Toni Halliwell – A Personal Return

The British Ladies Correspondence Chess Championship 2010-2011

August 2010 – I hadn’t played competitive chess for almost twenty years following the unexpected death of my husband, soul mate and chess mentor, Bruce Halliwell, a strong county and club player, and to whom I dedicate this victory. I had also been housebound for the last three months, with a temporary mobility problem, so as you can imagine, I was extremely bored, being more or less confined to my office within the house – there is only so much daytime TV and Sudoku one person can tolerate! It was a month after my birthday, for which my sister had bought me ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ by Walter Tevis. I had also been teaching my young nephew the moves, and I could feel the interest coming back, so I decided to browse online to see what was happening in the chess world, particularly in relation to correspondence chess.

Quite randomly I came across the email address of Phill Beckett who I thought was someone from Sheffield I might have played correspondence chess against when I was teenager! I decided to risk contacting him! I am so glad I did, because I have had a great whirlwind of a comeback year thanks to him including me in lots of teams and events and pointing me in the direction of the Scheming Mind online club. I dug out an old certificate for first place in an ICCF Open tournament and persuaded the ICCF guys to let me into a Higher Section tournament on the basis of this, giving me my first experience of playing on the ICCF webserver – what a brilliant way to play chess – no arguing about altered or missing gamecards, or the drag of writing out separate postcards – no arguments about how much time has been taken – bliss!

At the same time, I also found Keith Escott’s email address, who I remembered as a controller from way back. When I contacted him, he told me it was but a few days until the closing date of the British Ladies Championship and that my entry would be very welcome! So I decided to take the plunge! I didn’t even remember that I was a joint winner of the tournament thirty years ago, back in 1981 – probably because I never got to see the trophy back then! Today, the Lady Herbert Trophy has pride of place in my office, for the next few months at least!

I realised too that I didn’t now possess a chess set (having sold all my chess books and equipment years ago thinking I would never play again), other than the virtual one supplied by an online site where I had tried a few online rapid play skittles games and was slaughtered, so had given up in disgust! Large orders were despatched to Chess and Amazon and a Chess magazine subscription hurriedly taken out. I set up an email address as Granny Gambit, not because I’m anyone’s grandma, but because my openings were so out of date! I also finally got round to joining the BFCC and the BCCA and signed up for an online chess course! Something told me I was not going to be bored for much longer!

A few days later the pairings for the British Ladies Tournament arrived through the post. There were four other competitors and two games to play against each one. I had only heard of one of them – my long-time Yorkshire rival Dr. Valerie Craven – and she wasn’t the strongest player in there according to the ratings. There was also Sue Howell, who had been the winner for the last four consecutive years. I had been given a provisional rating of 1900, which meant nothing to me as I could only relate to the three-figure over the board ratings, but it was substantially lower than both Valerie and Sue Howell and a little higher than the other two competitors! I had but a simple ambition at the start of the tournament – that of avoiding finishing in last place on ‘nil points’! I felt like a nervous beginner when the tournament started, all my earlier 20 years or more of playing experience having gone right out of the window!

The games got under way, with Sue Howell and Valerie playing by email and the other Sue and Stephanie playing the traditional way by post. The games with Valerie in particular went ahead at great pace and though taking very little in time terms, they were both over 50 moves: a Nimzo-Indian as white and my old Pirc as black, but despite being a pawn up in the white game, they ended up as two draws which was a fair result as I think she was perhaps better in the other game. Next came a couple of wins against Sue Sweet, a Queen’s Gambit Exchange Variation and another Pirc, and a first win against Stephanie Lawrence with a crushing king-side attack in another Queen’s Gambit Exchange. I struggled on the black side of the King’s Indian Four Pawns Attack against Sue Howell, but managed to hold the draw being down Knight and Pawn for Rook, but with a bit of play. It dawned on me that if I could win both my remaining games, I would be the Champion, an utterly unexpected outcome! I secured the first of these wins in my second game against Stephanie Lawrence with a win as black in a classical King’s Indian.

Everything now hinged on my final and favourite game, which ended in a victory with the white pieces in an exciting Nimzo-Indian over Sue Howell, the longstanding champion. All three results in this game would have had a different impact on the ultimate standings: a win would give me an unassailable lead and the championship; a draw would likely result in a 3-way tie and a loss would relegate me to third place!

So here it is below. I don’t feel I’m a strong enough player to provide alternative analysis of lines here and there, so have just included an occasional comment:

White: Toni Halliwell (1900P)
Black: Sue Howell (2188)

1. d4 e6; 2. c4 Nf6; 3. Nc3 Bb4; 4. Qc2 I used to play the slightly more popular 4. e3 in earlier times, but having the shiny new Vigorito book, I thought why not? 4…d5; 5.cxd5 the most popular reply 5…c5 Ok, that’s Vigorito back on the shelf – can’t find this or a likely transposition. Do wish he listed the page numbers in the chapter index though! 6.dxc6 finally got to take en passant in a real game! 6…Nxc6; 7.e3 e5; 8.dxe5 Nxe5; 9.a3 Ba5; 10.b4 Bb6; 11.Be2 will I ever get the King side developed? 11…a5; 12.Bb2 axb4; 13.axb4 Rxa1+; 14.Bxa1 Nc6; 15.Qb1 well a pawn is a pawn, might come in useful later! King side still on ‘to do’ list! 15…Qe7; 16.b5 Ne5 ; 17.Nf3 Neg4 ; 18.Nd1 … otherwise Nxf2 would make a mess of things! 18…0–0 Wonder if I’ll dare do that! 19.h3 Nh6 ; 20.0–0 at last, but doesn’t feel as cosy as usual here! 20…Ne4; 21.Bd3 Ng5; 22.Nxg5 Qxg5; 23.Bxh7+ Kh8; 24.Be4 Bxh3; 25.Bxb7 Be6; 26.Qb4 No time to be subtle! 26…Rd8; 27.Bd4 Bxd4; 28.exd4 Nf5; 29.Qc5 Qf4; 30.Nc3 Rxd4; 31.Ne2 Qd6; 32.Qxd6 that’s cooled things down a bit! Rxd6; 33.Be4 g6; 34.Rb1 I did say that pawn might be useful and with a rook behind it just as the book tells you … 34…Rb6; 35.Nc3 Nd6; 36.Bc6 Bc4; 37.f3 the problem with moving any of my pieces is that the exchange sacrifice for the pawn will lead to a drawn ending. 37…Kg7; 38.Kf2 Rb8; 39.b6 one step nearer! 39…Bd3; 40.Rb3 Nc4; 41.Na4 Bf5; 42.Bd5 Bd7; 43.Rb4 Ne5; 44.Nc5 Bc6 I’m sure she needed to keep the Bishop on for any chance of a draw 45.Bxc6 Nxc6; 46.Rb2 Rd8; 47.b7 almost there! 47…Nb8; 48.Ke3 once more unto the breach …! 48…Kf6; 49.Ra2 Ke7; 50.Ra8 f6; 51.Ke4, black resigned

Diagram of final position:

1 – 0 Wow! I really did it.

Click here for the full British Ladies CC Championship Tournament Table

One thought on “Toni Halliwell – A Personal Return”

  1. What a wonderful story and I am glad I contributed in some small way. I remebered Toni from a long while ago when she contacted me. It was a pleasure to see that same girlish enthusiasm as she displayed all that time ago. I played a couple of games against her on the internet and got smashed playing in my normal fast way. I decided to play more seriously the next time and with the same results. I did managed to manage to claim a draw in the British candidates but that required a huge amount of preparation. Toni represented Yorkshire in the Ward-Higgs where she produced a snappy little brevity to score the teams first point and was quickly put on the will play in anything list. I trust Toni will be succesful in the Ladies Olympiad team and wish her all the success she deserves. Enjoy the chess from one fanatic to snother
    Phill Beckett (aka fast phill)

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