Here’s the first of Danny’s two part report on the recently concluded British Championships, including three annotated games.
This years British chess championships was dominated by one player, Michael Adams, who equalled the record of his good friend Julian Hodgson, in scoring 10/11. But before we move on to the brilliant Mickey and what makes him so strong, which I’ll be focusing on in the second part, lets look at my own performance. After all it’s really all about me, right?!
I turned up on the Sunday and as soon as I left the station my first feeling was one of disappointment. I was looking forward to going to Bournemouth, I had never been before, but it just seemed like a bit of a dump. Lots of angry looking people walking around, and that was just the chess players. Admittedly that view was mainly because I had walked around the area around the station and was staying in less than glamorous accomodation.
In fact most of Bournemouth is more than ok, even if it becomes rather over populated during the summer. There’s just too many people. The food though in Bournemouth is excellent. I found a very nice Hungarian place and also some great Korean food, and a lovely Thai place while I was there, but pretty much everywhere did great food. All this and the balmy weather ensured a record turnout and at the top it was very strong as well, with not only Adams playing but two very strong 2600 plus players in David Howell and Gawain Jones.
In round one I got off to a good start when I beat Jeremy Fallowfield.
As we have seen in the game against Fallowfield, my play was far from flawless. I think this is one of of the things that separate Adams from the rest, certainly in this tournament, was how few mistakes he was making. His play was generally flawless, but I was making several mistakes, not just in calculation for example but in little mental errors. Little lapses that would drop half a point here, half a point there. Like against Rudd, traditionally a difficult opponent for me in any case, I made a stupid mistake in the opening and was lucky to draw.
With White though, I was generally quite efficient. My results with White are normally much better than with Black, more than is probably the norm, and during the tournament I was struggling to think of a reason for this. I think it’s because a lot of my preparation is based around trying to get some kind of knockout with White, but with Black you can’t really do this.
A prime example was the game against Wilmoth, where I did my best to try to refute his shaky looking Pribyl defence.
In a way this game was something we see a lot in chess now - I won with a form of “Engine doping”. Ok, I didn’t use a computer during the game - honest - but all I had to do was spend some time before the game prepping with an engine and using this analysis to deadly effect during the game itself. Rob didn’t really have a chance as this slightly dubious Pribyl variation is extremely vulnerable against computer preparation, which is so extensive and extremely effective against any kind of risky tactical variations that a player might deploy as Black.
This is probably why in top class chess now, you see so many boring Berlin’s being played, as that kind of opening which is more strategically based, isn’t so vulnerable to computer preparation. Did I feel guilty that I beat Rob in this way? Not really, because I need the money, so I have to use every resource that is available to me. But is it depressing that computers are so strong now that you can virtually prepare to mate before the game? Of course it is.
The first week ended well as I managed to win in round six against a promising junior player. However it didn’t escape my attention that not only had I not played a really “big gun” but that they were also ominously placed - Adams for example had 5/6, and as history will already show you, was about to engage his afterburners.
I think I managed myself well the first week, and looking back that’s probably where I played the best chess. No doubt the energy sapping routine of drinking after the game, and eating doughy food eventually caught up with me in the second week. It’s not easy because the idea of retreating to your hotel room night after night didn’t appeal, especially when I was staying in a bit of a hovel. On the rest day, rather than indulging in the blitz tournament, I sensibly decided to recharge my batteries with less strenuous activities.
I got trashed by David Eggleston in the tennis, but got my revenge in the golf, when I scored an astounding 16 under to Eggies less impressive 4 under. Admittedly we were scoring each hole as a par three, when given the easy nature of the course, Mr Magoo could have probably scored at least two on every hole. Actually I didn’t really understand those who were playing in the main event who chose to play in the blitz as well. Surely if you have a rest day, you should use it? I found preparing and playing every game very tiring, the rest day was a huge relief.
Just the strain on my nerves was mentally taxing. Playing in the blitz would have removed the chance to give my nervous system a rest. This view was somewhat borne out by what happened to Richard Pert, who seemed drained by some sort of dispute that happened during his game against Ameet Ghasi. All this took such a toll that Rich eventually pulled out of the main event. I found the whole thing daft. If you are there to do well in the British, you focus on that and nothing else. It seemed to me that a few people had already given up on the chances of winning the tournament, but you got to still believe. You don’t see Adams and Howell playing on the rest day, do you?
In the second part of the report I’ll be looking much more closely at Adams performance and what this means for British chess.
Danny Gormally is a talented English Grandmaster. He lives in the bustling market town of Alnwick, somewhere near Scotland.