Friday, 7 November 2014

Celebrity Quizzers "more popular than KCC" Shock!

Our normal Thursday evening regime of high quality social chess was rudely interrupted on November 6th, when a bunch of blokes off the telly elbowed us aside as a Celebrity Quiz Match was staged at The Royal Oak. Attracting a near full house, the self styled "Dream Team" was in town to play against local stars "The Usual Suspects". The evening was part of the prize the local team had won for triumphing in a nationwide Great British Pub Quiz competition. As the jovial compere joked, second prize was a visit from (ex ECF President and Egghead) CJ De Mooi, while third prize was two visits from CJ.

The TV celebrities are seen below during their own internal battle to select a champion to take on the locals' own champ in an individual head to head to find the evening's "Mega-Brain".

From left to right, the Dream Team comprised:-

1) Mr Somebody, from Educating Yorkshire - never seen the programme so no real idea who he is or why a teacher was in an all-star quiz team. But as long as he's an inspiration to the kids he's a winner in my eyes.
2) Pat Gibson, from Eggheads - a quiz legend who's won almost every quiz show you could think of. Usually more than once!
3) Shaun "The Barrister" Wallace, from The Chase - very sociable guy (who was formerly in the legal profession, rather than a coffee maker at Starbucks if you're in any doubt).
4) Paul "The Sinnerman" Sinha, also from The Chase - very clever guy with one of the worst nicknames ever.

Over a number of exceedingly difficult rounds the Royal Oak locals regularly outscored both The Dream Team and the "hors concours" KCC All Stars who wisely sat well to the back of the room to hide their ignorance. Despite reaching a peak strength of 9 people, we were unable to score more than 6/10 in any round, while the two heavyweights were clocking up 8 or 9 each time.

Some of the questions were VERY hard - a fact confirmed by our own quiz supremos Bernard "The Accountant" Rogers; Joshua "The Mathematician" Pink; Paul "The Powerlifter" Lam; Nick "The Doctor" Mottram; Phil "Mr Croquet" Wood and Roy "The Northerner" Watson. We were definitely Vanarama Conference standard compared to the Premier League quality of the two competing teams. At the end of the night, the Royal Oak's finest had vanquished the Dream Team, and their star man had also scored a thrilling 10-9 individual win over The Sinnerman to secure The Mega-Brain title. (Though unlike me, neither of them knew that the horse that came second to Desert Orchid in the 1989 Cheltenham Gold Cup was Yahoo.)

Many congratulations to The Usual Suspects for a stunning double triumph and an amazing breadth of general knowledge - delivered at a speed which would have done credit to a 1 minute bullet game. Also thanks to our genial landlord Simon, for putting on an excellent event, though some of our more fundamentalist members were disappointed that the clocks and sets had been removed for the evening and no late night blitz session was possible. After three successive nights of league matches I was, by contrast, mightily relieved at the complete absence of any chess boards. And as I had a rotten headache this morning, I'm pretty sure I had a very good time.

But above all else - welcome back to Roy. Thursdays haven't been the same for the last couple of months, but thankfully he has now returned from the distant wilds of Lancashire to the altogether more convenient wilds of Fen End!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Off the mark at last

The A team, at our fourth attempt, finally managed a win yesterday, with a reasonably comfortable 3-1 triumph over Shirley. I’ll go over the less interesting matches quickly, before we get to the main event.

The first game to finish was Dave’s, who had black against Jonathan Dale. In a Qc2 Nimzo-Indian white played rather passively, and hence Dave seemed to get a very equal position without too much difficulty. When white then left his kingside rather exposed, Dave turned down the opportunity to win a couple of pawns (which may have in turn given his opponent an attack), and instead found a tactical way to win a queen for a rook and knight. I thought perhaps he could have played on a little here, but his opponent’s position was solid and a draw with black can hardly be considered a bad result.

Mark then put us into the lead, courtesy of a win over Keith Ingram. In a Najdorf Sicilian, White chose what looked to me a slightly strange mix of plans, retreating his knights to b3, but then choosing to castle kingside and play f4. Mark was left with an isolated pawn on d6, but as compensation had excellent squares for his pieces, and was able to simplify into a double rook endgame a pawn up. He was soon able to put both his rooks on the seventh rank, and even someone whose endgame technique is as rudimentary as mine knows that such a position should be winning sooner rather than later.

The first half of my own game, with white against Matthew Long, went well, as we played into a relatively main line of the Winawer French (e4 e6 d4 d5 Nc3 Bb4) where white plays an early Qg4. I carefully pointed all my pieces towards the black kingside, then realised he hadn’t actually castled yet and if he did so queenside they would all turn out to be on the wrong side of the board. However, much to my surprise and relief, he did castle kingside and soon I had a very strong attack, and a position rated +3 by the computer. However, here my own incompetence as an attacking player took over, so that rather than delivering mate, I smoothly managed to transition into an endgame a pawn down. Fortunately for me, the opposite coloured bishops meant I was able to hold on relatively easily, leaving us 2-1 ahead.

Moving on to our feature presentation. I think it is fair to say that Phil has been somewhat out of form over the last few months, and has been subjected to a fair amount of gentle abuse as a consequence (and at least some genuine rage after last season’s game in Stratford.) Therefore, by way of balance, it seems only right to present his crushing victory over a 160 graded player on board 4 that sealed the win. I’m sure we all hope this means the real Phil is now back for league chess, and the piece blundering one only shows up in future for Thursdays at The Royal Oak. I haven’t had time to put the game through a computer so there will be a lack of good analysis to go with it, but I think the ease of the win speaks for itself.