I took the plunge last night and decided to enter the Hawick Chess Congress this weekend. Wish me luck!
Actually, this is a pretty brave decision: I played at Hawick once before and vowed never to go back.
That visit started with what seemed like a great idea at the time, why don't we camp and play chess. If this has ever crossed your mind, my only advice is DON'T.
Our excuse, as Darren and I rushed off to buy our tents was something about saving money on accomodation, but in truth, it was more the call of the wild:
"chess player against the elements"
I can still imagine the dream vividly: kayaking through chilly northern seas, across some remote sea loch, scaling the great mountains via a towering ridge, making a bivouac for the night, and then well fed on bacon butties (from a slaughtered wild pig of course) strolling into town to play swashbuckling chess.
It was with this 'nirvana' in mind that we drove up to Hawick on a Friday afternoon in early summer, pitched our tents between a couple of caravans on a campsite with full facilities, and armed with just ultra-lite portable stoves prepared to face the worst that nature could throw at us.
The chess started well with a win on the Friday night, but Saturday and Sunday were horrors. No sleep (roll-out mat useless), nowhere to get food (the only restaurant we could find was full), poor decision by the arbiter (he told me later he was wrong), and to cap it all no points that I can remember.
This year I won't be camping!
The tournament itself is quite strong for a 'remote' weekend swiss event. I played Steve Mannion, an International Master in round 2 on my visit, and I notice that despite last year's Open field having only 14 competitors, it included a Grandmaster (Colin McNab), 2 International Masters, and a FIDE Master.
As for Hawick, it's one of a string of towns in the Scottish Borders (rolling hills along the border with England) that grew up around the wool & textile trade. It has some impressive buildings, including the Town Hall which is the congress venue, but does have a bit of a forgotten feel.
If I can find accomodation with an Internet connection, I'll keep you updated during the tournament.