English Women’s Championship.

Last weekend I headed to West Bromwich to play in the English Women’s Championship. I was 2nd seed in a tournament with 11 players. Last year I think there was only 6 players so the number of entrants had definitely improved. It was strange having a swiss with so few players as 4 players ended up getting a full point bye. In the first round Thivyaa Rahulan took a half point bye. I didn’t do too much specific preparation for the tournament as I was trying to work generally on my chess and to stick with my repertoire. The hotel’s location wasn’t the best but at least the hotel was clean! It’s right next to a busy ring road/motorway but I came to play chess not to enjoy the location. There was also nowhere to really walk. West Brom centre was about 25minutes walk away.
My tournament was slightly below par which I guess is an improvement over losing 30+ rating points! This K Factor of 20 is hard work. My games weren’t great quality and in the two crunch games I fell apart. In the first round I played Katherine Shepherd who spent a lot of time in her opening and after 5 moves was down to 30 minutes. Before the round started, I misheard the arbiter and I thought we would get extra time after move 40 but that wasn’t the case! I managed to win the game against Katherine after she blundered in a slightly worse position. The next morning I had a long game against my good friend Kanwal Bhatia. I was inaccurate in the opening to lose my advantage and then Kanwal played very actively to pressure me and in my time trouble I found it difficult to defend my position a pawn down. After that long game I was then playing the bottom seed of the tournament who has no FIDE or ECF grade. She played sensible moves but I quickly won a pawn and then she offered the exchange of Queens to go into a lost endgame.
In Round 4, I played Meri Grigoryan and again it was a Scotch (which at the moment I don’t have a great score with). After a fairly normal opening I blundered with 18.Bd3.

But then she didn’t take my b3 pawn for the following 3 moves! I only saw that I had blundered after playing 19.Rg5?? and then I noticed she was looking over that side of the board so I thought that I was definitely going to have to play on a pawn down but then she surprised me with 20…c4. After that I was able to co-ordinate my pieces and in her time trouble she blundered.
The final game on Sunday afternoon was a crunch game against Louise Head who had raced to 4/4. She played calm, cool and collected chess (unlike me!) and she was a well deserved winner of the tournament playing the Top 3 seed and beating them. I had noticed that she was quite positional so when a messy position was made available to me I went for it. Unfortunately I lost that game but it was a very interesting complicated position where I was the exchange down but her Queen is out of play and her dark squares were very weak. Louise defended the position very well and I blundered instead of taking the draw (which would have gotten me outright 3rd). A win would’ve made me, Kanwal and Louise equal 1st on 4/5. Final standings.

It was a shame that I wasn’t able to do more with my position in my last round game but my chess career this year seems to be a “learning experience”. Hopefully my losses stick in my head and help me improve. I look forward to playing in the Isle of Man in a few weeks.