Category Archives: Game analysis


Earlier this month I played in the Blackpool Chess Conference, the largest weekend tournament in the country.  I decided to enter the Open section rather than going prize-money-hunting in the Median; a decision which could have been embarrassing as I was the lowest-graded player by far.  In the end I scored 2/5, and although one of those points was a bye, I think I played well enough and certainly learned something.

I arrived in Blackpool in time to see my first round pairing and do a bit of preparation. As a result I was able to bang out the first 20 or so moves in a couple of minutes; a novel experience as in past years’ games I have normally been deep in thought by about move 5!

When preparing for my second round game I found that my opponent, a Ruy Lopez player, had faced my favoured Arkhangelsk Variation once before (it was in fact the only game of his after 1. e4 e5 which appeared in my database).  Unfortunately for me he had entirely forgotten that game, which had been played some years before, and played a different line which I had forgotten how to refute.

In the third round I had a bye, as I was the lowest-graded player on 0/2 and there was an odd number of players.  In the fourth I faced Phil Wheldon, who was fresh from an excellent performance in Gibraltar where he defeated GM Juan Manuel Bellon Lopez, but was not doing so well in Blackpool.

In the final round I made it to board 12, where I had my first experience of playing with a nice wooden DGT set in a tournament.  Here’s the game, which I haven’t yet got round to annotating:

In all, an encouraging tournament despite the slightly disappointing 1 win and 3 losses, and I will definitely be playing in Opens in the future.  I expect my next tournament to be the Durham Open near the end of April.

4NCL Harrogate

This weekend I participated in rounds 5 and 6 of the Northern 4NCL in Harrogate.  The weekend didn’t start well, as when I arrived at Durham station on Saturday morning no trains were running in either direction due to signalling problems.  I’d planned to get into Harrogate at 12:43 pm, which I thought would be a comfortable cushion as the games started at 2 pm, but I was proven wrong and eventually arrived at the board flustered and out-of-breath at 2:50 pm.  If the following game isn’t my finest effort, then the conditions at least partially explain why:

The next game was very nearly a disaster, but turned into one of the most miraculous escapes I’ve ever had in a long time control game. My team, Cheddleton 2, were paired with the very strong Bradford DCA Knights A, and I felt that I needed to win for our team to have any chance of winning or drawing the match. I was pretty sure I’d be playing David Patrick, and I’d managed to find a few games of his in my database so I spent some time preparing. I had white, and having seen that he played the French Defence I went on to look briefly at his other games. I saw that he played the Exchange Ruy Lopez, the Exchange Caro-Kann and closed c3 or Nc3 Sicilians as white, and combined with his preference for the French this painted a picture of a player who likes to play solid lines and avoid tactical complications at all costs. Consequently I started searching for plausible ways to get tactical complications in the French, and after quickly ruling out the Wing Gambit I started looking into the line 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. Bd3 c5 6. c3 Nc6 7. Ne2 cxd4 8. cxd4 f6 9. Nf4?! I stayed up quite late investigating this, whilst also looking at some games in the mainline Tarrasch variation which I normally play. I was in such an agony of indecision about what to play in the morning that I woke up several times during the night with moves after 9. Nf4 running through my head, but unfortunately I didn’t dream up any brilliant ideas! At breakfast the next morning I decided that I would be just as uncomfortable as my opponent in the ensuing positions, and that if he knew what he was doing I was likely to be worse, so I resolved to play the usual 9. exf6 instead.

All in all, a disappointing weekend’s chess, but somehow I am still unbeaten in 4NCL games. My team continues to do quite well overall, and managed to win 3.5-2.5 on Saturday before losing to the leaders on Sunday. My next tournaments will be the BUCA Championship this weekend, followed by the Blackpool Chess Conference two weeks after that.

London Classic, day 1

Last weekend I attended the London Chess Classic, which proved to be every bit as exciting as it was last year.  Highlights included an unusual encounter with Viktor Korchnoi, watching IM Lawrence Trent and GM Stephen play giant blitz chess (which can be seen here), and of course watching Vishy, Carlsen and the other top players slugging it out in the main event.  I was playing in the Weekender Open section, and was very pleased to score 3/5, with a 191 grading performance (which equates to about 2178 FIDE).

In the first round I was paired with Mike Lexton, and a quick search 5 minutes before revealed that he played the Dragon.  I went for the 9. O-O-O and 10. Qe1 line, which he wasn’t very familiar with, and I emerged from the opening a pawn up.  Unfortunately I was unable to convert this to a win, and the game was eventually agreed drawn after about 60 moves in a rook and pawn ending.

In the second game I was black against Jonathan Wells, who also managed to draw with Mickey Adams at the Paignton simul in September.  He played the fianchetto variation of the King’s Indian, and, without knowing any theory, I developed awkwardly with b6 and got a cramped position.  I was fortunate to get a draw, as my opponent missed some strong attacking ideas.

In the third round I was white against Isaac Sanders, a young lad of 12 (I believe) who plays great chess already and whose rating is shooting up.  The opening was a Sicilian Najdorf, and I again played 6. Be2, as I did last month against Anastasios Nezis, but after 6…e5 my opening knowledge came to an abrupt end.  I played reasonably and the game was fairly equal most of the way through, but my opponent kept pressing and a few endgame inaccuracies eventually allowed him to win.

A post about my day 2 games, both of which I won, will follow.

British Rapidplay games, part 2

I came to the venue much better rested on day 2 of the Rapidplay, and was resolved to make up for day 1 by winning most of my games. I was paired against Martin Seeber in round 7 (the first of the day), who at 131 was significantly lower graded than me. However, the game turned out to be anything but a walkover, and I was worse or even lost for much of the second half of the game. In the end it was sheer determination which won it for me.

Round 8 was a reasonably good victory on the black side of a Ruy Lopez, against Abigail Pritchard, with whom I drew last year in Blackpool. In round 9 I was doing well, but stumbled. Here’s the game:

Round 10 featured a crazy opening king walk, and is presented below:

I won round 11 on the white side of a Tarrasch French, and so completed a good comeback, with 4/5 on the second day. My next tournament will be the London Chess Classic next weekend, where I’ll be playing in the very strong Open Weekend section. I’m really looking forward to it, as it was a great event last year and promises to be even better this year, with Carlsen, Kramnik and Anand all playing in the main tournament.

British Rapidplay games, part 1

Here are three games from the first day of the British Rapidplay.  I started the day with a smooth tactical smash of a Scheveningen Sicilian.  Here it is:

I followed this by being slowly outplayed in round 2, and making a draw from what had been a better position in round 3. In round 4 my opponent showed me the dangers of playing the King’s Indian Defence without being really familiar with all the major book lines:

This was followed by a quick loss in round 5, which I may show later, and then in round 6 I was paired with Andrew Baxter, the only person who had beaten me in the previous year’s tournament. The game was stodgy and slow moving – hardly typical of the King’s Indian Defence. I won a pawn, and my opponent was getting visibly frustrated with the back-and-forth piece shuffling as I slowly went about trying to win. Unfortunately, just as I was making progress I blundered a piece. Here’s the game (annotations may follow):

I’ll post some more annotated games from the tournament later. My annotations to these games have not been checked with a computer, and as always I’d be glad to have comments or suggestions about where I might have played better.

4NCL, game 2

For Sunday’s game I was again not sure who my opponent would be, so I looked up the games of Holmes Chapel’s bottom three boards, all of whom could have been put on board 5. I focused mainly on the games of David Bennion (rated 2014), Saturday’s board 5, and initially felt like I was trying to prepare for Vasily Ivanchuk. ‘Chucky’ plays just about every opening in existence, and David Bennion plays both 1. e4 and 1. d4 quite regularly, which is unusual at club level. Fortunately a more thorough look through his games revealed that he does play e4 significantly more often, and after 1… e5 he usually goes for the Bishop’s Opening, so this is what I was expecting.

When I arrived at the venue I found that I was indeed paired with David Bennion, but he surprised me on move 2 with Nf3, and we went into a Giuoco Piano. At 5. c3 my book knowledge came to a sudden end, but I vaguely remembered seeing a game of his where he had played like this against a strong opponent, and my memory of that game helped me to play the next two moves. He soon seemed to be on unfamiliar ground too (the disadvantage of playing a wide variety of openings), and I think with 9. Rxe4 he made a mistake (though I’ve yet to run it through the computer). Here’s the game:

With that a successful weekend for both me and for the team (who won both matches) was concluded.  Thanks to Malcolm Armstrong for analysing the game afterwards with me, and thanks to Simon Edwards for inviting me to be on the team.

4NCL, game 1

Last weekend I played my first two FIDE-rated games, competing in the 4 Nations Chess League (Northern division) for Cheddleton 2.  I managed to win both games, but both were full of tactics and could easily have gone the other way if I’d slipped up.  The first featured probably the most interesting time scramble I’ve been involved in.

I tried to do some opening preparation beforehand, but this was a bit tricky as I only knew which team we would be playing, and not who my opponent would be.  From the list of players registered for Jorvik (our first opponents) I determined my three most likely opponents and did a quick search for their games.  Consequently, when I turned up on Saturday morning and found out who my opponent was I knew he was a Najdorf player.  By then I only had about 15 minutes before the round started, but I went over some Najdorf lines/games quickly to make sure they were fresh in my mind.

I played 6. Be2 – a line I’ve not played before, but one my opponent seemed even less familiar with as he started to use a considerable amount of time.  His time consumption increased drastically in the ensuing sharp middlegame, meaning that by move 17 he had used an hour and forty-seven minutes and had only thirteen left to make the time control at move 40.  I still had about an hour left at the time, and felt sure that if I didn’t flag him I could play more accurately in the complications.  However, I spent a lot of time double-checking variations, and, feeling a little nervous in my first FIDE-rated game, I started to panic.  The result was that I eventually got into time trouble too.  At move 30 he had just 32 seconds, and although I still had 6 minutes the time seemed to fly by and by move 35 we both had around 10 seconds left to make 5 moves.  We started banging out the moves without pausing to think, and, a little later, I stopped playing and pointed out that I had run out of time whereas he still had 3 seconds.  Fortunately an arbiter had been recording the moves and could confirm that we had definitely passed move 40; the digital clock had simply failed to add on the time.  My opponent left the room for a few minutes to recover from the time scramble, and, when I turned my attention to the board again I noticed that I had a mate in two.  He also realised this while he was outside, and returned soon to conclude the game.

The walk to the station after the game was enough to freeze the blood of even the most fearless of Frankenstein-Dracula Variation practitioners.  It took 30-40 minutes in almost total darkness (except for when there were car headlights), with the first half along the very uneven verge of a main road, and the second half through a tunnel of trees which was completely enclosed overhead.  Fortunately I made it back without twisting an ankle or being eaten just in time for a train; if I’d missed it I’d have had to wait more than two hours in the cold for the next.  The report on game 2 will follow soon (probably tomorrow).

County Match: WECU Jamboree

On Sunday I played board 8 in the Somerset 1st team at the West of England Chess Union annual Jamboree (a tournament format which allows several teams to compete with each person playing only one game). I was white against Rob Thompson, a young Devon player who was the only person to beat Michael Adams in the recent Paignton simultaneous. Our post-mortem analysis indicated that at some point I was winning – for example 25. Qxh5 should have sealed the deal – but my time management was so idiotic that I was left with 5 minutes for 16 moves to make the time control at move 40, and I couldn’t play accurately. Here’s the game (numbers in brackets indicate number of minutes remaining on the clock):

In the end, Somerset, Devon and Gloucestershire were all tied with 6 points in the Open section, and Dorset won the Graded section with 8/12.