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!!

Preparing for chess, tick tock goes the clock and other moral stories

After all these years, I have finally hit upon the perfect means of preparing for a tough weekend of chess. It seems the secret is to fly to America and back, wreck your body clock and do no chess work whatsoever. Having fully tested what I am going to dub "the Ben routine," I can truly vouch for its efficacy. At least if my experience at the 4NCL is anything to go by. I managed to beat a 175 in 24 moves on the Saturday (albeit it is possible he was following the same regime, just less effectively if his play was anything to go by...) I followed up with another win on the Sunday.

So what's the catch I hear you ask? Sadly it transpires that it is not always possible to follow this magical routine before you sit down at the board. So what chance did I really have last night? They say that chess does not so much forge character as reveal it and I fear this is so. Having not claimed a win against Bernard last week when his phone rang, I allowed Nathan Manley a draw yesterday when he was down to four seconds on his clock. There were extenuating circumstances of course. I was a Rook down (as I had been since Nathan's time had stood at seven minutes.) I had nearly been mated (and thought a mate was inevitable at one point) and the complications I somehow created had completed shredded my own nerves. Earlier draw offers had been turned down and I had inexplicably also missed a win(!) The two hours for which I had stood better before blundering seemed like a very long time ago. The draw secured us a draw in the match, which was a key point for us to get. I would certainly have bitten Nathan's hand off a few minutes earlier. The fact that the 10.2 rule is not quite what I thought it was probably another factor in my decision...

As Neil Staples aptly put it afterwards - "neither of you deserved to win that one." A fair summary I feel. Some of the discussion in the Banbury camp was on the lively side. Gary's cheering words to Nathan that he should have played faster were not necessarily what Nathan wanted to hear at that precise moment. Nathan's observation to Gary as to how Gary tended to win most of his points was also somewhat challenging.

I'm sure Dave will do the full write up. We're certainly very close to winning the league now.  So, all that remains is for me to help a few old ladies across the road before visiting the local animal sanctuary. They say that virtue is its own reward, but I am not so sure. I still have my principles, but a true chess player would surely rather have the points?!! I feel genuinely torn. But what I would say is that if you run short of time or your phone rings when playing me in the future - do not count on further generosity!

Albeit - if it's me in that position I'm surely owed! :)

So just enough time for me to hop on a plane before tonight's game!

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Kenilworth's Cup Hopes Stolen - Inside Job Suspected

Two innocent, law abiding Kenilworth citizens, Messrs Donnelly and Shurrock, were ruthlessly robbed of their grading points on Tuesday night, as Coventry came to town and won a KO Cup Quarter Final tie by an apparently crushing 3.5-0.5 points margin. However, given that KCC members scored more points than non-KCC members on the night, there were clearly some suspicious goings on. Indeed, there are strong grounds for thinking that this was an inside job with double agents in action.

Descriptions have been released of two people wanted for questioning by the KCC Vigilantes in connection with this incident. One is a suave, Bohemian character - something of a silver fox - answering to the name of Bernie, and identifiable by distinctive splashes of strong coloured oil paints on his clothing and an overwhelmingly negative view of the human condition. The other is believed to be an academic genius who has adopted an itinerant lifestyle, riding the rails, hobo-style, between London and Manchester, occasionally alighting to wreak chess havoc on the streets of quiet suburban towns. This man, who goes by the aliases of Doctor Josh and Professor Cheapo, should not be approached, as he is a master of deception. He gets himself into a terrible position and once you have been lulled into a feeling of false security, he picks your pocket and makes off with your valuables.

It was a great shame that two such desperadoes should overshadow the record-breaking first team debut of 8 year old Jude Shearsby. And he did not look out of place in such first division company at all. For 40 or 50 moves he more than held his own against (ex-KCC member!) Ed Goodwin, while accumulating a large time advantage. He turned down Ed's draw offer; he avoided (or maybe missed?) a drawing line starting with a Rxg7+ sacrifice; and he was never seemingly in trouble. Unfortunately, though, he mistakenly swapped queens off and went into a single rook ending where Ed was first to get his rook active and Jude's weak pawns started to fall off. Just as well for Ed that he won this game, as I wouldn't give much for his chances this time next year! Anyway, great effort Jude.

Somehow, we didn't lose 4-0, as I went from better to much worse to losing against Dave Ireland in a  few moves around the time control. We got down to a rook and knight v rook ending, where I was the one without a knight. This is a relatively easy draw, but unfortunately Dave managed to hang on to his a pawn, which should have made all the difference. However, running short of time he took the pragmatic decision to liquidate to a draw to bring the match to a conclusion. And we were well and truly out of the cup.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Lies, Damned Lies and Computer Evaluations

Exciting news of our Manchester member, who today has finished 2nd= in the Amateurs B tournament at the Gibraltar Chess Festival, bringing home by my calculations some £512.50 in prize money. Greater than my entire life-time chess winnings, I suspect. With 4.5/5 this was a splendid effort, but - and I don't want to appear churlish here - it was not as smooth a road to the winners' rostrum as it might appear. Let's walk ourselves through Joshua's tournament.

Round 1 against an American rated 1690 (about 136 in ECF terms). Joshua plays a very exciting opening. His opponent seems to know it at least as well as he does, and ends up with a winning position. Which he nurtures up to move 62, when the mighty Stockfish proclaims an advantage of +16.17. Does Joshua get downhearted? No, he wins in just 6 more moves! Must have played his Get Out of Jail Free card just in time.

Round 2, and its the splendidly named Spaniard, Gregorio Bizcocho Mellado (1771/146) who is in opposition. The opening does not go well for Joshua and by move 29 the engine puts him at -5.15. No problem. Our hero turns the tables and not too much later the evaluation is +64.03 in his favour! At which point Joshua plays a move that gives away 55 points - the equivalent of 6 queens!! - of his advantage Luckily he is still +9, and duly wins.

Round 3 and its English opposition in the shape of Keith Parker (1810/ECF 145) from Muswell Hill. By move 22, Stockfish has it in for Joshua yet again - he is -3.57, but this is only the equivalent of being a piece down, so its no big deal after the disasters of the first two rounds. Resignation occurs on move 46, and our hero has 3/3.

Then something goes wrong in round 4.  Despite never being worse than -2.3, he is unable to make another great comeback against Dieter Bauer of Germany (1714/139) and so only makes a draw Such an insignificant disadvantage was not enough to get the adrenaline going it seems.

This leaves Joshua half a point off the pace going into today's last round, but unlike at Ilkley (see post dated 7.1.19) the three people ahead of him do not do the decent thing and lose. Two of them draw with each other, but the third, Eddy Bosschem (great name!) of Belgium sees off Spanish opposition to grab sole first with 5/5. Joshua, meanwhile, is playing a rather good game, and his position is never worse than -0.8, which is nothing to a proponent of the Manchester School of Chess. Sure enough, despite a few missed opportunities that could have shortened proceedings, Joshua (the number 2 seed on ELO) eventually scores a well played win over number 1 seed Victor Manual Cernuda Orejas from Spain (1893/162) to finish in a four way tie for second.

And there we have it - worse in all 5 games, of which two were seriously worse and two were dead lost! But that's just computer evaluations. They mean nothing in the real world when two players are competing mano a mano - or in Joshua's case mano a Manchester! Then its survival that counts, and our man is pretty ruthless when it comes down to a slugging match. So well done Joshua. Strutting his stuff and flying the KCC flag successfully on the global stage. While steadfastly refusing to play too many good moves in the process!

Coventry League Division 1 Gloom

Observant readers will have noticed there was no report of the A team's 1.5- 2.5 loss to Warwick University B last week, but I was too depressed to go into print after losing a terrible game myself. Well, I am readier to bite the bullet after another 1.5-2.5 loss to Coventry A last night, but only because I got a very lucky win. Since Christmas we have managed one draw against Rugby, and three losses by the minimum margin, to leave us in grave danger of finishing last in Division 1. Oh the shame, the shame!

Ben was the hero last week, as our only winner, when he kept his nerve in a very complex position to avoid a number of nasty traps and bring home the bacon. All to no avail as Mike and I both lost and Dave only drew, despite being a piece up.

Last night it was all change, as I got the only win (rather undeservedly, as Henrik Stepanyan over-pressed and self-destructed in a better, but probably drawn queen ending) while Ben and Dave lost and Mike drew from what looked like a much better position against Dave Ireland. Ben's loss was the most galling, as he was much better/winning against Bernard Charnley, only to throw the game away. The fact that Bernard's phone went off during the game made the loss even more difficult to take. But how could Ben have claimed a win against one of our own?? Answer, he couldn't, but I suspect that next time he will - with the match captain urging him on! We need the points! Dave's loss against Ed Goodwin was excruciating - Bxh7+ anyone? When you can't even take it, you know you are really done for! To make us all feel even better, this was apparently Coventry's first league win in 3 seasons.

So, only one league game left for the A team, and just the small matter of Nuneaton A, who wiped us out 4-0 before Christmas. What a joyous prospect. Before then we have a repeat fixture and an early chance of revenge next week against Coventry, in the KO Cup quarter-final. Time for some bouncebackability, I think!

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

A Cup Final Place Secured!

Kenilworth safely made it through to yet another LDCL Open KO Cup Final last night, with a 3-2 Semi-Final win over Shirley. And for once we managed it without too many alarms. Both teams were slightly under-strength, but our squad depth was the decisive factor.

It was a strange game, with four boards over before 9.30, and the playing room emptying with indecent haste to leave the Club Organiser in solitary splendour trying, very unsuccessfully, to hold a desperate position on Board 1. Fortunately, this was Shirley's only success, whereas we managed two.

The games on Boards 2 and 5 did not last long. First, Andy B recognised that his opening strategy against Keith Ingram was getting nowhere and offered a swiftly accepted draw. Regrettably, a rather uninspiring effort with the white pieces from our man. Ben's game on Board 5 against Gordon Christie was much more exciting, although lasting fewer moves. I'm pretty sure the already infamous dodgy line of the dodgy opening featured again, and the position was very imbalanced when the draw was agreed. Black (Ben) had no centre pawns, while White's occupied e4 and d4 in classical style. White also had an open g file to work with, but Ben's pieces were developed on good squares and were ready to hop into any holes if the White pawns advanced, while the White king was slightly vulnerable. It could have been an interesting struggle, but maybe both players wanted to get home to watch something on TV?

Then the match quickly moved decisively in our favour. Phil struck first with a big win over Dave Thomas. Phil jumped in on c7 with a rook, attacking a Black bishop on b7 and a Black queen on d7. Surprisingly Dave just let the bishop go, when he could have limited his losses to a pawn by playing Qd8, and then capturing an undefended White bishop on a5 when Phil took the b7 bishop. After this oversight, the game concluded rapidly.

And there was an even more comprehensive conclusion on Board 3 shortly afterwards, when Andrew P had the joy of playing the move Qb2 mate against Jonathan Dale, at the end of a massive attack against White's king which had castled on the queenside. This looked like a very dynamic and energetic game by Andrew. I only wish I could have followed suit, but much later my travails against Phil Purcell ended in defeat, and Shirley had their only win of the evening.

And so we are into the final again, where we will play Olton on Tuesday, May 7th. Having beaten them in our recent successes in both 2014 and 2017, they may well feel they are due a case of third time lucky. Let's try and make it a hat trick for us instead!