With the tourney-ubiquitous Cap’n Dave Payne AWOL (apparently on a moustache-care course in Caernarvon) it was left to the hardy, but hardly qualified twosome of The Delsey and My Badself to represent The St John’s in the easternest event of chess this side of something found very far east indeed.
On four hours sleep and the usual eleventy beers the night before, this reporter was not feeling too Stella, but the japes and hijinks of The Delsey and travelling companion – the lovely Heather Ever-Present Wells [Copyright Charleston Neil 2018] – soon woke me up and we arrived in good time for the first of a six round, 20/10 blitz in a pretty well attended U150 section.
First up for me, which brought the usual howls of delight from The Delse, was top seed Leon ‘Trotsky’ Hines (149) with me (106) playing black. My oppo went into an English and I went into my – or I should say FM Daniel Barrish’s – anti-English. I knew I had out-booked Trotsky on move four when he took a few minutes to study his little red book and think. I felt pretty darn good about that at the time; though like a true gent I politely kept my celebrations subtle: a massive grin, some gurning and just one or two V-signs ...
... but I was not reaching for the ice-pick just yet as on move six Trotsky returned the favour and took me out of the book. I won’t bore you with the details of the rest of the game and so summarize thusly: ‘twas the smoothest game I've ever played in which I was never in trouble and saw the board (for once!) with the clarity of a clarinet who knows he’s just been played. End result of nice moves and tactics and unending pressure: a win for yer boy Harry.
Meanwhile The Delsey (70) was playing the very solid and wily Greg ‘Treble top’ Tebble (123). Difficult for me to give the ins and outs of this match as I was still playing, but I believe The Delse as white played a blinder, went on the charge and, after a hard fought match that ultimately tipped towards Tebble, sacked a bishop for some pawns in the endgame and ended up drawing well.
So far so good with both St Johnites hitting the more pleasant sides of 40 point rule with their games. On to the next one!
For me, it was Sam ‘Dean’ Gaffney (116) and I had the white bits. When he went into a Scandinavian I was pretty happy, when he went into a line I knew was bad for black I was happier still, but kept the celebrations to a single and silent T-shirt-over-head lap around the playing area. Under some pressure, my oppo had two pawns hanging and choose to protect neither. It was enough to net me a winning position very early in the game with tactics all over the place which finally did for his queen and secured my second surprising win of the day.
On the other board of interest, and I should add I may have The Delse’s oppos in rounds two and three mixed up, The Delsey was deep in battle with, I think, Keith ‘Richards’ Garrod (66). Again, due to rapidplay conditions, I didn’t see much of the game, but was delighted to hear The Delse again gave it the beans and finished up with a beauty of a combination – a fork threatening two pieces, which, when defended, left another major piece totally helpless! Two wins for St Johns in round two – lovely!
Round three would be a different matter. I had the ringer from Italy, Armando ‘Iannucci the campanologist’ Galletti (e132) and the white pieces. Sicilian Moscow was the order of the day and my oppo went into the line I hate (queen and rook doubled on the open C-file near the start of the game) and must study more. However, I had a poisoned pawn in front of his single pawn-defended king, which he duly took – allowing me a winning position after some finagling and Nigel Faraging ...
... however, a win was not on the cards as, seeking an intermezzo move, I left a knight hanging instead of exchanging queens. I then compounded my idiocy by employing a tactic involving a rook sac that I guessed (in time trouble) might lead to a perpetual check to save the day: after some buggering around and even more mistakes on my side of the board I discovered that perpetual check was just a pipe dream. Oh the sting of defeat grasped from the jaws of victory!
Still all, if I have recalled right, was not lost for the honour of St Johns as on a board near me The Delsey had Peter ‘We Have a Problem’ Housden (100) and secured a draw when outgraded by 30 points. End of third round and lunchtime with both of us on 2/3 – not bad for wartime!
Lunch came and went with some scampi and chips, some Dangerous anecdotes, and someone or the other mentioning they were a national U120 county winner oh, I dunno, about 23 times. Then it was back to the board with the tiredness and hangover kicking in for young McLean.
Fourth round I had Andrew ‘Get Yer Coat’ Duffell (108) and was second to move. In an act of what I like to consider unbridled generosity, I proceeded to immeadialty misremember one of my myriad Benko lines and get myself in the proverbial with nary 7 moves made. All the Benko goodness of pressure on the G and H files was reversed and I hardly had any moves at all ...
... when the dust settled after some exchanges I faced a passed pawn that surely couldn’t be stopped, but Andrew went, I think, an exchange too far and my king started to come to the rescue. After things had really levelled out, and with both of us with under a minute left and a crowd of folk gathered round like spectators at a night-time Mousehold Heath event, we entered an endgame in which no less that five queens were created with me sacking the shit out my queens every time he got one and, finally, mating him (in the less-fun way than is standard for the Mousehold Heath of a Friday night type-way, natch) with the queen I saved until last. Houdini strikes again!
Just to the left of me, down a bit, and up a bit, The Delsey must’ve been playing someone, but I’ll be jiggered if I can recall who or the result so lets just say he trounced Magnuts Carlsberg and all the bells of Norfolk rang out in celebration to mark it.
Round five and I had The Danger Man! Stinging from a recent defeat on time to him in the leagues and a bit of a flounce away from the board on my part, I had already had a hug from Johnny ‘D4’ Danger to make up for things (quite an experience, I can tell you) and so I didn’t want to hurt him too much. I played e4 and he went into his usual sort of delayed Caro Kann thingy. As with my previous match I mismoved in the opening, but it was not so critical as the previous game and The Dangerman failed to capitalize.
To cut a long story short [why didn’t you do this from the start of the report, I hear you cry!] everything got swapped off to an endgame in which I had a pawn majority on the queenside and he on the king, but he also had an IQP. I looked at the position, felt knackered, reckoned I was a bit better, but perhaps not better enough with less time on the clock and offered the draw. When I had to remove his dentures from my hand I reckoned my initial appraisal of a bit better might’ve been somewhat under-optimistic. Game halved, Hmmmm and haw and ha.
The Delsey didn’t fare so well in the penultimate round. Paired with James ‘Illegitimate son of Cap’n Dave’ Payne (e108), he didn’t manage to find the form of his earlier games and went, although fighting, down (and not in the standard fun way due to it being a family event and not Mousehold Heath of a Friday night, natch).
Finally it was the last round – I was on 3 and a half and, with seven other players on 3 to 4, in contention for the top spot if the results went the right way for me and the wrong way for some of them. More interestingly, The Delsey had been matched – as seems a mandatory pairing at any Norfolk tourney – with the lovely Heather Ever-present Wells (60). With both of them out of contention for the prizes it would be yer standard Elsey/Wells grudge match and the game would prove to be memorable to the St Johnite supporters for only one thing.
Come with me, if you will, to earlier in the day when The Heaths had mentioned her bag of multi-coloured pens she uses for annotation and the fact – well, I say fact but perhaps the term should be applied loosely ... or not! – that every time she, or anyone else, had used her green pen they had taken full points OTB.
Now, with The Delse and The Wells at the board facing off like a pair of randy birds of paradise, Heaths put her hand in her pen bag lucky-dip style and pulled out, yes, you guessed it, the green one! Well, with the voodoo and the tiredness upon him what could our very own Delsey do but capitulate? Delsey 0 – Green Pen 1.
Meanwhile, I had The Delsey’s previous oppo and the guy Cap’n Dave never mentions to his wife, James Payne. I went into my Petroff Damiano, but my oppo refused to go into any line I knew. Cursing him as loudly as I could before John Wickham slapped me round the chops with a spare digital clock, I decided to go for broke and sacked two more pawns to get massive pressure with bishops and centralised rooks all pointed at his uncastled and a-hiding-behind-bishop-and-knight king.
But it was not to be all me, my pressure was starting to unwind like a high-powered business woman at a brothel as he prepared to get his rooks in the game, I had one chance to save the day and only if he played into my hands and took a baited pawn to threaten one of my bishops. And take it he did! With that, I sacked a rook with check to get some more – almost but not quite winning – pressure, reversed the material deficit and looked a sure thing to win and secure definite joint first in the tourney, having two bishops, rook and two pawns to his bishop, rook and three pawns.
But again it was not to be, in a moment of complete board blindness I dropped a pawn and pushed on until it was rook/bishop vs rook and I finally, tiredly, and both sub-1-minute on the clock, blundered the bishop (though that is not to take anything away from his good endgame play). Oh why oh why had I not kept a pawn? Oh why oh why had I not done what was obvious after the game? Oh the simplicity of hindsight! Game drawn.
And the result of all this, if anyone is still reading (TBH, I’ve dropped off several times through boredom whilst writing the report) is that both The Delsey and I repped St Johns pretty well. Both doing very nicely thank you very much against many higher-rated oppos and my doing well to take joint second with several others (though I coulda, shoulda, woulda, done the business, of course).
Chess winnings to date: £100, one trophy, 2 boxes of chocolates. Chess Expenditure: don’t ask.
Still, the most important thing is that there were St Johnites were in attendance, the day was fun and our boys both did pretty well against the ‘relative’ big boys.
Roll on the next one and I hope to see you there.
Ciao for now