To celebrate Huddersfield Chess Club’s 160th Anniversary, they decided to hold a one-day Rapidplay tournament. Nothing unusual in that! However, the tournament was held at the Grosvenor Casino and only 1st place was going to pick up the winnings – a cool £1,000! Grading bands containing 20 players were also each eligible to pick up a £100 prize.
It’s clear that the chess players of Yorkshire aren’t big gamblers as everyone who wasn’t a member had to register in order to enter the casino. This unfortunately delayed the start of the tournament but apart from this slight hiccup, the tournament ran very smoothly and quickly got back to the timetable under the superb organisation of Nigel Hepworth and arbitering skills of David Welch.
The entry list included 3 GMs and 3 IMs in addition to 4 other players with grades over 200 so it was clear that this was going to be a fiercely fought competition! Rounds 1 and 2 were paired under an Accelerated Swiss system, so the top players weren’t going to have it easy right from the word go! Tomasz Czuja caused the upset of the first round, defeating local IM Richard Palliser, whilst yours truly was a queen up in an ending against GM Nigel Davies but my flag fell. To his credit, my opponent very sportingly agreed to a draw despite the big prize on offer, showing that good sportsmanship is alive and well!
Round 2 saw no major shocks despite the tough pairings the accelerated draw had thrown up. After Round 3, the leaders were shaped up like this:
3/3: GM Mark Hebden, IM Jerzy Slaby, Alex Longson
2½/3: GM Danny Gormally, Alan Walton, Tomasz Czuja, David Egglestone and the ungraded David Boulden
The format of this tournament gives players a chance to face opponents that they might normally not be able to face. Here is a clip of the end of the game between Steven Jones and Richard Palliser:
After five rounds, two players were left at the top of the pile; Mark Hebden with 5/5 and Danny Gormally with 4½/5 and these two would face off to battle it out for the title and the sole prize of £1,000. A real winner-takes-all game! Meanwhile other important games were also being played for the grading prizes for U220, U172, U130 in addition to a prize for the best Under-21 player.Of course most attention was being paid to the top board. Mark had the white pieces knowing that a win would be enough to guarantee him sole possession of the top prize. Sadly I did not see the opening, but as I arrived to view the game, Danny had found a dangerous tactic which allowed his rook and queen to infiltrate the 8th rank with Mark desperately trying to find a safe path for his king out of the minefield. Mark has tremendous calculation skills and the four-time British Rapidplay Champion found safety for his king in his opponent’s camp and whilst Danny had won a pawn in the king-hunt, Mark had a dangerous passed pawn. The exchange of queens were forced and a rook and pawn ending was reached. Danny decided to take as many pawns as possible before sacrificing his rook, leading to the position you can see on the right. Below is a clip of the final moments of that game:
So Mark Hebden won the Huddersfield Rapidplay with a perfect 6/6 and won the prize of £1,000. The other prizewinners are as follows:
- Best U220 – Alex Longson & Miroslav Gruca
- Best U172 – Dave Keddie, David Firth, Dave Tooley, Tim Hilton & Kevin Winter
- Best U130 – Gary Clarke, Daniel Hubbort, Shane Frith & Vic Orlic
- Best ungraded player – David Boulden
- Best under 20 year old – Mitchell Burke & Steve Jones
I really enjoyed playing in the tournament, and would highly recommend it to anybody who is thinking of entering any future tournaments held here. There are plenty of well priced snack and food options available, cheap tea and coffee and there is plenty of room to play chess in. The venue is on the casino gaming floor so there was some noise from the slot machines, but everybody very quickly got used to the noise and it wasn’t really any more of a distraction than you typically get at many evening league venues! If you are that way inclined, you can also try and win some money by non-chess means!
Many thanks to Nigel and his colleagues at Huddersfield Chess Club for organising an exciting new event which will hopefully become a regular fixture on the calendar.
You can see more photos from this event including photographs of all the prize winners, visit on our new Flickr page.
Report by Andy Bak