Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Round 1 Shocks

1.30: Review of Round 1:

The draw for the first round of a big tournament like this is usually done by listing every player in grade order, from highest to lowest, cutting the list in half and moving the lower half up to a point where each player has an opponent. This way, the top GMs will find they are paired against someone from the top of the lower half, and in theory they should have a fairly gentle ride. Chess being what it is, however, it's rarely that simple.

Take last year's top two players, for instance; after 11 rounds Stuart Conquest and Keith Arkell were tied 1st=, and only a play-off could split them. This year, Stuart, as defending champion was on Bd. 1 with the black pieces facing 21 year-old David Eggleston. After a few words of welcome Cllr. Hodge, the Chairman of Torbay Council, took the traditional photo-opportunity of making the first move on top board, in this case for Eggleston. This was duly done, but the Chairman must have a magic touch for Eggleston went on to win and Conquest fell at the first fence. Why was that? Let us scroll back and examine the photographic evidence.

In Picture 1, the Councillor can clearly be seen saying to Eggleston, "He's the champ - would you like some help?" Stuart cannot believe his ears.

Below: Eggleston readily agrees to the offer and the Councillor looks to Conquest asking if that's all right with him. Stuart is now incredulous, and bearded Congress Manager Dave Welch can't quite believe what he's seeing either.

Above: But Mr. Hodge presses on while Conquest looks resigned to his fate.

Or perhaps there's another interpretation to these pictures - who knows?

Not only that, but Keith Arkell lost as well, in a position where he couldn't avoid mate. This kind of thing wasn't in the scripts of either GM, but it's early days yet and much can still happen - and it probably will. At Millfield, for example, the then defending champion, Julian Hodgson had a mere half point after two rounds, yet still went on to retain the title.

On the other hand, Lara Barnes, Co-Controller of the Championship, is delighted at the results because she coached both Eggleston and Hawkins when they were wee lads in the North East, so it's an ill wind ..... etc

Andrew Martin's Best Game prize: At 13.45 Andrew Martin came in to tell me to be in the main hall at 14.10 when he was due to announce his Best Game award. Last year, at Liverpool, the John Moores University had made a special donation of £1,100 for this very purpose - and Andrew handed out a cheque for £100 each day to the worthy winner. This year no money had been set aside, merely the honourable mention from the stage awaited the winner. I said this was unfortunate as the cash certainly gave an edge to the proceedings last year, and even if £20 could be dredged up from somewhere it would be something. He immediately sped off to see Dave Welch and came back within minutes having negotiated a £30 daily prize - he even had the first cheque in his hand.
And so it was that, minutes before the start of the round, a whole raft of prize money was organised.
The first winner was Mark Hebden, for his fine win against Chris Briscoe.

Above: GM Mark Hebden in receipt of his Best Game prize for Rd. 1...

Below: ... followed by the serious business of playing the top seed, David Howell.

Finally for today a bit of event trivia: John Littlewood and his son Paul are both playing in the British Championship this year. Who were the last father & son combination to play in the same year? Answer tomorrow.