Wednesday, 30 April 2014

End of the line

Mark has delegated the writing of this match report to me, I believe because he cannot bring himself to suitably praise the awe-inspiring brilliancy of my play (more on that later). Last night was the final A team league game of the season, and we travelled to Leamington with our hosts needing a draw to avoid relegation, so no chance of an easy end of season game against a team lacking motivation.

Andy Collins vs Phil Wood

Phil adopted the intriguing strategic idea of playing the classical Dutch, then moving all his pawns and pieces away from the defence of the e6 pawn, then blocking of all the possible squares he would ever be able to defend it from, then allowing his opponent to play Ng5, winning the pawn and forking a queen and rook on f8 and d8. There then followed that age old chess question; are a rook and a pawn better than a bishop? Unfortunately for Phil the answer, as always, was yes and his opponent quickly rapped up the game.

Leamington 1 - Kenilworth 0

Carl Pickering vs Tom Darling

Carl played the Veresov (1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5) and, after taking on f6, reached a very nice position where black's doubled pawns gave him a huge number of targets to attack. Black was never able to repair his structure and eventually went down in an endgame where white's knight completely dominated black's bishop.

Leamington 1 - Kenilworth 1

Mark Page vs Dan Aldridge

After playing a slightly unusual anti-Sicilian line (1.e4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. Bb5) Mark reached a point where he had the two bishops, but the blocked nature of the position made them very hard to utilise, and he may even have been slightly worse. However, in time pressure, his opponent very obligingly pushed forward in the centre, opening up diagonals for the bishops against his king, and a level position transformed into a crushing mating attack in no time at all.

Leamington 1 - Kenilworth 2

Steve Burnell vs Joshua Pink

Since it was the end of the season, I decided the time was right to have a massive hack at one of my opponents. It did at least lead to an interesting game.

Final score: Leamington 1 - Kenilworth 3

And so, as Mark finds himself banned from the city of Leamington after helping to relegate his former team, the rest of us look forward to the cup final in May and wonder, as we so often do, which piece Phil will blunder in that match.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Normal Service at the LDCL "Lightning" Tournament

No Kenilworth triumph to report at the 2014 league individual blitz, which for unfathomable reasons continues to be styled as the Lightning Tournament. Phil Holt of Olton won the title for the umpteenth time, though only after a play off with debutant Olivia Smith of Solihull, after they both scored 8/9.

I finished third (possibly shared, but I didn't hang around to find out) with 7 - six wins plus a loss to Olivia Smith, and draws with Phil Holt and R. Gil. I can only dream nostalgically about that great night in 2010 when I won the event, though I was a Leamington player in those days. Carl Pickering was victorious for Kenilworth in 2008, and these are the only two times since 2005 that Phil hasn't won the tournament!

Mike Johnson was the only other Kenilworth player to play this year, and he did the decent thing by losing to me in Round 1 - though having played the very strong move Bd6 attacking a piece on e7, he forgot to follow up next move with Bxc5 which would have won a very juicy pawn. Not sure about Mike's final score, but he was around or just above the 50% mark I think.

Anyway, I can actually remember one of my games, and as it was a win over a strong player (who wiped me out in a recent league match) it gives me the opportunity to try and post a game on this site for the first time. So if Joshua's instructions on how to do it work, hopefully you will now get the chance to play through my Round 8 game against Alan Lloyd of Olton.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


The A team beat Banbury A 3-1 at the Abbey Club last night to secure our first Leamington League title since 1988. It was an at times nervy evening, but thankfully everything came right in the end.

Early on we seemed to be winning on Board 4, where Carl had won a pawn, but Joshua had entered a not entirely sound line and was a pawn down in a very complicated position. Paul and I were both marginally better, but it was clearly shaping up to be a close match.

Mine was the first game to actually finish on Board 2. With my opponent in pretty serious time trouble, out of nowhere the game suddenly became much sharper and a couple of inaccuracies allowed me to get a rook to the seventh followed up by me apparently trapping a black bishop on a7. With no time to think Neil generously resigned, but there was a tactical way out of the immediate difficulties, although Black would have had to give up a pawn with a poor position.

Almost immediately, Joshua's game clarified and his pawn minus became rather less significant than a crushing attack with rook and two bishops which won material. This was possibly a very good game of sustained, dynamic, gambit play. Or it was a completely random hack attack! Who knows??

By this stage Paul had won a pawn, but in an opposite bishop endgame he was happy to agree a draw that clinched the match victory. Carl had meanwhile gone wrong and had allowed his opponent a queen sacrifice possibility which seemed to be winning/almost winning. Thankfully it was not played, but a weak White king still made it hard to utilise the extra pawn. We were all off celebrating at the bar with our opponents when Board 4 finally ended in a draw, so the concluding stages were lost on me.

A more considered review of the A team's season will follow at some stage in the future, but for now, in the words of Maggie, "Just rejoice!"

And we still have the KO Cup Final against Olton to look forward to on Tuesday May 13th at Leamington.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Late News - Kenilworth A wins Division 1 Title!!

More to follow tomorrow, but I am pleased to report that the A team beat Banbury A 3-1 at home tonight to give us our first LDCL title since 1988.  There were wins for myself (boringly) and Joshua (excitingly) while Paul and Carl drew.

Full report when I have sobered up in the morning!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Coventry Chess Academy (aka Where's Wally)

The Coventry Chess Academy (run by Kenilworth's own vaguely competent player Paul Lam) now has a promo video, to highlight the work it does. I know Paul is always on the lookout either for new helpers or new potential students, so if any names spring to find for people after watching this video, get in touch with Paul and he will be able to give you more information.

As a special bonus for people who watched the video all the way to the end, I'm offering a free drink to the first person to correctly identify Kenilworth Chess Club's very own Wally from that clip. He may not be wearing his trademark hat and jumper, but he should be just as recognisable.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Back On Track

After last week's calamity at Stratford, Kenilworth A got back to winning ways last night in another away match against Banbury B.

Paul was first to finish on Board 1, after a very energetic game. An offbeat opening was followed by a break in the centre which left white in full command of the e-file, with 2 bishops raking the board, a strong passed d-pawn and the black queenside pieces stuck at home. Not long after, another point was chalked up on Board 2, where we followed an earlier game of mine for 23 moves, but instead of then agreeing a draw as I had before, I played on and soon won a pawn with a very simple cheapo. White had a strong knight on d5 as compensation, but my rooks started to work around this and I eventually won another two pawns and then the game. About 5 minutes afterwards, I discovered that - like a complete idiot - I had left my phone on for the whole game. Lucky I don't have (m)any friends!!

Joshua had won a pawn on Board 3, but the position then got very murky. Suddenly I noticed that he had won another two pawns, but in the process a piece had unfortunately been jettisoned (accidentally or deliberately, I'm not sure!) and it remained very unclear. In time trouble black offered a draw, which would clinch the match for us. Joshua drove the stand-in match captain to the edge of despair by thinking for about 10 minutes before, thankfully, deciding to accept!

If we had been clearly winning on Board 4, he may have chanced his arm and played on, but for the most part a still jet-lagged Carl had been getting pushed back as white's central pawns edged further and further forward. In a double rook ending, though, he managed to blockade the white e and d pawns and by the time control the game was turning around. The imposing white pawns then fell off and Carl wrapped up the game with two connected queenside pawns of his own.

So a very welcome 3.5-0.5 win that edges us tantalisingly close to our first league title in 26 years.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Ouch - That Hurt!

Life, according to former Australian PM Malcolm Fraser, isn't meant to be easy. And any thoughts we had that Kenilworth A would coast to a first league championship for over 25 years, were summarily dashed by one moment of madness at Stratford last night.

On paper our team (average grade 177) might have been expected to shade the match against Stratford (average grade 131), but chess is not always as logical as it should be. Shortly after 8.00, we were already 1 point up, when on Board 3 Joshua crashed through for mate with a rook sacrifice, after his opponent kindly castled into an open h-file. Some considerable time later, I drew on Board 2 after having had a good opening, bad middle-game and dodgy ending, before things changed round completely and I came within a single tempo of winning a rook (and then king) ending. However, Paul had chosen this match to lose his first game of the season on Board 1, as Richard McNally continued his amazing winning run. This meant we were all square, and the result on Board 4 would decide the match. Phil was playing someone graded 90. He was an exchange and three (or was it four?) pawns up. He was ahead on the clock. His opponent played an illegal move. Phil, who we might have expected to be an expert on this subject given his own liking for such practices, did not know he could claim an additional 2 minutes for this rule infringement and just played on. And then to the horror of his incredulous, nay dis-believing, team mates - he put his queen en prise. A whole queen. For nothing. End of game.

And so it came to pass that we lost 2.5-1.5.