My daughter Sophie played in her last UK chess challenge competition over the weekend in Leamington Spa. She has competed every year since she was 9. This year she had qualified for the Terafinal, a champion of champions event, in which children from all ages do battle for a £2,000 prize.
Her progress in the event was very up and down. In round 1 she played an u9 boy, it was a Queen's Gambit Declined and he was swinging his feet together in excitement. The game started and in the opening he lost a pawn. It was then that he suddenly got up from his chair and announced that he had to go out for a breath of fresh air. He came back and Sophie tore away his centre pawns. Good start I thought.
She then played Philip Makepiece in round 2, he was one of the favourites. Sophie was on the black side of a Sicilian and they castled on opposite sides, when that happens its like Blitzkrieg (lightning war) as both sides rush in. Sophie pushed a pawn into c4 but as Philip had a pawn on c3 we thought it was best to advance the b pawn down to b4 so it could change with its white rival. The battle went on for nearly two hours before Sophie's king, breathless couldn't quite match Philip's. Philip's prize was to sit on board one for the next game. For Sophie a step back.
Round three a Queen's Indian and a promising position faded away. We couldn't work out what had happened. She had an attack but black defended and she didn't really want to talk about it. So we went to this bar in Coventry to have tea and she cheered up a bit. I had a stella and I cheered up a bit. Overnight we woke at 4 in the morning and we started talking about the game and then we are calling out move sequences for better attacks, suddenly white is winning with a beautiful temporary sac, that's right leave the bishop on f6 and run the h-pawn. Then she says Dad where is his other minor piece? I dunno I said. Is on f8 ? No the rooks there. You changed it off for your Knight on f3. Ah christ that means you haven't a knight for the mating attack. Forget it I said play your pieces back and across to the centre. Yes that's it, put the telly off we are going back to sleep.
Next day I had a great chat with Dominic Rabbitte's dad. He is telling me about Golf and he talks about a titanic match between Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. One's up, then its equal and so on. Finally Player downs a wonder put to win it and then he is champion and he is interviewed. Gary explain's his approach to sport. 'I seem to get luckier the more I practise.'
Sophie practices a bit but then there's the waitressing, boyfriending, A-levelling. Then she's back with a big smile. 15 moves dad, mate dad. Well done, in the back of the net Soph. That's when coach here probably made a mistake to point out that as the leading girls had all lost, she needed two more points and there was a chance of tieing for first. Dad don't go there she said.
She was playing really well. She spotted that her opponent had opened her kingside with h6-g5. Normally we all know to try and bust it open with h4. But Sophie came up with a really deep idea she would fasten down the weakness first with g4, then her knight could travel in to f5 from e2-g3. Desperate, the girl counter-attacked, rook e2 check. Sophie needs to block with her rook and the games soon over for black but she moves the king up one. 10 moves later and it all falls apart with the black rook stabbing the white king in the back.
I said Sophie never leave a rook in there like that. You wouldn't leave a rat in your house you'd get it out of there. Then I thought is this my last chess lesson with my daughter?
I stood out in the rain and looked through the windows to try to see some of her last game. She looked tired and kept playing with her hair. Maybe an hour later she had capitulated. 2/6 and we're disappointed, but what a gutsy
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
One step forward, Two steps back
Martin Seeber writes for chess tales:
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Chess Tales by Roger Coathup: A collection of online articles about chess and chess players.