I recently returned from Germany where I was lucky enough to be part of the England Seniors squad which competed in the World Seniors Team Championships in the beautiful city of Dresden in Saxony. I should say straightaway ( in case anybody is thinking “How on earth did he get selected to play for England?!”) that anyone can put himself forward to play and the policy of the England Seniors manager, Stewart Reuben, is to put out as many teams as possible.
This year England was present in strength with three teams in the 50+ competition and three in the 65+ section. In all there were 58 teams in the former and 50 in the latter. Some teams had the bare four players but most rotated the team from a five-man squad which allowed players a rest round or two. This was the case for all the England teams.
The beautifully-produced championship programme listed all the players in all the teams with their FIDE ratings and some idea of the strength of the event can be gauged from the following:
Average team rating range: 50+ 2522 (Iceland) – 1749 (Afghanistan)
65+ 2444 (Russia) – 1657 BSV Chemie Radebeul
Besides the large number of teams representing national federations there were also many teams from regions or towns, especially Germany. It would, for example, be perfectly possible to enter a Devon Seniors team.
England’s teams lined up as follows:\
England 1 (2521) Nunn, Speelman, Hebden, Arkell, Flear (seeded 2nd)
England 2 (2225) Plaskett, Lewis, Lauterbach, Page, Bowmer (seeded 13th)
England 3 (2032) Thurstan, Fegan, Fraser-Mitchell, Majer, Cross (seeded 38th)
England 1: (2209) Stebbings, James, Stokes, Quinn, Farrand (seeded 9th)
England 2: (2003) Hutchinson, Reuben, Thynne, Cooper, Mashayekh (seeded 31st)
England 3: (1881) Fenwick, Ewart, Phillips, Scowen, Emerton (seeded 46th)
Trefor and his team preparing for one of the rounds.
Trefor and his team preparing for one of the rounds.
So, although only the first teams were likely to be anywhere near the top, all the teams could aim to outperform their pre-tournament rating ( and, in fact, five of England’s six teams were placed higher in the final ranking than their seeding – a very fine result for English chess and for the ECF).
The best teams were packed full of household names. Russia’s 65+ team (with 4 GMs) had Sveshnikov, Vasyukov and Balashov and St Petersburg turned out a team of five IMs. Finland had well-known GM Westerinen on top board. In the 50+ section there were over 30 GMs or WGMs and an equivalent number of IMs or WIMs.
More on the competition itself shortly but first a brief description of the setting and organization. The play took place in the smart Radisson Blu Hotel in the attractive wine-growing town of Radebeul, about 5 miles from Dresden. All the teams were accommodated in the hotel which was therefore home to over 500 players (plus many wives including my own). No expense had been spared to lay on a top-quality event with a lavish opening ceremony featuring a parade of local children bearing flags of all participating countries, speeches from FIDE representatives and local dignitaries and an impressive gymnastics display by a local club. The equally lavish final ceremony featured a musical marching display by a fanfare band.
A comprehensive excursion programme had also been laid on for the afternoons so, for those inclined to explore, it was possible to take a boat trip down the Elbe or a steam train trip to Moritzburg Castle, to visit the fascinating museum of the German Democratic Republic (1949-1989), to go to the beautiful town of Meissen, famous for its porcelain and, of course, to have a look round Dresden, surely one of Germany’s most impressive cities, now completely restored after the devastation wrought on it in 1945.
Now for the chess: I have to confess that I did not cover myself with glory, managing to score 4 draws and 2 losses from my six games although, in mitigation, I did have 5 Blacks out of 6 games! The reason for this is that one could play board three with black in one round and then find oneself on board 2 the next day, again with black because it was board two’s turn for a rest day!
My tournament got off to a difficult start with Black against FIDE Master Petschar (2278) of Austria. After a long rearguard action I suddenly broke out of a positional bind at the cost of a pawn and had the more active pieces but unforgivably blundered into an avoidable mate on the 41st move i.e one move after the time control. My opponent confessed that he was lucky but that was small consolation. In round two I had a fairly uneventful draw with Bill Phillips (1852) of England 3 but lost again in round 3 to Bo Nyberg (1899) of Sweden3. This was definitely a game I should have got something from as I found myself with Black facing a QP London System in a line I thought I knew well. However I mishandled the transition into the ending.
My three other games were draws withWolfgang Weinwurn (2172) of Niederosterreich (Lower Austria) , a game in which I was better for a long time, Jyrki Alkkiomaki (1972) of Turku (Finland) and Dieter Bocionek (1956) of Sachsen-Anhalt. The creditable performance of England 2 in the 65+ event (26th place) was built on good scores from the top two boards, Norman Hutchison (2061) of Cambridge and captain Stewart Reuben (2033) of Twickenham. The England 3 team after a shaky start did well to finish 32nd and the impressively consistent England 1 squad came 4th despite only being seeded ninth.
Trefor's team in action
The England 1 team in the 50+ event were serious challengers for the gold medal but slipped up against Germany and came third behind Germany and Armenia. Nonetheless, all five members of the team won individual board prize medals.
Full results of the tournament as well as photos and videos and ALL the games of the event can be found on the event’s website (www.schachfestival.de) and there is also a report with photos on the Seniors page of the ECF website (www.englishchess.org).
Despite my struggles over the board I would not have missed this opportunity for anything. To represent one’s country and to meet veteran players from all over the world was a real thrill. Some of the players will not see 75 again but that in no way diminished their fighting spirit or skill. I can thoroughly recommend anyone considering combining chess with an interesting holiday to put their names forward for next year’s teams – Stewart Reuben as ECF Seniors’ Manager is always on the lookout for new talent. He recommends that players should be of at least FIDE/ELO 1800 standard and I would agree with that as the standard of play this year was very high in all the teams except one or two of the tailenders.
I conclude my report with a couple of episodes from my games: