Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Banana Skin Avoided

The first round of the Coventry League KO Cup saw us travel to play Rugby C from Division 3. Unlike the FA Cup, this competition aims to give the underdog a helping hand (not that Sutton Utd needed one in 1989) in the form of a handicap system, so we started the match with a 2.5 point deficit needing to win at least 3.5-0.5 to go through.

On paper this seemed a fairly straightforward task given that we enjoyed respective grading advantages on the four boards of 94, 81, 53 and 90.  And it didn't take long before we had our first point on the board. In fact it took less than 20 minutes, as Dave forced resignation on Board 3 (which  should have been the closest match) at 7.50 - when Roy had made the grand total of 4 moves! (This was even quicker than Joshua's win at Stratford a couple of years back  in the match that featured the infamous Stiff-Wood encounter - now there's a mouthful.) To begin with, Dave's opponent seemed to know all the moves on the Black side of an Advance French, but he then went horribly wrong almost immediately and resigned when a White knight gave a big check on d6 forcing Kd8, with Nxf7 check winning a whole rook as the inevitable follow-up.

But after that things got decidedly less straightforward, and it was a good 90 minutes plus before the next result. Carl's opponent on Board 2 went for a very aggressive set up against the Dutch and then threw in a piece sac (inexplicably as far as I could see). Carl's position looked a little loose on the white squares around his king, but he quickly regrouped and launched a deadly counter attack against the exposed White king on c1. But all credit to Jim MacDonald for giving it a real go, and at least making Carl's team-mates quite nervous - even if Carl probably always had it under control!

My game on Board 1 had been quite interesting (Black started with a double fianchetto), though I was having great difficulty anticipating my opponent's moves. I shovelled an h pawn up the board and when my bishop on g5 was attacked with h6 I sacced it with hxg6 and gxf7+.  The combination was sound and I won my piece back with two pawns interest, before Black generously threw in a piece as well and resigned soon after.

Returning to the scene of his infamous "Bollocks" game (see October 7th post for more details), Roy successfully avoided a repetition of the calamity that befell him that day and had the honour of securing the win for the team. He gradually assumed control against some rather passive play by White and soon annexed a pawn. White then played a move which lost another pawn, and in a bizarre coincidence felt obliged to utter exactly the same word that Roy had previously used - though at considerably less volume and with slightly less angst, it must be said. When I next looked Roy was a rook and three pawns up and soon won. (Meaning that Dave's wait for a lift back to Kenilworth only lasted just over 2 hours!)

So a potential banana skin was successfully avoided and we move on to Round 2 (aka the Quarter Final) when we will play another Div 3 team, Nuneaton D, at home, and will again have to overcome a 2.5 points handicap start. And finally thanks to our likeable opponents from last night - the most gender balanced team I've ever played against - who displayed good humour throughout, despite the lop-sided nature of the match.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Opposite ****** Bishops

The final match of the first half of our inaugural Coventry League campaign saw us make the short journey to play Coventry A.  Both teams were on 50% at the start of the evening, so a close match was expected - and so it proved.

With him having no PTA, WI, WRVS or PDSA meetings scheduled, Stuart was finally able to make his League debut, and found himself facing Dave Filer, who had beaten Roy a few weeks ago in the match against Coventry B. Despite being heavily out-graded, Stuart played a model game, and although he temporarily shed a queenside pawn, he soon won it back, and even stood better in the final position, though with no way to make progress. Still, a very creditable draw. I would tell you what the opening was, but Stuart seems to use a notation of his own, and his score sheet defied all my attempts at interpretation.

Things didn't go so well for last week's hero, Ben on Board 3. Against Ed Goodwin's French he tried a strange system involving f4 and B to d3 to c2, but without castling or playing d4. Ed seemed to open the position up favourably and ultimately annexed a piece to put Coventry one up.

I had been pressing very slightly against Dave Ireland on Board 1, but without actually having any advantage. In an equal rook and pawn ending I went very slightly wrong and lost a pawn, but the position was much simplified and even I couldn't contrive to actually lose.

Which left Carl on Board 2 playing against our very own Joshua. (The Coventry A board order was actually against the rules, as they knew very well, but short of looking like bad losers, what can you do?) Joshua played in, shall we say, primitive fashion against Carl's Caro Kann and went for the jugular. However, Carl stood firm and sensibly fled the danger area by castling queen side at the right moment. Then he began to jump out. And then he began to annex some material. And then he was three pawns up and only opposite bishops were left. The position required some care, but it was clearly winning. Unfortunately Carl saw but rejected the right idea, and instead ended up with two pawns against none, but with no way to force either one home. So one of the great injustices of chess - opposite ****** bishops - came to Joshua's rescue, and denied Carl a deserved win. And so we lost by the narrowest margin, 2.5-1.5, and go into the winter league break in sixth position.

We've been competitive in every match except one, in what is a much stronger league than in recent seasons, despite only once fielding our four highest graded players. We might be hard pressed to repeat these heroics after Christmas, but we should already be safe from the possibility of finishing last, which was my sole aim at the start of the campaign. Thanks to everyone who has turned out for us, especially Ben who has been both an ever present and a heroic match winner on more than one occasion.

We still have one more game before Christmas, with an away KO Cup match against Division 3 Rugby C, who get an enormous start on handicap, on December 8th so that we have to win at least 3.5-0.5 to get through. News of this in a couple of weeks time, when I'm hoping I won't be reporting on a Cup giant-killing!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Storm Barney Fails to Blow KCC Off-Course

It was a wild and windswept night as our intrepid Coventry League squad set out for North Warwickshire to take on pre-season favourites, but apparent under-performers, Nuneaton A. We had our strongest team of the season in action, and we certainly needed it as our opponents fielded their strongest side and enjoyed large rating advantages on boards two and four, where they played the White pieces.

Strange events began to occur very early on. I strolled over to look at Ben's position on Board 4, and had trouble assessing the material situation. He seemed to be down a bishop and a pawn. But then I looked closer and while he had a queen, Colin Green did not! Yes, the Nuneaton man had got his queen trapped right out of the opening on a4. Maybe because he had nothing better to do, he played on for the best part of another 2 hours before resigning, after the position slowly evolved via exchange after exchange into queen versus bishop.

But because of this delaying tactic, we were actually one down, as Mike had succumbed to a vicious early attack from Phil Briggs, from what I guess was a Blackmar-Diemer Gambit. The game did not make pretty viewing and Mike was rather depressed by the standard of his play. Time to gird those loins for the fights ahead, Mike. We need you!

The other two games were rather more conventional. On 3, Carl played a variation of his rather turgid QP opening against Tony Green's Chigorin style set up. Nothing much happened until an ending arose in which Carl had a bad bishop and Tony had a good knight. The Black king was also more active and it looked as though the position could be difficult to hold. Surprisingly, though, no sooner had the clocks been put back than a draw was agreed. Possibly a lucky escape for us, though maybe it was difficult to actually make progress for Black.

Which left me, again, as the last man standing. I played a highly enterprising (ie unsound) opening, but Andrew Paterson (yes, it was another inter-necine battle!) didn't try to refute my play, but just made sensible moves instead. He then spiced things up with an interesting pawn sac, which left me with doubled isolated c pawns. The position was very complex, and just before the time control, I made what I thought was a winning lurch with a knight jump to b5 and a pawn push to e5, which had twin threats to win either an exchange or a piece. However, Andy had calculated better and he was able to take both my c pawns so that at the time control I was a pawn down in a rook ending, and possibly losing. But he immediately went wrong and I was able to reach a drawn position as my active rook blockaded his passed a pawn and simultaneously attacked his shattered king side pawn structure, so that he couldn't make any progress.

So an excellent 2-2 draw for us, and while our winning run stopped at 2 matches, we extended our unbeaten run to 3. Quite galling, therefore, to discover that we actually dropped a position to 6th as a consequence of other results. One more league game to go for us in the first half of the season, with next week's local derby against Coventry A.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

What Kind of Chess Player Are You?

Here's a mildly interesting way to pass a spare five minutes (of which I seem to have quite a few these days!). Take the Chess Personality Test here.

For what it's worth, I am apparently a Surgeon in the mould of Emanuel Lasker. Feel free to post your result as a Comment below, so we can see what the overall profile of the club is. I think I can fairly confidently predict which category our esteemed Webmaster and First Team Captain will fall into.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Chugging along

This week presented us with a potentially tough fixture, against previously unbeaten Shirley (admittedly, they had only played 2 games thus far). We were therefore delighted when this match was marked by a rare sighting of the lesser-spotted Baruch, a rare and delicate creature that often goes into hiding when spooked by, for example, being asked to play in a chess match. Nevertheless, on this occasion Andy was present and seemed to equalise very easily as black against Matthew Long. It was a symmetrical English, and Andy was either completely equal or perhaps even slightly better when, out of nowhere, he simply blundered a pawn. Fortunately, as so often happens on these occasions, the two tempi it took for his opponent to capture the pawn and then retreat his piece gave Andy time to create at least some compensation in the form of more actively placed pieces. His blunder thus converted itself into a sound positional sacrifice as his opponent was forced first to give back then pawn, and then convert into a worse rook and knight endgame. A slow grinding win was probably achievable but Andy decided to go for something more comprehensive when, after an exchange of rooks, he sacrificed his knight to end up with 4 extra pawns. A knight would usually struggle against that many pawns, even if they were isolated and a long way back, and in this case they were connected and quite a way forward. Thus, they simply steamrollered home and the transformation for pawn blundering incompetence to smooth victory was fully achieved.

Andy Paterson, on board 2, once again opened with the slightly limp variation of the English which he seems to have taken up recently, which his opponent responded to with a King's Indian Defence set-up. Andy's more aggressive instincts then took over and he began pushing all his pawns forward, ending up with pawns no c4, e4, f5 and g4 whilst none of his opponents pawns had passed the third rank. The key in such positions is usually whether black can undermine and ultimately collapse the white pawn centre with a well timed break, but on this occasion Andy's opponent opted for passive defence instead. Whilst this gave him an optically sound position, it meant that Andy's advantage in space was never challenged, and consequently he found it much easier to manoeuvre his pieces to better squares, whilst black was more or less paralysed, and eventually found the optimum configuration to push through his advantage to victory.

Mark, as always seems to happen when we play Shirley, found himself up against Keith Ingram, this time with the black pieces. A Najdorf Sicilian duly resulted, in which Keith went for an early Bh3 threatening both f5 and various potential sacrifices on 36 against Mark's uncastled king. For a number of moves there seemed the possibility of both attempting pawn storms and trying various piece sacrifices. However, as so often happens when this many attacking options are available, white kept waiting for the optimal possible moment to attack, and consequently never did so, allowing back to create the usual Sicilian counterplay on the queenside. By means of a queen infiltration, Mark was eventually able to grab some material, which ultimately proved sufficient to decide the game. Notably, for all the possible attacking chances white had towards the start, by the time he resigned the white kingside attack had progressed no further than the position around move 12. A salutary lesson in the dangers of waiting too long for the perfect moment to strike.

Finally, in my game, my opponent blundered a pawn on move 3. I am aware that some people might consider what he played a sacrifice, but my very solid results in this position have led me to conclude that is really is pretty much just a pawn. Fortunately for me as well, my opponent repeated a line which I very recently lost in (I believe my only classical chess loss in this variation) during a county championship game, and hence is one of the very few positions I have actually bothered to look up and check. My usual brief and incoherent notes are presented below:

Final score: Kenilworth A 4-0 Shirley A

A very fine result, an almost competent performance, and I believe if you scroll down Mark will have more good news to report to you from the Coventry League.

There's No Justice In Life!

If we felt hard done by a couple of weeks back when we lost a match we should have won against Warwick University B, then the boot was most definitely on the other foot last night, as we edged home 2.5-1.5 in our latest Coventry League match. But apart from relief, embarrassment was probably the greatest emotion from our narrow and undeserved victory over league basement dwellers Coventry B (whose record is now Played 5, Lost 5).

The team, chosen several weeks/months ago, underwent a late change as Stuart was forced to miss his Coventry League debut by a PTA Meeting. Kids, eh? But like the trooper he is, Stuart rustled up his own substitute and Roy returned to the team in his place. And it was Roy who was the first to finish on Board 4, eventually being unable to delay his seemingly inevitable blunder any longer and losing the exchange against Dave Filer in what was surely a totally drawn position.

For once I was not the last to finish, as on top board I grovelled to a draw against our very own Bernard C, who played a nice opening and soon planted a knight on c4 which radiated strength and near paralysed my position. I was forced to play for exchanges, but things were still slightly awkward. However, after Bernard declined a chance to open up the queen side for his a1 rook through a timely a3 break, it became difficult to find a plan to make any progress and just before the time control he offered a draw which I was in no position to decline.

The one ray of light in the match had been Mike's position on Board 2, as he completely outplayed Bob Holmes on the White side of a Bogo-Indian set up. First he occupied some strong squares; then he won a centre pawn; then he occupied the important open file; and then he pushed his passed e pawn to the seventh to force resignation. A very smooth victory that looked almost effortless.

Which left the match all square and Ben grovelling on Board 3 against John Harris. The middle game was very complex, but when it simplified to Q & R each, Ben had an extra pawn but a near lost position, as his pawn structure was in ruins and his two pieces unable to co-ordinate. The extra pawn went, and White could have had a draw by perpetual whenever he wanted, or exchanged into a rook ending with definite winning chances. Instead he took a meaningless pawn which allowed Ben's passive queen to jump into f3, with a Rd1 follow up now impossible to stop. From nowhere Ben had a mating attack, and from looking like a loss we had won. It was impossible not to feel sorry for John, and indeed our opponents as a whole, since they didn't deserve this. And they certainly don't deserve to be stuck on zero points, having now lost four matches by the minimum score.

We will need to play better than this next week, when the fixture list sends us into the wilds of North Warwickshire to play a very strong Nuneaton A side. This Coventry League malarkey is turning out to be a very interesting ride!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Step 4

I am away in Devon at the moment, doing rather badly in the Beacon  50-65's tournament (age not grading!) at Exmouth. In my absence Ben has filed the following report with news of a really excellent win in the Coventry League - our first! - against Nuneaton B.

Take it away, Ben:-

Mark had asked me if I would stand in as captain for our home match against Nuneaton B. Given I had vaguely thought we were playing away; wasn't sure who our team was; where the equipment was stored; or how to work the clocks, I was the ideal candidate for this honour. Fortunately Mark was kind enough to write the team an e-mail on all of these points, which stood us in good stead. Perhaps most crucially he added as step 4 "commence game and win." Whilst Mark's 100% record (if only - its actually 83%!) has been key for the team so far, on this occasion it was the clarity of team instruction which seemed to do the trick.

Mike reacquainted himself with Maurice Staples after some battles going back over the years. It looked like a very tight game, with no quarter given and a draw was the right result.

Similarly Carl's game looked pretty even from what I could see and ended in a draw around the same time.

At this point things were not looking particularly clear. Dave had sacrificed a pawn for a lot of pressure in a position dominated by Queen's and Rooks. I had survived a difficult opening and was basically level. At this point my opponent metaphorically launched himself at me, sacrificing a Knight to open up my King. Enterprising from him and nerve wracking for me but I managed to defend and his position and his time both deteriorated rapidly. His flag fell, but in a position he said he would have resigned post time control anyway.

This left Dave needing to draw to get us the two points. It looked very double edged but Dave had an opportunity to repeat moves and his opponent agreed the draw.

So our first win of the season which makes up a bit for the near miss against University A.

With Mark back in the fold next week to add his skill to his instructions, Step 4 might become a bit more taken as read going forward. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 23 October 2015

A clean sweep

After Mark’s somewhat depressing report from Tuesday’s Coventry League game, I feel the need to bring you somewhat better news from the A team’s Leamington League game on Monday, where we took on Banbury B. Some people might say that this report coming out after Mark’s from a later game shows him to be more efficient than me; I would argue it shows I have more worthwhile things to be doing with my time. Gratuitous abuse aside, let’s move on to the games:
On board one, Andy was playing black against Neil Staples’ English Opening, and succeeded in offering a gambit on move 5, not the easiest to do with black in any opening, least of all the English. Despite Andy’s reassurance to the contrary after the game, I still maintain that Neil should have tried grabbing and holding onto the pawn, but instead he gave it back and Andy came out with a clear advantage from the opening. From then, after an exchange of queens, he just kept grabbing pawn after pawn until he was four pawns up in the endgame when Neil finally decided to call it a day. A very clean victory, provided the opening was sound.
Mark played the Moscow variation against Chris Evans’ Sicilian Defence (1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+), and got the usual slight space advantage that results from this variation. He had an advanced pawn on e5 which was cramping his opponent’s position, but always ran the risk of falling off if not properly looked after. However, Chris got slightly overexcited by the prospect of attacking this pawn and ended up fatally neglecting the safety of his own king. You know when there are white knights on f7 and g5, with a black king on f8, that things aren’t going to end well for black and, despite some mild time pressure, Mark collected a whole bunch of material towards the time control, forcing a resignation almost immediately after.
Bernard’s battlefield promotion to board 3 seemed to be well justified during the opening of his game, as his Sicilian defence ended up in a position resembling a French Defence, but with the light-squared bishop outside the pawn chain. Whilst most chess books will tell you this is a considerable success for black, in practice it often turns out that black would rather retreat the bishop back behind is pawns, as the queenside can end up rather unprotected. The game degenerated into a random tactical mess as both players ended up very short on time approaching the 35 move mark. Fortunately, however, Bernard’s problem was less severe than his opponents. When Nick asked how many moves he had left to make (answer, 5) and looked down at his clock to see 2 seconds remaining, not even some Paul Lam still desperate blitzing could save him from defeat. As a postscript to this report, both players managed to commit rules violations during this game. To prevent embarrassment I shall refrain from providing details of their various indiscretions, but perhaps we should consider investing in a copy of the rules for them as a Christmas gift.
Finally, my game provided yet another example of how not to play the opening, although unusually on this occasion it was provided by my opponent. As black, he played an early b6 and Bb7, and then transposed into a modern Benoni structure, where neither of these moves serves any real purpose. In some slow systems you could perhaps get away with this loss of tempi, but the Benoni is so sharp that giving away two moves more or less guarantees black a lost position. I don’t think I played particularly precisely after that, but my advantage never truly went away, and a fairly routine victory was achieved.
Final score: Kenilworth A 4 – 0 Banbury B
Now that is a solid result; bring on Leamington next week.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

We Wuz Robbed!

At the risk of sounding like Steve McClaren or Tim Sherwood, we are playing better than our next to bottom position in the Coventry League would imply, and this was most definitely the case with last night's 3-1 defeat away against Warwick University B. Quite frankly, I'm sick as a parrot that we lost this one. Facing the only 100% team in the League, and with our very own Paul Lam only able to command Board 2 in the University team, this looked like a massive challenge for our plucky squad, but we gave it a real go.

On Board 3, Ben and George Vikanis (erstwhile Banbury board 1) played at whirlwind speed, reaching the time control when the Board 1 and 2 games had managed 12 and 11 moves respectively. Ben won a pawn, but Black's small army of two rooks and a bishop ganged up on the white king. Things went bad for us and what had looked likely to be a win ended up a loss. Choker.

Dave was making his seasonal debut on Board 4 and had a good position from the opening on the black side of a Queen's Indian/QGD sort of structure against Roy's conqueror from last week. Unfortunately the white pieces suddenly got very active after a timely e4 break, the tactics went against us and we were 2-0 down.

On Board 2 Mike had an epic game against Paul. Right out of the opening, Mike sacced a knight but got a massive pawn centre on e4 and d4 in compensation. When one of these Black pawns fell off , I mentally wrote the game off, but the next time I looked the position had got incredibly murky and once again Mike had engineered two connected passed pawns. It looked like he was winning as Paul's position was near total collapse. But I need hardly mention that the clock was being put under considerable strain in this encounter, so things inevitably became frantic. Even so, Mike will have been disappointed (more football manager speak!) to blunder a whole rook away when he was on the verge of a famous and much deserved victory. Even a "Phil style" knight move at the end (not noticed by either player) could not save him, as Paul had mate in 1 at that moment.

I had finished seconds earlier on Board 1, after a third successive Cov League game in which I managed to save myself from a difficult/losing position. Playing against Peter Williams, whose last recorded grade was 217 in 2013 (and who has a personal best of 231!) I made a misjudgement straight out of the opening and found myself grovelling against two rampant black knights and a strong passed d pawn. Right on the time control, though, Black went wrong, and a couple of precise moves and some lucky tactics saw me win the pesky d pawn and swap off into a double rook and knight ending. More exchanges followed and I was left with an extra b pawn in a single rook ending with 3 pawns each on the king side. The b pawn got to the seventh rank but my rook was stuck on b8, and I think that with correct play Black could have held, but he let me get a passed h pawn and with the Black king on f6 I was able to play Rb8-g8 and when the b pawn was captured by the Black rook I had h6-h7 and there was no way to stop me from queening.

It says we lost 3-1 in the record books, but as far as I'm concerned it was a travesty of a sham of two mockeries of another travesty. And you all know you can trust my opinion, don't you?

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

An Ice Cold Dose of Reality

It was always going to be tough in the First Division of the Coventry League, and our first home match against Warwick University A was a case in point.  We fielded an almost unchanged team from our opening match at Rugby, with Carl replacing Mike D on Board 2, while our opponents - despite kindly omitting players graded 221 (!!) and 165 from their first match - still weighed in at an average of 173 for their top 3 boards, and their ungraded Board 4 is presumable around 160 strength.

Not surprisingly, given the grading disparity, Roy was first to finish on Board 4. He lost his d pawn on the white side of a QGD (seldom a good idea) and mercifully shortened his suffering by dropping a rook (for the second week running!) to a queen check.

Meanwhile on 2, Carl threw the kitchen sink at his opponent, with a piece sac on g6 netting a couple of pawns and a threatening position. However, Morgan Blake defended sensibly and clustered a heap of minor pieces around his king to ward off any possibility of mate. He then struck out in the centre with a well timed counter, and Carl's position fell apart.

Last week's hero on 3, Ben, went down in a totally different way. He got himself lumbered with doubled isolated c pawns and found his 2 bishops were no match for Felix McPeake's 2 knights which dominated the blocked position. Despite a prolonged grovel, the pawn weaknesses eventually told and we were 3-0 down.

And for a long time it looked like it would be 4-0, as I was under the cosh against Ioannis Lentzos, who I recognised as a fellow sufferer from this year's British Championship - though despite both of us loitering around the bottom boards for the whole two weeks, we managed to avoid being paired against each other. I got into all kinds of trouble in the opening and was happy to escape the early middle game only a pawn down. It should have become two, but instead White played an f6 pawn push to open up my king. The attack was repulsed, but at the cost of a pawn, and we went into a rook ending. But White then made a calamitous mistake which lost his extra pawn. I had two ways to take it - the first would have won in three very easy to see moves, while the second was a draw. No prizes for guessing which I chose. I didn't deserve to win - but I should have!

So a sobering 0.5-3.5 thrashing for us. Next up its Warwick University B (and our very own Paul Lam!), when our proud unbeaten away record (1 match!) might just find itself under threat.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Still in the hunt

After our somewhat unimpressive start to the league season (2 defeats in three matches), it once again looks like Kenilworth's best chance of some silverware this season will come from the cup competition. With that in mind, our first round tie against Olton, who we have already lost to once in the league this season, took on extra significance. Running through the boards in order:

Phil Holt - Paul Lam. As per usual, Paul and I are going to have a fundamental disagreement about the quality of one of his openings with black. He thought he was slightly worse, but in general was quite happy with his position and felt he had a clear plan for what he was aiming to do. I on the other hand, thought he was just worse more or less straight away (imagine playing a Ruy Lopez 2 or 3 tempi down, having exchanged one of your more important minor pieces). However, what cannot be denied is that, after Phil blundered in time trouble just before the first time control, Paul emerged an exchange up, with queen and rook against queen and bishop, with 3 pawns apiece. Not a trivial win, but one we would nevertheless expect him to convert. Unfortunately, a couple of unusual tactical oversights led to him blundering first one pawn, and then his remaining two, meaning it was now queen and rook versus queen, bishop and 3 pawns, and a whole lot less clear. Wisely, Paul now decided to offer a draw before he also put his rook en prise, and the point was shared.

Andrew Paterson - Alan Lloyd. A Kings Indian player with black himself, it was almost inevitable that, finding himself on the white side of the opening this time, Andy would choose the most boring line possible, the exchange variation. A virtually symmetrical pawn structure results, with white having very slightly greater piece activity, but the vast majority of games will slowly wind down into draws. However, white always has the hope that his slight space advantage will open up tactical possibilities, and so it proved here as Andy was able to grab a pawn on the queenside, and gradually convert this advantage to a very smooth success.

Mark Cundy - Mark Page. Mark's game, I think it is fair to say, was perhaps a little less smooth, even if the same overall result was ultimately achieved. Fresh from his first coaching session at the age of (insert insulting number here) we were all hoping for a smooth positional victory, hopes that were somewhat confounded when, on the black side of a Najdorf defence, he found himself a pawn down after only around 15-20 moves. He was ultimately able to win it back, but only at the expense of an inferior position where it appeared his opponent was going to able to slowly press for the rest of the game, with a draw the best result we could hope for. However, clearly Mark's coaching has at least taught him some cheap tactical tricks, as an oversight by his opponent was swiftly punished, and the most likely result reversed in the matter of a few minutes.

Joshua Pink - Francis Batchelor. This game very nearly went down as a smooth victory, as from the white side of a Sicilian Dragon, I found myself a few tempos up on the normal move order, and hence my kingside attack was crashing through long before black got any real counterplay going on the queenside. Sensing imminent catastrophe for his king, my opponent started throwing all his pieces forward in a flurry of unsound sacrifices. Unfortunately, in my attempts to be ultra-cautious and not spoil my fine position, I kept declining material, and soon found myself under severe attack without even having as many pieces for it as I could have done. A flurry of very concerning tactics around the time control (you know things have gone really wrong when I find myself with less than a minute for 4 moves - not my usual style) eventually, and fortuitously, resolved themselves in my favour and, after a series of mass exchanges, we ended up in an endgame where I had a knight and 5 pawns, and my opponent a rook and 2. Most likely a winning advantage, but a difficult one to convert, requiring precise play to avoid the rook becoming too active. Or, alternatively, my opponent might just blunder the rook and give me the game for free.

Richard Smith - Carl Pickering. A slightly confusing game this one. Carl's opponent played a very aggressive line against Carl's Dutch defence (1. d4 f5 2. h3 Nf6 3. g4) but, after Carl declined the gambit, entirely switched strategies and started to play extremely passively. This gave Carl ample time to build up a fine position, win a pawn, and transition into a close to winning heavy piece endgame. Some good defence meant he was unfortunately unable to convert, but a well played game where I don't think Carl was worse at any point.

Final score: Kenilworth 4 - 1 Olton

The score could perhaps have been even more impressive at one stage, but nonetheless, I don't think this is a result we can complain about. Next up is either Solihull or Stratford in the semi-finals.

Carve Their Names With Pride!

Tuesday October 6th was an historic day for Kenilworth Chess Club, as we made our debut in the Coventry League, with an away match against Rugby A. Having been fast tracked straight into Division 1, there are going to be no easy matches for us this season. Sure enough, although our first match saw us only slightly outgraded on average, we were heavily outrated on Boards 3 and 4, and indeed only on Board 1 did we have any rating advantage. But the team rose splendidly to the challenge and, right at the death, secured a dramatic draw in a match which had been too close to call all evening. Gentlemen a-bed in Kenilworth shall think themselves accursed they were not there!

The new campaign has its first hero, and his name is Ben! He played a really excellent game against Nalin Kadodwala's Alekhine, and after getting all his pieces onto very strong squares jumped in with a Bxg6 sac and some nice tactics which won material. This was a massive boost for the team. And it looked likely to get even better as Roy recovered from a very ropey opening to get a crushing attack against Jamie Kearney's long castled king. With a nice bishop sac on d6 (which should never have been accepted) he ripped open the a, b and c files and had the White king at his mercy with queen and two rooks threatening mayhem. But he rushed to win his piece back instead of playing directly for mate and the position eventually stabilised into Q+R+2 for Roy against Q+R+1. I expected a draw (though the White king was floating about in the middle of the board so Roy still had an edge) when I was alerted by a heartfelt cry of "Bollocks!" from across the room. My heart sank. Roy had made a bone-head blunder and lost a rook. What a disaster, after such an enterprising game.

And then Mike went down to Bob Wildig on Board 2 after a very tense struggle. He played a very enterprising opening as Black which ended with a Black pawn getting to e3. It stayed there for many moves, but it always looked like a sitting duck. Eventually the tactics which were keeping it alive ran out, and once it fell off the game went downhill, putting us 2-1 down.

And so to a position I have been in a few times before, where I had to win to save the match. I guess this is what happens when you play stodgy chess, and are nearly always the last to finish. Anyway, I got nothing from an insipid opening against Jonathan Cox, and had to play quite carefully to avoid being worse. We got into a double rook and knight ending where I thought I was pushing for an edge, but then things started to go wrong. I made an inexplicable knight tour from d2 to c4 to e5 to d7 to c5 only to find that when he played b6 the only square I could go to was a4. Meanwhile the Black knight jumped right into my position and I was grovelling. Luckily time trouble intervened and Jon started to go wrong. We got down to a rook ending with level material, but he pushed a pawn to e3 and I rounded it up. But then I played a stupid move which left a pawn en prise but very luckily he didn't take it. Then he mistakenly swapped off the rooks thinking he was invading with his king down the h file, but I had an easy way to generate a passed d pawn which he couldn't stop.

So a drawn, and highly exciting, match where the team performed above expectations - although the bad news is that most of the other teams in the league are likely to be stronger - and some considerably stronger at that. Nevertheless, our intrepid squad (we few, we happy few, we band of brothers!) is up and running, and we at least have our first point on the board.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thursday Evening Social Chess Sessions - Change of Venue

Following the sudden closure of the Royal Oak, our Thursday evening social chess sessions will now be held, until further notice, at:-

The Engine Inn
8 Mill End

Our first meeting there will be on Thursday October 1st from 7.30pm. We will be playing in the Conservatory.

New venue, but the same old blunders I expect!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Off the mark

After the team's somewhat disappointing opening result against Olton, it was clearly time for Kenilworth A's inspirational captain to return to the fold to set matters aright in the game against Banbury. Since recent personal strengthening has now left me playing on board 4, I like to think of myself as the team's cattle driver, driving on the herd of unruly bulls in front of me. Since I expect this metaphor will only get more offensive if I continue it, let us move on to the games themselves.

Paul, playing on board 1 against sometime Warwick University colleague Georgs Vikanis, got an excellent position out of the opening as his opponent appeared to have no idea how to play against his usual slow, uneventful opening play. An outside observer might have thought his position so overwhelming the game was as good as won, but those of us who have known Paul for a while will be aware that there is no position so advantageous he can't manage to spoil it with poor clock management. A depressingly familiar pattern soon emerged, and as each move ticked by towards the time control, Paul went from better to equal, to possibly even somewhat worse. Fortunately, after the extra time was added, he recovered to hold the draw quite comfortably, but still a slightly disappointing result from the position he had after 20 moves.

Andy, if anything, achieved an even more impressive result from the opening. First, what I can only assume to be an unfortunate finger slip led to him pushing his c pawn a square further than I have ever seen him on move one as black, meaning rather than his trademark Caro-Kann, he was playing the black side of a Sicilian. A fine position soon resulted, and I left the game when it became apparent he was about to win a whole piece for virtually no compensation. I was somewhat bemused, therefore, to return a little later and to find him up by less material (only 2 pieces for a rook), and also subject to an absolutely vicious attack from his opponent's rook and queen, A very baffling turnaround was soon completed with Andy forced to resign facing imminent mate. I don't know what went wrong, but it certainly went wrong very quickly

This left both Mark and myself needing to win to take the match, and Mark tried for this in his usual sharp theoretical style, by playing the exchange French as white. A more or less equal manoeuvring game then developed, but once again time pressure was the scourge of our team, as he gave away a pawn close to the time control, for adequate but certainly not overwhelming compensation. However, his opponent (Nathan Manley) then proceeded to horribly misplay his position, first off unnecessarily returning the pawn, then allowing Mark an unstoppable outside passed pawn that decided the game in his favour. Some good endgame technique displayed by Mark, but once again a game of his where the result was almost impossible to predict based on the position halfway through the game.

Finally, here is the position of my game against Dan Rowan after 7 moves:

I had to endure a considerable amount of moaning from my team mates after the game about how terrible my opening was, and how white must have been much better. I decided therefore to put my position into an engine, which came out with an evaluation of 0.00 for the above position, not a bad result after 7 moves with black, Admittedly, the game went slightly downhill after this as I "sacrificed" a pawn for an attack that didn't really go anywhere, then "sacrificed" a second pawn to go into a worse endgame. However, for the second year in a row against Dan, poor rook endgame technique let him down, and he proceeded to somehow contrive to lose a rook endgame a pawn up. A victory then, but perhaps not the most convincing performance we'll ever put together. Next up, Solihull, and Andy's first game against his former club.

Final score: Banbury A 1.5 - 2.5 Kenilworth A

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

That didn't go well

A new season, but the same bad start as last year, with the A team going down 3-1 against defending champions Olton in our opening match. While Olton fielded their strongest team, we didn't, but even so we basically matched them on average grade and should not have been turned over so comprehensively.

Bernard C (it could hardly be the inactive Bernard R, could it?) was first to finish, drawing with white after a Grand Prix Sicilian turned into a Classical French. The opening looked a bit dodgy for Bernard as his king was displaced to f2 and his d pawn came under pressure, but careful defence swapped off a few pieces and when white took over the c file the danger had passed. Although he was left with a nominally bad bishop he had no trouble securing the draw, and may even have been pressing towards the end.

Unfortunately, the next result was not so welcome, as Mike D succumbed to Richard Smith on Bd 4, after a pawn fell off on the black side of a Tarrasch Queen's Gambit. Mike seemed to be on the brink of winning it back for some moves, but it just didn't happen, and when he had to give up the exchange for the extra pawn the resultant R v B ending, with 4 pawns each on the kingside proved untenable, as the Black pawns were split.

Making his debut on Board 1 against Phil Holt, Andy unveiled a new opening style and seemed to be getting slightly the upper hand in a position where all 4 bishops got fianchettoed. However, a black rook got active on the h file and despite a space advantage, white had to go passive. With little time on the clock and a difficult position, a rare thing happened and Andy had to agree a draw.

This left me on Board 2 against Alan Lloyd, needing to win to save the match. Things had started promisingly when he played an early pawn sac in a variation which I had looked at that afternoon. Much good it did me, as I forgot what to do, couldn't work it out over the board and came under some pressure. He won his pawn back, but briefly let me off by allowing me to finally castle and stabilise the position. Instead, I stupidly blundered a pawn and was left hanging on for grim death. Shortly after the time control, though, he made a big oversight and I won the exchange out of nowhere. Surprisingly, he neglected to take a pawn for it, which would have produced an instant draw, and all of a sudden I thought I might be winning. But with my king wide open and my queenside pawns proving difficult to defend, let alone advance, it was basically a draw. Until I miscalculated horribly, and instead of my king blockading his two connected passed pawns (which I had generously given him), he played some neat moves with his bishop to force one of them to the 8th rank.

So a disappointing  result, but its a long season, and we have to hope that Olton won't be able to rack up the number of wins they managed last year - and that we start our recovery rather earlier, too!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Great Coventry League Adventure, 2015-16

We are now less than 2 months away from our debut in the Coventry League. Thanks to the very helpful interventions of Mike Johnson, our path into the League has been smoothed, and we have been fast-tracked straight into Division 1. The fixtures are now out and our small, but intrepid squad can finally see where we will be spending 14 thrilling Tuesday nights between early October and next March 2016:-

Oct 06   Rugby A (A)
Oct 13 University A (H)
Oct 20 University B (A)
Nov 03  Nuneaton B (H)
Nov 10 Coventry B (H)
Nov 17 Nuneaton A (A)
Nov 24 Coventry A (A)

Jan 12 University B (H)
Jan 19 Rugby A (H)
Jan 26  Coventry B (A)
Feb 02   Coventry A (H)
Feb 16  Nuneaton A (H)
Feb 23 Nuneaton B (A)
Mar 1  University A (A)

We also have the delights of the KO Cup to look forward to and the dates for this (most of which will probably not concern us!) are:-

Dec 8 - Round 1
Mar 8 - Quarter Final
Apr 5 - Semi Final

Apr 12 - Final

Hopefully the Webmaster, when he recovers from his amazing 14 successive days of blogging from the British Championships, will also find some corner of a Kenilworth website which can be forever the Coventry League fixtures.

You can follow our results here, but in any event I will endeavour to provide a prompt report of each match throughout the season, as we boldly go where no Kenilworth team has gone before. I'm sure the select few, we band of brothers, will do everything to live up to the club's ambitious mission statement, which so inspired the D team in the Leamington League last season - "Let's try not to come last!"

2015-16 Leamington League Fixtures now out

The Leamington League fixtures have now been published for the coming season and can be found here - and very shortly on this website too, once the Webmaster gets around to it!

We kick off the season early in September with two mega-matches. On Monday the 7th, the B and C teams will go head to head at the Abbey Club, in what will be the first internecine Kenilworth war since I joined the club three years ago. This should be an epic encounter, and hopefully we will not see any pusillanimous, short draws. Fight to the death, comrades - to the death!

The A team season commences the day afterwards with an away match at defending champions Olton. We were the only team to lower their colours in the league last year, when we finally got our act together in the second half of the season. Here's hoping for a similar outcome!

The D team will join the action a couple of weeks later, starting with a home derby against Leamington D on September 21.

In the Open KO Cup, we have been drawn at home to Olton on October 5th. What on earth are the League Chairman and the League Secretary doing?! Being "impartial" and "hands off" it would appear!! I don't know; Rangers and Celtic never get drawn against each other in the first round.

The U-700 team have also been handed a tough draw, away to Solihull (October 7th), while the U-120 squad have been drawn away to Stratford II on October 22nd.

Exciting times - after going, so far, 6 days without a competitive chess game I already can't wait to get started again! I'm sure a Match Captain near you will be in touch to check on your availability for the early matches. On which point, please make every effort to attend the Team Formation Meeting at the Abbey Club on Monday August 24th (7.30 pm start). And please bring your £10 subs with you if you haven't paid already!

Good luck to all for the season ahead.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

British Championship Update - Day Fourteen (Finale)

We should begin today with a very quick mention of the winner of the championship itself: GM Jonathan Hawkins. Four players were tied for first before the final round: Hawkins, Howell, Gormally and Nick Pert (who was actually playing his twin brother in the final round), but Hawkins was the only one who managed to win, thus clinching the title. And, as ever when Hawkins wins anything, it is always worth pointing out that at the age of 20, he only had an ECF grade of 160. Perhaps there is still hope for us all yet. Most importantly, this means I won my bet with Paul, who asserted that Howell was going to win the tournament, so I've at least made back £5 of the money I invested in the tournament.

Moving on to the Kenilworth games, as was mentioned yesterday, Paul needed a win today to qualify to play in the championship again next year. Playing black against FM Charles Storey, he seemed to get in trouble right out of the opening. His opponent had a very interesting idea against Paul's Nimzowitsch Defence, giving up both his bishops to shatter the black pawn structure. Having built up a very nice advantage, however, something strange started to happen, as he began playing faster and more carelessly, and started to allow Paul back into the game. Sadly, Paul's chances to equalise all came in his customary time trouble (after 22 moves Paul had two minutes left, and his opponent an hour and ten minutes), and he wasn't able to find the necessary moves. Sad to end on a defeat, but his overall 50% score is still a creditable performance (almost exactly what his grade would predict). And as for failing to qualify, would you really wish to spend your two week summer holiday in Bournemouth anyway. I'm sure Paul won't mind if I steal his own words to sum up the day:

"Finished the British Chess Championship with 5.5/11, a fair reflection of my pre-tournament ranking. Needed to win in the final round against FIDE Master Charlie Storey to finish on 6.5 points and secure qualification for next year's Championship, and ended up playing my worst game in the whole event. Even when he erred and gave me chances, I just couldn't pull the trigger. Deeply disappointed in myself. Fought my ass off for ten rounds in some terrific slugfests with almost all the games going the full distance, but when it really mattered I just didn't turn up..."

Mark, on the other hand, finished the tournament on a high, with his second straight win. His opponent was the promising junior Alex Golding, who began the tournament with some excellent results, but has been gradually going downhill since then. Almost the exact opposite of Mark in every way. In true junior style, his motivation appeared to have been slightly sapped by the final round, and he played the whole game at an unnecessarily fast pace. Perhaps his hope may have been to push Mark into the time trouble he has been getting into for much of the tournament, but the net result was simply to play some quite weak moves, which Mark took full advantage of. He was at least slightly better for almost the entire game, and made no mistake in converting his advantage. After a disastrous start, finishing on 4.5/11 represents a good recovery.

In my morning game, I tried to play sensible chess, got completely outplayed, and lost. In the afternoon, I think I may have been a bit demob happy, and the game took on a very Royal Oak appearance (my 8th, 9th and 10th moves were respectively g4, f4 and h4). Sadly, after this exciting start the game rather petered out, and a draw was agreed after little more than 30 moves. My overall percentage across all the games I played in the tournament (classical, rapid and blitz) was 53%, so I will consider that a success. Kenilworth as a team didn't quite make it to the 50% threshold (our performances in the blitz really let us down), but we did finish above 50% in classical chess.

Thanks to everyone for reading, and I look forward to reporting on the championships again in 30 years time, when it is next due back in the area.

Overall summary:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 56.5/121 (46.7%)
Total score by Kenilworth players in classical chess: 28.5/55 (51.8%)
Score against titled players: 1.5/7

My personal performance:
Played: 43
Wins: 19
Losses: 16
Draws: 8
Well played endgames: 13
Atrocious blunders: 11
Games won through opponent's illegal moves: 1

Friday, 7 August 2015

British Championship Update - Day Thirteen

I think it is only fair that we start today by talking about Mark's game, seeing as he finally achieved his first win of the tournament. As white, Mark played the Grand Prix attack against his opponents Sicilian, which soon transposed into a more traditional Closed Sicilian after Mark played g3. He seemed to get quite a pleasant position out of the opening, but it was unclear if it was going to be a large enough advantage for him to realistically be able to push for a win. This uncertainty persisted into the endgame, which eventually came down to a rook and 2 pawns for Mark, against a bishop and 4 pawns for his opponent. The structure was sufficiently locked that there was no chance of Mark ever losing the position, but it also didn't look as if it would be possible for him to make progress. Fortunately however, around this point, his opponent started to play some very dubious moves, gradually repositioning his pieces on to worse and worse squares, and giving Mark every reason to keep playing on. After not being able to convert a number of promising positions in previous games, the fear was another win would slip from his grasp, but on this occasion he was not to be denied and took advantage of his opponent's mistakes to wrap up the victory.

Paul, needing 1.5 from his final 2 games to qualify to play in the main championship again next year, found himself playing white against WIM Heather Richards. He seemed to get a nice little edge out of the opening, and then swung out with an exciting (and potentially even sound) rook sacrifice. Whilst objectively it probably should only have been good enough for equality, black faced a very difficult defense, didn't find the best moves, and ended up in a very bad endgame, down a pawn and with worse placed pieces. Hopes were high for Paul at this point, but sadly his endgame technique, at least in this game, could not be described as immaculate. After an unfortunately timed exchange of rooks gave away much of his advantage, the path to victory (if indeed one was available at all) became very narrow. From this point on she seemed to defend well, and despite his best efforts Paul was eventually forced to settle for a draw. This means he now needs a win in the final round, as black against FM Charles Storey. A difficult pairing to be sure, but he is at least a sufficiently aggressive player that you always feel you might have winning chances as black.

My two games today can be summed up in one sentence. In the first my opponent blundered a piece, hence I won; in the second I blundered a piece, and hence I lost. My could be said on the matter about how complicated the positions were and how they were understandable oversights, but really there is no excuse for quite how badly played both of these two games were. Still, I suppose, since both of my opponents were higher graded than me, a win and a loss, through whatever means, should still be regarded as a decent result.

I know I said that I wasn't going to include any more of my games on these updates, but I am nothing if not a liar. I felt I had to show this next one, simply because of how quickly my strong opponent manages to blunder a piece in the opening. I can only assume, given the general lowering in quality of games I've been seeing over the last couple of days, that people are starting to get fatigued and losing concentration.

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 55/117
Score against titled players: 1.5/6

My personal performance:
Played: 41
Wins: 19
Losses: 15
Draws: 7
Well played endgames: 12
Atrocious blunders: 11
Games won through opponent's illegal moves: 1

Thursday, 6 August 2015

British Championship Update - Day Twelve

Today was perhaps the most successful day for Kenilworth in the championships thus far, with an overall score of 3.5/4. Paul got the ball rolling with his win over very promising junior Koby Kalavannan (2170 at age 13). Me and Paul are probably going to have a disagreement about how good his opening was, with Paul thinking it gave him good practical chances, and me thinking he was just considerably worse fairly quickly. What cannot be doubted, however, is that after a terrible blunder on move 27 (I would imagine time trouble induced), Paul ended up with a completely lost position (the computer says -5). Fortunately, his opponent was generous enough to immediately return the favour, then proceeded to give away sufficient material that he got himself into a bad endgame by force. Paul was not about to miss his opportunity so, after making the time control with no further disasters, he was able to easily convert the position an exchange up for no compensation.

Mark appears to have overcome his early tournament slump, and is now playing considerably better chess. Today he managed to equalise as black almost immediately out of the opening, a King's Indian Defence. I actually expected the game to end in a very early draw, but either one player managed to convince himself he was better, or they both simply kept playing on out of inertia. After a while, a more interesting endgame did actually occur, with equal pawns and a knight for each side, but a slight structural imbalance. Of all equal material endgames, knight ones are probably the easiest in which to go wrong, simply because of the potential forks, as well as frequent transitions to king and pawn endgames, in which a single tempo loss can be enough to bring a decisive result. Eventually Mark was able to win his opponent's knight, but doing so meant his king was stuck on completely the opposite side of the board from the remaining pawns, so he could do nothing else but rush back to secure the draw, after his opponent cleared out all the pawns left on the board. A much more interesting game that I originally expected it to be, but probably always one in which the overall balance was maintained.

As for myself, my morning game also looked as if it was going to be a quick draw as my opponent, playing white, more or less forced the game into an entirely equal rook endgame right out of the opening. Indeed he did offer me a draw, which I only declined because I didn't feel I'd got my money's worth out of the entry fee by only playing for an hour. However, as so often happened when you are convinced the position is an easy draw, he started to get careless and managed to force himself into a very passive position, which I was able to convert to a winning king and pawn endgame, and was able to finish with a nice temporary pawn sacrifice. Sadly, I cannot put this game down as a well played game on my part as I actually missed the winning move the first time it was available, and was fortunate that my opponent gave me a second chance to play it, rather than finding the more precise defence that almost certainly led to a draw. In the afternoon my win was more straightforward, with a kingside attack leading to a win of material, and hence the game, in fairly short order. Not particularly memorable except for the fact that my opponent was an FM (even if, by rating, a particularly weak one), making this my first win over a titled player, and the first by a Kenilworth player in this tournament.

Continuing our theme of opening disasters, here is how to win with the French Defence in only 14 moves, though perhaps it might not work against best play.

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 52.5/113
Score against titled players: 1/5

My personal performance:
Played: 39
Wins: 18
Losses: 14
Draws: 7
Well played endgames: 11
Atrocious blunders: 9
Games won through opponent's illegal moves: 1

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

British Championship Update - Day Eleven

A much more solid set of performances were put in by the Kenilworth contingent today, to varying degrees of satisfaction. Paul will probably be the most disappointed person at only achieving a draw, simply because of how good a position he obtained out of the opening. After Paul played a mainline Dunst (1. Nc3 d5 2. e4 d4 3. Nce2) it did not appear that his opponent knew the correct plans to adopt in the position, wasting quite a number of moves shuffling his knights around, and giving Paul time to build up a nice initiative on the kingside. Unfortunately, at the crucial moment, where a continuation was available that would win material by force, Paul failed to play it at the position soon swung back to equality. Whilst in normal circumstances missing a non-obvious winning move would not be a disaster, it was particularly disappointing as Paul had in fact seen the moved, and did realize how strong it was. Unfortunately, he also saw another move which he thought provided an equal simple advantage. Sadly, it did not.

Mark, I would imagine, will be somewhat more contented with his solid draw with the black pieces. As black, he played what I think can only be described as a Warwickshire specialty (given how many players from the area use the line), a reversed Grand Prix attack against the English Opening (1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 f5). I don't know if the opening has any other names, but I very rarely see it played by anyone from outside the Kenilworth and Coventry clubs. It did, however, seem to provide Mark with a perfectly adequate position, and more importantly he also had much more time on the clock than he has had in many of his previous games. I don't know if this was a conscious decision or simply a result of getting into a position he understood better, but fortunately on this occasion time trouble induced blunders were avoided, and a draw was soon reached.

I had a slightly unpleasant experience in my morning game, where I misplayed the move order in the opening quite badly, and ended up having to give up a piece for two pawns to avoid falling into  a very passive position. My two extra pawns were, however, connected central pawns and hence I still had good chances of holding the game, even as we went into an endgame of rook and knight against rook. The computer seems to tell me that with precise play a draw can be held, but in practice the extra piece gives the defender so many chances to go wrong, and unsurprisingly I went wrong, getting my king cut off on the side of the board, leaving my rook far too much work to do to hold the game. There is absolutely nothing interesting to be said about my afternoon game. My opponent was white, messed up the opening, and basically forced an immediate draw, which I couldn't really avoid. The shortest standardplay game I've had so far in tournament (and short than quite a few of the rapidplay games).

Just the very end of a game from the championship to show you today, as evidence that it is not just us who manage to blunder horribly in approximately level positions. Black is absolutely fine, but after one terrible move he is forced to resign instantly.

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 49/109
Score against titled players: 0/4

My personal performance:
Played: 37
Wins: 16
Losses: 14
Draws: 7
Well played endgames: 11
Atrocious blunders: 9
Games won through opponent's illegal moves: 1

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

British Championship Update - Day Ten

Today was not the most successful day for Kenilworth in the championship. Paul, after his victory yesterday, was once gain back amongst the higher boards and hence due a difficult opponent, FM Peter Batchelor. Paul's brand of offbeat openings with black has been serving him well against weaker players in this tournament but, for the second time, when up against a stronger opponent it has backfired. That is not to say his position was terrible, but it was cramped and lacking any real active plans he could pursue. Without Paul making any obvious mistakes, he was slowly pushed back into a worse and worse position, until finally a transition was made into a queen endgame which, despite starting with the same number of pawns for each side, was completely lost due to the holes in the black structure. I may not be the appropriate person to give this idea, but perhaps some more work on main line openings for black is in order.

Despite the final result, the fact it was up against a strong player means it can hardly be regarded as a disaster. Mark's, on the other hand, was a whole lot more depressing simply because of how good his position appeared to be for most of the game. It looked to me that his opponent made a horrible mess of the opening, ending up with a knight on e7 pinned to his king on e8, a bishop trapped behind the knight on f8 and, to make matters worse, another bishop stuck on g6 meaning he couldn't even fianchetto to develop the bishop that way. It is, of course, entirely possible I was misreading the position and it wasn't as good as it appeared, but I kept coming over and expecting Mark to be up a piece, as it just looked like there was no way black could escape from the tangle he had made for himself. Sadly, though, Mark's perennially issues with time trouble resurfaced, and in a scramble before the time control not only did black manage to liberate his position, but also grabbed a pawn which ultimately proved to be enough to decide the game in his favour.

With two defeats on the board and the over 65s event now finished, this left me in the unenviable position of being the club's only hope for a win. Fortunately, I was able to mange not one, but two, after both of my opponents managed to get themselves in horrible time control, which they could not cope with. The pattern of both games was remarkably similar, with long, slow, maneuvering middlegames where for a long time nothing appeared t be happening. These are usually the type of games in which I horribly blunder due to there being too many pieces to think about, but thanks to my opponent's poor time handling I was actually able to obtain an extra pawn in both games. Despite both endgames (one a rook, one a rook and bishop) almost certainly being drawn with best play, no such play was forthcoming, and so I managed to rescue Kenilworth back to a 50% score for the day.

Mike has sent me some annotations for one of the games he was played, so I will leave the last words on this report to him.

"Attached is a game-not the best or worst etc but simply a reasonable one to address the situation when a lower rated player with White plays ultra solidly to try and draw. So a game where Black tries to make something out of not a lot. Notes have been much reduced from my more detailed ones."

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 47.5/105

My personal performance:
Played: 35
Wins: 16
Losses: 13
Draws: 6
Well played endgames: 11
Atrocious blunders: 8
Games won through opponent's illegal moves: 1

Monday, 3 August 2015

British Championship Update - Day Nine

Today was a rest day from all the main events of the tournament, and hence this will be a relatively short report. The only event with Kenilworth participation today was the blitz event, now officially retitled with British Blitz Championship. Sadly, the event was not a rousing success for any of the three of us playing in it with Mike, after a terrible start, scoring 3.5/11, Ben 4/11 and myself 5/11. I feel the whole squad is going to have to buck up its ideas if we are going to claw our way back to 50% overall by the end of the event, as we are now someway off the pace.

The only real bright spark of the whole event, for myself, is that I have pretty much guaranteed myself a win in the worst move in the tournament competition. In the final round, with my score on 50%, I blundered the exchange early in the game (causing Paul to walk away from my board in disgust), but then proceeded to outplay my opponent, reaching the position below. The first thing to notice is that c7+ wins instantly, as white will queen in at most a couple of moves. Points will be awarded to anyone who can work out which move I in fact played, which in my head was going to lead to the same result (spoiler alert, it did not, and it let to a completely lost endgame).

The other point of interest in the day was that Paul, Roy and myself (plus some others from the University chess club) attended a quiz in the evening, one of the side events organised alongside the championship. Despite our great disappointment at there not being a chess round (all that time spent learning Wilhelm Steinitz's mother's maiden name for nothing), we did manage to come equal first. You might think I would be pleased by that result, but how much better it could have been if people had listened to me when I told them that the Shakespeare play with a horse it in called White Surrey was Richard III. I mean really, who chooses to write down King Lear instead; the man spends the entire play walking around on foot as a beggar, that's the whole point. Anyway, I'm not bitter; I'm not bitter at all.

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 45.5/101

My personal performance:
Played: 33
Wins: 14
Losses: 13
Draws: 6
Well played endgames: 9
Atrocious blunders: 8
Games won through opponent's illegal moves: 1

Saturday, 1 August 2015

British Championship Update - Day Eight

After something of a disaster yesterday, Kenilworth rallied and put in a much better performance this afternoon, with not a single defeat for any of the five people playing. Paul got the team off to a fine start, slowly outplaying his opponent right from the opening, gaining considerably more space and piece activity without, as far as I could see, any meaningful compensation for his opponent. Even managing to avoid his customary slide into time trouble, by move 29 he was two pawns up, with the bishop pair, and his opponent had a cramped position, misplaced pieces and an exposed king. I don't think he can be blamed for not wanting to play on any further. Mark's game was interesting right out of the opening (he played the Dutch Defence), and an intriguing late middlegame/early endgame position was reached, where both sides had central passed pawns, supported by queens and rooks. I became slightly nervous for Mark's position at one point, as it appeared his opponent was able to push his pawn rather faster. However, with both sides suffering from slightly exposed kings, neither side was able to both push their pawn and keep their king safe from checks at the same time, and hence a draw was forced without too many alarms. A good recovery from Mark, against a strong player, after his travails of the previous day.

The final round of the over 65s also took place today, with both Bernard and Mike having games that seemed to symbolise their entire tournaments. Bernard's was an open attacking game (also a Dutch Defence), with both sides playing aggressively, with Bernard eventually able to win two pieces for a rook. Those two pieces also happened to be a pair of bishops, meaning he had a considerable advantage in a endgame, which he duly converted. Mike on the other hand, after choosing the Pirc Defence, had a very cagey affair, with both sides pushing for an advantage at some point, but with the balance never appearing to be disturbed too much one way or the other. In line with many of his games from the later part of this tournament, a draw always appeared to be the likely result, and so it ultimately proved. The final scores were 4/6 for Bernard and 2.5/6 for Mike.

Postscript. After writing the above I received correspondence from Mike, which gives an entirely different perspective on the game from the one I gave above (which was, admittedly, only based on the occasional glance at the board). In the interests of balance I shall present his words too, and you can decide which ones to believe:

"Well today was by far the most interesting game to date. Once again a very heavy theoretical dual involving subtle move orders. My opponent Mike Tunstall ranked 8 (exploiting my half recalled theory from a decade ago) as White came up with a very inventive way of attacking my fianchetto kings side-Qg5 and g4 which generated innumerable chances to sac on f5, g6 and f7 as well as winning my queen with tactical Ne8+ and Nf5+ ideas).

Having to defend very accurately for some 12-15 moves was no fun but all points were held successfully aka Sultan Khan style. When the storm finally broke with a sac on f7 my defences just held to retain the extra piece. However it was not easy at all to activate the knights and I chose to return some booty (a rook for knight to have 2Kts for a rook). Sadly with each player running out of time (interestingly with me a few minutes to the advantage!) it was noted by both players that White could just contain the two knight by repeatedly attacking two weak pawns leaving the knights inactive and simply  holding the kings defence together. A draw was thus agreed.

So my first otb game a day tournament since 1984 , ranked 20th and finishing equal 23. Passable I guess except for missing wins against the players ranked 2 and 6.

btw Mark needs to be more schoolmasterly in dealing with these near IM children he has had to play-he will then show his true strength and win some more games."

If anyone can explain the Sultan Khan reference to me next week at the Royal Oak, I would be much obliged.

Finally, with the U180 championship having finished yesterday, I found myself slightly bereft with only one game to play. I decided I would rather like a day off without having to put in too much effort so decided to play my pet favourite, the Balogh Defence (1. e4 d4 2. d4 f5), which duly brought me the standard draw, without too many alarms to concern myself with.

Today's game from the championship will be another that ended in a swift mating attack. I found this one interesting because, after a short tactical flurry in the opening, it appeared to settle down into a position with not too much going on for either side. I was therefore rather surprised, when I came back 15 minutes or so afterwards, to find the game had ended in checkmate. A salutary lesson about the dangers of moving too many pieces away from the defence of one's king.

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 33/68

My personal performance:
Played: 22
Wins: 10
Losses: 8
Draws: 4
Well played endgames: 7
Atrocious blunders: 5

British Championship Update - Day Seven

I think it is fair to say that this was not the strongest day Kenilworth has had in the tournament thus far. It began with Paul, who had a rematch with FM James Jackson, who he beat in the Leamington League this past season. However, in that game Paul had white, whilst in this he found himself on the defensive early on with black, with a space disadvantage and his opponent having the bishop pair. I think it has been commented on before that Paul is not someone who likes defending for a long time and will often lash out, sometimes unsoundly, to try and complicate matters rather than attempt to hold a difficult endgame. Already in this tournament he has a couple of times offered unsound piece sacrifices close to the time control, which he has got away with as his opponents haven't been able find the refutation in the times available. He tried the same again this game, sacrificing a piece on move 38 (the time control is move 40) but on this occasion the extra class of his opponent was evident, as he simply collected the piece, dispelled the small amount of initiative it gave Paul, and collected the full point.

I also have a comment from Mark on his game today: "I was +6 today and lost. I hate chess." Whilst not necessarily all that informative about the game, I believe it probably captures the emotions all of us have felt over time rather well. In brief, Mark got a small advantage out of the opening (an exchange French, with him playing white), and sacrificed a piece for a dangerous attack around move 20. The important thing to note is that at this point both players had around 5 minutes (plus the 30 second increment) for the remaining 20 moves. Whilst it is sometimes stated that short on time it is better to be the player attacking, I have found this often isn't the case in practice. Unless you have direct tactical threats, once you have sacrificed material it is often necessary to be very precise for the next few moves to not let the initiative dissipate. Sadly, in this game, once the time control was reached, Mark had gone from a piece down with lots of play to just a piece down. with nothing left to be done to avoid defeat.

My game in the morning provided the only win for a Kenilworth player today, as I grabbed an exchange early on in a French defence, then grimly hung on for the next 40 moves as my opponent went on the attack. I was eventually able to escape from the pressure by returning the exchange, and ended up a pawn up in a rook endgame. Whilst I am reasonably confident that it should have been drawn in theory, my opponent didn't seem to know the appropriate technique and hence I was able to pick up the full point without much difficulty. The afternoon provided almost the exact reverse; as this time it was my turn to sacrifice in the opening (a pawn in the Caro-Kann) but, despite having pressure on my opponents king the whole game, there was no way through and this time I found myself a pawn down in an endgame, and this time it definitely was lost. I think the lesson to learn, from Mark's game and both of mine, is that one should never sacrifice material, as it doesn't end well.Finally, on to the over 65s, and Bernard had a very exciting game, with both players attacking on opposite sides of the boards, and pieces ending up on a variety of eccentric squares (a black bishop spent a lot of the game mysteriously on f7. It was the sort of game that was never likely to end in a draw, but unfortunately it was Bernard who came off worse in the ensuing tactical complications.

Today's report from our field correspondent (Mike) on his own game goes as follows: "Today's Rd5 game was far more interesting. I played a more flexible idea in a line (where Black plays d6/e5 v Nf3/d4) compared to a well published game of mine from the finals of the British corr ch 1991! (which was published in Chess and at least 3 other mags and in all the databases etc). This generated a queen-side attack (that seems more promising on first look than some very stodgy GM games in this opening) which led to great pressure on the pawn on a7 and domination of the c-file (which allowed me to offer a queen to mate on the back rank-however my opponent declined it and came up with a excellent defensive idea that held on and on over 20 moves of pressure. The game finally liquidated in a curious R+P ending in which each player had a guarded passes pawn but neither player could advance so the point was shared (even though I had 12 minutes advantage on the clock in the final time slot!)"

If I've said it once (and I'm not sure I actually have) I've said it a thousand times; if you play Nf3 and d4 as the first two moves, you have been sufficiently unadventurous that a draw is all you deserve. Overall, not the most successful day from our collection of players, and we clearly need to buck our ideas up if we are going to reach our target score of 50% for the club.

I think the biggest story from the main Championship so far is the success of a couple of junior players, 11 year old Alex Golding and 14 year old Akshaya Kalaiyalahan, both on 3.5/5 after victories over much higher rated opposition in round 5. They certainly seem like promising prospects for the future, which is good news as England doesn't appear to be overstocked with talented youngsters at the moment. The game I will publish however, is the entertaining 16 move win by WIM Sabrina Chevannes, clearly adopting the Swiss gambit, losing her first three games but now coming back with two successive victories. The Caro-Kann isn't normally an opening you associate with quick wins for black, but on this occasion white goes horribly wrong with 14. Ng3, and blunders straight into mate.

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 29.5/63

My personal performance:
Played: 21
Wins: 10
Losses: 8
Draws: 3
Well played endgames: 6
Atrocious blunders: 5

Friday, 31 July 2015

British Championship Update - Day Six

Paul decided to submit his entry for weirdest game played in the tournament today. It was so long and eccentric that it would take far too long to describe in detail (I've also forgotten a lot of what happened). However, in brief, an aggressive opening was played by both players, with Paul attacking on the kingside and his opponent the queenside. After a flurry of tactics, with miscalculations on both sides, an unusual material imbalance was reached with Paul having a queen and a passed pawn on the seventh rank, and his opponent two rooks and a knight. The material was, unfortunately, not in Paul's favour, and even after a clever queen sacrifice to allow his pawn to promote (regaining the queen again) he has still in trouble. However, he maintained a number of threats and the path to victory for his opponent was long and required considerable precision. Fortunately for us, he was not up to the task and Paul was eventually able to regain his piece, leading to a drawn two rooks versus queen endgame.

For Mark, on the other hand, sadly things did not go so well. It all appeared to go somewhat wrong straight out of the opening, which his opponent getting a nice space advantage and good piece activity. Mark tried to unbalance the position, and ended up with a rook and pawn versus two minor pieces. Normally, with the queens exchanged, this offers good chances for the rook to hold a draw. However, his opponent also had a passed pawn, and this almost inevitably spells doom for the rook's efforts. The basic problem is that because your opponent has one more piece, he can break any blockade simply by defending the pawn from the rook with one piece, and using the other to cover the next square of its advance. The strength of the rook lies in its greater maneuverability versus the knight and bishop, and reduced to passive defence this advantage is lost, and Mark was slowly pushed to defeat.

For myself, my morning game provided a very easy victory as my opponent, after playing the Hungarian defence (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Be7), made a real mess of the opening from which he could not recover. After little more than 20 moves, he was down two pawns in and endgame, and a simply victory duly followed. The afternoon provided much more enjoyment, as I found myself on the white side of a sharp Benoni position. It looked like a standard line of the modern Benoni, except my opponent played Be7-f6 rather than g6-Bg7. This took away the f6 square from one of his knights, but also meant he had no weaknesses on the kingside for me to attack. After an interesting positional struggle, we arrived at an endgame where I had a queen and two bishops versus a queen, bishop and knight. I assumed I must be slightly better in this position, an assessment which the computer agrees with, but with us both short on time I got rather scared looking at all the possible knight forks in the position, so decided the cowardly approach of agreeing to a draw was best.

In the over 65s, Bernard seemed to have a reasonably solid game with white on board 3 and, whilst both players made efforts to attack, the fact they both had exposed kings made a draw always seem the likely result, as the weaker side always had good chances of forcing a perpetual check. I don't know if this is ultimately what happened, but I do know this was the final result. Sadly I don't have any comments from Mike to report on his game today, but I do know that he left complaining to me that his opponent knew the line he played up to move 20. I can only suggested he moves into the realm of more imaginative openings that many Kenilworth players enjoy, as I can assure him that no-one knows the theory up to move 20 in any game I have ever played (though I did get to move 15 in one of my games today, which made me quite proud).

Finally, as promised, we will have some action from the main championship. Simon Williams has always been known as a creative player who can beat very strong grandmasters on a good today. Sadly, he can also suffer some very painful losses when out of form, and so it proved today against David Howell. Here, a tactical attempt to win material in the opening badly backfires, and the game is effectively over after 20 moves, as Howell simply hoovers up all the pieces on offer, with his king never coming under serious threat.

Summary thus far:
Total score by Kenilworth players: 28/57

My personal performance:
Played: 19
Wins: 9
Losses: 7
Draws: 3
Well played endgames: 5
Atrocious blunders: 5