Charles (partially obscured by the scorechart), James, Tim, John, Alan, Bill with Hugh standing to the right at the start of our round 2 match
Same match, opposite direction (note the Welsh flags), with the top teams on stage and the overhead screen showing 4 games.
Cardiff were honoured to once again be representing Wales, along with Nidum, in this year’s European Club Cup, which took place in the winter ski resort of Fuegen in Austria from October 8th – 14th.
The accommodation was very good, with the skiers amongst you knowing exactly what I mean when I say it was a typical small, friendly, family run hotel which served good food and plenty of it (!). Our hotel housed about 10 teams, including the 8th seeded Bank King (I wonder who sponsored them ?) fielding 3 of the winning Armenian Olympiad team, and the victorious ladies team in Fuegen.
In addition, the weather was very warm and sunny for all but the last day, and the scenery was spectacular, so all that was needed was for us to settle down and play some good chess.
This was a 7 round Swiss tournament, 1 round a day starting at 14:00, with a time limit of 40 moves 90 minutes, then 30 minutes to complete the game, with 30 second increments from move 1. The playing conditions were generally good, a light, airy hall with plenty of room at the board, however there were a couple of slightly negative aspects. One was that the players were not roped off and with the aisles narrow and crowded, it was not particularly comfortable for teams backing on to them (as we experienced when on the bottom table !). Another was that the top 4 matches were on the stage, and although 4 games were always on display on a big overhead screen (whenever a game finished it was replaced by another), none of the other games could be seen, nor were we ever aware of the score whilst these matches were in progress, as with other matches which had a scorecard on a stand next to each board 1.
I will be concentrating on the Open because that was the tournament in which we (and Nidum) participated, but for completeness I’ll just mention that there was also a Ladies event in which 11 teams competed (4 boards per match), comprising 51 players from 16 nations, among them 3 GMs, 13 WGMs, and 16 IMs. The surprise winners were the 6th seeded team Mika Yerevan from Armenia, headed by the legendary former World Champion Maia Chiburdanidze, who after defeating the top seeded AVS Krasnoturinsk of Russia (including Stefanova and the Kosintseva sisters) in round 1, never looked back. They finished clear first with 5 wins and 2 draws, with Energy-Investi Sakartvelo (headed by Dzagnidze) 2nd, and AVS 3rd, the latter having the ‘consolation’ of the highest numbers of game points.
Back to the Open, where there were 56 teams, a new record for this event, comprising 406 players from 46 federations, among them 124 GMs, of whom 10 were rated 2700+, and 85 IMs. When you add about 60 FMs and a sprinkling of female titled players such as Nidum’s Abigail Cast, it can be seen that approximately two thirds of the players were titled. No wonder at least one source (ICC Newsletter) said that “this event is probably the strongest team club event in the World”, and clearly a daunting task for Cardiff (and Nidum) to face, but we were still hoping to improve upon our 39th place (out of 48, seeded 42nd) of the previous year.
At the top things were very close throughout the tournament, with no less than 5 teams going into the last round on 10 match points. And what a finish it was, with 3 of these teams winning 3? – 2?, to end with a triple tie on 12 match points (all 3 teams won 5 matches and drew 2).
And so it went to game points, with the 3rd seeds Tomsk-400 of Russia (headed by Morozevich) retaining the title they had won last year, this time by 2? game points.
The next 2 teams had identical game points, so it had to go to a 3rd tie-breaker (sum of opponents’ game points) which resulted in 2nd place going to 6th seeded Ladya Kazan of Russia (headed by Radjabov), with in 3rd place the top seeds Ural Sverdlovskaya of Russia (headed by 4 members of the 2700 club Svidler, Shirov, Akopian and Grischuk !). Morozevich was awarded the prize for the best player, having achieved a rating performance of 2916 (!).
Cardiff were seeded 43rd out of 56, but as explained in an earlier report, this was a bit artificial because if you only counted those who intended to play (i.e. my own old 2325 rating was excluded) the seeding would have been 50th.
Briefly repeating the match scores (full details of match results and player performances can be found elsewhere on the website – my thanks to Mark for adding the reports during the tournament), with seedings in brackets.
Round 1: KSK 47 Eynatten (15) 5 – 1 Cardiff (43)
Round 2: Cardiff (43) 2 – 4 Rochade Eupen (30)
Round 3: Chess Club Pristina (52) 3 – 3 Cardiff (43)
Round 4: Cardiff (43) 2 – 4 de Sprenger Echternach (46)
Round 5: Styria Graz (34) 3? – 2? Cardiff (43)
Round 6: Cardiff (43) 4? – 1? Galway (56)
Round 7: HMC Calder (33) 4 – 2 Cardiff (43)
We were bound to get very strong opposition in round 1, and indeed we were out-graded by at least 200 points on every board except number one (just 120 !). Probably the couple of draws we achieved was as good a result as we could have hoped for.
A cruel draw in round 2 having to play the 2nd highest rated 1st round loser. If we had been seeded just one place higher we would have played bottom seeded Galway instead, and our tournament may have been oh so different. But you have to take it as it comes, and an individual win and 2 draws in this round again constituted a good result.
Round 3 at last saw us playing a team weaker than ourselves on paper, but in the end the result was probably a fair one. We came close to getting a couple of extra half points, but as my match report stated, we actually needed a bit of luck to win the final game and save the match.
Round 4’s pairing gave us another chance to notch up a win, but losing 2 games (3 in total), one in which a draw offer was declined, and another from a totally blocked position, proved decisive.
In the Swiss system after a win you generally get a tougher pairing and after a loss a weaker opponent, but yet again we seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and in round 5 we found ourselves playing a team seeded 12 places higher than the team to whom we had just lost (!). Nevertheless a good fighting performance, but alas one gets nothing for 2? game points.
Round 6 saw us play the bottom seeded team in the tournament, who only fielded one rated player. We didn’t seem to finish off some of our opponents as efficiently as perhaps we could have, but a comfortable win in the end.
Again a tough draw in round 7 playing a team seeded 10 places higher than us (the team we were equal with got a down float to the team seeded 49th and won 5 – 1 !), and even though we recorded another loss, getting 2 points was really another creditable result.
And so we finished 53rd, which was below whichever seeding one cares to compare it with, and it’s fair to say we were disappointed with our final position and our match points total. But all credit to the players for scoring at least 2 game points in 6 of the 7 matches to notch up a very good games point total. We certainly had a tough draw, and maybe starting with 2 losses dented the players’ confidence a bit, and with a bit more luck we could quite easily have beaten the opponents we played in rounds 3 – 5. Maybe, on reflection, it’s worth ‘warming up’ a bit before coming to these events which are of a much higher standard than people are normally used to, but I certainly can’t fault the effort put in by all the players throughout the week against such strong opposition.
1. Charles Cobb, (2? points out of 7)
Charles played some formidable opposition, with only 2 players below 2504, and having to play a staggering average of 62 moves per game shows how really tough it was, but Charles didn’t flinch from his board 1 responsibilities. If anything Charles seemed a bit rusty, often running short of time which may have cost him a couple of half-points, but his excellent defensive displays against GM Ruck (77 moves) and IM Pedersen (96 moves) are well worth playing through.
2. James Cobb, 3/6
James has had a good summer, and his play continued to be of a very high standard as his TPR of 2404, being higher than his rating, confirms. His play very clearly merited more than the 0/2 he got against GMs Nijboer and Berelovich in the first 2 rounds, and the half point he got against IM Welling after pressing throughout. Had a crushing win against IM Koerholz.
3. Tim Kett, 2?/7
Tim got off to an excellent start and was on 50% after 4 rounds, including an excellent win against FM Meessen, but his captain/circumstances (!) transpired against him as he was lumbered with 3 blacks in the last 3 rounds. Tim accepted this with good grace and continued battling hard, but his overall score would certainly have been better with more than 2 whites (scoring 1?) out of 7. An asset to any team as a player and a person.
4. John Trevelyan, 3/6
John has worked out an economical style of play (an early exchange of queens) which suits him and which has brought him much success, and he’s a captain’s dream being happier to play with Black than White. Unfortunately his captain/circumstances (!) meant that John ended up with 4 whites out of 6, even so, this was no reason for him reaching a number of inferior positions early on (e.g. see my round 6 report). By sheer doggedness and quick play, John was able to finish with an even score, with his play in the last round being so fast, he actually ended up with more time (due to the 30 second increments) than what he started with (!).
And John’s value to the squad was not just as a player. Thanks to him we had a laptop available to assist the players’ game preparations, and on which to produce and send back the reports, and also his car came in very useful on quite a few occasions (shades of the Nice Olympiad 1974 and Roy Clues’ Rolls Royce !).
5. Alan Spice, 3?/7
Alan’s easy going disposition belies a grim determination at the chessboard. His rather offbeat openings may not offer much in the way of an advantage, but he has great experience with them, and is willing to continue playing ‘indefinitely’ in an effort to chalk up extra half points. Alan surprisingly lost to 2 players rated well below himself in rounds 3 and 4, but finished strongly with 2 wins and a 3rd game in which he was pressing for the win.
6. John Fletcher, 2?/5
After a heavy loss in round 1, and 2 different medical problems which stopped him from playing the next 2 rounds, John bounced back really well. After a short draw with Black in round 4, John showed in the last 3 rounds what a dangerous opponent he is, chalking up 2 successive wins and having a 3rd game which could have gone either way.
7. Stuart Hutchings (player)
The players knew beforehand that this was unlikely to happen, but in view of the fact that Cardiff didn’t have an 8th player available, and to satisfy the players wishes to improve the team’s seeding, I was happy to be included in the playing squad. And in a real emergency I would have been prepared to play (I mean sit down at the board and make something up !), and this would have happened in round 4 if John F had not recovered from his illnesses, as I felt Bill needed a break after 3 successive hard games.
8. Bill Harle, 0/4
Bill on his debut in this event had a very tough start with two 2300+ titled opponents, but was always ready and willing for more opportunities as was shown when he stepped in at short notice in round 3 when John F fell ill after I had handed in the team sheet. Bill’s other 2 opponents were also strong, probably only being unrated from not having played in such tournaments before. But these trips are not just about results, there’s no doubt Bill will have benefited from the experience, and away from the board I very much enjoyed his company on our visit to Innsbruck, and on other, shorter excursions and walks.
9. Hugh Price (supporter - “Mr. Cardiff Chess Club”)
Those who heard my speech at Hugh’s 80th will know the high regard and affection I have for him, and he was very much an integral member of our squad, probing the players during analysis, and talking to members of other delegations seeking out how they increase club membership or improve player standards. He also added some nice touches of his own, such as a Welsh flag at each end of our table, and specially printed lapel badges for opposition players and captains, as well as the arbiters. Hugh was as pleased as punch during one round when I told him that the Kramnik-Topalov playoff games were being shown live on an overhead screen in the analysis room, where he promptly set himself down with a board, and was talking to all and sundry about the games. Hugh certainly enjoys these trips.
10. Stuart Hutchings (captain)
This was my first foray on to the international chess scene since I last played in an Olympiad in 1990, but it’s not for me to speak about myself, I just hope I carried out the captain’s duties and responsibilities to the best of my ability and to the satisfaction of the players. I would certainly like to thank all the players for their tremendous efforts and their excellent company, it felt good to be in the international arena once again, with the nice surroundings being a bonus as well. All in all, I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Captain, Cardiff Chess Club