Friday, 10 August 2007
Traffic Jam in Great Yarmouth
As the last round of the British Championship starts this afternoon, eight players still have realistic chances of becoming the champion. However, this afternoon's round may not be decisive in its own right. The only way we can have an outright champion now is if either Aagaard or Gordon wins and the other doesn't. The players on 7/10 will know that they will have more work still to do even if they win this afternoon's game. Remaining scenarios lead to more than one player in the top score group. Aagaard and Gordon both winning would leave them tied on 8½, while we could have as many as four players tied on 8/11.
Here are the pairings:
Gordon (7½) vs Kosten (7)
Flear (7) vs Aagaard (7½)
Rowson (7) vs N.Pert (7)
Hebden (7) vs Haslinger (7)
Results between other players have worked out very well for the reigning champion Jonathan Rowson. With two losses to his name he could have expected to be out of the hunt by now, but he could still win his fourth successive championship if he wins today, two other results work out in his favour and he comes through a play-off. That's three "ifs" but they could quite easily happen. He is rated significantly higher than the other players and has acquired the Penrose touch at the championship, so it is hard to bet against him. But his opponent today has become very hard to beat in recent years, so it should be a good contest. Last year Nick Pert lost his last-round game to Keti Arakhamia when also on 7/10 so he will be looking to improve on that.
Like Mark Hebden, Glenn Flear and Tony Kosten have reached the veteran stage (they are 48 and 49 respectively), but neither has been as frequent a British championship competitor as Hebden. Flear's first appearance pre-dates Hebden as he debuted in 1977; he last played in 2002. Kosten's last appearance was as long ago as 1999. Perhaps this infrequency of appearance is because they both live in France. Kosten is also French-registered; were he to win, he would be the first French-registered player to do so, though I don't think he has the true Gallic genes possessed by another former champion, Matthew Sadler.
On my old blog last year, I wrote a piece on Mark Hebden and his championship career. He is one of the eight contenders in 2007, and a win this afternoon would bring him up to 8/11 and his best score ever, at his 26th appearance in the championship. Just to recap his championship stats: he made his debut in 1979, when he scored 7/11. He has scored 7/11 on eleven occasions, 6½/11 five times, 6/11 once (in 1990) and 5½/11 twice (before he got really strong, in 1980 and 1981). His best score to date is 7½/11, which he has achieved six times – in 1989, 1992, 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2006. Since his first appearance in 1979, he has only missed the tournaments of 1987, 2003 and 2005. It would be rather fitting if Hebden finally chalked up a championship as it would mean he would turn 50 (next February) as champion. That would make him a couple of months older than Bob Wade was when he won the title in 1970 but a good deal younger than Stefan Fazekas was (59) when he won in 1957. Hebden has white against Haslinger this afternoon.
That just leaves the three players who have made most of the running in what has been a closely-fought and worthy championship: Aagaard, Gordon and Haslinger. Whatever happens this afternoon, all three can all be proud of their achievements over the past fortnight.