I'm off, tomorrow, to play in the annual tournament in Benasque, the scene of my best game of last year. But the scene also of the game in which I came the closest I have ever dome to standing up to a grandmaster: the veteran Davorin Komljenovic of Croatia, pictured here celebrating. His rating actually appears to have gone up since then, a commendable feat for somebody in their sixties: probably not entirely because he was able to overcome the present writer, but every little helps.
My other games against grandmasters - there's been, I think, fewer than half-a-dozen - have been totally one-sided affairs. They include a trouncing by Tony Miles at Wolverhampton when he was, I believe, number 52 in the world, and a similarly unequal struggle against Mark Hebden in a final round at Coventry after I'd beaten an FM the round before. I did nearly knock over Jacob Aagaard once, but although he had achieved three norms his rating fell (and still falls) below the level required to receive the grandmaster title.
This one, though, was different - hard-fought, tight, the identity of the amateur and the grandmaster not evident from the moves alone. It was played on the same day as the World Cup Final and like that match, it was decided only at the very end. My girlfriend, who knows little of chess, said to me afterwards that she knew it must have been close - because there were so few pieces left on the board.
I must have been better coming out of the opening, perhaps much better - and in the ending, I missed a draw. Komljenovic was a relieved man at the finish. "Close", he said to me, in English. "Very close."