Friday, 14 June 2019

Celebrate Good Times, Come On!

A jolly time was had by all at the Thai Kitchen on Wednesday evening, as we celebrated KCC's two trophy winning performances (Open KO Cup and the B team's Division 2 title) from the 2018-19 season. As usual, it proved much easier to get people to a social occasion than to an away match at Nuneaton on a winter's evening!

Happy campers! - (l to r) Paul, Andy, Phil, Bruce, Joshua, Roy, Bernard, Algis, Mark, Ben and Dave

Many thanks to Phil for organising the event, and instantly becoming the best Social Secretary we've had for many a long year. (Ever?) A few hardy sorts continued the celebrations with a  post-prandial visit to the newly opened Ale Rooms, where most of us seemed to be having a good time.

Spot the Grump! And yes I do mean you, Josh! Anyone would think you were desperate for an early night because you had a train to catch at 6.00 the next morning.

Amazing how the photo makes Kenilworth (almost) look like Manhattan!

Anyway, let's all sing along with Kool and the Gang. One, two, three, four.... "Celebrate good times.....

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

From the Archives - Part 4, 1982-83

Hope you aren't finding this too boring. Bad news if you are, as it now transpires that there are still several more articles' worth of material in folder number 2! I'm actually finding it all great fun, which probably says quite a lot about me. None of it particularly favourable!

March 1982 - KCC are fighting for the Division 1 and 2 titles, and the town is agog with excitement!

Kenilworth Weekly News, March 12, 1982 - before it went tabloid!

You may be interested to know that this was a week when you could have bought a 4 bedroomed house in Windy Arbour for £59,950, or in Malthouse Lane for £49,500!!

Results went our way and we won both Division 1 and Division 2, and also the KO Cup - truly a Golden Year for the club! So we will have two teams in Division 1 in the 1982-83 season. Top A team scorer had been Miles Dunn (a new one on me) with an unbeaten 6.5/9. Bernard had contributed 4/4, but missed many games while away at University.

1982 AGM - 11 people attend. The only ones I know are - surprise, surprise - Bruce, Bernard and Ed Goodwin. Chris is presumably at Coventry Police Station arranging bail for a valued client!? The meeting learns that the club made a profit on the year of 19 pence! Talk about running a balanced budget. Despite previous reports, the Club had not gone cash-only, but had actually replaced the bank account with a building society account (the Coventry) which showed a balance of £37. Affiliation costs to the BCF had gone up from 5p per player to 50p per player. Crikey - that's Venezuelan rates of inflation. Despite this, Bernard recommends no change to club subs or weekly board fees. Another clock was to be purchased. (That makes 5 by my count!) Then as now, the Club is at the centre of the Leamington League power nexus, with Bernard as League Treasurer and Bruce as Assistant Secretary. Whatever happened to that latter role? Should we have one??

1982-83 - The Leamington League Division 1 consists of Banbury A, Evesham, Stratford A, Kenilworth A, Kenilworth B, Leamington A and Leamington B. Division 2 consists of Alcester,  Barford, Stratford B, AP A, and Banbury B, and in Division 3 are AP B, AP C, Kenilworth C, Leamington C and Stratford C.

September 17th 1982 - Geoff Temple is unable to play in the first two Kenilworth B league matches of the season, and actually writes a letter to Bruce to tell him! Imagine that, a club member taking the trouble to inform a match captain about his availability. I predict this will never catch on.

September 23rd 1982 - Do you know what you were doing on this day in history? Probably not, but I can tell you that Bernard was available to play (if selected) for Kenilworth B against Kenilworth A! Maybe history is about to repeat itself in September 2019?

Nov 29 1982 - A match is held between the Leamington League and Worcestershire League at Alcester. We lose. (We also lose an inter-league match against Coventry.)

May 1983 - Kenilworth A have won Division 1 for the second successive year, with 19 pts from 12 games, two points ahead of Leamington A. Ed Top scores with a Pink-esque 11/12. The B team, for which Bernard scores 6.5/10, finish in a very respectable 5th, while Banbury A come last with just 5 points. Not a scenario that is likely to be repeated in 2019-20! Meanwhile our C team finish 2nd (of 5) in Division 3, losing out to Leamington C by 1 game point after both finish on 10/16. We had been forced to default one match due to transport problems, which cost us the title. Nevertheless, the LDCL subsequently promotes us to Div 2 anyway.

September 1st 1983 - Another very late Club AGM. 12 people attend including Bruce, Bernard, Ed Goodwin and …… a first ever mention of Roy Watson! Chris is sorry he can't attend. Shock news is given to the meeting - Bruce has mislaid the minutes from the previous year's AGM. (Luckily, they are subsequently found, as otherwise there would be a big blank space above in this report!) On an income of £138.91 we have made a surplus of £11.25 for the year, taking our positive balance to £48.66. Even so, the Treasurer is planning for a rainy day, and argues successfully for subs to rise to £2, plus 40p per night board fee, but with this to rise to 50p (students and juniors half price) from Jan 1 1984, because the church hall rent is going up again. Bernard is obviously viewed as slightly dodgy, as apparently for the first time ever the accounts have been independently reviewed. I don't like the sound of this, so let's not have any ideas about auditing the books while I'm looking after club finances!

Friday, 7 June 2019

From the Archives - Part 3, 1977-81

The KCC saga continues...……

October 1977 - Sir John Cornforth gives a simul for the Leamington League on Oct 13th.

November 1977 - The Club holds a Thursday evening Duplicate Endgame Swiss Tournament. All boards set with the same endgame position; 5 mins preliminary study; 10 mins on each clock. 4 rounds. I do not propose to resurrect this idea!

May 1978 - The club AGM is held on May 4th, with 13 people attending. The usual suspects (Bernard, Bruce and Chris) are there. We had successfully taken on all comers at Kenilworth Carnival until (future IM) Chris Baker turned up! There had been problems during the season with teams not turning up; noise; and with the refreshment arrangements. Nothing changes! We had £25.40 in the bank, but for some reason still owed Sir John Cornforth £2.50. I wonder if he sent the heavies round to collect? The meeting decides to voluntarily offer to pay a higher rent, and the nightly attendance charge is consequently to be raised to 25p for adults, but stay at 10p for students. Bruce is elected Chairman, and Chris Secretary.

May 1979 - Its AGM time again, and 11 attend including the usual suspects! Bizarrely we had played with A and C teams in Division 1, and our B team in Division 2. The club now owns 3 clocks. Our stint at Kenilworth Carnival raised about £5. Membership was claimed to be around 30 (this does not ring true!), although at least 8 of these were likely to leave. The cash in hand is down to only £1.73, and to address this precarious position the club needs to make changes. An annual sub of £1.00 is introduced with nightly fees raised to 30p and 15, but the idea of charging for playing in away matches is voted down. The club bank account (at the Midland) is to be closed and we will in future run on a pure cash basis. Annual turnover was reported at £132.29, with the biggest outlay being rent at £92.00. The club would close for the summer months. It was reported that "we didn't always get our strongest teams out." All these years later, nothing has changed!

May 1980 - The AGM is held on May 22nd, with only 9 turning up. Bruce is there, but Chris and Bernard have better things to do. It is reported that the A team won the League by 3 points, with Paul Benson (who I remember well from Coventry League days in the 1970s) scoring 10/12. (Watch out Joshua!) Graham Brightwell is off to King's College, Cambridge. (A well known hot-bed for Soviet spies!!) The Treasurer reported a surplus for the year of £22.02, despite expenditure of £1 on a photographer and £1.38 on tea and milk, and reduced turnover of £99.50. Our rent was going up to £3.75 for a 3 hour session. 13 people had paid the annual sub and the average attendance at club nights was 8.5. Subs to go up to £2.00 pa, and attendance fee to 40p/20p. Anyone attending 5 times would be asked to cough up the £2. Are there problems below the surface, I wonder, given the comment in the minutes that "we should attempt to foster club spirit"?

1980-81 - The Leamington League Division 1 consists of Banbury, Stratford, Kenilworth and Leamington. Teams play each other 4 times a season! Division 2 consists of Alcester, Fire Service, Kenilworth II, Stratford II, Automotive Products, Leamington II, Banbury II and Daventry. We have asked for no matches on the last Thursday of each month, which will be a pure club night.

Sept 1981 - The club AGM is held very late, on September 10th. 9 people definitely turn up (the usual suspects are all present and correct, plus Ed Goodwin) and one other may have, but the Secretary is not sure and marks him with a question mark! How difficult could it have been to identify the attendees?? We hadn't been that successful in the league after losing some strong players, and we lost in the KO Cup Final. Mike Johnson appears for the first time as a player. But we (including Bernard and Ed) had helped Warwick District Council win the Warwickshire Olympics! Notably, during the season Ed had drawn against IM Paul Littlewood. Financial stability for once, as subs are to remain unchanged. Average take per club night was £2.70 with average attendance down to 6.75. The Church had helped us out by not always taking the full rent! Turnover is up at £126.81 and the club makes a profit of £12.96. Rent accounts for £101 of our £113.85 expenditure. There must have been a lot of tea drinking, as that cost has risen to £3.30.  Another clock is to be bought - finally we have enough for a match!

For the first time, the future Mr Kenilworth Chess Club (Bernard, of course!) is elected to office as Treasurer. Bruce remains Chairman, but Chris stands down as Secretary to return to the backbenches. Ed Goodwin is Club Captain. This year participation in the Carnival had raised £6 or £7. Good luck to the new Treasurer on inheriting that sort of financial control.

Bruce, who has moved from Windy Arbour to Bertie Road, is mandated by the AGM to try to recruit some junior members by writing to the Headmaster of Kenilworth School.

An undated club membership list reveals our geographic spread around this time. Our 23 listed members reside in:-

Kenilworth             14
Leamington              3
Coventry                  2
Radford Semele       2 (Who'd have guessed it was such a chess hot-spot?)
Balsall Common      1
Leek Wootton          1

I trust the Secretary was GDPR compliant with this information!

Thursday, 6 June 2019

From the Archives - Part 2, 1976-77

And back we go for a further delve into KCC in days of yore...…

September 1976 - at the LDCL AGM we propose the adoption of sudden death play-offs after 30 moves, to avoid adjournments/adjudications. Did our oratory sway the assembled multitude? Almost certainly not, as the topic is back for discussion the following year! What we do know is that there are to be 8 teams in Division 1,  and after Rugby C seemingly withdraw, there are 7 teams in Division 2.  Additionally, we have arranged a Centenary Match (theirs not ours, I guess!) against Rugby for May 1977.

October 1976 - The LDCL is charging us £1.25 for our team in Division 1; £1.00 for Division 2; and £1.00 for the KO Cup. Additionally, we will be charged 5p per member for registration with the Warwickshire Chess Association. Glad I wasn't Treasurer in those high stakes days! Grading news - Bernard is 125J, Bruce 119 and Chris is 115. The club's highest graded player is John Rowley at 151. The highest graded player in the league is A Whitbread of Stratford (190) ahead of Rugby's John Turner (187).

May 1977 - In our second league season, the A team finishes 4th in Division 1 with 50%. Banbury win easily with 21 pts from 14 games. The B team is third in Division 2 with … 50%! Bizarrely, the Club is trying to organise a friendly match against Leeds University. It never happens.

June 1977 - it is KCC AGM time. 12 members attend, but 5 don't. And they couldn't be bothered to send their apologies either. A mystery is solved - the previous AGM was not able to pass the proposed Constitution because of insufficient attendance. But there is no indication that the subject is revisited this year. Bruce reports that membership is static and the Club is not proving attractive to casual players. John Rowley had been the winner of the Club's internal KO cup. The Treasurer reported that the majority of expenditure had been on room hire, but we had managed to buy our first chess clock! (I am now confused - how had we been able to play a full league season? Maybe people brought their own clocks? How very American!) Bruce vacates the Secretary's role, seemingly not very happy at having been lumbered with this the previous year when he was not present! Chris succeeds him. Bernard offers to organise club events. How quaint - a volunteer! I predict that idea did not catch on.

July 1977 - The KWN reports that the club's two teams finished mid-table in Div 1 and Div 2, and that a third team is planned for the following season. Just like now, it seems that they will print anything you send them! Membership entails a "small subscription" plus 40p (20p for those in full time education) per evening. We do something for the Kenilworth Carnival. Quite what, I have no idea!

Now, don't get your hopes up and think this is the end - there are at least two more instalments worth of material in the files. And quite possibly even more. You have been warned!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

From the Archives - Part 1, 1975/76

At the recent club AGM, Chris turned up with a bucket load of chess-related stuff (books; sets; clocks; scoresheets; computers; files) that had been gathering dust in his garage/shed for many years. While some of this was so past its sell-by date that no takers could be found, a surprising amount found a new home, and as current Club Organiser, I felt it was my duty to take possession of two folders worth of old Club records/correspondence (we are pre-email here, of course). And when I started to look through it a couple of days ago, I found a veritable treasure trove of information, of which all but the longest standing club members (Bruce and Bernard) will be blissfully unaware - and even they will have forgotten most of it! So I thought I should share some of the more interesting fragments of club history with you.

January 1975 - KCC has just been formed (only 3 years after the Fischer chess boom!) and the club is looking for friendly matches ahead of joining the Leamington League in the 75-76 season. Bruce is leading the admin effort, and makes sure to enclose a stamped addressed envelope in communications! Leamington, Automotive Products and Barford are identified as the most likely opponents. The Club meets on Thursday at St Francis of Assisi Church on Warwick Road.

March 1975 - Ouch! In possibly the first ever KCC match, on March 20th, the club gets thrashed 0-7 at home by Leamington in a friendly.

June 1975 -  The club bounces back to see off Automotive Products 5-2 in an away friendly on June 9th, and one week later gives Barford a good whooping by 6.5-0.5. A major expenditure of £4.16 is made on 8 roll-up boards.

July 1975  - We enjoyed beating Barford so much, we did it again! This time at home by 4-2 on July 3rd. There is a managerial casualty as the Treasurer (Brian Daniels of Windy Arbour) resigns, due to a clash with his singing rehearsals.

August 1975 - On the 27th of the month, we formally apply for membership of the LDCL. Were we accepted? The records don't say, but I'm assuming the answer was yes!

September 1975 - At the LDCL AGM on September 15th, our A team is placed in Division 1 (with Banbury, Daventry, Leamington, Rugby, Stratford and Warwickshire Constabulary) and our B team in Division 2 (with AP A, AP B, Banbury B, Banbury C, Barford, Daventry B, Daventry C, Leamington B, Rugby B, Rugby C, Rugby D and Stratford B. Three days later KCC holds an EGM to prepare for its debut competitive season.

October 1975 - In what may be the first ever KCC league matches, the A team goes down 1.5-3.5 in a Div 1 match at home to Stratford A, and the B team loses 1-2 to Stratford B. Colin Searle wins on top board for Stratford A, while Kenilworth A's sole victor is Barry Rowe on Board 3. The only winner for the B team is ….. Bernard Rogers. Did Barry or Bernard score our first ever win, I wonder? One week later the B team beat Automotive Products B 2-1 at home, with Bernard winning again on Board 1.

November 1975 - Chess must be booming in Kenilworth as another 8 roll up boards are purchased. But the price has already increased to £4.80. If only they'd bought 16 in June, the Club would be 64 pence better off, Probably the upheaval of finding a new Treasurer was to blame for this monumental inefficiency. On November 20th a Club "Lightening (sic) Tournament" is held with 14 players. The winner is Graham Brightwell with 7/7. Bernard scores 3.5 and Bruce 3.

December 1975 - And now £9.80 is spent on 4 chess sets. I cannot understand how Tournament Chess Supplies is no longer trading 44 years later given the vast sums being spent by KCC.

May 1976 - The first season is over, and the A team scored 7/24 in Div 1, while the B team finished with 15/24. Bruce proved difficult to get to the board, managing only two appearances all season, while Bernard chalked up 5/6 for the B team, and 1/2 for the A team. At the AGM (May 6th) the draft club Constitution is up for adoption. If it was agreed and never amended, we have been unconstitutional for many, many years!

Thrilling stuff, eh? Almost makes you feel you were there.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Game of the Month, May 2019

Its been rather a long wait since the previous article in this series, but I hope you'll agree that all good things are worth waiting for. Here we come within an ace of witnessing a KCC Grand Master scalp - even if it is a GM that none of you have ever heard of!

The game was played in Rhodes at the recent World Seniors' Team Championships, on Board 1 in the match between Finland and England 3, and features, as White, GM Yrjo Rantanen, against our own Andy Baruch. Despite falling some way below his lifetime peak of 2465, Rantanen still had a near 250 rating point edge over Andy, so the odds were very much stacked against our brave warrior. But in a very tense and exciting game, in which both sides launched the kitchen sink at their opponent's kings, Andy had the chance to land a killer blow. Unfortunately the moment passed, and although he was still better, there was no obvious breakthrough. Andy should have reconciled himself to a draw, but after several hours of knife edge chess, he went and spoiled everything, probably through tiredness and lack of match practice, by a one move blunder. I can speak from experience when I say its very tough to put these GMs away. They don't like losing, however ancient they may now be!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Ee Aye Addio, We've Won the Cup!

I don't know why all those Scousers were getting so excited last night at winning a mere Semi-Final in kickball or whatever it's called. The real excitement was to be found at Tyseley Working Men's Club where the mighty KCC were triumphant in the Final of the Leamington League Knock-Out Cup on a night of high drama. Regrettably not even our most avid supporters (Dave and Ben Bonkers) were able to make the long trip to see us beat Olton 3.5-1.5 and pick up the Cup for the third time in four years and the seventh in all.

I sensed that it might be our night when I caught sight of a road-sign on the way to the match. With amazing speed and dexterity, fellow passenger Mike was able to grab a quick photo.

The uncannily accurate Predict-a-score road sign. (My attempts to find a matching one saying Kenilworth 3.5 have sadly failed!)
We had our strongest side out (given the small matter of Paul's unavailability and ineligibility!) for the battle against our perennial rivals Olton, but we did face an especially tough task on the top two boards where Olton are especially strong. I was hopeful, though, that our powerful engine room on Boards 3, 4 and 5 would pull us through. If any extra motivation were needed, Olton had just pipped us by a single point to the league title, despite us taking 3 points out of 4 against them this season.

Enough of this waffle - to the match!

Such is Joshua's style and tempo of play that he nearly always finishes first, and this match was no exception. He played one of his pet unsound openings as Black against Richard Reynolds on Board 4. Almost inevitably, though, Joshua got plenty of play for his pawn sacrifice and a sufficiently unbalanced, dynamic position to pose major problems on the board and on the clock. He won his pawn back and provoked a major weakening of White's kingside, all the time building up a massive time advantage. I missed the conclusion, but I imagine time pressure induced a serious mistake from Richard and we had our first point.

This was followed soon after by a second win for us, as Andy despatched Mark Cundy on Board 3 in a highly entertaining game. Andy lurched forwards with his pawns on both sides of the board against Mark's Leningrad Dutch and gained a shed-load of space. But there were a few holes in Andy's position, and he needed to be careful. However, we needn't have worried as Andy played the crucial phase of the game splendidly, and made decisive inroads into the Black centre and kingside - a knight on g5 proving especially dangerous to the Black king, which suddenly found itself threatened with the move Rh7 mate. This could only be averted at significant material cost and so Mark resigned.

Meanwhile on Board 5, Mike had been nursing an edge against Rob Reynolds from a very early stage of a Catalan structure, where Black failed to solve the eternal problem of such lines, his light squared bishop. But Rob is devilishly difficult to beat, and he dug in and defended his worse position defiantly, right into a bishops of the same coloured ending where there was no way for Mike to get his king into the Black position.

So 2.5-0.5 to us, but we could still lose the match on Board Elimination if Olton won the top two boards. But there seemed no danger of this, as although Andrew was struggling against Alan Lloyd on Board 2, I had got a completely winning position against Phil Holt on top board. So what could possibly go wrong? Read on....

Andrew did indeed fall to defeat against Alan, after White played an exemplary game against the Dutch - not a good night for that opening! When Andrew had to make the double retreat Nc6-b8 and Be6-c8 in the first 10 moves or so, it seemed clear that something had gone badly wrong. He never managed to free himself against Alan's pressure, with the White bishops particularly dominant. So now it was 2.5-1.5, and all to play for in the final game.

I had not played a great opening after Phil surprised me with an unusual variation of the Alekhine, but with the position about level he went wrong and almost accidentally I was suddenly threatening a queen sac to win a piece due to Black's weak back rank. To escape this Phil had to allow me to get a knight into d6 followed by Rxb7 winning a pawn and reducing the Black position to total passivity. Indeed his rook had to go to f8, and his two knights on a6 and c7 were completely useless. In true Phil style, though, he managed to get his queen active and threatened perpetual. I could have let him, as it would have won the match for us, but this would have been wimpish in the extreme - and I'm desperately in need of the grading points after a disastrous few months. (Moreover, as Phil famously turned down Paul's draw offer when it would have won the match for Olton in a previous cup final against us, I guess he wouldn't have taken the draw anyway.) So we played on and my position got even better. I was completely winning and then …. as time ticked away - one good move would seal the deal but ...… instead a blunder and from nowhere Phil uncorked Ra8 which contained a killing threat of Ra1 with what looked like unstoppable mate on f1, g1 or h1. I played a move to stop it and he then uncorked a tremendous knight sac to force the move anyway. I broke out into a cold sweat. It felt as though I had cost us the Cup. I had to give my queen up for a rook and knight, and hope that my passed b pawn could pose enough of a threat to stop his queen running amok. Instead of grabbing a pawn to give himself a passed d pawn and a guaranteed perpetual at worst, Phil tried to win my b pawn which constituted my only active play. But he couldn't do it and I succeeded in establishing a kind of fortress where my rook, knight and b pawn had his queen incarcerated on b7 and b8. Even now it should still have been a draw I suspect, but in a desperate attempt to win Phil flashed out a g5 push only to recoil in horror when I played Rc7+, as his queen was on b7 and he'd walked into a skewer. Talk about drama! All we needed was a fat lady singing, to bring down the curtain on an epic night. Why can KCC never do anything the easy way?

Four of the triumphant/self-satisfied five: (l to r) Joshua, The Club Organiser, Andy, Mike
(Andrew having already departed with his tail between his legs)
So this means double success for the club this season, with the KO Cup victory to put alongside the B team's Division 2 Championship. (And we were within 1 point of the Division 1 title, too!) Now we have two reasons for an end of season celebration. If only we had a Social Secretary...….. well, hopefully after next Monday's AGM we will!!

A disappointing promotion

With the league already won, the final game was was just another match. The only matter of interest was to see if we could avoid losing and therefore finish the season without a loss.

Ben was away on business and Bernard R kindly agreed again to play on board 4 for the B team. Other than that, we fielded the team that has pretty much been the norm since September.

Bernard won fairly quickly against Abbie Stevens. A temporary knight sacrifice saw him reach an ending with two extra pawns. So far so good.

Phil didn't have a good game against Kevin Bowman and lost a piece during the middle game. Faced with the prospect of losing further material, Phil resigned.

Dave was playing Andy Johnson in a fairly sharp game. Having sacrificed a pawn to open up some lines against the black position, Andy faltered in the middle game allowing back to give back the pawn and reach an level ending. However, when Andy exchanged off minor pieces to get into a Queen and rooks ending, black stood very slightly better. Andy offered a draw and Dave had to decide if to play on or agree and hope that Mike could draw his game against Steve Willetts. Mike's position didn't look too bad and so Dave took the captain's decision to agree the draw and see what happened.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there! Steve, just had a lot more time than Mike and managed to win his ending leaving the B team with only one and a half points on the night.

A disappointing end for the team as it had done so well over the course of a long season. We have used just four regular players and two exemplary guest player, Joshua and Bernard, finishing four points clear of Banbury B.

Next season, it will probably be all change as new grades and players may distribute the squad around the B and C teams.

Everyone deserves a rest except for Dave who has to go back to Captaincy school.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Postscript - 2019 World Seniors Team Championships

I left a few loose ends in my last round report from Rhodes last week, so having just about got over the jet-lag and the cultural re-orientation I'm now able to wrap things up. I rather (completely?) ignored the 50+ results , as the winners had been a foregone conclusion for most of the tournament. The USA duly retained their title, using 4 of the 5 GMs who had won in Germany last year, with Igor Novikov replacing Sergey Kudrin.

The victorious USA team. (L to |R) Dignitary, Shabalov (born Riga), Benjamin (born Brooklyn - who let him in the team?), Novikov (born Kharkov), Ehlvest (born Tallinn), Yermolinsky (born Leningrad), Dignitary

On the shuttle bus back to Rhodes airport, Andy had the privilege of sitting opposite GM Ehlvest and, flushed from a recent analysis session with Jon Speelman, thought he would make contact with another former superstar (Olympiad gold medal winner in 1988 as part of the Soviet team.) Andy: "Hope you've remembered the most important thing - your gold medal?" Ehlvest: silence. Andy (not deterred): "So did you have a good time in Rhodes?" Ehlvest: grunt.  At which point Andy got the message and made do with talking to me! Seems that not all GMs are approachable.

The England 1 performance in the 50+ event was rather disappointing, finishing sixth on tie-break, though level on match points with Bronze medal winners Israel. A surprise loss to Silver medallists Italy in Round 7 was their undoing, and they finished with a fairly uninspiring draw in the last round against Germany. There were two great individual successes, though, as captain John Emms won the individual Gold medal on Board 3, and Keith Arkell the Silver on Board 2.

The Board 3 prize winners (l to r): Igor Novikov (USA - Bronze); John Emms (England - Gold); Karen Movsziszian (Armenia - Silver) 

The Board 2 prize winners (l to r): Joel Benjamin (USA - Bronze); Artashes Minasian (Armenia - Gold); Keith Arkell (England, Silver)

But this is all very well, I hear you say, what about a photo of our very own Club Organiser. Well, faced with such a popular clamour, what can I do but concede?

The England 2 65+ team (l to r); Mick Stokes (captain); The Club Organiser; Bobby Fischer!! (on t-shirt); Brian Hewson (Bronze medal winner, Board 5); Geoff James; David Bray

And working on the principle that you can never have too much of a good thing.....

In play (and later to lose) against IM Renman (Sweden 1). One point if you can identify the opening.

In play (and much later to draw) against FM Herzog (Austria). Ten points if you can identify the opening!

So that more or less wraps things up. Overall it was an enjoyable event, with good team spirit and a pretty good location/hotel, though the travel was slightly awkward due to limited flight options. I would have preferred the 09.30 starts as in Dresden, but I accept I am in a minority there. I felt the standard was decidedly less vicious in the 65+ section than I encountered in my two tries in the 50+ event. This year I felt I could give anyone a decent game and have some chance of a result - mind you, I didn't have to play Sveshnikov or Balashov, which might well have changed my opinion significantly!

Before I sign off, how about a bit of schoolboy humour, in the shape of a composite team that could have been put together from the various participants? This would actually be a pretty useful team at chess, but in the funny names competition they would have won the gold medal in a canter. 1 WGM Tatiana Grabuzova (2323 - Russia Women 50+); 2 FM Bengt Hammar (2206 - Sweden 1 65+); 3 WIM Natalia Titorenko (2153 - Russia Women 50+); 4 Herman Van de Wynkele (2129 - Belgium 65+); 5 FM Heimo Titz (2096 Vienna 65+).

But I can't finish on such a low brow note, so here are a couple of snaps from the Acropolis at Lindos, especially for our classicist, Mike D. Its hard going to get up there, but as you can see, its well worth the effort - even for a philistine like me!

Admit it, you can't get much more kultural than this, kan you?!?

Sunday, 28 April 2019

My last league game as promised in match write up.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Medals Galore! - Day 9 at the World Seniors

And one of them is even coming home to Kenilworth! Regrettably not with me; and regrettably not from FIDE, but you can't have everything. But Andy did indeed win a gold medal through his sterling contribution to the England 3 team, who annexed the Stewart Reuben created prize for the British Isles team finishing the most places above its seeding position. And if you don't believe me...…

Andy (left) looking rather sheepish as Stewart Reuben tells the mystified audience that he has won his own competition!

Triumph! The England 3 65+ team out-perform 11 others to win a very small cup. (Andy's Gold Medal probably available for viewing by prior arrangement and subject to security checks.)
Apologies for the rather poor quality of the photos of this momentous event but (a) I have a very cheap phone and (b) I was a long way from the stage!

Andy's team secured this esoteric cup by winning their final match 3-1 against Wales, with yet another excellent win for Andy over ex-Welsh champion, FM Iolo Jones (who I should have beaten earlier in the event).

Neither I nor my team could manage a final round victory, but I and we did the next best thing by drawing against number 9 seeds Austria, who out-graded us on every board - just the 230 in my case! - and who had beaten England 1 a few rounds before. I drew against FM Adolf Herzog. He started with a blitzkrieg attack that suggested he was going for total war and not intending to take any prisoners. However, I successfully withstood the onslaught and then threatened to open up a second front. However, I then switched back to the kingside for a final push for victory, but Black took advantage of my extreme time shortage to construct a bunker-like defence which I could not invade. Still, I was happy with my 2199 TPR and a 15 point rating gain.

But all this is by way of a prelude to the main news of the day, which was the silver medals won by the England 1 team - in the real competition, not a Mickey Mouse Cup. A 3-1 triumph in the last round over the all-IM team of St Petersburg put them just one point behind perennial winners Russia, and ahead of France and Israel on tie break.

The silver medal winning England team - (l to r) Dignitary; IM Robert Bellin; IM Nigel Povah (captain); Ian Snape; and FM Tony Stebbings (Board 5 John Quinn absent)
That's quite enough for today, but when I am back home tomorrow (or soon after) I will provide a wrap-up of other news. And I have plenty of photos left! Like this one, which is specially provided for our Classicist/Greek Specialist, Mike Donnelly.

The acropolis at Rhodes - not quite up to Athens standards! Still, it will be nice when it's finished!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

A win's a win!

After much delay, here is a report on the game last week - Solihull E versus Kenilworth D.
Chris, White, playing Penny Wood on board three, was first to finish.  Fairly quickly Chris seemed to get his king into a horrendous position with a king on g3 and pieces a plenty crushed around his king and well advanced pawns in front of the king position. The saving grace was a zig-zag of pawns across the boards so  that Penny could not break through. Drawn offered by Chris and accepted.
William opened with something weird and a position arose that I could not understand (nothing unusual there then!) A very 'dynamic' position with Bishop and two (William) versus Rook slowly sank into the mud, everything seemed to slow down and a draw was agreed.
I was playing Paul Silverman in a Slav which seemed to go OK if unspectacular. The battle resolved around my attempt to swop my Knight for his Bishop, which I achieved. There followed a very interesting endgame (at my level) of a Bishop and Knight (me) versus two Knights (Paul) which I think Paul will be using in his coaching with the kids. I won this struggle after a poor move by Black allowed full rein to my Bishop. Black resigned before I promoted.
Final score 1:2
A while back Joshua showed me how to post a game. So I am going to have a go with my game. With any luck it will appear shortly.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Finally Some Photos! - Days 7 & 8 at the World Seniors

Another double round report, but first I have to clear up the outstanding issues from Round 6, which was coming to a climax as I penned my last epistle from Rhodes. Andy duly proved himself the team hero by converting his extra pawn (and 2 bishops against a bishop and knight), so that England 3 had another excellent win over Turku, and earned themselves the dream pairing against England 1 in Round 7 yesterday. Meanwhile my absence proved to be a body blow from which England 2 could not recover, as they sadly went down 2.5-1.5 to a Danish club team, and so played one of the tournament backmarkers, Finland  Karhut yesterday. (For those of you wondering, Karhut is not a suburb of Helsinki, or a reindeer encampment somewhere near the Arctic Circle, but rather the Finnish for bears!)

I was back in the team on Board 1, and had to play the only 2000+ player on the Karhut team. I tried to slowly outplay him, but only succeeded in pushing slightly too far and he jumped out with a vengeance. I was on the ropes, but luckily I found a few only moves, and he couldn't quite find a winning plan so I escaped with a draw, while the team won easily, 3-1.(Thankfully my game was not on the live boards so I never have to show it to anyone!)

Meanwhile the England 3 - England 1 encounter did not go well for Andy. For the very first time in the tournament he was completely outplayed, after going wrong very early in the opening against former British champion Robert Bellin. The game did not last long as the White forces came crashing through on the kingside and in the centre, where the hapless Black king found himself looking very forlorn. Although, England 1 also scored the full point on Board 2, the third team acquitted themselves very well with two draws on three and four - where the rating disparities were at their greatest.

The Palace of the Grand Masters in Rhodes Town - mere humans only get 2 rooks, but GMs get 3!

And so to today (Rd 8), where I was once again on sightseeing duty with Mrs Club Organiser. In my absence England 2 had an excellent 2.5-1.5 win over Belgium, while Andy's England 3 had 4 quick draws against a Danish team that outrated them on every board. I guess some teams are running low on motivation by now!

Leading up to the Palace of the Grand Masters - this is the Street of the Knights!
At the top of the 50+ competition, the USA are now 2 points clear after a draw with Iceland ( a game they were winning easily until one of their GMs blundered a piece to a knight fork - there is hope for all of us!), and an easy win over Austria today. Tomorrow they have been down-floated to a team (Argentina) with 6 match points less, so I think we can safely say they will retain their title. England 1 had a catastrophic loss against Italy yesterday, which has basically ruined their medal chances, and they were less than convincing against Athens Vets today, with GMs Plaskett and Ward both conceding draws to 1900 rated opposition. Even a big win against Germany in Rd 9 (highly unlikely anyway) will probably not be enough to get them into a medal position.

They really like their chess pieces in Rhodes - topiary in the shape of a pawn!

In the 65+ section, though, England 1 will almost definitely medal if they can eke out a win against the all-IM St Petersburg team, to follow up a big win against Iceland today. Russia inevitably lead, but are only a point clear of Germany. However, they have a much easier pairing and are also ahead on every single tie-break, so they are red-hot favourites to retain their title.  I finish with a game against a 2337 FM from Austria called Adolf, while Andy's last opponent is Iolo Jones of Wales who I should have beaten a few days ago.

Its been fun, but I'll still be glad when it stops!

2nd Division champions elect

The penultimate game against Banbury proved to be a rather strange affair. Everyone had a plan.

Banbury had decided that they needed to stop Mike from winning and try as hard as possible to pick up points on the lower boards. Anything as long as Kenilworth didn't win. We had decided that we just needed a single point and so there was no need for heroics as we also had a game in hand.

Phil had a prior Easter engagement and so was unavailable. Fortunately, Bernard R was available and very kindly agreed to step in. With Phil gone and everyone moving up a board, Banbury's plan was dealt a blow as no one one was playing who they expected to be playing.

The top board game was the most interesting with Daniel Rowan set to play a complex line and muddy the water a little to try and gain an advantage against Mike. Not much seems to surprise Mike and he just shrugged off the wild play and neutralised the position and draw was agreed. I didn't see the post match analysis so I don't really know what was sound and what was not.

On his elevated 2nd board, Dave was playing Nick Martin. Refusing to play anything that was aggressive, Dave soaked up the pressure with dull play leaving Nick desperate to generate any sort of attack. He finally managed to generate some king side play, but this allowed more pieces to be exchanged and a refusal by Dave to try and win material left white in a lifeless position that was only ever going to be drawn.

On board 4, Bernard played a very solid slav defence against Mal Waddell. With black having more space, more time and an advantage, white was struggling to get anywhere. With the Banbury plan compelling him to carry on, he watched the outcome of board three with interest.

On board three, Ben was playing Arthur Hibbitt. In the middle game white had doubled pawn but had opened up the h file. Black managed to almost equalise but then refused Ben's draw offer as it wasn't part of the plan. Unfortunately, playing on from an even position, black allowed Ben to gain an advantage and further attacking attempt by black simply resulted in him losing a rook.

With the match now at least draw, the plan was busted. However, Mal still had to come down to the bar to get permission to accept a draw from his captain. With Bernard's draw, the match was won and we were promoted.

As a footnote to all this, teams plans are fine but nearly all plans have an assumption or a pre-requisite. For Banbury C, the pre-requisite was that Banbury B would win away at Olton. Unfortunately, the B team had a bad day at the office and came away on the end of a 3-1 defeat. All plans null and void!

So there we are, one game to go but we are already promoted. First division chess beckons the B team. Boom, as the young like to say.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

GM Survives by a Whisker - Days 5 & 6 at the World Seniors

There was almost a massive shock at the World Seniors in Round 5, as 5 times East German champion, GM Rainer Knaak (just the 2482 ELO!), had to hang on for grim death for about 30 moves to avoid losing to little old me! I had an extra pawn in a rook and pawn ending, and tried my very hardest to notch a second GM scalp of 2019 (and my entire lifetime!) to save the match for England 2 against the mighty German first team, but in the end his natural talent, and my lack of it (plus the fact that all rook and pawn endings are drawn), meant I had to concede the half point as he was about to capture my last pawn. In fact neither of Germany's GMs could beat their far-from GM opponents, and it was only on Board 3 where they were able to exploit their significant rating advantage.

The whole game had been a strange experience for me, as he played the excruciatingly boring London System, which even attempts to spice up with 5 h4, cannot be described as anything other than the opening of the anti-chess player. (Sorry Paul (and Jude!), but that is simply the truth!) I wondered if GM Knaak had perhaps been having lessons recently at the CCA? Anyway, after finding himself unable to deliver mate, or even get close to opening the h file, he suddenly found his kingside and centre pawns under serious assault from my queen and rook. But rather than play safe he pushed a bit to hard and went past the drawing point. Although he got his own rook to f7, he had to be very careful about his own king safety (the biter bit!) and so ultimately felt obliged to swap off queens and drop a pawn. Then the torture began, but at the end, he had his half point, though I had the glory - but not as much as I would have liked!

While all this was going on(over 5 hours), Andy had an enterprising, but decidedly brief draw against an Austrian FM, in which he sacrificed a pawn just out of the opening and did enough to convince his strong FM opponent fairly quickly that it gave full compensation. Being a man who understands an extra pawn far more than positional niceties, I was less than sure. Andy's England 3 team went down narrowly to a strong Vienna team, to remain just one point behind my England 2 team - and also England 1, who had another disastrous day at the office by losing 3-1 to Austria.

At the top of the 65+ tournament, Russia restored some sense of order by convincingly seeing off the previously 100% scoring Finland (who would have lost to England 3 in Rd 1 if Andy had found a relatively easy winning move against his GM opponent!!) and joining them at the top of the table. As I write this report, 2.5 hours into Rd 6 (I am having my first rest day, to celebrate the arrival of Mrs Club Organiser) Russia are pushing hard against Israel, while Finland are on the back foot against Iceland, though all 8 games are still in progress and there are plenty of blunders waiting to be made. My England 2 team are looking like going down to the Danish club team Norresundby, but Andy seems to hold the destiny of the England 3 v Turku match in his hands. He is better against a slightly lower graded player (the first non-titled opponent he has faced!) but faces plenty of work to bring home the full point.

In the 50+ section, the USA marched on by seeing off Italy yesterday, while England 1 stuttered to an unconvincing win over a much weaker Canadian team. However, this still put them in joint second place, and has produced a real medal-showdown encounter against Armenia today. Current verdict (of Stockfish, not me!) is that the match will be very close. (Speelman and Vaganian have just drawn on top board and the other 3 games are about equal.) USA are already 1-0 up against Iceland, and better or winning elsewhere. And they have rested their Board 1, Alexander Shabalov, who has 4.5/5, so you might have expected them to be vulnerable today. The sooner Russia decide to enter a team, or Mickey Adams reaches 50 the better, as otherwise they seem simply too strong for the opposition.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Life in the Old Dog Yet - World Seniors Day 4

Andy was smiling again today, as he finally found himself with a 1 next to his name in the results column. And an excellent 1 it was too, as he downed Norway's top board, a 2200 FM. I missed most of the game, so can't say too much, especially as the live transmission failed after about 20 moves so the game score is woefully incomplete. By the time I did get to see any of the game Andy was two pawns up in a rook and knight ending. And as those two extra pawns were connected passers it was a decisive advantage. He very efficiently shepherded them home to force a somewhat belated resignation. A very good game, I suspect. Which helped England 3 to a shock 3-1 win over Norway 1 that amazingly puts them on 50%. But just you wait till Magnus gets to 65 - no-one will be winning against them on top board then!

I was very caught up in my own game, where I eventually salvaged a draw against Sweden 2 which saw us tie the match after 4 draws. A rather disappointing result, as I was the only player not to outgrade his opponent. I thought I was OK from the opening (a  Closed Sicilian) but somewhere I must have gone wrong as my queenside counterplay seemed to be a move or two behind White's kingside attack. But in fact I think I overestimated the dangers and I was more or less fine all the way - until I answered a Nf5+ pseudo-piece sac by putting my king on the wrong square. It cost me 2 precious tempi to rectify my mistake, but helped by my opponent's slightly indecisive play in time trouble, I successfully defended until he surprisingly went for a repetition. He was disappointed and I was relieved - until I found out that the engine thinks I was better in the final position! But truthfully, such a possibility never occurred to either of us!

More titled opposition awaits tomorrow - Andy will get his 5th in a row against an FM from Vienna, while I will be playing GM Rainer Knaak, as England 2 take on Germany 1. Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.......

England 1 50+ had a superb 3-1 win over the all-GM team of Iceland today, and have a relatively friendly pairing against Canada tomorrow which should cement them as medal contenders. Leaders USA saw off Armenia today, with the only decisive game being the demise of former Soviet superstar Rafael Vaganian at the hands of  Alexander Shabalov. England 1 65+ had a traumatic narrow loss to Sweden 1 today, with a loss on time in a totally drawn position on Board 1 deciding the match.

Mrs Club Organiser arrives in Rhodes tomorrow which is both good news and bad news as far as these reports are concerned. On the one hand I will be reunited with my missing laptop, but on the other I will have less spare time. So enjoy them while they last!

Main talking point away from the board today was that I got to shake hands with a man who has shaken hands with Fischer (many times I expect). The person in question was Icelandic GM and multiple national champion, Helgi Olafsson, who kindly signed my copy of his terrific book, 'Bobby Fischer Comes Home'.

If I hang around with these strong players long enough, some of their ability must rub off, right? Wrong!

We Are Going Up! We Are Going Up!

Playing for both the B and C teams this year has been to experience a wide range of emotions. The C team's desperate battle for survival. The B team's seemingly stoppable march to glory. Monday night saw the C team ultimately survive in Division 2. On Tuesday, the B team had a chance to win the thing and finally we did it!! Dave our captain might well write more and I apologise for blogging first, but in my excitement I felt I had to write something now!

This is the culmination of a multi-year quest. Two years ago, we had gone into our final match against Leamington knowing that victory would see us go up. We hadn't been able to do it. Last year (not helped by my own disastrous form) we were nowhere near. This time everything was different. Throughout these seasons, we have had the same core of four players. Mike, Dave, Phil and me. A massive shout out to Josh for his 4/4 this year and to Bernard Rodgers for his cameo on Tuesday. We did promise when we missed out at Leamington that one day we would put things right and now we have...

Eleven wins and a draw going into Tuesday's match against third placed Banbury C and we still weren't home. Banbury B's own excellent form meant they were still just about in with a shout. They needed to win their two remaining matches and see us lose ours if they were going to prevail. A long shot for them perhaps, but not impossible. (One draw from the two games was all we needed.) Over the last few months I have been trading regular emails with Gary Jackson as the battle has played out. His final one on this subject coming on Wednesday morning, congratulating us all! Thanks Gary - Banbury B will be the team to beat next year I am sure...

If Monday had been tension packed, Tuesday somehow wasn't. Perhaps it was because none of the games were particularly wild. Perhaps we just had enough belief that this was going to be our year. That we had come too far to do a Devon Loch. Mike and Dan and Dave and Nick drew. Bernard was well ahead on the clock against Mal and looked quite a bit better on the board to me. I was level with Arthur Hibbitt in probably the most off balance game of the night. I actually quite liked my position but after the previous evening's exertions, I was really short of energy. I was very confident Bernard was not going to lose, so I offered a draw. Arthur declined and played the most aggressive move, which looked tempting but was probably the wrong choice. Suddenly I was better. At which point Arthur blundered and dropped a rook. We've all been there. The noise in the club room at the crucial moment hadn't helped him. I think psychologically when you you are on the attack, it is easy to forget to defend. Just one of those things, but we now had at least the point we needed to win the League. Perhaps a slightly anti-climactic final moment, but we would have taken victory in whatever form the chess gods deemed to offer. Bernard and Mal agreed the draw very soon after to actually win us the match outright

It turned out we did not need any of it. Banbury B lost to Olton that same night. We would have gone up even if we had lost. But it is always much better to win! One game to go against Daventry (which sadly I can't make) but that is now just a victory lap. Albeit, chances to go a whole season unbeaten are few and far between and I know we will not want to blow that...

We've had to fight hard for each other as a team. A lot of our matches have been close, both in terms of final score and over the board. Bizarrely, the only team we have beaten 4-0 has been Banbury B! What has seen us through has been that between us, on every night, we have found enough to bring home the points. I know we can't wait to strut our stuff in Division 1 next season. I'm already dreaming of our first match. Kenilworth B (Division 2 Champions) v Kenilworth A (hope upon hope Division 1 champions!) Who could ask for more!

Thursday, 18 April 2019

So, This GM Said to Me...... - Day 3 at the World Seniors

I was just minding my own business, about 20 minutes into today's England 2 v Wales match, when a passing GM said to me, "Bd3 in the opening? That's the move of either a genius or a w****r." "Which do you think?" I asked. "I haven't made my mind up yet," he replied, and they were the last words I had with him today!

As the move had previously been played by the great Alexander Grischuk, I definitely think that genius was the correct answer. Regrettably, I was unable to follow the example of my hero (who beat Caruana in this line), and blew a position that was more than +2 for many, many moves, and jumped to +6 for one move. Very annoyingly I missed the win, and so the 14 times Olympiad player and former Welsh Champion Iolo Jones was able to scramble a draw against me. But nevertheless, this was enough to clinch a 2.5-1.5 win for England 2, which has given us a pairing against Sweden 2 in Round 4 tomorrow. (Already, we now only need to play Sweden 3 and we will have the complete set of 1, 2, 3 and 4!)

Andy, meanwhile, finally got on the scoreboard with a fairly unexciting draw on top board for England 3 against reigning (and certain to be again) Women's 65+ World Team Champions, Mongolia Ladies. (You guessed it, for the last 2 competitikns, they have been the only female team to enter!)  England 3 went on to win and will play Norway tomorrow. (And yes, there are a lot of Scandinavian teams here!)

In the 65+ section, England 1 scored 4 draws for an excellent 2-2 result against reigning champions Russia, but in the 50+ tournament England 1 went down by the narrowest margin against defending champions USA. A brilliant finish by John Emms was not enough to balance losses for Speelman and Plaskett. More tough pairings for our lads tomorrow, too, with the 50+ team playing #3 seeds Iceland, and the 65+ team taking on #5 seeds, Sweden 1. The top board matches are, respectively, USA v Armenia and St Petersburg v Finland.

Oh yes, to put you out of your misery, the GM from Para 1 was Jim Plaskett. Ever since I lost a 1 Euro bet to him last night about whether Pat Jennings was still alive (he is!), me and Jim have been best buddies! Bet that makes you all jealous!!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

IMs 2, KCC 0 - World Seniors Day 2

It was inevitable that Professor Elo should be proved right today, and that 2 random chess players from Kenilworth should lose against 2 random IMs from Sweden and Belgium who each enjoyed a sizeable rating superiority.

Andy put up the better fight against Belgian Jan Rooze, having a safe equality for a long time and then missing a near forced but very long line that would have netted him a piece for several pawns. Stockfish gives him a very small edge at the end of the line, but White would have been in no danger of losing. And once again, Andy's England 3 team went down by the minimum margin to stronger opposition. Tomorow they play the world champion Mongolian ladies team, which should make for interesting viewing!

I lost against the Swede Nils-Gustaf Renman. He played a bad move in the opening which I met with a Stockfish approved pawn sac to get the 2 bishops and mess up White's kingside pawns. Annoyingly, though, there was an even better move, which I saw, but misjudged and rejected. In the game I went wrong and started to come under some strong pressure almost immediately, but I defended rather well, as my opponent seemed to dither a bit. However, short of time I went wrong and allowed a nice, but very simple, tactic that gave him 2 passed pawns and as my knight could only stop one of them, I had to resign. England 2 also went down by the minimum score, and now face Wales tomorrow.  (As do England 2 in the 50+ section.)

Elsewhere, England 1 tomorrow find themselves against the top seeds and defending champions in both categories, with the 50+ team taking on USA, and the 65+ team facing Russia (who only scraped home today.) An exciting day is in prospect!

Right Results, But in the Wrong Order - World Seniors Day 1

What a day it (nearly) was at the World Seniors yesterday. In Round 1, Andy was playing GM Yrjo Rantanen of Finland. The fact that he now has an Elo of 2283 tells you he is not the man he once was. And the game proved it. He threw the kitchen sink (also known as the h pawn) at Andy, but our man responded by attacking even more ferociously down the a, b and c files against the White king. Stockfish gave him +4, but unfortunately that was with Black to move! Still he was +1 or 2 for a long period of the game, but then disaster (old age) struck. Andy's attack petered out and the GM finally started to get some kingside play. It was still equal, but Andy had lost tne thread and committed a blunder that was about on a par with mine at Crewe station the previous day. A very near miss, and a real choker after playing so well. And the win would have given England 3 a shock victory over the number 8 seeds, who today will unleash their second GM, the rather better known Heikki Westerinen.

Meanwhile I was playing a much lower rated player from Sweden 4 in my role as Board 1 for England 2. I was slightly better for most of the game, but not really getting anywhere despite having the 2 bishops. He offered a draw, but I turned it down (of course) and then played a terrible move which just lost a pawn for nothing. I staked everything on an unconvincing attack down the a file but meanwhile Black started hoovering up my kingside pawns after prising open the centre with a timely f6 break. I was busted, but for once Caissa took pity on me and what she tooketh away mosr cruellyfrom Andy she donated to me, most undeservedly. Black took the wrong pawn, and found himself obliged to give up an exchange, but he had so many pawns he was still winning. But he missed an only move that would have kept his advantage and allowed me to cut his king off on the back rank. I just needed to get my other rook in  the game and it was curtains. He hopped around with his knight, but it ran out of good squares, and with my king getting all the way to d8, a mating net emerged and I had luckily won a game I should have lost! And England 2 beat Sweden 4 by 3.5-0.5.

It was actually England vs Scandinavia everywhere you looked:-

England 1 4-0 Oslo
England 2 3.5-0.5 Finland Sisu (aaarrrgggghhhh!!!!)
England 3 0.5-3.5 Finland 1

England 1 4-0 Sweden 3
England 2 3.5-0.5 Sweden 4
England 3 1.5-2.5 Finland 3 (Really Finland 1 in the 65+, but there's some strange numbering going on here!)

Many of the favourites rested their biggest names, but there were still plenty of legends in action. And they didn't have it all their own way. Joel Benjamin was held to a draw by a Scot rated only 2132, while France's 4 IMs could only muster 1.5 points against Norway's sub 2200 team.

Today both Andy and I have IM opponents, so don't expect too much good news in the next report. But as I've (a) managed to switch to a room with a seaview and (b) found the apostrophe on Andy's tablet's keyboard, I feel like a winner already today!

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

One Match, One Move, One Game (We Are Staying Up!)

Occasionally a season can turn on one match, one game, even one move. So it proved for the C team last night as we survived in Division 2 at the expense of our opponents, in the most unlikely of circumstances. If I am still shaking a little as I write this, you will see why when reading on!

Perhaps it does not do to dwell on the debacle that had been our campaign to date. Six matches lost 1.5 – 2.5. A fraction more luck here or there and we would have been clear of this relegation fight. Equally though, the struggle to get our strongest team out very often had also been a factor. There is no way around the fact that teams generally end the season with the points tally they deserve, even if they do not necessarily accrue those points in the right order. We had no one to blame for being in the relegation mire other than ourselves…

Still for all that, driving to the game last night on one of those evenings when you can just feel winter turning to spring, we were somehow just about still alive. A win against Shirley would keep us up. Defeat and we would be relegated. A draw and we would need something from our final game with Stratford, but everyone knew that tonight was going to decide things one way or another. (Well apart from Roy, who confessed afterwards that he had no idea, but he clearly plays better when not troubled by such practicalities!)

The Shirely team arrived early, clearly keyed up. Their C team is on to win Division 3, but this would count for nothing if their B team went down, so the fate of two Shirley teams was at stake. For Kenilworth, with our B team (I don’t dare say it – let’s just say going very well) we were at serious risk of not being able to offer members any Division 2 chess next year. Something a club of our standing should be able to take for granted, but no longer could. It was all going to turn on what happened over the next few hours.

The statistics favoured Shirley. I had an eight point grading advantage over Dave Thomas on Board 1, but Bernard was giving Gordon Christie twenty three points (albeit this is mainly down to Bernard’s decision to play in the World Seniors rather than a true reflection of his real strength relative to Gordon’s.) On Board three, Jude who has done so much for the team this year was giving John Freeman thirty one points and on four Roy’s opponent Fred Dickinson had a twenty five point rating advantage.

Who cares for the numbers, you could well say, but the truth is for a lot of the night the chess was going Shirley’s way too. Jude was the first to finish, losing to John. Jude played well, but John is always wily, and from what I saw he appeared to net a piece in the late middle game, after which it was all over. So, 0 – 1. Not Jude’s night, but better ones will undoubtedly follow.

Roy was the next to finish on Board three. He had been under pressure out of a Budapest Gambit but eventually seemed to get on top and shattered Fred’s kingside pawns. In a same coloured bishop ending Roy made Fred suffer (and fritz suggests missed a win) but it always looked like a draw was likely and having turned down previous offers, Roy finally acquiesced. 0.5 – 1.5

It was around 9.45 at this point. Bernard and Gordon were in a knight and pawn ending. I thought Bernard stood worse. He certainly had a more fragile pawn structure. Meanwhile I was winning. I seemed to take a lot of initiative out of the opening and was starting to turn the screw. Dave sacrificed a pawn. I captured (which Fritz says is correct) but it had been a good practical choice by Dave as suddenly everything was a lot more complicated and I started to both burn time and lose ground.

Then almost simultaneously, there were two momentous happenings. Gordon and I both blew up. Bernard’s endgame skill had meant that he was starting to ask questions, but really Gordon was safe. A terrible miscalculation suddenly meant that Bernard’s pawns had broken free and could no longer be stopped. Unfortunately, at precisely the same moment, I miscalculated too and somehow conspired to drop the exchange on a board that looked great for Dave’s rooks. So 1.5 – 1.5, but it felt like Bernard’s heroics were going to count for nothing.

I had five minutes left to Dave’s twenty. A knight and a pawn for his rook. A queenside pawn chain that looked extremely vulnerable and no obvious way forward. As everyone crowded around the board, I realised that I actually had two things going for me. First, no one expected anything, all the pressure was on Dave to bring the point home. Secondly, I did have one or two tricks. They were not sound. With best play, I would have been finished, but there was nothing else for it. When all else fails, hit and hope.

I picked up another pawn and in effect invited Dave to try and net my knight, which he obligingly did. Unfortunately, he had missed that with his king on a1, behind pawns on a2 and b2, his back rank was vulnerable. To his horror, I could take his rook with my queen with impunity. While he was welcome to recapture, my remaining rook would then mate him. Even worse, as well as massive problems on the back-rank, Dave’s own queen and a handful of his pawns were suddenly in my sights. By the time he had fixed these problems, I had gone from -3 to +5 and was playing with rook and six versus rook and two. I was down to two minutes, but that was more than enough.

Had Dave played a3 before rounding up my knight we would have been relegated. Just as we would have been if Gordon had not gone wrong. I sat in the bar with Bernard and Roy afterwards and we talked about the evening. More reflective than jubilant. Celebrations should really be for winning titles, but we were still proud of what we had achieved against the odds. It had been way too close for comfort. We all felt for Shirley who must have been printing their tickets for 19/20 Division 2 a mere ten minutes before they were relegated.

Sometimes all that you can do is to hang in there and as a team we had done that. Gordon and Dave had ultimately both made mistakes, but we had been ready to capitalize on them.

This season is now done. Next season is just waiting to unfold. One match. One game. One move at a time.

That Was Not a Good Start - Day 0 at the World Seniors Team Championships

Yassoo, or at least something like that. Anyway, hello from Rhodes where Andy and I have arrived safely and ready to do battle for England in the 2019 World Seniors Team Championships, which start this afternoon (Tuesday). Yesterday was for travelling, and things did not go smoothly to say the least.

The journey all went to plan, it was what happened to one of the passengers en route that was the problem. Because when we changed trains at Crewe on the way to Manchester Airport I managed to leave the bag with my laptop and other stuff on the first train, only noticing its absence as our train was about to depart and the first train was already off and on its way to Edinburgh. *********!!! was approximately what I said upon discovering my colossal blunder. (That is the first Colossus of Rhodes refefence, but doubtless not the last!) Thankfully, Mrs Club Organiser was immediately on the case (ouch!) and by the time we landed in Rhodes the missing item had already been located and should now be winging its way back to Kenilworth. Though I could really do with it here, of course!

We travelled on the same flight as most of the Irish team, but then history repeated itself at the luggage carousel when, just like at Dresden last year, we found ourselves standing next to Jon Speelman, who had just arrived via Athens. He was very disappointed to learn that Bernard (or that big ****** as he referred to him)# was not with us this year.

What else to report? Well, the air con is not working in the hotel and the rooms are ****** hot as a consequence, even though the outside temp is only about twenty. And Andys resolution to have a dry tournament lasted about 10 minutes from arrival at the hotel! (Apologies for the lack of an apostrophe there, but Im (and there!) using Andys (!) spare tablet and I cant (!!) fully work out the keyboard.)

Anyway, we await the draw for Round 1, when we hope to do Kenilworth and England proud.

# This conversation may not actually have occurred. But it would have been fun if it had!

Thursday, 11 April 2019

It's the Hope that Kills You

I wasn't going to bother writing up the A team's final league match of the season this week, away against already-relegated Leamington A, because I was already resigned to the fact that it was an ultimately meaningless encounter. Despite us chalking up our fourth consecutive score of 3-1 or better, the league table looked likely to end up with us in second or even third place, even though we have built up a massively superior game points score to every other team. Olton A, Solihull A and Banbury A could all overtake us by winning their games in hand, and with the only direct encounter left being a Solihull - Olton match, my money was on Banbury who seemed to have the easiest fixtures and who would come out first if they won their three remaining games.

We duly got the two expected points against Leamington, thanks to very efficient wins with Black on Boards 2/4 for Andrew and Mike, and draws on Boards 1/3 for myself and Joshua. I went from +5 to 0.00 in one move at the end of my game against Tom Darling, allowing perpetual check when an alternative king move would have confirmed the decisive advantage I had enjoyed since move 2!

But the excitement for the week was not over, as I then discovered that Banbury A had rather carelessly lost that same night against Shirley A, despite averaging 184 against Shirley's 162, and they compounded that mishap the very next night by losing against Solihull B, this time averaging 184 against just 150! So Banbury are totally out of the running (despite James Jackson's monstrous 10/11 score on Board 1) and its all eyes on the Solihull A v Olton A encounter - or it would be if I could dare to look. A draw or a Solihull win will give us the title. Which would have been ours already if …….. if so many things, of course, and it would be unfair to single out one game/mistake that was more significant than any other. Although I have my own ideas on that, but in the interests of team spirit it is best that I keep them to myself! Especially as everyone else could readily point out that I have the worst score of any of the regular players, so ultimately I am more to blame than anyone!! Definitely not responsible for our likely near miss are Joshua and Mike who jointly top scored with 7.5/9 (83.3%).

Irrespective of the final Division 1 placing, we still have a KO Cup Final appearance to look forward to against Olton A in early May, so there is still a chance that some A team silverware will be sitting on my mantelpiece for the next 12 months. I'd better make sure we haven't run out of silver polish!

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Kenilworth Chess Club Grand National - and the Winner is....!

Late drama before the start of the 2019 KCC Grand National with two last minute non-runners to report. First, Corrupt Accountant was withdrawn after the RSPCA intervened on learning that his rider, Bernard Rogers, was putting up 6 stones overweight. "Unimaginable cruelty has been averted," said a spokesman, following with some advice to a non-plussed Mr Rogers that he should "go on a diet".  More drama was to follow when it was discovered that Bruce Holland, the rider of Just Bruce, was not intending to turn up until just before 11pm, so the horse had to be withdrawn.

Which left 27 runners to line up in front of packed stands at Aintree racecourse. Ahead of them lay 4 miles 2.5 furlongs and 30 of the most famous fences in the world. Unlike the real version, however, where the first prize alone is £500,000, the KCC National boasted a total prize fund of diddley squat! Still, who can put a value on glory?

And then the tapes went up and the field set off at its customary madcap pace across the Melling Road towards the first fence. Well, almost all the field, as Bold Carl (Carl Pickering) and Paul Superstar (Paul Lam) were already going so slowly that they didn't have the pace to get off the ground to jump the first fence, and both refused. And then there was the usual mayhem amongst those who did make it that far, as Banjo Paterson (pulled up or fell in his first 5 point to point races) and Smart Teacher (only finished three of 14 point to point races) both came down, putting Andrew Paterson and Andy Ward out of the race as well. 

So already the field was thinning out, but the extra space didn't help Bernard much at fence number 2, where Bernard Charnley was unseated, thankfully without any lasting damage. Even though he looked the absolute image of Munch's The Scream as he flew through the air, towards a very bumpy landing

No casualties at fences 3, 4 and 5 as the race settled down, but Nick Mottram then fell at fence number 6 - the fearsome Becher's Brook - on Nicky Nutjob. I think we could have seen this coming as the horse had started 71 hurdle races, but pulled up on his one and only start over fences. Also down here was Diamond Joshua, who had once threatened to be quite a good horse over hurdles, but who ended up as a big disappointment over fences. No parallels intended with the chess career of his jockey, Joshua Pink!

Mr Johnson went at fence 7 (Foinavon) putting Mike Johnson out of the race, and at the Canal Turn (fence 8) Impish Jude was a casualty. Well done to pilot Jude Shearsby, though, on getting a horse who had never run in a steeplechase before this far.

Onto Valentine's Brook (fence 9), where another of the no-hopers, Dr Donnelly (guess the jockey!), fell and at fence 11 the six time point to point winner Web Master, under Rod Webb, refused - just as he had done in his last ever race. (Before this one, of course!)

The survivors then approached The Chair - fence 15 and the biggest on the course, where, in front of the grandstand, Beer Goggles came to grief. A top class hurdler, but very dodgy over fences, and the sight of this obstacle was enough to scare the bejesus out of him. Dave Shurrock was unseated, but luckily a St John's Ambulance man was on hand to provide a reviving pint of Slaughterhouse Saddleback bitter.

At the end of the first circuit Algis Toleikis had to pull up on Baltic Magic who despite being a safe jumper, was well behind and in need of a lie down. Pulling up too was Stuart Blaiklock on Captain Stuart, who seldom raced over further than 2 miles and who had no intention of changing that statistic today.

This left just 13 horses to head out on the second circuit, with all the pre-race favourites still going well, but a few of the lesser fancied horses clearly struggling, and soon they began to fall out of contention.

First, Mighty Mark, winner of just a single chase (at Towcester in 1993) went at fence 17 as the author of this drivel could find no excuse to let him go any further, and at fence 18 Mr Watson (ridden by the dashing eye-patched Roy Watson) fell, bringing down the freewheeling Ukrainian Star (Nick Fesenko) and thus ending the international participation in the race.

At the fence before Becher's the last of the outsiders departed, after a gallant effort from the outclassed two time chase winner Hello Steve (Steve Payne), and now just nine were left standing - eight top class horses and one no hoper plugging on miles behind. 

It had been a miracle that the high class Ballyandy had got this far under Andy Baruch, as he was a much better hurdler than chaser, and so it was no surprise when he fell at fence 22 (Becher's Brook, second time around).

Pulling up before the Canal Turn (fence 24) was the prolific Philip's Woody, whose 13 chase victories were all at 2m 5f or less. He had given Phil Wood a terrific spin around, but a lack of stamina was sure to get him in the end.

Over Valentine's and the next three fences the race developed into a terrific struggle between some truly great horses. Captain Chris (Chris Aldridge) led the field back over the Melling Road and onto the racecourse proper (that's what the commentators always say at this point), with two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, Kicking King (Tony King) and Sizing John (John Ambler) in close attendance. A bit further back in fourth was the talented Puffin' Billy, ridden by up and coming talent Billy Fellowes. This was a horse who had once beaten Grand National runner up The Last Samuri in a 3m chase, but over the extended 4m 2f here his stamina was just beginning to give out.

But lurking right behind the leading four were two horses, Mathew (Matt Smiglarski) and Ben Nevis (Ben Graff) who seemed to be going better and better as the race progressed. This was the point when stamina really came into play, and where even very good horses could find the extreme race distance pushing them beyond their limits.

Captain Chris was the first to give way. A three time Grade 1 chase winner at up to 2m 5f, and beaten only a neck in the 2012 King George VI chase over 3 miles, he was running on empty over the 29th fence, where there was nothing between the Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Kicking King (2005) and Sizing John (2017). But still Mathew and Ben Nevis were staying on from behind, and once over the final fence it was these two who forged clear. Two real course specialists who were guaranteed to get every yard of the marathon trip. Past the Elbow, only now did Mathew give way and at the line the winner of the KCC Grand National was Ben Nevis - who had won the real Grand National 1980.

So many congratulations to Ben Graff on winning the first (and probably last) running of the KCC Grand National. And for not giving the answer away to anyone else, as he had a rather strong suspicion that he was destined for glory!

Mathew was a gallant second, as befitted another real Grand National winner  - but as his triumph came back in 1847 he was just conceding a few too many years (130 in fact) to stand much chance of outspeeding Ben Nevis after the last!  Kicking King just hung on for third ahead of Sizing John, with Captain Chris a weary fifth and Puffin' Billy an excellent sixth for his young jockey.

The finishers were completed by the plucky Magical Morris, although he was so far behind that most of the crowd had already gone home when he crossed the line. Still, a great effort by the old boy, who must have given his young rider, William Morris, a thrilling experience.

The Result

    Horse                             Rider
1 Ben Nevis                      Ben Graff
2 Mathew                          Matt Smiglarski
3 Kicking King                  Tony King
4 Sizing John                    John Ambler
5 Captain Chris                 Chris Aldridge
6 Puffin' Billy                     Billy Fellowes
7 Magical Morris               William Morris

So much for the Grand National and so much for the jumps season. Now its the turn of flat racing. KCC Derby anyone? (Watch this space!)