Guernsey 2016


It was 4.45am when I arrived at Lime Street station, and there was no sign of Ian. Doubtless he was having his usual travel issues! He duly arrived (moderately displeased) at just after 5am, and we set off to Manchester Airport on another Guernsey adventure. For the more senior in age (or old as Ian would put it!) Guernsey is great whatever the weather. I like the fresh air, magnificent views, the hotel the tournament is played in, and the peace and quiet. Younger players prefer Jersey with its more obvious attractions.

The outbound flight was preceded by a delicious bowl of porridge at the airport, and the trip was very smooth. We settled in and had until the following day to relax before the first round. How would we play? What openings to play? (Ian does not have this problem!) Should we have an overall strategy for the event? The truth is that once we are there it is a most wonderful holiday with some chess games thrown in, and the results are secondary to the overall pleasure and enjoyment being there gives us. It is great to see groups of chess players of a certain age brandishing their plastic bags returning to the hotel for their games after another visit to the capital or Herm island. So much for intense preparation! I will leave it to Ian to describe how much we love our visits to Herm. Ian decided he was an Indian spin bowler, and I supplied impressions of Michael Caine, Richie Benaud, and Field Marshall Montgomery as accompaniments to our walks. Ian particularly “enjoyed” (not at all) being portrayed as a contestant on Take Me Out with me as Paddy the host! It all happens on Herm.

Ian and I are still very competitive in that we prefer not to lose when possible. Our methods of achieving this are radically different. Ian likes to have repetitive quiet positions he knows well and can play quickly, whilst I do like a more varied diet, and am not averse to a drop of the sharp stuff! Put bluntly, I have a lot more opening theory to remember and engage with, so studying the games of my opponents is rather important in this information saturated age. Ian goes his own way! (Often for a long walk!)

In round 1 I was up against a Dutch player I have played before. A former 2300 (He did not pay for the title of FM so cannot claim it) he is now below 2100. He is crafty though so I was on my guard after our draw last time. I blitzed out some sharp moves against his Najdorf, (I was ready to go all in!) but he had other ideas steering the game into a much drier scenario, at the cost of a slight disadvantage in position. The computer later showed this was -0.25 for him overall so nothing special. I offered him a draw and he offered me a pint! The perfect recipe. A splendid conversation and analysis session followed, and I then went for a long walk by the seafront in the sunshine. Marvellously relaxing stuff. We had good rather weather all week which is unusual.
Round 2 saw me black in a Ruy Lopez in which my opponent (down from 2250 to 2034, but still 190 ecf) played a very slow line of the sort seen in the world Championship match. He had one of those faces and personalities that would cause a riot on the Marie Celeste, and this was a motivator for me. Notwithstanding this, after a queen exchange he had a small but clear advantage (the computer agreed with me at + 0.35 for him, whilst he felt his advantage was “huge”. In the post-mortem I called this delusional, and Ian later called him something shorter and more accurate!! I put my head down, and took over an hour for my next 6 moves, but they were very good moves. Some diabolical tactical consequences thwarted his obvious plan if he employed it. The result was 5 moves in over 1 hour and 15 minutes for him, and his advantage at about 0.2 according to the computer. Further moves followed, until I had about 12 minutes for 7 moves until the time control and he had about 5 minutes. I needed to do one of two things: 1 Find a cogent plan to improve the position of my worst pieces or 2 Do nothing (well) and see what he did (This was Ian’s choice when he looked at the position). I am not great at 2 as like the Sundance Kid I am better when moving, so I thought about 1. This was hard, so I saw something obvious and did it. This entailed a three-move journey with my rook which forced him to swop it off for his rather less well placed rook. Oh dear, that was pointless and bad so why did I do it? I was tired after my earlier calculative exertions, and did fancy any more. This roused him and gave him new energy, when he was palpably having a battle (no smugness now). He played well and eventually I had to lose material in a lost position so resigned. Not a great feeling, but you must keep going. I would expect to score about 45-50% from the position and clock times before my pointless rook exchange. You must keep playing good moves it is that simple.  
 The food was good, and I was enjoying the odd pint of Stella along the way. Another long walk allowed me to get this loss out of my system. Round 3 was a quick and rather strange affair against some blighter called Campbell!! Yes, once again we had been computer paired. Ian insisted that as black he wanted to play a mutual English, and we blitzed out about 15 moves of this, whilst keeping an eye on the clock for the bus that would take us to the capital and a day off. A very fast draw indeed. We had a marvellous time strolling about, and finding a magnificent secluded garden to sit and contemplate life and nature. Chess seems insignificant in the wider scheme of things, but having learned the moves at 5, it has been a really important part of my life.
Round 4 saw me accept an early draw offer from a Dutch player slightly lower rated than myself in a Torre Attack in which I was black. We had morphed into a slightly crazy position in which I found a couple of nice (sneaky even) moves that kept the position very unclear. Several pints followed accompanied by a good post mortem.

Round 5 saw me white in a game against another Dutch player rated in the 1700’s. I checked him out, and not so long ago he was in the 2100’s and had some very good wins indeed in previous Guernsey tournaments, including against my round 1 and 2 opponents. Whatever had been happening to him, he could certainly play and it was not going to be easy. This was the most determined I have ever been to win any game at Guernsey against a normally rated player, as I usually find it hard to find the same competitive spirit against this type of opponent as I do against the 2200’s/FM’s. I had to accept that I was going to have to grind away as he was very solid. In a Colle opening I did indeed grind away, but played rather well. I was threatening a massive attack on his king, and he was consuming time. Several years older than me, this was a real struggle for him. He tried his only chance, which was to jettison a pawn to swop off two sets of pieces, but I felt the position was winnable so ground on turning down a draw. It was difficult to win, and the computer later confirmed it could not be won with best play. My queen, rooks and bishop faced his queen, rooks, and knight, but his knight was proving to be an annoying blockader in many lines. I ploughed on into a rook and bishop v rook and knight endgame and felt I was getting there. My opponent seemed to be having a near death experience navigating some vicious tactical threats, but with immense skill, courage, and determination, he finally reached a position in which I said “draw”. His reply was “Thank God, that was too much”!! Beer followed. A splendid fellow. I used to play like this in every game at my peak! I was murderous against lower rated opposition 35 years ago, but it is harder now. 5.5 hours of hell had brought only another draw.

Round 6 brought me the black pieces against an almost fanatically determined 2080 rated Dutch opponent the same age as me. I felt up for this game as well, as I hone in on this kind of player….it is the stodgers I fall asleep against now! A queen’s Indian defence brought me a solid position, and a small time advantage. When my opponent turned down my draw offer my thoughts turned to possible victory. “This guy could push himself over the top” was my thought. I was in no mood whatsoever to be beaten. The game ploughed on and it became a poker game in which I outsmarted him by achieving some favourable exchanges to bring it down to a queen and knight each with level pawns. I then took provocation further by letting him have a passed b pawn at the cost of giving me a potentially powerful rolling centre eventually. He tried to penetrate and I beat him back. He began to give some queen checks in his time pressure, and I covered these with my central pawns. He made stabbing pawn moves in the centre designed to loosen me up and penetrate with his queen. Then I counterattacked at a good time. He was looking stressed but he had a passed pawn. I won two pawns by force, but had to swop off the knights to do it (a real pity). At first I felt I had a simple win, but I calculated that he had some diabolical counter play if I played the obvious moves. I was in time pressure now.  The computer later confirmed that the position was indeed a draw, not because of his passed b pawn (which I could blockade), but since he could round up my h pawn on h6 and push his h pawn on h5 (The line I noticed). Reluctantly I offered him a draw (I could not risk losing this game) and he grabbed my hand. “You nearly lost it” I said” “Ja” was the reply. No beer this time, just a long walk. I was tired. I had put a hell of a lot in to the last two long games, and they had only brought draws. When you play as little competitive chess as I do now this is what happens. League chess has little comparison to competitive tournament chess, as league games are glorified quick play games in comparison.

Round 7 saw me against a Guernsey player I have drawn with before on the island. He is a true Dragon fan and so I knew what to expect. I also knew that he caught me out in the opening last time, and that I had to play very accurately in the opening to combat his extensive theoretical knowledge. It was a beautiful day, I wanted a walk before flying home, and I liked my opponent. A 16-move draw followed in which we decided not to test each other out. We had a great discussion about the Dragon and I told him about a draw in the Dragon with black I had in 2003 at the Hastings Challengers with WGM and IM Joanna Dworakowska (2390). Afterwards, her boyfriend Peter Hein Neilson, who was in the Masters, (now the trainer of Magnus Carlsen!) quizzed me about my moves and where I found them. I told him I found them myself at the board, and he replied “Then you must be a lot stronger than 2100.” I nearly won that game, but the computer rated it as an almost perfect draw. It gave all my moves as the best moves, and most of my opponents as the best moves, and 0.00= at the end! Those were the days!

7 games, 6 draws, and the loss of a few Fide rating points. Not great, but I played better than that. I could have had an extra point or even another point and a half on another occasion. I never had a lost position in any game, and I was solid as a rock with white, and ok with black. The brutal cutting edge needs to be sharpened with more tournament play, and I must find more intensity of competitive spirit. One year, if God spares me, I am going to play well, and very productively, in this wonderful place.

The flight back saw me introduce the topic of A street cat named Bob to Ian as the plane was taking off. Ian hates flying, but he hates cats more, so this seemed appropriate! “I hate cats” he said trying to stop any banter. “Bob has a personal Bobby guard to protect him”, I said, and his owner has two more cats he can make money from if Bob dies or gets stolen I threw into the mix. Ian intimated what he would personally like to do to Bob and his owner, and let me just say neither of them would like it very much!! As we neared Manchester there was a slight noise “The wheels are down” said Ian relaxing slightly. Then there was a much greater thrusting noise….” The pilot has aborted the landing” I said knowingly having faced this situation on 14 occasions. There had been a collision on the ground and we had a nervous 15 minutes circling in the dark before finally landing. We made it for our train connection, and that was it for this time. Over to Ian...


My preparation for our annual excursion to Guernsey consisted of a number of trips to outpatient clinics at local hospitals any one of which could have put my aspirations in jeopardy. Having negotiated all tests without incident I found myself reaching for the alarm clock at 4am on a Saturday morning having relished the Mozart Clarinet Concerto at the Philharmonic on the previous evening..

Off we go on the search for some dubious credibility as a chess player tempered by the genuine need to enjoy some rest and relaxation in the island haven of Guernsey. The weather forecast was for heavy rain coming from the West but we arrived at the hotel on a fine October morning beating the rain by a couple of hours or so. A whole day to settle in, breathe some fresh air and enjoy the local culinary offerings.

The list of entries suggested I would be paired with one of the visiting Grandmasters but the top seed was playing in the Bundesliga that weekend and was taking a bye in the first round. The eventual publication of the draw found me with the black pieces against Daniel Abbas , graded 2302, and one of our best U18 players. Having been involved in junior chess I have watched Daniel coming through the ranks and developing into a strong player although never playing him previously. I am black, I play the Hippo, I have no need for preparation and I have no worries apart from not making a fool of myself on the internet. Only after the game did I find out that the games had not connected with the internet. It was an interesting game our reader might like to see.



1 e4                 g6

1 d4                 Bg7

3 Nc3               d6

4 Be3               a6

5 f4                  e6

6 Nf3               Ne7

7 a4                 b6

8 Bd3              Nd7

9 e5                 d5

10 a5               Bb7   Black should play 10...c5 to avoid the problem of a possible capture on b6 by white and white should capture to prevent the pawn advancing to c4.

11 0-0              c5

12 axb6           c4

13 Be2             Nxb6

14 Qe1             Nf5

15 Bf2              h5

16 g3               Qd7   White now switches his attention to the queenside in the hope of developing an initiative as my pieces are not well placed. At the moment the position is relatively equal but my ability to make a mistake is never far away.

17 Nd2            Bf8

18 b3               Rc8    It was round about here that I developed the aggressive idea of sacrificing a pawn and maybe more for the possibility of developing a queen and bishop battery on the h1 to a8 diagonal. Daniel had already used a fair amount of time, partly due to my familiarity with my opening and consequent rapid play, and now began to use a lot more time as my apparent lack of concern for the pawn on c4 may have raised doubts in his mind.

19 Na4            Nxa4

20 Rxa4           Be7    Taking on b3 seems the more appropriate reply but I was still on course for a blunder.

21 Qa1             0-0      Taking on b3 or playing g5 are the engine recommendations but I am obsessed with the idea of letting him win a pawn on c4 in return for the open diagonal leading to the white king. There is a refutation for this nonsense, of course,  but I hadn't seen it and my confidence was high. More time disappeared from Daniel's clock.

22 Rc1             Rc7

23 c3                Rfc8

24 bxc4            Rxc4?   This had been my plan but it is horribly wrong. Dear reader, can you see why?

25 Nxc4            dxc4     And now the queen can come to the long diagonal. I was almost getting excited

26 Rb1             .......       Having a very cold shower in the middle of the playing area is not recommended. White simply returns the exchange with advantage.

26 ......              Qc6

27 Rxb7            Qxb7

28 Rxc4            Rxc4

29 Bxc4            Qf3        Hoping for a quick exit without attracting any attention was one plan of action but looking at the clocks reminded me that a chance remained. With less than 4 minutes plus the 30 second increment to reach move 40 my opponent might not appreciate a mad flail in which any tactic, no matter how crude, will be employed.

30 Bf1                h4         The engine suggests white can capture on a6 with the bishop but the desire to consolidate the position of the king is entirely human.

31 Bg2              Qe2

32 Qf1              Qd2?    The queen should go to c2 or b2 but I was banging out the moves as quickly as possible to keep the pressure up.

33 Qe1             Qb2

34 g4                Nh6

35 h3                 a5         With the white kingside now safe I looked around the board for some hope and espied the passed pawn on the a file. My last chance but who likes a passed pawn charging down the board when there is precious little time to think. Pity my opponent if you will as I don't need to think and need only push with all my might.

36 Be3                a4

37 Qc1               Ba3

38 Qd2               Qa1+

39 Kh2                Bb2

40 c4                   a3       Time control. White had been playing on the increment for quite a while but now had 40 minutes plus increment to finish the game. To his credit Daniel now spent 25 minutes on his next move. I walked round the room trying to dissipate the tension built up during the time scramble and the 25 minute wait seemed like an eternity. Win or lose I just wanted it to finish.

41 d5                  a2         The engine suggests Bc3 first as this will force the white queen off the d file. Such subtlety was long past my disposition.

42 dxe6              Bc1        Missing 43 Qd1 suggested by the engine giving white an advantage. However, most of the 40 minutes had disappeared so the decision to go for the throat is entirely understandable.

43 Qd8+             Kh8

44 exf7               Nxf7      Forced. It looks like I can capture on e3 allowing promotion to queen when I mate him on g1 but he promotes to a knight with check and the black king gets mated first.

45 Qd7               Bxe3

46 Qxf7+            Kh8

47 Qf8+              Kh7

48 Qe7+             Kh8

49 Qxh4+           Kg7

50 Qe7+             Kh8


Not a perfect game by any means but I found it a very exciting game to play and I was very satisfied to discover I can still compete with this standard of player and pose some problems. Of course white could and should have won but he could have lost as well and that is the point.

I enjoyed my dinner and settled down for a nice rest prior to the publication of the draw for round 2 and I will leave you, gentle reader, to imagine the rejoicing when I found out I had been paired with top seed, Oleg Korneev, who had the half point bye and was eligible to play me. Needless to say, I had forgotten the possibility even existed and a cursory examination revealed this 2581 player was a true professional player plying his trade throughout the whole of Europe on a regular basis. I noted he played d5 extremely well in reply to 1 d4 and I thought the Colle Zukertort a pointless exercise. What to play against him? Obviously I am going to lose the game but I want to try my best. I resolved to play a Reverse Hippo on the grounds I would be more familiar with this opening. I managed a dozen moves without concession but the pressure of playing such a strong player persuaded me to try for a stake on the centre when I could have continued to lie doggo on the back three ranks and not clarify the position.  I was quickly forced to castle and my opponent visibly expanded at the board as a series of tactical blows allowed complex variations to be fully calculated by the Grandmaster. I did my best and calculated as much as possible but the attack on my besieged king was quite frightening. The engine revealed I could sacrifice a kingside pawn and get some compensation thanks to a centralised knight but I could not resist the temptation to move the knight to a defensive square on the kingside after which I got smashed and resigned on move 31. My very generous opponent changed from " Grandmaster Mode " to human status and spent 20 minutes analysing the game with me. More to the point, he reeled off long variations he had seen clearly. One can only imagine the confidence such vision gives to a player and I will treasure this insight into the professional world of chess.

As already explained, the computer paired Nick and myself in round 3 and I was not unhappy to have a quick draw. I have more or less forgotten the rest of the tournament. The copies of the games are at hand but I have no desire to examine them again as the first two games had proved to be strenuous and there is only so much I am prepared to risk in the name of being credible. The edge had gone and I was happy to end the tournament with a loss of only 2 points.

Time to enjoy my holiday. When I think of Herm Island I am usually reminded of a Chinese gentleman in the Musee D'Orsai rushing around taking pictures of all the famous paintings hanging on the walls. Swish here, click, swish there, click, and on to the next painting to join the collection of digital images. Possessions is the name of the game. No time to be there. Herm Island is all about being there.

Cities are places in which it is easy to get lost. To think it necessary to do something to be something. Sure, an education is necessary to pursue a career but take happiness as an example. I used to think it necessary to do something to be happy but no longer. I can be happy for no reason whatsoever even if I have learned to hide it from a world dominated by possessions and what you have to do to get them. So I hide because I can't put all of them in an asylum but they can sure put me in one. Hiding on Herm Island where things can be what they are is a sort of paradise for me. Of course, we go in October when it is quiet but we were informed the place gets quite busy in the summer. There is no such steady state as paradise except in the heads of humans.

So I love to be on Herm Island and it is the highlight of the visit to Guernsey. Just being there. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to achieve. Taking pictures feels like a sin yet one into which temptation beguiles me. Photos. Possessions. Aspects of self but images I can share with our Dear Reader, courtesy of the skill and diligence of our Webmaster. The photos are quite ordinary as they should be. Herm Island is a state of mind as much as a real place. Listen to the lyrics of Penny Lane and it is much the same thing. Take pictures of buildings or road signs if you will but the lyrics suggest a state of mind not found in any photograph.

Such a heavy dose of home spun philosophy ought to be accompanied by a photograph of the setting sun with all the deep emotional feelings aroused by the splendour of Nature. City dwellers may yearn for the simpler life they fondly imagine to be freely available in a more natural setting. Yes, I would go if I had a million pounds to buy a house.

Time to go is upon us. A bird strike on a plane delays our arrival into Manchester and we ae rushing down the covered walk to the railway station in time for our train. Yes, we are back and in more ways than I care to accept. Where did I put my happiness pills? Lost them. Again!!