European Seniors Team Championship Poland 2023 Report

I and the rest team would like to thank the Welsh Chess Union for their support in entering us as a side in the tournament. I gather they paid the entrance fees, although the players paid for all the transport and accommodation costs.

We came out to Poland on the Tuesday July 11. I had a long journey, taxi from my home to Crewe, train to Birmingham International Airport, changing at Stafford. While waiting to board the plane I met Rudy Van Kemenade, our board 1 and coach. We had to change at Frankfurt, before arriving in Wroclaw in Poland. Then we had a minibus trip to the Esperanto Hotel in Swidnica where the tournament was taking place. The minibus had been decorated in stickers advertising the Seniors Tournament, which I thought was a nice touch.

My partner is Polish, so I know a few words and expressions which was useful.

There was a Captains’ meeting that evening, at which I was appointed to an Appeals Committee. Thankfully we were never needed.

Not all team were staying in the Esperanto, but we were, which was nice. In the hotel, the rooms were comfortable, the food was adequate, the staff friendly and helpful.  I was disappointed that the hotel lacked a swimming pool, but it did have a small gym, with treadmills and an exercise bike and weights. It also had a small children’s play area. (Having recently become a grandfather I notice these things more!)

The ancient city was a short walk away, and most mornings I went for a walk with Rudy and/or our board 4 Tony Hughes. The only days I didn’t go for such a walk were the two days when they put on activities. On one morning, early on in the tournament they put on a walking tour of the old city, which was very useful, and we went back later in the tournament to see attractions in more details. These included a Cathedral and also a wooden Lutheran Church, the largest wooden church in Europe, with magnificent gothic and baroque interior. I ascended the City Hall tower, and explored the Pavilion Tower in the Youth Park. On the last morning we explored the City’s links with the Red Baron, the World War 1 Flying Ace when to the park with a model of his plane and the Red Baron Hotel.

The other outing was a coach trip to “The Underground City” near the Czech border, where the Nazis had hoped to build factories etc underground on the site of a former mine, where they thought they would be safe from Allied bombing.

Then we would prepare our openings with Rudy. The daily rounds started at 3pm, apart from the last round starting at 2pm.

There were 18 teams in our section, played in a 9 round Swiss system. On ratings we were ranked 15th. The first involved the top 9 sides playing the bottom 9 sides. All the top sides won easily. We were crushed by the powerful French team. Lee Davis on board 3 drawing and thus preventing a whitewash. In the next round we were drawn against German Ladies, who had Women International Masters on the top 3 boards and had an average rating of 2037 compared to 1900 for us. Astonishingly we nearly pulled off a surprise victory. I had my opponent on the ropes but had to settle for a draw. Lee drew again and Tony won on 4 for a 2-2 tie. Next up were England 2 with an average rating of 2010. I drew with John Quin. Some readers may know his brother, Peter Quinn, rated 1645, an active player in South Wales. John’s rating is 2061, so I drew with The Mightier Quinn. Lee also drew on 3, we lost 3-1. Round 4 we had the weakest team, Croatia, and we thrashed them 4-0. Round 5 we had England 3. Draws on 2 and 4 and a win on 3 led to a 2-2 draw. Round 6 was Denmark SK2012. Draws on 2 and 3 and a win on 4 led to a 2-2 draw. Poland Lower Silesia 2 were our next opponents, a weak side who we beat 3.5 to 0.5.

These excellent results pushed us up the table to our peak position of 10th.

Unfortunately, these good results led us to face two very strong teams in the final two rounds. Firstly, Denmark SK2023, who beat us 3-1 with Lee getting a win on 3, then Sweden who beat us 3-1 also, with Rudy and Lee both getting draws.

Rudy finished with 3 out of 9, but it could easily had been better. He played some class players, including a Grandmaster and 3 Masters. His tournament rating was 1952 compared to his actual rating of 1934. His rating will not change due to these results. He even pulled off an astonishing draw against an International Master in the last round. He fulfilled his coaching duties excellently, helping with both preparation and post-mortems. He is also providing some analysis of some of the games and some interesting positions which arose. I am most grateful for all this.

I was reasonably happy with my play. I mercilessly destroyed the two players who were significantly lower rated than me. 3 out of my 4 draws were against players all rated above me and my three losses were all to players over 2100. My tournament rating was 1967 compared to my actual rating of 1924, which will go up 9.4 points due to these results.

Lee Davies on 3 was the star of the show, one of the very few players in the tournament to play all 9 rounds and remain undefeated with 3 wins and 6 draws. His pre-tournament rating was 1893. His tournament rating was 2032. His rating should rise by 34.6 points as a result of this.

If Lee avoided any loses. Board 4 Tony managed to avoid any draws and finished with 5 losses and 4 wins. Tony’s pre-tournament rating was 1850. In round 2 he was playing Liubov Orlova rated 1990. Quite honestly, I wasn’t expecting much and was pleasantly surprised when I glanced at his game, and he was all over her! He converted to a win to help us to a 2-2 draw.

I thought the whole team did well, and I would like to thank them for their efforts and their friendship too.

The tournament itself had other surprise results too. On paper the England 1 team were the strongest, but they lost to Slovakia 2.5 to 1.5 in round 2 and were playing catch-up for the rest of the tournament, but Slovakia won all their matches to claim the title. England 1 were second, and Poland Lower Silesia 1 were 3rd. The England team included two of my old friends from Sheffield University, Tony Kosten and Peter Large. The England 1 tea were also staying at the same hotel, which gave me a chance to catch up with them. The presence of two Tonys at the same hotel did cause confusion at one point when we shouted at Tony Hughes about something, and Tony Kosten thought we were trying to get his attention.

In line with latest practice, we were scanned all over our bodies with a metal detector, about an inch away from our bodies. The arbiters and the organisers did a superb job.  

The Closing Ceremony and Presentations was hosted by the 16-year-old daughter of one of the organisers and arbiters. She carried it off with great aplomb and confidence which belied her tender years. After the presentations and before the assembled company dispersed, I borrowed the microphone to officially thank the arbiters and organisers, including the European Chess Union and the Adolf Anderssen Chess Club at Wroclaw.

Rudy and I returned to the UK the day after, Friday July 21, but Lee and Tony both stayed on in Poland or a few more days.

Report by Charles Higgie