Andrew Zigmond’s Impressions from Torquay

Fawlty TowersI must admit that this time last week my knowledge of Torquay was limited to what I’d picked up from Fawlty Towers (and that show was never filmed there – says it all really). I had in mind some slightly run down seaside resort like Blackpool in Morecambe, instead I was met by a lively town and one of the most gorgeous coasts I have seen in my life; I could happily have lingered on the quayside much longer than I actually did.

However this is not a travel article so I should perhaps conclude that Torquay itself was almost worth the five hour plus journey. This isn’t a food article either but if you’re looking for somewhere to eat you can do a lot worse than The Hole In The Wall, Torquay’s oldest pub hidden on a side street near the harbour. Unfortunately I was only introduced to the place (by a well known Yorkshire Chess personality) on my last day.

This was not my first visit to a British as I took a day trip to North Shields last year; however this was the first time I’ve travelled to participate in the event. It’s the furthest I’ve ever travelled to play chess and not for an instant did I regret it.

There is a school of thought that the British is an outdated model, unattractive to sponsors and damaging to English chess. Certainly Adams and Short only play if a sponsor is willing to meet their appearance fees and it is true that the title is slightly hollow without them – Luke McShane’s absence is probably as much due to work commitments. However a move to a ten man all play all at a top hotel somewhere, as has been mooted, would not only deter spectators but separate the event from the myriad of junior events, senior events, weekday and weekend tournaments which make the British what it is.

Anybody who knows me will know that I am a fan of Lara Barnes and Alex McFarlane and the work they do for English chess so I’ll try not to wax lyrical here. Suffice to say that these two people choose to give up a substantial amount of their unpaid time to make such events happen and the event, with its catacombs of side events and distractions, runs almost flawlessly – by way of contrast how often do some chess players make setting up eight boards and sets and laying out tea, coffee and biscuits look like hard work? Torquay looks like another success for the team – respect is due.

Lara Barnes - International Arbiter and Organiser of the British Championships

Lara Barnes – International Arbiter and Organiser of the British Championships © John Upham Photography

However I didn’t just go to Torquay to watch games, see the sights and soak up the atmosphere. I entered the weekender (Soanes – middle section) to see if I could make my own mark on the event. Graded 124 and facing potential opponents as high as 156 it was always going to be a struggle …

I got off to a promising enough start against an opponent twenty points higher than me. Fritz has smugly pointed out that the whole thing was a comedy of errors from both sides but eventually it was my opponent who extended his hand in the face of an unstoppable passed pawn. Saturday was a black day however and not just because I had this colour in both my games. My morning game was hard fought but my opponent played very accurately and slowly my position dissipated. In the afternoon I messed up a sharp opening and was hacked to the point of near humiliation.

My reward for two losses (both my Saturday opponents were graded in the 140s) was a 149, the highest yet. By now I was taking the view that if I couldn’t have prize money I’d have some hard practice and indeed I held the initiative early on but my opponent proved to know quite a bit about king and pawn endgames, more than me at any rate.

I shall resist temptation to talk about my opponent’s slightly eccentric behaviour away from the board in round 5 (it should be added that when sat at the board he was perfectly gentlemanly). Suffice to say that he wheeled out the Latvian Gambit (1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f5?!) an opening I was only vaguely aware existed and I was able to build up a strong position and capitalise on the blunder when it came. Even then I was forced to dodge some surprisingly accurate active defence moves before delivering my killer blow.

So two from five, par the course for my congresses but not when all my opponents were quite substantially higher rated.

And that, bar the train journey home, was that. Several times in the run up to event I debated the wisdom of travelling such a distance, now I’m already thinking ahead to Aberystwyth 2014.

Andrew Zigmond

Features editor for the Yorkshire Chess website. I collate and write atricles about all the latest chess activities in Yorkshire and beyond. I've also been known to shove some pieces myself from time to time!


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