Friday, 5 October 2001

Archive: UNCUT! 4

The Sean Marsh Chess Column


No. 4


Grandmaster in the North East

Local tournaments are very much on the agenda at the moment, with a busy schedule of events in which to sharpen our skills.

The Northumberland Congress recently came and went and coming up very soon there is another Hartlepool Rapidplay and the three-day Prince Bishops congress.

I was at the Northumberland congress but there were very few others from our local league participating. What a pity - the venue (The Parks Leisure Centre) was excellent, with plenty of room, superb facilities and just around 50 minutesdrive from here. The control team, with Lara Barnes at the head, must be one of the best and most experienced around.

Lara is currently one of the most important chess people in our region. Apart from being a top-class arbiter, she is also a national correspondence chesschampion, a grader and a very fine over-the-board player, never better demonstrated than when she won the South Lakes Major a few months ago. The full story of her first Major success can be found in the most recent edition of the Northumberland Chess Association bulletin.

To cut a long story short as regards my own performance at Northumberland, I played well for the first half of the tournament but lost my last two games to finish out of the prizes. Oh well, there’s always next year. Compensation wasprovided by being able to watch most of Grandmaster Keith Arkell’s games. He won the Open with 5/5 and it isalways very instructive to see him at work. Consistently strong, no - verystrong - moves with a positional grip that tightens with every turn. He is a Capablanca rather than an Alekhine, content to keep the game simple (to him!) and seek his opportunity deep into the endgame if necessary. Even his round 4 Queen sacrifice was reminiscent of one of Capablanca’s famous back-rank deflecting efforts.

Apart from his tremendous playing strength, Keith is actually a very pleasant (and modest) person. In an era overshadowed by spoiled brats who seem todominate every sport and game, it does make a very refreshing change to meet athoroughly nice champion. Between rounds on Sunday, he even made time, between two tough games, to play a lot of juniors in a simultaneous display.

More of our players should really make the effort to support this finecongress next year.

Meanwhile, I hope to see all the usual suspects at the Hartlepool and Prince Bishops events over the next few weeks. Full entry details can be found elsewhere on this site.

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