On Friday, Ihor Lewyk and his band of merry men; Geoff Smith, Ian Thackray and myself started our venture to York in the way we know best, with a pint at the Red Lion, a handy meeting place for us all! After arriving at our accommodation and having a couple more beverages and pizza, we made our way to the venue eager to play our first games of the weekend!
We all went to our respective sections and had a look at the draw and sat down at our seats. That is, everyone except Geoff, who’s name was nowhere to be seen! After lengthy negotiations with the arbiters, he finally managed to convince the arbiters that he was in fact chess player GM Smith and not Jimmy Greaves who has just come for a laugh! However, this gave him the night off with a full point bye, which was spent having yet more pints!
I was sat next to Ihor, who won a quick game in a perfect demonstration of how to play the black side of a Benko Gambit. My game went down to the wire, but having turned down several draw offers trying to win, I managed to lose on time having a rook and king against a knight, pawn and king and my next move would be RxP, leading to a completely drawn position! Never mind…
We retired back to our rooms, via Wetherspoons of course! We weren’t the only chess players in this fine establishment, a couple of the lads from the north-east, Dave Walshaw and Ron Plater were also consuming their very tasty beverages. It was good to see a strong turn-out from the north-east this year, helping the congress to reach a very healthy 180+ players across the four sections!
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty full English Breakfast, we were back at Energise for a healthy 9.30am start. Ihor had a tough draw against the top seed from Durham, Graeme Oswald, whilst Geoff knew that he would be in for a difficult game against the eventual joint winner, Mick Riding.
The venue was a bit chilly first thing in the morning, but this was soon quickly forgotten as we got ourselves immersed in the chess! Ian and Geoff obtained a win and a loss respectively. I tried to win a Rook & Knight vs Rook ending against Mark White, but he defended it successfully, and I managed not to lose on time on this occasion! The last game to finish was Ihor against Graeme Oswald. Graeme had the initiative all the way through, but Ig doggedly held on and with both flags hanging, a draw was agreed under the supervision of the arbiter.
Between rounds, the café supplied the hungry chess players with a good selection of hot and cold food and drinks, and very tasty sausage rolls for a pound! The talk of the town was the upcoming FA Cup game between Blackpool and Fleetwood, but being a 3pm KO, very few of the chess players would be able to see any of it!
Before we knew it, the next round was upon us. My tournament wasn’t getting any easier as despite being on 0.5/2, I had to play Peter Shaw! Ihor had another tough game against White Rose team-mate Dave Adams. Ian and Geoff managed to end the day getting decent draws against higher-rated opponents. I had managed to get a win against a very out-of-sorts Peter, and Ihor was outplayed by Dave Adams in yet another long struggle.
At the end of Saturday, all the sections were very competitive. The prizes at York are given for the amount of points scored, rather than the place one finishes. No-one was on 100% in the Open, 6 players were tied on 2.5/3, including an excellent performance by Steven Jones from Padgate, who fought well and aided by a bit of luck had managed to way out-perform his grade! In the Major, only Richard Webster was left standing on 3/3, after the top pairing of Round 3, Pierre Weller vs Mick Riding ended in a draw. The Intermediate section saw Paul Salisbury and Noel Boustred on 3/3 (at least they knew who they would be playing on Sunday!) and the very competitive minor section saw five players on 3/3!
After briefly retiring to our accommodation to catch up on the FA Cup results and an education lesson on Whoopi Goldberg’s family, we headed out on a mini pub-crawl around York’s fine Public Houses! Night-owl Rob Dean, also on 100% in the Major also joined us on this expedition. There are certainly plenty of places that sell great real ale, and even Ian was happy with the cider that was on offer in the various places! However, we needed a real tour guide to help us with our beer trip. What better than students at York University? We met up with my brother Chris and his friends, and they took us who were left standing to the Stone Roses, a great little bar that plays rock music and has plenty of alcohol, dancefloor and girls! After a few too many beers and vodkas, our excellent pre-game preparation ended. Hopefully we wouldn’t be fined £20,000 and banned from the next game!
Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, we all ran down to our breakfast, but no-one was there to provide us with the food that we needed in order to perform in tip-top condition! In various states of hangover, we waited patiently, and as the famous advert goes, “Good things come to those who wait”.
At various points in the round, it seemed that all four of us were doing well. Ian and I eventually drew whilst Ihor managed to outplay his opponent in a rook and bishop of opposite colour ending. Black’s rook on b8 was aesthetically trapped by a white pawn on b7 and bishop on c8, it shows how useless rooks can be if they are made to be passive.
The top three seeds in the Open all won and were tied on 3.5/4 going into the final round, whilst Mike Round was having an excellent competition and was the sole player on 3/4. In the Major, the clear leader, Richard Webster, lost to the talented Pierre Weller, leading to Pierre, Mick Riding and Chris Izod all tied on 3.5/4.
In the Intermediate, there was a bit of commotion at the final moments of the game between the two players on 100%, Paul Salisbury eventually coming through the commotion with a valuable win to set himself up on 4/4 going into the final round. In the Minor, only two of the players came through unscathed on 4/4, Derek Toyne and Lee Crawford.
The build-up to the tense final round was dominated by Manchester City’s developing comeback against the very lucky Man Utd, who had been a man up for most of the game! At 2.30pm, a lot of the players made some opening moves and watched the final few minutes of the game, some boards were empty with both players watching the screen in the café outside!
Back to the chess, the last round didn’t go so well for the Bradford lot, three defeats but I managed to salvage some pride with a pleasing victory against my Bradford Knights 4NCL teammate Jim Nicholson.
In the Open, the games between the top four players were drawn. Mike Round played very well in holding an inferior endgame against Dave Adams which went the full distance. So this left three players that finished on 4/5, Graeme Oswald, Paul Townsend and Dave Adams, the top three seeds!
The Major finished with as many twists and turns as it started with. Mitchell Burke beat Pierre to come from a 1/2 start and winning the next three on the trot to finish on 4/5 which will help pay for his university drinking (ahem, I mean studies!) Also congratulations to Chris Izod, as one of the lowest graded players in the competition also finished on 4/5, ahead of a plethora of players on 3.5.
Sadly for Paul Salisbury, he could not quite finish off the Intermediate with a perfect score and allowed Erdem Akbas and David Buckell to leapfrog him with 4.5/5, both of these players winning in the final round to bag themselves a nice £200 each! Also a well done to Daniel Hubbort of Bradford Chess Club and Robert Moneagle, the two lowest rated players in the tournament who managed to secure grading prizes after excellent tournaments.
The only 5/5 score at York came in the Minor section, the battle between the two players on 4/4 ended with a victory for debutant Lee Crawford of Ilkley. He had never entered a congress before and entered the Open, assuming that this is the tournament that everyone entered! He was transferred to the Minor and played very well. Who knows, he may be in the Open next year!
This was my first time playing in the York Congress, and I want to thank the organisers and everyone who has assisted in staging the event, it’s definitely one that I will be playing again in the future!
Report by Andrew Bak of Bradford Chess Club