Thursday, 28 April 2022

Oh, What a Night!

Oh, what a night.
Late April, twenty twenty two

Yes indeed - Leamington League Cup Finals night at Olton. Let history remember the date - Tuesday, April 26th - and the venue - Tyseley Working Men''s Club (the Wembley of the local chess world). For on that date, and in that place, KCC picked up two of the three trophies on offer (the Open KO Cup and the Under 8750 Cup) and went down narrowly in the third (the Under 1600 Cup). Bringing the total number of KCC triumphs for the season to four, as the Leamington League Division 1 and Coventry League KO Cup titles had already been annexed. And if anyone has forgotten how close we went to also winning the Coventry League Division 1 trophy, just refresh your memories by reading the Blog post of March 18th!

Where to start? How about with a pictorial record of the 14 valiant KCC men who were in action on this epic night.

From left to right: Andrew, Phil, Rod, Mark, Bernard (partially obscured - for the first time in his life, I expect!), Jude, Andy, Billy, Joshua, Roy, Chris, Hector, Patrick, Ben.
(With Andrew a clear winner of the Best Turned Out prize!)

Naturally, my attention was mainly focussed on my own game against Alan Lloyd, against whom I have a dreadful record (played 9, drawn 4, lost 5!). But I did notice that Andrew had scored a convincing win over Bruce Baer on the next board to me; that Jude was winning against Gary Hope and Andy had drawn early against Richard Reynolds. So, from a position of slight advantage I was able to offer a draw secure that we were winning the Open KO Cup match against Olton comfortably. Little did I know, though, that Jude had had a brainstorm and momentarily transformed his winning position into a lost position ..... but thankfully the chess gods were smiling on us and he turned the tables again to secure the win - in the process, surely becoming the youngest ever winner in the League's premier knock-out tournament. This left Joshua able to finish the match with no pressure. He was an exchange down against Mark Cundy but had a wide open White king to attack. However, Mark had a dangerous passed pawn, and in the end Joshua had to take a perpetual check. Nevertheless, an unbeaten 3.5-1.5 win for us, with two White victories and three Black draws (yes, I lost the toss - mea culpa!)

The next match to conclude was the Under 1600 final against Solihull.  Things got off to a great start when Hector continued his remarkable form by notching up a point for us on Board 2, but then things fell apart as both Roy and Patrick went down to defeat (the latter to Kenilworth resident and long time KCC member, Mike Johnson.) Even if Chris had been able to even the scores on Board 4, we would have lost the tie break on the board elimination rule, but the game ended in a draw anyway, and we had lost by 2.5-1.5. A great shame that the team fell at the final hurdle, but Chris and his lads have done the club proud by reaching the final of a competition where we have traditionally only been able to win a tie if we got given the bye. There's also no doubt in my mind that we would have won this match, and the Cup, if we hadn't also reached the U-8750 final which deprived the U-1600 side of Billy, who was eligible for both teams.

But I can finish on a positive note, as at the end of the evening we emerged victorious from a titanic struggle against Banbury in the Under 8750 final. It was a strange match. Ben drew very early against Danut Joian, and team supremo Bernard added another draw into the mix soon after when halving out with Chris Evans. The Banbury strategy for the match was very interesting, with a low rated player on Board 5 and much higher rated players on the other 4 boards to keep under the 8750 total limit. Our strength was much more evenly spread, but it meant we were out-graded on 4 of the 5 boards. Banbury were in effect accepting they would probably lose on Board 5, but if they could score 2.5/4 on the other boards, they would win any tie on board elimination. Rod duly delivered our much needed win against Michael Campling on Board 5, but this was balanced by Mal Waddell beating Billy on Board 4 to level the scores. How Billy lost I don't know, as at one point it looked like he had driven a threshing machine through Mal's position, forcing the White king to c3 and getting a pawn to f2. So the scores were consequently tied, and Banbury just needed a draw on top board to vindicate their strategy and win the match on tie break............

But I must break off the narrative at this point for an important message.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Phil's position in the decisive game against Nathan Manley. He was, I kid you not, about 5 pawns up so I naturally assumed he had sacked a piece and that the game was in the balance. Then I counted the pieces and they were level! So he was just 5 pawns up. Oh yes, and he had a virtual forced mate on the board, as well - or at least the win of humungous amounts of material. Of course, Phil being Phil, it was never going to be that simple, but he did indeed soon add an extra rook to his material advantage, and eventually this proved sufficient to force resignation and win another trophy for Kenilworth. What a hero!!

And so ends a truly momentous season for KCC - surely one of the best in the club's history. 4 trophies; splendid efforts by all our teams; well attended club nights; enthusiastic new members; some fearsomely strong juniors; and a group of solid old timers as well. Enjoy the summer, and when the new season rolls around, just like Jackson, let's "get up and do it again!"

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

By Jupiter, Forgot!

"By Jupiter, forgot! I am weary; yea, my memory is tired. Have we no wine here?"
Coriolanus, Act 1 Scene 9.

But I've remembered now, and so here is the report of last Monday's final Leamington League Division 1 match of the season. Nothing of real importance was at stake, as we had wrapped up the title a couple of weeks back, but there was one last challenge - maintaining our unbeaten league record. And as our Coventry League team had lost its own unbeaten record - and the league title - in the very last game, we really needed to make sure that history did not repeat itself. It was all about pride.

In all our matches this season we have fielded the Three Ps plus AN Other, and this pattern held right to the end, as Messrs Page, Paterson and Pink were joined by the recently rediscovered Andy Baruch. Our opponents were Solihull A, led this year by Don Mason, who had run us mighty close in our earlier encounter and had a victory over Olton to their credit.

Things did not start well. I walked straight into some ferocious opening preparation from Don, and I was already losing/lost by move 10. I didn't expect to make it to move 20, so the fact that mate only arrived on move 34 must be considered something of a moral victory for me. Though, regrettably, moral victories do not count on the match scoreboard. Still, never mind, as Joshua had been winning easily against Paul Roper on Board 3 and looked likely to finish even before me. Wrong! He had reached a rook and pawn ending two pawns up and with 2 connected, passed kingside pawns, when he decided to jettison them to win White's last two queenside pawns.  But this left him with just doubled b pawns of his own, and when Paul managed to get his king back to b1 the draw was inevitable.

So now things looked decidedly dodgy, since Andy B's position on Board 2 against Tony Sadler looked to have gone from very promising to totally lost. I took a look at the board and counted two White pieces and one White rook under attack - try saving all those at once! But somehow he scared Tony into not taking the material, and it ended up in a rook and 4 v rook and 4 ending. Tony was in desperate time trouble, though, and swapped off into a king and pawn ending that might just have held with very precise play, but his clock situation ruled that possibility out and Andy duly queened a pawn and won. His first victory for two years! (Though in fairness, in only his second game!)

Which left the other Andrew in play on Board 2 against Ray Carpenter. He seemed to be winning Black's bishop in a minor piece ending thanks to a passed d pawn, when Ray suddenly created mayhem to get a passed pawn of his own on the b file. For a moment I was in panic, as I thought this pawn couldn't be stopped, but Andrew kept his cool and moved his king away from the path of the pawn, so there were no tempo gaining checks en route to the queening square, and brought his knight back to stop the pawn. This was enough to win, as in order to cause the mayhem, Ray had had to give White another passed pawn on the a file, and his lone bishop couldn't prevent either this or the d pawn from queening.

So not only did we finish unbeaten, but we also finished victorious in the match, squeaking home by 2.5-1.5. Coupled with yet another Olton defeat (0.5-3.5 against Shirley A) the same night, this meant that our final winning margin was a massive 7 points. We dropped only two points all season, when drawing with our B team and Olton A, and ended up with a game point difference of +17. By any measures, this was a comprehensive success!

Massive kudos goes to Andrew, for a stunning performance on Board 2. I, on the other had, need to do considerably better! Joshua's impressive hit rate was slightly affected by him missing out on one game due to an opposition default. Lionel, Jude and Andy didn't do badly either, while Mike kept me company on 50%.

No particular reason for this week's song, though I don't think Poco have ever featured here before, and that omission needs to be remedied immediately!

Friday, 18 March 2022

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

Its been a week of very mixed fortunes in KCC-land, and how it all stacks up in the end depends on whether you are a "glass half full" or a "glass half empty" kind of guy.

Which sort are you?!

At the end of it all, we have two trophies confirmed for the season, but strangely it is the one that got away which will likely live longest in the memory. Proof, if it were needed, that some people will never be totally contented with life.

It all started on Monday, when - in what was scheduled to be a Leamington League Division 1 decider against Olton A - we drew 2-2 in an ultimately unimportant encounter, as Olton had contrived to gift us the title by losing their previous match at Banbury. So all that was at stake was a bit of local pride, and our unbeaten record. It was honours even on the night, but as Olton played without regular Board 1 Phil Holt (get well soon, Phil - I know you're reading this!) maybe they had more reason to be happy. Joshua was our sole winner, seeing off Mark Cundy's King's Gambit in most assured style by quickly transposing into a pawn up minor piece ending. The rarely sighted lesser-spotted Baruch then chipped in with a draw on Board 4 against Gary Hope. In normal circumstances this would have been a disappointing result, but given it was Andy's first game since March 4th 2020 (740 days by my reckoning) it was a minor miracle he even remembered the moves. Andrew followed up with another draw against Bruce Baer on Board 2, after a game in which he was a pawn up for most of the time, only to fall into a perpetual check when the win was in sight. Which left me needing a draw to win the match.  But I was playing Alan Lloyd, against whom I have a record of Played 8, Won 0, Drawn 4, Lost 4. It didn't matter that I got into a rather good position, where I was the only one who had any winning chances, as it was inevitable that I would completely misplay things at several key moments and end up losing a rook and pawn ending after a zillion moves on the increment. Some things are just meant to happen, and me losing to Alan is one of them.

Tuesday evening saw a rather more critical encounter, as we took on Coventry A in the final of the Coventry League KO Cup, a competition we have won once before, in 2018. As we had done the double over Cov A in the League our hopes were high, but things proved to be less straightforward than we might have hoped. All 4 games were still in play late into the evening when we had a massive stroke of good fortune, as Bava Manickam contrived to walk into a one move mate against Mike in a rook and pawn ending. Mike was a pawn up, and assures me he was winning, but mate in one certainly saves a lot of effort, technique and agony for the spectators. As soon as mate appeared on the board, I offered Ed Goodwin a draw on Board 2. I had been in all sorts of trouble a few moves earlier, but thankfully I was let off the hook and it was almost dead level in a double rook and pawns ending when we shared the point. I knew that this essentially assured us of the Cup, as Andrew was a pawn up against Joshua Pink (you'll have noticed how I can't bring myself to be on first name terms only with those KCC players who have split loyalties!) in a rook and 4 v rook and 3 endgame. Andrew then even gave up his extra pawn to make it so drawn that even Joshua Pink couldn't find any excuse to play on. This made Ben's loss against Warwick Scaife on Board 4 irrelevant, as we were going to be winners on board count in the event of a 2-2 tie. The Cup was ours - though I doubt we will see quuite the same scenes as these on the streets of Kenilworth when we bring the trophy home!

And so to Wednesday, and the same 4 were back in action in our postponed Coventry League Division 1 encounter with Warwick Uni A, which had become a title decider - where we had draw odds, as we were 1 point clear of the University team. Now they have a lot of very strong players to draw on, but thankfully they don't often get them all to play, so we went into the match with every chance of securing a first ever Coventry League title. But its the hope that kills you, isn't it?

First blood went to our opponents, and it was a bitter pill to swallow when Mike went down to Simeon Bott on Board 3. Mike had played a typical Rxc3 exchange sac and got a pawn and lots of compensation for it. But the position was very messy, and Mike had a bishop stuck on h8 behind a White pawn on f6. Mike tells me he was winning for about 20 moves, but it was anything but straightforward while that bishop remained stuck. Which it did. Seemingly for eternity. Or check mate as its known. A disastrous result for us, as Mike went from Tuesday hero to Wednesday zero. Still, I remained confident, as Andrew was an exchange for a pawn up on Board 1 against Joe Varley and seemingly cruising to victory, and while I was still down the pawn I had sacked in the opening, I had definite compensation with Black's queen, king's bishop and rook all either back or still on their starting squares at move 30. Somehow I just knew I was going to win!

So when Ben lost a very strange game on Board 4 against Vikas Sajanani, I was still more than hopeful. Ben had a queen against a rook and bishop (and maybe a pawn?) and I had been hoping we weren't losing, but his departure from the room at 100 mph and 100 degrees centigrade told me a different story. Now it was most definitely down to me and Andrew. The first part of the task went well, as the position just got too difficult for the players in my game, and in serious time trouble my opponent, Ivan Nikolov, couldn't defend when I got a pawn all the way to a7. This was a seriously heavyweight game! But something awful had happened in Andrew's game. I thought he was going to double on the seventh rank and deliver mate, but he was scared that White's passed d pawn might queen first, so instead swapped off a pair of rooks and ended up with rook and three (h, f and a) against bishop and three (h, g and a). It seemed like an obvious win, but Andrew had to be careful that when he went active with his rook, the White king couldn't munch the weak Black pawns on h6 and f6 and queen one of his own. I'm pretty sure there was a win if he had brought his king around to attack the White kingside pawns from behind before going after the White a pawn, but in increasingly desperate time trouble he went straight to the a2 pawn with his king and after various captures ended up with a rook against a lone White h pawn - but with the Black king several miles away from the action on a1. By a tempo it was a draw, but knowing that a draw was not good enough, Andrew tried one last trick and instead of sacking his rook, he allowed the White pawn to queen thinking/hoping he could then deliver mate with his rook. Unfortunately, White had one move which both stopped the mate and saved his queen. And he found it. And a few moves later he won the queen v rook ending which had ensued. Heartbreak for Andrew, and for KCC, who had come so close to a first Coventry League Championship. Chess is a harsh mistress.

But never mind. Two out of three is not so awful, is it? Vegetarians please look away now - Meat Loaf is about to be served

Wednesday, 9 March 2022


Well, that was an incredibly painful way to spend three hours, but somehow - at the very last moment - we stumbled across the line to win our Coventry League KO Cup Semi Final against Division 3 side, Coventry E by the required handicap defeating score of 3.5-0.5. But it was an evening of pure agony.

Andrew is exempted from all/any criticism, as he was the only one who played anything like a good game, throwing in plenty of tactics on his way to a convincing win over John Conway on Board 1. John lost on time at the end, but his position had completely gone by then.

But the rest of us. Oh dear, oh dear.

Ben eventually won decisively on Board 4, being oodles of material up against Joshua Rivett, but his opening play looked anything but convincing and I reckon he was in serious danger of being worse for quite a few moves.

Mike then offered a draw against Pablo Kelly on Board 3. His position had been going progressively downhill, as his two bishops looked pretty impotent against a big queenside pawn advance by White. I guess out of desperation he gave up a piece for a couple of pawns, but his young opponent was glad to take the rating points and a draw when they were offered.

But, of course, this then meant I had to win on Board 2 against Dave Filer. From a position where I was absolutely not better at all. And behind on the clock. I have no idea what had gone wrong, as I was almost winning straight out of the opening, but then I kept taking wrong decision after wrong decision. With Dave playing very assuredly, and consistently forcing pieces off the board whenever the opportunity presented itself we ended up in a dead level rook and knight ending. And then he forced the rooks off. It was move 49. It was knight and 4 against knight and 4. There were no passed pawns. It was almost 10.30. And the engine evaluation was 0.00. For all intents and purposes we were going out. And then Dave cracked. I had ramped up the clock pressure as a last try, and he had fallen behind, and at the crucial moment he allowed a trade of knights which gave me a winning king and pawn ending. Phew!

I didn't deserve to win. We didn't deserve to win. But I/we did, and next Tuesday we will play either Rugby A or Coventry A in the final.

No contest for this week's song. It's the only one I could think of that was depressing enough to match the mood of last night!

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Chairman Skis to the Rescue

 What's that coming over the hill, is it a monster?

No. it's the Club Chairman skiing to our rescue!

Fresh from his recent week schussing and slaloming on the slopes in France, he glided to the rescue of our Coventry League team last night, as we nervously edged home 2.5-1.5 against Warwick University R. (Yes, R, but I'm not going to bother explaining that again!) With our top two boards having clearly applied the wrong wax for the conditions, it was our engine room on Boards 3 and 4 which got us over the line to collect another two valuable points in our quest for a first ever League title. A quest which will now go to the last, rearranged match against Warwick Uni A.

Mike got the ball rolling for us with a very convincing win as Black against James Parkinson. White had sacked a knight on f7 but never seemed to have anything for the piece, and Mike wrapped up victory in short order. I was next to finish on Board 2, when sharing the point with Jonathan Fowler. This was a massive relief, as I had suffered the tortures of the damned after going wrong almost straight from the opening. My position was undoubtedly busted, but he went for a loose pawn with the wrong knight and suddenly I was OK in a bishop and knight ending.

I adjourned to analyse with my opponent, and shortly afterwards a clearly happy (dare I say smug?) Chairman emerged from the playing room to announce he had won and so clinched the match for us. This was somewhat surprising news, as he seemed to have been on the defensive for what little of the game I had seen, and at one point I distinctly heard him offer a draw. It was a massive stroke of luck for us that Ansh Batura decided to play on. (This echoes another crucial win for the Chairman earlier this season, when a crude knight fork gave us a draw against Nuneaton A, after Colin Green had also turned down a draw offer. Lightning does strike twice!)

And all this was just as well, because Andrew's inexplicably poor record against students this season continued with a loss to Partha Mulay on Board 1. For once his solid Slav type set up failed to go sproink and he was always rather short of space and counter-play. White clinched the win using two bishops against a bishop and knight to annex a couple of pawns. So its now 4/4 against non-students, but just 2/5 against Warwick Uni this season. With yet another encounter against academia to come. Aaarrgh!!

But for the time being, let's concentrate on the positives from last night's match. Which is where our second tune of the week comes in. (And make sure you admire the action shot of Bernard in full flow at around 32 seconds.)  

BTW, if anyone wants to hear my excellent dyslexic skiers joke, feel free to ask at any club night!

Thursday, 17 February 2022

One More Twofer for the Road

Finally, the seemingly never ending pattern of Monday night Leamington League match and Tuesday night Coventry League match has come to an end. So this is absolutely, positively and definitively the last twofer match report for ........... well, possibly until March 16th. But to commemorate the occasion, I thought I'd throw in a bonus song so that we can hear Boz Scaggs also having one more for the road.

Right, to the week's business. Monday night and we are home to Banbury A just 4 days after they had rather fortuitously edged past our B team by the minimum margin. Who knew that we would now return the compliment? Especially when they arrived with only 3 players, meaning Jude and his Dad had had a wasted journey/evening. But it was hard for me to head too quickly for the moral high ground, as simultaneously in the bar area, our D team was failing to produce even one player to take on visitors Solihull E. Which meant casting the first stone was not really on the cards.

Despite our free point start (for the second match running!) this was to be no walk in the park as all three games were tough encounters. I was (needlessly) worried for Andrew in the opening against Dan Rowan, as he eventually emerged with a solid extra pawn, which was, moreover, passed and supported from behind by a rook. 1-0 I thought, except that soon it was half-half, as Andrew had uncharacteristically blundered his extra pawn away. Then there was a moment when Joshua overlooked a rook sacrifice by Nathan Manley that just won two pawns from nowhere. But in the resultant queen ending, Joshua went checky, checky, checky and managed to win both pawns back, with what I then thought might even be a better position.

Meanwhile I was playing Gary Jackson and was clearly better, with me in total charge of a monster diagonal from a8 to h1. And with the White king sat on g1 it looked like an impossible position to defend. But defend it he did, and after I had missed a couple of wins at one crucial moment I went seriously wrong and there was a near certain draw on the board when Gary could have eliminated my light squared bishop and put an end to all the long diagonal issues. But he missed the moment and soon he was in almost total zugzwang, with his queen, rook and knight all immobilised, meaning he could only shuffle his king from g1 to f1 and back or his bishop from d2 to c1 and back. Still, I hadn't worked out how I was actually going to cash in when he tried to improve his queen's position and found himself having to resign immediately when my own queen jumped into f3 with decisive effect.

Match won, which was just as well, since in trying to avoid perpetual check, Joshua had instead got himself mated by Nathan. So instead of 3-1 and another healthy boost to our already massive game points difference, it was a narrow 2.5-1.5 result, and we had only drawn on the boards actually contested. Still, I would be lying if I didn't admit I loved being the team's match winning hero for once! And before leaving this match, I just want to pass on our best wishes to Paul Rowan of Banbury who has been on the end of a rather nasty bike/car collision recently and is currently out of action, chess wise. Get well soon, Paul.

And so to Tuesday, and a KO Cup Quarter Final against Coventry B (who fielded just the three ex-Kenilworth players!). As our opponents are a Division 2 team, we had to give them a 1.25 handicap start, and so we had to win by at least 3-1 to go through. Thankfully, this meant we could afford one accident, as we suffered just that. Ben had an absolute car crash of a game, being totally wiped out by Margarita Nasibova, who took about 15 minutes for the entire game. All in all this was one of the most one-side games you could ever see - apart from 2 of the others in this same match! On top board Andrew steamrollered Kate Donegan after her Scandinavian went badly off course, while on Board 2 I did much the same to Nigel Morris, who played the opening very well, but then managed to go from a near dead level position on move 16 to resignation 4 moves later.

Now all attention was focussed on the Board 3 encounter between Mike Donnelly and Mike Johnson, which we absolutely had to win. Our Mike amassed a mighty attacking force against our-ex Mike's king, but Black defended very tenaciously, avoiding plenty of traps and tricks. Then our Mike set up a great redeployment of his queen with Qh3-f1, planning to go to d3 and invade decisively on h7 (rather significantly he also had a bishop on b1!). But in a moment of chess blindness, he then put the queen on the pretty ineffective square g2, when carrying on with his plan would, he told me later, have just won a piece on the spot. So the game carried on ...... and on ..... and on. Our Mike won a pawn, but for some reason then found himself in an opposite bishop ending with just this solitary extra pawn. But whether it was winning or not was immaterial, as our-ex Mike had no time left. And as Coventry don't play with increments, because they have to be out by 10.30, he lost on time at around 10.40.

Phew! A very unconvincing team effort, but somehow - on both nights - we kept our unbeaten records going, so that, including cup matches, our LDCL A team is now Played 10; Won 9; Drawn 1 and our Coventry League team is now Played 10; Won 8; Drawn 2. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

As I'm now running on even emptier than last week, after the latest twofer supplemented by a 4NCL weekend immediately before, it's only right that we have another version of Jackson's brilliant mini-autobiography in song. After last week's 1978 full on rock interpretation, here's a totally different, but equally spellbinding, pared down acoustic version from 2006.  Totally mesmerising. And 10 bonus points for anyone who can tell me which LDCL Div 1 stalwart (not KCC), slide guitar player extraordinaire David Lindley reminds me of!

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

A moral dilemma

Whilst we wait for Mark's no doubt upcoming double match report, I thought I would raise a question about a game I played yesterday (for a non-Kenilworth club I hasten to add, though I hope I'll be forgiven for that). The scoresheet up until people had too little time to record is below, but the game itself is of less interest than the final couple of minutes - suffice to say I got slowly outplayed throughout the game, until we ended up in an endgame which white is going to win, but will take a decent number of moves to do so (rook, bishop and pawn versus rook and pawn). Also important to note that this game was played with 90 minutes for both sides, and no increment (which is a terrible time control, but that is a different point).

What ultimately happened is my opponent got a decent chunk of the way towards winning, but then contrived to lose on time, and my questions are twofold:

1) Should I have let him? In principle, I could have offered a draw when he got down to a few seconds, since I'm clearly never going to win by any other means. I think probably there is something of a consensus in the community about this, namely that since my opponent is in a much stronger position I shouldn't be offering him draws, and it is his responsibility to do so when he decides he doesn't have enough time to win. You could definitely make arguments against that, but I think probably most people would say that is the correct approach.

2) The more interesting question then seems to be what should I do if he offers me a draw with a few seconds left. The extra context is that if we win this game we win the match, whilst if I lose or draw we lose the match, so in principle I can just decline the draw, shuffle a few more moves and unless he finds a way to force my rook off I will win on time, but is that an acceptable thing to do? I don't know what the result would be decided as if he formally claimed a draw under the quickplay finish rules - seems a situation that is right on the borderline of whether it would be declared a draw or not. I think probably I would have accepted a draw, even if he was just about to lose on time, given the position, but in a team match would that have been the correct decision?

Answers on a postcode please, then bring that postcard along then next time I see you and tell me what you have written on it.

Anyway, another glorious high quality victory, and on to the next round (we are still on course to play Kenilworth in the final, if we both win our next matches).

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Another Week, Another Twofer

Tufa: A variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitate out of ambient temperature water. A relatively soft rock to dig into that subsequently hardens - eg the catacombs of Rome.

Twofer: When a weary/lazy writer produces one article covering two events.

So let's be clear - its the second definition that applies here!

On Monday, the A team had another Leamington League Division 1 match, away at Shirley A. We had our normal top 3 playing, supplemented this week by Jude on Board 4. The match got off to an anticlimactic start, when Joshua's opponent on Board 3 failed to show. Far more excitement was generated on Board 2, where Andrew played another dynamic game against Dave Thomas. For the second week running he allowed a White knight to jump in on e6, and for the second week running he then proceeded to win with very strong attacking play. At a crucial moment I thought Andrew had lost all his marbles, as he played Qxf2+, when a White rook was sitting on f1. Amazingly Dave didn't take it, and the reason became clear when after his move Kh1, Andrew played Rxf1 mate. Yes, the White rook on f1 had been pinned by a Black rook on a1, which I had just assumed was a White rook! In my defence, it is very, very difficult to tell the pieces in Shirley's sets apart.

I took this as the signal to offer Phil Purcell a draw on Board 1. The position was almost dead equal, but if anyone had a slight edge it wasn't me. But having lost the last three encounters to me, he decided this was no time to get too ambitious, and agreed the draw which secured the match for us. This left Jude battling away against Keith Ingram - and a near 70 year age difference! \It was very complicated stuff. Jude sacked an exchange for a pawn and a strong bishop pair and then it came down to queen, rook and 3 v queen, bishop and 4. I missed the end, but at some point Jude won the exchange back and then managed to win the subsequent queen ending, to give us a 3.5-0.5 victory. As they say in Wales, tidy!

The next night, our Coventry League team, also topping Division 1, was in action, against our nearest pursuers, Nuneaton A. A tough and intense evening of chess followed, at the end of which honours were even and we had maintained our one point advantage in the table. Mike finished first, drawing on Board 3 against Paul Davies, and then we struck the first blow with Andrew winning on top board against Phil Briggs after a slightly strange encounter. First Andrew won a pawn. Then he won another. Then Phil threw a piece into the fray, but once Andrew - eventually - managed to castle, it was White with all the attack and the game was soon over.

I had a very tense game against Tony Green on Board 2. An early queen exchange took the heat out of the position, but it was quite a struggle for both of us to find the best way to place the remaining pieces. Eventually we each decided that neither of us were going anywhere, and agreed to the draw. This meant we couldn't lose, but unfortunately also that we wouldn't win, as Ben was suffering against Colin Green on Board 4. Colin played an excellent squeeze with the Advance Variation against Ben's French and eventually loosened the Black position so that a couple of pawns fell off. He then made no mistake in the ensuing same colour bishop ending to tie the match 2-2 - the same score as in our pre-Xmas encounter, confirming that the two teams are very evenly matched. With Warwick University A only a further point back - and still to play both the teams above them - it is still a three horse race for the title.

Unbelievably we are now set for our fourth consecutive Monday/Tuesday night double header, so you can certainly expect another twofer next week. Unless I'm so exhausted I decide on a noughtfer instead. Which is quite possible, because I'm already Running On Empty. Talking of which, here's an absolutely epic version. Over to you, Jackson!

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

A Twofer

Yes indeed, two match reports for the price of one - or more realistically a symptom of my blog weariness as the matches come thick and fast. Which does not bode well when there is another A team/Cov League double header next Monday and Tuesday!

Anyway, weary or not, there can be no way that the bi-annual Kenilworth A v Kenilworth B slug-fest can go undocumented. Especially as the encounter earlier in the season had seen the B team cause a major shock by drawing 2-2 and taking the only point dropped by the A team so far. Thankfully (and I'm thinking of the club as a whole here, not just my own self-interests as A team captain!) lightning did not strike twice, as the A team ran out 4-0 winners - though quite frankly how this scoreline occurred is a complete mystery.

Let battle commence! A team on left (Jude, Joshua, Andrew, Mark) and B team on right (Bernard, Ben, Phil and Mike - who can already not bear to watch!)

The only result that seemed never to be in doubt occurred on Board 3, where Joshua put Ben's king in all kinds of difficulties with a massive attack (fear not, there will be no Massive Attack soundtrack to accompany this report!) which won decisive material. A cathartic moment for Joshua after his disaster against Phil in the last A v B match. But everywhere else it was all to play for. Bernard played very well indeed in the nightmare pairing against Jude on Board 4, where his overwhelming advantages in height, reach, weight and drinking capacity failed to come into play. My infrequent glimpses told me Jude was starting to get on top in the early middle game, but then somehow had a pawn less without any clear compensation and was also getting into big time trouble. The game resolved itself with a cry of anguish from Bernard as he contrived to walk into a mating net with Jude down to seconds. Phew!

I was watching on closely as Phil and Andrew did battle on Board 2. Phil got a knight to e6 winning an exchange - but Andrew had allowed this and threw in a pawn sac to boot to rupture the White kingside. There was positional compensation, and although Phil managed to ward off a mating attack by returning the exchange, the momentum - and clock advantage - was all with Andrew and he also collected the full point after a very exciting game which was to the credit of both players.

Far less exciting was my game against Mike on Board 1. The position oscillated between a slight edge for me and dead level - but with the difference that it was only me that had any real chances, Black was always playing to hold the balance. It seemed as though Mike had successfully defended until, deep into a rook ending, he missed his one chance to become active by giving up a pawn (which should have drawn) and by staying passive couldn't stop my rook and king combining to make a decisive breakthrough. A very tough - and largely well played - game.

Which brings me on to last night, and our Coventry League Division 1 home match against Warwick Uni B. Of course, its anybody's guess who will turn out for any Uni team - they have so many players that its pot luck who turns up on the night. Thankfully we were just able to edge our way to a 2.5-1.5 victory.

In contrast to the previous night, I was first to finish against Joshua Simpson, who didn't help his cause by putting a knight en prise on move 11. I hardly played the most precise moves thereafter, but it was impossible to lose with an extra piece and shortly after I annexed a second piece Joshua resigned. Mike then drew a very exciting game on Board 3 against Oscar Butler. Regrettably, he missed a clear win right out of the opening, and despite going all in for an attack against White's long castled king he could only find perpetual check. A difficult couple of nights for Mike, who had also let a half point slip away against me the evening before.

Ben wrapped up the match by winning against Joshua Bugg on Board 4 (yes - 2 Joshuas in the Uni team! As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) I looked at the game just as Ben's knight forked the Black rooks, and he soon made the extra exchange count in the ensuing ending. Which was just as well, as Andrew was having a tough time against Santiago German on top board, where his Kalashnikov was firing only blanks. I couldn't bear to watch any longer when White's queen and rook lined up to threaten mate on h8, and in staving off the attack Andrew ended up a rook down and a frantic counter attack just failed to rescue matters. What is it with the University and Andrew? He wins against everyone else, but seems to find these students a bit of a problem.

Still, two nights and two wins (from an A team perspective!) which mean we stay top of both the Leamington and Coventry Leagues for another week. Lets hope we can say the same this time next week, after we have been in action again in both leagues.

A tenuous link for this week's musical interlude. But in a week when two wins were better than one, how about a bit of Bruce? Any excuse will do, after all!

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

If its Tuesday, Joshua must be the Enemy!

On Monday, against Stratford, Joshua was one of us, but the very next day he was one of them. Oh, the joys of different leagues and multiple club affiliations. But we'll let him off because - (a) we all love him dearly and (b) he did the decent thing and lost!

With Andrew now in the team to play Board 1, the world was spared another Page v Pink encounter, and Paterson v Pink was almost certainly far more entertaining anyway. Andrew burped the b7 pawn early on and unravelled to be a solid pawn up. Joshua looked like he'd landed a clever shot with a pawn sac to win a piece, but there was sting in the tail and a Black piece fell off to restore the balance. When Andrew invaded with doubled rooks on the 7th rank it was all over.

Bernard, deputising for a jet-lagged Ben, had drawn very early on against Dave Filer on Board 4 after a decidedly unexciting - and brief - game. But as he'd given me a lift, I won't hear a word said against him. And its always good to draw with Black according to the Soviet School of Match Captaincy.

Mike played a model game against Warwick Scaife on Board 3, slowly strangling and cramping the Black pieces. A weak Black pawn on c6 and a monster square for a White knight on d6 put the Black position under maximum stress. I didn't see the finish, but as Black was running out of sensible moves its not surprising that Mike found a way to win.

Which left my game against another KCC friend/member, Ed Goodwin, as the last to finish. After seeming to give the dreaded Jobava London System a good going over in the opening, I drifted a bit and out of the blue, Ed imaginatively decided to play the normal h4-h5 and RxN sacrificial combo - when he had no attacking moves with which to follow up. Instead he tried to show that his remaining two knights were a match for Black's extra exchange, and indeed it took a very long time for me to make the extra material count. But after much faffing around by both players, and serious time pressure (with no increment!) I eventually opened things up and when Ed allowed a queen exchange his goose was well and truly cooked.

Can you hear me? Baduur Jobava; Joseph Stalin; Lavrentiy Beria; Katie Melua; Aram Khachaturian; tamar of Georgia; Nona Gaprindashvili; Eduard Shevardnadze; Sopiko Guramishvili - your opening took a hell of a beating!!

So a very welcome 3.5-0.5 victory, which keeps us top of the table for another week. Long may it last! 

And please note that for the rest of the season Joshua is once again, officially, one of us, and should consequently be treated with all due respect! (Exactly in line with my New Year's resolution to stop insulting him on club nights! Which I have regrettably failed to keep for most of January.)