Sunday, 5 August 2007

Great Dane Off The Leash

Great Scot! The Great Dane is still off the leash...

Scores after Week 1 of the British Championship:
Aagaard 5½/6, Flear, Gormally, Haslinger, Kosten, N.Pert, Rowson, Williams 4½...

A pretty amazing performance by Aagaard so far. He must be buoyed up by getting his GM title at last. And this is of course his first appearance in the British Championship. I think a number of players have won it at the first attempt. One such won it first time and never entered again. A clue: he was editor of British Chess Magazine. The answer is not Golombek (who did win it but not at the first attempt) or Murray Chandler (who never won it), but RC Griffith, famous for being one of the founding fathers of Modern Chess Openings. He won the British Championship in 1912. Anyone answering "J Saunders" gets 10/10 for obsequiousness, but 0/10 for knowledge of chess history (and should probably also get their head examined at the earliest opportunity).

However, Aagaard should be aware that, in recent years, people who lead after one week have seldom gone on to pick up the championship trophy at the end of the second. Let's look at what has happened since 2000, giving the first-week leaders followed by the eventual winner in brackets:

2000 Hebden/Ward (eventual winner Hodgson)
2001 Seven players tied on 4½/6 (Gallagher was not one of them, but won)
2002 Ten players tied on 4½/6 (RB Ramesh was not one of them, but won)
2003 Z Rahman / Motwani (eventual winner A Kunte)
2004 Rowson (and he won)
2005 Ward (Rowson won)
2006 N.Pert / Hebden (Rowson won)

So Rowson is the only player this century to lead week 1 and win overall. However, I am withholding a significant statistic. Like Aagaard this year, Rowson in 2004 had a score of 5½/6, while all the others mentioned as first week leaders had 5 (except for the major pile-ups of 2001 and 2002 when 4½ was the leading score). Going back further, Hodgson in 1999 also had 5½/6 and went on to win. So having 5½/6 could be the clincher. I haven't been able to look back further (it's a bit of a chore on a hot Sunday afternoon) - could anyone tell me if anyone starting with 5½/6 has ever failed to win? I do know that CHO'D Alexander scored 5½/6 in 1956 and he only just won the title despite getting an almost as impressive 4/5 the second week. Frank Parr ran him close, scoring 4½/6 the first week and then 4½/5 the second.


  1. Didn't RF Combe also win at his first and only attempt in 1946?

  2. Yes, of course, you're right, Steve. I'm sorry, I hadn't meant to say that Griffith was the only such player to win on his single appearance. There may be others. WE Napier is another name which springs to mind: he won the very first BCF-run British Championship in 1904 and I'm pretty sure he never played again.

    Unfortunately nobody has yet compiled all the stats relating to the British Championship and put them on the web. Chess lags behind other sports when it comes to comprehensive and reliable stats, mainly because there is no money in it.

  3. I'm pretty sure you are right about Napier, and that he never played again.

  4. Napier, John Hilbert's 'Forgotten Chessmaster', was to emigrate to the USA. He scored +7-1=3 winning the title following a play-off (+1=3)with Atkins. Lasker later criticised his inclusion, saying that Napier was an example of an American player. Napier lost in the opening round to Ronald MacDonald, a Scot.

    James Pratt (Basingstoke!)