Thursday, 17 January 2019

The London 'Leeds' Kenilworth to Victory

Ken B in the Coventry League need all the points we can get but it was not looking good for our match against Coventry Club D team, away. By Monday afternoon, with a player short we were facing a default on board four. Not good. However, by Monday evening, CCA coach and prospective full Club member Andy Ward stepped into the breach. Which was nice!

After a brief pep talk from me about not prematurely offering draws, as is his tendency, first to finish, White on board Three, was Jude beating his opponent (Stan) in about fifteen moves and forty minutes. Deploying his London System in Classic Lam mode, he tore into his unsuspecting opponent's fianchettoed kingside with a delayed f3 knight, no castling and an h-pawn push which smashed open Stan's position. With Jude's Queen lurking, waiting to stick in the boot  Stan resigned. Well done Jude.

Second to finish was Andy, White on board One who also crushed his opponent.  My first look at the game - maybe 30 mins - revealed Andy with the exchange and three pawns up. This did not change - although Andy came very close to trapping his opponents Queen - and eventually Black resigned. Andy has offered to send me the whole annotated game which, after lessons from Joshua , I should be able to put on the site. Watch this space.

Matt lost. I saw him down a piece for two pawns but his queen was misplaced and away from the action and he also had a weak pawn structure. It seemed to me that Matt played very reasonably and I would not agree with his analysis that he was 'hammered'.

On board Two as Black against Dave Filer, I only needed a draw for us to win the match and the valuable points. I am sure there are invisible forces from 'the beyond' which have a greater influence on my play than my coach. For some reason ('the beyond') I played a Slav for the first time ever. Played it really badly and blocked everything of mine in. Dave, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, completely me squashed on the Queenside ( not to mention the centre) and it should have been a rapid 'game over'. But I saw a chance to set a trap by allowing Black to pin a piece against my queen, a bait which Black took, overlooking my intermezzo check followed by a simple pawn fork of his queen and bishop. Whilst I did not win outright I gained a strong initiative with Black's King stuck in the centre. However, although I won a pawn I could not translate this into a victory. I was offered a draw, but as I could not see that I would lose I played on for a further million rook and king moves before accepting the inevitable. Dave had 5 seconds to go but it would have been churlish of me to claim a win on that basis and a draw was sufficient for the match win.

Final result 1.5/2.5 to us.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Close, But Still No Cigar

For the umpteenth time, the Cov League A team lost against Warwick University A last night. But as in the return fixture earlier in the season, we got very close to getting something from the match. However, unlike the first match, this time we didn't miss any open goals, so we have little to reproach ourselves for.

The evening got off to a bad start, as Dave overlooked a Bxf2 tactic that, after a further Rxc2+ deflection left Black an exchange and possibly a pawn or two up. The inevitable duly followed after a brief, but unequal struggle.

Any worries about a total wipe-out ……..

…… were then allayed by Ben's solid draw (once again using his own dodgy interpretation of an already dodgy opening!) against R Karia on Bd 3. (If it had been R. Haria (IM, grade 247), then he would really have had something to shout about!)

So at least we were on the score-board and then, most improbably, we were level, when I once again beat the ridiculously strong Dimitar Daskalov on Board 1. I felt I was slightly worse for most of the game, after I had to concede the two bishops right out of the opening, but I toughed it out until a crisis arose, inevitably, just before the time control. The position became very murky but I spied a combo which looked very promising for me, only to be rocked back when Dimitar defended by sacrificing his queen for two bishops. In return he also got a rook on the seventh and a very threatening passed pawn on the sixth rank. Remarkably, though, in jumping in to attack my weak pawn on f7 he allowed a most unusual fork of his two rooks (on d7 and d1, but split by his own pawn on d6) by my queen on g4. The best he could have managed was to drop a piece but as this would have left me up a queen for a bishop, resignation occurred instead.

Which left the fate of the match on Mike's hands. Unfortunately, though, Warwick Uni had brought along another very strong player Guy Moss, to insure themselves against accidents, and after a real heavyweight encounter, it was the University man who came out on top in a queen and knight ending. Black had monster squares on e4 and f5 for his knight, but Mike's had no similarly juicy outposts and this eventually led to the loss of crucial pawns and the game.

We can but hope that the next intake of Warwick students does not contain yet more chess superstars, and that we might finally have a chance of securing our first ever point - or dare I say points - against their A team in 2019-20.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Brexit reaches Kenilworth...

The strongest Kenilworth team ever to play in the U-700 Cup took on Banbury last night, on Brexit vote eve. Just like calling a people's vote, what could possibly go wrong? More or less everything it turns out... Still, at least the match did not last for two years (and counting.) I for one am keen to get this post done, such that we can all move on and talk about something else!

When you are lost after a dozen moves and are still only third to finish it does not generally bode well for the team. Unfortunately for Kenilworth our choices were generally as palatable as Theresa May's Brexit options... At least for me and for Dave, as things went from bad to worse and we both fell to terrible defeats.

I got my opening move order horribly wrong to leave myself suffering for several excruciating and chanceless hours against Mal. (My good weekend at the 4NCL seemed more like a mirage with every passing moment...) Disaster also struck Dave who blundered a Queen against Chris Evans when close to won (perhaps put off by the horrors on my adjacent board.) Jude battled well but also went down quite early. Phil and Bernard drew, but that hardly gave the evening a gloss of respectability.

So Banbury are in the final. Perhaps a re-match should be held? Did everyone know what they were truly getting themselves into when we set off on this path? A second people's semi-final might be the only way?? I fear it is not going to happen...

Still, at least we can go back to trying to wrap up Division 2. New games will follow. They can't possibly be as bad as these were. Dave and I can try and put things right in the Coventry League tonight, when we start with all our pieces back on sensible squares. Meanwhile Brexit ticks on. A game that cannot be won and never finishes...

Brexit must by now be almost be as painful for Theresa May as last night was for our U-700 team.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Manchester School of Chess - Lesson 2

It's time for another dose of wisdom from the North, and you might ask what tired, outdated chess principle shall we be putting to the sword on this occasion. When you think of fianchettoing, what piece comes to mind? Most people have inaccurately been told that the piece you want to fianchetto is a bishop, but this is not true. It is the easiest minor piece to do it with, requiring just 2 moves (e.g. g3 Bg2) to 4 for a knight (e.g. g3 Nh3 Nf4 Ng2) so of course happens more often in practice, but when it can be achieved, a fianchettoed knight is actually much the stronger piece. This leads us to the second principle of the Manchester school of chess:

"On any move where you have the choice to fianchetto a bishop or a knight, always choose the knight."

A fianchettoed bishop can often be badly placed, able to exert influence over only one diagonal, as opposed to the 2 diagonals a more centrally placed bishop can access, and often leaving holes around your king for your opponent to exploit. By contrast, a fianchettoed knight is ready to leap in whatever direction is required, and can simultaneously be used for both attack and defence.

For those not immediately convinced by my flawless theoretical argument, consider the game below, and in particular the choice white has on move 8 as to whether he should put a bishop or a knight on g2.

I think we can all agree the fianchettoed knight achieved far more in this game than a bishop ever could. It defended the white king, kept the black queen from entering on h4, supported the f4 pawn advance, and trapped the black king in a mating net at the end of the game.

It is time for you all to leave the darkness, give up your old-fashioned Catalan, and King's Indian, and other such archaic relics of a bygone era. The time of the fianchettoed knight has come.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Better Never Than Late

Yet another unglory match. The score line, depression and psychological aversion to bad news probably accounts for the lateness of my report. I'd like to say 'better late than never' but the content does not justify this. Only Jude managed to get anything at all. The teams comments are as follows:-

Not sure what happened here. I was fortunate enough to get myself into a completely winning position having outplayed my opponent until the late middle game (honest! Paul says so and that's good enough for me.) I got a an attack going on the queenside and also won the h- pawn. Unfortunately I made a terrible exchange after which the now open h-file provided the basis for a kingside counter-attack by my opponent which proved more effective than mine.

I did not see much of William's game. It looked fairly stodgy and although a pawn down William seemed to be doing OK - until he lost another. Hey ho!

Jude :-
Jude played the London System and “early on, sacrificed a pawn to start an attack which left me with an open position. My opponent forced the trade of queens later on in the game. In the endgame I had a three on two pawn majority and my opponent had a two on one pawn majority. He won the h pawn and I won the b pawn and a draw was agreed”.

No major mistakes were made but I probably played too passively against a Queen's Gambit and my opponent's central pawns proved to be unstoppable.
Final score 3.5 – 0.5.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Shock, Gasp, Horror.......

…….. No, not due to the fact that we drew 2-2 at home to Rugby A in a Coventry League Division 1 match this week, but to the manner in which it came about.

Our brave Kenilworth boys found themselves confronted by the Phillips massive in opposition, though at least they didn't completely abuse the excellent hospitality we have extended to them on many Thursday evenings by beating us. David P and I were both in non-aggressive mode and he did the decent thing by agreeing to my early draw proposal. Very little happened in the 14 moves which we each managed. Alan P almost spoilt the party, though, by playing rather well - and surprisingly quickly - against Dave on Board 4. It was rather fortunate for us when he didn't notice that Dave's last move, accompanied by a draw proposal, blundered a pawn due to a nice back rank combo. Or maybe he did, and just did the decent thing in accepting the peace offer? No, that doesn't sound like him - I think he just missed it.  Anyway, the evening hadn't even reached 9.00pm and already the Phillips gang had left town and the match was half over.

Which left the middle boards in play, and I was sure Mike was just cruising to a smooth win on Board 2 against Patrick Reid, while being rather worried about Ben's position against Simon Turner on 3. Shows what I know!

First, Mike swapped queens, when it looked to me as though keeping them on was almost a forced win. It probably wasn't, but he would have been well on top, for sure. Instead, the Black pieces jumped out and took up very active positions and things looked rather bleak for our man. Help!

But at the same time, and after playing his very dodgy pet opening once again, Ben had grabbed a pawn and was well in the game, even though his position was still nothing to write home about. But then Simon started to lose the thread, and instead of attacking Ben's weak kingside, allowed himself to be attacked on that side of the board. He got a bishop stuck on h2, hemmed in by a white pawn on g3 and king on g1. Ben switched one rook to the open h file and then found a really excellent slow motion repositioning of the other rook from c5, to a5, to a8 and then to h8. All while White could find no active play. The bishop had to be defended by doubled white rooks on the second rank but when the Black queen joined in the h file party it was Goodnight Irene for the white position. And now it was 2-1 to us.

Meanwhile, Mike had battled on valiantly, but had to shed a pawn in the process. Then Patrick honed in on the weak f2 square and annexed the pawn there. He missed what looked like a forced win to me, but still kept up the pressure with only a rook and opposite bishops left for each side. But when material equality was restored, I was expecting/hoping Mike would hold the draw, though the position was still awkward. However, any hopes of a rear-guard save were dispelled when the unthinkable happened - Mike simply blundered a piece. I don't think any of us had ever seen this happen before. I thought there was more chance of Halley's Comet coming round again in my lifetime (and as its not due till 2061, that's  very small chance indeed) than seeing Mike do this. Still, it does prove that we are all human!

So the match ended 2-2, and both teams went home thinking of missed chances.

BTW, as I was just finishing typing this report, I accidentally hit a random key or keys, and suddenly my computer started reading out the entire post to me in a flat, robotic voice. Very spooky indeed. Especially as I didn't know how to turn it off. The crisis appears to have passed, and the machine has gone silent again - but I wouldn't want this to become a regular occurrence!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Trapped in the bar

No sooner had the decorations come down then it was time for the second great B vs C grudge match.

I say great but that's probably only 25% true. Grudge match is probably also stretching the point a little too far. We all just turned up.

Phil was first to finish. Just for a change he was playing a Scandinavian defence, this time against Bernard R. White's solid handling of the opening led to both side having ultra solid positions and a draw was agreed once the queens had been exchanged. Both players quickly adjourned to the bar.

Next to finish was Mike, who had played a unusual variant of the Colle system to avoid established lines against Bernard C. Bernard gained a slight edge in splitting up white's queen side pawns but solid play by white allowed him to take advantage of mistake to equalise the position. With both players short of time a draw was agreed and they headed off to the bar.

Dave was playing Rod in an advanced french defence. Solid play by black allowed the exchange of all the rooks and then gain control of the c file. White attempted to play on king side but black's refusal to move his pieces to the queen side to exploit his advantage meant that white could not make any progress. Dave survived one draw offer before agreeing on move 26. Off to the bar to analyse further.

With 75% of both teams now in the bar, the club room must have been dead quiet. This was fortunate since Ben had a complicated position against Roy. White had gained space during the opening and was attacking the king side. Most of Ben pieces were defending his position and it was difficult to see how he might win. However, 20 minutes in the bar and suddenly the completed team sheet was bought out and Ben had won. He had somehow managed to free up his position, exchange pieces and win a rook ending, all with about 15 minutes on the clock. Remarkable play.

So a narrow victory for the B team and a good start to 2019.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Three Champions!

We don't like to boast about our successes at KCC, mainly because we don't have that many of them, but when we have no less than three champions in our midst, its only right that we should be proud of their fantastic achievements.

To get the least important out of the way first, its hats off to Joshua who somehow managed to claim a British title for himself - though with typical modesty, he has hardly even mentioned it. What a guy! In November, in the unlikely setting of Cowpasture Road, Ilkley (I kid you not!) - so probably hat-less - Joshua claimed the British Major (under 1976/171) Rapidplay title with a score of 8/11. He finished a half point clear of the field (38 players) despite only starting as 16th seed. There must have been drama a-plenty in the last round, as when it started one player led on 7.5, followed by four - one of whom was our hero - on 7 points. None of the chasers were paired against each other while Joshua was upfloated to play the leader. He duly won, but none of the other contenders could score a victory (they actually managed a half out of three between them!) and so it was the KCC man who annexed the title and the £350 first prize. Bravo Joshua!

Far more importantly, though, December witnessed massive triumphs for two of our newest - and youngest - club members, Jude Shearsby and Billy Fellowes, in the highly prestigious London Junior Chess Championships - probably the strongest junior events in the country outside the British Championships and the UK Schools Chess Challenge. Billy was clear first in the U-8 tournament (despite officially being an U-7!) and Jude was joint first, winning on tie break, in the U-10 event (despite officially being an U-9!). And these successes are hardly the only things these two amazing young chess players have to shout about.

Billy just made history by becoming the youngest ever winner in the Leamington League (see Roy's post about the match on this website, dated 20.12.18) at the age of 7, while Jude (who had only just set the record Billy has beaten!) has been performing brilliantly for us in both the Leamington and Coventry Leagues. Oh yes, I should probably also mention that he recently won the U-8 section at the UK Schools Chess Challenge Terafinal, the largest chess tournament in the world! And that he was one of the England representatives in the European Youth Chess Championships in Latvia during the summer!! An amazing roll of honour in such a short space of time.

These two KCC members are a massive credit to themselves, their parents, the club and, of course, their coach, the one and only KCC legend that is Paul Lam. His work at the Coventry Chess Academy, and in his private coaching role, has been phenomenal. We may be forced to conclude from the remarkable achievements of his students (see here for details of these and even more successes) …….. that Paul is actually rather good at this coaching malarkey!  Despite Roy's efforts to disprove that assertion!!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Forthcoming Tournaments - on Your Doorstep!

You could be quite busy playing in local tournaments in the next few months if you are suitably inclined. Here's a quick list of the opportunities open to you.

1 Coventry & District Chess League Centenary Quickplay

Sunday January 27th, 2019
Massey Ferguson Social Club, Broad Lane, Coventry CV5 7NL

Full details and online entry at

You can't get more local than this, so hopefully plenty of our members will support this special, centenary event.

2 Warwick University Quickplay

Saturday February 16th, 2019
Warwick University, Science Concourse B2.02, Library Road, CV4 7AL

Actually, this is probably even more local by about one mile, but KCC has less of a vested interest! Full details and online entry for this one at

3 Warwickshire Open Chess Championships

Friday Febuary 22nd - Saturday February 24th, 2019
Alan Higgs Centre, Allard Way, Coventry CV3 1JP

And this is not much further away, either! We are being spoilt for choice/opportunities. Full details and online entry can be found at

4 English Seniors Chess Championships (over 50s and over 65s events)

Thursday 4th April - Sunday 7th April, 2019
St Johns Hotel, Solihull B91 1AT

Rather less information available about this currently, but if you are interested take a look at

Like the Warwickshire Open, this event is being organised by former KCC member Ed Goodwin and more information can doubtless be found via his contact details at the link.

If you've never played in a tournament before, do seriously think about giving it a go - with such a wealth of opportunities and sections for players of all strengths (except for the English Seniors) there really is something for everyone. Not only might you enjoy it, but you will also be helping to support both the national and local chess scenes. For the chess junkies amongst us, enjoyment has nothing to do with it, though, and we'll probably be at several of these because ……….. well, that's what we do!