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!