2019 Nottingham Congress

The congress took place at the high school again and had a turnout of 164. More of this later. The playing venue is very pleasant and this year the controllers tried out the Swiss Manager pairing system for the first time, and introduced increments for all 4 sections. Overall this worked very well.

8 Gambiteers played (and John Swain was a controller). Their scores were:
Open: Peter Mercs 3.0
Major: John Huthwaite 3.5, Steve Hunter 3.0, Peter Gorecka-Marshall & Drag Sudar 2.5
Inter: Mick Harper 3.5
Minor: Maggie Gretton & Graham Gibson 3.0

Pete M had the pleasure of playing top seed, grand master Oleg Korneev, in the first round and regarded it as a free lesson. Although he lost he clearly learnt something as he went on to get a tournament performance rating (TPR) of 208.

Steve had a frustrating weekend with 4 draws just one win. In two of the games he did look as if he could break through but it wasn’t to be.

Pete GM had a very lucky win in round 1 when his opponent turned down a draw offer only to walk into a mate a move or two later. He then beat another 150 player before losing to the eventual winner of the section. On Sunday he drew and lost to two 150s and had a very good TPR of 158.

John Huthwaite was unbeaten all weekend, winning 2 and drawing 3. He drew with Steve in round 1 (the organisers didn’t set the ‘same club’ flag in Swiss Manager but it was the first time that they had used the software). In the final round, in typical counter-attacking style, he punished Drag’s errors, although he did miss a mate in 3 at the end.

Drag began well with a draw and two wins. He’ll probably try to claim the beers on Saturday night affected him on Sunday but the hangover had gone before the start of round 4 in which he messed up badly. Then he threw away a very good position v John.

Graham missed a chance to finish joint 2nd after losing in the final round.

Swiss Manager threw up some interesting pairings. In the Major section in round 4, there was one player on 3 points and 6 players on 2.5. Drag was the highest graded of those on 6 yet was given a down float to play someone on 2 points. That does not appear to be right.

Ungraded players won the Major section and the Minor section. The Major winner had no ECF or FIDE grading history. He joined WB recently and after some friendlies was given a league match grade of 100. Clearly he was much better than that!

It can be difficult to assess how good an ungraded player is. We’ve got it wrong twice at Gambit. When Mike Naylor joined us he had no grading history. After friendlies we guessed 135 or so. His first grade turned out to be 159. When Tom joined us he had a 4 year old grade of 154F, based on a handful of games. We gave him a match grade of 147 but soon realised we were way off after he beat John Swain in Gambit 1 v Gambit 2, and his new grade turned out to be 192.

The Minor winner was in the low 140s 20 years ago (high 150s in ‘new money’). Without knowing what grading history he provided, or the organiser’s reasoning, it’s difficult to say whether it was right for him to be in the Minor section; based purely on his grading history he arguably should have been in the Major section.

Maybe the entry form should state that ungraded players with no recent playing history (i.e. no way of assigning a reasonably accurate estimate) will not be eligible to win any of the major prizes but may be awarded a lesser prize if they do well, as we don’t want to discourage them altogether, yet we have to be fair to the graded players.

In 2017 a local player kindly donated a sum of money to increase the 1st prize in the Open section to £650 in the hope it would attract more titled players. Although it didn’t do so, last year 2 grand masters and 2 international masters entered. Last July, the Notts AGM decided, amid some opposition, to increase the first prize to £1k. Yet only 2 grand masters and 2 international masters entered this time. Alam Merry (IM) won the £1k but 3 other titled players, Oleg Korneev (GM), Mark Hebden (GM) and Jonah Willow (FM) had to share the 2nd prize (£250) & the 3rd prize (£100). There is a view that more titled players might play if it was FIDE rated. Financially the experiment backfired as we needed about 15 extra entries to cover the extra £350, but the entry was similar to previous years.

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