Report – Imperial College Chess Congress 2011

Thanks to the hard work of John Sargent (not that John Sargent, if you are old enough to remember the tournaments at the Civil Service Recreation Centre) and his team of IC chess club enthusiasts, central London chess tournaments are back on the ECF calendar.  The last time London’s Imperial College Union hosted a weekender (‘The Kensington Congress’) was over a decade ago (!) and it was controlled by a certain A. Raoof.  Adam was honoured to be asked to officiate at this event which made him feel somewhat nostalgic.

A beautiful view down the middle of the tournament hall

The Friday afternoon before the tournament was hectic at best. The tables and chairs used for the event were rented from elsewhere and the hall was being used for Friday prayers before the tournament started, so the setting up of furniture, boards, sets, clocks, food & drink and related arbiting equipmient (otherwise known as a laptop and a printer that refused to work on the Friday until 23.30, well after the end of Round 1, when John started dancing around the room like nobody was watching [people probably wish they weren’t] as the printer finally hummed to life) took almost until the tournament started. Early arrivals saw the rushing around of organisers aplenty, but were relieved when the tournament managed to start, even with last-minute entries and undeclared byes, exactly on time at 18.30.

To those that got the reference and laughed, we salute you.

104 players turned out; 79 across the FIDE rated Open and Major, and 25 in the Minor Under 140.  They came from as far and wide as Poland, Italy, Spain just for the event, mainly because of the attraction of the event being in a central London location (look out of the playing hall and you could see the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Gardens), and because it was being internationally rated.

An overview of one half of the playing hall, featuring Imperial College Chess Club president Stephen Wood in the foreground as White.

The FIDE rating of events is fast becoming the norm, even for domestic chess tournaments.  Imperial College used a Friday night session, very sexy DGT2010 clocks (a big thanks to the English Chess Federation for loaning them to the tournament!) and an incremental time control of all moves in 1hr 30 minutes plus 30 seconds every move to ensure this.  The time control ran the risk of games going over the allotted 4 hour time slots, but in practice (and without the presence of the legend himself, Keith Arkell) only three or four games went that far.

One of the last games to complete attracted a sizable crowd to a nail-biting finish.

The one catch of the lovely venue was the periodic audio-related disturbances due to being right next to the Royal Albert Hall and underneath the Imperial College Union gym / studio. Throughout the weekend, we had interesting disturbances that ranged from the Jazz Dance society to the (what John called the) Arhythmmic-No-Beat-Whatsoever-Random-Drumming Society with a bit of Kendo, Tae Kwon Do and reversing coaches outside the Royal Albert Hall liberally chucked into the mix. John was busy running around like a madman to stop the noises he could control, such as the alarm sounding at the back door and after tolerating for a while, a brief visit to the Arhythmmic-No-Beat-Whatsoever-Random-Drumming society.

The tournament was also known for the good-humoured signs dotted around the place, not all of which were put up by John, believe it or not! The concession stand had a price list under which a notice encouraging bartering and haggling was put over the weekend (We hear that an anonymous IM managed to haggle a Kit Kat down to 35p), there was a sign suggesting that abuse of tournament staff would not be tolerated / encouraged / reciprocated, although the most enthusiastic effort possibly has to go to John for his relief at getting the pairings/results posted online after the end of Round 3.

Finally getting Swiss Master and the Union web servers to like each other!

Insert caption competition here.

The only periodic noise which the players seemed to welcome was the occasional kettle-like hum of the Water Urn we brought to the event to provide tea and coffee for all players that required a bit of a caffeine hit – and I’m proud to say it was a success! In addition, the Sunday was punctuated towards the end of the tournament by gospel singing in the hall opposite which I must say was actually pretty good! Despite everything though, everyone appeared to enjoy the event, and some players even made a point of saying so. And for that we are encouraged and thank you!

IM Thomas Rendle was the top seed and eventually finished equal 1st

The tournament was immortalised by the superb photography of Ray Morris-Hill who visited only too briefly in between assignments (click here for the set of photos he took during the tournament). All of a sudden John’s photography skills felt woefully inadequate, but he soldiered on to try and nick a few good shots anyway. 😉

FM Miguel Navarro-Cia, Imperial College’s top rated player, posing to model his newly purchased watch – at least that’s what it looks like!

As a surprise, grading prizes were announced on the Sunday of a free Simon Williams “Killer” series DVD for the best U2150 / U1850 / U125 in all of the three sections (tie-break: Lowest graded player on the winning score). The DVDs, coming from someone who has watched several, are excellent by the way! ECF president CJ de Mooi also happened to be in London and offered to drop in to hand out prizes for the tournament to a handful of faithful that were remaining by the time prizegiving came around! Many thanks to CJ for offering his time and well done to all the prizewinners.

Artur Dybowski accepting his grading prize of a Simon Williams DVD from ECF president CJ de Mooi

Jamie Hookham was Imperial College’s 3rd seed and surprise package of the tournament, finishing joint first in the Open with a FIDE of 2007 – well done!

We would like to thank Imperial College Union for the space to host the tournament, the English Chess Federation for helping us with the loan of equipment and clocks, as well as to all the players who made the first congress held at IC for nearly two decades a resounding success. We hope you all enjoyed yourselves and look forward to seeing you again at some point soon!

Event report by Adam Raoof and John Sargent. Photos by Ray Morris-Hill and John Sargent

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