Thursday, 28 December 2017

2017 Christmas Quiz - the Answers

I'm sure everybody has been on tenterhooks over the festive period, waiting for the solutions to the KCC Christmas Quiz, so I'd better put you all out of your misery right now. Apologies for any lapses into puerile humour (what did you expect from me??) and for any excess obscurity in the clues, or in the GM selection. I'd heard of all of them, though!

Anyway, here we go with the answers:-

1 As wielded by executioners of old (3 – Hungary)                              Peter ACS
2 Known as Himself in Ireland (6 - England)                                          Keith ARKELL

3 Half of a musical pair in overdrive? (8 - Paraguay)                           Axel BACHMANN

4 Courting couples favourite place in the cinema (6 - France)          Etienne BACROT
5 Is he also a scraper? (5 - France)                                                          Christian BAUER

6 Was he a private in the US Army? (8 - USA)                                       Joel BENJAMIN
7 The Titanic should have tried to avoid this (4 - Sweden)                 Emanuel BERG

8 Oh no he can’t (3 - Turkey)                                                                    Emre CAN
9 Shame he wasn’t born in Hastings (8 - England)                                Stuart CONQUEST

10 Half of your front door bell? (4 - China)                                            DING Liren
11 Eat at your own risk – usually after 5 pints. (6 - Netherlands)      Jan Hein DONNER

12 There are a couple of them in Mumbai (4 - England)                     John EMMS
13 Agreed, Agatha. Why didn’t they ask him? (5 - USA)                      Larry EVANS

14 Robert Angler (7 - USA)                                                                         Bobby FISCHER
15 Strongman’s athletic event (6 - Norway)                                           Jon Ludvig HAMMER

16 The greatest Trojan of them all? (6 - Sweden)                                  Jonny HECTOR
17 No relation to Rudolf, nor a fan of Spandau Ballet? (4 - USA)        Robert HESS

18 Two GMs with the same surname (6 - England)                               David and James HOWELL
19 Sounds like a born Royalist (4 - England)                                           Danny KING

20 Where you’ll find Milan (8 - USA)                                                       William LOMBARDY
21 Nissan pick-up truck model (6 – Czech Rep)                                     David NAVARA

22 Area where Crystal Palace play (7 - Andorra)                                   David NORWOOD
23 What sex life does a monk have (4 - England)                                 John NUNN

24 It’ll never heal if you do this (5 - Netherlands)                                Jeroen PIKET
25 Played in many a jazz band (3 - Hungary)                                         Gyula SAX

26 He’s actually quite tall (5 - England)                                                  Nigel SHORT
27 A needle pulling thread (2 - USA)                                                      Wesley SO

28 What Rick might drink his beer from? (5 - USSR)                           Leonid STEIN
29 He half-inched something?! (5 – Slovakia)                                      Igor STOHL

30 Was it heat or nerves that made him perspire? (6 - USSR)          Alexey SUETIN
31 Sounds like he’d fall if you nudged him (7 - Bulgaria)                   Veselin TOPALOV

32 A long, open container for animal feed (5 - USA)                          Kayden TROFF
33 The other half in overdrive (6 - Scotland)                                       Matthew TURNER

34 Elementary, my dear (6 - England)                                                   William WATSON
35 A female sheep (2 - China)                                                                 YU Yangyi

So how did your performance rate?

36         Your name is Mark Page and you set the quiz
35         You cheated, but couldn't even do that properly!
30-34    You scored a Chess Quiz GM norm - many congratulations!
25-29    You scored a Chess Quiz IM Norm - I suppose that's something to be proud of.
20-24    You scored a Chess Quiz FM Norm - Calm down, calm down. It's not that great
15-19    Your favourite pop group was probably Middle of the Road
10-14    You know very little about chess, but have a well-rounded approach to life I can only envy
5-9        You know even less about chess, but have an even better lifestyle. I want to be you.
0-4        You must have been drunk all Christmas! If you sober up by the next quiz, try cheating!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

The 2017 Christmas Quiz

Ben's 5 tips for surviving Christmas were all jolly useful, but unfortunately he missed out the all-important 6th tip - do the KCC Christmas Quiz. This fiendish brain-teaser (started as far back as 2017) is right up there with the Queen's Speech, Noel Edmonds at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Brussels sprouts as unmissable Yuletide institutions. So get your thinking caps on and strap yourselves in for a bumpy mental ride into the chess-iverse!

Your task in this year's quiz, is to identify the 36 Grandmasters suggested by the following 35 clues. All are still living, except those marked with an asterisk. Luckily, I was able to omit Russia's Semen Dvoirys on the grounds that the quiz is based on surnames, while I also took an executive decision not to include Indian GM Abhijit Kunte. And a few others where the only clues I could think of were in somewhat dubious taste - Nick Pert springs readily to mind!

The clues are a mix of the easy, general knowledge, cryptic, obscure and unfathomable (as are the Grandmasters themselves!), but in a seasonal spirit of generosity are presented in alphabetical order of the GM's surname, and additionally I have given both the number of letters in their names and their country of FIDE registration. Has this made it too easy? Well, maybe for Sherlock Holmes, but not for the alcohol addled brains that make up the KCC membership, I suspect!

Answers to follow after Christmas. Now, let's quiz! (And no Wikipedia-based cheating!)

1 As wielded by executioners of old (3 – Hungary)                           
2 Known as Himself in Ireland (6 - England)     
3 Half of a musical pair in overdrive? (8 - Paraguay)    
4 Courting couples favourite place in the cinema (6 - France)  
5 Is he also a scraper? (5 - France)         
6 Was he a private in the US Army? (8 - USA)    
7 The Titanic should have tried to avoid this (4 - Sweden)     
8 Oh no he can’t (3 - Turkey)                      
9 Shame he wasn’t born in Hastings (8 - England)   
10 Half of your front door bell? (4 - China)          
11 Eat at your own risk – usually after 5 pints (6 – Netherlands*)     
12 You'll find a couple of these in Mumbai (4 - England)   
13 Agreed, Agatha. Why didn’t they ask him? (5 – USA*)       
14 Robert Angler (7 – USA*)                      
15 Strongman’s athletic event (6 - Norway)       
16 The greatest Trojan of them all? (6 - Sweden)              
17 No relation to Rudolf, nor a fan of Spandau Ballet? (4 - USA) 

18 Two GMs with the same surname (6 - England)     
19 Sounds like a born Royalist (4 - England)    
20 Where you’ll find Milan (8 – USA*) 
21 Nissan pick-up truck model (6 – Czech Rep)        
22 Area where Crystal Palace play (7 - Andorra)     
23 What sex life does a monk have (4 - England)     
24 It’ll never heal if you do this (5 - Netherlands)                                               
25 Played in many a jazz band (3 – Hungary*)                                     
26 He’s actually rather tall (5 - England)                                                    
27 A needle pulling thread (2 - USA)                                                        
28 What Rick might drink his beer from? (5 – USSR*)                       
29 He half-inched something?! (5 – Slovakia)                                      
30 Was it heat or nerves that made him perspire? (6 – USSR*)    
31 Sounds like he’d fall if you nudged him (7 - Bulgaria)                  
32 A long, open container for animal feed (5 - USA)                         
33 The other half in overdrive (6 - Scotland)                                          
34 Elementary, my dear (6 - England)                                                
35 A female sheep (2 - China)

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Five Tips For Surviving Christmas

So 2017 is almost done and the League takes a break for the festive season. A chess free two weeks of wine, song, and er, the in-laws beckons for most. Whilst a break from travelling on dark nights to Rugby, Solihull and Nuneaton is to be welcomed, what to do if the urge for some chess becomes too much? OK - this might just be me - but here are five survival tips if at some point over the holiday you would prefer being with chess nuts to roasting chestnuts. [Best pun I could think of, I know it's terrible. Alright, I did not try very hard.]

1. Brush up on your tactics

I've come across a piece of free software called Chess Tempo - you can just google it and work your way through an infinite number of tactical problems. It definitely beats Sudoku!

2. Play online

The ICC is my site of choice, but there are plenty of others. A years subscription costs about £20 a year and you then have Chess online 24/7 at the click of a button. It should be noted that this has the potential to make you very unpopular if your playing time is not somewhat rationed. My rule of thumb is when you are becoming more familiar with some Russian blokes daily routine than your nearest and dearest, it is probably time for a (brief) pause.

3. Read a book about Chess

Christmas is a time for reflection after all. Why not give the wood-pushing a break and read about Chess instead? My top three tips in reverse order are: (3) Searching for Bobby Fisher by Fred Watzikin (2) The Chess Artist: Genius, Obsession and the world's oldest game by J.C.Hallman and my all time favourite, the book I would definitely take to a desert island before any other (1) Kings Gambit. A Son, a Father and the World's Most Dangerous Game by Paul Hoffman.  (If there is another Chess player in your life, buy them this!)

4. Study your games from the first half of the season

When it is time to put the book down and head back to the Board, there could be a lot of learning to be had from studying your recent games and assimilating vital lessons to help you in the New Year. I won't be doing this. It is Christmas after all, not Halloween. But there could be something in this one.

5. Remind yourself Shropshire is not far away!

Always good to have a weekend tournament in early January to kick the new year off - and to look forward to when on your ninth plate of cold Turkey. I would thoroughly recommend Shropshire for those who have not been before. Then of course after that, it's back to Rugby, Solihull and Nuneaton!

Happy Christmas Everyone. Here's to 2018!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

You're wrong, Tina - We Do Need Another Hero!

One hero proved to be not enough last night, as the A team brought the first half of the season to a close with a narrow 2.5-1.5 loss to runaway leaders Olton A.

But what a hero, as Andrew P proved he is well and truly back from the doldrums with a tremendous win over Phil Holt on Board 1. To say the game was a complete mess would be an understatement. It was, in fact, the biggest mess since 101 dalmatians all jumped into the world's biggest mud pool. After an irregular opening (of course!) Phil instantly sacrificed a pawn with an e3 thrust, as after fxe3, Bh4+ followed and Ke2 was White's only legal move. The game was unfathomable to me- Andrew offered an exchange sac of his rook on h1, which was declined, as Phil's white square bishop on e4 looked by far the superior piece. Both sides looked to have a terrible position, but somewhere around the time control, the Black position went t*ts up (Strange how that phrase came to mind after watching the Tina Turner video) and White finished with a mating attack against the Black king on c8. A great win, but all in vain, as the match was already lost by then.

Ben had finished first, drawing what I have to say looked like a very dull Spanish against Richard Smith. This was the only game of the evening not won by White, which was unfortunate as we had the White pieces.

Mike then went down on Board 4 against Mark Cundy, losing his first game of the calendar year in the process - what a time to choose! He seemed to have equalised comfortably against White's Maroczy Bind, but at a crucial moment he chose an e5 pawn move instead of d5 and the position turned against him. White played very precisely at the end to snuff out Mike's drawing attempts.

I followed shortly after, losing - yet again - against Alan Lloyd. After the inevitable English Opening, I reached an equal position, but after a clever shift of his queen from d1-d2-f4-g4, Alan found a strong Ng5 move which prompted some needlessly imprecise calculation from me, and I blundered into a Nxf7 and Qh5+ combo that cost me a pawn and ruined my position. In terrible time trouble I then blundered an exchange, which Alan returned almost immediately to reach a completely won position. Thus bringing down the curtain (I hope) on what has been my worst run of results for many a long year. Goodbye 2017.

So at halfway, we find ourselves rather closer to the bottom of the table than we would like, and have massively under-performed (especially me!), even given the regular absences of many of our first team squad. Still, as football pundits have said since time immemorial, "We're too good to go down!"

And a Happy Christmas to all our readers.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Zhukova Revisited

Avid readers of this blog should recall the sneaky quiz I set back in May of this year, when a list of famous chess players turned out to actually be a list of very unfamous racehorses. The only possible exception to that assessment, you may recall, was the 5-y-o mare Zhukova, who then secured a further claim to fame by becoming the first horse to get its picture on the KCC website.

To save you looking back at the old post, I'll just quote what I wrote about Zhukova (the horse, not the Ukrainian chess player - please try and keep up!):-

" ....if she never runs another race, she would still command a massive sales price (minimum £0.5 million, I would guess) as a prospective brood mare."

Well, its lucky I included the word minimum in that estimate, because Zhukova did indeed find herself at the sales earlier this week (Tattersalls, in Newmarket) where she slightly exceeded my guess. Because it took the little matter of 3.7 million guineas to acquire her, as you can see for yourselves by watching this.

I'm pretty sure you could buy a lot of GMs for that price!

Improvement - of a Sort

The fact that it has taken me 4 days to get around to writing this report should be proof enough that our 3-1 win over Leamington was not the most exciting of matches - and that my game in particular did not add much/anything to the rich tapestry of chess history.

But at least we won, which has been a very rare occurrence in the Leamington League this season, and in the process almost got ourselves back to 50%. The match was secured by two white wins.

Carl brought home the point on Board 4 despite playing 1 e4 and then 2 Qh5. He was soon  in retreat, but luckily it transpired that his opponent didn't understand the concept of the pin. So first Carl was able to take a pawn on b6, because the Black pawn on a7 was pinned in front of a rook on a8, and then he was able to take a pawn on c5 because the Black pawn on d6 was pinned by a bishop against a rook on b8. Another three black pawns also fell off, though I didn't see whether a pin was involved in any of these captures. Then one of the armada of white pawns cost Black a rook, and it was all over.

Andrew P has been having as bad a run as me lately, but returned to winning ways by beating Tom Darling on Board 2, even though his attempt to attack himself out of his poor form by playing the King's Gambit backfired, as Tom responded with the Falkbeer Counter Gambit. Andrew nursed his extra pawn carefully and despite a little bit of Black pressure swapped pieces off regularly to reach a winning ending,

The Kenilworth players of the Black pieces (Andy B and myself) had less to congratulate themselves about, and we will draw a veil across their rather unconvincing efforts to play for a win. Still, 2 draws did at least mean an ultimately comfortable 3-1 victory. So while yours truly remains firmly down in the dumps, the team at least got back on track. And in these continuing times of austerity, I suppose we must be grateful for any crumbs of comfort, however small they may be.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Nightmare on Broad Street

This report on our 4-1 loss away against Banbury in the KO Cup will have to be brief, as I need to go back to banging my head against a brick wall to try and take my mind off the shame of it all.

I finished first with a disastrous loss against Georgs Vikanis as White. For the second game in a row I had to give up my queen for a rook, though at least this time I could only manage to play a couple of more moves before I had to resign and end the suffering. I can't explain it; don't understand it. I ain't never played like this before.

Ben and Mike then agreed draws on Boards 4 and 5 against Carl Portman and Arran Gundry respectively. Mike won a pawn but with opposite bishops he couldn't make much progress ,and Black won the pawn back anyway. Ben was under some pressure on the black side of one of these strange open Sicilians with an early e5 by Black, but he more or less neutralised the pressure and was glad when Carl decided to offer a repetition. This was a massive improvement on the debacles that have occurred on that board the last twice we have played away at Banbury, so congratulations to Ben for combatting the very bad vibes associated with that corner of the room!

Andrew P's game on Board 2 initially followed Ben's but then became much wilder. Coming up to the time control, Black looked slightly worse to me, but then Andrew played a series of strong moves that completely flummoxed Gary Jackson and with superb co-ordination the three Black pieces forced an instant win. At least they would have done if Andrew had found one final (and obvious) good move. Instead, in bad time trouble, he first missed the win, and then blundered a whole rook. I'm not sure if me sitting next to him has caused his loss of form, or if it's him sitting next to me that's led to my recent collapse, but the fact is we are both playing horrendously.  The team's engine room is misfiring badly!

This loss was decisive. If Andrew had won we would have tied the match, and all would have been set for us to win on Board Count/Elimination if Paul could then draw on Board 1 against James Jackson. Obviously easier said than done, but after blundering a pawn in the middle game, Paul staged a massive fight back against his very strong opponent. He cleverly sacrificed an exchange to open up the Black king and picked up a couple of pawns as well. Then James provoked a tactical phase which ended up badly for him, but at a crucial moment - and with Paul in, yes, you guessed it - terminal time trouble, he missed a very strong move which would have put the Black king in possibly terminal danger. As his time ran out, the Black king eventually ran up the board to safety, and another undeserved loss was chalked up against us.

On the balance of play, we could/should have won 3-2, but instead we were on the end of a 4-1 hammering. Chess is a cruel and fickle mistress.

And thus endeth our only hope of Leamington League silverware this season, and our excellent recent record in the KO Cup (3 wins in 4 seasons) has taken a big hit. Thankfully, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce have just been parachuted into new jobs this week to try and save two other clubs in despair, or else one of them would doubtless have already occupied the A team manager's chair. So it's back to the League for the hapless Page and his unhappy band. Next week's match against Leamington looks like a six-pointer, which is quite something when there's only two points for a win!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Should I stay or should I go

Often during a match, you have to make an assessment of the match position and likely outcome and decide if you should stay on and play on for a win or play safely and go and accept a draw. Last night no such decision could be made as most of the games were even and all outcomes likely. At about 10.05, the dust settled and would you believe it, we had either won or were winning every game. Who saw that coming!

The only game where one side held an advantage for most of the time was board 3 where Bernard was playing Frank Jimenez. The advanced French by transposition had left Bernard with a good position in an unusual line of this defence and he quite quickly won an exchange as a result of a tatical oversight. The position became a little bogged down but eventually black broke through on the kingside. When white lost a knight he resigned and Bernard got the early bus!

Dave on board 4 was playing a new Shirley player Ken Mycock. Playing white he faced a Ruy Lopez berlin defence and as usual with this defence black gets a slightly cramped but solid position. With neither side interested in a draw, play continued right up until the time control. When both sides were down to about two minutes and a few moves still to play, black opted to try and infiltrate whites queen side with his queen and win the a pawn. With the black queen offside, white attacked in the centre and unfortunately black missed a mating threat at the end of a short sequence. Black resigned when mate was inevitable.

Mike was playing white against Jon Freeman on baord 2. Another transpositional game that  produced a sound line of the Bogo-Indian. Black allowed white to expand his queen side, essentially blocking in his pieces by preventing the freeing move c5 and allowing white full reign in the center. Whilst black remarshaled his forces white attention turned to the king side and his resulting king side attacks ultimately proved conclusive.

Ben was playing Dave Thomas on top board and a long queens pawn game ensued with the advantage shifting back and forth. The resulting ending left white with a bad bishop and black with a severely penned in bishop of the same colour. White's refusal of blacks draw offer was probably a mistake in hindsight and was made as a result of the match position rather this his game position. Sometimes you just have to go! Playing on in an inferior ending is often risky and black was able to create a a passed centre pawn which proved decisive as white had to give up his bishop for it. When black queened a pawn for the second time, white had to concede.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Playing for laughs

This blog may well confuse you, relating as it does to our Coventry League match against Nuneaton B, which took place last Tuesday. Heck, I've even managed to play twice for Kenilworth since that night, so what can I say? Busy and all that, I suppose. To compound matters, I've lost the notes Mike sent me on his game, I saw nothing of the other games and we lost 2.5-1.5, but other than all that I am absolutely thrilled as I sit down to finally write these probably not especially informative (see above) words.

So, let's go back in time to last Tuesday... With our embattled leader taking the night off to watch Rob Brydon, it fell to the rest of us to ease the pressure on him (obviously we failed), as we took on Nuneaton B for the second time in a handful of weeks. Having defeated them in the Divisional Cup not that long ago, identical teams lined up with the same colours for the re-match, but unfortunately the result did not go our way.

Carl drew with Tony Green and Mike drew with Dave Kearney, before Dave succumbed to Mike Maher to leave us 2-1 down. Dave said of his game, “With black pieces, I played a Nimzo-Indian defence. Unfortunately I didn't play the opening very well and had to allow white to double my kingside pawns. I managed to sacrifice a pawn to provide some counter play but this only left me with a drawn out inferior ending. White played well and I was unable to hold the ending."

So that left me.. A few weeks ago, my game against P Briggs was one of my most traumatic defeats of the season (and there have been a lot of candidates, let's be honest.) That night I had built up a great position, lost my way and somehow managed to lose an endgame in which I was probably winning as my clock ticked down to zero. For a horribly long time it looked like history was going to repeat itself. I played the opening well, built up a lot of pressure and was really firing into Black’s position. However, some very good defending followed and in the end Phil gave up his Queen for two Rooks, which ended my attack. I was convinced I was still better, but his Rooks co-ordinated well and suddenly I was really up against it. I dropped a pawn and was in all sorts of danger of getting mated or having my Queen pinned to my King. By some miracle I found the best defence and Phil then went for a tempting check that seemed to ease the pressure.

With my flag literally hanging Mike blundered a Rook, to leave me up Queen v Rook but with no time. Why anyone likes analogue clocks I do not know, as when up against it is helpful to have some idea as to whether you have ten seconds or a minute... I agreed the draw and the subsequent check showed I had been at about 45 seconds, so it was probably the right decision, although very frustrating as a full point would have salvaged something.

It's one of those seasons!

As Rob Brydon might have said in Gavin and Stacey - we are a cracking bunch of lads - so surely our luck will turn soon!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

de Boer, Shakespeare, Koeman, Bilic, Pulis ........ and Page??

Five top flight managers have bitten the dust already this season, and Ladbrokes now make Kenilworth A supremo Mark Page hot favourite to be next. Another shocking home defeat has led to calls for his head from the irate fans (Bernard and Doris Bonkers), and despite a vote of confidence from the club's Executive Committee (comprising the Secretary, Treasurer and Coventry League Captain), Page looks like a dead man walking, as his expensively assembled squad (combined cost £0) stumbles and bumbles it's way towards the relegation zone.

A 3-1 home defeat to Solihull A last night had the crowd (officially recorded at zero) streaming towards the exits long before the final whistle, and the place that they once called Fortress Abbey now offers easy pickings to any visiting team. The manager has clearly lost the dressing room, and could be seen berating club stalwart Carl Pickering after a rather turgid draw (correction the most turgid draw ever) on bottom board against Neil Clark. (It's games like this that will give the Exchange French a bad name if it's not careful.) But this game was a model of accuracy compared to the rest of the match!

And the criticism came back to bite Page in the posterior in no uncertain terms, as he played a disastrous game against Nigel Towers and got his Queen trapped on a2 after grabbing a pawn that was so hot it burned his hand when he captured it. Too punch drunk to resign, and foolishly thinking the match might yet depend on him, a glassy-eyed Page played on for another 30+ moves a queen for a rook down, before succumbing to the inevitable defeat. "Do I not like that," was all the comment he could muster post-game.

Veteran striker Andy Baruch showed tantalising glimpses of his former prowess on his return to the team after an extended stay on the sidelines, but despite pressing for most of the game against Tom Thorpe on board one, his lack of match fitness told and he was eventually relieved to agree to a draw in a slightly worse position in a same coloured bishops ending.

Which left mercurial talent Andrew Paterson to try and rescue the match against evergreen Ray Carpenter on Board 2. The opening was absurd, but for once it wasn't Andrew's fault. Ray's first few moves were b6, Bb7, d6, e6, c6, Be7, g5 and h5. Our man tried to respond in classical style, but couldn't resist trying to find an immediate refutation of the Black set-up. A White bishop was hanging on g6 for many moves and it got so complex it made my head ache. Every time I looked at the board, Black seemed to have more material than White, but maybe I was mis-counting. Because soon I heard Ray offer a draw, only to be met by the response, "I'd like to play on a bit." One move later Andrew resigned. Yes the draw offer and rejection had both been made in a totally won position for Ray. Payback time for the fortunate declined draw in last season's KO Cup Final Board 1 encounter between Paul and Phil Holt?

An ashen faced Page has come out fighting today, telling the media that he expects to be in charge for the rest of the season, and is hoping to free up funds for some wheeling and dealing in the January transfer window. Page may have to sell before he can buy, though, and with the latest valuation of his entire squad coming in at £0, he has little wriggle room. His best hope seems to be to pick up a free transfer or two, while there are even rumours of a shock swoop to bring retired Kenilworth giant (and still quite a big chap) Bernard Rogers back to the club. Though surely things can't be that desperate??

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

We finally managed to find a team that we could beat - other teams are available

After two disappointing results, the B team finally managed to get the upper hand in a match.

Mike played Colin Searle and the opening was played at the usual breakneck speed (by Colin anyway) followed by the rest of the game being played at about 40 seconds a move. Mike managed to trade queens and left black with weak pawns. This allowed Mike to gang up on blacks d6 pawn but good defensive play by black caused all the pieces to be exchanged off leaving a drawn ending. With Colin down to his last 55 minutes, a draw was agreed. Subsequence analysis the following day indicated that the real square to attack would have been e6 rather than d6 but who can see that was a game is played at that speed!

After his last two games Phil opted to play a super solid game against Richard Dobedoe's Birds opening using double fianchettoed bishops. After One and a half hours play, there has been no exchanges although white was building up pressure on the kingside. White then sacrificed a bishop for two pawns and attempted to attack the black king. Unfortunately the position became very complex and a number of opportunities were missed by both sides in the rush to get to the time control. White efforts to generate a successful attack used up so much time that he was unable to play the ending with his remaining few minutes and had to resign when he lost material.

Dave was playing Peter Drury who used a Pirc defence. White was allowed to play a5 which effectively stopped black queen side expansion and also allowed him to establish a knight on b6. Rather than sit of his position black opted to attack on the king side with f5 but unfortunately this only allowed white to win a kingside pawn without any counter play. A second pawn soon fell to leaving black with a difficult ending to defend. Black resigned soon after the time control.

The only loss of the evening for us was in Ben's game against Richard McNally. A long complex game simplified to a double rook, minor piece and pawns ending. White initially had an extra pawn but black managed to win this through a cleaver tactic. However white always had five minutes more on the clock than black. This additional time ultimately proved decisive and illustrates that in our division the board one games can be decided on the very slimmest of margin or advantage.

Nose Bleed Territory

As I sit here typing this report, Kenilworth are tied for first place in Division 1 of the Coventry League after a 3-1 win away against Coventry Chess Academy last night. Well, OK, a pedant might say that we are actually second. Warwick University A do have two games in hand on us, and they do have a slight game point difference (+13 compared to our zero!), but then we have alphabetical order advantage, so it's a bit of a toss up as to who is leading really. Wouldn't you agree?! Anyway, I'm pretty sure we've never risen to such a dizzy height before, so let's enjoy it while it lasts. (Probably not very long.)

Last night's match was almost a Kenilworth love-in, given that six of the eight players are KCC members and another has also played for us - albeit only once, a couple of seasons ago. It was very good of Paul to field his weakest team of the season to make our lives easier, but I'm sure that was an unavoidable coincidence rather than a show of favouritism towards us.

Ben finished first on Board 2, drawing easily against David Phillip's London System. I am coming to the conclusion that this opening should be banned at club level for being too boring and formulaic. if I had played this as a junior, I reckon I would have lost interest in chess in double quick time. God put an e pawn on the board so that White could push it two squares on the first move. Anything else is simply wrong! Bobby Fischer agreed, and his character and judgment were completely irreproachable after all. (Rant over - until Stuart plays this opening against me again on a Thursday evening at The Gauntlet!)

And then the Board 4 game between double agent Roy Watson and KCC loyalist Nick Fesenko finished, with victory going to our man (that's Nick in case you are confused) even though he was a very, very lucky boy! Before the game I gave him strict instructions not to lose to Roy under any circumstances, but for most of the game it seemed he had decided not to listen to me. Straight from the opening the Black position looked to be in ruins. The Black king had to run to d6 and all the queenside pieces were still on their original squares, whereas Roy had developed virtually every piece and shattered the Black kingside structure, at the cost of a measly (doubled) pawn. Even Red Adair (any relation to GM elect James Adair - who beat Paul at the recent 4NCL Coventry Open - I wonder?) would have been hard pressed to troubleshoot this position. A bit later I looked again - amazed to discover that Nick was still alive and now two pawns ahead with queens off the board - just as Nick made a horrendous blunder that allowed Roy a very elementary combination to win a piece. I had to look away, but when I made my next trip to view the "game" it was to discover that Roy had missed the winning move and Nick was now the small matter of 5 (count them, five!) pawns up. We had the point (in fact the decisive point) - but I think chess was the real loser here!

I finished next after a tense but ultimately uninspiring game against Paul. Luckily the crowds had not flocked in to see this heavyweight encounter, as not a lot happened. Opposite side castling and pawn advances occurred, but this was largely posturing, as neither king came under anything that could be called an attack. We reached a position with RRBN v RRNN in which Paul had doubled e pawns, while I had a backward f2 pawn on an open file. Fritz says it was dead level, and the two players agreed. I am ashamed to say, though, that I was 15 minutes down on the clock - against Paul!! And he was additionally distracted by also having to oversee his two other teams (comprising 8 juniors!) as well. I really need to speed up.

I think Paul's draw offer may have occurred because it was obvious all evening that we were eventually going to win on Board 3, and after the complete turnaround in the Roy v Nick encounter, our match victory was basically never in doubt. With Black, Andy Ward sacrificed a piece against Mike on move 5 (Nxe4), and after 6 fxe4 came Qh4+ 7 Ke2 Qxe4+ when Black had two pawns for the missing knight. The White king had to dance around a bit, but it soon became clear that Black's attack simply wasn't happening. The White pieces gradually emerged and swapped off, leaving an ending of BN v B in which the two pawns had no chance. With Mike's knight about to start a demolition tour of the board to annex Black's pawns, Andy resigned.

So a rather flattering 3-1 score-line in our favour, entirely due to the outrageous reversal of fortunes on Board 4. Thanks Roy! (You can take the man out of Kenilworth, but you can't take Kenilworth out of the man.) Meanwhile, looking at the bigger picture, massive congratulations to Paul for his amazing achievements at CCA. In the Div 2 and Div 3 matches, two of his juniors notched up excellent wins against much higher rated adults, and the sight of 9 juniors (some of them very junior indeed!) playing on a single night for one club in the Coventry League is something I never thought I would see. If Kenilworth's recent entry to the Coventry League was a slight boost to a rather moribund competition, then the arrival of 3 CCA teams has been like a blast of fresh air, and we all owe Paul a massive vote of thanks for bringing a new and wholly unexpected vibrancy to the local chess scene. (And also for remembering his roots and letting us have the 2 points!)

Thursday, 9 November 2017

At least we managed to find the venue!

The good news was that we managed to find a venue that the B team had not had to visit for many years in the Leamington League. The bad news was that there was almost no more good news that evening. In fairness to Rugby A they are quite a good side but we felt that we just handed them points due to carelessness.

Ben was playing Patrick Reid for the second time in a few weeks. Whereas his previous encounter had ended in a draw, this game did not despite us having the white pieces. Ben pursuit of a tactic allowed black to gain significant control of Ben's second rank. Despite being short of time, black was able to convert this advantage into a win.

Mike's game against David Phillips was a London system. It looked like white knew the chosen opening line fairly well and this was confirmed at the conclusion was he said that he had played the same position only recently. White's opening played left him with an advantage and black could only draw the game.

Phil's game against Alan Phillips was a short affair featuring a Dutch defence. White's opening play allowed some tactical play to happen which left Phil with a piece less. Further to this Phil failed to take the advantage of an hour and half of free time to visit the Merchant Inn - a particularly good pub in Rugby and not that far from the venue.

Dave's game looked like the only game where we could possibly has got a full point. White irregular version of an irregular sicilian game him no advantage and allowed black to infiltrate his position and break up his kingside pawns. However, despite the promising look of the position, white was able to defend adequately. Both players got very short of time and in the final moves of a time scramble black missed the chance to win white's f pawn and then left his rook without a flight square. Game over.

So that was that. However, we now move to playing Stratford in the next match. 

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Three is a Magic Number

Not just a song title - three also happens to be the number of consecutive Coventry League matches in which we have now avoided defeat; the number of successive home matches in which I have been material up (a pawn; a piece; two pawns) but failed to win; and -most importantly - the number of players that Nuneaton A arrived with last night!

Thankfully they had warned us in advance, so Dave was able to enjoy a night off while chalking up a win from the comfort of his own armchair The rest of us just needed to draw the actual match to secure the two points. And we did it!

Mike played a very strong game against Bob Buckler on Board 3, and won quickly after a bishop sacrifice on g2 destroyed the White defence and won a pawn thanks to a follow up queen fork. But this was the least of Bob's problems, as he had somehow managed to leave himself with 9 seconds (3 x 3 - are you twigging something here?!) for 12 moves! Even Paul has never quite got himself into that predicament. Unsurprisingly, in a losing position, the task of reaching the time control proved impossible and we were 2-0 up.

It looked for most of the evening as though 2-0 would become 3-0, as for once I had quickly obtained a winning position against our very own Andrew Paterson. He overlooked a rather elementary cheapo by me that won a pawn straight out of the opening, and then compounded it by losing another one. I could have won an exchange for a pawn, at the cost of allowing him two rampant bishops, so instead decided to content myself with advancing a pawn to c2, figuring it must win. Andrew grabbed one pawn back as I completed my development, but then found a good way to eliminate my monster c2 pawn by offering his g pawn. I decided to decline this, but after a lengthy sequence it turned out that by a single tempo he could walk his king from g1 to d2 and win the pawn anyway. In a bishop ending it was suddenly me who had to play carefully to secure the draw, but I managed this and the match was won.

Which was just as well, since Carl was seemingly well outplayed by Colin Green with Black, after a Pirc Defence. I think Carl's problems occurred very early - move one in fact, as his score-sheet showed 1 e4 d4 2 Nf6 Bd3 3 g6 Be3 4 Bg7 f3 and so on for 13 moves - when he suddenly noticed that he had been writing down White's moves as Black and vice versa, ever since forgetting to record Black's first move d6. No wonder he was confused and played some ropey old moves. Under pressure late in the game he fell for a monster knight fork which won material and, soon after, the game.

Never mind, it was still two points in the bag and a very respectable league position ahead of our first ever match against Coventry Chess Academy. Watch out Paul - we're coming for you!

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Twelve Knights - Tania Sachdev Simul

After another pretty disastrous week at the chess board, Saturday was a chance for some light relief as I took part in the "Twelve Knights" simultaneous event with Indian Women's Grandmaster Tania Sachdev. This had been organised by Carl Potman. Carl does so much for local chess and this was another terrific occasion  - thank you Carl. Tani has been the Indian Women's champion twice and the Asian champion once and it was a real honour to take part. If anything,  just being around some chess in a bit of a relaxed environment was exactly what I needed. Everybody was so nice, especially Tania and it was really good fun. OK - it didn't hurt that for the first time in far too long I actually managed to win - and with a good tactic!

I had reached the stage where it had seemed to me that ever winning again was somewhat unlikely. I had even considered purchasing a lucky horse shoe, to try and shake things up but ruled such a move out as way too risky, essentially on the grounds that I would most likely either find myself in a lightening storm on the way to the venue and said horse shoe would act as the conductor that saw me electrocuted. Or perhaps more prosaically that if this didn’t happen it would probably fall on my head and render me unconscious during play… It was fair to say that my morale/ confidence levels were not high. And my only remaining option was just to turn up and get on with it…

That said, I had nothing to lose and it was a chance just to enjoy playing and being around chess – that’s why we all play after all. I've struggled to work the software so have written the game moves out below with some analysis. As you will see, I get completely outplayed and end up down the exchange with my King side on the verge of implosion. Having spent quite a lot of time at my board earlier in the game, I think Tania (fairly) thought she had the game well under control (to say the least) and played the losing mistake very quickly at the end. 

I can't claim this is a work of brilliance. In truth I get a big slice of luck (not something that has happened for a while on the board!) Of course I should have lost really. But the tactic at the end is pleasing on the eye. In the final position I am down a Knight and a pawn and both my Queen and remaining Knight are attacked, but I have a forced mate in one...

Tani Sachdev v Ben Graff

1. d4      N-f6

2. c4      N-c6

3. N-f3   e6

4. N-c3  d5

5. B-f4   B-b4

6. e3      0-0

7. Q-c2  BxN +

8. PxB   N-e4

9. B-d3  f5

10. h3    B-d7

11. g4    B-e8

12. 0-0-0  Q-e7

13. K-b2  R-b8

14. R-b1   N-a5

N-a5 is a mistake and is where Fritz says I start to go wrong. dxc4 Bxc4 b5 is given as a slight plus for black. I should see this. The point is if White takes the otherway I can skewer her Queen and Rook by bringing my Bishop onto g6. 

My basic thought in this position is that Tania's Queen side might present some opportunities if I can open up some files. As it turns out, she proves to be far more skillful at ripping open my King side than I do her Queen side.

15. cxd5   exd5

16. K-a1 

Walking into what will eventually prove to be the white King's tomb, but such a prospect seems a long way off right now.

16...   b5

I think I just miscalculate. Because Tania was only playing twelve of us, there was not all that long to think things through and the next few moves aren't great by me,

17. PxP  RxP

18. N-d2 


18. ...      NxN

19. BxR  g6

Fritz says g6 is terrible, but it thinks everything else is pretty terrible too. I'm clearly well and truly on the canvas.

20. QxN   PxB

21. Rh-g1+ B-g6

22. Q-d3   Q-d7

23. h4       K-f7

24. R-g5   h5

25. Q-e2   R-b6

26. Rxh5   Q-c6

I wonder... Q-c6 is the best move as it sets the trap. Fritz doesn't particularly like Rxh5 because of Q-c6, but says after R-c1, whilst Black can pick up a bit of material, White is massively winning. What Tania misses is the lack of ways to defend her King.

27. R-g5 which Fritz gives as terrible.

27. ......   Qxc3+

28. Q-b2 played in an instant and the game is over..

28....         N-b3+

The Queen can't take the Knight it is pinned and after the pawn takes it, R-a6 is mate.

If you see the threat 28. R-b2 is a way out, but Fritz gives the position as back to roughly level after a long combination. 

So of course I am fortunate and as a whole it is not a great game - but the final position is pretty cool. Tania was very gracious and racked up nine wins and a draw in her other games, from her perspective this was no more than an occupational hazard that can sometimes occur in simuls. From mine - well it made me feel a bit better. It was my first stoke of luck of the season and I did see the tactic which is something. I think I still have someway to go to get my play back to where I want it to be, but it was a start!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

I Love the Smell of Victory in the Evening!

No points for recognising the title reference, but two points for Kenilworth last night with a much needed, first Coventry League Division 1 victory of the season over Coventry A. It was a close run thing, and for once it didn't all depend on me as the last game in progress. This time Carl was the hero who successfully got us over the finishing line for a much needed 2.5-1.5 win.

Mike is a class act on Board 4 in the Coventry League, and duly brought in the first point of the night after winning from the White side of a complex Catalan/Slav or something similar (I missed the opening moves) against Bava Manickam. At one point there were many pawns and pieces on the board, then I looked back again and most of them had disappeared except that Mike was an exchange and a pawn up in a winning position. No idea if it was a brilliancy or a blunder - but either way it was a point for us!

Unfortunately, Ben then continued his rather calamitous early season form by losing  with the White pieces to our very own Bernard C on board 2. It was a highly original opening, but Bernard, as befits a man steeped in chess knowledge, simply occupied the centre (none of this hypermodern rubbish!) and eventually broke through to win material after a flurry of tactics. Simple when you know how, I guess. There's not much one can say to cheer up Ben as his bad run continues, but if its any consolation to him, he did break the world land speed record in his exit from the room  - a record which has stood since 1982 when it was set by an opponent of mine at the conclusion of this game from the National Club Championship:-

Digressing a little bit further, I have very fond memories of this match (played on a Sunday afternoon in rural Buckinghamshire if I remember correctly), as not only did I have this crushing win, but my team won 6-0 and the day was capped off with a seriously large number of celebratory pints of Young's Bitter at an excellent pub in Wimbledon village. Work the next day doubtless brought the mood of euphoria to a quick halt.

So where was I? Oh yes, the match was now tied 1-1, and soon it became 1.5-1.5 when I drew against Dave Ireland on Board 1. It was a highly dramatic game, where my king was stuck in the centre and seemingly ripe for the chop, but I had snaffled a pawn on a2 next to White's castled king by way of compensation. The position was very complicated, and both players made mistakes. However, Dave made the most serious one, and with an excellent return of my extra pawn I engineered a double threat to win a piece and deliver mate. Unfortunately, I then captured this piece one move too quickly and Dave cleverly managed to hem in my extra piece - a knight on g8 - with pawns on g5, e5 and d6. Check it out for yourselves, but there was no way the knight could ever get out. And to make matters worse, I had a rook stuck on h8 as well. The only way to extricate this rook was to play Ne7 and allow the capture of my extra piece, producing a totally drawn double rook ending. A great fight from both players, but more points for spirit than accuracy.

Which may probably also be said about the decisive Board 3 game between Carl ánd Ed Goodwin. The opening looked to have gone wrong for Carl, but things were deceptive, and his knight was much better than Ed's bishop, while he had an active queen and an open f file to work with too. After many adventures Carl started winning Ed's queenside pawns, but then Ed invaded with queen and rook to seemingly threaten at least perpetual. But Carl drove the White king up the board to h5, and then overloaded White's defences with mate threats of his own. Ed blundered into one of them when also about to lose on time, but by that time Carl was winning on material as well.

Our unbeaten run now stands at a whole 2 matches (!!), but a strong Nuneaton A are up next, so we will have to be on top form to keep the sequence going. But I have faith in our boys! Then again, I also once had faith in Tony Blair as Middle East peace envoy, so maybe my judgement shouldn't be given too much credence!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

That Wasn't in the Script!

The A team's woes deepened further last night, with a rather unexpected home loss against Olton B. But maybe we should adjust expectations and accept that this season we aren't the force we have been in recent years. Olton B reinforced their usual team with Mark Cundy on Board 1, which certainly made them a more than respectable unit, but even so it was very disappointing that we couldn't even get a draw, and that the damage was done on the top two boards where we had a big advantage, grade-wise.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Carl finished first after an intended Dutch somehow ended up as a Latvian Gambit type of position against Rob Reynolds. Rob didn't disappoint and when his inevitable draw offer arrived, Carl was happy enough to shake hands and have an early night. Ben finished next, with another draw against Rob Wallman. I was hoping for more, as there was a long term threat of murder down the a1-h8 diagonal, but Ben never managed to open it up to deliver a big check mate on g7, and another relatively early conclusion occurred.

Which shouldn't have been a problem as we had a good position on Board 1 and I was simply a pawn up for nothing on Board 2. But then the wheels fell off. Andrew had a monumental rush of blood to the head and sacrificed a rook on f2. He thought it won, but unfortunately for him and us it didn't. In fact it lost. A rook is indeed a lot of material to give up if you don't get any of it back.

But surely, the Captain could do the business and at least bring home one match point by converting his extra pawn against Gary Hope? Unfortunately not. In a staggering display of incompetence he delayed an obvious sacrifice on f7 until a moment when it was not as decisive as it should have been, and then compounded the error by allowing an opposite bishops ending, and then finally screwing it up by blundering away his extra pawn. Really, you just can't get the right kind of captain these days!

Saturday, 28 October 2017


Which coincidentally happens to be the title of a very interesting book by Norman Ohler about drug use in Nazi Germany, which I just finished reading less than a week ago.

But in this case, I'm not planning to speculate about the narcotic intake (or not) of chess players. Instead, here is a blitz game played last Thursday evening at The Gauntlet between myself and Roy - in which Roy got completely blitzed! A certain modest alcohol consumption had taken place by the time this game took place (the beer was especially good last Thursday!); the game was of no competitive significance; and it was all over in considerably less than 10 minutes, but nevertheless it was a very enjoyable experience for the player of the White pieces. It would be a shame not to share it with a wider audience!

Strangely, I couldn't recall the moves from the two games I subsequently lost that same evening against Phil, as otherwise I would have been only too pleased to publish those games instead of a crushing win for me. After all, modesty is my middle name - or at least it could be if my middle initial was an M!

Anyway - see what fun is to be had at The Gauntlet on a Thursday evening! And if you consent to lose a quick game against me, you can even end up having your efforts recorded for posterity and shared across the world. Now that's what I call an incentive to come along!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The wedding can't be postponed any longer....

Gary Kasparov wrote that in the 1980s  Anatoly Karpov promised his then girlfriend (and now ex-wife) that he would marry her, just as soon as he had regained the world title from Kasparov. In the end Karpov got tired of waiting and married her anyway. Something he presumably regretted in the end (see above.)

So what has all this got to do with Kenilworth Chess Club you may well ask?? The truth is I had hoped to defer my next blog to a point at which I could share news of a thumping individual win and a return to form, but it's not to be and I can't wait any longer. More to the point, the team had a great night last night against Nuneaton B which should be celebrated.

We were outgraded and Mike had clearly eaten his shredded wheat as he destroyed Dave Kearny in 17 moves, wrapping up his evening before 8.30. A Modern Defense in which Mike kept the centre open allowing exchanges on d4 and allowed Mike to liberate his pieces and offer the g pawn in exchange for a rapid attack. Dave declined the pawn and continued developing before Mike found a really clever way to completely overload Dave's queen which netted him two pieces in quick succession and an excellent point.

I didn't see much of Carl's game. but he also went through the gears very smoothly against Tony Green and seemed to win quite comfortably.

Which left me and Dave to finish much, much later. Dave was passive out of the opening and felt Mike Meher missed an opportunity to pick up material, preferring instead to consolidate. Mike then ran very short of time and a draw was agreed, which took us over the line. Another great effort.

My own game really summed up my season to date. Mr Briggs started poorly and I won a pawn out of the opening and was nicely placed. I then got caught in two minds as to how to play the position, ran short of time, lost the thread and had to give the pawn back. We ended up in a wildly complicated ending, which Phil very cheerfully told me afterwards he thought I stood better in. Unfortunately, playing on vapors, his Bishop proved superior to my Knight and we eventually ended up with King and 2 v King and 1. (No prizes for guessing which of us had the one by this stage.) Finally, with Phil down to about two minutes I lost on time in a lost position where my only legal move was to Queen my pawn, which would have allowed Phil's King and Queen to deliver mate in 1. It's a well known motif, but I fear I will dream about if for a while. On the one hand, it was a very good game from a combat perspective, on the other my dreadful run continues. I guess we've all been there.

The good thing is, just as Karpov (and indeed Kasparov) discovered that there is always another wife if you want one (I don't - just for the record!) there is always also another game. What's gone is gone and you have to look forward.

Right now we do so from the top of the Group A Divisional Cup table - and that's what really counts!

No luck with the black pieces

Quite a disappointing evening for the B Team against a strong Banbury side which saw us lose both of our games with the black pieces. Banbury have strength in depth at the moment as so the C team is as strong as their B team. The only plus of the evening was Banbury’s appalling use of the match score sheet which became a beer mat and was consequently disregarded - not sure if they have the match score or not!

Board 1

Ben had the black pieces and emerged from the opening with an even position. Unfortunately, during the middle game he miscalculated a tactic and in order to regain his sacrificed piece he had to allow white to double up his rooks against his queenside castle position. White won the game with a very neat rook sacrifice.

Board 2

Mike's game featured, for the second week running, another new idea at move 4 in an established opening. Subsequent research showed that it was not in the latest opening books but had been played by several IMs/GMs recently and the Chessbase site shows it has been analysed by hundreds of people/computers. The move featured a Benko style gambit against an English set up but White preferred nagging pressure on the long diagonal to snatching the offered b-pawn. White defended very well against the numerous promising lines at Whites disposal and missed the best line to retain a large edge. A draw was agreed when Black was slightly better.

Board 3

Phil played the Scandinavian and emerged from the opening with a slightly inferior position. Unfortunately having lost a pawn on move 9, black's attempts to regain the material resulted in him getting his queen trapped and having to give it up for a rook. After this, white won without too many problems.

Board 4
Dave picked up blacks c pawn in a French defence opening and obtained a good position forcing all of black pieces onto his back two ranks. However, black defended very well and white was unable to capitalise upon his advantage. The game was drawn shortly before the time control.