Apr 27, 2024

The Magnificent Seven. Aleksandar Juhasz reports from the St Albans Chess Congress 2024

At the St Albans Chess Congress 2024, seven players entered from the Luton Chess Club. I am delighted to share my journey from my debut Chess Congress below. Whilst not my first tournament, this one felt special.

The chess congress was split into sectons according the players strength: Open, Challengers, Major, Intermediate and Minor. With a personal rating of 1600 in March, I was just about able to squeeze into the Minor section. This allowed me to compete and test my skills against players of a similar calibre. It was a challenge I was eagerly awaitig with excitement, motivation and hunger to win.  

The Venue.The event was perfectly organised, from the parking lot to the kitchen to the playing area. The car park had plenty of spaces within the College premises sparing the players the ordeal of hunting for car parking spaces nearby.  The kitchen was rich in culinary offerings, with breakfast served in the mornings, followed by hot food in the afternoons, drinks, snacks & sandwiches available throughout the day - all energy fuel necessary for the games to follow. Shout-out to the host and the staff  who were friendly and very helpful, enhancing the overall experience. 

The playing area was spacious, though I found the tables a little cramped, which was perhaps understandable with so many players. At the start, a warm welcome from the arbiters who spelled out the rules and warned us with the consequences for breaking them as they must. They did their job with authority but fairly. 

The congress from my experience: For myself and and reflecting on my performance I am calling it a success. I finished at 17th place in my category with 3 points from 5 rounds. Not too bad. I am justifying it with the lack of experience, but on the other hand, my starting ranking position 2 perhaps gave me optimism for a better outcome. Every game was mentally and physically draining. Although I played against opponents lower rated than me, I didn't feel this difference during the games. Maybe because of the intensity of the competition where everyone was bringing their best.  Maybe because  I played against a junior whose skills did not match the true rating. Maybe because my 4 other games were against veterans who all used to be better rated in the past, and it's all about the experience, right?  But no excuses. People who know me know that I frequently moan about missed winning positions! I also have been jokingly called, "The Master Of The Sacrifice",  although there hasn't been much recent practical evidence to support this nickname, and I didn't make any sacrifices in my 5 games here. So continuing with my customary post match regrets,  there were some missed opportunities, especially in my only loss where I let victory slip through my fingers. dropping the absolutely dominant position on the board. But I have to be honest and admit that luck played a role in some difficult moments. Just half-point more would have made such a difference. Nevertheless, the experience gained from this chess congress was invaluable and will undoubtedly help me overcome some of my weaknesses.

The congress of the rest of the Luton chess club players: Big ups to the Luton crew with seven of us representing our club. 

Well done to Sergiu Pop in the Minor section who, despite some tough pairings, achieved some great results in Congress and altogether in his debut overboard season. He was disappointment at being matched against 1500+ opponents in four out of five rounds but still finished a respectable 1.5/5. His excellent win in round 1 is available to view on the link below.

I'd like to highlight the participation of two Luton juniors, also playing in the Minor section, Arthur Green and Nilesh Meethele Madathil, who despite having only a few played overboard rated games previously, demonstrated their potential by both winning in round 1 and Arthur winning again in round 4. Arthur finished 2/5 and Nilesh on 1.5/5. They are proving to become the future stars of the Luton chess club. 

The experienced Des Welton had a slow start and saved his best for the second day, winning both his games in the Minor section and ended on 2/5.

Long standing team member Marek Gladysz was in the higher rated Major section and an excellent 2 wins and a draw to end on an impressive 2.5/5.

Finally, Luton's top player Tommy O'Brien naturally played against the toughest opposition of the seven of us in the Challengers section. Tommy hadn't played in a tournament in decades and still got a draw and stunning win in the final round to end 1.5/5. His game is absolute beauty and is available to view on the link below.

The congress of others: Not too much regarding other games and winners from my side aside from what can be found online. Worth mentioning that after four rounds, the leader of the Minor group was an eight-year-old girl who stood out with 4/4 wins. She won the sympathy of all participants, after she lost in the final round ultimately finishing in 8th place, but she is undeniably an exceptional talent and the future of English chess. The final Minors was exactly how this competition deserved, board 3 kept playing  15 minutes longer than all other games culminating with a complicated endgame where King+Queen+Pawn couldn't find a solution to break the strong King+2 Bishops wall. The players agreed to draw, thereby excluding themselves from the winning stand. Straight after the game, my favourite moment was the analysis and debate over the board, where the two players, the few of us remaining spectators, and arbiter Adrian Elwin were engaged to find a winning formula for the stronger (Queen+pawn) side.

For the end, see you again next year St Albans, I will definitely come back! Alexandar Juhasz, April 2024.

St Albans Chess Congress Round 1: Sergiu Pop

St Albans Chess Congress Round 5: Tommy O'Brien

St Albans Chess Congress: Results

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