Guernsey Chess Open Tournament 2017


It was about 6.35am. “Here we are” said my taxi driver, expecting me to pay and leave his cab. “We are in Buckingham Avenue, just off Otterspool Promenade, when I told you and your satnav I wanted Bentham Drive Childwall”, I responded calmly. He was baffled as he did not have a clue where Childwall was, and I was stressed because Ian would be growing increasingly displeased by the delay as each minute progressed. With great difficulty I directed my driver, who was new to our country, and to Liverpool, to the Campbell residence in Childwall. I saw a curtain twitch, and Ian fixed me with his frustrated look. Fortunately, I was able to give him an overview of the situation as we walked to the cab. The driver displayed much more confidence on the motorway and all was well. We would make the flight!

We teamed up with our pal FM Oliver Jackson at Manchester Airport and a smooth flight led us to Guernsey and our hotel. For me Guernsey is the highlight of the year. Not the chess itself, but the place. I love it, even though it can be cold and inhospitable in bad weather. In good to reasonable weather the bracing walks, the trip to Herm, the wonderful food in the hotel, and the general relaxation I feel are marvellously therapeutic to the spirit, and hopefully to the body. The air is like wine. Just being there.

Unfortunately, the price of pleasure is a certain degree of pain in the brain area caused by 7 games of potentially 7-hour chess. My round 1 opponent was a solid character with a 2090 rating and he had white. He played a solid Colle, and I played soundly and solidly against it. The net result was to produce an offering that would serve as a cure for insomnia, and of which Ian said, “Your opponent makes me look aggressive”.  High praise indeed for my opponent! The game ended in a draw, and we both nodded wisely as my opponent opined that the Colle is not dynamic. A pint and a long walk along the sea shore brought me out of my torpor. Dear reader Ian was not exaggerating, and he is one of the greatest “stodgers” I have ever encountered! A Chris Tavare of chess no less. This is a compliment and will be taken as such. Ian hates anybody who is stodgier than him, and the player he loathes the most is the stodgiest player I have ever seen! (No names, no solicitor dear reader!)

I ground on through the tournament, never quite able to “sum up the passion that whips the blood” as Lasker used to say. Draws followed, and inevitable frustration. My computer malfunctioned badly, so my preparation was done for. Oliver Jackson let me look at what he could muster on his, but his had problems of a lesser nature than mine. It was good of him. Oliver is a tremendous force of nature at 71. His magnificently aggressive, brilliantly researched and prepared openings are his trademark, but I found his ferocious will to win and need to dominate games and opponents are his real driver. He was the fourth or fifth highest rated player and his play fully justified this. Only Grandmaster Tiger Hillarp Persson both worried him, and beat him. Usually he was either a magnificent winner or a wonderful near misser!

 He looks upon Ian and I as two essentially boring players, who are not aggressive enough. He did concede (under some persistent questioning!) that I had played “some good aggressive games” in the past. This placated me! He is spot on about Ian and me now though. I wish I had the energy Oliver has. When he found out who his last round opponent was he could not stop smiling “He is boring, and (long theatrical pause) he plays the French”) Oliver loves crushing the French when he is white, and he delivered a brutal battering to the solid citizen as he promised. What confidence! He reminds me of Marshall or Janowsky. He cannot stand being bored, finds positional play tedious (“three hours to weaken a square..”) but l’’audace toujours l’audace as Janowski would say, he loves king hunting and tactical blitzkriegs. Long may this pirate of the chess sea prosper!

I particularly enjoyed mealtimes with Ian, Oliver, and me sharing a table for breakfast and the evening meal. My absolute favourite was when the three of us lapsed into a history of football featuring every cliché -ridden piece of punditry we could muster, how great the old days were, how much tougher northern players were then, and so on. I supplied Alan Hansen, Sean Connery, and Frankie Howard to add a bit of zest, and because Oliver loves impressions! Alec Stock “coats for goals” (Remember him as the manager impersonated on the fast show?) was done by the three of us. I think the other players thought we were mad! Correct! Ian does not do his key impression anymore as it requires him to be suitably merry. I refer of course to his Quasimodo, closely modelled on Charles Laughton in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Ian became Quasimodo when he did this, and it was both brilliant and terrifying, and strangely discomforting yet fascinating, in equal measure. He would always choose the most attractive barmaid to be his Esmerelda! Ian also does a cracking Eric Morecombe with his spectacles. I must say that several weeks after Guernsey that Ian pulled off yet another brilliant impression whilst he settled into his seat on a train to London. Normally he sits in a semi- catatonic state on an early train, but I noticed a little cough and a very concentrated look, and then it started! Suddenly he became Louis Armstrong singing “What a wonderful world”.  Satchmo took a final bow on the early train to London! I have put in a request to Ian for his Rat Pack impressions for Christmas, and I will keep our reader posted. (Any young person reading this by mistake who does not recognise the people in this paragraph should consult a person over 50 for clarification!)

My final tally of 3 points from 7 (6 draws, 1 loss) was the same as that made by Ian. My loss was to a very sensible player (5.5/9 I think) in which I sacrificed a pawn as black in the opening but did not play the correct following move. I still played resourcefully, and nearly had enough. Not quite though. The draws were not that interesting, but I will give a game for the record.

I enjoyed the experience, but the chess was more a war of attrition and grit than pleasure. There are no easy games in open events. The woman GM was crushed by a “normal” Dutch player (I drew with him last year in a Queen’s Indian) for example. Mistakes are usually very costly in this kind of event, so people tend to play with great care in the main.

We arrived back in Manchester, and owing to the train problems with Lime Street being redeveloped Oliver very kindly gave us a lift to our homes in his very flashy car. I hope the three musketeers can reform next year! No innuendo is left unturned that is for sure!


Here I am with white in round 4 against a player (Alan Gravett) rated 1810 who I am trying to beat.

1 e4 g6

2 d4 Bg7

3 Nc3 d6

4 Be3 Nf6

5 f3 0-0

6 Qd2 e5

7 d5 a5

8 0-0-0 Na6 White has decided upon a caveman attack on the h -file, and black has responded calmly so far. Oliver Jackson liked this approach, and he watched from time to time.

9 Bh6 Nc5 (Houdini really likes 9 Bg5 giving white +1.08, and it prefers 9 Bxh6 for black)

10 h4 Nh5

11 g4 Ng3

12 Rh3? Nxf1?   A double blunder! Houdini points out that white should play Rh2 on move 12 (I was looking to treble on the g file though), and that black should play 12 Ngxe4, 13 Nxe4 Bxh6 14 Qxh6 Nxe4 15 fxe4 Bxg4 with a 0.4 plus to black. This is a very Dragon-like sacrificial idea and we both overlooked it here. Machines never tire!

13 Rxf1 f5 Houdini is not keen on this giving white a 1.6 plus.

14 gxf5 gxf5

15 Rg3 Rf7

16 Qg2 Qe7 On move 16 Houdini prefers taking twice on g7 and the playing f4 for white. It says 1.6 plus if white does that. I am not sure a human would rate it that highly.

17 Nge2 Kh8

18 Bxg7+ (I was trying to make the tripling work, but 18 Kb1 Bd7 19 Rfg1 Rg8 and I could find no follow up!)  Rxg7

19 Rfg1 Rxg3

20 Qxg3 Bd7

21 h5 and we agreed a draw. A typical game with effort and grit, but mistakes as well. Not so boring in my opinion! Alan is a good battler.

Thanks to Ian for running this game through Houdini. Over to Ian.




Airports can be peculiar places for those of us less able to fly on a regular basis. Although the authorities regale us with tales of austerity and close our libraries, schools and hospital wards there still remain times of day when airports are teeming with masses of humanity anxious to escape Ravaged Britain. One is tempted to contemplate the incompetence of a penniless government failing to sweep up the large amount of money available to so many folks until one notes many people seem to have packed the entire contents of their abode and are presumably intent on a permanent escape. Myself, escape from the chaos of Manchester Airport on a busy October Saturday was the height of my ambitions. First, there is the small matter of frustrating misery I no longer desire to contemplate.

My plan is to grab hold of the remote control and fast forward to the afternoon.

This is much better ! The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia are in the Atlantic and propelling warm winds from Africa in the direction of Guernsey. Blue skies and temperatures climbing to 20 degrees in the middle of October. It is T-shirt weather for me and perfect surfing conditions for others. Only in the many bays of course as there are many large rocks which would cause resignation more permanent than knocking over the king and setting up the pieces again.

I'm walking along the coastal path and there are cabbage white butterflies flitting from leaf to leaf. In October? Yes, and I have the pictures to prove it albeit not the scaled down versions suitable for this website. Rugged coastlines, beautiful bays, the cries of the gulls and waves lapping on the shores. Tedious for some but sheer bliss for this tired old wreck. Recalled to life if only for a fleeting moment but a moment to treasure. In the city I love music but I also love being in Guernsey. Just being, nothing else.

Chess? A chess column? Where? Here. If only I could put it off a little longer and bask once more in the aesthetic glory of that afternoon but....Our Dear Reader knows from an assiduous study of previous accounts that I am prone to a certain disconnection between that which I call consciousness and the 'outside world' such that I give the impression of not knowing what I am doing. This is in such stark contrast to times when I am in focus and playing well that those unfamiliar with my foibles would think.....well, i am not responsible for what others think except perhaps Our Dear Reader. Suffice to say that I had suffered such an interlude on the Wednesday before going to Guernsey and had perpetrated the most......making excuses again. Anyway I wasn't feeling confident before the start of the tournament despite being at the bottom of the first group in the tournament and therefore paired with the second lowest player in the Open in the first round. Here is the game.


1 e4                 g6

2 d4                 Bg7

3 e5                 d6

4 f4                  c6          The point of this move is.....I have no idea. Hypermodern theory would surely suggest action on the long diagonal black has occupied could be appropriate. So  4...dxe5 5 fxe5 c5 undermining white's blocking pawns looks good. I had considered it but decided to play c6 for reasons too abstruse to recall in my current level of thought.

5 Nf3               Bg4

6 Be2               e6           Evidently I have decided to exchange my bishop and pursue a policy of occupying the light squares in the centre with pawns. The picky player will doubtless want to question the placement of a pawn on d6 in light of the current position. I have no smart answers to refute that observation.

7 Be3             Ne7

8 0-0              Nf5

9 Bf2              d5            Losing a move but thinking the closed position justifies the loss.

10 a4             ......          Claiming some queenside space. A move so unnatural as to escape my consideration. In truth, I found this move more annoying than it should be as I hadn't thought of it despite the obvious motives behind gaining queenside space.

10 ....             Nd7

11 Na3           Bxf3        He isn't going to play h3 so I might as well chuck another tempo at him.

12 Bxf3          h5

13 c4              a6           Trying to prevent a knight appearing on d6 via b5.

14 b4             0-0           Thinking I needed the rook on h8 in play as white can open a queenside file and occupy it if I don't castle. I got up to go to the toilet for a diuretic moment. On the way I suddenly realised my opponent could sacrifice a bishop on h5 thereby gaining 2 pawns for the piece with some kingside threats. Duty calls first and I returned to the board convinced my opponent would not resist the temptation to stir the pot.

!5 Bxh5         gxh5

16 Qxh5        Ne7          The engine has no hot blood and wants to capture on c4. I was more concerned by the possibility of g4 and a pawn roller coming my way.

17 Bh4           f6             I believe this is the best move and I started to feel better. Even so, I was fooling myself. There is something called 'Sacrificial Shock' relating to the effect of a sacrifice upon our nervous systems. This is obviously more profound when the sacrifice has been overlooked but still works even when expected. The best advice when accepting or declining the sacrifice is to make a move and walk away from the board. Get some lungfuls of air, go to the toilet and splash your face with cold water, get a cup of tea or coffee. Time permitting obviously. The idea being that you break the moment. Take a breather and then return to the board with a fresh attitude. Easy to say but not so easy to do.

18 Rf3           Qe8        Crude threats are often sufficient even at GM level. An exchange of queens would certainly assist black's cause so white declines the offer.

19 Qg4          .......         Now 19.....Nf5 would be strong and earn the approval of the engine. Instead, I managed to overlook the e6 pawn was en prise and blundered away  the pawn and a knight.

19 .....           Qg6??

20 Qxe6+      Rf7         Played instantly.

21 Qxd7        Nf5         Played instantly.

22 Qe6          ......        Now I stopped to think as the knight has 2 possible captures....the bishop on h4 or the pawn on d4 with a fork to follow. The engine likes both moves especially if white plays Qh3 after Nxd4 as black then takes on f3 followed by fxe5 but even 22....Nxd4 23 Rg3 Ne2+ rates an advantage of 0.9 for black on Houdini. Thus most readers will guess my next move....

22 ......           fxe5


What happened? Easy. I reached out to capture the d4 pawn but picked up the e5 pawn 

instead. In a state of utter confusion I realised I had to take the e5 pawn with my f pawn which I duly did. Then I noticed my queen was en prise and resigned immediately explaining that I had picked up the wrong pawn.

Seems to me the authorities never fail to seize the opportunity to rant and rave about Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease without being able to do a single thing apart from terrify those in the suitable age bracket the ranks of which includes myself. Last night( at the time of writing) I concluded a 66 move struggle with the black pieces against Marek Mazek with an honourable draw, in my biased view alone, and can therefore dismiss fears that were prevalent at the time. I thought I had completely lost my marbles !!!

Looking back now I can accept some GMs will write about sacrificial shock and even discuss its effect as part of the compensation but nobody wants to talk about 'blunder shock'. I will suggest making a bad move has the same effect as the opponent sacrificing a piece. After 20....Rf7 I could and should have walked away from the board and adopted the same remedies suggested for sacrificial shock. I had plenty of time!

Now I can accept his sacrifice and my blunder combined to adversely affect my nervous system and create the conditions for a terrible mistake.

A tortuous and pathetic explanation/excuse? Maybe, if you want. However, I would like to assure our Faithful Dear Reader that the annotation of this horror gave me no pleasure and was done in the faint hope a passing soul may avoid great distress by adopting the advice contained within.

Monday brought along an unusual experience as Hurricane Ophelia had picked up sand from the Sahara Desert and in passing the west of Guernsey had coloured the sky over large areas of the UK. A sandy sun was something to behold but was naught compared to the state of mind I found myself in after the debacle of the first round. The loss of nearly 20 rating points was a mere trifle as all vestiges of self confidence visibly disappeared from my mind and gurgled down the proverbial drain. The prospect of white against a 1890 player would normally improve my level of cheeriness but the eerie sky seemed to be a harbinger of Doom. Claiming the following game was an ordeal must be seen in context as there are real people enduring terrible suffering and shoving bits of plastic around a board is farcical in comparison to their ordeals. Suffice to say I did not come to Guernsey to experience the next few hours, for sure.


1 d4               d5

2 Bf4              Nf6

3 e3                e6

4 Bd3              Bd6

5 Bg3              0-0

6 Nbd2            c5

7 c3                 Re8

8 Nf3               Nc6

9 Ne5              ......          If I want to stop black playing e5 then I should consider Bb5 but I felt this would lead to an inevitable exchange on c6 after Qb6, with Bxg3 as an extra deadening exchange of pieces. Playing the same sort of system over long periods leads me to feel the bishop belongs on d3. There is comfort in relying on experience but not much original thinking.

9 .....               Bxe5

10 dxe5          Nd7

11 f4              ......          Round about NOW !! I started thinking about 11...Qb6 with a potential attack on e3 and b2 with rising levels of PANIC !! until I realised that 12 Qc2 with an attack on h7 would rescue the situation. When I coached seriously I would tell my students to rotate the sequence of moves to see if a different order would be more effective. The computer has no difficulty in playing 11....c4 before Qb6 and calculates white must play 12 Bxc4 dxc4 13 Nxc4 with 2 pawns and a knight on d6 as compensation for the bishop on d3.

11 .....           d4           Fortune smiles on me today.

12 exd4        cxd4

13 Qc2         g6           This is a really bad move weakening the dark squares even further. For better or worse black must play f5 and seek dynamic compensation rather than create massive holes in the position.

14 Ne4        dxc3

15 Qcx3       Qb6

16 Bf2          Qb4        I am not convinced by this move. A queenless position is not yet an ending in which the gaping dark squares might be less significant and inviting the bishop to occupy the active f2 square instead of the passive g3 is not unwelcome to me.

17 0-0          ......          White welcomes an isolated pawn on c3 as it may well prevent the black knight squatting on the d5 square and the half open b file may be of use.

17 .....           Qxc3

18 bxc3         Rf8

19 Rad1        f5            Much too late ! The black rooks look even worse with the departure of the queen and white will not open the position lightly.

20 Nd6         Nb6

21 c4            Rb8 

22 Bc2          Bd7         A tactical mistake. Black doesn't question the awkward Bc2 or realise its point as black might play h6 and g5 trying to undermine the cramping e5 pawn had he done so.

23 Bxb6       axb6       The defender of d7 is eliminated and therefore......

24 Nxf5        ......         An extra pawn and a rook on d7 would be nice.

24 .....          Be8         White has a winning advantage but not a win.

25 Nd6         Na5

26 Rb1         Bc6

27 Rxb6       Rbd8

28 Rb4         Ra8

29 a4           Ra6

30 g3           Rfa8

31 Bd3         R6a7

32 Rfb1        Kf8

33 h4            Ke7

34 Kf2           Kd7

35 Ke3          Rg8       White has spent the last few moves strengthening the position without a winning plan yet in sight. Black now makes a characteristic decision based on the notion that something must be done. I feel black would be better employed doing nothing to help white and forcing white to envisage a winning plan, capitalise on the material plus or think of something. Instead, black starts opening files which must benefit the better developed side and quickly leads to a pleasing finish.

36 Be4          h6

37 Rd1          Ke7

38 Bxc6        bxc6

39 c5             g5

40 hxg5         hxg5

41 Rh1           gxf4+

42 gxf4          Raa8

43 Rh7+         Kd8

44 f5              exf5        Suddenly I noticed......

45 e6             .......         It will be Mate. The relief was palpable.


In reviewing this game for this article I noticed my opponent was born in 1933. I know people are living longer but looking well while travelling to another country and playing a credible game of chess is an achievement beyond my wildest dreams. All credit to my venerable opponent.

Round 3 and I have black against a Scottish player graded 1763. I have to win to continue my rescue mission but my opponent has other ideas. I carry out a known idea in my opening of winning the two bishops and my opponent is willing to trade off the major pieces to reach a bishop and knight versus two bishop ending on move 33. I grind away, the hours pass and the diabetes starts to growl. The growing doubts regarding my stamina are suddenly assuaged as my opponent makes a bad bishop move trapping his own King and allowing immediate Mate on move 60. (The game is too long for inclusion here but the insatiably curious can visit the Guernsey website and click on 'Download the games'.) After the briefest of conversations after the game I head straight for the Dining Area for the immediate refueling of a vehicle on the point of running out of gas.

It is Wednesday and we already have reports of Storm Brian to follow on from Hurricane Ophelia. Time for our trip to Herm Island. It is a trifle bleak outside the comforts of the hotel but the forecast is even less welcoming for the remainder of our we go. This time we head down a 'footpath' to a place of potential promise called Belvoir Bay. The Herm website has a photo of a small bay with a thriving beach cafe but it is the end of season. The cafe is closed and there is not a soul about save two chess players. How quaint! The tide has washed the sand and the beach is in pristine condition. The Beatles once sang

" Oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go"

although I confess to a belief they were not making a reference to Herm Island. The Dear Reader of our annual diatribe regarding Something and Nothing will be fully aware of my feelings about Being. Was it Socrates or Plato who once thought 'to do is to be' ? Doesn't matter as I disagree. In my world To Be is To Be. So there.

Peace and quiet. No crazy people with heads full of desires that must be fulfilled in order to reach a state of happiness. A natural world quietly going about its business and you can be a part of it. Time may seem to stand still if only for a fleeting moment but Herm has magical properties for believers only.

Back from Herm with my annual antidote against the 'real world' I obviously perpetrate a shocking opening against J Havenaar rated 2030. Thankfully for me my opponent is unwilling to take any risks and we reach a peaceful outcome after 22 moves. That is what I call a fine day.

Round 5 and I have black against Colin Purdon rated 2047. Well, he can play a lot better than that and I was worried. Then I thought 'I can play better than that too' and cheered myself up. Our Dear Reader will anticipate this was the full extent of my preparation and I proceeded to serve up one of my 'Home Cooked ' Benoni type formations. In cooking, and often in chess as well, it is better to follow a recipe when baking if you want a successful outcome. I struggled on to move 33 and made an offer of a draw in a bishop and knight ending. The pawns were equal but he had a two to one queenside majority and would have every right to grind on in the hope of capitalising on the inevitable passed pawn. Our Dear reader will readily comprehend the relief as my generous opponent felt no need to further exercise himself that day. 

Even though I had scored 3 out of 4 points I had not eradicated the loss of rating incurred in the first round and on awakening on Friday morning I realised that I had gone to the well too often during the week and a quick draw in round six would be the height of my ambitions. One look at Professor Doctor Something or Other who sits on three cushions he brings with him and towers over the opponent was sufficient to confirm he had come to play. Oh well, it had been a good fightback but all things come to an end. I managed over 40 moves on Autopilot and reached a defensible position but one in which the opponent can grind on for ever. I cracked and created a second weakness which led to a rapid loss and a sense of relief that I could do something else with my life.

Round 7 and Storm Brian has joined the party. Exhausted, I lost in 20 moves. I didn't care.

A taxi to the airport, the plane is on time and we launch into the sky despite the efforts of Storm Brian to delay us. The flight was smooth until we descended into Manchester when the storm threw the plane around a bit but I had great faith in the skill and experience of those charged with our safety but primarily their own.

In my youth I had this peculiar notion that old age would be a time of relaxation in some sort of steady state devoid of surprises resulting from the accumulation of experience over a long life. The great Ups and Downs of youth would be banished and replaced by contentment. How silly one can be. Life is a process of change and we are subjects regardless of our inclination to be free of chains. Having reached a better than nothing age the Ups and Downs continue and I react as best I can. The temptation to make value judgments about my life is something I can try to control. John Lennon sang

" Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans"

Sums up my week in Guernsey rather well.

It seems the UK may be heading for economic suicide in pursuit of a fantasy that may yet come to pass and it would be folly to make plans for another trek to Guernsey in 2018 until the economic future becomes clearer. Maybe I will go again and maybe I will not. Meanwhile I have memories and camera images created  by an unskilled hand. I like them and offer them as evidence of the attractions offered by the tournament in Guernsey.