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).