1st Livingston Chess Congress Report - 2016
Congress Report by David Congleton
A bitterly cold weekend and a heavy snowfall in the wee, small hours of Saturday morning didn’t stop the 1st Livingston Chess Congress being an overall success., with only a handful of players unable to participate because of the wintry conditions outside.
Inside the Mercure Hotel the players did their best to keep the heat on their opponents and there were some scorching battles throughout the sections.
The Open section featured ten players rated over 2000 and five titled players. IM Andrew Greet’s game against FM Jesper Lauridsen from Denmark, via Bearsden, was the final game to finish and victory gave the top seed IM Andrew Greet a perfect 5/5 performance. Defeating FM Jesper in the final round meant Andrew beat three fellow titled players, on his way to first place and automatic qualification for the 2016-17 Super 8 event.
The last time a player scored 5/5 in a weekend congress, outside of the two Scottish Tour events held this year, was almost five years ago, so to have two perfect performances in the first two Tour events is a bonus for the Scottish Tour and the Super 8 incentive.
Second place in the Open was shared by FM Luis Sanchez Botella of Hamilton chess club, who lost to Andrew Greet in round 4 but was otherwise unbeaten and Elliot Frew of Irvine Park, who was unbeaten bit whose Friday half-point bye was a double edged sword. It meant that he missed out on a match up with Andrew Greet but having drew with the second seed FM Lauridsen, who’s to say Elliot couldn’t have deprived Andrew of automatic Super 8 qualification.
A single winner of the Grading prize was erroneously announced during the prize-giving when in actual fact the £25 should have been shared four ways between three of Scotland’s top juniors, Euan Gray, Kai Pannwitz and Ionnis Dabos-Doukas and Duncan Walker who all scored 3 points. Apologies to any of the four who were at the prize giving and missed out on their share because of our “clerical” error.
For the first time in Scotland a Major section of a weekend tournament was FIDE rated and while no-one managed 5/5 that wasn’t for the want of trying. Top seed Neil Irving didn’t have things all his own way and had to battle hard to share first prize, with at least 3 of his 4 games going some distance under the incremental time control. A very late call-off on the Friday night after play had started meant that Neil had a point in the bag straight away but he worked hard during the rest of the weekend for his first equal. Likewise, James Crone also had to work hard to make up a point deficit after losing to Graham Kerr in the first round but four straight wins saw him equal with Neil by the end of the tournament.
Graham Kerr started well with two wins but perhaps his mammoth 106 move, third round game against James Watson, which ended in a draw took its toll for the Sunday’s play. Graham managed two more draws against tough opponents, eventual tied winner Neil Irving and David Potts of Bellshill, who he shared third equal with, alongside David Gillespie of Irvine Park and his third round adversary James Watson.
The Under 1500 Grading prize was shared by Graham Stewart and Caitlin Reid who both managed 3 points. Graham had a third round draw against Neil Irving, which went to move 57, while Caitlin’s fourth round win against her Paisley team mate Thomas Gilmour was her best result of the weekend.
The Minor sections of weekend congresses are always intriguing and the Livingston Congress produced another one of those classic events and stories that only Minor events seem to do. There have been comments in the past about covering the lower sections of events with live boards and as a Minor/lower Major player myself I can’t argue with the fact that the games are not quite as perfect chess as can be viewed on the higher echelons.
However, that doesn’t make the games any less exciting, especially for the vast majority of chess players, like myself, who don’t really comprehend what the top players are doing.
A handful of late withdrawals/byes on the Sunday, along with the availability of 19 live boards meant that we could still broadcast all of the Open games live, so long as nobody kicked a wire out and the top three Major boards and the top two Minor boards. Whilst Irving, Kerr, Potts, Watson, Stewart and Crone were doing their best to re-arrange the distribution of almost all the Major prize money in the Major, the two live Minor boards were, for me, providing the best story of the weekend.
On the top board young Marco D’Alessio, played a mature game against Billy Reid of Paisley to take the point and to guarantee himself at least a share of first place. Meanwhile on board 2, two veterans of the game were pitched against each other with everything to play for.
Normally we try and avoid pairing club mates against each other during weekend events, unless it is unavoidable and would be unfair on the rest of the players. Derek Coope and Jeffrey Robinson are two such club mates who travel far and wide from Oban to play in congresses throughout the country. They have probably played each other countless times at Oban Chess Club over the years and they travel together to a lot of the events in Jeffrey’s two seater sports car. It may have more than two seats but having seen it, if it does, I don’t think the two back seats would be adult sized.
With Derek on 3 ½ points and Jeffrey on 3 points, the two had a relaxing lunch together and a small refreshment before discovering that they had been unavoidably paired to do battle in the last round and that their game would be on the live boards. There was a brief interlude after the match had started, due to a small mishap and the mopping up of a slightly waterlogged board, with one of the players “concerned” that the Chess Scotland live board may have been damaged and unable to broadcast. It is not known if the other player was concerned that the board was electronic and thinking that water and electrics don’t mix well but Billy Reid on the adjoining board did check that he had rubber soles on his trainers.
For a short while friendship was set aside and the two went to battle on the board. It wasn’t the most precise game you’ll ever see and perhaps age and four rounds of chess was catching up, as a few unforced errors swung the game one way and then another before Jeffrey delivered the winning 32. Rhxh7# and in depriving Derek of a share of first prize, earned himself outright second with 4/5 and handed outright first to young Marco.
I’ve seen both Derek and Jeffrey at tournaments for a few years now and Derek has won a few prizes in that time, so while I do have some sympathy for him losing in the last round, I was delighted to see Jeffrey pick up second prize. Although, I know Jeffrey was even more pleased than I was for him to be among the prize winners, having had the best result he’s had for a number of years at a weekend chess congress.
It is the mix and the contrast of youth and experience in the Minor section that underlines the value and the appeal of chess throughout the world. We have youngsters who have only started playing competitively for a year or so pitched against veterans who have played the game for more years than they care to remember and play for the enjoyment and the fun. They turn up at events on a regular basis, provide the proving ground for juniors to pay their dues and earn their spurs, enjoy a weekend of battling over the board and every now and again put in a performance that surprises themselves.
Without players such as Derek, Jeffrey and their like Scottish Chess would be a poorer place.