A Talk with the 'Hawk'

I can hear you asking, who is the 'Hawk'? Who is this chess demigod?

Well, its non other than Consett's finest Jonathan Hawkins, you've probably been mashed by him in a local congress! I have, quite a few times.

In my humblest opinion, the 'Hawk' is the best player in the North-East and consequently one of the best in the country at the moment. He's still a young fella and improving all of the time, surely its only a matter of time before the master titles come rolling in? (No pressure Jonathan, ha ha) I actually thought his name ended with 1. Anyhow I've decided to 'pick his brains' in a shameless attempt to plot his future destruction! MmmmmHaHAHAHAHAAHAHH!!! Or not. (This is an old article, The Hawk has gone on to gain the Grandmaster title and won the British Chess Championship!)

How long have you played chess? I must have learned the rules around 8 or 9 years old, I would play my dad occasionally, I used to lose every time. I really hated the game. One day, I just decided I wanted to win, so I went to the library and studied Keene’s “Pocket Book of Chess.” I became reasonable fairly quickly, maybe 60 or 70 going by grade. Anyway, when I was 11 and started Secondary School I joined Consett Chess Club which was held next to the school, and I started playing regularly.

Who are your chess heroes/influences? I don’t have heroes as such, I watch the players who are successful, I analyse every game they play, and I find out why they win. I agree with Fischer, Morphy is the best, nobody before or since has his ability. From the modern era I think my favourites are Sveshnikov, Kramnik, and Nakamura, people with their own ideas how to win, but I try not to copy how anyone plays too closely.

How much time do you spend studying? It’s not really like that, I’m thinking about chess most of the time, I don’t sit down and study in the usual sense so much. I talk about chess and discuss ideas, I play over games, I play blitz. There’s usually something to do with chess going on.

How would you describe your 'style'? I’ve never really considered it. I certainly don’t set out with a style in mind., I think trying to play a certain style would hinder objectivity. I visualise how a perfect player would be, then I strive to achieve it, it’s obviously impossible but I think that’s the best way to do things. Then its up to somebody else to look at my games and say this guy plays positionally or whatever, but I don’t think it’s really important.

What’s your all time favourite game? Easy question, Barnes - Morphy 1858 in the Philidor Counter gambit.

You're currently graded 211 ECF, what's your potential? Well, Bogdan Lalic said I was 2400, I’m not sure, my goal a few years ago was to win some opens, which has worked out ok, but there’s definitely better things to come.

What advice can you give to us mere mortals on improving? It’s not easy to give general advice, the best advice I can give is to move up and challenge yourself, play strong players. If you settle for too long at a low level you get lazy, move up and take some beatings. The first time I played in an open, I was so scared that I would score 0/5, that I studied more the week before the event than I had in the previous year.

And one other thing, promise me you’ll keep playing the King’s Gambit, never conform to that lopez garbage. I solemnly swear never to play 'proper chess' ever, and will endeavour to keep the romantic KG alive and kicking well into the 21st century! [Editor]

Any funny tales, things you've seen or heard?  I remember watching a game once, and Colin Walton’s opponent resigned, quite unusual in itself (just kidding), and Walton spent the next few minutes trying to talk him out of it. “Howay, play it on” etc Watching them arguing, one guy pleading to be allowed to resign, the other trying to persuade him to play on, was pretty funny.

Jimmy Simpson told me a funny true chess story years ago. A guy is playing a little girl, the girl puts her queen en prise, as soon as she lets go she stares at it and starts crying. The guy can’t bring himself to take her queen, she’s balling her eyes out, he feels terrible, so he gets up from the board and finds an arbiter. He tells the arbiter his predicament, the arbiter tells him there’s nothing to be done, he has to go back and finish the game. So he goes back and sits down, and with a heavy heart captures the little girls queen. She suddenly sits upright, wipes her eyes, smiles, and makes her move, “checkmate”.

Funniest story I heard (I have no idea if this is true), arises from this position or something very similar which arose in a blitz finish to a game.

White to play
White wins easily with 1.a8=Q. He pushes the pawn to a8, but no queen is easily to hand, so he frantically puts an upside-down rook on a8, and hits the clock.

Black however, complains that the upside-down rook is still a rook, and it should be counted as such. The arbiter agrees, so white is forced to play 1.a8=R instead.

Black gleefully replies, 1...Rb7#

I just remembered this, so I’ll add it in… Graham Matthews walks through the door into the playing hall, and promptly spills his pint all over the floor, and runs back out of the door.
I say, “where’s he going?”, Sean Marsh says “to get a straw.”[

What's the best game you've played? I think this is for other people to decide. If I had to offer a game though, I would give this game because it virtually clinched the Major Open 2006 for me, I think it’s quite a good game too: Eckersley-Waites - Hawkins

You won the British Major Open, what are your memories of it? Well firstly, it was quite an effort just to get into the event, a lot of people wanted me to play the main event, but I insisted I wanted to play the Major. I felt I would do averagely in the main event at that time, but I thought I had a very good chance of winning the Major.

In the first game, it went really smoothly, after this game I was sure I’d win the event, but then I played some bad games, struggling to 2.5/3 somehow.
In the 4th game I was paired with a Spanish kid, who was the top seed, and he’d won all three of his games easily. I felt already this was the key game of the event, not so much for my own score, but more because if I didn’t beat him I couldn’t see anyone else taking/stopping him.
I told myself, you’ve played terrible but you got to play well and beat this guy or he’ll get 11/11. As it happened, I played like crap again, I don’t know about now but I think at that time he was stronger than I was.

Anyway, I was completely busted and I got to that point where you stop caring and try to create some chaos and pray. Somehow I robbed him for the whole point.
After that everything was fairly automatic, I don’t remember much of it, I remember I was in trouble against Thomas Eggleston, I thought I would lose the game, but I wasn’t worried that it would cost me the event. As it turned out I drew that game. And I pretty much clinched it with the game I annotated earlier.

The next thing I remember is needing a draw to be sure and totally bottling it in the last round, playing the worst game of my life, and probably anyone else’s life too. My opponent missed win after win, even so, my position was still horrible. Then I remember being surprised when he offered a draw out of the blue and swiping his hand off.
And that was it, Thomas could still tie with me if he won, so I watched his game, I was hoping he would win, even though it would cost me £250 if he did, but unfortunately he didn’t. He deserved first place, he played the best chess in that event.

Many thanks to the 'Hawk' for enlightening us. Keep on winning and doing the North-East proud!