European Team Championship 2016

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European Team Championship, Warsaw,  July  23rd  to August 2nd  2016

 

Five players,  (Steve Hilton, Bill Armstrong, Les Whittle, Phil Gordon and Guy Whitehouse) accompanied by guide (Moira Whittle) and two coaches (International Master Chris Beaumont  and Owen Phillips) represented the BCA in the first ever European Team Championship. This is a report from the team captain, Bill Armstrong.

 

Because in several non European countries the funding of the Paralympics and blind chess come from the same scarce resources, the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) decided that our major international team competition should cease to clash with the athletic events for blind competitors. In response to a wish for a European chess event in the Olympics year, the IBCA floated the idea in 2015 of holding an international team competition restricted to European entries. Poland offered to host this in 2016 and the British BCA which has always been at the forefront of such initiatives was keen to support the new venture. However the short time in which we had to arrange the team meant that several of our strongest players could not participate for a variety of reasons.  Hence Steve Hilton and Bill Armstrong were faced with playing on the top two boards against some of the strongest blind players in Europe. Similarly on the lower boards our team lacked international experience. It was a daunting challenge and Bill scoring 2.5 from 8 games  turned out to be the best performer in the face of powerful opposition. Our board three had the further problem that having caught his right hand in a taxi door he played with a heavily bandaged hand – an obvious disadvantage for a player relying on touch to check his position.

But we battled on. As our reserve Guy Whitehouse remarked  after a hard struggle “At least we are here and supporting an IBCA effort to create a new event.” In the opening ceremony the IBCA President, Ludwig Beutelhoff, noted how this new venture (attracting 13 entries) compared favourably with the first running of other IBCA contests which have grown to be major parts of the IBCA calendar. That must be our main consolation for coming last with only one victory from eight matches.  Our opponents included three of the stronger teams, Lithuania, Germany and the Russian team with an average ELO of 2320. ( outgrading us by over 500 points on each board).

Despite the array of talent, the Russians managed only third place coming behind a Polish team who had a grandmaster, Marcin Tazbir, leading a team which won all nine matches and a Ukrainian side who really enjoyed finishing just above their Russian neighbours on tie break.  Their celebration included a rousing Ukrainian song at the final dinner.

Total match point scores (in tie break order) Poland A 18, Ukraine 14, Russia 14, Spain 13, Germany 9, Lithuania 9, Bulgaria 7, Poland B 7, Turkey 7, Croatia 6, France 5, Netherlands 5 and UK 3.

What did the British side gain from taking part? We enjoyed the friendliness of our Polish hosts and renewed or started friendly contacts with blind players from other countries. We were glad we had helped the BCA support a new event.  We learned some useful techniques from our coaches, Chris Beaumont and Owen Phillips. We proved that against less formidable opposition our BCA team was capable of gaining results. We could have drawn with Croatia, should have beaten the French team but for the misfortunes referred to earlier and did beat the Netherlands. 

 

I offer three games from the Netherlands  match as evidence of our continued fighting spirit in the face of a series of defeats.  With no modesty whatsoever I recommend you look at my game. The purists won’t like it. The sacrifice is probably unsound. But over the board it worked and it was exciting to play.

Round 7 UK v Netherlands

Board Two

White Sergio Harnandan

Black Bill Armstrong

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nc3 O-O 6. Be3 c5 7. d5 e6 8. Qd2 exd5  9. cxd5 a6 10. a4 Nbd7 11. Be2 (Ne2 is better) Ne5 12. h3 Nh5 13. Bf2 Qf6 14. g3

(Here Black must retreat or find a response to white’s likely f4. Why not sacrifice a piece?)

14….g5 15. f4 gxf4  16. Bxh5 fxg3 17. Bxg3 Nc4 (the point of the sacrifice) 18. Qf4 (if White had played 18 Qc2 Nxb2 19 Qxb2 Qxc3+ is winning for Black.)18 for Black Qxf4  19. Bxf4 Nxb2 20. Kd2 (I was much more worried about Bd2 when Black has less obvious lines of attack)  f5 21. Be2 fxe4 22. Bxd6 Rf2 23. Bxc5 Nc4+ 24. Kc2 e3 (If now 25. Kd3 then b5 26 axb5 Bf5+ 27. Kxc4 axb5+ winning the Rook on a1)

Hernandan chose 25. Rf1 Bf5+ 26. Kc1 Bxc3 27. Rxf2 Bd2+ Resigns as mate is imminent. 27 Bxc4 also loses Bb2+ 28 Kd1 Bc2+ 29 Ke1 Bc3 mate. Chris Ross described white as safe and liked white’s chances after 26. Kd1 rather than Kc1. I much prefer Black’s attack in that position. After 26 Kd1 Nb2+ 27 Kc1 Bxc3 Black has Rc8 and Be4 as powerful weapons against a white formation with poor development and a king that is far from being “safe”. 

Board three

White Les Whittle

Black Louis Van Duuren

1. b3 d5 2. Bb2 Nf6 3. g3 Nc6 4. Nf3 e6 5. e3 Bd6 6. d3 O-O 7. Bg2 e5 8. O-O Re8 9. Nbd2 Bg4 10. h3 Be6 11. Qe2 h6 12. Rad1 Qc8 13. Kh2 Bf5 14. Ng1 Nb4 15. e4 Bh7 16. c3 dxe4 17. cxb4 exd3 18. Qe3 Bxb4 19. Ne4 Nd5 20. Qxd3 c6 21. Qe2 Qe6 22. Nd2 Nc3 23. Bxc3 Bxc3 24. Qc4 Bd4 25. Qxe6 Rxe6 26. Ngf3 Bd3 27. Nxd4 exd4 28. Rfe1 Be2 29. Rc1 g5 30. Bf3 d3 31. Bxe2 dxe2 32. Rc2 Rd8 33. Nf3 Rd3 34. Kg2 Rf6 35. Ne5 Rd1 36. Rcxe2 Rfd6 37. Rxd1 Rxd1 38. Ng4 Kg7 39. Ne3 Rd7 40. Kf3 Kg6 41. Nc4 Rc7 42. Rd2 b5 43. Rd6+ Kg7 44. Ne5 c5 45. Rd7 Rxd7 46. Nxd7 c4 47. bxc4 bxc4 48. Ke3 Kg6 49. Kd4 Kf5 50. Ne5 c3 51. Nc4 g4 52. h4 f6 53. Ne3+ Ke6 54. Kxc3 h5 55. a4 f5 56. Kd4 a6 57. a5 and Black resigns. A good solid performance after a week of problems for Les and Moira.

Board Four

White Alaettin Gundogmus

Black Guy Whitehouse

1. d4 g6 2. c4 Bg7 3. Nc3 c5 4. d5 Bxc3+ 5. bxc3 Qa5 6. Bd2 f5 7. Nf3 Nf6 8. Qb3 a6 9. a4 d6 10. Rb1 Ne4 11. e3 Nd7 12. Bd3 Ndf6 13. O-O O-O 14. Rfc1 Rb8 15. Qb6 Qxb6 16. Rxb6 Bd7 17. Bc2 e6 18. Bb3 exd5 19. cxd5 Be8 20. c4 Nd7 21. a5 Nxb6 22. axb6 Nxd2 23. Nxd2 Ra8 24. e4 Bd7 25. f3 a5 26. Rb1 Ra6 27. Bc2 a4 28. exf5  1/2-1/2 giving us a match win of 2.5 to 1.5

 

Now to complete the coverage of our players, games from Steve and Phil.

 

White Olivier Deville (France)

Black Steve Hilton

1. c4 f5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. d4 d6 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Na5 9. Nd2 c5 10. Rb1 e5 11. dxe6 Bxe6 12. Nd5 Nc6 13. Nxf6+ Bxf6 14. b3 Qc7 15. Qc2 Rae8 16. Bb2 Nd4 17. Qd1 Qg7 18. e3 Ne2+ 19. Qxe2 Bxb2 20. Nf3 Bf6 21. Rfd1 Rd8 22. Ne1 g5 23. Bd5 Rfe8 24. Qf3 Be5 25. Qxf5 Bxd5 26. Rxd5 Rf8 27. Qg4 Qg6 28. Rbd1 h5 29. Qe2 g4 30. Nd3 Bf6 31. Nf4 Qh6 32. Qd3 Kg7 33. Ng2 Qg6 34.

Nf4 Qh6 35. Ng2 Qg6 36. Nf4 1/2-1/2 Steve tried hard to gain the whole point but was unable to find the correct plan. I expect most readers will know the feeling.

White Phil Gordon

Black Novica Drazetic (Croatia)

1. Nf3 d5 2. b3 e5 (suspecting a deep trap, Phil decided against the natural and safe 3 Nxe5)3.d3 Nc6 4. Bb2 d4 5.Nbd2 Nf6 6. g3 Be6 7. Bg2 Nd5 8. 0-0 g6 9. e4 dxe3 10. Nc4 exf2+ 11. Rxf2 Bc5 12. d4 exd4 13. Nxd4 Nxd4 14. Bxd4 Bxd4 15.Qxd4 0-0 16.Rd1 c6 17 Rfd2 Qg5 18 Rd3 Qe7 19 Qe5 Qe7 20 Bxd5 Qc5+ 21 g4 Rd7 and Phil accepted a draw in a situation where his winning chances were good but his self confidence had been shaken by earlier rounds.

 

On our day with the bye, we visited the interesting old town area of Warsaw and enjoyed an excellent restaurant meal while unfortunately Les Whittle was exploring the Polish Health Service after his hand was caught in a taxi door. Warsaw is a very widely spread town so that this outing from our somewhat isolated venue was our only contact with places of interest. Looking back, I enjoyed our Polish venture and I can say that captaining the BCA team was a privilege and a pleasure. My thanks to all those in the group who helped me in this task.

Bill Armstrong.

 


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