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.


  1. as a Leicester man I'm cheering for Mark, although I suppose I should be cheering for Glenn too as he is also from this fair city. When is the last time we had two realistic contenders for the title?!

    But seriously, who would bet aginst Mark in a rapid play off?

  2. For me, undoubtedly the game of the day will be Rowson vs Pert. On the one hand, you have a consecutive three times British champion, and on the other, a man who has been in the form of his life recently, and will not succumb to the heaps of pressure Rowson and the possibility of a championship title will certainly place upon him.

    Despite all that, I'm betting that Jacob Aagaard will win the title because he plays Glenn Flear, a man who, despite beating Rowson in Round 2, has proved himself to be inconsistent and will very likely crack under the strain of everything depending on the last match.

    As for the other player on seven and a half, Stephen Gordon, he plays Anthony Kosten, the only player left undefeated in the tournament and I doubt he can be beaten this afternoon.

  3. Give me that over an all-play-all any day.


  4. A cracking bit of punditry from Mr Anonymous. Well done that man, whoever you are. Apart from the description of the Rowson vs Pert game, that is - it wasn't as interesting as a couple of the other leading encounters. The Flear-Aagaard prediction was spot on, though.

  5. This is the same 'anonymous' who wrote the first bit of punditry (my name is Martin Fogg, by the way) and I agree, John, the Rowson vs Pert game was rather disappointing, I thought Pert would have put up much more of a fight than that. I suppose the psychological disadvantage of knowing you lost at this stage of the championship under exactly the same conditions and score the year previously must have weighed on his mind somewhat. All the same, Nicholas Pert will be crushingly disappointed at having lost under the same circumstances as before, with no improvement evident in his gameplay during another tense Round 11 match.

  6. I shall display my first blog using a proper blogger account (it's rather pointless to keep blogging under the name 'anonymous' all the while) by rectifying a slight mistake I made in the above prediction that Aagaard would win the championship - that is, I also stated that Anthony Kosten was the only player left undefeated in the championship whereas actually Robert Bellin has also emerged unscathed. The former British champion has played very well over the last fortnight, though unfortunately conceded too many draws to be in with any realistic chance of another title.

  7. Did he play the Dutch? That would make an unbeaten record all the more remarkable.

  8. As many of you have said it was a somewhat disappointing and devastating finish for myself again. I think I was on a massive pyschological downer before the game even started having received a double black to finish for the 2nd year in a row, and having played clearly the highest average field on both occasions. I made a financial loss on the tournament yet again. I strongly believe the prize system should be looked at though, something like Hort-Buchholz as used on the continent (not sure of the spelling)is much more fair. Oh well maybe next year! To be fair Rowson played well as he always seems to in last rounds, but I should have made it more tricky for him! Apart from this tournament I have been on good form, but this is a massive knock, and I'm just hoping I can get it out of my head before the China match.