Travail Pursuit #24: The Hardest Loss

Greatorex vs. Shapland, British Championship (U160) - R5, Sheffield, 2011. White has just played 54.Rf6

Greatorex vs. Shapland, British Championship (U160) – R5, Sheffield, 2011. White has just played 54.Rf6

They say there is no rest for the wicked. If that’s the case then I have been a very bad boy indeed! After a summer ‘hiatus’ for the Fantasy Chess Olympiad I now realise what a huge rod for my own back I have made with this series. In the intervening weeks since my last post (24th of July) I’ve ‘missed’ a whole bunch of games that I had planned for the end of July and first half of August. Therefore I have some catching up to do and I hope to achieve this with a couple of bumper posts to bring me back up to date for the start of September.

For those of you who may have missed the earlier articles in this series (or perhaps have forget it was so long ago!) let me briefly remind you that the purpose of these ‘Travail Pursuit’ articles is to reflect on (and plumb the depths of!) my first twenty misspent years playing competitive chess. Rather than utilising an unimaginative, chronologically linear rendering of my archive I have chosen to sort the games I wanted to present into the months of the year that they were played and then try to publish them as close to the day they were played as possible. I soon realised that this was unrealistic and am therefore making myself content with a publication deadline of ‘sometime in the same month as the game was played’.

In this episode I’ll be looking back at my participation in the British Chess Championship of 2011. I’m not a regular participant in this event, which usually takes place in August, but this year happened in July because the Olympiad usurped its habitual slot. My main motivation for taking part on this occasion was that I had some annual leave to use up and the tournament was being held in my home town of Sheffield – that meant free accommodation with my parents. A no-brainer! I made the decision to enter the U160 (which took place during the second week of the Championship in the mornings) and, in order to get the most out of my time off, I also played in the Week 2 Open competition which took place in the afternoons.

It was a really enjoyable week full of interesting chess games but ultimately when I look back on those events I’m left with a pang of disappointment. The reason for this was that I missed a wonderful opportunity to share first place in the U160 Championship. I managed to get to 3½ out of 4 and was playing on the top board in the final round against one of the two other players on the same score as me. Here was a rare chance to win a big competition.

On board 2 my ‘other’ nearest rival won his game with White pretty quickly. I had Black in the last round and knew that I’d have to be patient if I wanted to play for the win I needed. Slowly but surely I built up an advantage until finally, my hard work was rewarded when I reached the position on the above. This was supposed to be my moment of glory. I’d played well all week and had ridden my luck a couple of times, but now I was going to be able to force my opponent to give up his rook after 54…h4+! 55.Kxh4 f2 56.e4 f1=Q 57.Rxf1 Kxf1 and Black is winning.

But of course it isn’t quite so easy. White has connected passed pawns and so after my opponent played 58.Kg4 it was critical that I found the right method to stop them. Unfortunately, feeling prematurely elated and a little bit weary, I dropped my guard and chose the ‘wrong plan’ in the form of 58…Rf2?? Cutting off the king from the pawns was not what was necessary. My rook was already well positioned on d2. I should have started the king off on the chase at once. Instead I dropped the ball and ended up losing the game in short order. Agony!

The key moments of this game are given in the game viewer below along with some other positions and a complete game from my week in Sheffield. I’ve set the positions up as puzzles (next move hidden) for you find the best continuations.

Regular readers will not be surprised (and may or may not be delighted!) to hear that the complete game below (Shapland vs. Winter) continues a recurrent theme for this series in that it covers another line of the French Defence: Tarrasch Variation.

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9 Responses to “Travail Pursuit #24: The Hardest Loss”

  1. Phil Watson

    Aug 29. 2014

    In the Greatorex game 3…Rd4 wins without any fuss. Phil

    Reply to this comment
  2. Matt

    Aug 29. 2014

    Great to see these articles back!

    I too played the 2011 British Champions in Sheffield, competing in the Major Open. This was a great event for me scoring +5 =5 -1 and finished 3rd=.

    In the final round I took a very early draw to secure a qualifying spot in the Main Championship for the following year (my sole aim for the event). Had I known I would virtually stopped playing after this I would have probably played on, the opportunity to take 1st place wasn’t in the game plan.

    Interestingly enough, the game plan for the final round was a roller coaster ride, my coach at the time Nick Nixon helped me prepare a Schliemann spending all evening looking at some very sexy (messy) lines, the game plan was to play for a wild position with a clear rule of: don’t offer a draw but seriously consider accepting it if offered!

    My opponent Arne Hagesaether had obviously been expecting 1.e4 g6 like I’d played all event, so after 1… e5 he immediately sensed something was in store for him so continued 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4! (after 5 minutes). It was a fantastic double bluff, I hadn’t seen any games on the database where he’d played this but I couldn’t be sure he didn’t know it better than I did! After 4 more moves he offered a draw, I figured he didn’t have a clue about the resulting position but then neither did I! Despite being extremely tempted to play on I took the draw and the place in the British.

    For a 7 move game a huge amount of thought went into it – amazing really!

    Reply to this comment
    • Martin Carpenter

      Aug 29. 2014

      Probably a bit over thought really :)

      Didn’t Pierre get some truly massive score in the major open that year?Takes some serious stopping when he’s in the mood.

      I presume you’ve qualified for next years British a few times over by now ;)

      Reply to this comment
      • Matt

        Sep 01. 2014

        Pierre’s amazing performance was the following year I believe. Jean-Luc was the only player to beat me in Sheffield that year, it was a shame neither of us went on to win the event in the end.

        2011 – results

        I think I now qualify for the British on grade – wahoo!!!

        Reply to this comment
        • Martin Carpenter

          Sep 01. 2014

          I keep getting that confused for some reason. Have to say that the 2011 event does look it was rather more solid overall than the one that Pierre took apart in 2012.

          218 or higher says the website, so you’re in :) Not the easiest way to qualify!

          Reply to this comment
          • Matt

            Sep 01. 2014

            All made somewhat easier by the fact I’d played very little the previous two seasons, in fact almost all my games in 2012/13 I was showing up merely to make up the numbers quite impressive to see I won as many as I did that year.

            Just a small task of beating a few GM’s in Bilbao now…

  3. Dave

    Aug 29. 2014

    Phil, of course it does! It’s funny how the circumstances surrounding that game clouded my thinking and objectivity so completely. I don’t think I considered anything other than f1=Q at that point and I certainly didn’t put a great deal of though into ‘how do I convert the extra rook I win after that?’ It was lazy of me to assume I was winning easily without having to consider the method before I reached that point. If I had I might have considered and played 3…Rd4 Instead I just rushed to gain the material advantage and then went into panic-mode when I realised it wasn’t a prosaic win. A hard way to learn a good lesson :(

    Reply to this comment
    • Martin Carpenter

      Aug 29. 2014

      Definitely a much easier win that way :)

      I’m not even sure I’d call Rf2 a pure blunder in the traditional sense. It certainly isn’t a ‘mind blank’ style effort like we’ve all been guilty of. Takes a bit of effort to work out why Ke2 is better. Rook endings are often seriously hard work to play well.

      Some players – like me! – seem to be quite prone to losing this sort of ‘silly’ game from time to time. Some seem to be basically immune.

      My most annoying loss was in the York congress a while back because for a change I was actually switched on properly and think I was actually playing genuinely well. Didn’t stop me throwing in a quite horrible blunder to lose a winning position in a game where I’d been carefully screwing my opponent into the ground :( Just how my brain is :)

      Reply to this comment

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