Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Promising start to the season

It never rains unless it pours. The opponents for the first game against a different club turned out to be our promotion chasing friends from Banbury. With both clubs having two teams in division two, we are regular visitors to each other's clubs.

Our new look board order now features Mike on board one and he was playing Gary Jackson. Gary played the opening very quickly and Mike didn't. In a subtle manoeuvring game where both sides establish knights on c4 and c5 respectively, Mike gained a slight but lasting positional plus. Black's 30 minute time advantage ultimately disappeared leaving him short of time in the new time control world of all moves in 75 mins. In a few hurriedly played moves, black sacrificed an exchange to trap a rook. Unfortunately this activity allowed white to sacrifice the rook and promote a pawn on the other side of the board giving him a winning position.

On board two, Phil played a Scandinavian defence against Paul Rowan. Black gained a pawn in the opening but then had difficulty with his development. Ultimately, white regained the pawn and then another. The exchange of major pieces led to an opposite colour bishop ending with Phil was able to hold on for a draw.

Board three was Dave playing Dan Rowan. An Open Sicilain led to a complex position in the cnetre with black having an isolated pawn. Initial exchanges left black a pawn up but then allowed white to regain the pawn and enter a bishop and rook ending where he had a queen side majority. When the oppertunity arose white traded rooks and exchanged his queenside for a kingside one leaving a drawn ending.

Our new grade driven board order leaves Ben as a player floating between the B and C teams. On board four he was playing Francesco Poderico xxxn with the black pieces. White's over aggressive played allowed black to win a pawn and gain the bishop pair. White continued to attack relentlessly on the king side whilst black created threats on the queen side. An exchange sacrifice by white didn't quite work leaving black an easier tactical win.

All in all, it was quite an impressive result against strong opposition.

Classical Chess is Dead!

A dramatic claim I know, but what other explanation can there be for the A team's experience in our first match of the season away against Banbury A last night? All four games drawn - its obvious to me that when players of this strength (?) face off, its impossible for there to be a decisive outcome to any game. We just see everything; there are not even any slight errors; and certainly not any blunders!

And in fact, the writing was on the wall from the moment the team sheets were exchanged, and (I subsequently discovered) the two sides had exactly the same average grade. And when I say exactly, I mean exactly!

The first half point of the season was chalked up by the seldom-seen (except at curries and booze-ups) Andy after an interesting struggle against Carl Portman on Board 2. I was rather annoyed, as I thought Andy was clearly better with his bishops raking across the board and the white king looking rather draughty. Shows how much I know, though, as our man assured me afterwards that he was worse and glad to get out with a half point!

The return of Joshua to the Leamington League promises to generate some interesting chess - but it seems as though he used up too much of his creative juices last week in checkmating Bernard in the B v C team match, as here his best efforts to stir up a battle were resolutely defused by Neil Staples. Eventually the potential weakness of Josh's IQP were such that he felt he had to liquidate into an obviously drawn position.

Still, two draws with Black can't be all bad but in fact the omens were not that favourable, as Andrew seemed to be having a bit of an off day on Board 3 (maybe because he's become so used to the rarified atmosphere on Board 1 in recent seasons?) Arran Gundry snaffled a pawn with a fairly obvious cheapo, and the few times I went to check on progress, the material count was still not in our favour. But then I became rather fixated with my own game, and I lost track of Andrew's. Things must have happened, though, because I then heard him decline a draw offer. Either he was wildly optimistic or the pendulum had swung in our direction. Whatever, the potential of a precious victory didn't last long, because in two shakes of a lamb's tail, the third draw of the evening had been agreed.

Which normally would have been curtains for us, as I was in play against James Jackson on Board 1. Fortunately, though, I had made the game sufficiently turgid that he felt forced to sac a pawn to liven things up. He got a great knight established on c5 which dominated my rather pitiful bishop on c2, which was hemmed in by my collection of pawns all on white squares. Still, I had control of the open b file and we seemed to be on the verge of repeating moves, when at the last minute he deviated and on we went. It came down to queen and bishop v queen and knight, but I still had my extra pawn. As we both came under time pressure I took my chance to open up the Black kingside, and just in time my bishop liberated itself onto the h3-c8 diagonal and helped me force perpetual check. And for the record, I was still a pawn up!

So our hopes for a 100% season didn't even survive match one, but on the bright side we won't be scoring 0% either. Which for a glass half empty man like me, is a success in itself!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

I've been thinking

They say that the devil makes works for idle hands.

You know that when footballers are interviewed on tv about away games , they always refer back to the fixture at their home ground. However, they never just say their home ground name, they always some descriptive title for their venue - The Bridge, The Emirates, Anfield, Camp Nou or San Siro etc.

The grounds are always set out to be overtly unfriendly towards the visiting team and their supporters.

Well I've been thinking. Shouldn't we have a name for our venue. We could just use 'The Abbey' although I'm sure that other names are available.

We've already got a hostile home crowd - the snooker players. We are half way there!

Just a thought. Hopefully the chess fixtures will pick up a bit soon. Answers on a postcard please!

Chess Boxing?! Is He Completely Mad??

News reaches me of a dangerous venture into the unknown by our very own Paul Lam, as he is going to bravely go where no KCC member has ever gone before - into the boxing ring with the number one contender for the British heavyweight title! But there is method in his madness, which is best explained in Paul's own words:-

The big match is coming up! No, not Carlsen-Caruana…. On 26th September, I will be lacing up the gloves and stepping into the boxing ring with heavyweight pro and British boxing cult hero, Dave ‘The White Rhino’ Allen.

[This is where I thought about posting a picture of Dave 'The White Rhino' Allen, but just in case he might think it doesn't show his good side, I decided to be cautious. This way he can focus all his fighting instincts on Paul. Google him at your own risk!]

Why in God's name would I be doing such a thing?

Six-year-old Ben Crowther, the son of my good friend Scott, was recently diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. For those of you involved with the Coventry Chess Academy, Ben's name might ring a bell. That’s because Ben’s older brothers James and Harry have been members of our club and Ben enjoys a game or two as well, going back to when he used to play with the chess pieces on the floor as a baby in the pokey little room where it all began in 2013.Their whole family have been fantastic supporters of the CCA from the start, even before we opened.

You can only imagine the tough times Ben and his family are going through right now, but the strength and positivity they’re showing is awe-inspiring. I'm just doing my bit in support.

All funds raised from the boxing event with Dave will go towards the charities supporting Ben as he undergoes treatment, which are CLIC Sargent, Birmingham Children's Hospital and Charity, Molly Olly's Wishes, Children with Cancer UK and the Chris Lucas Trust Rhabdomyosarcoma Appeal.

In addition to doing rounds with Dave, we will also be having a chess match (he’s seriously motivated!).

You can read the full story and make a donation online here.
Any amount donated, whether large or small, will go towards making a big difference, but please don't feel under any pressure to do so. Simply sharing the link, spreading the word or passing on a message of support would also make a difference. In the words of Ben's family:

‘During Ben’s long road to recovery, we know that smiles, laughter and general silliness is helping him through, so we are raising money, generating pledges and increasing awareness so we can all do something to ‘Pass The Smile’ to others.

Paul's fund-raising effort is already making impressive progress, and hopefully KCC members can help push him above and beyond his target. With any luck, there will be enough left over to buy some smelling salts, which I fear will be needed - for Dave Allen, of course, after Paul has floored him with a swift kingside attack!

Good luck, Paul - and make sure the headguard is on nice and tight.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Off we go again

A new season dawns for all the Kenilworth teams. Not too much has happened during the transfer window, only a small amount of shuffling due to changing grades and a new registration system and time control. The only exception to this is that Joshua Pink continues his tale of three cities and has found that he can slot in a few KCC games into his busy schedule - a welcome return. Also fantastic to see Bernard Rogers playing again as he continues his retirement planning by playing some games for the C team.

 The first match of the division 2 season is traditionally B versus C. However, last night's game looked more like Ken B versus Ken B with most players being from last season's B team.

 On board 1 Mike played Bernard Charnley. An uneventful closed Sicilian led to a draw. Even Mike's tactical innovation failed to generate no more than a rapid exchange of pieces and an even position.

 Board 2 saw the most exciting game of the match with Joshua playing Bernard Rogers. Clearly Joshua has been mixing with some chess undesirables whilst away and has picked up some adventurous attacking habits and obviously forgot that this type of chess just simply isn't played by the B team generally. This was a game straight out of the nineteenth century with an Evans Gambit being played. I managed to lose at least five minutes on my clock whilst trying to work out what was going on and not paying attention to my own opponent. Games like this are horrendously complicated and can go either way so easily. With most of his pieces on prix Joshua mated Black's exposed king.

 Board 3 saw Phil playing Ben. Out of the opening Ben seemed to have a slight advantage with an open h file against Phil's castled king side position. However Phil consolidated his position very well and a draw was agreed fairly early.

 Dave was playing Rod on board 4 with the white pieces. An irregular line of a Closed Sicilian position left neither side with an advantage out of the opening. A very early draw in 16 moves was agreed as white took advantage of his time position to offer a draw and seal the match result of 2.5 - 1.5.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

New Grades - Results of the Recount

I'm pleased to report that the August update to the new grading list has been generally positive for KCC members, as 4 of us have seen our standard-play grades revised upwards, but only by a paltry 6 points in  total.

Most importantly, three of the points I lost down the back of the ECF grader's sofa have been retrieved, and instead of standing in the corner with my dunce's hat on at -2, I am now +1. I still can't square that with my own estimate of +7, but it looks like I'm stuck with what I've got.

Andy B has been given a one point boost, which reduces his loss to a still distressing 9 points, and Ben has similarly been given an extra point, which reduces his fall to a still scarier 12 points. Spookily, Tony is the third of us to gain a single point, which means his new grade represents a +1 performance.

The only person to have been adversely affected by the revisions is Matt, whose debut on the Rapid Grading List has been reduced by a rather vicious 6 points from the originally published grade. How did they manage to get it so wrong, I wonder?

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A Very Friendly Friendly!

For the first time in many a year, KCC found themselves involved in a pre-season friendly last night, thanks to a kind invitation from Stratford to help them inaugurate their impressive new venue at the Home Guard Club in Tiddington. After much to-ing and fro-ing we managed to assemble 9 players, and with Stratford lending us two more, the match took place over 11 boards.

The KCC Massive! - left to right Mike J, Matt, Dave, Mike D, Bernard R, Tony, Chris, Bernard C and Algis

Most boards were contested over 1 x 60 minutes game, but a few intrepid souls (Attention Deficit Disorder?) preferred to play 2 x 30 minutes, though for match score purposes each board still counted as one point per winner.

We ended up as convincing winners by the score of 8-3, with even our loanees from Stratford doing us proud by contributing 1.5 points.  I missed much of the action, but there were quick wins from Bernard R and Bernard C - in fact two quick wins from the latter, whose creative juices are clearly in full flow ahead of his forthcoming art show at Rugby!

An away win!

The points continued to flow but not necessarily where they deserved to. Mike J blundered a queen away in a winning position, to only draw his 2 game match, while Chris contrived to lose on time when a piece up. But to balance that, Matt somehow turned a lost position into a win. After losing the exchange, he found himself with rook and bishop against two rooks, with a two pawn deficit to boot. I came back a few minutes later and while Matt still had a bishop, the other three rooks (and a couple of black pawns) had disappeared. A remarkable turn-around!

Algis contributed a nice win and Dave won his mini-match by winning game two from a very dubious position after a game one draw, and suddenly the only game remaining was the board one match up. This was a very wild affair with Mike D being material up, but under strong pressure from Richard McNally. Calm defence and consolidation eventually led to a counter attack by Mike where he had two pieces and several pawns against a rook. Mike pushed his queen side pawns against the rather exposed Black king, and with both clocks ticking down Mike kept his calm and wove a beautiful mating net with his minor pieces. The coup de grace was the move Bc8 mate - not something you get to play too often!

Mike D setting up his mating net in the Board 1 encounter

So a good time was had by all, and many thanks to Stratford for the invitation and their excellent hospitality - the buffet was much appreciated! We might even consider arranging such an event ourselves in future? But right now, I'm just hoping that we haven't used up too much of our good luck before the season has even started!

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Boring, But Essential, Reading!

The countdown to the new season is firmly underway, with next week's friendly at Stratford starting us off, and the first competitive game - the inevitable Kenilworth B v Kenilworth C inter-necine bloodbath - scheduled for September 10th.

Which prompts me to mention two issues:-

1  Those of you who were ECF members last season should have received a reminder to renew for 2018-19, unless you have a multi-year membership extending beyond 2018. You can do this at the ECF website. If you weren't an ECF member last year, and you expect/want to be playing league matches this season, then you need to join. You can do this here.There's no immediate deadline, but for the sake of the Club Organiser's well-being, the sooner the better, please!

Everyone needs to be an ECF member to play in league matches for us, at Bronze level (£16 pa) or above. If not, we have to charge you £2.50 per game, as that is the fee levied on the Cub by the ECF for grading the games of non-members.

2  The full fixtures are now out for both the Leamington and Coventry Leagues, and our inimitable Webmaster has already posted these on this website at the respective/appropriate pages. Please try to keep as many dates as possible free for matches in which you might expect to be needed.

Hopefully the next post on this Blog will be more interesting. But I can't give any guarantees. Still, in an attempt to give you some reward for reading this far, click this link to see an extensive article about Paul, with two of his games annotated by GM Jonathan Speelman.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Graves of Famous Chess Players: No 9 in a Series of .....

Whatever happened to instalment Number 8, I hear you say? Well it was there within my Bobby Fischer retrospective, it just never made it into the title. But how do you follow a star turn like Bobby? Clearly, some random Victorian English pawn-pusher wouldn't do, so it has to be another big hitter to warrant resurrecting this series. And it is!

But this time, it's not me who has been grave watching. So famous, though, is this series, that without even asking I now apparently have agents out scouting the world's cemeteries for more chess memorials. Consequently, I shouldn't have been that surprised when an e-mail from my sister landed in my inbox complete with photos of the grave of none other than the 4th World Champion, Alexander Alekhine. It was a bit serendipitous, as she was actually strolling round Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, looking for the grave of Samuel Beckett (well, it takes all types) and chanced upon Alekhine as a bonus. (And also Susan Sontag, for what it's worth.)

The headstone is apparently surmounted by a stone relief portrait.
Alekhine's 4th wife is also interred with him.

I wonder who left the toy car? And why??

Alekhine died in Lisbon in 1946 (possibly murdered by the Soviets) and is the only World Champion to have died while still in possession of the title. His remains were only moved to Paris in 1956, after a long campaign by his widow, as his apparent complicity with the occupying Germans during WW2 had made him, even in death, persona non grata in France for many years.

On the board, Alekhine was, of course, one of the greatest players of all time, and he created many brilliant games that stand comparison with any in chess history. This is possibly his greatest masterpiece, of which he himself wrote, " One of the most beautiful games I have ever played." No kidding!! I am not even going to attempt to provide any annotations - this level of chess is way beyond my pay grade! - but if you are interested, then the works of either Alekhine or Kasparov could reasonably be consulted for some fittingly high-powered commentary.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Game of the Month, August 2018

Well, I did warn you that a number of wins by Andy against big-name opposition had come into my possession, so it can't be a surprise that the latest Game of the Month should come from this source. And it really is a big name, even though its also Short. Yes, back in 1978, Andy came up against a rather useful 13-y-o from Lancashire, who had already played in the British Championship at the age of 12 (where he defeated 10 times champion Jonathan Penrose!), and who would go on to become England's most famous chess player and to challenge for the World Championship.

The following encounter is razor sharp, and understandably the complications are a bit much for both players (says the man using Deep Fritz!), but it is Andy who keeps his cool and stands firm against an avalanche of White pieces, when lesser men (eg the Club Organiser) would have wilted in the face of a frightening onslaught.

This is a very nice scalp to have on one's CV, and one that most of us could only dream about. Kind of makes you want to treat the old geezer with a bit more respect, doesn't it!?