Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Punch Drunk - Day 9 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

If it had been a boxing match the ref would have stepped in and stopped the contest a few days ago. Because its chess, though, we were all allowed to go on taking heavy punches to the head until finally, after 9 consecutive days of ferocious mental effort - at least for those of us playing in a team with no reserve - the World Seniors' Team Championships came to an end.

In my case, though, it was about 10 minutes too late, as I managed to lose a totally drawn rook and pawn ending against a very strong IM that would have clinched an excellent 2-2 draw for 50+ England 2 v Germany 2 and secured a final placing well above our 21st seeding. Instead we finished ….. 21st! It would also have got me a lifetime best ELO rating, but unfortunately my brain just went into complete meltdown after more than 5 hours of at times desperate defence. A great shame to finish on such a downer, but a +1 score over 9 gruelling rounds was still just about OK.

Andy sensibly took a relatively quick draw as his 65+ England 2 team finished 2-2 against Sachsen Anhalt, which nevertheless put them into 24th position against a seeding of 25th. Andy also finished at a quite respectable +1 for 9 rounds.

Meanwhile, Bernard was hard at work against a 1614 rated opponent called Adolf in the 50+ wooden spoon deciding match. Despite facing his weakest opponent of the entire tournament, brain fatigue had also clearly got to him as well, as he lost. Fortunately, though, his team mates made up for this calamity and secured a narrow 2.5-1.5 win that boosted England 4 to 60th - an impressive 4 places above their start ranking. However, it has to be admitted that these ELO ratings do seem to be rather accurate given how close each of our teams performed relative to their seeding.

England 1 get their silver medals in the 50+ section. From extreme left to right, GMs Arkell, Hebden, Plaskett, Emms and Speelman. To the right are the bronze medal winning Lasker Chess Foundation team. The great Arthur Yusupov is the one with the impressive beard. He is a "big unit" in all senses!
And that was also true at the top of the tournaments, where number 1 seeds USA (50+) and Russia (65+) both emerged victorious. USA came from behind in the last round to pip our brave England 1 boys, who went down 2.5-1.5 to Germany 1. England 1 were second (seeded 4th) for an excellent result.

The 65+ medal podium. Russia (back row) line up (l-r), GMs Pushkov, Sveshnikov, Rashkovsky, Balashov and IM Zhelnin
The England 1 65+ team finished with a 2-2 draw against St Petersburg to end in 5th position, one place higher than their seeding, but the stars of the show were Russia who won all 9 matches to leave the St Petersburg and Germany 2 teams well adrift in silver and bronze positions.

England 1 65+ team collect their 5th prize. Left to right, Roger Emerson, FM Steve Berry, FM Tony Stebbings, IM Robert Bellin and IM Nigel Povah.
Success of sorts for the 50+ England Women's team, as they picked up Bronze medals behind Russia and Germany - though there were only 5 teams eligible for the prizes!

The 50+ Ladies medal podium. Russia (Gold, back row); Germany 1 (Silver, left front) and England (Bronze, right front). The England team is (right to left) WGM Sheila Jackson, WFM Petra Nunn, WIM Ingrid Lauterbach and Helen Frostick.
Still, that was rather more than in the 65+ tournament, where there was only one women's team. So the new 65+ Ladies World Team Champions are …….. Mongolia!!

And so the KCC Radebeul adventure is over and, despite an at times frustrating journey back via Frankfurt, we are all safely home. For Andy and me today has largely consisted of doing virtually nothing, I imagine, but for poor old Bernard it was straight back into the vicious commercial jungle that is the Kenilworth accountancy world. Its a hard life being a capitalist. Still. another day, another dollar!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Will This Thing Never End? Day 8 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

For those of us having to play every day, this is now beginning to resemble an endurance test rather than a chess tournament. Especially as the temperature is once again somewhere in the stratosphere. Somehow my personal dynamo just about had enough energy to propel me to another win this morning - my first with Black. It was a close run thing, and my play was far from  perfect (no surprise there, of course) but my Algerian opponent mistakenly swapped off into a bishops of the same colour ending in which his pawns were sitting ducks. Even my technique was up to the task. England 2 won the match 3-1 and find ourselves on Table 6 in the final round, where we have a very tough pairing against Germany 2. Don't expect too much in this match!

Bernard's search for his first win goes on after a doughty burgher from Ittersbach (where??) refused to play the good host, but a solid draw continues his surprisingly resilient performance - five draws from seven games is definitely not to be sneezed at, given he'd only played one game in the previous 5 years or so! A drawn match for his England 4 team leaves them in 65th= position, and tomorrow they have a wooden spoon showdown against 67th placed SG Priestewitz/Riesa. (Again, where????) To the winner the glory, to the loser, a shed load of abuse from their friends!

Four quick draws may be on the cards for Andy's 65+ England 2 team tomorrow, when they face Sachsen Anhalt in  a relatively low key final round. Today Andy drew after being much better early on, but the team edged home 2.5-1.5 against another German team, Stortebeker. (No, I have no idea where that is, either.)

At the sharp end of the tournaments, England 1 played themselves in to first place in the 50+ section with a 4-0 thrashing of Shachfreunde Leipzig 1, while co-leaders Lasker Schachstiftung GK were going down 3.5-0.5 to the USA. So England 1 take a 1 match point lead over the USA into the final round, but have by far the tougher pairing - number 2 seeds, Germany 1, while the USA face Canada. A draw for England will probably see the Gold medal decided on game points, which will favour the USA. We need Germany 1 to play like their hapless footie team at the World Cup!

In the 65+ tournament, Russia notched up their 8th consecutive win over Germany 1 today and are already champions. Sveshnikov - Hort was a heavyweight encounter between two former super-GMs, which Sveshnikov made look almost easy. He is still one hell of a player. England 1 kept their hopes alive with a narrow victory, but probably need to win again tomorrow against St Petersburg to get a medal.

Not too much to report on the cultural front, but I did have the pleasure of chatting to GM John Emms at breakfast this morning, and can vouch for the fact that he is a very pleasant chap indeed. If you want to hob-nob with such stars, though, you have to get up early. I am in the restaurant for breakfast at about 7.15 everyday, well before the likes of Messrs Rogers and Baruch are ever sighted. You know what they say, the early bird gets to chat to the GM!

Friday, 13 July 2018

Turning up the Heat - Day 7 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

Yesterday was cold and wet, but today its like an oven here - and one turned up to Gas Mark 10, to boot. Still, the air conditioning in the playing hall is holding up nicely, and a pleasant ambient temperature helped me play my best game so far this morning against a 2200 from Leipzig Chessfriends 1. Unfortunately, none of my team mates was able to replicate my win, and we went down 2.5-1.5 after a heroic defence on Board 4 came up just short. Our opponents reward for beating us is to take on joint leaders England 1 on Table 2 tomorrow. Meanwhile my team, England 2, has an exotic pairing against Algeria, when I will have my fourth chance to win a game with the black pieces.

Bernard played a solid game for England 4 in their match against German club team TSG Markkleeberg 2, with his draw helping the team to a 2-2 tie, their best result so far - with the possible exception  of the 4-0 bye in an earlier round! This stemmed the bleeding from two consecutive losses for Bernard, but time is running out for that elusive first win - just 2 rounds to go, and more German club opposition up tomorrow.

Andy's England 2 65+ team got well beaten 3-1 by a strong German team (yes, there are a few of them around!) Stiftung BSW/DBAG 1. Any (intelligent) suggestions as to what all those initials stand for would be much appreciated. Yet another German team awaits in the morning.

At the business end of the pairings, both England 1 teams won, with the 50+ boys giving Canada a 4-0 spanking (despite resting Jon Speelman) to remain joint leaders. With fierce rivals Lasker Schach-Stiftung GK facing the very strong USA team tomorrow, there is every chance that England may be able to take a lead into the final round. In the 65+ section, England 1 are still in with a medal chance, having seen off the challenge of Eppingen 3-1 today. Russia won again, though, to maintain their 100% record, and are nailed-on certainties for Gold.

Not much in the way of high culture to report today, but Bernard and I did indulge in a pleasant narrow gauge steam train ride to the nearby town of Moritzburg. Not a lot to see there - except for this!

Schloss Moritzburg - just your average German palace!
Still, it has to be said the coffee and cake consumed in the village was exceedingly pleasant. This is a very civilised country, indeed.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

When the Going Gets Tough.... Day 6 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

So here we all are in Radebeul, still putting in a hard shift in the service of our country.

Bernard putting in a hard shift in the service of his country, together with our friendly waitress at the Boxenstop Bar, before the World Cup semi-final. 

Occasionally this hard shift sometimes takes place at the chess board, though not always with the desired results. Since my last report, we've each played three games and between us we've chalked up exactly 50%. However, while I have been Mr Average with two draws, Andy has gone slightly berserk and scored consecutive wins. So if you are any good at maths you will be ahead of me in knowing that Bernard's impressive start is now nothing but a distant memory. Add in the footie defeat and he's not such a happy bunny as he was earlier in the week. In fact we've just come back from visiting the former Stasi and NKVD Prison Museum in Dresden, which was most appropriate for his current mood. I aim to point him at food and drink this evening though, and I reckon that will do the trick.

I have had two roller coaster games in the last two days. Against Germany Women 2 I got a rather poor opening, but my opponent then went mad and sacrificed a piece to open up my king. I thought it was unsound, and indeed it was. But after finding the first few moves to refute it, I then made a terrible oversight and promptly lost the piece back and was staring at a virtual forced mate. Thankfully the crunch move was not played, and with my opponent losing the thread completely I went from 2 pawns down to 1 pawn up. The dreaded opposite bishops then intervened to deprive me of a most undeserved win!

Today was less blunderful, but equally tense, as I eventually drew against a German IM, whose rating has fallen by nearly 200 points since his 2435 peak. I stood firm under growing pressure and then cheapoed my way to an extra pawn from nowhere at the time control. However, I then missed a tactical shot (spotted by Andy, curse him!) which would have netted a second pawn and given me winning chances. Instead I lost my extra pawn and was staring at an ending of two bishops against my two knights, in which there was only one passed pawn - and I didn't have it. And it was a long way from my king! I tried to set up a blockade with my knights, but instead of testing whether this would hold, my opponent swapped off one knight and tried to combine a king invasion with the threat to trap my knight. Thankfully, though, the knight always had just one square and I was able to hold a very hard earned draw (and secure a drawn match).

I can't tell you anything of Andy's or Bernard's games except the result. They might as well have been taking place in another room. (Which in Andy's case they were!)

What I can tell you is that England 1 are currently joint first in the 50+ section with a German club team. As this German club team has Arthur Yusupov on Board 2, you can tell they are a tad stronger than Olton A! Canada, Austria and the USA are one point behind. All still to play for over the next three rounds. In the 65+ section, the gold medal has probably been decided, as Russia have a two point lead and have already beaten their nearest rivals. A pairing with Germany 3 tomorrow probably doesn't have them quaking in their boots!

To finish, some art. Or at least what passes for art in this part of the world. There is a rather startling statue in our hotel grounds, which I have to pass every time I leave my room. I can assure readers that no KCC member posed for this!

A fine figure of a man! Personally I prefer The Three Graces. 
But if this statue is a tad unsettling, let's end with one of the greatest paintings in the world, which is on display in the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden.  Don't say these reports don't bring you a bit of culture as well as some chess!

The Sistine Madonna, by Raphael (including two very cheesed off cherubs).
Message to Bernard C - this is what a proper painting looks like!!



Tuesday, 10 July 2018

That Really Hurt - Day 4 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

I am writing this in a darkened room in a state of some distress, after an agonizing loss by me cost England 2 victory in our match against Post SV Ulm - and yes that is the Ulm Post Office/Mail Sports Club. Pretty strong those Ulm posties, I can tell you. It was an epic game where I chanced my arm in the opening; got away with it; and after finally equalizing (or so I think, the silicon beast has not yet been unleashed to shatter my illusions), I then seemed to gain the advantage in a rook and same bishop ending. My opponent had connected passed g and h pawns, and I had connected passed d and e pawns. Regrettably the outside pawns won the day after around 5 hours of suffering. So only 2-2 in our match, where my loss was balanced by a crushing win for us on top board.

Andy's day was much less eventful, as he drew against 87 year old (!!) IM Edwin Bhend of Switzerland in 12 moves - or was it 12 minutes? Possibly both. This is a man who once beat Tal (with Black!), drew with Fischer and played in 12 Olympiads for Switzerland. Andy has done none of these things, but he used his 20 years advantage remorselessly to get a draw. The England 2 o-65s drew the match 2-2 thanks to 4 draws against higher rated opposition. But Andy's was by far the quickest, so at least KCC has something to be proud of today. Tomorrow Andy's team play against Leipzig Chess Friends, which is a nice name for a club, don't you think? Kenilworth Chess Friends, anybody?!

Meanwhile Bernard has kept his 50% score by taking another day off. In fact his entire England 4 team took the day off as they had the bye. The 4-0 win they got for this has propelled them up the table and, rumour has it, Bernard is actually going to have to play a game of chess tomorrow rather than go shopping (!) - which is what he has done today.

In the massive Board 1 encounters for the two England 1 teams, there was good news and bad news today. The o-50 boys upset the top seeded USA team thanks to a solitary win by John Emms on Board 2 over Joel Benjamin. Jon Speelman very nearly beat Shabalov with Black, so this was a pretty emphatic win even if the margin was ultimately the smallest possible. Not such good news in the o-65s, where unsurprisingly England went down to number 1 seeds and defending champions Russia. A win for Nigel Povah on Board 3 was more than offset by losses on Boards 1 and 4, for a narrow defeat.

That's a pretty comprehensive round up of today's action, only made possible by the fact that its raining (bet you can't say the same!) and I've decided to have a rest from sightseeing and take it easy this afternoon. But of course, I still have to report on last night's Blitz tournament, where it seems I had too little faith in our brave boys. Despite playing atrociously to begin with (including a loss to Shveshnikov, who he didn't even recognise!), Andy recovered in  the last few rounds to end on 4.5/9 (52nd place). When you sink low enough in the tournament, you will eventually get some friendly pairings. Like this!



Bernard defied all my expectations by scoring an excellent 4/9 for 61st place and got to play a couple of titled players. He was generally playing much tougher opposition than Andy, but while he may lack in recent standard play practice, he is the veteran of a zillion Thursday evening blitz games. Just goes to prove - you can take the man out of The Gauntlet, but you can't take The Gauntlet out of the man!

A few minutes later, Bernard had his first ever international victory!

A few minutes after this, Andy had another loss to add to his tally!

The overall event was won jointly by Keith Arkell and a Leipzig Chess Friend with 8/9. 5 GMs, 5 IMs and oodles of FMs took part in a total field of exactly 100.

The crucial top board Round 9 encounter between Keith Arkell and Jim Plaskett about to start. Meanwhile a Leipzig Chess Friend adjusts the pieces on Board 2, and Mark Hebden looks longingly towards the bar on Board 4!









Monday, 9 July 2018

Three Happy Campers - Day 3 at the World Seniors' Team Championships

Today, anyway - yesterday, not so much!

I was pitched in at the deep end in Round 2 when England 2 got paired against England 1. While two of my team mates secured excellent draws with the White pieces against GMs Speelman and Hebden, England 1 were simply too strong on the boards where they had White. I was well beaten by Jim Plaskett on Board 2. After my opening went slightly wrong I tried to liberate my position with a tactical pawn break, but not for the first time my calculation contained a hole, and the GM went straight for it, winning an exchange and then cleverly giving it back almost immediately to nullify my activity. He planted a monster bishop on e5 and I simply ran out of time trying to find a way to neutralise his passed a pawn while also defending my very vulnerable king.

Andy also contrived to lose (even more quickly than me) against the splendidly named Swede, Bengt Hammar. As Andy's team are still marooned in the annexe, at least I was spared having to witness any of his debacle.

Which leads us on to our reluctant hero Bernard, who followed up his highly creditable opening draw with another against a near-2000 rated German in Round 2. Regrettably it didn't do his team any good, and England 4 remained on nil points. Which is where they stayed today, as an implosion in Round 3 saw them transform a winning match position into a third consecutive loss, this time against Finnish opposition. But our man maintained his 50% record by ……… being rested. Consequently he was very happy at being allowed a late breakfast and a leisurely morning, while Andy and I put ourselves through the mill. As we will have to do every day, since neither of our teams has a reserve!

But sometimes the effort is rewarded, and Andy chalked up his first win by despatching his German opponent, though apparently not without some inevitable alarms and travails. England 2 (over-65s) duly chalked up a 3-1 win, and my team, England 2 (over-50s) did exactly the same against Liechtenstein.  My game was rather dubious in the opening, but once I got into the middle game I started to outplay my opponent as a strong passed d pawn and control of the e-file saw Black pushed back into an untidy and unstable heap. It was only a matter of time before something fell off and a d7 pawn fork of rook and queen eventually did the business.

So it was three happy campers who took the tram up to the old town for a leisurely lunch. Only one KCC player drank beer - can you possibly guess who?!

Bernard has another day off tomorrow, as his hapless bunch have the bye - doubtless another late breakfast beckons in the morning - which is guaranteed to send them shooting up the table come Wednesday's round, when our man is scheduled to play on Board 2. Whereas Andy and I have tough opposition to worry about tomorrow - me against a strong German team from Ulm, and Andy against mighty Switzerland. It will be a big day in both the over-50 and over-65 sections tomorrow, as England 1 have been drawn against the top seeds (USA and Russia, respectively) for a couple of mouth-watering showdowns. But probably England 1 v Croatia 1 on Wednesday is even more important!

While I have been writing this report up, Bernard and Andy, for reasons known only to themselves, have signed up for a 9 round Blitz tournament, and should have finished round 1 by now. Lucky them - only 8 more to go! I almost got talked into playing, but came to my senses just in time. I have not seen who has entered this event, but with a Euro250 first prize, I expect a few penurious GMs will be looking to supplement their modest incomes. Consequently I am predicting scores of 3.5/9 for Andy and 2.5/9 for Bernard. I hope I've underestimated their Blitz prowess - but only time will tell. I guess it will be my job to rebuild their egos (and maybe their ELOs) after what I expect to be an inevitable pummelling. Just another area of responsibility for the Club Organiser!

Saturday, 7 July 2018

And They're Off!

So here I am again, in Radebeul near Dresden , for the 2018 World Seniors Team Championship. Two years after my debut, I am once again playing for England 2 in the over-50s championship - though despite my incompetence I have somehow risen to Board 2 - but this time around things are very different. Because I have been joined by both Bernard R and Andy B, in a three pronged attack on the World title. Andy finds himself playing for England 2 in the O-65s section, while Bernard is in the England 4 team in the O-50s.

Play got under way at 16.00 today (the same time as England v Sweden kicked off over here), and after all 3 of us were thrown into the heat of the Round 1 battle, the KCC contingent ended the day undefeated, with at least two of us highly chuffed by our performances.

The less chuffed Andy B finished first. I saw nothing of his game as he had been consigned to the annexe where all but the top 6 or 7 over-65s matches had been consigned. Faced with a London System as Black, Andy managed to blunder a pawn relatively quickly - at which point his opponent (from the German club team Freibauer Niedersachsen) promptly offered a draw. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Andy wisely accepted.

Next to finish was Bernard. Quite what he's doing here is a matter for some discussion, as we all know he's only played one serious game in the last six years and - to put it mildly - that hadn't gone well. Today, though, he was inspired, and played very sensibly against a 2114 rated opponent from Dresden, and was never worse. Indeed, he agreed a draw from what was probably a position of strength. An excellent performance, which doubtless owed much to the pre-match beer he felt obliged to consume at lunchtime!

And so to me, as always the last to finish, but when the game ends in mate it isn't such a hardship. Having almost 200 points advantage over my Finnish opponent, I fairly quickly and easily built up a big advantage on the white side of a 3 Bb5+ Sicilian. But with the win in sight, I faltered and allowed an exchange which should have led to an immediate draw. However, the quality of the play from both players then deteriorated markedly, and after a few rather nervous moments, my opponent kindly self-destructed in spectacular fashion to allow me to force mate with queen and knight.

We have celebrated in appropriate fashion tonight at a truly excellent pub, which has so far not been discovered by anyone else at the tournament! Its not haute cuisine, more substantial grub, and we'll be back there again tomorrow evening. It has the added advantage of being right next to a narrow gauge steam railway. And when I say right next, I mean right next!

Bernard relives his train-spotting youth! Luckily we have remembered to look both ways when leaving this pub.

I may not be so up-beat with my next report, as I already know that I am playing GM Jim Plaskett tomorrow, when England 2 go head to head with England 1. Bernard is up against a 2000 rated player from the German club team Horst-Emscher 1931, while Andy is playing ….someone! The draw is not yet up for the really oldies section.

I know that the results are only half the story - you really want to know the celeb gossip. Well, on that point I can tell you that yesterday we shared a taxi from Dresden Airport with Jon Speelman (of course we let him have the front seat!) while less creditably Bernard almost trod on legendary GM Vlastimil Hort. As he has a bad foot (Hort not Bernard!) that could have caused an international incident, but thankfully actual contact was avoided by an inch or so. Yesterday evening we found ourselves dining in an Italian restaurant where we were definitely not sitting at the strongest table - GMs Speelman, Emms, Plaskett, Hebden, Benjamin and Kudrin just edged us.

Most important of all, though, Bernard has proved himself an absolute star on the linguistic front - Anglo-German relations are consequently much better at our level than between May and Merkel. Long may it continue!