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Keith Arkell

Full name Keith Charles Arkell
Country England
Born 8 January 1961
Birmingham, England, UK
Title Grandmaster
Peak rating 2545 (July 1996)

Keith Charles Arkell (born 8 January 1961 in Birmingham) is an English chess Grandmaster.

He won the English Chess Championship in 2008. In 2014 he was European Senior (50+) Champion, and, later in the year, tied for first in the World Senior (50+) Championship, but received the silver medal on tie-break.

Chess career

Arkell learned to play chess aged 13. His brother Nicholas was also a strong player.

FIDE awarded Arkell the title of International Master in 1985, and became Grandmaster ten years later. He was the 1998 British Rapidplay Chess Champion, having recorded his peak Elo rating of 2545 just two years earlier.

In the early part of the 2000s, before taking a break from serious chess, he showed that he could perform consistently at a high level; he tied for second place at the 2001 British Chess Championship, tied for second at the strong Hastings Premier of 2002/3, took first place at the Wroxham Masters (2002) and tied for second at Montpellier (2002). At Gausdal (2002), he beat GMs Stelios Halkias, Vasilios Kotronias and rising star Magnus Carlsen, to finish a half a point off first place. His achievements were recognised when he was voted third (2002) and second (2003) in the British Chess Federation's Player of the Year awards.

In subsequent years he focused his chess play on the weekend congress circuit, rather than competing in overseas tournaments. However, he then bucked the trend in 2007 and 2008 by touring the USA. His itinerary included the Foxwoods Open in Connecticut, where he finished on 6/9, a point behind winner Alexander Shabalov. He also won tournaments, shared or outright, at the famous Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan, at Saratoga Springs, and at the Blackstone Open, near Boston. Another trip took him to Barbados, where he finished runner-up in the Heroes Day Cup with a score of 7½/9. The tournament was claimed by the organiser to be the strongest ever held in the English speaking nations of the Caribbean.

Also in 2008, he tied for first place at the British Championship with GM Stuart Conquest, but lost the overall title after a two-game speed chess play-off. His final standing did however qualify him for the title of 'English Champion'. Later that year, he won the Wellington College International Open with 7½/9, ahead of GM Nick Pert (7/9).

In 2012 “Arkell’s Odyssey”, an autobiography, was published by Keverel Chess Books.

Arkell won the 2014 European Senior Chess Championship in Porto. It was the first year the championship had been split into two separate age categories; 50 years plus and 65 years plus. He won the former and was later voted the English Chess Federation's Player of the Year for 2014.

Arkell shared first at the 2014 World Senior (50+)Championship, in Katerini, with 8.5/11 losing on tiebreak to Zurab Sturua

Playing style

As White, Arkell prefers Queen Pawn openings. As Black, he usually meets 1.d4 with the Nimzo-Indian Defence and 1.e4 with the Caro-Kann Defence or French Defence. When playing the Caro-Kann, he is one of very few Grandmasters who regularly adopt the line 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5!?. The leading chess magazine New in Chess christened this variation the "Arkell-Khenkin Line". He is widely considered to have exceptional skills in the endgame.

In an interview in 2009 with Streatham and Brixton Chess Club, Arkell suggests that the great precision required in long, exacting wins by players such as Ulf Andersson and Anatoly Karpov is the highest art form in chess and that for many years it never occurred to him that the majority of players would not share his enthusiasm. In the same interview, he laments that a reputation for keeping a tight rein on games and grinding out wins on the UK weekend circuit to support an existence as a professional chess player has negatively influenced coverage of his achievements by chess journalists and harmed his chances of selection for the England national team by overshadowing his record in international events.

Personal life

Keith Arkell was once married to Woman Grandmaster and International Master Susan Lalic (née Walker).