Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Three and a Half Out of Four Ain't Bad!

A crushing 3.5-0.5 win over a luckless Coventry B in our latest Cov League match has seen us jump up to fifth place in the table. A fourth place finish is not impossible, if things go well in our four remaining games, though being honest, if we can stay where we are now I will be one very happy match captain. We also have a KO Cup quarter-final to look forward to, and with the big guns from Warwick University not participating, this is a wide open competition.

Last night's success was not quite as convincing as the score suggests, because yet again Ben pulled off one of his great escapes to beat John McCann on Board 4. I had just assumed he was going to lose as every time I took a look at the position, more pieces had been swapped off and Ben's shattered queenside pawns seemed to be sitting ducks for a dominant white knight and rooks. But then out of nowhere White blundered and we had a full point.

By this stage we were already one point up, as Carl played a very smooth and powerful game with the white pieces against John Harris on Board 3 - breaking through decisively down the d file with his rooks to win material in double quick time. This was an impressive demolition job. I can't believe I ever called his White opening set up turgid. (And who I am to talk - see below!)

And all the time we were sitting on a guaranteed extra point as Mike was winning against Bob Holmes on Board 2 right out of the opening. White carelessly allowed a b5-b4 push undermining his extended pawn centre and Black was a solid pawn up almost immediately. Some energetic play by Mike swapped off the pieces around the White king which was left defenceless against Mike's queen and rook, so that the inevitable point duly came our way.

But regrettably your match correspondent was unable to complete the clean sweep, playing an anaemic opening very anaemically, and failing to show any superiority of bishop over knight in the ending. In fact Bernard C - yes, it was another of our very own in opposition - found a nice regrouping of his king side pawns and knights to secure a draw from a position of slight superiority.

So, as Meatloaf would have sung if he'd been a Coventry Chess League Match Captain, "three and a half out of four ain't bad."

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Heroes and Villains

Another Tuesday, another Coventry League match, and regrettably this time a defeat by 2.5-1.5 against Warwick University B. Coupled with other results, this saw us sink to 7th place, although we remain 7 points clear of Coventry B, and a win against them next week will make us mathematically certain to avoid last place. And any remote possibility of relegation.

Nearly every week, someone rises to the occasion to be a hero for the team, and last night we had two such people. Unfortunately it turned out that we needed three.

Dave was the first to answer the call to arms, notching an excellent first Coventry League win on Board 4 against Steve Turvey, after some interesting play on the White side of a Spanish. Unfortunately, the next two games did not go so well for us, and any heroism was only conspicuous by its absence. I was very nicely despatched by Peter Williams (my first Coventry League loss of the season) after a tense game from an English Opening. In a very tactical position I was out-calculated and lost material - as well as losing on time! Luckily they only got one point for that. Then Ben, so often our saviour this season, went the same way on Board 3, losing a depressingly one sided game against Andras Forizs who, having already seen off Roy and Dave, took his League score against us to 3/3 - while scoring 1/5 against everyone else.

So two villains, I'm afraid, but there was still time for a second hero to arise in the shape of Carl, who made light of a 34 point grading deficit to hold Paul Lam to a very creditable draw. (Clearly Paul was not at ease sitting on the "wrong" side of the table!) Not enough to save the match, but more than enough to give the score a thoroughly respectable appearance.

With University A being held to a very surprising 2-2 draw by Rugby (which did us no favours), this result was enough to return Paul's University B team to the top of the table. So at least one member of Kenilworth Chess Club can survey the League standings with satisfaction!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A Bit of a Non-Event

Kenilworth resumed Coventry League action on Tuesday with a home match against Rugby. Not much happened, so thank goodness I didn't try (almost) live blogging like Josh the night before, as there wouldn't have been much to write about.

Not long in and Mike D drew on Bd 2 against Nalin Kadodwala. He had a marginal advantage with a passed pawn in a rook and two bishops ending, but the pawn could be blockaded and there wasn't really much to be gained by playing on. Shortly after I drew on Bd 1 against Bob Wildig. This was probably the most boring game I have played for a long while. Absolutely nothing happened as piece after piece got swapped off from a Reti opening. The players agreed a draw just before they risked falling into a coma.

Then we took the lead as Ben, fresh from a great success of shared first place (with ex-Kenilworth man Ed Goodwin amongst others) in the Shropshire Major, struck (yet again!) on Board 4. He grabbed the Black b7 pawn with his queen at the cost of some time, and his opponent tried to cash in with a king side attack. But Ben defended carefully and when he got his queen side pieces into the game and his queen recentralised he took over the game, won a central pawn and when more material was dropping off his opponent called it a day.

Which left Carl on Board 3 against Jamie Kearney. He played that variation of the Caro Kann yet again. You know, the one which sends Josh into fits of rage. And he got into big trouble. His bishop on c8 became completely stuck, being dominated by a White knight that plonked itself in a big hole on b6. Which also fixed a Black rook on b8. After much grovelling by Carl, he managed to escape into a knight ending a pawn dawn. But it was tricky as he managed to place his few remaining pawns so that the White king couldn't get in. But then he had a rush of blood to the head, and just when he seemed to have chances to arrange a mass liquidation by sacrificing his knight and rushing his king to win the last remaining White pawn, he inexplicable exchanged knights leaving him dead lost. So no heroic Banbury-like save by Carl this time, and the match ended all square at 2-2. This at least kept us in sixth place with Rugby and Coventry B below us.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Two sevenths of the way to glory

Daventry only succeeded in convincing three intrepid souls to make the long trek to Kenilworth for our match, giving us a one point start before the match had even begun. The only minor fly in this otherwise fine ointment was that this was one of the rare occasions when I had managed to convince Paul he wanted to play for us, and consequently it was me who ended up without a game. I shall therefore endeavour to provide some snapshots of the games, whenever I can be bothered to get up from the thrilling cystic fibrosis treatment documents I am currently writing to go and look in the room.

19:30 update: Games in progress:
Kevin Bowman – Paul Lam
Andrew Paterson – Andy Johnson
Abbie Stevens– Mark Page
Current score: Kenilworth 1 – 0 Daventry

20:00 update:
Paul is playing the black side of an English, where his opponent appears to have made the mistake of allowing him tot play e4, horribly cramping the white position. Paul should be somewhat better, and is 7 minutes behind on the clock.
Andy is playing the white side of an exchange Slav (boo!), and is probably very slightly better as he has managed to exchange off his bad bishop. A minimal edge at best, however.
Mark is also playing the black side of an English, though his opponent appears to have played it slightly better than Paul's. Still, she has fianchettoed on the kingside and then managed to trap her bishop away from the g2 square, so I would assume Mark does have at least some edge. He is 13 minutes behind on the clock.
Current score: Kenilworth 1 – 0 Daventry

20:30 update:
Paul still looks somewhat better, with a space advantage and two bishops, though there still doesn't appear to be anything too decisive. He is 3 minutes down on the clock.
Andy has won a rook, or at very least the exchange and a pawn if he can't get his knight back out. His opponent missed a simple fork and, with the rest of the position still symmetric he should be comfortably winning.
Mark adopted a Dutch setup, and has begun a very dangerous looking kingside attack. It may just be possible to defend, but I would place a bet on Mark crashing through to mate or considerable material gain before too long. He is 22 minutes down on the clock.
Current score: Kenilworth 1 – 0 Daventry

21:00 update:
Paul is now a clear exchange up. There is still some complexity in the position but it shouldn't last too much longer now. He is 8 minutes down on the clock.
Andy is a piece and pawn up, still in a mostly symmetrical position so it shouldn't last too much longer now.
Mark did give mate, or at least came sufficiently close that his opponent was forced to resign.
It looks like I am going to be the only member of the team who doesn't win a game of chess over the board today.
Current score: Kenilworth 2 – 0 Daventry

21:30 update:
No real change. We continue to be completely winning in both games, but they have not been won yet.

Current score: Kenilworth 2 – 0 Daventry

21:52 update:
The match is now over, with both players wrapping up convincing if not overly dramatic games. A solid win, and let's hope our future opponents are equally generous with their team selection.
Final score: Kenilworth 4 – 0 Daventry

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

One seventh of the way to glory

Starting the second half of the season in second place, but three point off the top, leads me to believe we may well need to win all seven of our remaining games in order to take the title. The first hurdle in our path was that of Banbury B, a strangely amorphous team, as the club has so many players rated between 155 and 160 that you never know who is going to turn out on a particular day. My game, as white against Chris Evans, was, as has so often been the case recently, the first to finish. Usually this is a good sign for my performance, but in this case I was comprehensively smashed off the board by my opponent, who constructed a mating attack so severe the only way to stave it off was to give up sufficient amounts of material as to make playing on ridiculous. The worst part of it all was I don't think my opponent used more than 30 seconds for any move in the game. I don't mind losing every now and again, but being completely demolished by a mid-150s graded player who didn't even need to think to do it does not bode well for the future. I think I shall start claiming it is part of a strategy to gradually worsen my performances over the next few weeks so that, rather than being disappointed, everyone is instead thrilled when I finally leave.

Fortunately not everyone on the team was playing as badly as me. Mark, black on board two against Gary Jackson, played his now trademark Najdorf and seemed, for reasons that were not entirely clear, to have a fairly standard looking position about 3 tempi up, so black's attack was looking menacing before white had really got going. Mark played what looked like a thouroughly crushing piece sacrifice to open up his opponent's king, and I then realised he could also win the piece back on the next move as well, meaning he hadn't even given up material to do so. Before long there was a black pawn on c3 (with the white king on b1), and two black rooks on the open a file. Unsurprisingly, mate soon followed, with the post match analysis finding numerous exciting different ways that white could get mated on different squares of the board, but no way to save himself. Another case study in the virtues of giving up the French Defence (let other users of this turgid opening take note).

Andy had a less exciting but equally comprehensive win, as white on board one against Neil Staples. Black started with the offbeat, and in my opinion unimpressive, black knight's tango opening (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 Nc6) and Andy, after pushing d5, ended up with a very pleasant space advantage that was surprisingly reminiscent of a mirrored Alekhine Defence (d5 hitting the c6 knight, rather than e5 hitting the f6 knight, etc.) He seemed to move from one slight but persistent advantage to another, from a space advantage to his opponent having pawn weaknesses to Andy having more active pieces, until I briefly left the room with Andy looking like he was about to win a pawn. When I came back he had won a piece. I have no idea how this happened, but it certainly put an end to the game nice and swiftly, and we moved 2-1 ahead.

Sadly, however, it only looked like this was going to be good enough for us to hold the draw. Carl once again played his strange hybrid of a French and Caro-Kann, basically playing c6 and e6 without developing the light-squared bishop. This opening may have given him a fine position against me in our Coventry League game but despite (or perhaps because) of this I'm unconvinced by the positions black gets. Carl in particular suffered from “too many knights syndrome”, first from an errant steed on a6 not contributing to the game, and then by having the same knight reposition itself to e8 where, sadly, the only useful square it could go to (f6) was already occupied by another knight with nowhere else to go. I won't go into this any further but will instead just give my thoughts after each of the last ten moves of the game played by Carl's opponent: Carl is lost, Carl is lost, Carl is completely lost, Carl is completely lost, Carl might be able to hang on now, Carl is lost, Carl is completely lost, Carl is completely lost, Carl is completely lost, Carl's opponent just blundered his queen. It wasn't quite Phil levels of brilliance but it certainly came close. A testament to the rewards of good defence and further evidence, if any were needed, that in the Leamington League it is worth playing on a long time before you resign, as you never know what might happen.

Final score: Banbury B 1 – 3 Kenilworth A

Six matches left to go: six more wins required.