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The Gazette - November 2018

Sponsored by Geoff Patching
Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

From Sofa to Sofia - IBCA World Team Championship 2018

Paul Benson writes:

It has been 22 years since I've competed in an IBCA event, there have been a few changes since then. Your Gazette Editor thought a pre-millennium perspective on post-millennium chess might be of interest, so here goes. The IBCA World Team Championship took place in Sofia (Bulgaria) from July 20 - July 31 2018. Following modern trends, your reporter suggests all relevant information can be found by a quick Google search on a few key words. Hey, technological advances haven't half made report-writing easier, if only playing chess had been made equally simpler.

Hang on there, just had a go at a few sites and there are a lot of details missing. Looks like the old-fashioned article is dramatically better than stabbing around on this new-fangled webby-thingy.

The hard work done in Ohrid (Macedonia) in June 2017 yielded an invitation to compete in the IBCA 2018 World Team Championship. The Great Britain team of Chris Ross, Steve Hilton, Paul Benson, Bill Armstrong (Captain) and Graham Pennington was to be supported by coaches Neil Macdonald and Chris Beaumont, with Pat Armstrong and Kathleen Pennington offering vital off-the-board guidance. Travel delays are just out there waiting to pounce on the unwary. Steve found himself delivered to the wrong Premier Inn for the overnight stop, while Bill, Pat, Graham, Kathleen, had their Manchester to London flight held up by a fire at Ringway airport. Eventually the complete squad met up for their last meal on home soil at about 21:00. Thoughts of having to cope with foreign food for almost a fortnight led to some last chance stocking up with Anglo-cuisine of kofta, pizza, curry and Mediterranean salad. Though we were not to know, a restricted and repetitive diet was not to be on the agenda.

The Hotel Marinela is a large complex on the outskirts of Sofia. Much of the Great Britain squad were billeted on the 17th floor, though for some reason others were to be found on lower floors. Despite this lofty location the call of peacocks from a nearby garden could still be heard. All meals were buffet style, breakfast a mix of cooked and continental, lunch and dinner offering cooked meats or fish in sauces with side-salad vegetables to be followed with fruit salad or cakes. Poor chess could not be blamed on either poor cuisine or small portions.

The tournament was split into two groups of eight teams of roughly equal strength using finishing places from the 2017 Macedonia Olympiad. Great Britain finished in 13th place back there, the opposition here in 2018 was going to be tough.

Here are the Great Britain match results in Group A, the first mentioned team having white on the odd boards:

Great Britain 1 - 3 Serbia.

Macedonia 2.5 - 1.5 Great Britain.

Great Britain 1 - 3 Germany.

Great Britain 3.5 - 0.5 Bulgaria II.

Turkey 1 - 3 Great Britain.

Great Britain 1 - 3 Venezuela.

Russia 4 - 0 Great Britain.

Final Group A Table with match points and board points:

1. Russia, 13, 25.

2. Germany, 11, 18.5.

3. Serbia, 8, 16.

4. Venezuela, 8, 12.

5. Turkey, 6, 12.5.

6. Macedonia, 5, 12.

7. Great Britain, 4, 11.

8. Bulgaria II, 1, 5.

Final Group B Table with match points and board points:

1. Poland, 14, 23.

2. Ukraine, 12, 20.

3. India, 8, 16.

4. Romania, 7, 14.

5. Bulgaria I, 6, 11.5.

6. Spain, 5, 12.

7. Slovenia, 4, 11.

8. Italy, 0, 4.5.

To determine the final places each group was cut into four sections of two teams in order to arrange cross-group semi-finals. In the top section the 1st place of Group A played 2nd place of Group B and the 1st place of Group B played 2nd place of Group A, the winners of these semi-finals then played for overall 1st and 2nd place, the losers played for overall 3rd and 4th place. This pattern was repeated for the remaining three sections, Great Britain being in the 4th section were therefore competing for 13th - 16th place.

The final places were:

1. Russia, 2. Poland, 3. Ukraine, 4. Germany, 5. Serbia, 6. Venezuela, 7. Romania, 8. India, 9. Spain,

10. Macedonia, 11. Bulgaria I, 12. Turkey, 13. Great Britain, 14. Bulgaria II, 15. Slovenia, 16. Italy.

Personal Great Britain scores in board order:

Ross 6.5-9, Hilton 2-8, Benson 5-9, Armstrong 2.5-6, Pennington 1-4.

The bare statistics can never tell the whole story. As the tournament proceeded a regular routine soon established itself. The posting of teams for that day generally happened about 10:00. which spurred the coaches into action. Depending on selection, Neil set to work with Chris R. and Steve while Chris B. visited myself, Bill or Graham. How to prepare was down to the individual concerned. The repertoire of the opponent needs careful examination to avoid being ambushed with a dangerous offbeat line. Sometimes one targets a specific variation of the opponent, other times one focuses only on strengthening play in one's chosen system. There is also the possibility of the opponent changing their usual opening selection in order to try and catch one out on your "home ground". Such a disaster landed on me against Russia as my opponent cleverly shuffled his repertoire to drag me screaming into a very tricky system. The irony in that game is that the dangers of the gambit were extensively explored by me in several Skype coaching sessions a while back, and despite having all the study material still in mind, the tweaked move order caught me out. Almost all of the games from the event can be found in the BCA web site archive, though be aware that some games are cut short, the result is correct but moves are missing.

The team managed to collect three awards during the closing ceremony. Chris received a bronze medal and trophy for his 6.5-9 points on board 1, an excellent performance. There were also a couple of curious "Fair Play" awards given to both Graham and myself.

Anyone who has played team chess knows full well about that nagging "what if" post-game guilt which can infect those who feel they have missed opportunities. Such personal retrospective speculation gains nothing. However it should be noted that certain events elsewhere beyond our control seemed to have influenced our final position. Favouring us was the non-attendance of Lithuania and Azerbaijan resulting in potentially weaker teams Turkey and Bulgaria II being invited, both of these substitutes appeared in our qualifying group. Working against us was the late arrival of Venezuela resulting in Turkey gaining a 4-0 default victory in the 1st round. Had this match been played it is likely that Venezuela would have won meaning we would have finished above Turkey. But then again, can anyone claim the remaining rounds would have been exactly the same had that 1st round match gone that way? There was also a 7th round pre-match agreement to play out four quick draws between neighbours Serbia and Macedonia which virtually guaranteed that Macedonia would finish above us. Had this match been fiercely fought with Serbia scoring well we could have been competing for 9th - 12th place. Having observed these points, a realist should respond by suggesting we held our own future in our hands during the qualifying group, this is true. We all fought hard, rest assured that lack of favourable results was not due to lack of effort.

Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Pat Armstrong for the photos of the event that she sent to me for the BCA Facebook page. The online response was very favourable! If any readers take photos of our members (with their permission, of course) at any chess event and would like to send the pictures to me I would be glad to receive them. Thanks in advance!