My first British Championship

I've spent the last two weeks in Canterbury at the British Championship, working on the bulletin but also doing a bit of arbiting. I thought I'd write a blog of my fortnight there.

When I went to Canterbury last Monday, I had just got 3/5 in the Major section of a very good weekender in Worcester. Given I'm usually an organiser these days, I was happy to do so well! The journey from Birmingham to Canterbury was fine. The London Underground was fairly easy to navigate through given I hadn't been there before. Getting from the station in Canterbury to the University of Kent was a problem! The signing was poor. To get to the venue, I had to haul my luggage up a massively steep hill. I knew the playing venue was a sports centre, but the University didn't make the whereabouts of this centre obvious... but I eventually found my way there.

For the next two weeks, I would be based on the balcony overlooking a smaller sports hall, which is where I'd be heping with the Daily Bulletin. Basically, if you play a game at the British Championship, in any section, it comes to the bulletin editors. We key them into databases, and then add them to the bulletin. These are given to Championship competitors for free, and go on general sale for £2. A mega-bulletin is then sold for about £18 after the Championship. The main compiler was J. Arnold Lutton, and I must say his work is fantastic. I was very impressed. The other major inputter was International Master Jack Rudd, who was also playing in the Championship. His speed at inputting, and ability to decipher even the most illegible scoresheets is amazing. He annotates the games for the bulletin with certain smilies, ranging from a smile for a "generally good quality", a bomb for "original subversive ideas", and a plane for "leave the country immediately". The latter is usually reserved for short draws (or long draws that means he has to spend ages keying the game in!).

My friend, Ryszard Maciol was also playing in the Championship, and he played this game in the opening round, against Grandmaster Danny Gormally. He played the only move on the board that fell for a mate-in-two!

This wasn't the only horrible blunder in Round One. My bulletin colleague Jack Rudd also profited from a howler by Keith Arkell.
The Championship went on, and Jack continued to beat Grandmasters, and went on to 3/3 with a win against Simon Williams, where Simon played a dodgy sacrifice. This meant after day 3, he was tied for the lead with Michael Adams! Unfortunately, Jack couldn't keep up his great start, which meant he had a TPR of well over 3000 by Thursday morning!
On Friday, I left the comfort of the bulletin editing, and instead went to control the Yates section of the Weekender. It's basically a section for people with the English grade 125 or less to play in. Yates was a British Champion back in the early 1900s, and it is he who the event is named after. It was a rather hectic weekend! I was happy that my pairings were right, and made no clangers with the arbiting. I handled one dodgy situation well, where one player claimed a win on time for 39 moves, and another had got to move 40. Turned out that he'd just missed a move, and the time control had been reached. An appeal to get out of a default when someone's phone went off also fell on deaf ears.
The Friday night had another highlight; the longest game (in terms of the number of moves) in British Championship history. Keith Arkell was playing George Salimbeni, a promising youngster. The time control in use for the Championship was 40 moves in 100 minutes, then 20 moves in 50 minutes, plus 15 minutes for the rest of the game, plus 30 seconds for every move. So the games could go on... Stewart Reuben explained one game involving Sheila Jackson and Tony Miles (I think?) many years ago that lasted three days. Using 40 moves in 150 minutes, then 16 moves per hour forever, they had four adjournments before the game was finally settled! Luckily the British Championship doesn't cling to such archaic practices these days. The afternoon session started at 2:15pm, and Salimbeni successfully claimed a draw by the fifty-move rule just after 10:30pm!
After the excitement of the weekend play, (including a rapidplay where a digital clock switched itself off, and was a pain to reset...) I ventured back to the bulletin offices for the second week.
Two of my friends were playing in the Under 10 section, and one of them won it! Here is his final game, where he secured the title.
There was a rules disaster in the Major Open, the second tier event to the Championship. Two players were scheduled to play each other. However, one phoned the organisers to say that his credit card had been swallowed by an ATM, and he had to sort that out. This meant missing his train, and that he'd arrived late. This information didn't get to the controller of the Major Open, or his opponent. In principle, the start of the game would be delayed for him. No problem at all. British chess tournaments are not bound by daft 0-minute default times that FIDE like to insist on, and they are also flexible when things like this happen. When he arrived, just after 2:45pm, his opponent claimed a win by default (the default time was half an hour). The controller said that they should play the game. This was appealed to the appeals' committee, and they came to a decision that the instruction to play the game was the correct decision. However, they then decided that since it was now past 5pm, this would be impractical. So, they gave the appealer a win by default, and the person who missed his time for a valid reason a half-point bye. This gave the effect of scoring the game 1-1/2, but not really, because the game wasn't played. Since this happened on Board 2 of the Major Open, the other competitors were mortified; suddenly it was much harder for them to win both the tournament and the competition, since 1.5 points had been awarded for that game, rather than 1. A counter-appeal appears to have fallen on deaf ears. I'm not sure that anyone thinks the decision arrived at was a fair one. For what it's worth, I'd have scored the game 0-1 to the person who phoned ahead to say he'd arrive late. The player who appealed the decision had rendered the game impossible to play, so he should be penalised. This way, the person who wanted to play chess scored less points than the person who didn't. Whatever the circumstances, this means that the wrong decision was made - I don't know what the right one was.
However, the story does not end there! Since the game was a default, guess who should be paired together to meet the following day! The same two opponents played in the final round, and played out a rather drab draw.
I left on Friday afternoon, with Michael Adams safely winning the Championship with a score of 9.5, one of the highest winning scores ever.
The good news is that the ECF President, CJ de Mooi (off Eggheads) said before the final round that he has the agreement that Nigel Short, Luke McShane and David Howell will be playing in the 2011 British Championship, along with Michael Adams, who will defend his title, and at least ten other Grandmasters. The prize money in the Championship will be doubled. This should make it the strongest British Championship since the halcyon days of the early 1970s, when Keene, Hartston and Miles would try to wrestle the title from Penrose.
Sheffield 2011 promises to be a great event!


  • 6 years ago


    Elroch, they didn't start at 5pm because the time control was scheduled to be a 7-hour game. So the game could have dragged on. What they had scope to do was to adjourn in this siutation, i.e. they could seal after 4 hours (the first time control), at 9pm, and finish the game the following morning. The organisers don't like adjournments though. I agree with their adjournment-disapproval.

  • 6 years ago


    Great report, Alex, didn't realise you were also an accomplished chess journalist. Smile

    The first blunder was a delightful helpmate, the second by Arkell was the most amusing move I have ever seen played by a GM. I strongly disagree that the appellant in the last story should have been penalised for appealing - he was presumably following procedure or otherwise he would have been told he had no right to appeal and the game should be started. And if he did have no right to appeal, the only person who could be blamed for the game not being started by 5pm would have to be the arbiter. Why not make them play the game in the evening? They have no compunction about doing that at Wimbledon.

    I still think Michael Adams is the best player England has produced, with Nigel Short a close second. Impressive result, nonetheless.

  • 6 years ago


    The UKCC uses 3 for a win, 2 for a draw, 1 for a loss. This is exactly the same as 1 for a win, half for a draw, 0 for a loss! The formula 2n + 1 can be used to convert normal to UKCC. E.g.

    Win (2*1) + 1 = 3

    Draw (2*0.5) + 1 = 2

    Loss (2*0) + 1 = 1

    So it's exactly the same points system! They do use 3 for a win in the Terafinal, and the players hate it.

  • 6 years ago


    ;-)  Ok thanks for replying to all that Alex.


    As I say all my ideas are to try and gain some more interest and improve chess somehow. And I would love to hold a Championship qualifyer lol. ALtho 1 space is a bit harsh. If you attracted 30/40 players over 2000 rating surely 6 deserve to qualify.

    And you also check your stats. 3 points for a win has decreased draws. The average draws per season now is 116! Down 20 per season! In Chess they do the UK chess Challenge which gives 1 point for a loss if they show and 3 points for a win. Cant remember what it is for a draw, I think 2 each.

    And yea if you think some of my ideas are decent enough that would be great to get some support behind some as im sure some would benefit chess for all. The Grand Prix is a good way of bringing in some lower qualifyers. Only thing is Grand prix is not really the best player. Just the person who plays the most as the more you play in the more chance of 7 good results. Although it may encourage more players to enter more tournaments if there was a place at the brittish at stake.

    I still feel the best player from each section or 2 best would increase interest and give people a dream as some love there chess so much. And im sure its only a matter if time before it gets TV coverage. I mean its more intersting and fun than poker. I mean that game is virtually all luck. Atleast in chess is mostly about skill.


  • 6 years ago


    1. Check your stats! You'll realise that it made no difference. I've read several articles about this, and the number of draws has, if anything, gone up! Indeed, this has been as the gulf between teams at the top and bottom has increased. They didn't promote more attacking football either; check how the number of goals scored changed. A 5-5 draw is more entertaining than a 1-0 win. Entertainment is, presumably, measured in goals scored, not whether it was a win, draw or loss!

    2. The problem is that the junior events are run in different weeks. So you'd have people hanging around for a week doing nothing to play in the simul.

    3. Feel free to organise one! If it's FIDE-rated, it will become a British Championship Qualifier. You could only allocate one spot though.

    4. I agree that lower rated players are a problem, but most do not! The ECF run the Grand Prix (you will have seen these prizes awarded on Friday). They could use that as a British Championship qualifier; i.e. the winner of the various sections of that qualify for the Championship. It has the U120, U140, U160 and U180 sections. The vehicle for your idea exists, but the connection has not yet been made!

    5. Simply, because they couldn't commit to a two-week tournament. Yang-Fan Zhou couldn't play in the Major Open because he's gone off this week to play in the World Junior Championship. Holding the British over three weeks is a non-starter, there are lots of International chess tournaments that the leading players have signed contracts to play in. The Week 2 PM Open was as popular as the Major Open this year, for the first time. This suggests that it would be more successful to chop the Championship down to 9 rounds, and hold it over a long week, Friday-Sunday with a rest day in the middle.

    6. Most people who enter the Major Open or the Championship know what they're signing up to; the players in the Championship at the bottom of the pile do so knowing that they will not do very well. Their aim is to simply pick up a few FIDE rating points. This aim is enough to prise their £200 entry fee out of them. They could arguably do just as well in the Major Open.

    7. It is not for the lack of trying that chess isn't on British TV. CJ has approached many companies, and they aren't interested.

    As the ECF's Alternate Director of Home Chess, I will inform the actual Director of Home Chess of these ideas of yours. Wink

  • 6 years ago


    Thanks for your reply but not really understanding the points im making

    1. Giving 3 points for a win in football has reduced amount of draws as teams go for it alot more. I checked the stats and in the 5 seasons before the switch to 3 there was an average of 133 draws per season, in the 5 seasons after that with 3 points there was an average of 113.4. The changes have promoted attacking play and its produced much more entertaining attacking football. Would give chess a revamp and make it alot more interesting to watch. Although I also love the idea that chess is tactical and I do sometimes enjoy the defensive side of it and then to counter.


    2. Yes there was a simul but my point is those players did not achieve to play it. They just had to show up. And no Dissrespect at all to Jack as he seems a great guy but hes no Brittish Champion or Micheal Adams. And the point of doing a simul v the champions of every section bar the seniors and Major I think would attract alot more players and interest meaning cost could maybe be increased.


    3. I understand all the ways of qualifying and have cvhecked the site. I think its fine how it is but think it could be improved. As I said to bring players in on form seems a great idea. In most things you have qualifiers before the event, eg Tennis, Snooker etc.  I know there are quallifying events but some of these players that qualify from these events finnish out the top 10 and sometimes lower as its on a basis of the highest player not yet qualified for the brittish. My idea would be to hold a tourney a few weeks before just for players not currently in and give 4 maybe up to 10 places in the Brittish.


    4. See you dont understand the Romantics of what im saying. There is no way a u120 would ever qualify for the Brittish under current rules. And I see no problem with lower rated players playing. I cant see why some have a problem against it. The way the seedings and draws take place you play who you deserve to play according to your rating in the 1st round then its down to whats points your on. Once again my idea is to promote chess more than it is at the mo and make it more appealing and interesting for everyone. If a u120 comes through thousands of players to get there then they derserve it.

    5. Ok not enough space but the champs could be held over 3 weeks or you could make faster time controls to get those extra games in. Also I was wondering why some of the players decided to play in the PM Open instead of the Major? Some of them were higher rated than some of the players in the Brittish let alone the Major. I mean Andrew Smith is in the Brittish top 200 and won the AM and PM Open quite comfortable in week 2, why didnt he enter the Major?


    6. And yea this idea by me I dont think would be that good. As how would you get a True Major Open Champ when the top guys after a certain amount of rounds got moved up. Although you could make the Winner of the Major after 9 rounds and then for the final 2 the best from the Major move up with the Champion already in place and the bottom 4 or so come down from the Brittish just to try and give some easier games and some confidence.

    7. And are you saying Chess on TV once or twice a year is enough? Yes I saw the cameras there and they have been following him since he was 9. Child Genius its called. And is nothing about Chess. Its just about kids who are geniuses. And its by luck that Peter plays chess. I feel Chess should be alot more covered than it is. If it did get on TV more then players wouldnt drop out as much. They would get more money. More would become interested in Chess and gloablly it would improve chess and conditions for everyone. dont you think? Ive seen Chess on Tv twice in 20 years. It may have been on more, but not since Nigel Short v Kasp and a bit about Sheila Dines ive not seen any. It should be a monthy programme to start and if successful which Im sure it would be then maybe Chess may get a daily or weekly or its own channel. Dot you think? 

    Also an idea of the winners of each of the sections at the Brittish to qualify for the following year. Although I can understand some u140 or 160 that dont make it thinking why should they be in and not me. Thats why the idea of heats and qualifying over the year and then the best few from each section qualify for the Brittish.

    Any ideas or comments welcomed,



  • 6 years ago


    1. 2 points for a win will not change anything. Look at the football league; 3 points for a win has made no statistical difference on the number of draws in matches.

    2. There's already a simul on the opening day! Jack was doing it this year. Anyone was free to turn up and play against him.

    3. There is a complex system of Championship qualifiers. All players over 2350 qualify. Then each of England's five unions get x places to allocate. Then the components of the British Isles Co-Ordinating Committee (ECF, Chess Scotland etc.) get places. Then every FIDE-rated Open becomes a qualifier. So there's a lot of ways to qualify. The South Wales International was a qualifier, held just a few weeks before the event!

    4. Actually, there are several complaints that the Championship section allows too many people in the 1900-2250 range. I personally like the idea of dropping down. Given it's a national championship, you can't open the doors to everyone. However, an U120 is free to turn up at a weekend congress that is a British Championship qualifier, and if they win that, they can qualify!

    5. Not enough space in the playing hall, and otherwise there would be too much space. Many players want to combine chess with a holiday. If you want chess in the mornings and afternoons, you have the chance to do that. E.g. you could play in the U120 in the morning, and the 5 Day PM Open in the afternoon!

    6. If you're eligible for the Championship, you can't enter the Major Open. However, your idea of dropping out of the MO and entering the 5 Day PM Open isn't far-fetched. At the London Chess Classic this December, they are playing a 9-round Masters event, over 9 days. You can withdraw after round 3, and re-enter the same event, playing 5 rounds over the weekend to "catch up". Thus you can still have a chance of winning! The organisers make more money this way. Or so the thinking is... It's used in the US already.

    7. Won't happen, not all players play in the same competitions from year to year. I'm trying to get rid of adjournments in League chess around here (i.e. from 5-hour matches over two evenings, to 3-hour matches over one evening), and I'm not winning the battle! Yet. ;-) Anyway, rapidplay leagues may not be universally popular. Why is chess not on TV in the UK? There was some stuff on BBC 4 last week. You may have seen them filming Peter Williams at the British Championship, that will be on TV!

  • 6 years ago


    Nice blog Alex. Whats your views on a few things I thought about over the champs.

    1. Maybe giving 2 points for a win to increase more exciting open games and stop players agreeing draws so early.


    2. At the end of the champs for the champion to play a simul v the winning players of each of the graded sections plus the u'8-u-16's. Ofcourse he would be financed for this and would be a great experience for the younger and less rated players.


    3. For a tournament to be held 3/5 weeks before the champs for all the players not currently quallified and offer 6/10 places for the championships. This way players in current form are brought into the tournament. As it currently is a player doing well in the Major quallifies for the next year when he may be off form and low rated. Which I still think should stand as you should be rewarded for doing well in the Major.

    4. Now this is one for the romantics like me. For someone like me to qualify for the brits is so far off its prob gonna be impossible. Although if I improve and work hard its a glimmer. But my idea was for u160, u140 and u120 and maybe even u100 tournaments to be held all over the country and for all the quallifiers for there to be a finals a few weeks before the brits to let in some players who would never normally get the chance to play at the brits. What a story if the best u100/u120 in the country had come though loads of qualifying and thousands of hopefuls maybe draw a GM or IM at some point. I think some guidelines would need to be stuck to though like to play in those quallifying sections you have to have been in that rating bracket for a few years to stop abuse of someone sandbagging there rating. Anyway its just an idea that I think would give hope to all levels of chess of a dream to play a GM in a 1v1 rather than a simul. Its kinda like the Fa cup dream that I think is brilliant for grass roots and lower levels of chess.

    5. After playing in the Brits for the 1st time I felt not enough rounds were in the lower sections. Only the u-8-u16 and Major and Senior and the Main event had more than 5 rounds and I think the lowest amount of rounds for a 5 day event should be 7. Mayeb 10 if time controls could be reduced. Or have the sections over 2 weeks. I think some peoiple could do it and its just an idea as I feel many players imporve with each game and just means if you lose 1 or 2 you still have a hope of winning the event and it makes the final rankings more realistic. 


    6. This the less of my ideas but I saw this kind of thing is already in place. And thats if a player is struggling in the Major they have option of moveing down to the PM Open. I was thinking if some players are doing amazing in the Major and some are really struggling in the Brits some kind of swap could happen Only prob being is some players doign well in Major would want to maybe go on and win the Major eg prize money etc so something could maybe happen there but could be some problems.

    7. Now this is an idea I have had for ages about Chess and still cant believe it doesnt happen or has not happend.  And thats with the swiss system idea Individual Chess Divisions/tournaments could be held. Lets say the top 50 players is the Premier league etc. Say 6/8 divisions and any players under that (outside top 300 World ranked players) could be sectioned into sections of 100/200 players. Say top 20 promoted/Relegated after each tournament. Ofcourse tournaments could be held as the are seperate to this but its just an idea for players to work there way up and down a kind of ladder. And the Premier league event should 100% be on tv. I cant understand one bit how Chess is still not on Tv. With all the tv Stations these days it makes no sense. I also feel for Chess to be entertaining and less draining on the players this idea of chess leagues should be of Rapid play. Maybe 30 mins each player with 10 seconds increment. 

    Anyway thanks for reading and if anyone has comments or ideas or anything to say please do. I would be interested in peoples views.



  • 6 years ago


    It's encouraging to see that there will be a stronger field next year, with Britain's elite all making a fine showing. I myself hope to compete next year (not in the major open; who do you think I am?) if I can raise the funds.

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