Friday, 16 March 2012

Blackpool Chess congress

During the weekend of the 9th, 10th and 11th of March I attended the 36th Blackpool chess conference.  This event has been the highlight of my chess year for many years now.
The venue was the magnificent Barcelo Imperial hotel on the North shore of Blackpool.  The event was extremely well run and the venue perfect.  See

There were six sections from the open down to the standard.  Over 400 chess players took part, which makes this event one of the largest in the country.

Before going I promised myself I would try and share my feelings on my own games, with a couple of diagrams here and there.  I was playing in the Median which is the third strongest section.

My first game stared with me playing Black using the Caro-Kann in an unusual White set-up.  After the opening White had left himself with a weak pawn on c3 and a weak square on c4.  His knight is out of the game.  I felt I had a decent plus here and was enjoying the game ready to try and build pressure by doubling rooks on the c-file.
White chose this moment to launch a king-side attack with the rook lift Re3-h3.  White enjoyed some pressure on h7, but with the knight on f6 Black easily withstood the attack and was able to bring his out-of-play knight back into the action.
  White resigned.  The White rook is struggling for a move, note the nice knight fork on f3!  He still has the weak pawn and off side knight, with his attack dead and an exchange down the fight does look over.

The morning game started as a modern Benoni.  This is an opening I'm not that up on.  White ends up with a triangle of pawns on c4, d5 and e4, but Black quickly challenges White's pawns and an exchange is made on d5.  I chose exd5, which is not the strongest move, but is solid.  Both players developed quietly after the initial activity.
White has just played Bf1 ready to chase the bishop with h3.  I had thought I could play h3 earlier, but didn't like the sac Bxh3!
White does chase the bishop and manages to exchange for the knight.  White tries to control the e-file, which Black challenges.  The rooks are exchanges leaving White with a queen on the open file.
At this point I thought I was better because White controls the open file, enjoys the bishop pair and has a target on d6.
Play continues with Black forcing off the queens and then makes a knight sac on d5.  White manages to hold, as he realises that Nc3, Nxa2, Nc3, a2,a1Q is a strong plan.  White had to counter sac a bishop to stop the pawn.  The following position was reached.
    At this point I was looking to hold the draw!  But Black doesn't play well and manages to go into a knight + pawn v bishop ending with 2 minutes left.  After about 90 moves  a draw was agreed.

The afternoon game started with White playing a Colle with an early f4.  This isn't a Colle at all and Cox calls it the Stone wall attack. I played Cox's Colle set-up regardless and arrived at this position.
After exchanging on d4, the White position looks a little split down the middle.
Black moves his knight and plays f5 and enjoys an easy game.  White forces the queens off and after a bit of jockeying for position this position is reached.
Perhaps neither side is better, but I was happy with my knight on d5.  Black has to find a plan and activate his pieces.  I tried to open the a-file and gain control there hoping to invade with my king .  Unfortunately this back fired slightly and White was able to double his rooks along the 7th rank via the a-file.
White offered a draw her, which I was very happy to accept.

I was a little disappointed Saturday evening, as I thought I had decent positions in my games and should probably have been at least a half point better off.

The morning game started off as a Tarrasch defence, with me as White.  The game quickly reached a thematic isolated queen's pawn position.
White has the pawn blockaded.  The general idea is to exchange minor pieces and win the isolated pawn.  As highlighted this plan starts quickly with Nf5.  After a flurry of exchanges White has an active rook and does manage to bag Black's weak pawn.
 And the rest, as they say is a matter of technique.
I did convert the point here, but I didn't find it easy.  There was a lot of shuffling and false starts.  In fact my indecisive play was Black's downfall, he just got fed up trying to hold and seemed to make little mistakes every 5 moves or so, until I won another pawn, when his king was pushed over.

The afternoon game started with White playing d4 with an early Bf4.  Black exchanges a dangerous bishop and fights for space and the centre.
Play continues with White playing for a king-side attack, while Black counters on the queen-side.  White's attack picks up pace and Black has to defend.

Black has just moved his knight to the unusual g8 square, but this forces White to depart with another attacker.  White manages to organise a second wave, but I'm not feeling as uncomfortable during this second attack, as I felt it was going to come to nothing and White had invested so much time.
The pawn on a3 acts a s a 'peg' to hang a rook on b2.  Black's plan is simple.  Double or triple on the b-file whatever it takes and then land a rook on b2, after exchanges axb2 should promote.
White just couldn't hold from here.  After a few more moves an exchanges White resigned.

3 Wins
2 draws
0 defeats

A good congress.

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