To continue last week's theme of how exhausting chess can be, I'm still recovering from the weekend's instalment of the national league (4NCL). This is my ninth season of participating at the highest level that the UK has to offer. Not necessarily always at the peak in terms of quality, but certainly in terms of experience, prestige and playing conditions. The eleven rounds occur over five weekends from November to May - this was Rounds 3 and 4.
Games at the 4NCL can last up to seven hours. Four is the norm. And people complain about American Football. Alright, so each player gets to utilise their allotted thinking time however they choose. There are no restrictions on bathroom and cigarette breaks, consuming food or drink, checking Soccer Saturday or having a chat with a friend. However, don't underestimate the physical exertion that such an extended mental effort involves. Think of a university exam or the inner turmoil before an important doctor's appointment. Think of a job interview or that missed opportunity with someone you care about. Anger. Pride. Fear. Regret. Joy. Wrath, even. These are all emotions that can occur during the emotional rollercoaster that is a single game of chess.
I vividly remember playing English Grandmaster Tony Kosten at the 2007 British Championship. I was 18 years old and having the tournament of my life. I was bottom seed but mixing it with the big boys, my moves being broadcast to the world via live relay. The pressure was enormous. And the game kept going. And going. Until after six hours I had an opportunity to force a draw. And I missed it. 53 minutes later I'd resigned and we were sitting there with conflicting emotions. I was shattered, he was clearly relieved. He said two words. "Tough, eh?"
The Barcelo Hinckley Island hotel hosted last weekend's 4NCL festivities. To be frank, it's a pain to get to without a car, but it's worth it. One player who particularly impressed was Aylesbury's William Claridge-Hansen, fresh from his success at the London Under 14 Championship. On Sunday he played Daniel Lindner, a strong London player, on board 1 in the AMCA Cheetahs - Metropolitan fixture. In the final position, given above, William - playing white - is correct to realise that black's b pawn is due to drop off. A possible continuation, had a draw not been agreed, would be 40... b5 41. Rcc7 Rf8. With the black rook tied to the defence of the f pawn, white's rooks are free to mop up the b pawn. Here's the game in full: 1. c4 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. Nc3 Nb6 6. Nf3 Bg7 7. O-O Nc6 8. d3 O-O 9. Be3 e5 10. Ne4 Nd5 11. Bc5 Re8 12. Qb3 b6 13. Ba3 Na5 14. Qc2 c5 15.Nfd2 Be6 16. Nc4 Nb7 17. Nc3 h6 18. Rac1 Qd7 19. b3 Rad8 20. Nxd5 Bxd5 21. Bxd5 Qxd5 22. Bb2 h5 23. Ne3 Qd7 24. Qc4 Bh6 25. Qh4 Na5 26. b4 cxb4 27. Qxb4 Nc6 28. Qe1 Nd4 29. Rc4 Qe6 30. a4 Rd7 31. Nc2 Nxc2 32. Rxc2 Qb3 33. Qc3 Qxa4 34. Ra1 Qb5 35. Qc6 Qxc6 36. Rxc6 Bg7 37. Kg2 e4 38. d4 Bxd4 39. Bxd4 Rxd4 40. Rxa7 Draw agreed