Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Trebled C Pawns

Last night we entertained league leaders Solihull, who were 6 points clear having played 1 game more. Somehow Mark managed to persuade Andy to give the cello a miss and we fielded our strongest possible side.

1. Paul Lam (b) (201) vs Russel James (197)
2. Andy Baruch (w) (193) vs Olivia Smith (180)
3.  Andrew Paterson (b) (186) vs Paul Roper (164)
4.  Mark Page (w) (190) vs Ray Carpenter (163)

First to finish was Andy on board 2. He opened with 1.g3 and attacked Olivia’s centre with c4. Both players played quickly and Andy got the better of the opening, managing to treble Olivia’s c pawns and take away her right to castle. The game ended abruptly with a nice tactic from Andy and Kenilworth went one up.

Mark opened with his customary 1.e4 and we had a Sicilian. Mark kept it closed and played Bb5. Ray didn’t allow the knight capture on c6 and posted his knight to d4. With the opening looking pretty even Mark launched a very convincing attack on the kingside. Mark broke though and it looked like the win was imminent then from nowhere came the words ‘Checkmate’. Yes, Ray had hidden a bishop on b8 (dressed in a camouflaged jacket), had a queen on c7, the pawns that were on d6 and e5 had mysteriously vanished in the attack and Mark’s horse that was en prise on g3 last move had decided it was time to vacate the protection of the king and look for greener pastures. Mark nearly fell off his chair and the score was one all.

I played a Sicilian on 3 and allowed Paul’s early Bxc6. A couple of moves later I found a tactic that sacrificed a pawn and gave up my strong fianchettoed kingside bishop but managed to destroy Paul’s pawn structure (trebling his c pawns) and gained a nasty initiative. 2 hours later Paul’s weaknesses started to fall and Kenilworth were two one up. So Andy and Andy managed to treble their opponents’ c pawns at the same time. I think I might take up the cello.

On one, Paul was aghast to see Russel open with 1.b4. 10 hours of meticulous prep wasted and he would have to start using his brain instead. The game settled down quickly with Paul playing very classically claiming central space with Russel having queenside space (behind that pawn on b4). The position looked closed and stodgy and both players had used a lot of time. I next caught up with the game as time pressure approached, Paul was an exchange up but his king as a little loose. Both players had about 10 moves to make in next to no time and an exciting melee ensued. At the time control both players could take stock. Queens were off Paul had 2 rooks, a bishop and 6 pawns, Russel had 1 rook, 2 bishops, a knight and 4 pawns. Paul’s pawn structure looked like a cheese grater, Russel’s was solid as a rock. If Russel could activate his minor pieces and find outposts for them, the position would have technically winning for white, but this seemed extremely difficult. The game continued and before we knew it both players had 4 minutes left. Paul offered a draw and Russel bravely refused because of the match position. The game quickly turned frantic with pawns being pushed and taken everywhere. I thought Russel had a completely winning position several times during the maelstrom but alas, when both players have only 10 seconds left on the clock the actual merits of the position on the board can be secondary. With 2 seconds left on the clock a draw was offered and accepted in a genuinely drawn position. Both gladiators gave it their all and the point was halved.

So Kenilworth won 2.5 – 1.5. Solihull need to get 3 points from their remaining 2 games to secure the title. We’ve done what we can to put the pressure on.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

The Stress is Killing Me

These Coventry League KO Cup matches are really getting to me. In the first two rounds we have been drawn against Division 3 sides, starting with a 2.5 point handicap deficit. Over 4 boards that means we have to win by a minimum of 3.5-0.5. That does not leave much margin for error. One slip and we are toast.

And in last night's quarter final against runaway (unbeaten, 8 points clear!) Div 3 champions, Nuneaton D, it looked like this handicap might do for us. But then we got lucky, as our visitors arrived without their regular top board, Peter Gibbs, who I'm sure many of you will remember as one of the Midlands' leading players for many years. With our weakened line up previously looking rather vulnerable, we suddenly became hot favourites again.

And so it proved, as we chalked up a 4-0 win to sail into the Semi-Finals where, as the only Division 1 team left standing, we will face Rugby B from Division 2, who we will "only" need to beat 3-1.

On Boards 3 and 4, Dave and Roy seemed to be in a race to see who could chalk up the first win. Despite having the Black pieces Dave clinched the honour. Almost from nowhere, a hurricane blew through White's position which left Dave 3 pawns up with a mating attack. Game of the night for sure. Roy exploited his opponent's mistakes to win two exchanges and a couple of pawns as well. Eventually it came down to two rooks against two bishops, but with the Black king cut off and facing inevitable mate from the rampant rooks.

Ben's game on Board 2 started less spectacularly with his opponent playing very sensibly on the Black side of a c3 Sicilian. Until he blundered a bishop. After that it was plain sailing for Ben, and eventually the White bishop that had captured the Black one on f6 allowed a rook to get to h8 to deliver mate.

Which left me. Having dodged the Peter Gibbs bullet, I was still made to work rather hard by Howard Phillips to generate any advantage with the Black pieces. I had more space, and at a crucial point in the middle game I was able to swap off White's active pieces, take over the d file and pile up on a weak backward pawn on e3. White might have been able to reach a queen ending a pawn down (thank goodness he didn't!) but in very bad time trouble he overlooked a bishop sacrifice that won his queen.

So that makes it 9-0 to us in my last two Kenilworth matches. Somehow, I don't think that sequence will last much longer!

Sunday, 6 March 2016


A cold night in Solihull and the Kenilworth quintet were feeling merciless. A Leamington league cup semi-final, 5 board match against the league leaders.

Board 1: Paul Lam (w) (201) vs Russel James (197)
Paul opened with his trademark 1.g3 and we soon ended up with a closed game with Russel having more space in the centre, pawns on c5, d4 and e5. Russel stopped Paul’s play on the queenside so Paul went for the king. As time pressure approached Paul broke through and won a pawn. He also had the better minor piece and Russel’s whole pawn structure was shattered. Paul then went into ‘pragmatic mode’ and retreated to quell any counterplay. [Edit] I missed the rest of the game as the bar was calling me, I've since been reliably informed that the game got pretty intense and double edged with Paul getting over the line when Russel's flag fell.

Board 2: Andrew Paterson (b) (186) vs Olivia Smith (180)
Olivia opened with 1.e4 and a Sicilian Rossolimo was reached. (1.e4 c5. 2.Nf3 Nc6. 3.Bb5). An offbeat response from me and Olivia responded passively. The resulting initiative caused Olivia problems and she ended up with a very misplaced knight on a3 with me having pawns on a6 and b5. When I took iron control of the c file, the knight was out the game. The pressure continued until Olivia’s queenside collapsed.

Board 3: Mark Page (w) (190) vs Raymond Carpenter (163)
Mark played the Grand Prix Attack against Ray’s e6 Sicilian (Nc3, e4, f4). Mark played an early Bb5 and chopped the knight on c6 leaving Ray with very immobile pawns and a queenside that was going nowhere. Mark outposted a knight on e5 and the attack began in earnest. Ray’s king was still in the centre and Mark targeted in mercilessly. Mark crashed though and the game ended quickly with some nice tactics from Mark.

Board 4: Mike Donnelly (b) (157) vs Paul Roper (160)
Paul opened 1.e4 and a Pirc, Austrian attack ensued. Mike hit at the centre early with c5 and double edged position emerged with opposite castling, Mike on the kingside, Paul on the queenside. Mike’s attack got there first and he won a couple of pawns. Some nice defensive play to quell Paul's faltering attack and the whole point came home with ease.

Board 5 Ben Graff (w) (145) vs Neil Graff (165)
Outgraded but not outgunned. Ben took the game to Neil and smashed him to pieces (see previous post ‘Game of the month’. The game was over almost before it began and setup the match for us.

So, Solihull 0 Kenilworth 5 and blood all over Solihull’s nice posh carpet. Kenilworth progress to the cup final.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Game of the Month, March 2016

Yes I know its only March 4th, but I very much doubt we will see a more enjoyable or significant game than this in the next 27 days. Indeed, as Paul said afterwards, this must be a strong candidate for KCC game of the season.

Our Leamington League KO Cup Semi Final against Solihull looked set to be a very close struggle, with the two teams separated by just 3 points on average grade. I had a big ratings edge against Ray Carpenter on Board 3, but Ben was giving away 20 points to Neil Clarke on Board 5 and the other three boards were virtually even. But when Ben blitzed his way to a win in just 21 moves, it swung the match massively in our favour and inspired the rest of us to follow suit, resulting in a quite remarkable 5-0 whitewash of this season's Division 1 front runners. This was definitely a game which was worth more than just a single point to the team. The only thing that annoyed me was that it made my 23 move win look positively pedestrian.

What a great way to get a new website feature up and running. I shall now be on high alert looking for future candidate games for inclusion here. Though don't expect anything quite as explosive as this on a regular basis. And in fact don't expect anything at all on a regular basis. It might say Game of the Month, but it doesn't say Game of the Month Every Month!

Thursday, 3 March 2016

KCC Run Over by Warwick University Juggernaut (Again!)

For the second time this season Warwick University A gave us a right good spanking by 3.5-0.5, as we finished off our debut Coventry League campaign by being put firmly in our place. Mind you, a quick look at the team lists told us we were in for a tough night - outgraded by 30 ECF points on Bd 1; by about 40 on Board 2; by 37 on Board 3 and a whopping 54 on Board 4. So in fact, the match score went almost exactly to form! I'm not sure when a Kenilworth team can have been confronted by such highly graded opponents (average 192) - but I'm pretty sure it's never happened in my few years with the club.

Roy was thrown to the lions on Board 4, playing Black against 175 graded Morgan Blake. Gradings said he should score -4 points out of every 100 games, and who is Roy to challenge probability theory? Actually, he gave it a really good go, mixing the position up enormously after a weird opening (1e4 c5 2 a3 Nc6 3 b4 b6) and getting right down to a rook and minor piece ending before White was able to make a decisive incursion into the Black position.

Then this season's hero Ben also fell on his sword, losing against Ioannis Lentzos (who had been on Board 1 when we played them earlier in the season) when he ended up with too many weak pawns after an off beat line against the Caro Kan. Eventually the Black rooks took control and hoovered up the weaklings forcing resignation. Nevertheless, Ben at least protected his record of having no draws in the whole Cov League season. (I am trying to match this feat in the Leamington League, but with 4 games still to go the pressure is really on!)

I had actually been doing quite well on Board 1 against FM Peter Bachelor. Luckily he played a line of the Caro Kan which I had looked up that afternoon - though only superficially of course! I managed to get in Ne4-d6+ and Nxb7, but was only able to hang on to my extra pawn because he didn't play the best line. Even so, my extra pawn was doubled, and he had a massive knight outpost on d5 that made life very difficult for my bishop. I couldn't find anyway to be active and with time running low I was glad when he decided to repeat moves and we agreed a draw. Fritz says I was winning in the final position, but in the real world I definitely was not.

A few minutes later Mike went down against Matheusz Eggink, a Polish player who has already been over 2200. He put up a long but largely passive fight with Black, eventually being virtually reduced to moving back and forth as White searched for a way to make his space advantage tell. I missed the climax, but - short of time - it seems Mike transposed into an ending which he thought was drawing, only to find it wasn't.

Unfortunately for us, on the same night Coventry A lost by only 3-1 against Nuneaton A, meaning they pipped us for 5th place on tie break by 1 game point difference.  I'll reflect further on the season once our Cup exploits are over, in a Coventry League round up, but in the meantime thanks to everyone who played for us. I hope you've enjoyed our debut season as much as I have.