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.

8 thoughts on “Blackpool

  1. I think your comments on Blackpool raise a couple of general issues.

    The first is whether it’s better to have broad knowledge of lots of different openings and positions or a narrow knowledge of a few.

    The second is about whether you should attempt to dodge your opponents in depth knowledge. In that Tarrasch French, the line played can get complicated and difficult to assess. If you discover your opponent to be an apparent expert on a variation should you try to steer the game somewhere else?

    It is presumably easier to duck and weave against your opponents’ pet lines with broad knowledge than narrow ones. Grandmasters though would have a broad knowledge about most positions and a deep knowledge of a few. Who establishes theory in the first place but top players? Authors attempt to codify it and may suggest valuable novelties. In practice their opinions can and are overturned by players who never read or forgot what the books say.

  2. Kudos on choosing the tougher tournamant instead of the prize-in-the-pocket one. At the age of 15 or 16 I entered a tournament when I was the lowest rated (135 by your system) and duly won, losing only one game to the highest player (161). I am a bit surprised by all the losses. Hopefully it is just a matter of getting used to this level. Winning against people under 175 should be easy for you. After 175 yes it becomes another kind of chess, and losing to the Minnican guy who played Nf3 then b4 is understandable, but missing Qg6 against Cannon or Qd7 against Ottosen ? Even in a blitz it should not happen !

    1. True, the blunders against Cannon and Ottosen were poor. Against Cannon I think I was too attracted by Re5 because I had been trying to play it, he prevented it and then I thought – ‘Hang on, has he actually prevented it? I can play it anyway!’. Against Ottosen I had been under a lot of pressure all game and relaxed a little when I thought the pressure had reduced. Still, these are just excuses really: better focus at the board and learning to calculate faster and more accurately are necessary.

  3. Brave decision, man! Your openings are doing more or less fine. I think the reason of your low performance was because you never played against stronger players than you one after another. I´m sure you will improve that soon. Good luck!

    1. Thanks. Playing in an Open section is a completely different experience from playing in lower sections, as you won’t get any easy games and are always under pressure. Still, I didn’t feel completely outclassed or without chances in any game, so I’m confident that I can be scoring 50% or more in Opens soon.

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