Dave Holmes in Winter Grand Prix

Chandler’s Ford Chess Club player Dave Holmes is currently in the Devon Chess Winter Grand Prix online tournament and is in the play-offs tomorrow 3rd March!

As reported in a previous Post, Dave Holmes had made it to Devon’s Autumn Grand Prix. How did he fare in the Grand Prix Finals? David Culliford reports.

Dave Holmes at Chess Club Curry 2018
Dave Holmes at Chess Club Curry 2018

Report on the graded section final of the Devon online chess Grand Prix

Friday 18th December 2020

Below is a match report on our fellow club-mate Dave Holmes’ appearance in the final of the U160 graded section of the Devon online chess Grand Prix. Dave was playing under his usual chess handle of “gashead4” (FYI: ‘gashead’ is a nickname for Bristol Rovers supporters). He was slightly outgraded, playing against Devon regular Steve Dean (handle ‘cash_only’) who plays for Seaton. Note that games 1 and 2 were played at the move rate of 9 minutes plus 3 seconds per move (9+3) whereas games 3 and 4 were at a 5+2 time control. Note that the wall-clock times (in the format hh:mm:ss) given in my report relate to the time in the live stream, so that you can skip the bits where the commentators are focusing on the open final, which was running in parallel to the graded final.

Game 1:

Dave started solidly as Black in Game 1, against his opponent’s trendy London System. At approximately 0:16:00 into the live stream, Steve Dean offered a Greek gift on h7. Dave accepted the bishop, after which the queen on a4 swings across to check from h4, followed up with Ng5, which looks terminal but can be wriggled out of. This sacrifice is a common theme of this line, but looked to have been played slightly too early, but was a good punt under the circumstances. Dave was short on time, and even though the 3 second increment renders such endgames easily manageable, Steve Dean won through in the endgame at 0:27:30, with a material pawn advantage but with opposite coloured bishops to lessen the advantage. One-down for Dave after Game 1.

Game 2:

This game began at 29:50, with Dave playing White against a Caro-Kann Defence. True to Dave’s attacking style, he played 5. f3, which as Don (‘carouselman’) will tell you, is the Fantasy variation of the C-K. In this line, Dave benefits from very active pieces (especially his bishops on f4 and c4), in exchange for his pawn sacrifice. The live stream coverage of Dave’s game continues until about 0:38:30 until 0:47:50, during which the commentators switch their live analysis to the other game, which is the Open (i.e. no grading limit) final between Jack Rudd (an international master, graded at a staggering ECF 228!) and Jon Underwood (a “mere” 189). Dave’s game reaches a fascinating position from 0:49:00 where Steve counters with a check but Steve runs out of time at 0:50:00. Some commentator analysis then ensues for half a minute or so. 

Game 3:

Dave’s third game (now at the reduced time control of 5+2) begins at 1:06:00, with a Caro-Kann again, and with identical positions to Game 1 until Steve (Black) deviates at move 16 with Qc7. The commentators make the point that this line is “preparation”, which to me kind of elevates Dave and Steve into the GM league – praise indeed! Clearly the two have played each other several times during the spring and autumn Devon online tournaments, so they know each other’s opening predilections! The game then moves into a lively middlegame but then bizarrely ends with a draw offer by Dave on move 24, but this proves to be an inspired tactical move by Dave, with Steve a full pawn up in a good position but very short on time (7.7 seconds). Definitely a half-point gained for Dave, I’d say. The post-game analysis ends at 1:12:50, after which commentary of the Open event continues.

Game 4:

And so to the decider! All tied at 1.5-1.5 with the last 5+2 to play. The commentary begins at 1:17:15 and it’s another London System. This is definitely worth listening to, with helpful advice for Black players who play 1. … d5 to White’s 1. d4 and then find themselves playing against the early bishop development of the London. This game is quite different from Game 1 (same opening), but judging by the commentators’ comments, is a more standard variant of the London. The two queens (on b3 and b6) face off with each other and then exchange, with White having his a- and h-file semi-open. The commentary then leaves Dave’s game at 1:22:40 but returns at 1:24:00 with Dave very, very short of time. A really tough position for Dave who runs out of time shortly afterwards. From 1:27:10, after the other final finishes, the commentary team generously devote a couple of minutes to Dave’s final game where we see a really nice example of late-middlegame dominance of two knights in a semi-locked-up position. Had this been a standardplay game then a very long endgame would have ensued, and Dave may have had some drawing chances, but Black (Steve) was definitely slightly better.

Well done to Dave’s opponent, Steve Dean, but congratulations to Dave for a magnificent performance in making the finals with his consistent performance throughout the autumn on Mondays and Fridays in the Devon online Grand Prix events.

For any of our club members wanting to benefit from the instructive, insightful and entertaining commentary from Tim Paulden and Tom Thorpe (both heavily involved in chess tournament organisation and arbiting), please check out Tom’s twitch TV channel at https://www.twitch.tv/chesster1883 . The specific recording of the live stream from Friday night’s Grand Prix finals is at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/841892120

If you have any problems with viewing the twitch recordings through your usual browser, then perhaps check out the YouTube videos of the same events, which Tom usually posts on his YouTube channel ( youtube.com/chesster1883 ) within a few days of the events taking place.

With best wishes,

David Culliford

Social Secretary, Chandler’s Ford Chess Club

Dave Holmes adds his insider’s view of the Finals:

Some background: Steve Dean apparently has a reputation of being very solid and a bit of an endgame expert. He plays the London system as white – always – and we have played down this road many times over the last year, down one particular line, and virtually all the games ended in draws. Rather foolishly I decided to try a couple of different lines to try and surprise him. This backfired – in Game 1 he had the great Bxh7+ shot which I completely missed. Although David is correct in that I can probably wriggle out with best play, it is very difficult to handle over the board when your time is limited – a great practical decision by Steve. In Game 4, I played into his hands by going into a line where the queens are exchanged and then I suffered – not my finest game. Games 2 and 3 transposed into a variation of the Blackmar-Diemer gambit (Ziegler defence) which Steve and myself have been ‘investigating’ over many games. I got a bit lucky in both of these games if I am honest, and overall Steve was a deserved winner on the night.

Dave Holmes

Devon Chess Winter Grand Prix

Dave Holmes is in Devon Chess‘s Winter Grand Prix. At the time of this Post he is 5th out of 36 players, with 21.5 points: see Latest Standings on the Devon Chess website. The six players achieving the highest Grand-Prix scores will compete in a blitz playoff to decide the overall winner, and there will also be a “graded” playoff between the top four players with ECF grades below 160 (or 1900 new-style ECF rating). 

The latest, David Culliford reports: it appears that Dave H has yet again made the play-offs of the Devon online Grand Prix, but this time he is mixing it with the elite (e.g. Jack Rudd IM, graded 228 on the last ECF list) rather than in the grading-limited section. He plays in the quarter-finals this Wednesday evening at 7:30pm, and I thought you might like to tune in to Tom Thorpe’s Twitch TV channel.

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