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!