Wednesday 28 February 2024

Top of the League (Temporarily) - Part 5

I feel the title should be self-explanatory by this point. A minor point of note that we (Kenilworth B that is) actually won 3-1 in this match against Olton instead of our usual 2.5-1.5, but I’m in a thoroughly bad mood about the whole thing.

The start of the evening did at least produce some amusing early stress, as our two home matches in one evening became something of a space problem once we realised there was already an AGM taking place in the main bar area, meaning we had to fit 8 boards into the space usually taken up by 4 (or, to be precise, 7 boards there and one in the corridor). The confusion was then confounded by Steph and her opponent’s decision to sit on opposite sides of the table from everyone else in the room, meaning I was constantly confused by which team was doing well on that board every time I looked.

However, focusing on our match for a bit, it all seemed (with one specific exception to be covered later) to go quite well. Andrew as black against Alan Lloyd played an excellent looking gamer, neutralising Alan’s traditional English, winning a pawn in the middlegame and then converting. Keatan also had a nice win in his debut B team game, pushing a pawn up to f6 as white early in the game which, although it never quite led to a mating attack, did stay there for most of the rest of the game, and eventually cost black a piece in the endgame. 2-0 and looking smooth.

3-0 followed not long after, with Mike converting a game I assume he must have been much better in for quite some time. Relatively early on as black, after white had castled kingside, he played Bg4 attacking a white knight on f3. White responded with h3 to attack the bishop, and black captured the white knight. So far so normal, except that white had no piece defending the knight, and so had to play gxf3 in front of his own king. It took a while for this to prove catastrophic, but it looked very ugly for most of the game, and did eventually cost Olton a third point.

The match should have ended 4-0 to us – it did not. I was playing Mark Cundy and, after a not very impressive game from either player, I eventually bumbled into a better rook endgame, normally something I am not that terrible at.

In that position, I played the quite exciting (I think) move Rc7+, sacrificing the rook to get the passed pawn moving as fast as possible. Not a necessary move, other things also worked, but it is winning for me, and I would argue the most fun way to do so. A few moves later, we reached the following position.

You will see three noted possible moves in the position. I spent most of my last 3 minutes deciding between Kb1 and Kb3, thinking they were both winning, and eventually settled on Kb1 it looked the simplest win. It turns out both moves lose for me. I played Kb1, and after b3 I do indeed get a queen, but it turns out I then get mated by c2+, Ra1+ and c1=Q+. The move Kd3 wins for white, but this is a move I did not even notice was a legal one to play. So, a loss from a winning position, and the fancy rook sacrifice wasn’t even the move to blame. What a disappointing way to go back to the top of the table.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Eyes down for the British Rapidplay - and you can watch us live!

This Saturday and Sunday, the British Rapidplay takes place in Peterborough. There are currently 210 runners and riders, with several Kenilworth players in the mix. If you fancy a flutter, I probably wouldn't. But if you must, back the youngsters. Our current seedings are Billy (18), Jude (27), Joshua (91), Keatan (113) and me (131), albeit clearly I am just lulling everyone into a false sense of security! Apologies, of course, if I have inadvertently missed anyone from this list.

The great news is, you can watch the action live. Every board will be streamed in real time, via this link (or some such.) Chess-Results Server - 2024 British Rapidplay Championship

Mark watched last year as myself, Josh and Bernard Rogers strutted our stuff. He said it was quite an experience, albeit on reflection this might not have been a ringing endorsement of our technique! It is certainly a fun event. Last year I managed to beat WGM Sheila Jackson and to lose to a 1200 within the same afternoon. Albeit, I normally only tell people the first part of this story.

So if you've got time on your hands and fancy watching some weekend chess, check us out. Alternatively, if this has whetted your appetite, perhaps even explore putting in a late entry...

Thursday 22 February 2024

That'll Be a No, Then ......

 ..... if the question is "will Kenilworth retain their Coventry League title?" A narrow 2.5-1.5 defeat against a still 100% Warwick University A team this week finally extinguished any small hopes we might have harboured in this direction Though if truth be told, we have been highly unlikely to mount a serious challenge since our slip up against the University's B team before Christmas. So with two league matches left - return fixtures against each of the University teams - our only target is to hold on to second place. We'll probably know where we stand on that point after next week's round of fixtures when third place Nuneaton A play Uni A, and we take on Uni B. But at least we have a Cup-Final to look forward to!

Bruce was our sole winner on Tuesday, after another very entertaining and wide-open game - albeit rather more sound this time than his game on the previous evening! Javi chose a bad night to record his first loss of the Cov League season (against Arya Cont) while Ben lost against an opponent he had drawn with the previous weekend. I got rather excited when one of my opening weapons actually got to be fired against Tom Brown, but whereas it had worked brilliantly for (apologies for mentioning him) Sergey Karjakin, my opponent played a much better move than Baadur Jobava had, and the position was just dead equal for the entire game. Even though a draw was only agreed as we were about to go down to bare kings.

So there we have it - no league double for us this season, as we kiss our CDCL title goodbye. A sentiment which brings to mind this week's song - " you call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye." As Don says in the intro, "the history of western civilisation in 6 minutes." Though its actually nearer 7! But who cares? Definitely one of the Eagles' best ever songs.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Fortune Favours the Brave

On paper this should have been a mismatch - the all-conquering (well, all except Banbury A!) Kenilworth A team against bottom of the table Shirley B. But all was not entirely as it seemed. For a start, I was on Board 1 for us, so you can immediately tell that we had at least 2 players missing! Nevertheless, we still managed a rating advantage averaging very nearly 250 points per board, so you'd think the match was guaranteed to go our way, wouldn't you? Not so fast, I'm afraid!

It all began swimmingly with one of the most remarkable carve ups I've seen in a long time, as Andrew put the late arriving Keith Ingram completely to the sword with a devastating king side onslaught. If I tell you that by move 10 Andrew's queen's knight had captured a Black pawn on h7, you can tell this was no ordinary game! The finish was swift and brutal. 

Not surprisingly there was then a long wait for the next point, which arrived when I checkmated Jonathan Dale to get some revenge for my loss against him in last season's KO Cup Final. After winning a pawn in the opening, and with the Black c8 bishop becalmed on its starting square by a White knight on c5 for nearly the whole game, Black was reduced to a rather unconvincing kingside attack, but as his own king opened up it was me on the attack and the end was inevitable for several moves.

Meanwhile, on Board 2 Bruce had launched a kingside pawn storm of his own against Darren Whitmore, which looked likely to win the game in short order. And Keatan, making his A team debut  (after starting the season in the D team!), was much better/maybe winning from the opening, against Gordon Christie. So it all looked like plain sailing - but as soon as I retreated to the bar for a well earned drink, the wheels began to come off in spectacular fashion.

So on my return what do I find but Bruce a queen and a rook down (and White with 2 queens!) and Keatan facing disaster with a mighty White pawn on c7. Gulp! We're only going to draw the match. But cometh the hour cometh the men.

Given a sniff of opportunity Bruce somehow forced the White king out into the middle of the board, where it was hounded by Bruce's queen and rook, while a bishop on h6 threatened to join the fun if it could just get to give a check. But it was still losing for Bruce (-8.1 he tells me!), but despite having more time on the clock, Darren chose the wrong escape route for his king and after first turning the win into a draw, he then fell into mate by avoiding a perpetual. Phew! And all the time White's 2 queens just looked on from h3 and a8, powerless to intervene!

So I adjourned back to the bar, happy we had somehow managed to claim the match victory, but expecting news of Keatan's loss any moment. Only it never came, as right at the end Gordon apparently went wrong and Keatan's tenacity was rewarded with what had seemed an impossible draw.

Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of disaster. In other circumstances you'd have to feel for the Shirley team, but with us still trailing the B team before last night, the best I can offer them is a song dedicated to their misfortune. "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." Ain't that the truth!

But on a more upbeat note, the A team has regained the lead at the top of Division 1 and has a 1 point advantage, with a game in hand. Its over to the B team now, who are in action against Olton A before the A team return to action against Solihull A another week later.

A Night to Forget...

 In order to draw a hasty veil over last night's proceedings, we will keep this match report relatively brief. We were reasonably evenly matched on paper against Solihull B, and actually outpointed them in terms of our grading average, but it was fair to say that little went our way.

I was the first to finish, on Board 2 against Julian Summerfield. Not the most exciting of games, it has to be said. A lot of wood came off early, and there was no real way for either side to make progress. I've not had the best of records against Julian in the last couple of years, so was happy enough. We retreated to the bar and had a very nice drink and a catch up. I think both feeling that Kenilworth probably had the edge in the other three games. Still, as we all know, there is many a slip between cup and lip...

Michal had snatched the poisoned "b" pawn, on Board 1 against Tony Sadler, but seemed to have digested it pretty well. Unfortunately, a slight miscalculation saw a promising position turn to dust, and we were down 1.5 - 0.5.

Dhairya's position out of the opening against Ian Brodie on Board 3 was as wild as ever. However, for once, I feared it wasn't better. Yet Dhairya seemed to gradually improve the situation and was certainly winning at one point. However, post my return from the bar, something had clearly gone awry, and he was down a piece. Credit to Dhariya for proceeding to make Ian work exceptionally hard, before finally succumbing when both were below a minute on the clock.

The heartbreak of the night award goes to Solomon, who completely bossed his game against Matthew Allen. At every stage he had the initiative and seemed to be making good choices, without yielding a breakthrough. Finally a pawn race ensued. Matthew queened a move earlier, but Solomon queened with check and still seemed to have the play. However, when the checks petered out, the key factor was the better positioning of Matthew's King. Ultimately the black monarch and consort worked exceptionally well together. Solomon's pawns dropped off and the game was lost. Painful to watch and I'm sure even more so to play. We've all been there. Such is the life of a chess player.

So, a disappointing evening, but these things happen. We know we can do better, and will look to put things right in next week's cup game against the same opponents.


Saturday 17 February 2024

6 Match Reports in One Week - Another New Record!

I'm having trouble keeping up with all these matches, but I've finally got around to last Thursday's A team league encounter away at Banbury A. So for two whole days I'll be up to date, until yet another two matches crop up on Monday and Tuesday and its back to square one.

For the second Thursday in succession, Jude, Javier and Joshua (the 3-Jays, not to be confused with The O-Jays!) found themselves facing an away trip to Banbury, which must be just about our longest trip of the season. After a good win in the KO Cup Semi-Final, the previous week, it was back to league action this time around, as the A team set about trying to bridge the yawning 3 point gap which the B team had established at the top of Division 1 a few days earlier. 

Banbury have a pretty strong and solid team, which can become very strong when IM James Jackson makes an appearance, as he did when Banbury beat us in the reverse fixture earlier this season and administered our only loss to date. He was missing this time, though, which left us rating favourites, but with tough games likely on all boards.

Joshua played his normal gung-ho style on Board 4 against Nathan Manley, sacrificing a pawn (modest by his standards) but he had failed to notice that the queens could instantly be forced off, and it was soon a rook and pawn ending where he was just a pawn down. However, he seemed to defend quite easily and eventually a position was reached where Joshua could claim a threefold repetition. With about 40 minutes on his clock, though, to Nathan's 2, he decided to wait and see what happened on the other boards first. What a team player!

And in fact things were certainly going our way elsewhere. Jude looked right back to form as he had won an exchange against Tom Day on Board 1 and soon made the extra material tell, while on Board 2 Javi played yet another excellent game against Georgs Vikanis and his pieces jumped all over the White position to make decisive material gains. Very impressive stuff. 

So Joshua was able to take the draw and clinch the match victory, which left me in play against Danut Joian. The game was level for a long way, but I had an extra pawn, so obviously I was trying to win. Eventually Danut allowed me to open up a kingside file for my rook to come into the game and this should have been decisive. But I played one careless move in time trouble and after an excellent response it was suddenly level again. At which point I played what looked like a crushing pawn sac to get a new queen, and this so confused the situation that it did indeed win - even though a hidden resource meant it should have been just level again. And even then there was time for me to go wrong again and blunder back into another drawing line, but by this time Danut's clock situation was as bad as mine and he failed to find the draw.

This was another big win for us against tough opposition on a very rainy night in Georgia, sorry Banbury. (Can you guess what song's coming?) So the B team's lead is back to 1 point again, and its then 5 points back to third place Stratford A. The A team is in action again next week, so it could be all change. Watch this space! 

Friday 16 February 2024

5 Match Reports in One Week - a New Record!

There's been a virtual tsunami of match reports on the website this week - so many in fact that I felt obliged to step aside for a day or two for fear of being swamped. But - finally - there seems to be a bit of breathing space, so the story of our Coventry League KO Cup Semi Final win over Coventry C can now be told.

Truth to tell, there isn't a lot to report. We had to win 3-1, because as a Division 2 team, Coventry C got a 1.25 handicap start, but in the end we managed 4-0, so we made it comfortably enough into the final, where we will play Coventry A on March 19th. Yet again, Coventry have been given home advantage, which I find slightly irksome, but at least this time they will have to play with increment and not that absolutely awful G90 time control they are allowed to get away with in the league.

The story of the Semi-Final essentially boils down to the bizarre happenings on board 4 - of which more later. Bruce was first to win, delivering mate with a rook on the seventh and a swarm of minor pieces around the Black king which had been driven to the queenside. I'm sure that I've already seen Bruce play that exact attack about 3 times this season. Once his g2 bishop escapes down the diagonal, he is like a man possessed! I won on Board 3 against David Copson, though not without some anxiety, as I allowed/forced a piece sac in the opening which should have netted 3 pawns (I only bargained on 2!) but a terrible oversight by White did indeed keep it at 2, and at the cost of a second piece to boot. I subsequently won an exchange, and then a whole queen, at which point the game ended. Javi had a tougher task on Board 1, with Black against Katia, whose presence in any Kenilworth teams this season has sadly been very rare. Javi just did what he seems to do in every match at the moment - played a number of good moves and won! This time in a rook ending with two extra pawns and a dominant king.

So having reached the target of 3, I was relatively relaxed as I watched the conclusion of Harry's game against former long-time Kenilworth resident Simon Weaver. For the early part of the game, though, I was anything but relaxed, as Harry put his queen on a rather dodgy square in the opening, and I was somewhat concerned it might drop off at any moment. Additionally, he had played g3 on about move 4, but then never got around to putting his bishop on g2. Or h3. Or anywhere, in fact! But I shouldn't have been concerned, as it was, bizarrely, actually Simon who got his queen trapped on b6, and it could only be extricated by giving up a knight. Game over, I thought, especially when Harry got to a position of Rook and 2 bishops against Rook and knight. Until, that is, Harry forked a rook on e8 and a pawn on c6 with a bishop on d7, having failed to notice the Black knight on f6 which simply took the bishop. game on! Thi9ngs then got further out of control, as Harry swapped bishop for knight and gave Black a passed d pawn, supported by both his rook and a strong king. He was fighting this with a passed e pawn of his own and it soon developed into a race. Harry played the complications really well, though, and eventually reached the most winning king and pawn ending you could ever wish to see. And indeed he won it, but not without some serious brain fade moments along the way!

But now for the extenuating circumstances - it turns out Harry had had a very intensive day of board meetings at work and also wasn't feeling at all well. So it was a bit of a miracle that he actually made it to the match and kept awake long enough to get the win! Thanks Harry - but I'll still have to take the mickey out of you about this for a while yet!!

Some great music to accompany this report - prompted by Harry's condition and a couple of lines in the song:- "I make sure I work till I'm so damned tired; way too tired to think."

Thursday 15 February 2024

Not Our Knight...

Sometimes it is when you come up short, that you realise how much progress you have actually made. Leamington A v Kenilworth D would have sounded like a real mismatch in years gone by. However, this season sees us as rivals at the business end of Division 2. 

We went into the match unbeaten in the League against all teams other than our own C team, but it was clear from the outset that it was going to be tough. Leamington's Board 4 was higher rated than I was on Board 1 for Kenilworth, but the match itself was very competitive, even if it was clear that Leamington always had the edge.

Solomon answered the call at short notice, and resisted well on Board 4 against Andy Collins. However, credit to Andy who built up a blistering kingside attack. Pawns rolled, rooks occupied menacing files, and eventually the defences around Solomon's king were breached. Certainly a decent game.

On Board 3 Bernard and Ola played out a very complex and double-edged encounter. It was not entirely clear to me who stood better (at a pinch I would say Ola) but possibilities abounded for both players, and I was unsurprised when the two of them decided discretion was the better part of valour and agreed a draw.

All of which left me against Tom Darling and Phil against Ben Egid. My game with Tom was very interesting. I had the bishop pair and the better pawn structure, Tom had the attack. When he sacrificed a pawn that I had no choice but to take, I feared the worst, but managed to build a good defence. With my king on g2 and my own rooks on the h-file, I certainly had equality, if not slightly more. However, bafflingly given the amount of Bullet chess I play, for the second night in a row I was running on vapours timewise. Phil's position looked pretty dire to me by this point, so with the match looking lost, I agreed the draw.

Phil and dodgy knight moves have a bit of a history (as I recall from my own Leamington days.) Last night, we had a variation on a theme, when Ben Egid moved his king into a knight check and pressed the clock. Tom immediately intervened and we agreed to give Phil an extra two minutes. However, while this gave Phil 12 minutes to Ben's 2, Phil's position was still horrible. Ben could not stop laughing at his inadvertent error and there were twenty seconds or so when I wondered whether Phil might win on time, but sadly for us Ben composed himself. Once he had, pretty much anything won and so it proved.

So not our "knight". But this doesn't detract from a really good season and we'll be back in action next week against Solihull! 

Wednesday 14 February 2024

My debut post....(pt2)

 Can you really make a debut twice...not sure about that but anyway to continue from where I left off.

This week saw the C team take on Banbury B. They are bottom of the league with only 1 win all season and we were on a run of 3 victories in a row. Plus the D team powered to a 3-1 victory against them just the week before. Easy victory then, points basically in the bag. Well, if only chess was as simple as that.......

Firstly I should add that their only victory this season was against us in the reverse fixture. Secondly, they are actually a strong team who have lost 5 of their games by 2.5-1.5 (Note to Joshua, some teams have to be on the receiving end of that scoreline.......) so it was never going to be easy.....

And then there is my personal form which is all over the place. I have played a coupe of good games that I have lost and a number of poor games that I have won - not sure what to make of that.....

So, first result on the Board was mine again. Another fast playing opponent in Chris Evans. Actually he did not like my Sicilian defence which slowed him down (he told me afterwards he has been playing the Vienna for 40 years so I am glad I didn't play e5!) but unfortunately I did not like it either and ended up very cramped and pushed the wrong pawn at the wrong time to try to create some space. Luckily for me he got over-excited and instead of taking a marginally better endgame a pawn up he went for broke sacrificed a Knight and the position promptly fell apart, handing me another exchange and simultaneously losing all attacking threat. Lucky me! 1-0.

This left me plenty of time to see the other games which all looked very tight. Ben on Board 4 (Paul Badger now being in warmer climes waiting for some cricket action - I hope you enjoy Paul!!) had a Queen vs Queen plus lots of pawns endgame and was very low on time but found a perpetual. A wise choice by Ben and a 1/2 point secured (as an aside - I thought it was very amusing when Ben announced a draw offer to his opponent, after the position had been repeated once, who then got up and checked out the state of the remaining games as if there was potential to play on for more!)

This left Keatan on Bd 1 vs Mal Waddell in a Rook and Pawns endgame, and Bernard on Bd2, in another very complicated position with lots of pieces on the Board. Slight problem was that Keatan had 2 minutes versus his opponent 25 (!) and the position was far from clear. When Keatan was down to 1min27 secs he offered a draw (having earlier had one turned down) and to my surprise it was accepted - Keatan was definitely not better at that point in the game). I think that his opponent was probably aware of Keatan's higher grade but also had looked at Bernard's game where he had just lost a pawn and may have thought they were going to get something out of the game.....anyway all gifts are well received - so game state was 2-1 with Bernard still playing.

I thought Bernard's game looked tricky and set for a long drawn out affair but Bernard expertly sacrificed another pawn (temporarily) to exchange off everything but an opposite coloured pair of Bishops, took back one of the pawns and was suddenly in a dead drawn position. A great liquidation to secure a half point and the game for us so our run continues.....

We are now clear in second in the League but have 3 tricky games left and Leamington A are in a very strong position at the top.....but you never know.....

My debut post.....(pt1)

 Clearly I can't live up to the standard set by my fellow bloggers but I thought it bad form to leave the C team without updates on here.....

Since the turn of 2024 the C team have been following the trend of all of the other Kenilworth teams this year, we have been winning. Turning our pre-Christmas draws and losses into narrow wins. Now, I am happy to claim full credit for this as this turning of the tide has corresponded with my self-demotion to Board 4, but that would be to not recognise the impact of Keatan who has moved from Board 1 on the D team to Board 1 on the C team and continues to have a very strong season.

Last week we defeated Olton B 2.5-1.5 (we drew with them earlier in the season). My game finished first as my opponent Andrew Cottom plays at a rate of knots (mainly due to his discomfort with sitting down I think) that meant our 45 move game was over while Bernard was still on move 12....anyway I was not playing very well (another theme of the season) but got into a Bishop vs Knight endgame where my opponent overstepped thinking he was going to fork me with his pesky Knight but actually helped me secure an outside passed pawn which, when I exchanged the minor pieces, won the game for me. This left me plenty of time to see Keatan squeeze Robert Reynolds on Board 1 (much to my amusement, I thought Keatan had overlooked an earlier winning move but on review of the game I was wrong and Keatan's play perfectly pushed home his advantage - what do I know!!). Paul then delivered a solid draw from slight time pressure in a Bishop vs Knight endgame that secured the point. This left Bernard playing what looked a(nother) very complicated position with a lot of pieces still on the Board. It suddenly took a turn for the worst as the time got low and his opponent emerged with a won position but the points were already secured by then....onwards and upwards....