2017 British Chess Champion

Before the tournament we were lucky to have GM Nils and WFM Ellen visiting us. It was a relaxing way to spend a few days. We played a lot of tennis, did lots of walking and introduced them to the “British way of life”.

Afternoon Tea with plenty of cake

I’m so pleased to say that Gawain is the 2017 British Chess Champion after a 4-way tie in the tournament, he managed to beat Luke McShane in the final playoff to clinch his second title. It was a short 9 rounds (compared to the usual 11) in Llandudno but Gawain did well to keep it solid during the tournament and to press in the rounds that he needed.

Llandudno was a surprisingly nice place to spend the 10 days. We had visited many years ago when we did a Welsh holiday visiting Caernarfon, Conwy, Llanberis, Snowdon and Llandudno. This time we stayed up on the Great Orme which I didn’t realise was a ‘hill’. Luckily for us we’ve got used to slopes since moving to Sheffield so it wasn’t such a trek. We stayed in a self-catering cottage (as it was the only one I could book for 10 days instead of 2 weeks as it’s peak season). We were lucky we found Providero which had good coffee (or normal Kiwi coffee) and was on the way for us to the venue. It was a good 30 minute walk downhill (and then back up after dinner) but it’s nice to stretch your legs before the game. It’s always a bit strange when you stay in the hotel complex 24/7 and go from your room to food then to back to the room and then to the playing hall.

Gawain started the tournament with 3 wins including a long first round game when his young opponent played on a bit.

Then it was 3 draws before he won rounds 7 & 8 and then in the early morning round he drew with Luke. The early morning rounds are very difficult. I understand that when the tournament is catering for amateurs then they don’t want people to take too much annual leave but this leaves the professional  players in an awkward situation. Imagine if every day you have your routine and then in the most important game, at a time you may still be sleeping you are expected to play your last round game. Chess players in general tend to be night owls and with round times tending to be in the late afternoon (3pm in my opinion is ideal – enough time to have lunch and then it won’t be too late for dinner) a 10am start is very early and for your body clock to switch in a day is very tough. I don’t know if it’s akin to jetlag but it might be something along those lines. Fans then complain about players having a ‘quick draw’ but it’s difficult when you are sure you won’t play your best and so would rather play it safe than go into some massive calculation battle.

Gawain knew going into the last round that a draw would mean that he would have the best tie break and unless John Emms, who had had a fantastic tournament, beat David Howell, then there would be a tie for 1st and therefore a playoff. The playoff was a nervous affair (mainly for me) but Gawain has experience from his previous British title after beating GM Steven Gordon. You can see the game here when he was a queen for a piece down. Gawain kept it solid against IM Craig Hanley, who had a great tournament to finish 1st= . I was trying to calculate the position in Luke & David’s game and by the time I looked back at Ga’s game he was 2 pawns up!

In the first game of the final, things went wrong for Luke when he sacrificed a piece in the opening but there wasn’t enough compensation. Gawain was worried that it was home prep as he had played it so confidently but realised if he didn’t take the piece then all his moves would have been strange.

Check it out from 51.17 🙂 for Ga’s defensive technique. He defended amazingly well in Game 2 and drew from a lost position and therefore won the British title!

The 2017 British Chess Champion.
Credit to Phil Makepeace.

The tournament for me was below par. It seems that I’m not very consistent and therefore when it goes well it can go really good and when it goes bad it can go quite terribly. I did play a nice game in Round 8 after I wondered if I knew how to move the pieces anymore.

We haven’t heard where the tournament will be next year but rumours place it as Hull or maybe even back in Llandudno. I would be happy to return to Llandudno. It was a nice venue.