork king and queen. In round 2 his opponent Richard Kuby (Middlesborough 73) resigned after touching one piece and wishing to move another (he had already made one illegal move which would have lost him the game had Steve been minded to claim it). Round 3 brought Hanif Zaman (Jesmond 115), a very sharp young lad who played very quickly and opted to force a draw by repetition. In round 4 Steve launched a speculative kingside attack against Graham Matthews (Hartlepool 114). It failed to have the desired effect, and thereafter Steve was comprehensively outplayed. Steve rounded off the day by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against Dave Parlour (South Shields 101). With queen, rook and pawns against bishop, rook and pawns, Steve played the one move which made possible a forced mate for Dave – oh dear oh dear! So 1.5/5 was the unimpressive outcome.

Damian had a tough time, with a succession of strong and experienced opponents. In round 1 it was Jeff Baird (Forest Hall 117), to whom Damian lost by a miscalculation. His big moment came in round 2 when he defeated Kevin Waterman (Hartlepool 111). The euphoria was soon dispelled when he was outplayed in round 3 by Joe Chan (Gosforth 121). Against Stan Johnson (South Shields 108) he blundered and lost. His round 5 game against young Johnny Wall (Forest Hall 95)  was much closer but came down to his rook and pawns against Johnny’s queen and pawns and the queen prevailed. So 1/5 for Damian, but no easy rides and an impressive victory.