Guernsey 2013 - by Nick Hawkins and Ian Campbell

As Ian and I boarded the turbo prop plane for Guernsey I wanted to ask Ian one question :- How the hell did he get through security wearing a smoke hood and a parachute!?  The  plane was proudly showing off its puffin logo, and this was a perfect symbol of its flight characteristics. Ian is not a bad flyer, its just his look of sheer horror as the plane hurtles down the runway on take-off that one notices. I think he likens that moment to playing against the West Indies pace attack of the glory days, or being black against the King’s Gambit! Once take –off is over he feels safe and becomes his natural self. Naturally, take-off is my favourite bit!

Over a better than usual cup of tea in mid –flight we discussed cricket (what else? Ian is very keen and I am obsessed by batting. I slept with my cricket bat on my bed as a kid in case my brothers nicked it! ) We quickly decided that Ian was really a chess playing bowler. Tom Cartwright seemed right. For anyone under 50 Tom was a quite breathtakingly accurate trundler (a wobbly caption  saying slow medium came up whenever he bowled), who once bowled eight overs for no runs and no wickets in a 40 overs match. Ian would love to have done that! Tom offered no real threat, but numerous batsmen committed hara-kiri trying to slog him rather than be driven insane by his nagging line and length. Again, Ian springs to mind!!

I was deemed to be a batsman by Ian, and Wayne Larkins was quickly settled upon. Wayne sometimes opened, but liked to play number three (where I batted for the teams I played for). He was quite rustic and a dasher who could be destructive on his day, especially against quicker bowling (though not the really quick guys they just get everyone out!). He could get out to some utterly rubbish balls from medium pacers and spinners, and hence it was a  quite fascinating experience watching him bat. No comment!

Guernsey is lovely , but it can be cold and wet in October. This does not put Ian off his perambulations, especially given the fact that he has a time efficient opening repertoire! “You,ve got some old grinder Ian “ said I , “Great, I am off for my walk then!” said  Ian,  being  typical. Ian is only concerned by players who can attack in quite a dangerous way, or who are more boring than him! These tend to be few and far between so he is largely untroubled! Even with the attackers his favourite comment was “He WILL NOT be doing that against me!!”

I started out in round 1 against a Dutch FIDE master. I have beaten 5 or 6 of these and drew with more than a dozen so I was quite calm.  I had white in an open game (my favourite) and surprised my opponent by some simplifying exchanges.  There was method in this as I lined up to attack his King. Not liking this he tried his own attack which was rather based on bluff, and I called his bluff. Then it became a battle and I outplayed him to reach a better position with a queen and knight versus his queen and bishop, I had a passed pawn on the kingside in my 3-2 majority, and his queenside majority was shattered and his bishop was somewhat blocked in. He had a white squared bishop and a black pawn on my h4 square which could only be supported by putting a pawn on g5 another black square, thus rendering them likely to be savaged by my queen and knight versus his queen. So far so good, but I was in time pressure. My good work had come at a cost of time and I was having to rush when I would have liked to think a little. I had the chance to line up on g5, but I put my queen on d2 and knight on f3 allowing him to play an awkward Qd6 hitting g3 with check to my king on g1 after Nxg5. I could have backed out for a draw by repetition with Qh2 etc.  (rather than Nxg5) when he would have moved his queen back and so would I. I went for a win. After Kh1, even  though  he  played a move that    threatened to checkmate me  on the long diagonal with his bishop, I  felt that  Ne6+ by me followed by bringing in my queen would kill him. He told me after the game that he felt that would win but had no choice but to do forced moves.

Disaster. I visualised that  Ne6+  did not win,  as he had a forced winning wriggle that my generalised plan had not foreseen. I was now lost after some rather desperate “other” moves. I was angry with myself for messing this game up especially as several strong players told me I had played a fine game and deserved to win. When I looked at my Qd2 (played quickly) after the game, I saw Qe3 ( instead of Qd2) hitting g5 and covering g3  was possible.  How could I have been so bloody stupid as to miss this? The answer is that in time pressure one does not think as rationally as normal and this can be a real random element in a game. With a couple of minutes to think I would have played it perfectly and won.

After this I got a ghastly bug overnight which caused me great discomfort. After round 2 in which I agreed a draw in a better position due to feeling exhausted I realised I should withdraw. What would I do though? Sit in the hotel room all day sweating and snotty,  and feeling crap? Or simply turn up and play and go for a meal after the games? I did the latter, but I would not do it again. Feeling really unwell does nothing for your game as I amply demonstrated in round 3, when a pawn up for nothing by move 14 against a player over 100 points lower rated than me I just simply played one horrible move after another and lost. Ian told me to withdraw (“There is no point mate if you are to ill to think” he said over dinner...wise words) Naturally I ignored this and managed to lose two more utterly idiotic games from better positions. I drew three games in which I had to work to keep equality in the opening, lost two totally won games, and two totally drawn ones. In short I was never in trouble, but committed hara-kiri four times!! Wayne Larkins rides again!!!

I have unfinished business in Guernsey and I will be back to do the business next year!

Oliver Jackson gave Ian and I a copy of his self published book called “Forever a 180”. The title is wrong because Oliver has been up to around 2350 FIDE at his peak, and over 200 BCF. It refers to his habit of playing well against fine players and not so well against people lower than him at times. His tactical style and tendency towards time trouble also led him to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory at times! It is a fantastically produced book, with great stories and notes to the games, up to date opening references and so on. Oliver has a fine sense of humour mixed with a great depth of calculation. I always joke about the King’s Gambit with him! He marked my book 45/100 and Ian received 46/100. I thought he was grading our chess!! It was of course an edition number! A very interesting man, a fine player, and a cracking book! 100/100 Oliver! I have played a lot of the long deceased players he writes about and we had a great chat about Vernon Dilworth. Vernon was one guy who could give Jack  Rudd a run  for his money  at moving  quickly! I had a mad draw with Vernon  in  1977, and   someone  told me  not to allow the Dilworth Attack so I opened 1 c4 to avoid a Ruy Lopez even though I knew absolutely nothing about it then. Oliver writes with great perception about John Littlewood, Vic Knox, and Jeff Horner, and gives fascinating insights into the mental willpower of top grandmasters such s Walter Browne. The book was clearly a labour of love for Oliver, and he gives wins, draws, and losses to show the ups and downs of chess life. He stayed in some hellholes when money was tight, and Ian and I certainly did that in the 1970’s!

After the final round at Guernsey Graham Bolt, a forthright chess stalwart and straight talker said to me “At least you did not die, I was a bit worried when I saw you on the bus a few days ago”! No wonder Ian and I call him Usain!


I will hand you over to Ian.


It was a great pity the ghastly bug didn't finish him off before he kindly passed it on to me as it did its best to finish me and seemingly came close if the number of suggestions to go to the doctors is a marker to go by. Anyhow I survived much to the disgruntlement of the locals in my neighbourhood.

Chess was OK for me. I lost in round 2 to Ken Norman after an appalling opening display and the whole game really cheesed me off as I know I can do better against my fellow seniors but am yet to do myself justice. For any number of reasons I never seem to be ready and prepared when the opportunity arises. This leaves me experiencing the frustration enjoyed by those who want something without the willingness to work hard. Apart from that disaster I managed to beat a back-marker and then drew my final five games without  anybody looking remotely able to land a telling blow. It goes without saying that there was no great effort to win on my part and I was content to maintain my ELO rating with the minimum of fuss. There could be some satisfaction in being rated 2000 without really trying if one truly believed one could be higher rated if one tried. I'm not fooling myself but you can if you want to, although you may find it is a matter of no consequence.

Despite the increasing encroachment of the motor car into the lives of the unwilling, Guernsey remains remarkably unspoilt for those visiting out of season. This year I decided to experience the west of the island and visited Vazon and Cobo Bay. There is something slightly peculiar about tucking into fish and chips in Cobo Bay after a healthy walk along the coastline. Looking out to the horizon one is reminded the next stop is somewhere in America and one reflects on the courage of those boarding small wooden vessels and sailing 3000 miles and more. ( Puts chess in its place ) Then the eye travels along the coastline and one's attention is caught by the German pillbox high on the cliff causing thoughts to turn to another form of courage. Not sated, I boarded a bus for the long trek out to Fort Grey at the far westerly end of the island. The large white tower in the photograph once housed a large cannon on a swivel apparatus. This gun could cause a severe headache for any ships intent on hostile activities. Whilst there I got a picture of the Hanois Lighthouse which appears on the BBC regional captions at times. The Atlantic rollers crashing into the rocks are much more impressive than my limited camera and photographing ability can capture. It was a bracing day and I gulped down large quantities of fresh ocean air in the vain hope it might magic away the vile bug inevitably captured in my system. We live in hope but not expectation.

Being an island there are many walks on coastal paths and the solitude may be an acquired taste but one I enjoy at times. Away from the noise of city life with only the sounds of nature to break the silence but in a complementary manner the sound of a petrol engine does not emulate. Time for the slippers and the rocking chair!

" I remember when I could play chess...."

" When was that then? "

" Can't an old man fantasize in peace? "

" No. "

Oh well, I really enjoyed my holiday and the chess didn't prove too much of an interruption to my serene course. Nick has unfinished business on the chess front, or so he writes, but I do not. I would love to go again but money worries may torpedo my hopes. I suppose there is always the cheaper option of the ear plugs and the rocking chair. Super!