Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Back in the Saddle

[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?

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 c5 4.d5


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.


Jonathan B said...

Welcome back, Jack.

PJM said...

It somewhat reminded me of this, Jack. Well done!