Durham – A land with prince Bishops!


Some 10 years ago, this weary traveller left Durham, remembering the North East fondly.

Durham holds a very special place in my heart; not for the bubble that is the university (though I enjoyed that immensely) but the drive along from Kirby Stephen, stopping at Barnald Castle for tea and then onwards to the top right of England. There really is something quite magical on that journey.

[If you really want to get a feel for the magic in the North East, read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - the mysticism in those pages really comes to life when you come back here]


A land where the Bishops are princely

I was lucky that one of my close friends was still living in the North East and could get cheap board and lodgings - a room in exchange for playing football with his three children and some truly awful DVDs (interactive Bullseye anyone?) which I blessed him with in celebration of a recent birthday.

Venue Change!

The big draw for me was that the event was due to be held in Durham itself at my old college, Grey - up on the hill.
This wasn't to be and a very suitable alternative was found a few miles away at Houghton le Spring.

I was in the Open Section, playing alongside some 5-6 titled players and many approaching or over 200; a tough field.

The event was well attended with 24 in the open, 23 in the major and 22 in the minor sections.


The addition of a strong Scottish contingent added to the flavour of the event!

The culture of a weekend regular

Chess players, as a breed, often surprise me and I find I am turning more and more into one of them.
Maintaining an unhealthy diet whilst suspending yourself in deep thought for hours at a time has its impact on you.

It was nice to see some North-West regulars Clegg (4/5) and Patrick (2.5/5) also in attendance in the major section. They were joking that one of them either gets 0 or 5 (4 in this case!) and the other gets a steady 2-3 - the latter seeing a rating improvement and the former often the money!

Why do we do it?

Having dwelt on this a while, contented by my own credible 2.5/5 in the open, I reflected that in general whilst money is nice and rating improvement also has a nice benefit, the majority are there simply because they enjoy it!

It's difficult to describe to a non-chess player that energy in the room when there's a time scramble or the draw is going up. Great stuff.

Some highlights and some chess

A word of thanks must also go to Lara Barnes and Alec MacFarlane who ran a tight ship, despite the challenges of a late change in venue. I also enjoyed the stottie!

One over-riding image will be Lara sprinting towards Fred who called the sandwich shop mid-play to place the lunchtime order (quite loudly!)

Your turn

I'm playing badly as black in round 1 and getting very cramped before unleashing the shocking 14...Na7?? How did my opponent rip me to pieces after this?
I had to grovel with 15. Bxa6! Nb5 and after 16. Bxb5 Bxb5 17. Qc2 my days were numbered and Addison sealed the win very quickly.

In a later game, I was able to turn the tables against a young man with a lot of potential with a crafty pseudo-sacrifice:

The devious 17...Nxc4 regains the piece due to the pin on the queen after 18. Nc4 b5

If you're looking for a congress with a nice scenic trip, good locals and a nice venue, I can strongly suggest this is a good place to go! Link to Chess Results Durham 2017