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!