The club simul with GM Matthew Sadler took place on Thursday 18 June. Having initially struggled to attract entrants, we eventually assembled a field of 25 players, with a few potential entrants being turned away. The line up included 13 from the Bury St Edmunds clubs (i.e. the “main” club and the junior “Knights”). The 12 guests came from Woodbridge (x3), Chepstow (x3), Linton (x3), Cambridge (x1), Colchester (x1) and Liverpool (x1). Thirteen of the entrants were juniors.
Together with fellow Game Changer WIM Natasha Regan, Matthew gave (near) live commentary on the event via their YouTube channel. You can find the recording here. All the games from the event can be found on the Lichess site (and will appear here later).
As the event got underway, I mentioned in chat that back in 1919 the original Bury St Edmunds chess club was visited by future world champion Capablanca for a for a Simultaneous exhibition, from which Capablanca emerged victorious on all 34 boards. With good humour, Sadler commented in response that “that might not happen here”. He didn’t know how right he’d turn out to be.
Matthew’s main difficulty would be the clock. We each began with 30 minutes and gained 15 seconds a move, Sadler began with 120 minutes, also gaining 15 seconds a move. While that sounds like a large time advantage, as Sadler’s 25 clocks could all run at the same time, it’s not hard to see that this amounts to a big time advantage to Matthew’s opposition. Here’s a basic calculation to illustrate the point.
Matthew’s initial stock was 4 times that of his opponents, but since there are 25 opponents, he should really have 25 times the amount of time. He had 4/25, or 16%, of that amount. 16% of 30 minutes is a little under 5 minutes. As such, Sadler was effectively having to play at Blitz pace while his opponents were in more comfortable Rapid territory. Sadler was also hindered by the apparent delays in the Lichess interface, both when completing his moves and when the system moved from one game to the next. It was notable that even when playing almost instantly over the first few moves, Matthew had used around 2 minutes on each game just to complete the first round of moves.
To achieve a good score, Sadler would therefore depend on a decent number of games finishing quickly so that he wouldn’t have to spread his time so thinly amongst the remaining games. That wasn’t to be. While the first few results went in favour of the Game Changers, they didn’t arrive quickly. There were no easy victories to be found, with everyone putting up some solid resistance. One of the earlier finishes was unfortunately down a disconnection, a result of which can be that players lose on time while not realising it’s their turn to move. We can’t do much to legislate for that, but it’s a lesson worth learning: If your opponent seems to be taking a long time in an online game, make sure to refresh your screen to update your view of the game from the server.
My own game, under the moniker iblunder, was the fourth to finish. My passive opening play was easily punished by the GM, and I threw in the towel a piece down on move 27. Perhaps the most significant fact being that by this stage Matthew was down to around half-an-hour on his various clocks with 21 games still in play. Repeating the maths from earlier shows just how difficult the situation had become.
There were interesting positions on many of the boards, and while Matthew had the clear advantage in a majority of games, several players had created difficulties for the master, forcing him to spend vital additional time working out his best responses. At around the 2h45m mark, with 19 games still in progress, Matthew’s flags began to fall in something of a cavalcade, and Matthew declared, “I’ve lost them all now” and “Well done guys”. In one of those games, he had a forced mate in two moves. As Sadler said, “There were a couple of those games where I was thinking, oh, lovely attack, played it really well and to lose on time, that is rather sad.”
When the dust settled, there were in fact still two games in play. Both players had used a little more of their own time to achieve promising positions, where Matthew clearly felt he was positionally lost. However, with time no longer his enemy, Sadler showed his class as he calmly outplayed both remaining opponents to finish with a final score of 7 wins and 18 losses from the 25 games.
A more sober look at the results revealed that only two of the games recorded as a loss for Sadler were lost on the board rather than the clock, though a few more looked likely to go in favour of the challengers. Ignoring the players against whom Sadler lost on time in a winning position, or where he’d otherwise won well before then, I believe we’re left with the following list of players.
- AtticusChallenger – the position was approximately level when Sadler lost on time
- NM fredmund – fredmund had a large advantage when Matthew’s flag fell
- Warlord01 – Sadler’s only resignation of the evening, after move 29
- tsunamijon55 – tsunamijon55 had a clear advantage when Sadler’s time ran out
- Jacob1049 – Jacob checkmated Sadler in 44 moves
- AlanLinton – one of those two final games to complete, a close fought affair
- vacamu7 – the other of the two final games to complete
A more “realistic” score given the state of the games would therefore have been something like 20 wins, 1 draw and 4 losses, and quite possibly better than this.
The Game Changers have awarded the best game prize to Warlord01, who will receive 1 year PRO membership of chessable.com, and his choice of a signed book by GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan, either Game Changer or Chess for Life. Congratulations Warlord01.
Sadler commented as follows: “I felt [Warlord01] played very well in that game in a structure that is familiar to me and played some good plans and tactics to exploit the looseness in my position – well done!”
In a post event communication, Sadler wrote, “Despite my time-trouble woes, I greatly enjoyed playing and looking at the comments in the chat I think the players had a good time too! Everyone played very well which was the reason time got so tight – if I’d managed to mate 3 or 4 people earlier then it would have been much closer! Difficult to get the balance right in practice! Probably an extra half-hour-45 mins would have been enough to finish off a few games before the time losses hit!”.