Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Kenilworth Miss Out On Christmas Number 1 Spot - Twice In One Evening!

Our pre-Xmas Division 1 shoot out with Olton A unfortunately ended with Kenilworth A on the floor. Our title challenge is hardly dead and buried, but this  reverse has clearly put us on the back foot for the second half of the season. A win would have seen us clear at the top of the table, but the 2.5-1.5 loss means we lie third behind surprise leaders Shirley, while Olton and ourselves are one point behind, but with Olton having a game in hand.

The evening started with Carl playing the very dangerous Delayed M40 Gambit - dangerous for him and his team mates that is! Thankfully, though, the traffic cleared and he eventually arrived just before 8.00 and proceeded to blitz his way to a draw with the black pieces against Mark Cundy. His queen side pawns got rather mangled, but they quickly straightened themselves out and some active pieces easily made up for a slight structural disadvantage.

I was next to finish with another draw on Board 3 against Marco Ho, a new recruit for Olton this season. I played the Morra Gambit for the fist time ever, and after an opening inaccuracy by each side, I recovered my sacrificed pawn with a very promising position. However, at the crucial juncture I adopted the wrong plan and ended up exchanging the wrong bishop and my advantage disappeared. In time trouble I found a combo to reach a rook and opposite bishop ending where I hoped I might have a decisive attack against Black's f7 pawn, but Marco found the right defence and it was just a draw.

I missed much of the Board 2 game between Alan Lloyd and Andrew P, but Leamington League regulars will not be surprised to learn that the game started with the move 1 c4. Andrew found an amazing manoeuvre in the opening, which ended with his dark squared bishop on b8 - but behind a pawn on c7! It either reached that square via a7 or he played a "Phil" - ie an illegal move unnoticed by either player, named in honour of the game Graff v Wood from a few seasons back! We may have had some advantage in the middle game, but when I next looked it was rook and pawn v rook and pawn and a dead drawn position. If either pawn fell off it was still drawn, so the fact that quite a few moves occurred before the players shook hands speaks volumes for their fighting spirit!

And so it all came down to the top board game between Paul and Phil Holt, which is one of the League's classic high level match ups. I do not feel qualified to comment, especially as I saw virtually nothing of the game, but regrettably Paul was a piece for a pawn down when I checked after the time control.  Not long after, Phil cleverly constructed a mating net and it was game over. Afterwards, the two players voiced diametrically opposite assessments of the early middle game position, but the one unarguable fact was that Olton A had won by 2.5-1.5.

Just as at Solihull a couple of weeks ago, our C team were also in action alongside us last night - in what was another top of the table clash. A win would have seen our plucky band of over-achievers in first place at the Christmas break, but Olton B - with the same players that used to secure top half placings in the First Division a couple of years ago - had too much firepower and secured a 3-1 win. There were good draws against much higher rated opponents for Nick M and Rod, but the match was decided by losses for Nick F and Roy on top and bottom boards.  As we always suspected, any promotion challenge this season will have to be mounted by the B team, but our C team boys have nevertheless put up an excellent showing in the first half of the season.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Well who would have thought it...

On Tuesday we managed to secure our first win in the Coventry League Divisional Cup, after two previous outings that we try not to talk about.

Inspired captaincy played its part. I dropped myself....

The logic being that we had a five man squad and are rotating and I was in London in the day. Fair to say my other half was still fairly astonished, but it seemed to do the trick!

Thanks to Dave who was captain on the night for sending me some notes.

News travels fast in this League. Just as Rugby must have guessed that Roy Watson was our Board 4 a couple of weeks ago and therefore resolved not to take him on, Nuneaton similarly capitulated. Mark - any chance of posting more pictures of the rest of us hanging out with Super GMs? The fear Roy is inspiring in opponents is starting to get out of hand and it might be that after Christmas we need to get him either another name or a disguise, to ensure he actually gets a game...

Still we took this Christmas gift and a 1 - 0 lead with glee. Well done Roy. If only the games where you play some moves could be as successful.

On Board 3 Mr Kearney seemed to also be in the Christmas spirit against Dave. As Dave described it, Kearney played an unambitious queens pawn opening which left him with a very passive position. When he overlooked a pin and lost a piece on move 24, he resigned. Mike then roared backed to winning ways on Board 2 against Anthony Green. Dave said "Mike's queens pawn opening left him completely in control of the middle game. Both sides had castled on opposite wings but it seemed that it was only Mike that was attacking. When finally an ending was reached, white was completely dominant and black resigned without even trying to play it."

Dave awarded Carl the "unluckiest player of the evening award." Playing the very highly rated P Briggs, Dave said of Carl's game "following the conclusions of an irregular opening, black's position was cramped but playable. However white was playing so slowly that he was 40 mins behind on the clock. In fairness to the Nuneaton player, he played quite well to play his remaining 15 moves and keep hold of the middle game. The ending that was reached left white with an isolated queen side majority which he was able to capitalise upon."

So some real Christmas cheer! Matching the dizzy heights of our Leamington form still remains some way off - but at last some points on the Board in this one....

I rotate back into the team next time out. But Coventry A - if you are reading be under no illusions. Roy is playing too!

Happy Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Seasonal Sighting of Elusive & Legendary Figure

As with many of us, at Christmas my thoughts turn to that possibly imaginary, jolly, old chap who makes an annual appearance to bring joy and wonder into our lives. No, not Santa, I'm talking about Andy Baruch. And he chose last night to make that appearance at the Abbey Club for our league match against Banbury A. He very nearly came bearing gifts as well since, on Board 1, he played the opening against Paul Rowan rather unsoundly. However, a big miscalculation cost White a whole rook, and his passed pawn on d7 proved inadequate compensation - especially when it promptly dropped off. So 1-0 to us.

Quite out of character, I was the next to finish with another black piece victory for us on Board 3. I tried a probably unsound variation against Chris Evans, but he didn't know the critical line. Instead we swiftly reached an amazing position after 12 moves where I had six pawns left which were all on the third rank, and six pieces left which were all on their starting squares on the back rank. And 8 completely empty squares on my second rank! Still, I had an extra pawn and despite my next 5 moves being four with pawns and one with my king, I won a piece. After an exchange sac Chris resigned just before I could mate his king on b3. Neither of the white rooks made a single move, and neither did my king's bishop. No everyday game!

I rather lost track of the other two games, but not long afterwards Andrew secured the win for us by beating Dan Rowan on Board 2 - his first ever win against the Rowan clan after far too many losses and a solitary draw earlier this season. This turned out to be the only game of the evening where White even avoided defeat, as Carl then paid the penalty for apparently pushing too hard against Nathan Manley on Board 4, and ended up first in a lost rook ending, and then soon after in a lost pawn ending. Luckily, though, this only counted 1-0 for Banbury.

So, very surprisingly, Banbury A remain pointless this season, despite having in James Jackson, the league's highest rated player by a considerable margin. But they seemingly have even more difficulty getting him to the board than we do with Messrs Baruch and Lam! The 3-1 win has taken us to the top of the table, but whether we stay there over the Xmas break will depend on how we get on in our game next week with Olton who - as ever - are challenging for first place.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Eight Good Men And True

It was almost like a Kenilworth club night at Solihull on Wednesday evening, with our A and C teams both in action against their exact Solihull counterparts. The evening ended with a slight advantage to Kenilworth - though probably not in the way that might have been expected.

The Solihull A v Kenilworth A encounters last season were real heavyweight matches. In our home game against them, for example, I played Ray Carpenter on Board 4, whereas last night we faced each other again on Board 2. From which you can surmise that both teams are struggling to get their strongest players to the board on a regular basis. But it was a very hard fought match, nonetheless.

Ben got us on the scoreboard by drawing with Black on Board 4. Neil Clarke started with a very conservative queen's pawn opening (2 e3 and 3 Bd3) but it got a bit livelier when Ben opened up the centre with a c5 break. On my rare sightings of the game it looked dynamic and unbalanced to me, so it was quite a surprise when it ended up as a relatively early draw.

Then things took a turn for the worse. On Board 1, Andrew - defending his 100% league record this season - found himself playing Solihull's temporary German visitor, Simon Kreuger. I suppose that if he had to see his record end, it was appropriate that he should be downed by a clever zwischenzug. This forced him into the loss of the exchange and then in zeitnot he lost more material. Regrettably, though, zugzwang never came into it. And so it transpires that chess is not that dissimilar to football - only here you play 3 hours and then the Germans win.

Shortly afterwards, Bernard's game on Board 3 against Paul Roper ended in a draw. He voluntarily took on doubled isolated f pawns out of the opening, but had some queen side initiative and some sensitive squares to aim at. Even though the game took place a matter of inches away from me, I then lost sight of it for about an hour, so whether we should be happy or sad at the peaceful outcome I've got no idea!

Which left me in play on Board 2. It was a very tense and complex game, arising from a 3Qxd4 Sicilian - Paul's old favourite! I got the two bishops, but White started pressing on the king side, and it looked quite threatening. But I actually defended well, and managed to get a very slight edge. Then all hell broke loose. Both of us got into terrible time trouble - I had 15 moves to make in 2 minutes, and then  about 10 in 50 seconds, and Ray's clock situation was not much better. Suddenly I was completely winning as his king side attack ground to a halt. But with micro seconds remaining, and both of us moving instantly, I made two horrendous blunders - either of which should have lost on the spot. Fortunately, Ray missed them both and we continued to bash out the moves until I noticed that his time had elapsed. We recreated the game, but he was well past 35 moves so there was no loss on time. I had repeated moves twice to make sure I got to the time control, so as the smoke cleared, Ray optimistically offered me a draw. I couldn't accept because we would have lost the match, but I had also noticed that the time scramble had left me two pawns up in a queen ending. It was quite easy to avoid any perpetual check and sprint my h pawn down the board to force the win, and secure a rather dramatic drawn match. A bit lucky for us, maybe, as it could certainly have ended up as a loss.

We stay third behind Olton and surprise packet Shirley, while Solihull are slightly off the pace in the defence of their title.

And so to the C team, who picked up an excellent 2.5-1.5 win against second placed Solihull C, and in so doing catapulted themselves - improbably - to the top of the table, where they now lead from our B team!

Heroes of the night were Nick F and - believe it or not - Roy, who scored wins on Boards 1 and 4 respectively. Nick F continued his tremendous OTB debut season by outplaying Dave Cheshire, who I recall giving Joshua a right going over in an A team game a couple of seasons ago. He made a (very) long term exchange sac in the opening to keep the Black king in the middle of the board and developed his remaining pieces very actively, chasing the Black queen around. An excellent scalp eventually ensued. Roy made light of a good few rating points disadvantage - and a rotten opening - against John Green to pick up our second win, and while Mike J went down to Nigel Byrne on Board 3, Nick M won the match by drawing from a pawn down against Geoff Stokes. So a great success for our adoption of, if anyone remembers him, the Jim Davidson strategy on boards 1 and 2 - Nick-Nick! Its the way I tell 'em.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

A game of four halves

In recent match reports I have managed to incorrectly spell the word brewery whilst describing an individual game that I turned up at the wrong venue for; and followed this up in the next one by forgetting which team I represented whilst describing a game that I lost. (Thank goodness you can re-edit!) At least my result was a little better last night, even if Mark is doubtless scanning these words with a degree of trepidation...

So, it was the last B team game of 2016 and we were at home to Olton B. Mike Johnson went through the usual agonies re team selection, which following a lot of deliberation no doubt, ended with the same four being sent out to do battle as in every other match. So it was that Graff, Donnelly, Wood and Shurrock set out to try and preserve our position at the top of the table.

Having built the suspense up nicely, I have to say that this was about as exciting as it got. My game with Gary Hope fizzled out quickly and Mike's game with Robert Wallman did likewise. Many thanks to Mike for turning out whilst juggling a lot of other things - it did make a difference. Phil's game against Richard Reynolds and Dave's against Andrew Cottom both looked to be in drawish endgames too, by the time the top Boards were done. Maybe something dramatic happened after I left, but I wasn't remotely surprised to see this morning that they'd both also ended in draws.

So, one point for us rather than two. But that's enough to leave us outright top, one point ahead of our own C team and Solihull C (who have a game in hand.) We've really ground out the victories in the first part of the season, with 2.5 - 1.5 results against Kenilworth C and Daventry A, with a 3-1 against Solihull C to add to the draw last night and a narrow defeat to Shirley.

So all to play for in the New Year! 2016 has seen Leicester City, Brexit and Donald Trump. Who knows, perhaps the story of 2017 will be the B team in Division 1!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Film '16

Hard on the heels of my strange discovery that a KCC player can be found amongst the exquisite wood carvings of Leon Cathedral (see post of Aug 23, 2016), comes overwhelming evidence that our illustrious membership has now invaded the altogether more modern world of moving pictures.

If you don't believe me, then just take a look at the current list of the top grossing films at UK cinema box offices. (Here for example.)  There in position number 10, you'll find a film called "Paterson", which is obviously the bio-pic of our very own Andrew Paterson - it must be about him, as no-one else spells their name that way! The title role is apparently played by Adam Driver, who I have to admit I've never heard of. I only hope he has done our man justice.

And that is far from the end of the matter. One place lower at No 11, is "The Accountant", which I guess is a fly on the wall documentary following the thrilling, day to day work of our leading non-player, Bernard Rogers. I imagine the scenes where he considers whether a client's employee incentive scheme qualifies for Section 23 relief are especially enthralling. Though I gather that most of the screen-time is taken up by "business" lunches.

Then cast your eye a bit higher up the list to the film at No 7 - the intriguingly titled "Doctor Strange". Fear of libel laws prevents me going into too many details, but could it be that the film's release and the recent retirement from the medical profession of our own Doctor Nick are not entirely unconnected?!

Balderdash, I hear you say. These films are nothing to do with KCC members, however appropriate the titles are. And I have to concede, you may be right. Maybe it's all a mere whimsical flight of fancy on my part. But I defy any of you who have seen pictures of him wearing his Father Christmas costume back to front at the Coventry Chess Academy Xmas party, to tell me that the film at Number 4 in the list, "Bad Santa 2", isn't based on our very own Roy Watson! Good grief, he even comes from somewhere up near the North Pole.

So this is spooky - 4 of the top films of the moment have a strange resonance with our members. I reckon this is way beyond any statistical likelihood, and that if we dig a little deeper, we'll find that each of us has a film title alter ego somewhere. Leaving aside the gratuitously insulting ("The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" anyone?) as being too obvious, I instantly thought of the 2003 comedy "Bruce Almighty" and the 1986 Brat Pack comedy "Pretty in Pink" to further prove my point. And going back even further, how about the classic musical, "The King and I"?

But strangely, I haven't been able to find a suitable film for myself. I would ask for suggestions, but I'm not sure I'd like the results. Anyway, time for me to open a bag of popcorn, settle down in a comfy chair, and watch a TV re-run of "The Stud". Hang on a moment - there is a film title for me after all!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Date For Your 2017 Diaries

The dates for the 2017 edition of the Warwickshire Open weekend tournament have been announced, and this excellent event - run by ex-KCC member Ed Goodwin - will be held on February 25th/26th. Venue, as last year, will be Coventry Rugby Club in The Butts, Coventry, CV1 3GE. There are 4 sections, so there is a tournament for everyone, no matter what your playing strength:-

Under 170
Under 145
Under 120

In last year's event I had the misfortune to lose gruesomely to Bernard C, of all people. In fact, given his recent form, that might well have been the last game he won! I blame the loss on the fact that he only lives about 3 minutes walk from the tournament venue, so he obviously had home advantage.

Full details and an on-line entry facility can be found on the Warwickshire Chess Association website here.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A bitter night...

We were at home to Rugby last night, in the Coventry League Divisional Cup, on the coldest night of the year so far. Sadly, our Chess ended up doing little to warm the heart.

Things started strangely when Rugby told us at 6.45 that they were a player short. My attempts to let Roy know this failed and he was of course the first person to turn up at the Club. He was very gracious about no longer having a game, so thanks Roy for that... All jokes re previous questions on his reliability should now cease... (Albeit Roy, just a gentle reminder that the next Cup game is on the 13th.)

Hence we started 1 - 0 up and whilst we were a little out-graded (I think) it wasn't by much. For a large chunk of the evening things looked good, unfortunately just not the last bit. Mike was the first to finish on Board two. A typical Mike game against Simon Turner. Kings castled on opposite sides of the Board and Mike all guns blazing on the king side. Certainly Mike looked to have all the chances, but Simon defended well and Mike became the first Kenilworth player to a thousand draws in the season (or some such.) Again a case of so close, but no cigar...

My game against James Kearney wasn't great. Quite quiet, with the Queens off early for the second night in a row for me. James burned through his time, but managed to make incremental improvements. I misjudged where he was likely to place his Bishop and ended up in a very difficult position. We ended up in an ending with him having Rook, Bishop and Pawns vs my Rook and more pawns. I did get quite a bit of play, but the end was sadly inevitable...

This left Dave, who is definitely this seasons points machine, but sadly it wasn't his night either. Dave looked to me to be better throughout, but it ended up wildly complicated, with both Dave and Patrick Reid very short of time. Dave swapped Rooks when perhaps there was a tactical shot on, but even from the comfort of the sidelines I wasn't 100% sure and it was very tricky. However, after the exchange of Rooks, Patrick's Knight became the dominant piece and Dave's position became untenable. Dave definitely deserved more, but of course has got more for us on many occasions this season.

So we lost 1.5 - 2.5 for our second successive defeat in this competition. Dave's the captain the next time we play in this and Carl will be back - I'm sure it's just a matter of time until we get things moving!

I did also reflect on Leamington v Coventry League this season. Kenilworth A are second in Division 1 and the B and C teams are joint top of Division 2. Great stuff and we just need to find a way to capture a fraction of this form when on Coventry duty!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Seeing Double

After a prolonged hibernation due to the vagaries of the fixture list, the A team sprang back into Leamington League action last night with a tricky match against a rather useful Solihull B. Our top two players were, Achilles-like, resting in their tents, and so squad depth was once more put to the test. Happily, we sailed through with flying colours, notching up a very impressive 3.5-0.5 win.

After the first few moves I thought my new glasses had developed a fault and I was seeing double - our two White players had chosen the same variation against the French, and our two Black players had chosen the same variation of .... another opening. (We don't need to give too much information away, do we?) Apparently, we have now adopted team openings! Naturally, though, any similarities didn't last very long.

Ben was first to finish (at 8.20!) with a rapid and very boring draw on Board 4 against Julian Summerfield. Clearly the players had taken their cue from the equally turgid 12th game between Carlsen and Karjakin being played simultaneously. Or else Ben had a very pressing engagement!

But then the real excitement started. Andrew played a splendid game with the black pieces against Tom Thorpe on Board 1. He found a long combination which first won an exchange for a pawn, but subsequently appeared to lose at least another pawn. However, he had seen it all coming, and he promptly delivered a mating attack to force an early resignation!

I was generally in control on Board 2 against Neil Clarke, apart from one slightly dodgy moment when he could have sacked a piece for a couple of pawns to mess things up and generate some play. Missing that chance, I forced the win of the exchange, and then set up a decisive attack with two rooks and a bishop that was about to win more material or deliver mate when he resigned.

Which left Carl in play on Board 3 against Tony Sadler. Although I was sat next to this game, I could hardly bear to look for most of the evening. Tony threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Carl's king, and at one point was two pieces down but with horrendous threats down the h file. I feared for Carl's chances but somehow he kept avoiding mate and when I next checked the position had resolved itself into two rooks for white against Carl's rook, bishop and three pawns. As 2 of them were connected, it looked like a clear win for Carl - until he simply put one of them en prise. All Tony then had to do was give back the exchange to eliminate Carl's g pawn, and leave a totally drawn R&P v R position where his king was right in front of Carl's last pawn. But he missed his chance, and making the most of this reprieve, Carl got his g pawn to g3 where finally Tony gave back the exchange to eliminate it. But his king had strayed to the f file by this time and Carl's c pawn looked likely to win the day. Instead of which Tony made things much simpler and blundered into mate as the clock ticked down. Epic stuff! And much more exciting than the World Championship!!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Exchange Rate Crisis

On a night when there were more Sicilians in a single room than at any time since the making of the Godfather films, Kenilworth somehow only managed a 2-2 Cov League draw against bottom placed Coventry A. This was all due to the fact that it is clearly not only the pound which has collapsed since the Brexit vote - an exchange is also now not worth what it once was.

But I am ahead of myself, because firstly, congratulations have to go to Dave, who scored an excellent win on Board 4 with the Black pieces, playing a model Sicilian in which White pushed and pushed until the point where Black jumped out and took over all the good squares and files freed up by White's pawn advances. So a second consecutive win for Dave, who takes over as our top performer for the season.

Regrettably this was due to the fact that I lost for the second game in a row, with White, to a lower graded player. How I pine for those early season matches, when I was unbeaten and the team were getting soundly thrashed. Or does that sound too egocentric? Dave Ireland administered my latest beating, navigating through a sea of complications to exploit an extra pawn.

And now we return to the exchange rate crisis. Ben was an exchange up against our very own Bernard C on Board 2, and seemed to be winning, while Mike was an exchange up against Ed Goodwin on Board 3 and had a massive passed (and extra) c pawn to boot. Looked like 2-0 to us on those boards and a comfortable match victory. But incredibly the Coventry players hung in there and took their chances when they came along to emerge with 2 draws. So not only did we have to settle for a draw, but I had the added guilt of being responsible for us not winning. I guess this is what is known as a double whammy.

Anyway, that's it for League action for a few weeks, but we go into the mid-season break in sixth position with just 3 points. Thankfully that is two more than Coventry have. My New Year's resolution is to try and lose less often. This may be easier said than done.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Ben is Back!

The good news from Division 1 of the Coventry League is that last season's sex- I mean points - machine and Clubman of the Year, Ben Graff was right back to his best on Tuesday night in our away match against Nuneaton A. After a difficult start to the campaign, he showed great "bouncebackability" (courtesy of Iain Dowie) to chalk up an excellent win against Colin Green. He first won a pawn and then traded down to a queen ending. Colin gave up a second pawn to maximise his chances of perpetual check, but Ben kept his cool, avoided all the tricks and shepherded his c pawn all the way down the board to queen.

The bad news is that by this stage we had already lost the match. I went down in flames on Board 1 against our very own Player of the Year, Andrew Paterson, who put aside any sense of club loyalty by absolutely crushing me with the black pieces in 26 moves. The moral of this tale is don't just play the same moves you know in one opening variation when you are actually playing a completely different variation. I really should know that - the clue is in the word different after all. Anyway, so much for my unbeaten start to the season.

Carl was suffering against Maurice Staples on Board 2, having voluntarily taken on doubled f pawns on move 3. By way of chess justice, White's 4 v 3 majority on the queenside eventually yielded up a passed pawn, but Carls' self-compromised 4 kingside pawns couldn't follow suit until it was way too late. A White c pawn yomped down the board and won the Black rook.

Which meant that we needed Mike to win on Board 4 to draw the match. His opponent started 1 a3, which is not the most respectful of opening moves. It transposed to a London System, where White castled queenside, and eventually felt obliged to justify his first move by following up with b4 which was not a good idea. With the White king looking very draughty, we had every reason to hope for a Black win, but unfortunately it didn't come, as after White snatched a red hot pawn on d5 in mutual time trouble, Mike offered a draw. White accepted and Nuneaton won by 2.5-1.5.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Something to do with a Brewery?

Now that got your attention!

I was scheduled to play Steve Rumsby on Monday in the individual open rapid KO and I can honestly say that the Chess was completely faultless. So why not publish these masterpieces I hear you say...

Well unfortunately no moves were actually played. My first hint that something might be wrong came when I entered Banbury's RAF venue to a startled look from the regulars (both of them) who told me Banbury didn't play on a Monday. Albeit, individual games did sometimes take place, so surely things were OK.

However, time ticked on and no sign of Steve. I phoned his house. His wife answered. He'd set off for a match. Praise be! Unfortunately, he'd headed to Kenilworth... I rang the Abbey Club and we had a nice chat.

Sadly, in all of our emails arranging the match, which had led to us being completely aligned on the date and start time, neither of us had ever mentioned the venue...

Just the sort of organizational capacity you'd hope for from the League Chairman and Fixtures Secretary...

I fear our re-arranged match will be less faultless in terms of the actual Chess. But I'm hopeful we'll manage to be in the same county and some moves might get played!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Can you see the similarity?

You would be amazed how often people mention to me the similarities they see between the Manchester United team of the late 1990s and Kenilworth B. Ok - strictly speaking you wouldn't be - as this has never actually happened, but stick with me as I explain...

After three September matches had left us top of Division 2, we then had six weeks without a game. Just as Manchester United once skipped the FA cup to play in the world club championship, leaving whilst top of the Premier League and returning many weeks later to find they were still top, Kenilworth B found themselves in a remarkably similar position. Of course where as Manchester United had been sunning themselves in Brazil, we had been spending up our time racking up an inordinate number of losses in the Coventry League (especially me.) But no matter, we were still top of the League despite our long lay off, as we headed to Daventry last night to play their A team.

No team bus, no throng of autograph hunters on our arrival. Just the usual bitterly cold November night and some vague musing as to where best to park. Once through this, we settled down and ground our way to victory!

Mike drew with Kevin Bowman on 2. It looked quite interesting to me. [Mark might have had a different view.] Phil seemed to go from even against Abbie Stevens into a superior endgame which he won very comfortably. Dave definitely cementing his man of the match/ player of the week status won comfortably against Alan Ely for his second victory in successive nights. Go Dave!

So we were 2.5 - 0.5 up, which just left it for me to fail to make the same escape from "ground hog" day that the Coventry League team had made the previous day. My game against Stephen Willetts followed a pretty familiar pattern for me of late. It was very long (well over 100 moves, I'd lost track by the end and we were both down to a minute or two each on the clock.) It was very complex and exciting, with me on the defensive for a lot of it. Ultimately we got down to Queen, Bishop and three (Steve) vs Queen and 5 (me), but in the flurry at the end I missed the best defence and extended my recent run... To be fair, Steve's last grade was 176 and I didn't play badly. As we all know Chess is great when you win and painful when you don't, but there's always another game!

Most importantly the Manchester United esq/ Kenilworth B march on! Albeit, the speculation that Roy Watson is doubling as a super agent and is poised to make Anish Giri our next signing (doubtless to replace the current misfiring Board 1!) remain unfounded. (At least I hope so...)

So not the best night for me personally, but a great one for the team and we move on... We were close to promotion last year and we are really giving this a great shot!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Escape From Groundhog Day

After the first three Coventry League fixtures of the season things looked pretty bleak for our plucky squad. Three matches and three defeats. Three defeats by 3.5-0.5, in fact. Three defeats by 3.5-0.5, with just a solitary draw on Board 1, actually. In each and every match. We badly needed to escape from this recurring nightmare. Thankfully, just like in our debut season last year, Nuneaton B came to our rescue!

Not that it was easy. They (slightly) outgraded us on every board for a start, and they came in to the match with a 100% league record from their first two fixtures. But even so, it was such a relief to be in a reasonably balanced encounter and not to be facing one of the University juggernauts.

Mike D was first to finish on Board 3, readily holding a draw with Black against Dave Kearney. It was a strange sort of Pirc where both sides got some good squares, but didn't seem to have any obvious ways to improve. Mike assures me it was strategically tense and subtle, and that he might have tried a promising pawn sac, but in truth it didn't score high on spectator appeal.

Carl followed soon after with a more exciting draw on Board 2 against Tony Green. A balanced middle game erupted into some nasty tactics when Tony gave up two minor pieces for a rook and two pawns. Carl's king was open, and his two bishops didn't have any good diagonals, but Tony likewise had problems getting his rooks into the White position, and a draw by repetition seemed a fair result.

Then things moved decisively in our favour. In a complex position, originally arising from an Owen's Defence - but looking for all the world like a French - Dave and Mike Maher had a complex Board 4 encounter, that I didn't see too much of. Dave was pressing against the Black king, but Mike seemed to be infiltrating down the b file to get at the White king. I have no idea who, if anyone was winning, but Mike managed to lose on time with one move to make. Dave had become the first Kenilworth player to win a Coventry League Division 1 game this season, and we were at least sure of our first match point. It just needed me not to mess up for it to become two match points.

My game had been very tense and exciting almost from the beginning. White (Phil Briggs) went for a big kingside pawn push in a Closed Sicilian and I tried to break open the centre with my own pawn advances. It was mighty difficult and I was not sure whether I was better or worse for almost the entire game. (Fritz tells me it was generally level-ish, but it was well beyond my non-silicon brain to appreciate this.) But then right before the time control I found a couple of good moves to win a pawn and break up the White pawn mass, and in hastening to win his pawn back, Phil overlooked a sneaky bishop pin, which led to a forced win of the exchange for me. I then hastened to swap the queens off and found a slow but inevitable way to win, with Rook and 4 against Bishop and 4, which secured a 3-1 victory for us.

And not only did we kick start our League points total, but we also managed to climb off the bottom of the table as Coventry A remain pointless, albeit with a game in hand on us. We would be facing a relegation 6 pointer against them in a few weeks time, if it weren't for the fact that there is no relegation!

Friday, 28 October 2016

Things You Thought You Would Never See

Just when you thought you'd seen everything ............ along comes a photo of Roy Watson (currently ranked 17th in Kenilworth Chess Club) posing with Super-GM Anish Giri (currently ranked 11th in the World). I think you can tell which is which!

Photo reproduced by kind permission of Paul Lam

Personally, I reckon Roy has every reason to look like the cat who got the cream. For some strange reason, Anish doesn't seem quite so excited.

They said it could never be done, so many congratulations to Paul for getting these two giants of the chess world into the same room.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Two out of three ain’t bad!

Kenilworth B played three Leamington and District League  games in rapid succession in September. We won two and this is my somewhat belated write up!

An all Kenilworth encounter saw us start the season against Kenilworth C and despite a near 30 point average grading difference, the match really could have gone either way. All credit to the C team for pushing us so close. Mike Donnelly and Nick Mottram had a really exciting game, in which Nick’s queen side play proved to be a fraction slower than Mike’s kingside attack. Mike created a lot of tactical threats, which Nick defended strongly but in the end Mike broke through to notch the first point. Sadly from a B team perspective, this looked like being the highlight of the evening. I thought Phil was losing. I knew I was losing. Dave’s game with Roy was unclear. When the dust settled Dave and Roy had drawn. Phil felt he tried too hard against Stuart to get a tactical idea to work and in doing so, allowed Stuart to get round the back of his pawns. It was a really difficult Rook and Pawn ending, in which Stuart played well, but Phil clung on for the draw. Which left me hanging on by the edge of a finger-tip against Rod with the match poised 2-1. I’d badly miscalculated the speed of my attack relative to his in the middle game and then made the wrong decision as to when to exchange Queen’s, my belated attempt to take the pressure off leaving me a pawn down in a Rook and Pawn ending. But Rod continued to outplay me and my King position and scope for general activity both seemed very bleak. The only thing that could possibly rescue me was the clock [as regular followers of Rod’s games will perhaps not be too shocked to hear!] With 5 moves to go before the time control, Rod was under two minutes and I offered a draw. After an agonising period of consideration (for both of us!) Rod accepted. So a half point each but very much a moral victory for him.

So the B team had scraped home 2.5 – 1.5. Underserved, but we resolved to try and do better going forward. Which of course we then completely failed to do…

Next up, we took to the road to play Shirley B. Another frustrating night, but sadly this one didn’t see the same undeserved reward for us. I outplayed Dave Thomas and was a pawn up in an endgame. Opposite coloured Bishops and his initiative convinced me it was only good for a draw, which I took. When we looked at it afterwards it was clear to both of us that I should have played on, as I certainly still had the better chances. Mike Donnelly was surprised in the opening (only subsequently finding out he was still in well-known theory) against Gordon Christie. He fell behind on the clock and blundered a piece, but then his survival instincts kicked in. The position was wildly complicated and Mike grabbed a perpetual check to draw. Only then to suffer buyer’s remorse as subsequent analysis showed that a forced mate (albeit five moves deep) had been possible. So 1 – 1. I didn’t see much of Dave’s game  against Frank, but that also ended in a draw.  Phil’s game with John Freeman was the real agony. Phil looked to be coasting to victory for most of the night, up a Rook and two pawns to a Bishop, but John found a mate in three which Phil unfortunately overlooked. We’ve all been there and it was fairly obvious it wasn’t really our night as we went down 1.5 -2.5 when on another night we might have won 3 of the games….

After this second less than convincing outing we faced Solihull C and finally showed a bit more what we could do. I played Amartya Maheshwari who through the “kitchen sink” at me. I was certainly on the defensive and down on time, but when the dust settled Amartya had created quite a lot of weaknesses in his own position which I was able to exploit to land the win. Phil had clearly shrugged off his Shirley B experience and looked in good form against John Green. He built up the pressure nicely, grabbed a pawn and landed a nice tactical blow to bring home the point. Dave was even quicker off the mark. He seemed to completely demolish his opponent. When I looked after about 20 minutes, he’d already bagged the exchange and seemed to accumulate material at a rapid clip after that, which culminated in the win. Mike and Nigel Bryne probably played the richest game of the evening. Very complex manoeuvring culminated in rival King and Queen side breaks emerging just before the time control. Deep in time trouble, Mike didn’t find the best defence and Nigel picked up a consolation point for Solihull. Still we would have taken 3 – 1 at the start of the evening.

So three matches, two wins… We would have taken that. At times we rode our luck (against Kenilworth C in particular) at other times we failed to build on our luck (against Shirley B) but against Solihull C we probably put things together best. We’re well placed points wise and we know we can play better, so lots to go for when we are next in action in November!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Good News/Bad News

We had a Leamington/Coventry League double whammy on successive nights this week, and it was very much  a case of contrasting fortunes for our plucky lads.

On Monday we chalked up a 3-1 win (not entirely convincing!) against Leamington to return to the top of the Division 1 table, in a match which showed our strength in depth. With 3 of our A team squad missing (including "the Big Two") we were lucky to have very useful substitutes in the shape of Bernard C and Ben. Ben won efficiently on Board 4, and I followed with a less efficient draw on Board 2, where I made a pig's ear of a good position - but at least this time I didn't actually contrive to lose. However, the match was very much in the balance until Andrew claimed a miraculous win on Board 1 after a massively unsound, but highly exciting and inventive, game! A major blunder that allowed forced mate decided it in his favour when he was a piece and a big passed pawn down. Phew! Bernard took this as a cue to offer a draw to wrap up the match. He had been better for most of the game but lost his extra pawn in trying to trap an errant white knight on c7, after which the position was more or less level.

It wouldn't have mattered what team we put out the following night in our Cov League match against University A, such was the blitzkrieg we encountered. As it happened, though, we were, just like the previous evening, decimated by unavailability with Carl, Ben and Dave all away. Rod and Roy manfully answered the call to arms - and walked into a monster of a match. I knew we were up against it when our opponents turned up with 5 players - what is the world coming to when a bunch of students turn out to be better organised than us?? And when the non-playing reserve turned out to be Morgan Blake, who had played Board 1 for Leamington against us the night before!!

There must be every chance that we faced the strongest team ever to play in the Coventry League. Certainly nothing comes close in recent years. On  the top 3 boards they fielded players graded 224, 217 (converted from 2332 ELO) and 215, relenting slightly with a 184 on Board 4 - albeit one who had been on Board 1 for them in the corresponding fixture last season, and who had scored 6/11 in this year's British Championships! This meant that we faced grading deficits of respectively, 37; 64; 89; and 67!! Talk about shock and awe. And there's a saying about sledgehammers and nuts that also comes to mind!

We don't need to go into the gory details, except to say that Mike D came within a whisker of a draw on Board 2, and I did indeed earn half a point on Board 1 to prevent the whitewash. I was borderline losing from the opening, but staged a fight back and was +2 around the time control before my incompetence took over and the position became equal. Still, our lads were heroes one and all for commendable bravery in the face of overwhelming enemy force!

We face the only slightly weaker Uni B team next week, which doesn't bode well after 3.5-0.5 defeats in our first two matches. Still, it's only a game. And there's no compulsory relegation in the Cov League. It would be nice to win a match, though ...... or even a game!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Damn Close Run Thing!

Prescient chap that Duke of Wellington - even if he never actually said or wrote the famous words. Far from referring to the Battle of Waterloo, I think he was actually looking forward to September 17th 2016, and our away KO Cup match against Banbury.

In this repeat of last season's final (which we won 3.5-1.5), our hosts had considerably beefed up their team with the inclusion of James Jackson on Board 1, while we fielded virtually the same side except we substituted Andy P for the inevitably absent Andy B. This meant the two teams were almost evenly matched on average grade, even though there were large discrepancies on some boards.

Carl was first to finish on Board 4. With Carl playing Black against the whirlwind Chris Evans, I was very glum when I first looked at the position. Material was dead level, but Carl's king (castled on the queenside, was under what looked like a big attack with a horrible knight fork on b6 threatened. Then I realised that it was actually Carl's move and that the dangerous knight was en prise. So, Carl was a piece up, and a few minor alarms later we had the first point in the bag. (BTW, Carl had hotfooted it to Banbury straight from work and, immaculately suited and booted, effortlessly also won the best turned out prize.)

I was engaged in a Cup Final rematch against Dan Rowan, and we played the same variation as twice before - both of which I had won. He improved on his previous play, but still the Black position was hanging by a thread as his king got stuck in the middle on an open e file. He bailed out to a double rook and bishop ending a pawn down but then blundered what we both thought was an exchange, though it wasn't. Nevertheless, his resignation was correct as he was about to lose a second, and probably third, pawn anyway. 2-0 to Kenilworth.

At this point I was pretty confident, although Board 1 was a concern, as Paul had done his usual impractical thing of spending far too much time in the opening. He emerged with an advantage, as Black's entire queenside was virtually stuck, but he then opened the game too early instead of applying a squeeze, and Black's pieces came to life as the massive clock discrepancy proved crucial. Score now 2-1 to us.

Still, I wasn't worried, as Ben seemed to be playing a good game against Gary Jackson on Board 5, and was definitely doing all the pressing. A temporary pawn sac seemed to have really clogged up Black's position and I was hopeful of a full point. But when I looked again, Ben was a pawn down in a double rook ending and although I was hoping it was still a draw, it didn't end that way, so the scores were all tied up at 2-2.

But even now, I was supremely confident. On Board 2, Andy had been well on top against Paul Rowan from just out of the opening. He grabbed the open c file, hopped in with a knight, won a pawn and penetrated to the seventh rank. The White position collapsed and further material was lost - game surely over in our favour? Not so fast! When I returned from my post-mortem a hurricane had blown through the position. Andy was queening a passed f pawn (crucially with check) but White had somehow created connected passed e and d pawns which were not only going to yield a queen, but also win a bishop. And Andy was well down on the clock. With a large crowd watching, and our man apparently completely unaware of the match situation (or the tie break rules), he reached an ending of Queen and 3 pawns against a queen and knight. Thankfully Andy had a perpetual (he so nearly had a forced win of the White queen) and now my only worry was that he'd think he needed to try to win - hardly practical with about a minute left! - but, still in blissful ignorance of the match situation, a handshake signalled the ending of hostilities and the match was tied 2.5-2.5.

I had taken the precaution of checking the rules to establish the tie break method.  If it had been Board Count, we would have lost 6-7, but - praise the LDCL Committee - it is actually Elimination, so with Banbury's win on Board 5 removed, we were the victors and we had, just, cleared the first hurdle in our defence of the Cup. And so its on to a Semi-Final at the end of January against either Leamington or Solihull.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

That's Better

Attentive readers may have noticed that there was no match report of the A team's season opening 2-2 draw with Shirley, but given my loss from a completely winning position, the more sympathetic amongst you might understand my reluctance to relive the depressing experience.  So the fact that I am now reporting on our 3-1 win away at Banbury B yesterday evening should tell you that I'm feeling a bit happier with the world.

Paul was unavailable, so Ben joined the team and the rest of us moved up a board from last week to make room for him. Our opponents were fresh from a shock 3-1 win over their own A team, and fielded a team which had a grading spread of just 6 points from top to bottom. The first thing I noticed was the bizarre happenings on Board 1, where our Player of the Year, Andrew Paterson, opened with the moves 1 c3; 2 h3 and 3 d3. Revolutionary stuff. It certainly worked, though, as by move 12 he was a clear pawn up. A bit later on this extra pawn had captured its way, from g4 via f5 and g6 to h7, and Black was so tied down by this monster that he couldn't prevent further material losses on the queenside.

I played rather more conventionally against Carl Portman, and after a serious positional error by Carl conceding his good bishop, my pawns yomped down the centre towards his king which was stranded in the middle. With Carl in serious time trouble (and boy do I mean serious!) I found a nice combo which won the exchange, and in attempting to avoid this White walked into something even worse and lost on time a couple of moves later a whole rook down.

This all came after our Carl had rather grovelled his way to a draw against Nick Martin on Board 3. He played the opening nicely against Nick's Dutch Defence, but then seemed to play without much of a plan. Nick was able to redeploy his entombed light square bishop and attack the White king with queen and rook, and I had mentally written the game off as a loss. I have no idea how it came to be agreed drawn a few moves later - even though I was sat next to the game!

The rest of us then abandoned Ben who was struggling along on Board 4 with a queen against 2 rooks. It looked bad, and he tells me he was lost at some point, but he hung in there and eventually secured a draw by perpetual - queens are quite good at doing that after all!

So an excellent, if slightly flattering, scoreline. On another day it could easily have ended 2-2. Let's hope the Chess Gods smile on us again when we have to revisit Banbury next week for a KO Cup match!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Spooky or What?

So there I was, on holiday in Spain, minding my own business, as I strolled around the stupendous Gothic Cathedral in Leon. Naturally I didn't wish to miss out on the exquisite walnut choir stalls, amongst the oldest in Spain, which were carved by Flemish artists in the 15th century. An idle glance here; an idle glance there; and then .... what on earth?! Was I seeing things?!

No I wasn't. Completely by chance, I had happened upon a carving which quite clearly bore the name of KCC's highest graded player. Not a great likeness (too much hair for a start!), but you can't have everything. Never before had I remotely considered that our very own Andy Baruch had any elements of the divine or sacred about him, but you can't argue with the evidence, can you?  I think we'll all have to look at him in a different light from now on!

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Early Season Fixture News

The 2016-17 fixture lists for the Leamington and Coventry Leagues are almost ready to be published - just one or two problematic dates still to be rearranged - and as soon as they are available I will ask Rod to post them under the respective tabs on this website. But I know that some of you are really eager to mark those early season dates into your diary right away, so here are the September matches which we can look forward to:-


A Team (Div 1)
Sep 12 - Home v Shirley A
Sep 20 - Away v Banbury B
Sep 27 - Away v Banbury (KO Cup Rd 1)

B Team (Div 2)
Sep 05 - Home v Kenilworth C
Sep 12 - Away v Shirley B
Sep 19 - Home v Solihull C

C Team (Div 2)
Sep 05 - Away v Kenilworth B

D Team (Div 4)
Sep 26 - Home v Banbury D

So busy starts for the A and B teams, and a more leisurely beginning for the C and D teams. But initially all eyes will be on the massive B v C team clash on September 5th. I can almost feel the ground shaking already!


Division 1
First match not till October 04 v Rugby A (away)

Divisional Cup
First match not till October 25 v Coventry D  (home)

And two more important pieces of information ahead of the new season:-

1) Don't forget that most KCC players will need to renew their ECF membership - you will probably get a reminder e-mail from the ECF if your membership is due to expire at the end of this month. I shall be checking renewals and will doubtless be sending my own reminders to anyone who hasn't renewed by the end of September! (At the moment, that means I will have to e-mail myself.)

2) The KCC Team Formation meeting will be taking place at the Abbey Club, on Monday, August 22nd at 7.30 pm. This is where we will be trying to sort our who is playing for which team in which league/cup this year. If you aren't going to be present that night, please let me know in advance if you have any special preferences about where/when/how often you play - otherwise we are going to assume you will have the same availability as last year - adjusted for any team or board order changes needed because of the new grades.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Leamington League Jamboree - September 6th

For those of you who don't pore over the LDCL website on a regular basis, this is a notification that this year's Jamboree will take place at 7.30 on Tuesday 6th September at the Leamington Chess Club venue, Oak House, 87 Upper Holly Walk, CV32 4JS. The Jamboree, which is traditionally the League's curtain raiser, is an easy going competition designed to blow the summer cobwebs off. Entries are £2 per person and include food.

Teams of two compete in two pools of strength over four or five rounds to determine the winners. Each team of two must have a combined grade of no more than 280.

Entries to Jason Madden, whose contact details are on the LDCL website here within the entry detailing this event.

As I am not a prospective participant in this event, I'm afraid any interested parties will need to make up their own teams. Feel free to use the comments box below to advertise your interest to other club members who might want to join in a team. Or I suppose you could simply talk to some people to unearth a team-mate. Good luck to any Kenilworth teams that enter the fray!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

New Grades - How Did You Do?!

The new ECF grades have just been published, and as these are the ones that will determine board order for the whole of next season they are quite important for everyone. Our super-efficient new webmaster has already updated the relevant page on this site (click the Players tab to discover your new grade), and now it falls to me to mark your report card, according to whether your grade went up or down:-

Top Of The Form

Ben +18
Dave +8
Stuart +7
Rod +6
Andy B +3
Steve +2
Phil +2

Could Do Better

Tony - no change
Nick - no change

See Me After Class

Mike W -1
Andrew P -2
Rajen -2
The Club Organiser -3
Mike D -4
Roy -4
Bernard C -5
Carl -6
Chris -7
Bruce -8
Paul -8
Mike J -10

So, pop-pickers, from our 21 rated players we had 7 risers and 12 fallers, with two non-movers. In total we lost 60 grading points and won 46, for a nett club loss of 14 points - an average of less than 1 point per person. Not bad, really, considering our demographic!

We now have a new club number one - move over Paul and make way for Andy, who edges him out by three points. I wonder what's put the lead back in his chess pencil?

Star man was our current Clubman of the Year, Ben Graff, who increased his grading by a massive 18 points in just 6 months. If he can repeat this for each of the next 7 grading periods he will overtake Matthew Sadler (282!!) as England's highest rated player. Go, Ben!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Game of the Month, July 2016

The more sporty of you may recall a goal scored by Mark Robins for Manchester Utd against Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup match in January 1990. It came to be known as the goal that saved Fergie's job - and we all know what happened subsequently as a result. I can't claim that July's game of the month offering had quite that much significance, but it sure as hell played a major role in shaping our debut Coventry League season.

The game was played in our very first match, away at Rugby. On Board 4, Rugby's very promising junior, Jamie Kearney, found himself up against our grizzled veteran, Roy Watson. Roy was quite heavily outgraded, and all the smart money would have been on Jamie. The smart money would indeed have won the day eventually, but not before a very exciting, and exceedingly bumpy, ride along the way. Roy repeatedly got himself a winning position, and repeatedly let it slip. Then in a final twist of fate, he blundered horrendously when up on the clock and still with an extra pawn. Tragedy. The match was drawn instead of being won, while Roy's season got off on the wrong foot - and never really recovered.

That really was one that got away. I imagine it was a case of sleepless in Fen End that night. Games like that take a lot of getting over - as we all know, only too well!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Now where was I?

Hello again folks, its the Club Organiser here again, with more news from the World Seniors Team Championships in Radebeul. As expected, the arrival of Mrs Club Organiser has impacted my blogging opportunities over the last couple of days, but now I can catch up on the last three rounds.

We duly drew our Rd 5 match against Thüringen, with our rampant GM, Jim Plaskett scoring our only win against GM Peter Enders. I sat out our Round 6 encounter against Leipzig, but the team did the necessary as wins on Boards 1 and 2 were enough to see us home 2.5-1.5.

Meanwhile I was undergoing intensive sightseeing in Dresden, which is not called Paris on the Elbe for nothing. Even my cheap phone and poor photographic skills can't entirely hide its glories (though as you'll see, I tried my best!).

Despite being only just behind the front runners, we managed to get a reasonably favourable pairing in Rd 7 yesterday, against Ulm. For once GM Plaskett didn't chalk up his customary 1-0, but we still edged home 2.5-1.5. I drew against a 2200+ player after having slight pressure for most of the game, without it ever threatening to become a decisive advantage.

Which brought a stunning pairing today - against the all GM team from Armenia on Board 2, with the match going out live around the world. But why am I telling you this? I know you will have been watching and supporting! In which case, you didn't do a very good job. We fell to a predictable defeat, but not before Plaskett had absolutely destroyed Vaganian on Board 1 with immensely powerful play. Regrettably the 200-400 grading point deficit on the other 3 boards proved unbridgeable. However, I was +1 out of the opening (with Black) against GM Sergey Galdunts, and was still level late into the game, even after I had made an ill fated queen sortie. Eventually my poor queen position forced me to e to jettison a piece for two pawns, but only two moves before resignation I could have made it RRB and 3 against RR and 6, but in bad time trouble I walked into immediate loss instead of taking a third pawn for the piece. Still, it was a competitive game, and not as one sided as I might have feared. Nevertheless, it was still my first loss, so it hurt a bit.

Well, the adventure is almost over, and in tomorrow's final round we play yet another German regional team, this time the 11th ranked Hessische Seniors, who comprise 2 x 2300+ FMs and 2 x 2200s. Meanwhile, England 1 have put themselves in with an excellent chance of a medal by winning 3 of their last 4 matches, including todays 2.5-1.5 victory over top seeds, Iceland - and this despite resting John Nunn. Jon Speelman was the hero, winning the only decisive game on Board 1 against former World Championship Candidate, Johann Hjartarson. And tomorrow they have a dream pairing against Ulm, who we beat yesterday.

On their way to victory in the England 2 v Leipzig match - FM Andrew Lewis (left) and GM Jim Plaskett (right)

Below are:-
(1) Dresden Opera House
(2) Zwinger Palace Gardens (with Mrs Club Organiser talking her own photo, left)
(3) Frauenkirche (destroyed 1945, rebuilt 1990s)

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Draw? Yes Please!

Flash report from Radebeul.

I've just finished my Round 5 game, in which I played GM Lutz Espig in the England 2 v Thüringen match. In his heyday (2505) he would probably have beaten me giving a 30 board simul, but anno domini have seen his rating slide down to 2263. But he's still a GM, so when he offered me a draw on move 21, who was I to decline?? In fact the position was absolutely equal according to Fritz, and not a lot really happened, as you can judge for yourselves below. I was marginally worse at times, but the game never really took off.

All other boards still in play as I write, but we're doing rather well and hopefully shouldn't lose against the 7th seeds.

England 1 are walking all over Obuchiw (a Ukrainian team full of IMs) to get their challenge back on track, while the top board encounter between Iceland and Armenia is a real heavyweight struggle with all e games still in play when I left the tournament hall.

And who says Germans don't have any sense of humour? This piece of street art says quite the opposite! How it made me chortle!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A very good day at the office!

It's the Club Organiser reporting from the World Seniors Team Championships again, after a dramatic Round 4.

I love chess. especially when I have a game like I did today. Pawn sac in the opening; then a second; then an exchange sac; and then mate to the White king in the middle of the board. And when its the decisive game in the match, its even better. And it also helps a little bit when your opponent has a rating of almost 2200!! We beat Rochade Bielefeld Revival (a bit easier than taking on the whole of Canada like we did yesterday) by the minimum score, despite resting our FM, Andrew Lewis. A quick draw on Board 2 was followed by a brain freeze moment on board 4, where Kevin Bowmer, in an advantageous bishop v knight ending simply failed to move his bishop when it was attacked. But then GM Jim Plaskett stormed to his expected and powerful victory on top board, and I brought home the bacon on Board 3.

Bad news, though, for England 1 who lost 2.5-1.5 to Germany 1 (at least it didn't go to penalties). Losses for Jon Speelman and Glenn Flear with Black not quite balanced by Mark Hebden's win and John Nunn's draw. Hope it wasn't having breakfast with me (name dropping!) that caused Glenn's loss! And now they're only on the same points as us - that would be an interesting pairing tomorrow!

Today's photo would have been another quiz, except that the answer is quite visible if you look closely, which is a shame, as otherwise you'd never guess. Anyway, its former Soviet and now Armenian super-GM Rafael Vaganian.

Obviously he deserves a photo due to his chess prowess and career, but he's really here as it gives me an excuse to include a most enjoyable game he lost 40 years ago to the massively imaginative, but also eccentric and ultimately tragic, Albin Planinc. Vaganian deserves the utmost praise for walking into  a beautiful mate and making this a miniature for the ages, whereas if he'd found the right defence, nobody would remember the game at all.

I'm afraid that these reports are likely to become both shorter and less frequent from now on, as Mrs Club Organiser is arriving this afternoon, so tourism will be assuming greater priority. But at least that should provide plenty more photos for me to post!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A Crazy Day

Well, the headline news from the World Teams 50+ Championships is that England 2 lost to Canada today, by 2.5-1.5, but the match could have very easily gone the other way.

This tournament has provided me with the first ever opportunity to play in the same team as a GM (Jim Plaskett), and today's match was the first I've ever played in which everyone other than me had a genuine FIDE title. We mustered 1 GM, 1 FM and 1 WFM, while Canada weighed in with 3 IMs and an FM, thoughtfully resting their 4th IM today. We were outgraded by 200 ELO points on the bottom two boards, and had almost matching pluses/minuses on the top 2. Regrettably, Professor Elo had a good day today and got the result just about right.

On Board 2, Andrew Lewis got a good draw for us with Black, and amazingly that was the only concluded game for about the first four and a half hours. Then I managed to pull off a draw with Black against FM Paul Ross. I was slightly worse for much of the game, but then things went berserk in mutual time trouble. First white sacrificed an exchange for a pawn. Then he found he had to sac a second exchange, and swap the queens off, so on about move 30 I found myself with 2 rooks against a bishop and a knight. One of my rooks had to give back an exchange, but an all too familiar brain freeze saw me move my king to unpin one rook, forgetting that the other rook was unguarded on a8. So now he had two pieces against my rook, when it should have been rook v knight, and a probable win for me. In a completely random sequence of moves, though, I then lost 2 pawns to knight forks, but my opponent returned the brain freeze compliment by getting his knight trapped, and at the time control it was bishop and 5 v Rook and 2. It should have been drawn, even though White had connected a and b pawns and a monstrous white square bishop, and my king was miles away on the king side. But I put my rook on the wrong square and I was lost. Luckily, though, my last remaining pawn managed to sidetrack his bishop just in time (it shouldn't have) and I was able to liquidate to a draw. Phew!!

And still the madness continued. Plaskett had queen, knight and pawn against queen and three pawns. Both kings were wide open, and regrettably the Canadian player was able to hold the draw. But then to cap it all off, our captain Ingrid Lauterbach lost right at the death with rook against rook and knight. Tragic. The upshot is that we have lost our 100% score, and tomorrow we play a German club team from Bielefeld.

Meanwhile England 1 managed a narrow win against Slovakia (more than our soccer boys could do), with Keith Arkell being the sole winner. Tomorrow they play Germany 1, who are very strong, too, and there is every likelihood they will have to play number 1 seeds Iceland at some point - hopefully putting up a more spirited show than the aforementioned soccer boys, who I think we all agree are an absolute disgrace.

So, I hope you all got the answer to yesterday's picture quiz. The man in the photo was legendary Russian GM, Evgeny Sveshnikov. Anyone who guessed Miguel Najdorf was on the right lines, but about 20 years too late.

No quiz today, but I leave you with some "action" shots of the England 1 team in action yesterday.

John Nunn and Glen Flear on their way to decisive wins

Jon Speelman seemingly more interested in Mark Hebden's game than his own!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Germany Calling!

Greetings dear chess friends (that’s how we speak over here!), from the 4th World Seniors Team Championships in Radebeul, near Dresden. I have the enormous honour of playing for England 2 in the Over 50 section of this 9 round swiss tournament. (BTW, this honour is available to anyone prepared to fork out for all the costs!) I couldn’t quite make it into the England 1 team of Nunn, Speelman, Hebden, Arkell and Flear!

The trip has already been rather eventful so far, in both positive and negative ways. First the trip over was rather fraught. Facing an already tight connection in Amsterdam, I was not pleased that we took off 15 minutes late, and then took another 15 minutes to get to the terminal in Schipol after landing virtually in another country and taxiing for miles. I then had to make a mad dash from one end of the terminal to another, and made the onward flight to Dresden by the skin of my teeth. Regrettably, my suitcase didn’t, leaving me with the clothes I stood up in, plus a laptop and a mobile phone – but with no way of recharging them. Thankfully the case arrived about 30 hours after I did, and I am now fully functioning again – except that the internet connection in the hotel is dodgy, and so are the sockets in my room, with only 1 seeming to provide any reliable access to electricity! Could this place actually still be in the DDR?

General view of the playing hall. Slightly busier than club night at the Engine.

But enough of my meanderings, what about the chess, I hear you scream?! OK, yesterday we kicked off just after 15.00, with a first round match against Danish club SK 1968 (from Aarhus), and with me playing white on Board 3. My opponent was rated 1926, but I couldn’t help noticing he’d been over 2100 a few years back. Incredibly, the game followed a line I had played only a couple of weeks back until about move 15. The game was very complex, and although I had a small edge from the opening, the balance seemed to be swinging between the players as we traded inaccuracies. Then came the crunch. With 2 minutes on my clock, and in a slightly better position, I needlessly sacked an exchange to get a bishop lodged on f6 in front of his king. I thought it was mate, but with best play it should have just led to a lost position for me. Luckily, my opponent missed the right defence and instead walked into an enormous cheapo based on a weak back rank and a queen sacrifice by me. I won a rook and he resigned a piece and position down. The team chalked up a 4-0 win and everything was hunky dory.

Today we had a local derby match against Scotland. It looked like being another 4-0 sweep at one stage. It was my turn to have a rest today (two games in a row would be so tiring, darling!) and by the time I arrived at the board after a leisurely breakfast (all rounds from now start at the unholy hour of 9.30) we were already 1-0 up, as our star board 1, GM Jim Plaskett had won with Black in about 30 minutes. I then went off for a long walk around this very pleasant town (probably about the size of Kenilworth, but with a rather better river and three railway stations!) and arrived back just in time to see us go 2-0 up. We were a pawn up in one of the remaining games, and a piece for 2 pawns up in the other. But regrettably, things then went wrong. On board 4 our man walked into a knight fork, and on board 2 the Scottish player managed to swap off all the white pawns and advance his one remaining pawn far enough down the board to get a draw, with R and pawn against R + B. So just a 2.5-1.5 win, but honour upheld against our northern neighbours.

The local derby - Scotland v England 2. Jim Plaskett conspicuously absent having already won in about 30 minutes!
I should be back in action tomorrow, when we play a strong Canadian team, who are seeded 7th (we’re 13th, but that’s almost entirely due to having Jim Plaskett in our team!). Internet and electricity issues permitting, I’ll be back with more news in the next couple of days – especially if they involve me getting any more points!

In the meantime, here’s a little poser for you, which I’ll answer in my next post. Who is this aged but very famous GM, who has one of the sharpest variations of the Sicilian named after him? Come on, I’ve nearly given it away, so I’ll expect a 100% success rate on this one.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

That AGM Time of Year

Perhaps the greatest joy of being Club Organiser is the opportunity, nay obligation, to attend no less than 3 AGMs. As a throwaway gesture in the direction of open government, I am able to share the major points to arise from these events.


All 2015-16 club members have received a copy of the AGM minutes, so there's not really any need to revisit this particular event. Suffice to say that the "Old Guard" largely remain in control of all Club posts, except for the following changes:-

Rod Webb is the new Webmaster
Carl Pickering is the new Social Secretary
Ben Graff is Captain of our new side in the Divisional Cup competition in the Coventry League


The major point to take from the Leamington League AGM is the rule change relating to eligibility when a club has two teams in the same division. The new Rule 20 will read:-

"If a club has more than one team entered in the League, then for eligibility purposes the teams shall be considered to be in rank order. EG, if a club has 3 teams, A, B and C, then the A team is considered to be the highest team, and the C team the lowest, regardless of which divisions the teams are in. Captains may call on players from other teams for reserves. However, on playing more than 2 games on any board or boards higher than bottom board in a higher team, then any such player shall be deemed ineligible to play in the lower team for the remainder of the season."

The meeting also discussed at some length the rather vexatious question of match postponements and claims, prompted not a little by the Solihull B - Kenilworth B soap opera from last season. We were basically vindicated, but it didn't do us a lot of good as we still lost the match after we had already won it. However, the meeting was assured that in future the Rules as written would be applied properly. So all club match captains need to be aware that they have to request postponements at least 10 days before the due match date. This may mean that we all have to select our teams a bit earlier than usual if we suspect that player availability may be a problem.

Child protection issues were also discussed, as they had been at the club AGM, and as they were at the CDCL AGM. The upshot is that KCC definitely needs to develop and publish a policy, and this is on the Club Organiser's list of things to do. Luckily, it's currently a very short list.


The most contentious issue at the Coventry League AGM was a point which bugged me all season long, namely clubs not adhering to the rule requiring a constant board order (and the league officials refusing to do anything about it). In Division 1, for instance, University A fielded five "illegal" teams; Coventry A seven; and Rugby A nine. No mean achievements in a 14 match season. A rather shambolic vote seemed to leave the rule unchanged - ie there is a constant board order rule, but the Fixtures Secretary (the newly elected Simon Weaver) has the discretion to allow variations. This seems ridiculous to me. Either have the rule or don't. But such is life in AGM world.

And talking of Rules, it became apparent that the Coventry League doesn't really know what it's own rules are. However, League Secretary Mike Johnson is going to accumulate rules from various sources and circulate to clubs with an eye to providing a single, agreed set to which we can all work. This should hopefully address the question of eligibility for the KO Cup, where certain player selections last season seemed to stretch the rules rather further than ideal.

The league decided to dispense with a number of old, redundant trophies and I put in an accepted bid for one of these, which will give us a ready made trophy when/if Ben gets any Club Championship off the ground. Alternatively, it will look quite nice in my office.

I indicated to the meeting that Kenilworth would play in the Divisional Cup next season. Good luck with raising a team for that, Ben!!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Viktor Korchnoi - 23 March 1931 - 6 June 2016

Viktor Korchnoi died last week, aged 85. He was an absolute Titan of the chess world (possibly the strongest never to be World Champion), and probably the greatest chess fighter of all time. Almost fitting that his passing should have come just three days after Muhammad Ali, the greatest fighter of all time.

I played Korchnoi once - in a simul, of course. It was at the old Morris Motors factory in Courthouse Green, Coventry, when he was on what was then a traditional post-Hastings tour. He had just come from finishing equal first there, with Karpov (who he beat in their individual encounter), while I was in my first season in the lower reaches of the Coventry League and didn't even possess a grade. We can all guess what happened, but behind Korchnoi's prosaic victory there lies a hidden story, never told until now. Of how the game very nearly became a significant piece of chess history, and without which Bobby Fischer may never have ascended to the chess summit. Intrigued? Bemused?? Disbelieving??? Read on ....... and prepare to be amazed - and ultimately disappointed!

So farewell, Viktor the Terrible. A mighty warrior, on and off the board. We shall not see his like again.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Cup Final Triumph!

Last night Kenilworth won the Leamington League Open KO Cup for the second time in three years, defeating Banbury 3.5-1.5 in the final at Olton. So the season ends in Cup glory after the disappointment of finishing runners up again (three times in four years) in the League.

The victorious Kenilworth team with the Cup.
Left to Right; Paul Lam, Ben Graff, Andy Baruch, Mark Page, Carl Pickering

Both teams went into the match missing key players, but its fair to say that Banbury's loss was the greater, as without the very strong (224 grade) James Jackson on Board 1 they were up against it on ratings against our top 3 boards. For us, Andrew Paterson unfortunately got sent to Glasgow on work, and consequently had to miss his first A team match of the season - a phenomenal show of commitment to the KCC cause in his debut season with us, and a great shame that he was not there to contribute to and share in our victory.

Kenilworth went into an early lead. On Board 2, Chris Evans and Andy Baruch set off like whirling dervishes, but it was clear from early on that Andy was playing all the good moves. He more than equalised with Black in about 5 moves and then just about took over the whole board, while White had  a rook stuck on a1. He won a pawn, and in the process set up a cheapo - which White fell for - that cost a piece. A few pointless moves were made before we had our first win of the night.

By which stage I had played 13 moves, and Paul had played 10. But an hour or more later we both won at virtually the same time, downing Banbury's Rowan combo. Paul played a very nice controlled game on top board against Paul Rowan, which culminated in a vicious attack on the Black king, that had castled queenside. I missed the last few moves, but I gather it was a very nice finish by Paul. My game on Board 3 against Dan Rowan seemed very one sided, but there was a major flaw in my play, as I basically blundered a pawn in the opening, but instead of taking it, Dan kindly gave me one of his instead. Thereafter it was one way traffic and the game finished around the time control with a mating attack. My second victory of the night after the equally important job of winning the toss for colours!

With the Cup won, I rather lost track of proceedings, and when my brain switched back on the match was over.  Carl drew on Board 4 against Nathan Manley after a rather unexciting encounter. Carl had doubled b pawns in a double rook ending, but White couldn't get at them and the position was very equal when a draw was agreed. We suffered our only loss of the evening (and of the whole Cup campaign, in fact) when Ben went down to Neil Staples on Board 5. This was a game Ben should probably have won, as he set himself up for a big kingside attack, but he prevaricated for a couple of moves and Black got too much activity on the other side of the board. A shame for Ben, but he can take consolation from the fact that his semi-final win over Neil Clarke still stands as the Kenilworth game of the season.

So a fourth trophy in three seasons for the club - twice Open KO Cup winners, and League Division 1 (A team) and Division 3 (C team) titles. I think this calls for another celebratory meal, and the Social Secretary will doubtless be in touch with everyone shortly to make the necessary arrangements. (For my part, you can never go wrong with a curry, Paul!)

There can be no doubt that we deserved this latest triumph, as we had to beat the 1st, 3rd and 4th placed teams from the league en route to our success - and by a combined score of 12.5-2.5. Thanks and congratulations to everyone who contributed to the Cup run, which in addition to last night's players brings in Joshua (sob, sob), Andrew and Mike D. And thanks also to Richard and Rob Reynolds of Olton for hosting our Final (and the U-700 and U-120 events) in excellent playing conditions - and to Richard for taking the above photo (even though it makes me look a bit simple!)