Returning to the consideration of some of my less bad tournaments, we turn to the Major Open in August 1977. The Major Open was then, as it is now, the tournament below the British Championship itself.
My one previous appearance at the British, in 1973 at Eastbourne, where I played in the First Class Tournament, the section below the Major Open, had been a disaster as I collapsed completely due to fatigue in the last few rounds. This time I knew I was a stronger player and hoped I was also mentally strong enough to cope with 11 rounds over 12 days.
In the first round I had white against an ungraded opponent from a prominent local family of chess players and chose the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. His response was not the best (6… h5 is to be preferred) and left me with a slight advantage. His decision to give up bishop and knight for rook and pawn on move 18 didn’t turn out well and I was eventually able to score the full point in a long game. A more efficient 53rd move (Bg7 rather than Be5+) would have shortened the process.
In the second round I was paired against a German player, who might or might not have been the Josef Böcker who was rated 2200+ in the late 1980s, and was faced with one of my favourite systems, the Botvinnik Blockade.
1. c4 g6 2. Nc3 Bg7 3. e4 c5 4. g3 Nc6 5. Bg2 d6 6. Nge2 e6 7. a3 Nge7 8. Rb1
a5 9. Nb5 d5
I should imagine this was a complete oversight, missing the knight fork after the exchanges on d5.
10. cxd5 exd5 11. exd5 Bf5
Already desperation although moving the knight would have kept me in the game. Now there was no reason for White not to take the knight: 12. dxc6 Bxb1 13. cxb7 Rb8 14. d4 is just winning because the bishop is coming to f4.
12. d3 Ne5 13. Be4
Better was d6 with advantage to White. Now it seemed natural to displace the white king, but the engines tell me I should have preferred Qd7, hoping to regain the pawn.
13… Bxe4 14. dxe4 Nf3+ 15. Kf1 Qd7 16. Kg2 Qxb5 17. Kxf3 O-O 18. Bg5 f6 19. Bf4 g5 20. Bd6 Qd7 21. Bxc5 f5 22. Kg2 fxe4 23. Nc3 Rf5 24. Qb3
Instead 24. Bxe7 Qxe7 25. d6 maintains the extra pawn with advantage. Now I regain the missing pawn and have an attack down the f-file.
24… Nxd5 25. Rhd1 Bxc3 26. bxc3 Qf7 27. Bd4 Rf8 28. Rd2 b5 29. Qc2 e3
Choosing to force a draw by perpetual check.
30. Bxe3 Nxe3+ 31. fxe3 Rf1 32. Qb3 Rxb1 33. Qxb1 Qf3+ 34. Kh3 Qh5+ 35. Kg2 Qf3+ 36. Kh3 Qh5+ 1/2-1/2