I am delighted to have won the British Senior (Over 50) Chess Championship jointly with Chris Duncan and Philip Crocker at the Riviera International Centre in Torquay.
All three of us (Chris, Philip and I) were undefeated and scored 5.5/7 with 4 wins and 3 draws each, to finish a full point ahead of the next-placed players. After the penultimate round, there were actually five of us sharing the lead (on 4.5/6 at that stage), and although Paul Townsend lost to Chris and Paul Dargan lost to Philip in the final round, I feel that they deserve special mention for having played so well throughout practically the whole tournament. Indeed, one of the most beautiful combinations was the following from Paul Dargan’s 5th round game as Black against Simon Knight.
Paul Dargan had sacrificed a rook and a bishop to reach the position above, and he concluded the wonderful game with 1…Qxf3+ 2 Kb4 (or 2 Kc2 Qd3#) 2…c5+! 3 Kxc5 (or 3 Ka3 Ra6#) 3…a5! (ensuring that White’s king cannot retreat and escape) 4 Kb5 Qc6+ 5 Kxa5 Qc5+ 0-1. White resigned, in view of 6 Ka4 Ra6#.
In addition to already thanking (above) all the organisers, arbiters, players and Chessable (the principal sponsor), I wish to also specially thank some particular people for their really kind support, friendship, encouragement and love.
83-year-old Stewart Reuben was as witty as ever when he said to me, “I’m in my prime now”, quite right when you’re …79, 83, 89 or 97, and so forth!
As part of my preparation, trying to get in shape for the tournament, I read ‘Excelling at Chess’ by GM Jacob Aagaard. Literally hundreds of other superb books, magazines and diverse chess goodies could be found at the bookstall run by my old friend Jim Fisher.
Among my new friends in Torquay was Chris Fegan, a retired former politician and Political Adviser, who does terrific, inspiring work for CSC (Chess in Schools and Communities) with CEO IM Malcolm Pein.
After the final round of my tournament, I had a wonderful evening of celebrations with the lovely Anuurai Sainbayar, Gregg Hutchence, GM Keith Arkell and Midhun Unnikrishnan.
Later this year, Anuurai will turn the same age as Gregg and Midhun already are now…
Now, it’s well known that 3 is my absolute favourite number. So, what age is Gregg (or Midhun, or Anuurai soon to be) if I tell you that, twice my favourite number of years ago, Gregg was half of the age that I was then!?
Reminder: I am 60 now!
Congratulations for figuring out that I was 54 six years ago; Gregg was 54÷2 = 27 then; Gregg is now 27+6 = 33 ☺☺☺
Keith is renowned for being a world-class player of endgames. I always think of him, and try to play as he would, whenever endgames arise in my own games.
In my final game in Torquay, towards the end of a long, well-fought, close battle with Nigel Moyse, I (as White) reached the following endgame position after 42 moves. It’s now White to play and win by force.
The finish was 43 b6 (fixing the b7-pawn where it stands, and threatening a decisive breakthrough with c5-c6 soon, with Ba4 for support if necessary, and sometimes Be8 may come into play to target Black’s weakness at g6) 43…Kd7 44 c5 Nd8 (or 44…Ke8 45 Ba4+ Kf8 46 c6 with c7 and Bd7 coming) 45 Bxd8 Kxd8 46 Bf7 1-0. Black resigned, in view of 46…Kd7 47 Bxg6 Kc6 48 Bxf5 Bd5 49 Be4, and White’s g-pawn will win the game. Keith said that this endgame illustrated very clearly the legendary power of the ‘bishop pair’ that is referred to so often in many texts.
At 7:19pm today, 17 August, in Torquay (or 8:19pm for me back home in Belgium, from where I am now writing this article), Keith himself gave an awesome display of the power of the bishop pair en route to defeating IM Ezra Kirk in 60 moves, thereby seizing outright lead in the full British Championship with a terrific score of 4.5/5 so far! Many congratulations, dear Keith, on your excellent play, and all the very best in the remaining four rounds!
I still have fresh work to do to try to revitalise some aspects of my own play in chess, but encouraging ‘Angel Anuurai’ gently insisted that I was a winner of an Under 50s section rather than the Over 50s!!
Another surprise and treat was getting to chat (by phone) with IM Mike Basman, an old friend whom I drew with 36 years ago when I then made my first IM norm! Mike is a good friend of Anuurai, and I couldn’t resist borrowing the following photo from Anuurai’s Facebook page, as the article in it is rather inspiring ♥
Here is an extract from another of her posts with a really good, positive message.
Mike Basman is renowned equally for his untiring great work for chess in the UK as he is for his super-creative play, especially in the openings. Anuurai, who is a professional chess coach, just like Mike, is also wonderfully creative in her openings.
Let’s enjoy a stunning attacking win by Anuurai over a higher-rated opponent at the South Wales International Open Tournament in July.
White: A.Sainbayar; Black: N.Skettos
Orang Utan Opening
1 b4 e5 2 Bb2 Bxb4 3 Bxe5 Nf6 4 e3 0-0 5 c3 Ba5 6 Bd3!? (This cleverly creates the threat of 7 Bxf6 Qxf6 8 Qh5 with a deadly double attack against h7 and the loose bishop on a5. Grandmaster Dr. John Nunn has a famous acronym L.P.D.O. which stands for ‘Loose Pieces Drop Off’ and is well-worth remembering.) 6…Nc6 7 Bxf6 Qxf6 8 Qh5 g6 9 Qh6 Ne5 10 Be2 (Anuurai alertly avoids 10 Bc2? Qxf2+! 11 Kxf2 Ng4+ and 12…Nxh6.) 10…Qb6? (Believe it or not, this is already a decisive mistake, as is now demonstrated by very incisive, energetic play from Anuurai! Much better is 10…d5 so that …Ng4 becomes possible if necessary.)
11 f4!! (‘f for forward’ is a favourite motto of mine. Here, the point is that 11…Nc6 12 Nf3 would leave Black fatally undefended on the kingside, where the threat of Ng5 is decisive because 12…f6 loses to 13 Bc4+.) 11…Qb2 12 fxe5! c5 (A pretty variation that Anuurai would have relished playing in response to 12…Qxa1 is 13 Bd3 Qxa2 14 Nf3 f6 15 Bxg6 hxg6 16 Qxg6+ Kh8 17 exf6 Qf7 18 Qh6+ Kg8 19 Ng5, intending 19…Qxf6 20 Qh7#.) 13 Nf3 Bd8 14 h4!! (Anuurai insists that she wants Ng5!)
14…Qc1+ 15 Bd1 f6 16 0-0! (Unpinning the bishop on d1 so that Bb3+ is now a winning threat.) 16…Rf7 17 Bb3 Qb2 18 Ng5 d5 19 Bxd5 1-0. Black resigned, most probably stunned by the power and intensity of White’s attacking play from start to finish! I wrote ‘Angel Anuurai’ earlier, and that she is, but I think I’m going to have to complete the name by now writing ‘Awesome Attacking Angel Anuurai’!
Looking ahead with happiness in my heart, I will shortly return (after the current summer school holiday) to doing more teaching as the Mathematics teacher at the beautiful Musica Mundi School in Waterloo, Belgium. Keith Arkell commented that he had played around 80 chess games since January while I had played none at all from then until the British Championships because I focus largely on teaching and on family life. When will my next chess event be…? I know that God knows, and that is more than sufficient for me. What I can say right now is that I have been invited kindly by FM Neil Berry, President of Edinburgh Chess Club, to give a special chess talk and a ‘simul’ (playing numerous people at the same time, or simultaneously) on Saturday 29 October 2022, close to the date when the club will celebrate turning 200 years old. That should be another really exciting and happy occasion for everyone involved. In the meantime, dear readers, I will sign off for now, wishing you all the very best in everything that you do. God bless you all ♥
With love and kindest wishes as always,
Paul M☺twani ♥ xxx…∞