Monday, 5 April 2021

From the Archives - Part 16 - Filling in the Gaps, 2000/2001

Who'd have thought it? When this series "ended" last March, I signed off with a plea for people to have a search for any club documents from the unrecorded years. (Or the Watson era as I always think of it!) Amazingly, someone actually did just that, and a (good) few months back, Mike Johnson dropped off a selection of club papers that I have now finally got around to sifting through. (Well, I don't know about you, but I've been very busy over the last year!)

The new stuff is all a bit random, so don't expect too much in the way of coherent history (as if you would!), but hopefully the new material will fill in the odd gap or two in the narrative of the club's development since its formation in 1975. Anyway, after weeding out the duplicate records, lets look at the fresh news that has emerged about the state of play for KCC just after the turn of the century.

May 2000 - the AGM is held on May 4th, with only 10 present - and no apologies. Bernard Rogers is Chairman and has to record the sad news that Joe Soesan had passed away, after playing for and supporting the club in a variety of ways for many years. He would be sorely missed. As would John Skinner, who had moved away from the area. More positively, "Mick" (possibly Mike Whatson?) and "Geoff" (Quilley, I guess)  had joined - as had (drum roll!!) "Paul Lam and his brother." who are "very talented". The minutes certainly got that right!

The Treasurer, Bruce Holland, reported a surplus for the year of £303.41, largely due to a £250 bequest from Joe. Assets now stood at £418.20, but despite this, subs are to go up to £10 for adults and £4 for juniors.

League performances had been distinctly average, with the A team 6th of 8 and the B team last. But the C team had won its division. Geoff King had reached the final of the League U-100 individual and Phil Wood had "won" the LDCL Lightning. Or at least that is what the minutes reported - but keep reading this article!

Bernard has had enough and announces he will stand down as Chairman. Officers for the 2000-01 season are elected as follows:-

Chairman: Geoff Quilley
Secretary: Ed Goodwin
Treasurer: Bruce Holland

With the loss of Joe, and with Ed's availability uncertain, the club decided to voluntarily relegate the A team from Division 1. The B team would play in Division 3 and and the C and D teams in Division 4.

Bruce told the meeting about the new "electric clocks" (sic), but no decision is made about any purchase. The £55 cost may well have been a factor. Or maybe it was another example of chess players' general antipathy towards new ideas! 

May 2001 - The AGM is held on May 3rd with 17 people present, including many familiar names. Geoff Quilley is in the Chair, and Bruce is Treasurer. P. Marsh (who he?) commits the cardinal sin of not sending apologies for absence and is named and shamed by the Secretary. We now learn that Phil won the U-125 section of the LDCL Lightning Tournament in 2000, not the whole competition! You just can't believe everything you read, it seems.

Bruce reported that the club had run up a deficit of £63.92 for the year, though we could still boast a healthy Building Society balance of £354.28. Subs were £10 pa, with £5 for the newly created category of Associate Member and £4 for juniors - plus a game fee of £0.29 per game, which would rise to £0.30 for the coming year. Major expenditure had been incurred on a Magnetic Display Board (£75) - where is it now?? - and a Lightning Buzzer (£24.95) - which is staring at me as I type this. But 12 new Garde clocks (£20 each) had been acquired at seemingly no expense to the club. A mystery benefactor it would appear!

In the 2000-01 season the B and C teams had each won their divisions in the LDCL, while the D team had come second. A veil seems to have been drawn over the A team's clearly disappointing performance. Congratulations to Paul Lam and Tony King for winning the League U-125 and U-100 individual tournaments, respectively.

In shock, gasp, horror news it emerges that Roy Watson may not be available to play in the 2001-02 season, while Simon Whatson is off to University and will also be missing. So the meeting decides to field two teams in Division 2 and two teams in Division 3. The poor b*****s who will run the teams are:-

A Phil Wood
B Geoff Quilley
C Chris Aldridge
D Tony King

Bruce stands down as Treasurer and Geoff King takes over, while Bernard becomes Secretary and Geoff Q continues as Chair.

The club wants to run a demonstration at the Carnival, but more significantly Bruce had been a prime mover in setting up a weekend congress (June 8-10) at the De Montfort Hotel (now the Holiday Inn). Intriguingly, 2 of those present at the AGM are amongst the corporate sponsors of the event! They must have put an x for no publicity, as no names are mentioned.

Technology gets its first ever AGM mention, with the meeting deciding that a club website should be established. Mark Lam - yes, you read that right! - indicates that he may be able to help with this. Hmmm. I'm going to keep an eye on this - assuming the subject ever gets mentioned again!

November 2001 - Geoff Quilley resigns as Chairman having moved to Leicester for work reasons, though he still hopes to make the occasional appearance for the B team. He is sad to be leaving as he has a "great affection for the Club and for the warm, kind and engaging people who are its members." Splendid words, which I hope would still be appropriate in our modern incarnation.

Well, that's filled in a couple of years, but Mike's pile of documents is far from exhausted, so I'll be back to continue this round-up in the near future. When we will jump forwards to 2003.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

KCC Online Grand Prix Round 6 - Batboy Flies High!

All change at the top of the GP leader-board after last week's 6th event (2 hours of 5 mins + 3 secs Blitz). Pre-tournament favourite - and GP leader - Jude Shearsby had a disastrous evening, limping across the line in 5th position to pick up a measly 10 GP points - his worst return in the series so far. School clearly doesn't agree with him! So my first place was enough to send me back into the GP lead, with a 12 point advantage over Jude.

After making the early running, and still leading as the clock passed 90 minutes (our normal playing session), Joshua eventually finished only third on the night, but remains unchallenged in the same position in the Grand Prix. He probably needs to win both remaining events to have any chance of fighting for first place. Though as he hasn't managed to win any of the previous six, you probably shouldn't bet your (or even his) house on that happening!

But I can already sense the puzzlement of all you Blog readers out there. If I won, with Joshua third and Jude only fifth, who on earth could have come second in April's event? Especially with Lionel once again absent? Remarkably, it was that club Colossus Bernard R, who turned in a performance for the ages - well for the year at least - to secure the runner-up spot on the podium, thanks to a last round 4 point win over Joshua that saw him grab the silver medal position by a single point! A massive GP personal best for Bernard, who started the series off in November by coming a dismal 9th, and had never finished higher than fifth in any previous event. Yet this result has somehow rocketed him up to fourth position in the GP standings!

So the circus moves on to May, when the pace of play will ratchet up several gears as we have a first Bullet event - though with a time control of 2 mins + 1 secs, Jude probably thinks this is way too slow. Relative oldsters like Ben, Bernard and Joshua were all enthusiastic advocates of a bullet event, and faced by such a powerful lobbying group, I had no choice but to let them have their way. But be careful what you wish for, is all I will say to them!

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

The Curtain Falls

After an eventful, and not entirely enjoyable, online season, Kenilworth A have finished second in Division 1 of the Coventry & Leamington League. Of course, we should have won, but in a disastrous final match we somehow managed to only draw 4-4 against 6th placed Coventry A. Another half a point, and the title would have been ours, but unfortunately our last minute lapse allowed Nuneaton to overtake us a week later, when they won their game in hand. Despite us scoring 4.5 more game points.

What if ......? If only Bernard C hadn't lost by a disconnection against Nuneaton A; if only Joshua hadn't decided to turn out for Coventry in a meaningless match for them and then scored his first win ever against me in a competitive game; if only Bernard C hadn't opted out of our match against Coventry to avoid playing his other club; if only Ben hadn't inexplicably scored 0/2 on Board 4 against Ed Goodwin in that crucial match, when the following week he powered his way to 2/2 on Board 1 for the B team against Joshua! Anyway, good job it was an inconsequential online League, or it might really have upset me.

But in an exclusive scoop, I am able to present the moment when Joshua - looking uncannily like Sir Alec Guinness - realised the enormity of his mistake.

The B team found it tough going, but they were competitive in virtually every match and almost finished on a high, going down by only 4.5-3.5 to Coventry A in the final match of the season. And their earlier win over Leamington ensured they avoided finishing bottom. The match against Coventry featured possibly the game of the whole season - an incredible win by Billy against Sam Cotterill with a thrilling king march the length of the board. The fearlessness - and brilliance - of youth!

What an amazing game from one so young. And just look at that remarkable final position!!

Now, I don't want you to think I'm going on and on about this, but more film has just arrived showing further remorse on Joshua's part (now looking amazingly like Dennis Law), as he refuses to celebrate his win over me. 

I'm sure Joshua will be really keen to make it up to the whole club when we resume socialising, and I for one am looking forward to the life-time supply of free drinks he will doubtless offer by way of reparation!

Monday, 15 March 2021

Online Grand Prix - Round 5 Update

The March edition of our monthly online arena tournaments on Lichess, saw us leave the straight and narrow and try our hand at the abomination that is Chess960/Fischer Random. I had never previously played a single game of this mongrelised version of chess, but being a shameless pot-hunter (no matter how small, or even non-existent the pot) I obviously threw my hat in the ring to try and defend my position atop the Grand Prix leader board.

But, alas, the effort was in vain, since for the second month running Jude emerged - at the end of 2 hours intense play - as a clear winner, and in the process he jumped to first place in the Grand Prix table. And this despite conceding two games to absence/disconnections. But with a couple of successful berserks at the start of the event, and a speed of play which the old codgers in the event just couldn't match, Jude finished two points ahead of Joshua, who owed his silver medal to my failure to draw the most elementary rook and pawn ending ever in our individual encounter. Bizarrely, I was the only person all night to build up a head of steam and secure even a single double points win, but after this rip-roaring start I went downhill and was massively relieved to finish a point ahead of Solomon and Algis, who both showed a great affinity for this version of chess. In fact, Solomon can consider himself very unlucky to miss out on the podium, as he not only had the highest rating performance of the tournament, but his 4 wins from 5 games had the single loss (to Bernard R) right in the middle, so he missed out on any double points wins. Timing is everything, it seems! A rather less positive shout out to Ben, who had a terrible night. And to think it was his idea to play Chess960! (Though I have to say it was indeed a great idea, and (surprisingly) I enjoyed it so much I might well try it again!!)

Lionel's absence from a second consecutive event has seemingly scuppered his chances of Grand Prix victory, and it almost looks like a two horse race now, as Joshua would need a couple of wins - and for Jude and me to underperform badly - if he is to mount a challenge. But you'll notice, I did say "almost" - as I haven't yet decided on the final rules. I may yet opt for a "best x results" scoring system to determine the winner - where "x" is a number that I have yet to decide upon! Moreover, nobody (myself included) can be absolutely sure how many more legs this Grand Prix is going to have. Eventually all will become clear when I unveil the KCC roadmap out of lockdown  - though if I were a betting man (and with the Cheltenham Festival starting tomorrow, I may well be) I would make 3 the strong favourite.

April's event - duration and format yet to be decided upon by the Tournament Committee - will take place on Thursday, April 1st. Now, why is everybody laughing? I just don't see what's so funny, myself.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

It's Too Late - Billy is Already a Hero!

Never mind the match scores this week, there's only one place to start, and that is the remarkable performance by Billy in scoring 2/2 on Board 2 for the B team against Warwick University A. Game 1 was a real back and forth struggle, but Billy prevailed after finally winning material. Game 2 looked dicey for a spell, as Billy had to shed a couple of pawns to save a wandering bishop deep in enemy territory, but then the turbo kicked in, and from nowhere his pieces jumped out and took lots of Black's pieces. So it's no good taking the advice of this week's song - Billy is already a hero! Clearly a first day back at school was just what he needed!

Sadly, this terrific score couldn't turn the match in the B team's favour, as our brave lads went down 5.5-2.5, but yet again - and don't get the idea that I am perpetually biased in these judgments - we could have won. The score was standing at 3.5-2.5 to the University, but Ben was much better against Jonathan Fowler, and ahead on the clock, on Board 1, and Bernard R, despite failing to think for more than a nano-second on any move - was an exchange up against Anish Ramakrishnan and giving the Black king a very hard time to boot. Then, as with Solomon last week, as soon as Ben started consuming lots of time, the quality of his play went rapidly downhill, and a probably winning position became a loss.

Meanwhile, the engine was showing mate in 14 for Bernard when ...... he disconnected, of course, and got timed out. (What was that phrase of George Santayana again? Oh yes, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.") Bernard has clearly expunges all the previous disconnections from his mind. Post-match, though, there then followed an amusing exchange where Warwick Uni graciously tried to concede the game to Bernard, and Bernard graciously refused to have any truck with such a thought. Talk about "After you Claude. No, after you Cecil!" Still, its good to know there are nice guys out there, even in the cesspit of online chess, so many thanks to Anish and Jonathan for their great sportsmanship. Oh yes, and in all this I almost forgot to mention that Bernard had a one or two move win of the White queen in Game 1, but refusing on principle to devote more than 10 seconds of his 13 minutes time, he chose to play a losing move instead! Ben had earlier drawn his first game, after being slightly better throughout, while Will had a tough night against Anuman Goel. The engine said he was winning in Game 1 after a piece sac against his king, but in practice it was very difficult to stave off the Black threats. Game 2 was going absolutely fine until Will neglected to swap off his bishop on h3 for the White one on g2 and instead got it trapped. First day back at school clearly not so positive for Will!

And so to the A team's match against Banbury A, which ended in a convincing 6.5-1.5 win for KCC, which keeps us right in the hunt for the League title. Regretfully, though, my 100% seasonal score bit the dust. After a very scrappy, and possibly lucky win in Game 1 against Dan Rowan, I then had a very scrappy and possibly lucky draw against him in Game 2. I was probably just losing at various points, but frustratingly, I then missed a one move win of a piece.  Jude had two very exciting games against Banbury's US recruit Ryan Karloff, which finished with honours even. After winning an exchange with a nice tactic in game 1, Jude must have been disappointed to find that the position was anything but easy to convert, and in fact it then turned against him and he found all his pieces dropping off. Game 2 was a great fight, with White going for Jude's jugular, but calm defence and strong counter-attacking won the day for Jude.

But we ran away with the match on Boards 3 and 4, where Mike and Bernard C both notched up 2/2 scores. Mike was playing Banbury's answer to Bernard R, Chris Evans, who still had over 13 minutes on his clock at the end of each game. Mike played a text-book dismantling of the Maroczy Bind in Game 1, and then a text-book dismantling of the King's Indian in Game 2. There was a brief moment of concern in the second game, as after winning an exchange following intense positional pressure, Mike dropped a couple of pawns to two very tricky Black knights, but he soon re-established control and eventually won with an unstoppable passed a pawn. Board 4 was a bit of an enigma, but will hopefully stand as a deeply satisfying cathartic moment for Bernard. After last week's soul-bearing musing on the tragi-comic aspects of blundering, Bernard turned things right around this week by winning from one, if not two, lost positions against Paul Friend! It would be rude to go into more detail, but the games are there online for everyone to see, after all!

Only one match left for the A team, a crucial encounter next week against Coventry A, while the B team have two matches left, starting with Banbury A. Good luck to both

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

The Comic Blunder Syndrome (Though Nobody's Actually Laughing!)

Right, let's get the chess out of the way, first.

On Monday the A team chalked up a 5-3 win over hitherto 100% leaders, Warwick University A. I won two surprisingly good games on top board against Joe Varley to take my season's score to 10/10, but this was counter-balanced by Jude's tough evening on Board 2 against University captain, Jonathan Fowler. A pawn sac in Game 1 was never quite enough, and the extra pawn proved decisive in the ending. Game 2 was a tough struggle, but Jude was under pressure and short of space, so when the tactics started they were not in his favour. Mike swung the match decisively in our direction on Board 3, with another 2-0 result against Feargus Roth. Mike got given a free piece in Game 1, but Game 2 was a terrific fight ending with Mike infiltrating the Black position to win several pawns. Artistic Bernard split the points with Anuman Goel on Board 4, despite blundering material in each game - and giving rise to the philosophical musings below! Luckily in Game 1 his own blunder was later trumped by his opponents, but Game 2 was a bit of a disaster as he was 2 pawns up when he fatally blundered a piece.

But it was classic KCC agony on Tuesday, when the B team went down 3-5 against reigning champions Nuneaton A, in a match they could - and should - have won. Two points went west from totally winning positions, while Nuneaton could only claim to have let half a point slip away. Dave had another good night on top board, drawing easily with Colin Green in Game 1 before absolutely demolishing his Pirc in Game 2 to deliver a mating attack and take his own score for the season to an undefeated 7.5/10. Ben drew two very tough games against Tony Green on Board 2, but Back should really have won both. In Game 1 Ben was totally outplayed in Tony's pet Philidor, and the game looked resignable as Ben's pawns started to drop off. But then opposite bishops appeared on the scene, and despite being two pawns down, Ben adopted the French cry from Verdun, "Ils ne passeront pas", and held on for a miraculous draw. In Game 2 Ben won an exchange from seemingly nowhere but faced big problems getting his queen and rook working against Tony's queen and knight. But when Tony eventually allowed Ben's queen right into the White position it looked all over. But Ben took the wrong White pawns and got his queen stuck offside. Despite plenty of wriggling, Ben was then unable to stop a perpetual check. Absolute tragedy on Board 3, where Will had a very tough pairing against Paul Davies, who has been an absolute points machine for Nuneaton recently. Game 1 was a disaster, as Will's knowledge of Petroff theory ran out on move 4, and his king got massacred in the centre. Game 2 initially appeared to be another horror show, as Will got a piece pinned against his queen and it fell off. I zoned out for  few minutes, but when I came back, the position had completely turned around and the engine was showing +3 for Will. Paul had to give back the piece and his king was at the mercy of White's queen and two rooks. When I came back to the game again, the Black king was on c3 and a complete sitting duck. Will correctly turned down Paul's draw offer. But Will was in desperate time trouble and just couldn't find a winning move - of which there were many at various times, most noticeably a one move fork of king and queen - and inevitably the lack of time cost Will dearly in the end. A great pity, after a terrific effort, as Will missed out on what would have been a great scalp. Less tragic, but equally costly, was Solomon's performance on Board 4 against Thomas Glenn. In Game 1 Solomon was three pawns and five minutes up, but as soon as he started to think the quality of his play went down drastically and he managed to lose all three pawns back and had to concede the draw. Game 2 saw him under some initial pressure after a Morra Gambit, but the engine was showing around +3 for us when he made the incomprehensible move Re7 (Qf6 was excellent for Black) which totally shut all his pieces in, and he ended up getting mated soon after.  So a golden opportunity for a massive B team victory ended up in a cruel defeat. Great effort though, guys!

But look, folks. There are bigger issues to worry us than mere chess match results. Life, the universe and all that jazz, right? So who better to guide us through the metaphysical world than our own artist in residence, creative thinker, and all round Renaissance man, Bernard C? So moved to existential angst was he by his own efforts on Monday night, that he felt impelled to share his philosophical musings with me (big mistake!) and so now to a wider public. It takes a special kind of person to bare their soul like this, and to confess to their own inner doubts and frailties. And Bernard is that special kind of person. Now, stay awake at the back of the class, and try to follow his line of thought. You never know, you might actually learn something!

"I am prompted [to this philosophical reflection] by having developed an aspect to my play recently that could be termed comic blunder syndrome. This particular condition prevails when the blunder is not a misreading of a complex position, but when making moves with happy optimism in ordinary configurations, ignoring completely basic tactics or captures!

Of course, blunders per se are painful but this comic variety at the chessboard has a special agonistic quality that bring existential meaning into question in a way I’m sure Jean Paul Sartre, the philosopher, must have appreciated as a chess player himself, never mind the artist and chess aficionado, Marcel Duchamp. Also occurring is the idea of the ‘abject’ as developed by another philosopher, Julia Kristeva, where, in her book 'The Powers Of Horror'(!), the abject refers to the human reaction to a threatened breakdown of sense, including vomiting!

In our scenario, at this abject moment at the chessboard, all chess status is thrown into confusion, usually accompanied, if not by the above, by adjectival decoration not to be heard in any respectable tearoom (but entirely possible in this online era). Of course, the absurd has a role to play in these moments as Albert Camus, another chess player and author of The Myth Of Sisyphus, would have noted and with approval from the Dadaists.

The underlying thought I had to these philosophical and other references is that chess has this way of echoing or rehearsing the dilemmas of life. The blunder, especially in its comic appearance, parallels in sign language the moments in life where meaning is in crisis. Fortunately a blunder in chess, even in comic garb, is not life significant (unless you are contesting at the genetically modified [gm] level or perhaps need to get a life!).

But could it be, as these philosophical and artist personas might have argued, the comic blunder syndrome is the place to rediscover why and how you play chess or even life!?!"

Well said, Bernard. Exactly what I was thinking. Especially the bit about the vomiting!

But that's quite enough highbrow stuff for the KCC Blog. I know my readership, and they don't do highbrow for more than a few minutes at a time! After these intellectual thoughts, there could only possibly be one song to finish with.

But a warning - some slightly earthy language, so minors or those of a sensitive disposition, look away now. For the rest of us, it's singalong time! And how great is it that it's also known as Bruce's Song?!

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Not Fit For Purpose?

Another week, another three games ruined by connection issues with And this time we are on the wrong end of two of them, which goes a long way to explaining two defeats for our teams in Division 1 of the Coventry/Leamington Online League. Thankfully there looks sufficient light at the end of the OTB tunnel for me to assume that its not another lockdown heading in our direction, because I'm not sure I could stand another edition of our local online league with so many games arbitrarily decided by issues. Thankfully I have not been affected myself in any of the league games (though I lost a random bullet game today a whole queen up due to an inexplicable disconnection), but last night both Bernards were on the receiving end, while Ben was a beneficiary. Coming after two disconnection victories last week, this is simply not satisfactory.

Onto the chess itself, and the A team lost its 100% record, going down 5-3 to reigning champions Nuneaton A. I got my revenge for a drubbing at the hands of Colin Green before Christmas, by winning 2-0 this time around. Both games followed the same script. I was winning almost straight out of the opening; then Colin equalised or nearly equalised; and then he made a big mistake which let me score the win. I'm not complaining, but it would be nice to play a good game from beginning to end just once. Anyway, that's 8/8 for me so far, so I'm a happy bunny!

Jude had a tough time against Tony Green on Board 2. He was on the worse side of the draw in Game 1, and in Game 2 Tony's knight absolutely dominated Jude's bishop in a minor piece ending. We needed a win to tie the match (this was the last game going) and I suspect Jude went all-in to try and get a victory, but unfortunately this never looked likely.

Mike lost Game 1 to Paul Davies through a mouse slip which just put a piece en prise. Game 2 was a heavyweight encounter in which Mike was a tiny smidgen better when a draw was agreed - despite all the major pieces and two sets of knights being on the board. This was not a good result for us, as it took Nuneaton to  4 game points, but unfortunately Mike apparently could not see the current match score. He'd also had issues trying to join the match in the first place. Two more counts against

But the real disaster occurred on Board 4, where Artistic Bernard ended up with a big fat zero against Thomas Glenn.  He was totally winning in Game 1, but overlooked that a key pawn was falling off with check, and then self destructed from a still favourable position. Tragedy. But not as big a tragedy as Game 2, where the game never started on his computer and he was counted out by Even 50% on this board and we would have tied the match, so this was absolutely crucial.

And more disasters to record in the B team match against Sutton Coldfield A, where we went down agonisingly by 4.5-3.5. Once again we had a 2-0 score on top board, where Dave continued his recent excellent form with 2 good games against John Mildenhall. I especially liked his Black win against the London System. Someday soon, White players will get the message and play a proper chess opening! This takes Dave to a splendid 6/8 for the season. We got a lucky break on Board 2, where Ben won Game 1 against Mircea Mesesan thanks to a disconnection. But in Game 2 he got a right going over and lost in 18 moves, so much material down I couldn't count it all! I'm afraid a 28% accuracy score says it all!

Will returned to the team on Board 3, and found himself up against it, grade-wise against Andy Lake. But he played a really splendid Game 1 and was very unlucky not to win after making it all the way to an opposite bishops ending with two extra pawns. Game 2 went less well, though, and he had either a total hallucination or a mouse slip and lost his queen.

Which leaves Capitalist Bernard on Board 4, where he went down 2-0 against Marek Soszynski - who I played on Board 1 in the pre-Xmas League, so this was a very decent Sutton Coldfield team! This made it was a very bad night for the Bernards - and you know what they say, when the Bernards are strong, KCC is strong! And vice versa. Game 1's calamity was self inflicted, though, as Bernard had a clear edge with White when, spending a whole 14 seconds of his remaining 11 minutes, he blundered a rook. With check, just to make it worse. But Game 2 saw the unwelcome return of his previous connection problems, and in a totally equal position, and 13 minutes on his clock, he got timed out. And there went the match.

This is all getting beyond a joke. Suddenly the prospect of a mid-winter drive to Banbury or Nuneaton looks quite appealing, compared with the mental anguish being caused by the online experience. And its not even my problem, which is making me all the more bitter/frustrated/angry/despondent/annoyed/desperate/vexed/suicidal. (Delete where not applicable - but, here's a clue - they're all applicable!)

There's only one song for my present mood - and its rather powerful stuff! You have been warned. But make sure you check out the video at 2 mins 25 secs, when Johnny Cash briefly looks like the spitting image of Russell James!

Its the B team's turn to take on Nuneaton next Tuesday, while the A team are in action a day earlier against Warwick Uni A, who now seem to be the only unbeaten team in the league. I suppose it will all come down to which team's players have paid their internet bill on time.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Where Does the Time Go?

Its just over 9 months since I put together an article on the amount of on-line chess being played by KCC members - and how much time was being spent/wasted (you decide!) in the process. You can read the original article here. Well, I thought it was about time we caught up with developments since last June and - taking a leaf from the notebook of our leader - this update will be data driven!

Again I have to stress that this analysis is based solely on activity on Lichess, mainly because that platform presents the information in such a user friendly way that it makes this task very easy. So if you want to hide the amount of time you spend playing chess online, you just need to use a different platform, and no-one will be any the wiser!

We start with the Marmite category, Ultra-Bullet. Last June only 4 KCC members had even played this Godless format, and 9 months on, this number has risen to 6. Ben dipped his toe in the water and played 5 games, while Noah played just the one. I think we can deduce that they are not converts to the 15 second game. Matt has also turned his back on Ultra-Bullet, and even Billy seems not convinced that he should be wasting his time on this random mouse clicking. But - oh dear, oh dear - Jude and Paul clearly remain smitten, playing 3,265 games between them in the last 9 months. We need to help them fight this addiction!

There are four newcomers to our Bullet activity list, led by Solomon, who didn't even exist (as far as KCC is concerned!) back in June 2020. Andy W was somehow left off my earlier analysis, as I'm sure he was an on-line aficionado before most of us, while we can also now include Noah and Ed as active Bulleteers. Well, maybe not Ed, as a single game hardly counts. And Lionel has clearly decided that Bullet is not for him, and has given this format a wide berth in recent months. But really, there is only one headline in this section, and that belongs to Paul - who has played about 1,000 more bullet games in the last 9 months than everyone else in the club put together. And given that Jude and Ben alone have played almost 4,000 games between them in that period, you should by now be able to see that we are talking big numbers here! In fact, KCC members have now played more Bullet games than any other form of chess. And there was me thinking we were chess purists!

Paul also leads the recent activity table for Blitz chess, though here he has been pushed all the way by Matt, who has consequently easily retained his overall "lifetime" lead in this category. Strong showings from Joshua and Ben here - don't you just love that home-working experience!? Any hopes that Solomon may have had of climbing the table have probably been scuppered by him getting a non-home working job. Shame after being a new chart entry at number 7 for the June-February period!

Matt may be well ahead in the Blitz category, he has been knocked off the top rung of the Rapid ladder by that long forgotten KCC member, Roy. He still won't play against his mates on a Thursday evening, or turn out for the club in friendly or league matches (all of which are played at Rapid time limit!) but he certainly will play - lots and often - against random dudes from around the world. With the result that he has played 3+ times as many rapid games in the last 9 months as anyone else! Was it something we said?

All this data-work is very tiring, and I'm running out of steam now - but we've still got three more tables to go, so I'd better get a second wind. We're now on to the odds and sods category, which embraces Classical and Correspondence time limits, plus all the variant forms of chess offered by Lichess, such as 960, Atomic, Horde, Racing Kings and more. (No, I don't know what some of them are, either.) Small numbers are the order of the day here, with only Solomon and Billy managing more than 100 games in the last 9 months. Consequently Matt has maintained his clear lead in this rather unglamorous and ill defined sector.

And so what do you get when you put all these formats together? Who is the big cheese of KCC online chess? It's Paul! He has managed to turn round a deficit of nearly 3,900 games compared to Matt into a lead of almost 5,000 games! In just 9 months!!  And Matt's second place is under threat from Jude, who has more than halved his deficit, and at current rates of activity will overtake Matt well before the end of the year. I am also in trouble as long as Ben keeps working from home, and my 4th place seems unlikely to last into the summer.

Rather worryingly, Lionel seems to be losing his enthusiasm for online chess - either that or he has defected en mass to Andy B is a totally lost cause as we already knew - in fact I'm surprised to see he's even played 2 games in the last 9 months! -  while Phil must ask himself over and over, "Why did I ever play those three games?" But at the other end of the table, we can now all see why Paul is so busy these days - its not the online coaching, its the online playing that is taking up all his time! Or is it? Because we are still one table away from completing our data report. And its the most eagerly awaited table of them all, as we finally get to see how much time everyone has wasted playing online. Lights out; drum roll; suspenseful silence; and the winner is ............ Matt. Of course, its Matt. He had such a big lead over the rest of us, having been a particularly early fan of online chess, that he is not going to be caught for a long, long time. (If ever!) He still has 39 days of online activity in hand, so despite Paul's sterling efforts in the last 9 months, which have seen Roy knocked down into third place, it will still take him around 6 years to catch up!  Impossible to know how much of Solomon's life time total occurred during the last 9 months (my guess is quite a lot!), so he has been an impressive lockdown performer, and so have Jude and Roy.

But clearly a lot of our members could up their game and waste a lot more time playing chess. In fact, its disturbing to see how little time some of them spend - what else have you got to do, guys?? OK, maybe don't answer that. Anyway, the target you should aim for, as recommended by many independent experts, is to spend about 7 days 20 hours per nine month period playing chess online. This will give you the perfect life:chess balance. Any more and you are dangerously addicted, any less and you are simply not showing sufficient commitment to the game. Amazingly, I seem to have exactly hit the optimum. Excellent. But its only what you would expect from the most well adjusted individual in the club, I suppose. But let that be a guide and inspiration to you. Just try and be more like me, and happiness and lifestyle satisfaction will undoubtedly follow! Meanwhile, a target for the club collectively is to achieve a total time spent playing online of one year. I reckon another 12 months of lockdown and we should be there! Won't that make us proud?!

And I leave you with a word from The Grateful Dead, who were obviously very early practitioners of online chess given the lyrics of "Uncle John's Band". Because as the clock strikes midnight and you keep telling yourself, "one more game; just one more game", who hasn't wondered, just like them, "What I want to know is, where does the time go?"

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Fourteen and a Half is a Big Number

At least, it is when it's the total points scored by our two teams in Week 4 of the Coventry & Leamington Online League.  Out of a possible 16. Though as always, Lady Luck had to put in an appearance or two during the evening, but more of that later!

There was excitement before the matches when I got a frantic call from Bernard C telling me he had joined the wrong match. By the time I had sorted this problem out for him and he had extricated himself from the B team match, I'd had an urgent e-mail from Ben telling me the B team had too many players and had been infiltrated by an unknown fifth columnist (surprisingly not answering to the name Joshua or Lionel!)  Despite being on the same team as him about 8 times pre-Xmas, Ben was seemingly unable to recognise Bernard's user name. Anyway, problem sorted, but coming hot on the heels of last week's earth-shattering default shock, I feel the pressures of captaincy are beginning to get to me. 

But to the chess, and first to the A team, who ran up an unexpectedly convincing 7-1 win over a slightly depleted Sutton Coldfield A, including a clean sweep in Round 1. Mike got us off to a flying start on Board 3 with a very quick win over Marek Soszynski - which I later found out was due to a disconnection issue. The first time that we have ever been on the right side of such an incident, I think. Not a lot happened in Game 2 which ended in a draw. On Board 4, Artistic Bernard made the same score against Rob Marks, but with considerably more chess content - though not all of it good! Bernard tells me he made a finger slip in the first game (play on a proper computer like the rest of us, Bernard, and then you can blame it on the mouse!), but it turned out to be an inspired pawn sac which opened up lines against the Black king and the White pieces stormed in with decisive effect. Game 2 was bizarre. Bernard lost a piece. Then he won it back. Then he started winning pawn after pawn, and in a single knight ending he had 4 extra pawns. Which he somehow failed to win. The charge is gross carelessness, and I hereby pronounce that Mr Charnley has been found guilty! Bring on the rack!!

For the second week running we chalked up a 4-0 score on the top two boards. Jude had a measured build up in Game 1 with White against Andy Lake, but when the time was right he lined up his pieces down the g file and won a piece. Game 2 was absolutely manic, with each side throwing the kitchen sink at the other's king after opposite-side castling. Jude was always just ahead in the race, and despite missing an absolute cruncher (26...Qb6) he was still in time to land the decisive blow to cap a massively exciting game. I may have (accidentally) played a good game against Mircea Mesesan with Black, though I was helped enormously by my opponent giving up a pawn which only served to put his king in a mating net. I also started off quite respectably in Game 2, with a clear plus, but at an early moment I missed a crushing rook sac that would have won on the spot. Thereafter we kept exchanging blunders, whereby I would neglect to play the winning move, and Black would neglect to play the drawing reply. In my time trouble the game went totally out of control as Black's a pawn yomped down the board, while I tried to deliver mate. We should have ended up with 4 queens on the board - and amazingly with a drawish position - but Mircea made a terrible mistake and allowed me to force mate after all.

After last week's heartache, the B team were due a change of luck, and they got it in spades against Leamington - trumping the A team with a near perfect 7.5-0.5 win. Tom Darling is clearly an even more unforgiving Captain than me, as he changed the entire Leamington line-up from their match against our A team last week. (Or was he just showing off that Leamington have so many players to choose from? The answers simple, Tom - two teams) Whatever the reason, our lads seized the moment - or carped the diem as they would have said in Ancient Rome - as we chalked up 2-0 wins on Boards 1, 2 and 4. Dave, Ben and Solomon showing ruthless efficiency (not to mention fear, surprise and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope) against, respectively, Ben Egid, Mike Nevin and Reshmi Vayyapuri.

On Board 3, Billy was giving away about 40 ECF rating points against Jon Griffiths and had a really tough first game, as the advantage edged and flowed before Billy ended up in the same knight and rook's pawn v knight ending as Bernard did in the A team match. Like Bernard, Billy had to concede the draw, but unlike Bernard, he hadn't started with an extra 4 pawns, so it was an altogether more correct outcome! Game 2 wasn't going our way, and Black was on top, when the game ended abruptly in Billy's favour. Whether it was another disconnection or a loss on time, I don't know, but it was the final proof that Lady Luck is indeed currently residing in Kenilworth. This week, at least.

The A team will obviously stay at the top of the table after this week's matches, while the B team will probably have soared to the dizzy heights of just below half way. Next week, it is the B team's turn to take on Sutton Coldfield A, while the A team encounter the pre-Xmas champions, Nuneaton, who gave us a good thrashing in our most recent encounter.  Stay tuned, and who knows what strange video material might turn up in next week's match report? After all, you weren't expecting Monty Python, were you?!

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Missing In Action

Week 3 of the Coventry/Leamington Online League, and our two teams maintained their contrasting records, with the A team stuck on 100% and the B team on 0%. But it was so nearly smiles all round. Let's deal with the good news first.

The A team had an excellent 6.5-1.5 win over Leamington, which will - at least - keep us in a tie for the Division 1 lead. Jude and I both managed 2-0 wins on the top boards. I won against a new Leamington player, Paolo Turrini - from Luxembourg, no less, and the strongest Turrini in the world, ahead of two Italians and a Frenchman! (And 2-0 victor over double agent Pink last week.) I was dead lost very quickly as White in the first game, but then my opponent made a truly dreadful move that turned out to be a self-mate. In Game 2, I sacked a piece for 2 pawns, but the resultant "attack" was quickly defused when White gave back an exchange. I was temporarily pushed back, before jumping out to win another pawn, and the game ended when my opponent resigned rather prematurely. (Especially when judged against some other standards - see last week's rant and below!) Jude was up against Ola Olaleye and somehow fashioned a win from what looked like a hopelessly blocked position in Game 1 - talk about making something out of nothing - chessboard magic! Game 2 looked a far more convincing performance from what I could see, and Jude won Ola's queen in a time scramble to cap another excellent evening's work. I think we are in danger of getting rather blasé about Jude's performances - they are truly remarkable!

Mike drew both games against Tom Darling on Board 3. Nothing was blundered in either game as far as I could see - by either player! Quite remarkable for online chess! Mike got nowhere as White against Tom's Dutch Defence, but Game 2, while relatively brief, was more exciting as Mike tried to spice things up. Bernard C added another 1.5 points to our already healthy score on Board 4. He tried everything to win as Black in Game 1 against Omar Khemoudj, doubtless feeing under pressure to make a large rating advantage count. But Omar defended very well, and no doubt to his horror Bernard eventually found himself in a rook and pawn ending 2 pawns down! Thankfully his king came to the rescue and all the pawns were liquidated. Game 2 was another spirited encounter, but Bernard made no mistake this time, and found some nice tactics at the end to clinch the win by a direct mating attack from two rooks and a knight.

And so to the bad news, as the B team lost out by the narrowest margin and in most unfortunate circumstances, to Shirley A. When the A team match finished, I checked the B team score and was delighted to find that we had seemingly won, 3.5-2.5, over just three boards. But then Ben broke the bad news that Will had gone missing in action and failed to show for the match! And we had actually defaulted on one board and lost the match. I felt as deflated as the US basketball team at the 1972 Olympics, when they thought they had won, only for an extra three seconds to be played  ........  and then this happened!

So Will is now on the naughty step for having simply forgotten the match - which I find amazing, as it clearly suggests he has other things to do during the week. I am unlikely to forget any of my current appointments, as I have so few of them. I'm also very surprised that Will should have become the first KCC player to default in an online match - in my mind I had many other candidates ahead of him for that achievement! 

On the boards actually played we had plenty to be proud of. Dave, promoted to Board 1 for the first time, scored two splendid draws against Don Mason. As White he lost a pawn in Game 1, but hoovered all the key pieces off and then ensured the draw by winning back his pawn to leave an opposite bishops ending. In Game 2 he looked to be coming under a serious attack on his king, but he kept his cool and had enough counterplay to force Don to repeat the position. Ben had a terrific evening on Board 2, scoring a 2-0 win over Jonathan Dale. Readers of last week's report will not be surprised to learn that both games ended in mate. Ben was under pressure in Game 1, and lost a pawn, but when White took a second it turned out to be a blunder as it cost a rook to a neat tactic. Game 2 saw a veritable explosion of middle game tactics as Ben found a terrific sequence to win a piece. And later a queen. Unfortunately, the match slipped away on Board 3 (or was it 4? difficult to tell in the circumstances!) where Bernard R's 0.5-1.5 reverse against Chun Chui saw the club's only playing loss across both matches. Game 1 was heading towards a draw, when Bernard dropped a pawn and immediately threw in the towel, which seemed a bit premature. (The engine gave it as -3.3. Maybe he took my words last week too much to heart?!)  In Game 2, Bernard was pretty solid all the way into a rook and pawn ending, which he drew quite comfortably.

So high marks to both teams for excellent efforts last night, and it will surely not be long before the B team gets off the mark - maybe next week against Leamington? The A team take on Sutton Coldfield A, in what is likely to be a very close match.