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.