Steve at the South Lakes Congress

Steve Larkin was the only Tynedaler brave enough to venture way out west to Grange last weekend:


I paid my first visit to this event, held at the Cumbria Grand Hotel in Grange-over-Sands on June 8-10, 2012. Despite the “Grand”, the huge hotel complex is rather run-down, but playing conditions in a large ground-floor room were excellent. The organisers limit the entries to 180 so that everyone will fit in and there is just the right amount of space for all concerned. Players are given a generous time allowance of two hours each per game with no quick finish, so that even I was able to finish my games without time trouble.

Playing in the lowest of the low sections (Minor 2 for players graded under 120), I found myself third highest graded of the 42 entries, but any expectation that I would finish in the top three was quickly dashed when I lost my first game (having taken a bye on the Friday night) to an opponent graded 99. And yes, I had white, and yes, I was outplayed! Saturday afternoon brought some relief in the form of a win, largely off the back of a couple of blunders by my opponent, graded 98. On Sunday morning, I “swindled a draw”, as one onlooker put it, after going two pawns down and leaving my opponent, graded 85, with two apparently unstoppable queening pawns. Somehow I managed to stop them and the game petered out into a draw. And so into the final round on 50% and faced by an opponent with an estimated grade of 59. Some estimate! He proceeded to play the most cunning and aggressive chess I had encountered all weekend. For the first three quarters of the game I was hanging on by my toenails with only a much-beseiged knight between me and a mate in one! So it was a source of particular pleasure to emerge from that battering and go on to mate my opponent in quite a neat way.

Finishing on 3/5, I came away happy. I know that in terms of my grading I had performed significantly below par, but these days I readily settle for 50% and anything more is a bonus. I enjoyed the event, which was well organised. Though there were many familiar faces there, every one of my opponents was new to me, which is always a pleasure. For any members thinking of a trip to the South Lakes next summer, I would definitely recommend the 2013 version of this event.

Steve Larkin