British Chess Championships 2017


Ian and I decided to visit sunny (in between the showers) Llandudno this year to play a few a few games. Ian played in the over 65 event (“the coffin dodger “as it is affectionately known by players and fans!), and I settled on the experts (under 2050) having originally been toying with the 9 round major open. Sanity prevailed, and the 5 round event seemed a sensible choice, as I mentally reviewed past experiences at the British.

I had several goes in the Major Open in my better years, and remember highlights such as a terrific fight to the death (my death!) with GM Prokopchuk (2520) in 2002, in which we both hit bad time trouble. Even more indelibly etched is round 9 (It was an 11-round event in those days) of the Major Open at Street near Glastonbury in 2000 when a win would have given me 6.5/9 and a real chance of qualifying for the next British. Playing white, I had gradually outplayed Colin Addison (2220) (It was a much stronger event than now back in the day) and had put a rook en- prise to a knight deliberately to emphasise the point. I was in worse time trouble than him, but by his face I could see he hated his position. I saw a great follow up as I knew if he took it he would be crushed positionally, and he did not take it. For some reason I did not play my prepared move “I would have been in a real mess if you had played that” said Addison afterwards, but played an improvement (Not!), which allowed him a serious wriggle. This led to severe time pressure and an ultimate loss for me. I finished the tournament on 6.5/11, when I really should have qualified for the British Championship in 2001 that year as I was on very good form, and had excellently prepared openings.

I have had good moments at the British too I should add, such as coming joint first in the Atkins weekend open in 1998. A happy memory with several 2200 plus players in that one.

No wonder I chose the medium paced tournament! I was drained even thinking about past efforts.

The hotel left a lot to be desired…. mainly the hotel part! All it needed was Rigsby and Vienna and we would have been back in the 1970’s. We battled on regardless as chess players do, and we forced down huge quantities of food at various times of the day, particularly at   6-7pm in our favourite fish restaurant. Never look at a desert menu with Ian! We ate so much apple pie I could barely move at the end of the week. Lovely though!

What about the venue? The venue was good, but the room was very hot and airless, which is not good for players of a certain age. Nowhere near as bad as the Leiden tournament a few years ago I should add, and there was plenty of free water available, and a good refreshment room.

I am always fascinated by the characters at the British and many came up and said hello to me. One said, “I thought you had died, I have not seen you for ages”!! (Much laughter ensued)

Round 1 was interesting for me as the organisers had forgotten to pair me. They could not contact the player who had a full point bye on the phone. To save any hassle I suggested they gave me a ½ point bye and this was received well. I am sure Ian will recount his experiences, but let me just say his habit of only playing the game itself, rather than troubling himself with preparation is fascinating. As he is a total maximalist this suits him well! He told me that I preferred the preparation to playing now and he is right!

Round 2 saw me against a 180 rated 10-year-old who was the under 11 champion of Holland, and who also won the British under 11 this year. Looking at the internet the word “wunderkind” kept cropping up! Thank heavens I was white. I studied him in depth, and we drew an uneventful game in the English opening. I prevented him from regurgitating opening theory, and he stopped me from building up an automatic attack. Fair enough.

Two further draws followed, including one I would have played on in had I not been suffering from a surfeit of apple pie! (I will spare our reader the gory details)

To the final round against a 172 rated 14-year-old (Like the others he was much lower Fide rated than me even though I am nearly 200 Fide points lower than my peak rating) The game had some interest and it can be seen with some notes and computer evaluations.

Salmons    Hawkins

1 e4         e5

2 Nf3       Nc6

3 Bc4       Nf6

4 d3         Be7

5 0-0        0-0

6 Nbd2     d6

7 Re1      Na5      Best move at 0.00. Bg4 is 0.2 for white.

8 Bb3      Nxb3    Houdini thinks 8 h3 and allowing Nxc4 9 Nxc4 with the knight coming to e3 better than the game. +0.3

9 axb3     Re8

10 Nf1     h6      Best move.

11 Ng3    Bf8

12 Nh4    Kh7    Equal +0.2

13 f4?     exf4    -1.25

14 Bxf4   Nxe4   Not only can black play g5 but it is the best line with -1.2. The line goes 15 Bxg5 hxg5 16 Nhf5 Bxf5 17 Nxf5 Kg8 18 Qf3 Nh7 19 Rf1 Qf6 20 c3 a6 21 Qh5 Qg6 and considers black to now be -1.4 ahead.

15 Nxe4  Qxh4

16 Nf6+    .....     16 Ng5+ is slightly better than Nf6+ but not enough to make a difference.

16 .....      Qxf6

17 Rxe8   Bg4

18 Qe1     Rxe8

19 Qxe8    Qxf4    The machine says -0.4 if white finds 20 Rf1 while Qxf8 gives black -0.8

20 Qxf8     Qd4+

21 Kh1       Qxb2

22 Re1       Be6

23 Qb8       Qc3


After 24 Rg1 a5 25 Qxb7 Qxc2 the engine thinks black is 0.8 up but there is no clear winning line in the offing. The line goes on to move 42 with an advantage of 1.0 for black.

Probably I should have accepted his piece “sacrifice”, but what I did gave me the advantage as well. I would have played on at the end if I was not streaming from both eyes due to having inadvertently rubbed some sort of noxious substance in them. “Why is the man crying mummy” asked a bemused young boy! I decided to offer a draw as my eyes were now stinging like mad as well as streaming “tears”! Draw accepted it was 5 draws for me. “No surprise there”, said Ian!

I was never in any difficulty, but putting in the opening effort to win games is something that becomes more difficult as a player ages. Who knows, maybe I will put a shift in again soon!

Ian and I had two marvellous trips. One to the top of the Orme on a nice day, with its fresh air, glorious scenery, and interesting wildlife was revitalising. Our trip along the steam railway (Ian will describe this in more detail) was simply a delight. I even had beer in the coach. This is so much better than grinding away in the chess room. In this quiet rural idyll, the gently trundling steam train afforded us a glimpse into a simpler way of life, and a deeply satisfying sense of just “being” without the need to “do” anything. No wonder Ian does not waste time and energy preparing!


I enjoyed it all, and meeting old friends proved a real pleasure. I even met up again with Colin the London fish seller who plays the Grob, and is a tremendous character! Oliver Jackson and I were discussing one of Ian’s games in which he had time up and was moving a rook backwards and forwards trying to convince his opponent it was drawn. His opponent ground on and Ian stayed obstinate, relying on his big time advantage for a win or a draw. “What would you do if you were Ian’s opponent” said Oliver (who played some great games himself in the over-65 I should add) “I would terrify Ian by sacrificing a rook for his bishop at the first opportunity, and then I would point my bishop at his king and push my pawns at him”. “Will it work?” said Oliver, “No, but it will make it a contest and force Ian to calculate and add the terrifying prospect of him being beaten into his mind.” “You and I would do this”, I added. Oliver smiled the smile of a vicious gunslinger.

We went back to watch and this happened!! Ian looked terrified, but he did have a win with best play, but with his clock going he played a move which led to a forced draw. Ian hates losing and is the only player I know who wears a black armband for his next game following a loss!

Over to Ian


This is utterly ridiculous.

I mean to say...... there are no photos of sunlit panoramas, no philosophical musing on the nature of all things, no great deeds performed in exotic places.

How can this be? I must be in Llandudno for the Old Codgers Section of the British Championship.

The hotel we selected from the Internet was either a glorified B&B or a hotel that had seen better days. Perhaps it could stand as a suitable metaphor for Llandudno itself. Austerity seems to have set in long before George Osborne got to work and like many seaside resorts is showing its age. No matter, we are here and there is a week of chess and relaxation to be enjoyed.

 The whole event kicked off as follows. It is 9am on a bright and breezy Sunday morning and the bus arrives to take me to Central station for a disjointed journey to my destination. I feel fine but three hours later I arrive in one piece but with a vacancy in my head. Ian has left the building.

Hotel and Nick located it is time to grab something to eat and go for Round One of the tournament. I have white against Ray Holland who plays for Wrexham nowadays. Stalwarts of our League will remember Ray as a member of Liverpool Chess Club and a first team regular.

I confidently essayed the Petrosian Variation of the King's Indian only to reach move 8 and suddenly realise I can't remember any theory in an opening I have played off and on for many years. A combination of stress, prescription drugs and the conditions they supposedly alleviate can produce this effect on my mind.

This is not a new experience for me but I shall draw a discrete veil over the number of times this happens to the remnants of my brain. Suffice to say I have no alternative but to grope around in the dark in the hope that the numbness in my head will go away. In this daft game I manage to stagger on for ages with black failing to grab a big advantage. Suddenly I spot a strong tactic and quickly execute my plan only for Ray to capture my queen which I had failed to notice was en prise. Trying hard and failing to stifle a laugh I executed my threat instantly. Now Ray had only 2 minutes plus increment to reach move 40 and it would be fair to say his hand was shaking a little. Had he more time and less stress he would have found a way to win a piece but he gave the queen back in order to reach a better ending only to offer a draw on move 36 with his clock in a bad way. At least I retained enough sense to realise I had escaped with a draw.

I would have been happy with a draw had I known which day of the week it might be. However, this experience did force a change of plan upon me. I decided to junk any and all preparation for the game and simply turn up at the venue, look to see who I am playing and sit down. My Dear Reader will know I don't do much before any game but this is the first time I haven't even looked at my opponent or any of his/her games.

Round 2 and I am black against James Macrae. I drew with him in round 1 at Bournemouth last year and found him a very solid player. He is not in the first flush of youth and may get tired later in the tournament but he plays well in the early rounds for sure. Surprise! Maybe I might have known he would play 1 f4 had I looked but I hadn't. It is my fortune that we have a devotee of this opening at Aigburth so I can play a tried and trusted reply. He plays an early d3 weakening e3 and I leap on this square and gain an initiative which persists through the middlegame and he resigns before the time control with Mate looming. I have 1.5/2 without ever having completely escaped from the gloom in my head. I'm pleased, I think.

Round 3 and I have 1.5/2. Is there a temptation to look at the draw and do some work? I have never been on the tram up the Great Orme and Nick is busy doing his prep for the game so I find myself in the queue for the tram. It is 9.30am and only six people in front of me. First tram is 10am after braking test. Erm, another 10 minutes. Erm, another 10 minutes. We set off at 10.30am to the relief of all aboard and the lengthening queue below. Was it worth the wait? I have no idea but the views both on the trip up and at the top were very satisfying. The stiff wind persuaded me to go to the cafe for a large coffee and forbidden Bakewell tart. What joy! Suitably fortified in mind and body I emerged from the safety of the cafe to take photographs and fill my mind with images of North Wales. Soon enough it is time to rejoin the huddled masses below and occupy my mind with bits of plastic. I have white against Norman Hutchinson

I've never played Norman before, or so I believed, although I have seen him around the Seniors and think him a strong player. I didn't remember at the time that I lost to him in 2014 in a decisive fashion which undoubtably influenced my impression of him. Also, he looks intelligent which can be inhibiting for us lesser creatures. Such are the pleasures and pitfalls of not researching at all.


1 d4             Nf6

2 Nf3            e6

3 Bf4            d5

4 e3              c5

5 c3              Nc6

6 Nbd2         Bd6

7 Bg3           0-0

8 Bd3           b6

9 Ne5           Bxe5

10 dxe5        Nd7

11 f4            f5          Do I want to open the position for the bishops? Not clear so I decided to postpone anything active until later.

12 Qe2         a6

13 0-0           Bb7

14 Nf3           b5

15 Rad1         h6

16 h3             Qe8

17 Kh2           Kh8

18 Bc2           Rg8

19 Bh4           g5         Oh dear, have I got this wrong?  If I take on g5 with pawn and bishop he has Qh5 with an X-Ray on e2. Take with the knight and he can take on e5. I was berating myself for wasting a go with Bc2 until I realised he could play c4 forcing it. What to do now? I'm sure many would try to accept the pawn sacrifice but I was still a bit groggy and not confident. So I devised a defensive idea based on Suba's Dictum; Bad bishops defend good pawns.

20 Bf2          Rg7      No idea what I am up to. Him, me or both of us?

21 g3            Qf7

22 Rd2         Rag8

23 Rg1         Ne7

24 Ne1         Nc8      My knight was in the way on f3 while his seems off on a trek to a4/c4 or other far flung parts.

25 a4           Bc6

26 ab           Bb5

27 Bd3         c4

28 Bc2         Nc5

29 Nf3         Ne4     That has to go!

30 Bxe4       fxe4

31 Nd4        Ne7

32 Rdd1      Nf5

33 Nxf5       Qxf5    The dark square blockade now looks secure and I am happy to shake hands but don't feel it polite to offer a draw so I now shuffle the pieces around. My opponent must have thought black better or was too polite to offer a draw. Elsewhere there are some ribald comments about the following play.

34 Rd2        Qf7

35 Rd1        Qb7

36 Rd2        Ba4 

37 Qh5        Kh7

38 Qg4        Bd7

39 Qd1        Bb5

40 Qe2        Ba4

41 Ra1        Bb5

42 Rg1        Qb6

43 Re1         Be8

44 Rg1         Bf7

45 Rdd1       Bg6

46 Rd2         Rb8     Signs of life? He was getting well behind on the clock as my moves did not require thought.

47 Ra1         Qb5

48 Be1          Rgb7   Deceived into thinking my moves obtuse or marking time he takes his major pieces off on a safari to the empty queenside. Is that a pawn on offer? After all, I have moved my pieces out of danger so I can take it. Then I will, so there!

49 fxg5          Rf8

50 Qg4          Qb6

51 gxh6         Rbf7

52 Rdg2         ......    I was getting excited again and thought Re2 would be met by Rf3 but I have h4 and h5 maybe. Instead I decided to return a pawn hoping to activate the bishop.

52 ....            Qxe3

53 Bd2          Qd3

54 Bf4           e3     Where did that passed pawn come from? Perhaps I made a mistake somewhere. I certainly hadn't understood the capture on e3 granted him a passer or I.....Oh well, he is short of time so block it.

55 Re1          Be4

56 Rge2        Rg8

57 Qxe6        Rxf4   Anticipated.......sort of

58 gxf4          Bf3

59 Qf7+         Kh8    Shock!! I had believed he had to take on h6 with a quick mate. Still missing obvious moves.

Stunned into a state of incomprehension I offered a draw by repetition and he hastily agreed. Only when I put the position in an engine did I find out I had an advantage of plus 6! It seems I can play e6 as the bishop cannot take on e2 because white plays Rg1 and the black queen is denied access to the white king by the pawn and bishop. Would I have thought of that? Evidently not then.

I had a draw on the table and plenty of time.....I could have tried to look for something.... such as the winning line for example....sorts out the masters from the players maybe. Certainly sorts me out from the sane people wherever they may be hiding. They say Ignorance is Bliss and I managed to eat my dinner without a pang of remorse. I had enjoyed my day and hadn't lost my game. Llandudno in the evening sunshine is actually very pleasant.

Round 4 and the weather is not favourable. No trips today but a morning in town skipping the showers. I go to the venue to see how Dave Pearcey is faring in his morning tournament before heading to the railway station to check on the times for a trip down the Conwy valley. I have a plan, sort of. I meet Nick at our excellent local Tea Room for some lunch before we wander off to the venue.

I have black against Ken Norman. Probably means nothing to my Dear Reader but it does to me.

Nothing to do with losing a truly dreadful game in round 6 at Guernsey last year as I had spent the morning on Herm Island and had no stake in the game. ( Go to Aigburth Chess Club/Chess Corner/Guernsey 2016 for my personal reflections on life, Herm etc) No, it has more to do with his fixed openings which he knows very well and which I have great difficulty in getting some unclear play which I believe would suit me more than him. As a result, I have some draws and some losses but no wins and that is certainly not a confidence builder. Given the circumstances I determined on a NO LOSE attitude despite him always playing the horrible g3 variation of the King's Indian which I hate and steadfastly refuse to counter with proper opening theory.

Just as well I was doing no preparation as I would have got bothered about the prospect of another encounter. This way I barely have time to sit down and summon up some steel.


1 Nf3         g6

2 d4           Bg7

3 c4           d6

4 Nc3         Nd7

5 g3           c6 

6 Bg2         a6       I know something about most openings by playing through games. This is a bluff, of course, as I don't really intend to advance on the queenside for the moment. What do I intend to do? Silly question.

7 0-0          Qc7

8 d5            c5       Shocked, I was. I had expected him to carry on with e4 and usual KI Development. I have never understood the g3 Benoni as the bishop is blocked by the d5 pawn. I have no idea what I am 'supposed to do' but I resolved not to play e6 unless forced. Instead I proposed to mess about on the flanks and leave his bishop to stew on g2. Is this right? Who cares, not I.

9 a4           h5        More for a bit of space but I might lunge forward later on. He didn't like it, I could tell.

10 e4         Ne5      Not the piece I wanted to exchange but something has to come off as my territory is limited by my plan.

11 Nxe5     Bxe5

12 h3         Bd4

13 Ne2       Bg7      I was now expecting f4 and thinking of playing for Bd7, a5 and 0-0-0 along with some pawn moves on the kingside. Risky stuff but I was prepared to come second in a punch-up just as long as I got a chance to land some blows. Not for Ken. He adopts a typical old codgers plan involving the exchange of my best piece on g7. A time consuming exercise.

14 Ra2       Nh6

15 Nf4        Bd7

16 Bd2        a5

17 Qc2        b6

18 Bc3         Bxc3

19 Qxc3       Rg8

20 b3           0-0-0

21 Re1         h4

22 g4           g5

23 Nd3         f6

24 Qd2         Nf7

25 Rf1          Ne5

26 f4            Nxd3       He offered the draw and I took it.


I was quite pleased with the outcome of the game believing he had refused opportunities to play for a win and had got what he deserved as a consequence. I must do something about this g3 lark such as learning some opening theory. In all honesty this must count as a very boring draw to all playing through it. I have to confess I believe even our Dear Reader may have nodded off despite a burning desire to follow my games. I was very happy with the outcome and didn't notice everybody else had succumbed to a state of catatonic stupor. Chess is in essence for the players and onlookers do so at their own risk or so it seems to me.

Round 5. Weather doesn't look too bad so armed with my trusty plastic mac I hurry off to the bus stop for a trip to Conwy and a visit to the famous castle. I haven't been for a generation and more. Trips to historical sites is my equivalent to sitting in my rocking chair remembering my past which is not possible partly owing to the lack of a suitable chair but mainly as a consequence of much of my past being an unfit place to visit. Far easier to lose myself in the terrifying splendour of King Edward's attempt to pacify the locals. £9 to enter seems more than reasonable to me. As this is supposed a report about chess I shall confine myself to the observation that I take far too many things for granted and thereby lose myself in dullness. If you like castles then this is surely one worth a visit and they throw in the town walls for free.

Back to meet Nick at the Tea Room for lunch and off to the venue where I have white against the 2100 rated Jim Burnett. We have not played before and after 1 d4 d5 we proceed to a game of such stultifying dullness that it will not be recorded here. Suffice to say a draw with neither side ever looking likely to land a blow.

Round 6. It seems Nick is fed up with playing his tournament game by himself in his 'hotel' room and is joining me for a trip up the Great Orme. We arrive at the bus stop in time. Yes, the bus taking us to the top of the Orme. My variation of a holiday consists of finding difficult ways to do easy things had I the local knowledge. Of course there are such things as tourist information for the more organised amongst us. And the bus is far cheaper too. It is a much better day with sunshine and little wind. Coffee and cake taste just as good. The walk down to the halfway stop is very pleasant and there is time for some photos. We meet Tom Bimpson walking up the hill. Rather him than me.

In the venue I find I have black against Stewart Reuben. More to the point I find there is an odd number in my section resulting in a bye for each round. I take myself off to the Arbiter to ask if I can take a zero point bye in the last round thereby ensuring everybody who wants to play can do so while we can take a trip down the Conwy Valley on the train. They are happy with this arrangement and I am delighted. Perhaps a little too much levity given that many players invest far more of themselves in their games than I can manage given the nagging of the medical profession.

I saw Stewart before the start of the game and happily confided my preparation for the game was non-existent. I didn't explain that I was already in holiday mood and he didn't tell me he wasn't. I found that out when he went 1 d4. I guess Stewart was going over my games for some reason beyond my imagination. I believe Stewart normally plays the English but had no hesitation in setting up the g3 Kings Indian.



1 d4           g6

2 g3           Bg7

3 Bg2         d6

4 c4           c6

5 Nc3         Nd7

6 e4           Qc7

7 Nge2       e6

8 Be3         Ne7

9 Qd2         h6

10 0-0        b6         I'm having a bit of fun and trying to mess up Stewart's preparation as well. Universal opinion was that the rook should come to c1 but.......

11 Rad1     Bb7

12 b4         a6        Houdini says 13 c5 is  +0.7 for white but Stewart plays a natural looking move. The walking dead don't like too much tension or calculation so this position would be agony if I wasn't already on holiday.

13 f4          f5        I thought I had to play this move in order to get castled. My position looks ridiculous  and I ought to be worried but it is the Seniors......

14 d5         exd5    In analysis I suggested 15 Nd4 which looks very powerful. Lo and behold, the computer is not impressed rating 15...Bxd4 16 Qxd4 0-0 as only 0.24 for white.  Astonishing!

15 exd5     c5

16 b5         a5      Taken leave of my senses again. I should castle kingside. This move leaves a permanent target on b6. Pathetic!

17 Qc2       0-0

18 Nb1       Nf6    Stewart is doing a Norman and trying to get my bishop on g7. I'm going to contort myself to stop him.

19 Bd2       Rae8

20 Bc3       Kh7

21 Qb2      Neg8

22 Rfe1      Re7

23 Nc1       Rfe8

24 Nd3       Qd7

25 Rxe7


I can only suggest that classical chess theory and computer assessments do not occupy the same space. Looking at the faces of people in the analysis room I surmised that 7 pawns on the sixth rank was not considered a proper defence. My plan involved giving Stewart as many possibilities to calculate as possible while I only had to calculate the one he chose. Might have been a different story had he chose Rc1.


Time for a Russian proverb; Your elbow is close, yet you can't bite it. 


So, 4 draws in a row. Sounds bad but all 4 had higher grades than me and the 4 draws were rated at approx 186 which seems a bit more positive. I trotted along without ever challenging the top boards and having to flounder against players with title pretensions.

Round 7. There isn't one! Bag packed and over my shoulder, key returned to my 'genial' host and anticipation of a good day, Nick emerged and we set off for the railway station. Returns to Blaenau-Ffestiniog safely pouched and a relatively empty train to board, we grabbed seats on the right hand side. The estuary dominated by the castle soon gave way to the beautiful scenery of the river valley. A car might be ideal but this is well worth the price. Eventually we pull into Betws-y-coed where we had planned to have a break but the dark clouds were threatening to unleash a downpour of Biblical proportions. Had I been thinking of this blog I would have grabbed suitable photos of the dark sky and launched into a diatribe about the forthcoming Apocalypse as this report seems to be far too genial for the liking of our Dear Reader. No confessions, no humiliating defeats, dark despair or the pit of misery.

Back on the train we leave Nature's creations for scenery dominated by the hand of Man. Large piles of discarded slate line the track and obscure the view. My mind turns to 3 hours in Blaenau with some foreboding. Our arrival coincides with the imminent departure of a steam train ( alright, any half wit would realise there is no coincidence ) and Nick asks a guard what time the train will return to Blaenau. On finding out the train arrives back 10 minutes before our return trip to Llandudno, another happy coincidence, we pile onto the train without further ado.

Imagine the look on the face of the guard when we tell him that we have no tickets and don't know where we are going. Well, we are going where the train goes but we don't know where that might be. A piece of plastic soon resolves our problem plus the news we are going to Porthmadog. I have been on this train before albeit in the opposite direction. I relax knowing this will be a special trip. And it is! A quick bite to eat in Porthmadog and we are on our way back to our starting point.

The dark clouds of the morning have relented and it is a beautiful blue sky with a summer sun dominating all. The views coming back up the Conwy Valley were breath taking, magnificent, and beautiful. Natural splendour replenishing the spirit. No wonder the Welsh love to sing when such sights fill the heart with joy. I can't get photos on a modern train so you have to take my word for it. Better still, make a plan to visit the Conwy Valley. Weather permitting, you will not be disappointed.

I take my leave at the Junction, catch a train to Chester and just make connections there and Lime Street. I am home from the Junction in just two hours. Round 7 proved to be an outstanding success full of memories I will treasure.

Time to sum up? I always told the juniors I once coached they could do better after their experience than before it as they have learned on the way. We can always do better afterwards. I enjoyed my time in Llandudno. The chess was OK and the outside activities were boosted by local people who were both helpful and friendly. Can't ask for much more really. 

The trip down the Conwy Valley and steam train to Porthmadog was simply sublime.