[NB: Posted by Jonathan B, but written by Jack Rudd]
Unlikely as it may seem, the recent East Devon Congress was my first individual tournament for five months. All the others I might have played in during that time were ones I opted out of for one reason or another: Torquay clashed with the 4NCL, the London Classic and Gibraltar were events where I was on the other side of the desk, and Hastings proved less enticing than a holiday with my girlfriend in Sweden.
a good reason for missing chess tournaments
The omens going into the tournament weren't particularly good. I was in poor form against strong opposition (1½/6 in this season's 4NCL, 1½/3 in the Devon League, 1½/3 for Somerset), my depression was hitting me fairly hard, and last year's performance in this tournament was preying on my mind. I'd had 4/4 going into the last round, needing only a draw with white to win the tournament - and I suffered a horrendous crisis of confidence. I played a passive anti-Marshall line, went completely wrong, and crashed out in 20 moves.
So I went into this tournament with some trepidation, and gradually relaxed into it. My round one game against Meyrick Shaw gave me some early challenges to face, but I rose to them and won pretty convincingly. My two games on the Saturday were bizarre encounters where my opponents went wrong very early on, and I was on 3/3 going into the final day.
My round 4 game was against my fellow leader, Dominic Mackle. It was a topsy-turvy encounter, one in which I kept on missing his tactical ideas, and ended up in a piece-down ending... and yet somehow managed to draw it. It wasn't exactly high-quality chess, but it entertained the spectators, and left me and Dominic joint leaders going into the last round. Dominic would have white against Steve Dilleigh, I would have black against Alistair Hill.
So, in a situation where I needed to win with black, hoping to erase the scars of last year's final round, what approach did I take? Would I play something solid and try to squeeze something out? Would I play something sharp from the off and try to hit him with an attack?
Double exclamation marks there not for move quality, but for attitude. I could have approached the game as if it were one with everything at stake; instead, I played a crucial last-round game as if it were one with nothing at stake. Because that's what I needed to do; it got my mind out of the tournament and into the game, and I played with the freedom and expressivity my play demonstrates at its best:
I freely confess I was lucky in that my opponent had no real line against the Blumenfeld; what he chose is hardly theoretically critical. But I wasn't lucky that I gave myself the opportunity to find that out; I made a good call for the situation. I played the opening that Jack Rudd would play... and it won me the game and the tournament.