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.