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The 2010 Leek Chess Congress took place at Westwood College this weekend. There were three sections, with many, though not all, the usual suspects in evidence. Just over 100 players entered, but no-shows reduced the overall field to 98.

An open section was reintroduced this year, which helped boost the entry, but with a grade limit of 220 the title is a (slight) misnomer. The players in this section were seeded according to their FIDE grades, which are calculated on an Elo basis. Not of course that every entrant has a FIDE grade, so presumably in some cases conversions from ECF were necessary. I confess I've never understood the fixation with E-numbers - here it means that many players were seeded by ignoring the results of any of their games which were not FIDE rated, quite possibly a majority in the case of some players. For example the relative seedings of Alex Richardson (2104, 182 ECF) and Pat Bennett (2050, 190 ECF) are the reverse on a FIDE basis to those on an ECF basis, though it has to be admitted that grading difference in each case is small. On the other hand the significant 23 ECF grading point difference between the Armstrongs Bill and Malcolm shrink to an almost irrelevant 17 points in FIDE terms.

Fischer timings were introduced this year, with 10 second increments. Consequently there could be no draw claims under rule 10.2. This of course necessitated digital clocks on all boards, and did away with the ever present suspicion with analogues that one clock is running faster than the other.

As I was playing myself I was unable to tell whether the use of these timings made any real difference to play - if someone took an unusually large amount of time over their first 30 or some moves and relied on increments for the rest of their game it happened without me seeing it. I did observe a couple of things though.

In one game a player made a move that failed to get them out of check, and pressed their clock. Their opponent immediately replaced the piece and pressed the clock, pointing out the illegal move. Each player now had an extra 10 seconds. Yes, the arbiter could (should?) have been called in to readjust the clocks and award the non-offender an extra 2 minutes for the illegal move, but presumably this would have had the side effect of giving players even more extra thinking time than the 10 seconds they acquired.

In another game a player appeared to be making heavy weather of a standard won R+P v R ending. With a quickplay finish the defender might have started to fancy his chances of escaping with a draw, with increments the player with the superior forces could learn on the job to find the win. This reinforces my believe that people who start shouting "he's making no progress" in support of their 10.2 claim are missing the important point that discovering the winning line by experimentation is a part of normal chess.

Back to the events.

25 players turned up for the Alton Towers Section which was open to players graded below 220, with Mike Surtees (Bolton) and Martin Brown (Grappenhall) sharing first place with 4/5, a half point clear of Ian Thompson (Crowthorne), Ryszard Maciol (West Bromwich), Michael Rabbitte (Heywood), Harry Russell (Louth), and Paul Dargan (Tynemouth). Harry also won the slow starter prize.Best placed North staffs players were Robert Shaw, Alex Richardson and Patrick Bennett, all on 2½.

24 competed in the A H Brookes section (U190), won by Kevin Dally (Derbyshire) whose estimated grade of 136 made him nominally the bottom seed. On 4 points, ½ behind the winner, came David Buxton (Cheddleton) with John Yee (Cheddleton) third on 3½. After defeats in the first two rounds your reporter sprinted through to 3 points to claim the slow starter prize.

In the Westwood College section 23 players graded from 111 to 132 did battle, with Nathan Atkins (Spondon) dropping just half a point in securing victory ahead of Roger Walker and Ronald Harrison (both Belper). Peter Brace (Spondon) won the slow starter prize. Perhaps this should have been the Derbyshire section. Roger also plays for Cheddleton, otherwise the leading North Staffs players would have been Ian Chester (Holmes Chapel), Paul Clapham (Newcastle) and Karol Grzybowski (Cheddleton).

The Leek United Building Society section catered for a further 26 players. An outsider might think that some of the pairings were unfair with ages ranging from single digits into the eighties, but this of course is part of the beauty of our game. Brian Slater (Bolton) took the honours, his score of 4½ leaving him ½ point clear of Steve Szwajkun (Newport, Salop), with Louise Brace (Spondon), Richard Szwajkun (Newport), Colin Mace (Wellington, Salop), Stuart Wood (Boldmere St Michaels) and Jacob Boswell (Cheddleton) a further ½ point back. Jacob won the slow starter prize, and was also the leading Noth Staffs player in this section.

Spondon won the team prize.

As usual there was a range of refreshments available and a bookstall for those needing to update their libraries.

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