British Championship 2010 by Ian Campbell

I arose at some ungodly hour and prepared myself for the long journey to Canterbury. On paper, the rail journey didn't seem too arduous but I arrived on the campus at Kent University round about lunchtime somewhat dazed by the two trains, one tube, one taxi and a trek through an endless series of tunnels connecting King's Cross to St Pancras International. Never mind, I started play at 2.15 pm on the dot and soon lost a pawn. Some rather poor play by my opponent allowed me to recover the situation but I ran out of energy in a position where I had an outside passed pawn. Food, rest and a good sleep were spoiled by a desire to rush off to the cathedral only to find the main building was in use by those wishing to worship God. The cloisters and crypt were well worth a visit including a chapel with some 12th century wall paintings still intact but under assault from prohibited flash cameras. These mobile phones with added gizmos can be very antisocial if not downright dangerous, if you are a wall painting.

This is a picture of the cloisters down which the four knights came on their murderous mission to rid the King of the turbulent priest.

And here is the chapel where Thomas Becket was killed by the knights. Listening in to an official guide, one of the Knights aimed a blow at his head and the sword chopped off part of his skull. A second Knight pinned him down with his foot and thrust his sword into the exposed brain of his victim. The small altar with two candles marks the spot where the murder took place. Very grisly stuff.

Back at the ranch, black presented no problems in round 2 as my opponent presented me with a piece after a mere 15 minutes play and I spent the rest of the day in the commentary room listening to Andrew Martin. A trip to Whitstable preceded my game with top seed and famous hacker of days of yore, FM David Rumens. His Dutch was met by my attempts to copy Rubinstein's stonewall treatment and I managed to suppress any activity to reach a satisfactory draw.

I celebrated the next morning with a proper trip to the Cathedral and a magical couple of hours spent in the company of the past. I suppose an expert could explain why i feel so peaceful and calm when in the presence of history. Maybe I shrug off the immediacy of our short lives and see myself in a grander scheme of things, and maybe not.

Round 4 and a blunder left me with a lost position after a mere 15 moves but my opponent missed it and we ground out a draw after 70+ moves. I won a pawn in game 5 but completely messed up the position to only draw and FM  Bernard Cafferty pressed me in game 6 but not to the extent one might expect in a normal ELO tourney. Round 7 and a game with the redoubtable George Ellison brought back memories of the old days and a respectable 14 move draw. All in all,  a reasonable first attempt at the Seniors brought in 25 ELO points and convinced me I could do better if only I would really try. A dangerous illusion!

One of my abiding memories of the week was the peace and quiet to be found on the University Campus. Deprived of a television, radio, computer and newspapers, I was able to peel off the layers of veneer necessary for survival in the modern city and quite simply relax. So the world has gone mad. It was ever thus. The peace and quiet was almost tangible as I gazed over the valley towards Canterbury and the dominating cathedral. This new-found calm lasted until Stretford when the high speed train to London ground to a halt and remained staionary for an hour and a half causing me to miss my connection at Euston and a less than polite discussion with the local official of the train company. All was resolved to the satisfaction of myself but I was back here again.

Here is a picture of the playing hall. The conditions were more than adequate but there had been something of a heatwave and the room was dotted with large fans to cool down the competitors. Alas, one of them situated at the end of my row of tables sounded like it was about to roll down the runway and take off. Relief came only when I condescended to concentrate on my meagre efforts at the board. Well, maybe I did try a bit harder than that-- a lot harder than that.

The British was not as enthralling as it might have been thanks to the evidently superior ability of Michael Adams who dominated the field and emerged the worthy winner of the title. I was watching the ending of his game with Stuart Conquest. White  had Queen, Rook, Knight and extra pawn against Queen Rook and Bishop. My untutored eye thought Stuart had some prospects of a draw but a series of precise moves by Adams saw all the pieces removed from the board to leave a winning king and pawn ending. A genuine revelation to a player not blessed with the necessary talent or capacity for hard work.

Here he is collecting the trophy from ECF President CJ De Mooi.

Michael Adams. British Champion 2010