Last month I participated in the Bristol qualifier of the UK Open Blitz tournament, and came agonisingly close to the top two qualifying spots (around joint 13th… ahem).
However, I had the dubious honour of getting mated-in-one against Fiona Steil-Antoni, whose interview with us is below. Alice Lampard from Bristol Uni also qualified for the final – after a notable draw against me in which we both blundered queens – and is the only Bristol League representative (GM Nick Pert and Krystof Sneiberg also made it; full list below).
BCT: Thanks for speaking with us – and for choosing Bristol! How’s it going?
Fiona: Great thanks; I had a last-minute decision of which qualifier to go to, I’m glad I chose Bristol!
BCT: I saw you recently played a game for North Bristol as well – how did that come about?
Fiona: Yes I had a tough game against an FM [Tyson Mordue – he annotates the game here]. I had met a player from North Bristol at a weekender in Dublin; and they invited me to play so I said sure! Glad to get my debut here, shame it was a loss..
BCT: Best of luck next time! So you are quite a personality on the chess scene – seems like there has been lots of great stuff in professional chess recently – what’s your view on it all?
Fiona: It’s all great – streaming has been such a big improvement, people are enjoying watching chess online – and it is a big range of grades as well. It is something for everyone, and its enjoyable – really makes chess fun and accessible.
BCT: Are there any specifically you have enjoyed?
Fiona: Some really successful ones like ‘My Teacher Sam’, and the ChessBrahs come to mind, but there are many others. The Pro-Chess League has been particularly fun – obviously I have been involved in the broadcast of it for a while but there are others showing it as well. You get a team of 4 players and they could be a big range of grades. If you’re drawn against a big team you could end up playing one of the best – even Hikaru or Magnus – so it’s really exciting and players are getting their bit of fame so that was great to be a part of. Of course Ginger GM as well!
BCT: Of course. Do you think all this online growth is helping chess in general?
Fiona: It is growing definitely – the general public know more now. Magnus has done extremely well as world champion, it definitely helps that he is young, and attractive – I think chess today has a way to go to match the hype that it had in the 70’s, but its different now and who knows where it will go. All the online platforms have done a great job.
Thinking about today – faster games are good to increase viewers; at the final one thing I hope is that they get digital boards [DGT boards can relay the moves played]; it’s like 8 boards in each section, so 16 digital boards needed to enable everyone to watch the games live – seems like an easy way to make it much more exciting and attract viewers.
BCT: Yes let’s talk about today – who was your toughest opponent so far?
Fiona: Nick. [GM Pert – just the 400 rating points clear of the field]
BCT: Ah, of course. Second?
Fiona: Hmm. Hard to say – also can’t remember the names! [We hadn’t played our match at this point, but safe to say it wasn’t me].
BCT: You’re in pole position right now for the women’s final, so assuming you make it, who are you looking out for at the finals?
Fiona: Lots of great players I expect will be there, but Sophie Milliet (France) is very original and has been having good results, she will be very tough.
BCT: Again the very best of luck for that! One last thing – you’ve been following the Bristol Chess Times a little – what advice can you give us?
Fiona: Vlogging is very effective. Blogs are great but videos are just easier and people like to see behind the scenes nowadays. It’s also more instant, more present. Keep the blog going – that’s great too, but it’s mostly about streaming and vlogging now.
[Well Fiona, we took your advice and have done what we can – starting a YouTube channel – if we get the time then we’ll start vlogging too!]
BCT: Great, thanks – well I’ll let you actually take a break and recharge before the last 5 rounds!
Fiona: My pleasure, best of luck yourself
[I needed it. I’ll be back next year for what was a pretty intense and fun day, and will try to avoid mates in one, queen-blundering, and failing to convert games a rook up. Meanwhile I’ll be relaxing and watching the final]
Congratulations also to Bristolian Tom Thorpe who ran the qualifying event – he has since been awarded the title of FIDE International Arbiter!
Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess