Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Clean Sweep!

Things have not gone to plan for the A team in the Leamington League since Christmas - in fact we haven't won a single match (largely due to my terrible form) - and as a consequence we have fallen off the pace at the top of the table.  So it is with a very large dollop of relief that I am able to report a 4-0 whitewash of Rugby A this week.

Inevitably, Joshua was the first to finish, using the dynamic 1 c3! to quickly bamboozle Patrick Reid on Board 3. After two consecutive losses against his opponent, Joshua was doubtless keen to avoid being on the end of a hat-trick, and after winning the two bishops thanks to a strong Nd6 jump into Black's position, he found a nice tactic to win material in the centre of the board.

It was 2-0 a while later as Mike outplayed Simon Turner on Board 4 thanks to an overwhelming control of the dark squares. This led to the win of an important White centre pawn and Black taking over the whole position. The only moment of concern was when I went over to him to confirm the result and saw 1/2 - 1/2 written on his scoresheet! Thankfully it was just a senior moment, and Mike had indeed won convincingly.

2-0 then became 3-0, as Andrew was the beneficiary of a gross blunder by Jonathan Cox which simply put a piece en prise. I thought our man was better, but it certainly wasn't a position where a sudden conclusion could have been predicted. Still, we'll take it!

And then, eventually, I made it 4-0 when mating Paul Colburn. As I had a queen, bishop and two pawns against his lone king by that time, the win was not exactly unexpected. But in fact I had been an exchange and a pawn up for almost the whole evening after a strong f5 pawn break in the opening busted the Back position wide open. Unfortunately, I missed a follow up piece sac which would have finished the game quite quickly, and instead of being first to finish I was the last, as it took a long time to open lines for my rooks and infiltrate the Black position.

Even after this crushing win, though, our title hopes are pretty minimal, but it was a great relief for both team and captain to get back in the winning groove.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Hyper-super-dooper-modernism succumbs to a one-two

Monday night it was the might Kenilworth D facing what turned out to be the mightier Daventry B. We entered the ritual of 'The Clock' and 'The Setting of The Clocks' before reaching the climax of  the ritual - 'Leave Everything alone - Mark has already set them. Don't touch anything'.

The scene was set fair for 'The Battle'.

Roy faced Alan Eley in an epic struggle. Alan dropped a pawn on move six which was nice. This was followed by White putting ALL his pawns on the same colour as his Bishop, it being particularly immobilised on e3 by his blocked pawns on f4 and d4. White, however made it difficult and after a series of wally moves by Roy he threatened to recapture a pawn forcing Roy into a desperate Queen exchange which, I think should still have lost the pawn. But following an inaccuracy by Alan, the coup de grace was a Knight fork against King and Rook when an unavoidable slaughter followed. Alan's noble, last stand in the final stages of the battle of the Custer variety -  did not rescue the situation. One/Nil to Kenilworth.

I did not see much of Tony's game but Angela Pates looked to have the better of it from early on. After he had succumbed to a the loss of the exchange (and I think a couple of pawns) Tony wisely resigned - although he could have played on for a bit longer. But I do not think eternal hope was springing in Tony's breast that night. One all.

So we come to Steve.

Again I did not see much of the early game although it appeared to me that having smashed his opponent's King-side pawns and following up with a Queen check he had more than the edge against Huw Davies. Sadly, Steve had no other pieces in the vicinity and his Queen on the same semi-open g-file as his King was asking for Huw to play Rg1. Which he did. Sadly for Steve, Huw also had a Bishop on the long a1- h8 diagonal - a diagonal which just happened to be clear of all pieces. This enabled Huw to force Steve to give up his Queen for zip in order to avoid mate.

BUT this is when Steve's strategic creativity came to the fore with his hyper-super-dooper-modernist interpretation of chess strategy. Joshua might have invented the powerful fianchettoed knight but stand aside and gasp! Weep aloud! Steve realised that when you are Queen and Knight down the best approach is to exchange  your rooks in order to create chances on the open lines for your Knight! Bingo!

Now those of us in the nether bowels of the chess world are, I feel, much more insightful to chess psychology than those of the lofty 180+ world. Hence Steve's famous, if individualistic, H-S-D-M strategy confounded his opponent who failed to see a) mate in one on SEVERAL occasions b) the win of a Rook for zip c) some other things too deep to explain! Sadly, Steve also failed to see these wrinkles in his grand strategy. As with Harry Potter's 'Invisibility Cloak' NOTHING can be seen. Notwithstanding this, Steve put up a fight of Gotterdamerung proportions before eventually succumbing and exclaiming, in General MacArthur mode 'I shall return' (last bit [and much more]  made up). One/Two to Daventry B.

We need an anthem!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Post Match gentle let down!

Re my previous blogg, the chant 'Come On Ken D' cut no ice - or anything else for that matter - with Stratford C. Ice being the operative word. This pre-match warm up blogg was clearly out-weighed by the freezing room we played in. That's the ONLY reason I can think of why such a stellar team did not win the match.

Board one saw me in my first encounter with the youthful and up and coming Ben Larkin - also one of Paul's pupils. Ben played  a line with which he was very familiar but, and the foible of many a youngster, he played very fast. He exchanged both my bishops for his knights - but in a closed position. Shuffle, exchange, shuffle, push, exchange, shuffle, push, exchange, push. Two rooks and five each. I offered a draw - which I am pretty sure it was - and Ben declined, only to go on to blunder and lose the game.

Board three saw a move four knight 'sacrifice' by Steve. Some, unkind people, might describe it as an uncompensated blunder. But I think I saw the psychological depths of the 'sac' - Steve likes to play from behind. Which he achieved in spades! Losing a further pawn and eventually facing - with his rook and one - five connected passed pawns, rook and knight, Steve was helped by his opponent seeing a massive 'ghost' - the no-chance promotion of Steve's h-pawn - and concentrated all his efforts into its capture (just in case) which he eventually did. In one of his final moves Steve picked up his rook, placed in on g2 - but did not let go before wisely placing it between g2 and g1! Steve lost.

Board two had Chris Aldridge facing Adrian Grimes. Not quite a thriller but it all looked pretty evens to me when Steve and I had to leave. But obviously not as equal as I thought. To quote George Orwell, ' some positions are more equal than others'. It seems Chris was on the wrong side of equality and went down to a loss.

Final result 2-1 to Stratford.

All I can say is 'COME ON KENILWORTH D' for our next and last match of the season,  away against Daventry!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Pre-Match Build Up - 'Come On Ken D'

Tonight, Kenilworth D play Stratford  C in a chess match. Mike J  - who is on hols - has  delegated the awesome responsibility of team selection to myself! I have selected from the crème de la crème and we are: Board One - Roy Watson, Board Two - Chris Aldridge (back from injury) and board Three Steve Payne. (I made up the 'back from  injury' bit for effect). 'How can I rally the team' I thought to myself.

I recently watched Jennifer Hudson singing the USA National Anthem at the Superbowl. The KCC do not have an equivalent 'tune' around which we can all rally. Now, the obvious one  -  Queen's 'We are the Champions' is OK if we keep winning. In the more likely event of  keep losing, perhaps Shaggy's 'It Wasn't me!'

Any road up, I throw it open to the club - perhaps an AGM item? - to identify an inspiring club Anthem. I'd be happy to belt it out at all home matches - pom poms included but not the short skirt!
We could have a sound clip attached to every blogg.

Come on Ken D!

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Oh, the Shame, the Shame!

Observant readers will have noticed the absence of a recent match report after the A team's final game of the season against Nuneaton A. From this you could correctly guess that things did not go well - hence my limited enthusiasm for putting finger to keyboard.

On one level we performed really well, as we improved upon our 0-4 loss against them earlier in the season by only going down 1-3 this time around (draws for Mike and Dave, losses for me (yet again) and Ben) against a very strong Nuneaton team. But regrettably, this was not really that great an achievement, as it extended our recent run to four consecutive league losses (plus one cup defeat) and - this is where the shame comes in! - meant we finished bottom of Division 1.

This state of affairs was considerably influenced by the failure of Warwick University B to play their final match of the season, which gifted Coventry A a 4-0 win and saw them leapfrog us to the elevated position of 4th. Students - dontcha just luv em?! Fortunately, there is no relegation - or at least, there'd better not be!

Nevertheless, in accordance with the time honoured requirement for failing leaders to fall on their sword, I shall of course be offering my resignation as manager/captain of the team. In the confident expectation that no-one will volunteer to replace me! But please - be my guest!

Ben ended as top scorer with 5/10, while Mike, Dave and myself could only manage 3.5 - albeit that Dave played one game less, when Rod substituted for him and got a draw.

And there's more bad news to report from the Coventry League, I'm afraid, where our B team ended up next to bottom of Division 2 in their debut season - only saved from last place by the mid-season collapse/withdrawal of he Coventry University team (although the question of points from the unplayed matches against Cov Uni could yet elevate us another place). The final nail in the coffin was the enforced defaulting of the last match against Rugby B due to an outbreak of illness in the team, which struck down both Roy and Jude. Despite the 6th or 7th place finish, though, this has been a good effort by the B team, especially notable for Jude's superb score of 9/11! The next highest scorer being Algis with 3.5/6. (Though kudos to Dave, Bernard R and Andy Ward for 100% scores on their limited appearances.) It seems as though there is another sword to be fallen on, Roy! But again, there is probably no great urge for anyone else to assume the role.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Magnificent Seven!

Forget your GM's. Forget your over 190's. Forget your adult players. The 'Under Tens' is where the chess groove is grooving nowadays! Where the action is happening! Where the future lies and where the fun and excitement is to be found.

Last night a young man, a member of your club, Billy Fellowes exemplified all the above! Is he ten? No. Is he nine? No. Is he eight? No. Is he seven? YES! A magnificent seven.

In what I think was only his third league game, Billy played on bottom board for the D team, away, against Shirley D.

I did not follow all the twist and turns of the game but I did notice, at one point that there were holes all around the king of Billy's opponent. But to a later glance, it seemed to me that Billy was AT LEAST a pawn and the exchange down with more about to tumble.

His dad asked me how he was doing to which I gave the thumbs down. But what do I know?

No longer a slave to his emotions, Billy held his nerve. Man of Steel. Unflustered, Billy  persisted with his kingside pressure using queen, bishop and a 6th rank passed pawn against an exposed king. All of this his opponent completely underestimated as he went on an irrelevant pawn hunt. Result? Billy's opponent was mated. Billy was first to finish and left covered in glory.

The other two games were, by comparison, invisible, hidden by the splendour of the light eminating from the bottom board which hideth all surrounding activity.

We already have one under ten on 80% league results in the club and now we have Billy on 2/3.

Match result? Well if, after Billy's performance, you are still interested in such mundane and earthly matters it was 0.5 - 2.5 to Kenilworth.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Final Reminder - Warwickshire Open, Feb 22-24

Don't forget that we have a major weekend tournament taking place in Coventry next weekend.

Warwickshire Open Chess Championships Friday Febuary 22nd - Saturday February 24th, 2019 Alan Higgs Centre, Allard Way, Coventry CV3 1JP
Full details and online entry at http://congress.warwickshirechess.org/

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Farewell to Joshua


This week's match was probably the most important of the season for the B team. A victory against Banbury B would leave us four points clear of them and very difficult to catch. Banbury were not taking any chances and turned up with their strongest team permitted. Kenilworth B weren't taking any chances either, playing without their liability of a captain.

Phil played Gary Jackson on board 3 and played his trademark Scandinavian defence. Both sides emerged from the opening with equal chances. White managed to win a pawn in the middle game but black managed to regain it. White continued to press and some complications allowed him to win a bishop. The endgame still wasn't easy for white as black had an advanced passed pawn although he still had the skill required to win it.

Joshua was playing the normally solid Neil Staples with the white pieces. However, solid only applies against regular opening play. Joshua produced another of his home made unusual lines featuring the use of h4-h5 again. Against an opening that he clearly wasn't comfortable with, Neil had to defend a constant stream of positional and tactical threats which took it's toll on the clock. Despite being down to his last five minutes, the game was far from over and blacks castled position was still under attack. Black resigned when all the following were still an option - loss of queen, running out of time or getting mated.

Mike was playing Paul Rowan with black in a repeat of a previous queens pawn game. However, this time the main line was followed. The most interesting point of the game was that whilst a draw was a likely outcome, white was concerned about the team position and was reluctant to offer a draw. However playing on was slightly risky. Eventually white found that playing on was becoming too dangerous and accepted Mike's repeating of the position. It was always a balance as whether Nathan on board four could beat Ben. It looked as if he should and so a draw was agreed. It really looked as if board four was won for Banbury.

For quite some time Ben had a very good position against Nathan Manley on board four, even winning. However, some tactical opportunism by black allowed him to win a piece. Then, to make matter worse, white had to give up an exchange to avoid getting mated. With a whole rook less, most players would normally resign unless of course your opponent only had two minutes left. Some fantastic play in a time scramble by Ben saw him prolong the game to where black had just five seconds left and still hadn't won. With four seconds left Nathan accepted Ben's offer of a draw.

So that was it, the points shared. Although we haven't distanced ourselves from Banbury B, they hadn't made up any ground on us. Next stop Stratford.

This was Joshua's last appearance for the B team before becoming tied against the A Team. His four win out four game has been invaluable. Thanks Joshua.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Ben Grafts - But No Toffee Apple

It was off to the Races last night with a good strong B team against University C but like the horses we caught a cold!

I stood aside - Ben (1) Andy Ward (2) Jude (3) and William (4).

Off to a flying, start. Ben, Andy and Jude all with very strong positions. It seemed to me that Ben's and Andy's games might be over before move 25 had been reached. Ben had what seemed to be a crushing attack against S. Bott - but, to recall Mr Lam's phrase, 'LOOKS good but IS it?' Well I thought it both looked good and was good. Although Black did have counter chances neither I nor Ben thought he had time to get going before Ben finished him off. Not so. Blam! Blam! Blam! by Black. Game over.

Andy had the same kind of situation - an apparently crushing attack - but he says he forgot his opponent (P. Pikmets) could castle! He lost a pawn and then another - but at the classic cost of tempi. Cleverly allowing himself to be 'saddled' with double isolated pawns on d4 and d5 Andy kept White's king at bay and ended up a pawn, White promoted to a queen first followed by Andy also promoting on the next move but the many checks by White could not stop Andy slowly pushing his pawn. Game over.

But first to finish was William who played very solidly but lost a few tempi in the opening and got squashed with resultant limited options. Going an exchange down Will battled manfully on and although the outcome was probably clear, he made his opponent (N Izzah) work hard for her eventual win.

But once again, possibly the most impressive performance was by Jude as White against J Alisen. In the face of Jude churning out one of his by now standard Londons Black played a queenside fianchetto. It is a tribute to Jude's understanding that now 'out of book' he was able to play solidly. Achieving a solid unremovable 'Octopus' knight (see Lam) on e5 Jude relentlessly limited his opponents options. Foreseeing well in advance the possibility of a draw by repetition Jude took the appropriate action the efficacy of which his opponent did not see and sacrificed a whole rook in the expectation of a draw - but Jude's king scuttled away to safety after which an immediate # was forced.

This makes it  nine wins out of eleven in the Cov. League, if I am not mistaken, for the young man! Not that the green eyed monster comes into it but I understand that the revised grading list now puts him a point lower than on first show - which means he is no longer graded higher then his captain!!!

So 2-2. Compared to the opening promise, a cold was caught but not flu! The draw was a very helpful addition to our position in the table. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

All My Own Work

Having just lost a truly horrendous game at the 4NCL the previous day, I was feeling pretty depressed yesterday and didn't really feel much like playing chess. But for some very fortuitous reason, I decided to play a few games on-line after all. And in about the third one I got to play an absolutely great move - which not only put a smile on my face but gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.




Don't you just love chess?? (Well, some of the time!)

Judging from my opponent's user name, he comes from Rovinj in Croatia. You get a bonus point if you knew that this (together with Zagreb) was the scene of the "Tournament of Peace" in 1970 (almost immediately after the USSR v Rest of the World match) which was won decisively by Bobby Fischer with 13/17 (ie +9!!). And you would get 5 bonus points if you knew that the only game he lost (his first for almost three years) was against the less than household name, Vlado Kovacevic!

There is a very interesting report of the game on chessgames.com, including Kovacevic's own remembrances (given on a 2015 Croatian TV programme). " Fischer was a gentleman who perhaps overconfidently entered the game with a lesser player. In what was, in Kovacevic’s words, a battle of David vs. Goliath, Fischer did not go for a draw or tempt Kovacevic with a draw-offer in the early phase, but played actively until the position was lost. Then he shook the young opponent’s hand, said ‘Very good,’ signed the score sheet, and left. Kovacevic had not even managed to sign his own sheet when Petrosian, excited with Fischer’s defeat, took it from his hands and enthusiastically exclaimed: ‘For Moscow, for Moscow!’"

Intriguingly, there is also some suggestion that Petrosian's wife was used to tell Kovacevic the decisive move during the game, but Kovacevic claims that as he did not speak Russian he had no idea what she was saying to him.

However, whatever the truth about that incident, I can definitely confirm, that in the game above, neither Petrosian's, or anybody else's, wife prompted me to make the decisive move. It was all my own work!!