Jonathan Blackburn wins Geof Tyrrell Best Game Prize

In this the tenth year of the competition in memory of Geof, the judges, Stuart Hutchings, Dave James and Howard Williams, looked at 30 games, 7 wins and 23 draws from 15 events, 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 well up on last year’s 21 and the standard was rather higher too. Tim Kett contributed as many as seven of these, mostly from European Open events, while Jon Blackburn and Allan Pleasants played three each.

Draws have to be a bit special to make our short list but a number caught our eye. For example there was Lee Davis’ game against the Russian GM Semen Dvoirys an eye-watering 570 points ahead of him on rating and Sam Jukes’ hard-fought draw (which should have been a win) against the Lithuanian IM, Antanas Zapolskis, where the rating difference was nearly 400 points ahead. And more about a draw that did make the short list below.

Of the wins there were two where the foreign giant didn’t put up enough resistance and two where the rating difference perhaps caused him to lose his objectivity, though Greg Toczek’s game was a very pretty steal. The three remaining wins, together with one of the draws, made up our short list of four.   Against the Norwegian IM Tor Fredrick Kaasen in the Teplice Open last June, Tim found himself in the familiar situation of needing to offer material to keep his kingside attacking prospects alive.  In the heat of the batttle his opponent considered the attack too dangerous to accept the material, contrary to the computer’s view afterwards, but steady defence did not help either and Tim’s attack triumphed.  Tom Brown’s win against Sancho Dos Santos Oliveira from the 4NCL was one where Tom saw that his advantage in one form or another would survive multiple exchanges.  The third win was Jon Blackburn’s game against GM Marian Petrov in last summer’s South Wales International.  Against a specialist in the sort of blocked King’s Indian / Benoni which arose Jon played with great understanding and accuracy to break open the position to his decisive advantage. The drawn game which made the short list was that between near 2700 GM Matthew Sadler and Ioan Rees, playing for West is Best in the 4NCL.  Sadler pressed hard against Ioan’s very resourceful play in a ‘hedgehog formation’ and finally netted a piece. At first sight it appeared that should have been that but within half a dozen moves Ioan had won his piece back and forced a drawn position. On closer examination, this was not a case of a player relaxing too early but one where Sadler faced real technical problems to cash in his advantage.

Any of the short-listed games might have won the trophy in another year but the judges had to opt for one and in the end came down unanimously in favour of Jon Blackburn’s classy win.

Here are the short-listed games, two with notes by the winner.