Friday, 7 August 2009

Last Day (TGIF)

Early start:
The last day has dawned with blue skies all around and no wind to usher in cloudbanks - the weather gods must be making belated attempts to make amends. It's a bit late now, though.
Driving over extra early, on the car radio, Radio 4 gave out on the 8 o'clock news the story that a load of old humanoid fossils had been discovered in Torquay and were to be investigated. Ah, I thought, at last the BBC have responded to my prompting and are going to cover the exciting last day. But no, alas. It turned out they were found in Kent's Cavern in the 19th century and may have been cannibal victims, 9,000 years ago. On the other hand, they could have been Torbay's first chess players in a match that went horribly wrong. You never know....

Rd. 10 Summary:
The drive provided an opportunity to ponder the day's prospects.
Last night, Howell beat the defending champion, Stuart Conquest, to put himself a point clear of the field, and surely on the brink of the title. Is he going to lose for the first time in the last round when on the brink of becoming British Champion? I think it unlikely. Several other factors are in his favour (a) he's already played all those nearest to him (b) he has the White pieces and (c) the draw has paired him against local hero Gary Lane, who is 2 full points behind him and about 200 rating points below. It's a funny old game, of course, full of unexpected twists and turns, but if Howell doesn't finish up the Champion from this position, it will be little short of sensational. For a start, either Hebden or Williams would have to beat their Grandmaster opponents just to draw level and force a play-off. On top board, I foresee a shortish game with an early offer of a draw accepted by Lane, giving Howell the title and Lane some extra rating points. Seems logical, but what do I know?
Below: Conquest takes on David Howell in the penultimate round:

Murder Most Foul:
It's well-known that Torquay was Agatha Christie's home town, but on arrival here I found a murder had been committed last night, right here in the Centre, not in the library with some lead piping, but someone had been poisoned in the Rosetor Suite. Shocking, of course, but for the 2nd time in minutes I'd got the wrong end of the stick.
It was, in fact, a murder mystery play put on by Arbiter Kevin Stavely, using 6 volunteer actors from the enormous cast of players and hangers-on, only too keen to strut their stuff on stage. The script is provided by a company and all the actors have to do is to familiarise themselves with the words and actions required, and deliver them with some kind of conviction before a paying audience, who have to guess who did what to whom, when and why. A goodly number stumped up their 50p admission charge and a good time was had by all. In a typical drawing room denoument, it emerged that Alan Burke had poisoned Peter Hale.

Below: The cast (l-r) Christine Burke, Alan Burke (the murderer); Alec Toll; Lateefah Messam-Sparks; Hannah Dale; Peter Hale (the victim).

Killer Queens:
Another shot from yesterday's party on the patio outside the office. If you find yourself sitting down to play opposite any of these girls, don't be fooled - they're all British Champions.

l-r: Sheila Dines; Megan Owens; Lateefah Messam-Sparks; Hannah Dale and Evie Hollingworth.

Above: Scottish junior, Calum McQueen, playing on top board in Rd. 10 of the Major Open. The party hat did him no good at all as he lost to Robert Eames.

Question: Has anyone played more games at Torquay than this man?

Answer: Probably not.

He's Mitchell Burke of Oldham who can be seen just starting his 34th game of the fortnight. He's played in 2 rapidplays, the Major Open, the U-16 Championship and the 5 Day Open A.M. If one factors in the 19 other games in blitz tournaments, the total comes to 53 games. Mitchell is a member of the 3Cs club in Oldham and clearly has a great appetite for the game.

Start of the Final Round:

A great crowd assembled round the top boards before the start of the final round, mainly awaiting the start of the top game Howell v Lane; they were due a wait as Howell is always about 10 minutes late - under FIDE's new regulations he would have defaulted every game.

Above: Gary Lane in "Waiting For Godot".

Above: Gary: "Shall we settle this quickly with a game of Stone, paper, scissors?".

Below: David: "Nice try, Gary; let's try an old fashioned Ruy Lopez instead".

Above: Howell goes for the Exchange Variation. 3 moves later Lane offered a draw, which Howell turned down. So much for the quick draw theory. Looks like Howell's going for the win.

16.50 Correction - Howell's just agreed to the draw, as there was no clear way of making any progress. He rose from chair grinning broadly, and we have a new champion. At the same moment, Jack Rudd's opponent ran out of time with Jack still an hour and a half to spare, which puts him on 7 points - a wonderful late run after an equally terrible start.