Archive 2008-2009 The Final - a Report
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The Final - a Report
Written by Brian Stephenson   

Great Britain has six titled chess solvers - three Grandmasters (John Nunn, Jonathan Mestel, Graham Lee), two International Masters (David Friedgood, Colin McNab) and one FIDE Master (Michael McDowell) and five of them competed in the Winton Capital British Chess Solving Championship (WCBCSC) at Oakham School on Saturday 14th February 2009. The absentee was GM Jonathan Mestel, who, along with GM John Nunn, are two of (I believe) only three double chess Grandmasters in the world, all of them Grandmasters for over-the-board play as well as chess solving.

(UPDATE I: Michael McDowell informs me that my wording above is rather loose and that my statement about double GMs, as written, is incorrect. He mentions France's Michel Caillaud and Serbia's Marjan Kovacevic, who are both double GMs for composition and chess solving. There are probably also otb GMs who are correspondence GMs too. I knew all that, so must apologise for the loose wording. I had intended to identify Nunn and Mestel as two of only three double GMs of a particular type combination - otb and chess solving.)

(UPDATE II: Michael McDowell has written again to say that he has discovered that Miodrag Mladenovic is also a double GM for composition and solving. The GMGM himself has also contacted me with that same information. As for titles for those actually playing chess, Tim Harding has written to confirm my belief that there are double GMs for otb and correspondence chess. Amongst those still living, he cites Lothar Schmid, Ulf Andersson, and Jonathan Penrose while indicating that there are others.)

Alongside this closed British Championship there was also an Open Championship, in which two foreign Grandmasters competed - Piotr Murdzia from Poland (the current World Chess Solving Champion) and Dolf Wissmann from the Netherlands. The recent positive additions to this event - ratings, foreign competitors and an increased prize fund - have been due in large part to the continuing, generous sponsorship of Winton Capital Management, and the British Chess Problem Society is exceedingly grateful to them.

After the first round (mates in 2) there were only six solvers on maximum points - Lee, Emmerson (a British competitor in the Open), McDowell, Friedgood, Murdzia and Nunn. This first round is so important, as not only does it carry more points than the other rounds (15 as compared to 10), but a bad first round can have a bad psychological effect on a solver for the rest of the tournament. Two surprising omissions from the above list of maximums were Wissmann, who only scored 10, and McNab, who only scored 5.

Round 2 (mates in 3) decreased the list of maximums to four, with McDowell and Emmerson dropping 5 points, both on the second #3 by German composer Dieter Kutzborski. This was unfortunate, but Dolf Wissmann had a disaster - he scored no points at all!

As it sometimes does, round 3 (endgame studies) shrunk the list of maximums down to zero. The first study, by Ukrainian composer Vladislav Tarasiuk, was relatively straightforward, but World Champion Piotr Murdzia got the move order wrong and only scored one point on it. The second study, composed by former World Chess Solving Champion Pauli Perkonoja from Finland, was much tougher and even defeated John Nunn, who scored only 2 points on it. So difficult was this round that only two solvers got maximum points - Colin McNab and Ian Watson, the former an otb Grandmaster and the latter a strong player of many years experience.

Round 4 (helpmates) can be very easy, but this year there was a very tough six-mover by Slovenian composer Marko Klasinc, which had been especially composed for a solving tournament. Only Nunn and McNab got full points on this problem, which was not solved by either Murdzia or British helpmate specialist Michael McDowell.

Round 5 (moremovers) is always tough and only the top solvers scored well in it. Also tough is the last round (self mates), which started with a tricky two-mover composed by former World Chess Solving Champion Michel Caillaud of France, on which many solvers dropped a point. The final problem was a longer selfmate that was so difficult that only Murdzia and Nunn scored any points on it at all, and they both scored the maximum for it. This was particularly important for Nunn, as his only real weakness is the long selfmates.

Winner of the British Championship 2008-2009 (his fifth title) and overall winner was John Nunn, and there were notable performances by David Friedgood and Michael McDowell, both of whom had won the title in the past. Also notable was Colin McNab, who, despite an almost disastrous first round, managed to hang on in there for third prize.

The Open Championship was won by current World Champion Piotr Murdzia (eight points behind Nunn in the overall table) while the other visiting Grandmaster languished many points behind in third place. The occupant of the second place was Stephen Emmerson, who had his best result ever. Stephen is a talented problemist and the sub-editor of the section for unorthodox chess compositions in The Problemist.

So, nobody scored the maximum for the event as a whole, and nobody got zero points. Both of these are important - it is not good if the top solvers find it too easy and it is important that solvers lower down the table are not discouraged.

Last Updated on Friday, 18 March 2016 09:44
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