British OTB Championship, 2021, Round 9
The 9th and final round was played on 10/10/2021 starting at 10 a.m., as in round 8, rather than the 2.30 p. m. start of rounds 1 to 7.
In the Championship, in joint lead after 8 rounds, on 6 points out of 7, were Andrew Ledger of Sheffield, and Nicholas Pert, who were followed on 5½ points by Marcus Harvey and Mark Hebden.
Ledger and Pert had already met in round 7, meaning both would float down in this final round. Further, Ledger had already played both Harvey and Hebden in earlier rounds, as well as one of the 2 players on 5! So, in the final round, The top 3 pairings, with current scores in parentheses, were as follows:
Of these, in theory, any one of Nicholas Pert, Andrew Ledger, Marcus Harvey and Mark Hebden could win, depending on the results of these three games. A win for Pert or Ledger would ensure first place, though possibly sharing with each other. A draw for Pert or Ledger could even secure first or first equal, and in any event would ensure at least second or else second equal.
For Harvey or Hebden to win outright, both Pert and Ledger would need to lose, which was unlikely to happen, but if neither Pert not Ledger won, then Harvey and Hebden could come first equal with another player.
The first of the above three games to finish was Olson v Ledger, won by Olson.
With just Harvey v Pert and Arkell v Hebden still in play, Nicholas Pert needed a win in his game to win the event outright. His game reduced to R + P versus R + no pawns, and it was not enough, so a draw was agreed between Harvey and Pert, making Pert either first or first equal on 6½. If Hebden could find a win, then Pert and Hebden would both have 6½, and a play-off would ensue.
Arkell v Hebden reduced to R + B + 4P versus R + N + 4P. Black forced off minor pieces, resulting in kings advancing into the fray, with Hebden trying to win, but as with Harvey v Pert, the rook and pawn ending reduced to a draw, making Nicholas Pert British OTB Champion for 2021.
The full list of final scores is as follows:
Andrew Ledger played a Slav set-up against Olson’s Catalan-type set-up, keeping material on the board and delaying castling, all perhaps to maximise scope to play for a win. However a series of exchanges from move 13 to move 15 left a position were Black’s king’s bishop had to scurry back to f8 to defend itself and the g7-pawn, without Black having yet castled, and Black’s position was beginning to look not too brilliant. However, from such positions are brilliancies born, with some luck and much hard work. Whilst contemplating his 17th move, Black went half an hour behind on the clock. However, he came up with a pawn sacrifice (if White took it, which he did) whereafter Black could castle on the queen’s side (albeit “long-hand”), and then perhaps whip up a king’s side attack. When White played 21. Re5+, seemingly cutting off his bishop’s only escape square, things started getting exciting. After 21. … Kd6, however, it became apparent White could play 22. Bxh6 to extricate his bishop, as 22. … Qxh6 would allow 23. Qxf7+ with terminal consequences for Black. This meant White had gone two pawns up, while the Black king was still exposed on a central file, needing to conjure up a Stradivarius from somewhere. Black did manage to get trebled major pieces on the h-file, but this was only enough to finish a close second.
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Svetlana Sučikova and Robert Starley entered round 9 with scores of 4½ and 4 out of 7 respectively.
Svetlana Sučikova had Black against Danny Gormally. The opening was a Slav. White opened to centre with e4, and after pawn exchanges White had slightly the better position, and gradually White built up an assault on Black’s king. Black’s h and f-pawns fell, and it reached the stage were Black had to block a bishop check with a rook so losing the exchange, allowing White to exchange queens and enter a winning ending with two pawns and the exchange better off. So Black resigned.
Robert Starley had White against Oliver Stubbs, and played a French defence which developed along standard lines. As White pushed g and h-pawns towards Black‘s castled king, Black ganged up on White’s backward, isolated c-pawn, and backward d-pawn. White never really got going with any effective attack, and Black’s pressure proved the stronger in practice.
An interesting point to ponder is the evident disparity between advertised prizes and entry fees likely to have been collected:
Are there any significant donations or sponsorship involved? The right to reduce entry fees is reserved. Will Bob Ross make good the shortfall? Various possibilities can be imagined.
Top England players absent as participants from the event, for one reason or another, included
Matthew Sadler, however, was present as one of the commentators, and while we are giving the “credits”, it might be noted that in addition to a chief arbiter and a deputy chief arbiter, local workhorse Douglas Vleeshhouwer was serving as arbiter.