Allan Pleasants wins Geof Tyrrell Best Game Prize 2018

In this the ninth year of the competition in memory of Geof, the judges, Stuart Hutchings, Dave James and Howard Williams, looked at 21 games which met our basic criteria. In short, these are wins or draws by Welsh players against foreign opposition rated both 2250 or over and 150 points or more above the Welsh player. The number of games was perhaps rather disappointing for an Olympiad year. Outside that event (six games) and the European Club Cup where members of the White Knights team, the sole Welsh entrant, managed five games, only ten qualifying games were identified. The most prolific contributor to the list was Jon Blackburn, Wales’ latest FM, with four games. Mention should also be made of Sam Jukes whose relatively low rating meant that his two qualifying games had to be against opponents more than 400 points above him.

These 21 games consisted of seven wins and 14 draws. Among the draws particularly good results were those of Imogen Camp against an (open) IM 350 points above her, of Jon Blackburn as Black against a near 2500 Danish IM and of Sam Jukes against a Woman IM from Kazakhstan. Sam with Black goes for it from the outset, overplays his hand a bit but recovers and finds a neat perpetual.

We whittled down the seven wins to a short list of three, though it has to be said there was not a lot in it. Among the four games which did not quite make it to the short list Jon Blackburn’s important last round Olympiad win featured a very well conducted final phase. Jon’s willingness to mark time earlier on (like Tigran Petrosian of old) showed considerable maturity and understanding of the position but inevitably the game does not flow as well as one might expect of a winning entry in this type of competition. It was hardly John Fletcher’s fault either that his opponent played rather weakly at the crucial stage in response to John’s swash-buckling gambit.

The short list therefore comprised three games with big rating differences as befitting the giant killing aspect of this trophy. Peter Bevan supplied a spectacular refutation of his opponent’s attempt to extract the full point, which doubtless he felt was his due against somebody nearly 500 points below him on rating. This was from the European Club Cup as was Pete Heaven’s neat tactical coup against another opponent who pushed his luck. The third game, like Jon Blackburn’s, was an important win from the last round of the Olympiad where Wales’ 3-1 victory over the much higher seeded Jordanian team ensured that we finished 14 places above our own seeding while a defeat would have left us well below it. Against an IM rated over 2400 Allan Pleasants showed how to handle the blocked position
which arose from his opponent’s rather dubious opening, reacted robustly to the latter’s attempt to break the position open and preserved his advantage through to the endgame. The judges were unanimous in awarding the 2018 trophy to Allan Pleasants for that game.

We are already collecting games for the 2019 competition but there is no certainty that we will net all those qualifying from published on-line sources. There is also no need to wait until the year end before sending to me those that meet the eligibility rules. These rules are summarised above and available in full on the WCU website. Annotated games are as usual most welcome.

Here are the scores of the short-listed games.