By Rik Thomas Home
Paul McKeown the Middlesex county team captain, was roped into the side as our
'wild card' when Conor O'Default slept in on the Saturday and missed the train (Paul was
in Birmingham purely to recruit players for the next county match and was not planning to
play for anybody!). Paul was thrown in as a reserve on board four on the Saturday an hour
down on the clock and hugely outgraded. He then proceeded to drink copiously during the
game and thrashed his young opponent senseless, thereby earning us the draw!
On the Sunday, however, when Paul was again roped in as a sub for the flu-strick
Alistair Compton (who lost his Saturday game and then went home), disaster struck.
Although Conor (who had turned up by now) and I won, losses for Alex (our chick on board
eight), Colin Mackenzie and Rick McMichael and draws for Arnaud and Andy Gilfillan meant
that another win for Paul (now playing on board seven) would enable us to scrape home with
another drawn match. With no deficit on either the clock or the grading list and drinking
only coffee throughout, Paul proceeded to play another blinder, constructing a positional
masterpiece that, after four hours play, had his opponent virtually zugzwanged. Then,
however, the air was rent by possibly the loudest cry of 'OH FUCK' ever heard at at
British chess tournament. What had happened was that Paul simply put a knight en prie,
realised after a few seconds what he had done, screamed some choice obscenities and then
immediately resigned, thereby losing us the match 3-5.
It subsequently turned out that Paul's blunder had been so bizarre that, in the few
seconds he had had to consider his reply, his opponent hadn't even seen that the knight
could be taken (although he would presumably have done so before he made his move).
Furthermore, analysis in the pub revealed that Paul's position had been so good that, even
a knight down, he could have still made life quite hard for his opponent and maybe even
salvaged a draw. Oh bugger.
And that was the low point of the weekend. Just to round up the rest of the
performances: Conor turned up a day late and then won easily; Andy Gilfillan won easily on
the Saturday and then drew on the Sunday despite blundering a piece at one stage. Colin
drew one and lost one and Alex won one and lost one. We went to the usual ('cos it's very
good) curry house on the Saturday night and the service at the hotel where we play and
stay just gets worse and worse. At about 6pm on the Saturday evening, just when most games
are coming to an end and the players adjourning to the bar, there was a grand total of one
member of staff attending said bar. When greeted by upwards of 50 thirsty chess players he
soon became hysterical and then we became hysterical and things threatened to turn ugly
until I remembered that there was a bar of sorts in the cafe/restaurant upstairs where we
eat breakfast. So I took the team's orders, trooped upstairs and found a bar deserted
except for two (!) rather under-utilised members of staff. I bought the drinks and then
ferried them downstairs to the main bar where the team and the footie results awaited. As
soon as they saw what I had done there was a bit of a stampede by other chess players to
the upstairs bar - just at the time when the hotel's management turned up with help for
the main bar!! I tell you, that place makes Fawlty Towers look good.