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.