Saturday, 22 December 2018

Dementia watch

The following article and photo was published in yesterday's Bury Free Press:

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Alan is through to the quarter-finals (just!)

Those watching the live games today must have experienced a nervous time if they were viewing Alan Merry's games against GM John Nunn.   The games swung wildly in favour of both players and ended with a crazy Armageddon game.   I'm hoping that Alan, or someone better then me, will be able to provide a better summary, but for the time going, here goes...

In the first standard-play game, Alan (Black) was a little fortunate to draw.   Nunn made a couple of weak queen moves and Alan was able to finish the game through perpetual check.

In the second standard-play game, it was John Nunn who was lucky.   Although Nunn's attack looked dangerous, it was an illusion.   Alan missed 28. Re1, which would have given him a winning advantage and after a grand exchange of pieces, the game petered out to a draw with opposite coloured bishops.

So after two draws, the match progressed to two Blitz games (10 minutes + 5 seconds increment).   Alan won the first after Nunn blundered in a drawn endgame.   In the second game Alan missed a number of saving moves and, deep in time trouble, was mated.

So the match went to the dreaded Armageddon, where White has five minutes and Black has four minutes.   There are no increments unless the game exceeds 60 moves.   But White must win, since a draw counts as a win for Black.   Alan had the Black pieces.   This is where the fun starts!   Nunn was in a winning position after 24 moves, but then inexplicably spent nearly 90 seconds on his 30th move and continued to move rather slowly for a few more moves.   When Alan tried to force home his a-pawn, Nunn, with only 9 seconds remaining, spent a further five seconds on move 34 and was unable to complete his 35th move, giving Alan the win.   At that point in the game, Stockfish gives White a forced mate in 12, an impossibility anyway in five seconds, as there were no increments.   Perhaps, at the end, age did tell.

Alan will now face third seed GM Gawain Jones in the quarter-finals tomorrow (Sunday), with the first of two standard-play games commencing at 10.00.

Friday, 7 December 2018

British Knockout Championships

Suffolk's Alan Merry has again been invited to take part in the British Knockout Championships, starting tomorrow (Saturday 8 December) in London.   England No. 1 Mickey Adams heads a stellar lineup, with 12 of the UK’s top players battling for a total prize fund of £50,000 over four rounds, finishing on 17 December.

The format is similar to last year, when Alan was unfortunate to be knocked out in the preliminary round by GM Nigel Short.   Alan held a great position in the first of two standard-play games, but missed the winning move 32... b4.   He was slightly better in game 2, but unfortunately blundered his bishop.

This year, he faces seasoned GM John Nunn in the preliminary round.   The top four players, Adams, David Howell, Gawain Jones and Luke McShane are seeded through to the Quarter-Finals, but the other eight players are paired to find the four who will join the top seeds.   Nunn is now 63 years old, a full ten years older than Nigel Short.

The final four will play standard-play, rapidplay and blitz games in the semi-final, with the two winners playing the same series of games in the Final.   The semis take place at Google's London HQ, whilst the Final is being held alongside the London Chess Classic, at Olympia.

The winner of the Championships will receive £15,000.   Other prizes include: £10,000 for the losing finalist, £5,000 each for the semi-finalists, £2,500 each for the quarter-finalists, and £1,250 for the players knocked out in the preliminary round.   So Alan is guaranteed a nice pay-packet, even if he gets knocked out in the first round.