Thursday, 30 March 2017

So No Pressure Then…

These were Mark’s words on hearing the task that faced the B team in the season run in. Owing to some sort of glitch on the part of the fixtures computer, Olton competed their program earlier in the week, leaving the destiny of the title in our own hands. The more challenging news being that we would need to win our four remaining fixtures against Solihull, Stratford, Shirley and Leamington to take the prize. There was to be no celebrating on the streets of Olton last night, as we completed the first leg of our mission with a 2.5-1.5 win away to Solihull. And it should have been more!

Early on it was clear that me, Phil and Dave were all in strong positions. Regular followers will be stunned to learn that Mike’s game looked pretty drawish. (Albeit of course his contribution ultimately ended up being much more useful than mine was…) Mike takes up the story of his match with Geoffrey Stokes: “ I played complex chess but he met my Dragon in a very solid/sensible way with an early c3 thus retaining a knight on d4. Instead of heading for a solid and level position with little chances of a win I devised a tricky pawn sacrifice for some tactical chances against his king. He did take the pawn but still playing quick sensible moves for the next 10-12 moves I was then forced to allow several exchanges to recover the pawn and then potentially win another. This would however have allowed his rooks to double on the 7th with a perpetual. As Phil’s and Dave’s games as well as Ben’s looked good at this point I agreed a draw.”

So Mike was back in the club house when Phil notched the first blow. He looked to have all the pressure in a relatively closed position and it wasn’t a surprise to see him break through on the kingside to land the full point and to put us in the lead.

Then heartbreak struck for me. Having completely dominated Nigel Bryne for the whole game, I was within a whisker of victory, when disaster struck. Deep in time trouble, just before the time control I blundered badly and that was that. Nigel has done the same against me in the past in a very similar situation and I guess what goes around comes around. It’s definitely easier to be philosophical about the games you win that you should have lost, than vice-versa. It was a very painful one for me, that’s for sure.

However, the key was of course the team and it was all down to Dave, who played really well, to get us home against John Green. As Dave described it: “My opponent played the English opening. The lack of urgency in his moves meant that I had an almost free hand to develop as I pleased and I built up quite an aggressive position. Unfortunately I was unable to find the correct forcing sequence in the time that I had left and ended up having to play the last 15 moves in about 18 minutes. This enabled white to free up his position during the time scramble where both sides had less than three minutes towards the time control. Luckily for me, white's 35th move allowed me to centralize my queen giving me control of the center. Unfortunately white response to this was to leave a piece en-prise and the game concluded.” I think Dave undersells himself, I don’t think John could have saved the piece and Dave well and truly ground him down.

So job done. Stratford next. I’ll try and avoid any Hamlet style introspection re my own game last night. Monday promises to be a Tempest, that’s for sure! As the Bard himself might have said, uneasy is the head that nearly wears the crown, for so long as Kenilworth can keep winning!


I would hate everyone to think that all our matches are really as exciting as I make them sound. Some are, to be frank, quite boring. Tuesday night's encounter with Coventry A in the semi-final of the Cov League KO Cup was a case in point. Add to that the fact that we lost 2.5-1.5, and you'll understand why even I can't raise enough enthusiasm to write a report. Plus, its almost time for Bargain Hunt and I wouldn't want to miss that, would I?

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sent To Coventry

We are going to be spending a lot of time in Coventry over the next few weeks, with matches coming up against their A team in the KO cup and the C team in the Divisional Cup. Last night we were in action against Coventry B in the Divisional Cup and ran out 3-1 winners, to consolidate a pretty good run for us in this competition.

It probably wasn’t the most eventful of matches. I was the first to finish on 1, with a win against Drago. He walked into an opening trap and I pocketed a piece early on, but there were some imbalances and I had a pretty shattered pawn structure. It was all a bit messy, but in the end it was fine so 1-0. We had the Champion of all Hereford (I think that’s his official title now, and the most appropriate way for non-family members to address him) in action on Board 4 and Roy continued his red hot streak. I didn’t see much of the game, but once he’d got over the shock that Coventry had fielded an opponent against him (often opposing teams don’t bother to in this competition) he seemed to make pretty short work of John Conway to put us 2-0 up.

Mike’s game with Nigel Morris looked extremely boring. They got down to Queen, Rook, Bishop and five vs Queen, Rook, Knight and five, without obvious opportunities for either side. Mike manoeuvred around for a bit, before agreeing the draw around the time control. Dave’s game against Kate Donegan was a lot more interesting. I think Kate tried some sort of sacrifice early on, but Dave defended well and was up the exchange. It ended up in a heavy wood ending with Queens and Rooks still on the board and Kate’s Knight able to defend Dave’s two potential entry points on the a and c files. No question Dave was better, but equally no question that Kate defended well and had a lot of defensive opportunities. (One of those positions where proving the benefit of the exchange is far from easy.) With Dave better on the Board, but very short of time a draw felt like a fair result.

So a pretty competent night from us. Perhaps not one that will live in the memory, but we are much more consistently doing what we should be doing than we were at the start of the season. Coventry B also deserve credit for a good effort. Onwards!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Hacked Off; Hacker; Hacked. A Thoroughly Memorable Evening!

Well, I won't be forgetting last night in a hurry. We ended up beating Banbury B 3-1 to reclaim second place in the league table, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

It started with me getting thoroughly hacked off with A team stalwart Andrew P. At 7.40pm he still hadn't arrived, so I gave him a call to see where he was. He was in Meriden - on his way home. "I thought the match was tomorrow!" Since when have we ever played our Leamington League home matches on a Tuesday?? Who'd be a match captain? Thankfully, Meriden isn't that far away, so he did a quick U-turn and made it comfortably before default time. But he was well down on the clock, of course, and his game against Nick Martin got a bit hectic towards move 35. Indeed, Andrew had a feeling he had lost on time in a terrible scramble, but the digital clock said he hadn't. And then mysteriously the game was drawn. Andrew apparently thought he had a winning position, but was wracked with guilt at having previously lost on time! He hadn't - the clock never lies!! But he agreed a draw, anyway.

Amongst the madness, Carl played a sensible and restrained game (by his standards) against Arthur Hibbitt. He was already better with the bishop pair when he forced the win of a piece. His rook, though, was completely incarcerated on a4 by black pawns on a3 and a5 and a bishop on b4! It took a few moves for Carl to extricate the rook, but once he did, it was an easy win.

A bit later Andy B, on one of his rare appearances anywhere near a chess board, was held to a draw on Board 1 by a very resolute Neil Staples. The game was an English, and White erected a serious central barrier to anything Black could come up with. Andy did manage to win a pawn eventually - maybe it was even two? - but White jumped out just in time to secure the draw with counterplay against Black's king.

So now we come to the hacker - me! For the umpteenth time, I was Black against Gary Jackson, and for the umpteenth time it was the Be3 line against the Najdorf. Perhaps foolishly I tried a different approach in case he'd come well prepared, and it worked reasonably well in the opening. Then I decided to sac a pawn to keep his king in the centre, which was possibly OK. But when I decided to sac a second pawn to unleash my dark squared bishop it definitely wasn't OK. Suddenly White had a solid pawn majority on the queen side, and his king looked quite safe on g2. The clock was ticking and the only course for me was to randomise. At a crucial moment Gary grabbed my a pawn (4 connected passed pawns now!) but it gave me just enough time to break the position open in the centre and an exchange sac set his king up for a ruinous double check. There was no way for Gary to save his queen and by the time control white had two rooks and five pawns against my queen, bishop and three.  It took a couple of moves to co-ordinate, but I managed to disconnect his rooks, drive his king around a bit, snaffle his kingside pawns and then reduce his rooks to complete immobility. He couldn't successfully advance his queenside pawns, and meantime my h pawn strode down the board unmolested to secure the win. Unsound and undeserved, but I'll take it!

So home to bed, only to find that my e-mail had been hacked! Some 4,500 spam messages had landed. Shame I didn't wear a hacking jacket to the match last night to expand the theme still further, but I'm really pleased not to have a cough at the moment, as I know what kind it would have been!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Game of the Month, March 2017

Only two months after the previous instalment, I'm pleased to bring you another KCC game of the month, and most appropriately it features our man of the moment, Roy Watson. The game shows the two sides of Roy's play, as he manages to mix the sublime with the absolutely appalling within the space of a few moves. On this occasion Good Roy had the last word, but I think we can all see only too clearly, how Bad Roy can sometimes get the upper hand!

Anyway, the game was played just before Christmas in the C Team's away match against Solihull C, when a spirited 2.5-1.5 win was secured against the (grading) odds.

Vigorous play at the end by Roy, especially for one of such advanced years! There's life in the old dog yet. And talking of old dogs, the next Game of the Month will feature a sensational piece of giant killing by another of our "senior" members. Well worth waiting for, I assure you.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What the Gods Giveth..

 Just twenty four hours on from Dave earning us a miracle second point in his time scramble against Jason, I returned that bonus point in an end of game scramble against Gary Hope. This sadly saw us go down 2.5-1.5 to League leaders Olton.  Still lots of games to play and hope remains for our League challenge, but it clearly wasn’t the result we wanted.

As with the previous evening, things didn’t start well for us. Nick seemed to drop a piece early on against Robert Wallman. Whilst he made a good game of it after that, the end result was probably inevitable and Olton went 1-0 up. Mike and Dave were in action against the Reynolds brothers and both games looked pretty solid. It wasn’t a surprise when they ended in draws.

So we were 2 – 1 down. But the good news was I was having a great game. Everything seemed to click. I was very good out of a somewhat unorthodox Lopez and picked up a pawn and some pressure. It really looked like I was on the brink. Gary fought back and whilst my defence was fine, it cost me time on the clock which developed into a problem. In an ending with Queen, Rook and Bishop vs Queen Rook and Knight, my passed b pawn looked invincible, but Garry found the right defence. Afterwards we thought I’d made a mistake in taking the Queens off – it was actually easier to win with them on. I turned down a number of draw offers, but with both flags hanging, I just couldn’t see a way through. If I’d had increments I would have played on, but I just had a sense that it wasn’t my night. So not for the first time Gary escaped my clutches with a draw by the skin of his teeth…

Very disappointing, but these things happen. Incidentally, in the 8 individual games we have played against Olton in the League, 7 have been draws, so there is clearly not a lot between the teams.

We have an interesting few weeks ahead and we’ll look to put things right next time out.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017


We last night began our final push for the Division 2 title with a 3-1 win against bottom club Leamington, but that in no way tells the story of an extraordinary night. Going into the evening we were five points behind leaders Olton (who we play tonight) but with four games in hand. The kind of fixture pile-up that might incense a Premier League Manager, but for our squad just represented an opportunity…

The first sign that things might not go smoothly came when we saw the Leamington team sheet. They had out their strongest squad of the year, with a 160+ player on Board 3 and a combined average that was virtually the same as ours. When we got down to business, things seemed to go badly. Dave looked completely bust out of the opening and I was struggling (playing as those who follow the stats will know, my 47th game in a row with Black.)

Then things started to turn. Mike seemed to be in a quiet position against Rob Gill and when they called it a night, I assumed they’d agreed to draw. It transpired Mike was well booked up and had landed a nice trap to pick up a piece for back to back wins. His reputation for draws is rapidly becoming a thing of the past and he really settled the team down. Bernard struck next, again with a nice tactical shot against Ola to win a piece and culminating in giving mate with King and Queen against King (with a bit of associated shrapnel, but not much.) Thanks to Bernard for guesting again and maintaining his 100% record for the team – a great contribution which is most appreciated by all.

So we were 2 – 0 up, but that looked like that would be it. I even had a philosophical discussion with Mike in the corridor as to why this wouldn’t be the worst result in the world, given their strength on the night… Dave was still completely bust. My position against Andy Price (who I don’t have a brilliant record against) was complex – I had three connected Queen side pawns for a piece and lots of Queenside opportunities. Andy actually said he thought I was winning at one point. I’d certainly gone done that line because I thought it would give me good chances. Unfortunately, he had some great squares to put pieces on and I struggled to hold my King side together, going down around the time control. So 2-1.

I bought a drink and stood back to watch what I thought were going to be the final few moves of Dave’s capitulation. But then it turned. Both in desperate time trouble, Jason seemed to navigate this, before blundering a pawn and a piece. Dave had shown absolute nerves of steel in an impossible position and suddenly he was winning – and not just a little bit! Very sportingly, Dave offered a draw given we only needed the half for the match. Equally sportingly Jason elected to play it out and went down in the end. All credit to Jason. He did play a really good game before the clock took its toll and he was very gracious afterwards – a real gentleman. Massive respect to Dave too though. Most would have crumbled, but his determination and resilience earned us both the points and kept our title charge on track.

So a fantastic effort. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so happy on a night where I’ve lost, but it was a fantastic evening for us.

Bring on Olton!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Super Watson Goes Ballistic - Gradings Are Atrocious!

NEWSFLASH!! - Amazing news from the bucolic south west, where over the weekend our very own professional Northerner, Roy Watson (grade 118), put in a stunning - and statistics busting! - performance to win the Major (Under 155) Tournament at the Hereford Congress. My mole tells me that Roy was unbeaten with 5/6 against opponents averaging around 140, for a Tournament Performance Rating of over 170. As befits such a stellar (lifetime best?) show, Roy finished first alone. Truly astonishing. Roy 1 Statistical Probability 0.

This follows on from another tournament triumph (albeit less impressive) in early February when Roy finished tied first (with 6 others) in the Kidlington U-120, despite losing to someone graded 87 - try explaining that, Stephen Hawking!!  And on top of that Roy has recently helped the D team rise to the dizzy heights of 4th in Division 4. Rubbing shoulders with Anish Giri has clearly worked wonders.

Current world number 5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's user name on is Lyon Beast - I think we now have our very own Fen End Beast!!

I feel almost ashamed at this point to mention another minor tournament triumph (of sorts) for KCC, namely my own second equal placing at the Perth Open (that would be Scotland rather than Australia) in February. Whatever next for KCC's intrepid tournament warriors - Paul becoming British Champion at Llandudno this summer perhaps? Or is Roy planning on making a surprise raid on that event too!?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

1976 And All That...

We played Rugby C last night in the quarter finals of the Coventry Divisional Cup and ran out 4-0 winners to proceed to the semi-finals. Rugby C are a Division 3 team and as a result, we needed to win 3.5 – 0.5 on the night to go through. Given the saying about Chess being a game played on grass, rather than on paper (or some such) we weren’t taking anything for granted. Despite the massive rating difference between the teams, we knew one slip from anyone (or one mobile phone that wasn’t switched off) and we would be out. As it was, the upset never looked likely, once we got down to business…

Three Cup matches were going on in the Club, so it was a pretty packed room. From what I saw all the favourites were winning heavily, but that’s by the by. It certainly made for a good atmosphere, even if it was a little cramped. I was practically sitting on Carl’s lap at one point. Carl was the first to land a point. (Perhaps keen for some more space!) It looked like a lot of Carl’s games with White. Kings castled on opposite sides (Carl on the Queenside) with the Kingside ripped open. Pawns were sacrificed, Carl’s Kings side attack looked much faster/ more menacing than Malcolm Harding’s Queenside punt and so it proved. Carl’s Rooks and Queen broke through to mate. 1- 0.

I was next to finish. I played a new opening, but unfortunately forgot some of the theory and was actually a bit passive. However, after a bit of consolidation/ development and an ill-advised king side pawn foray from my opponent, which just seemed to give me a lot of targets, I regained the initiatives. I trapped a piece and bagged a Rook a few moves later and Jim Macdonald resigned.

On Board 3, Mike was doing a better job of remembering his openings than I had, as his opponent played down a line of the Queens Fianchetto that Mike had reviewed for a magazine in 1976. Well, hey, we’re not a first division team for nothing… (The Queen's Fianchetto Defence, Chess (Sutton Coldfield), p200-205 March and p234-237 April 1976  MJDonnelly, for those who would like to read more.) Mike said, “my opponent actually played the opening quite well and only went astray around move 20 weakening the white square (f7 and g8) around her king. This was exploited by the rather hidden idea of playing Bc2-b3 threatening the fatal c5 as White had pawns on a2-b3 and c4 and a queen on d5. This won a piece and the game… 

On Board 4, Dave looked like he was playing skittles rather than Chess, as we was roughly 800 points up when I first looked. Credit to his opponent for showing tenacity/ a reluctance to give up that even I wouldn’t have been able to match, but it wasn’t exactly a cliff-hanger and I’d left before Dave delivered the long inevitable kill…

So a semi-final against Coventry A awaits. We were the runners up in this competition last year. Here’s to going one better in 2017!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Man!

An amazing thing happened last night - Paul won a game of chess and it was, incredibly, his first standard play win of the season! Surely, you're kidding, I hear you say. Well, no, I'm not. And don't call me Shirley. Which neatly brings me on to last night's match in which, thanks in no small measure to Paul's heroics, we somehow scraped a 2.5-1.5 away win over fellow title challengers Shirley to put ourselves level on points with them and Olton at the top of the table.

This was a brutal encounter in which there were no more than 6 grading points separating the opposing players on three of the boards. And then there was my board, where I had a 24 point edge. So no prizes for guessing who really needed to win to give us a chance of victory!

In a 4 board match, its generally not a good idea to go one point down, as the margin for error disappears to almost nothing. But that's what we did. And it was our normally reliable points machine Andrew P who bit the dust, losing to his 4NCL Warwickshire Select team-mate Phil Purcell on Board 2 after a Dutch that went horribly wrong. He lost a pawn; tried an exchange sac to try and get his queen and bishop lined up against the White king; and then resigned at the time control when it didn't happen.

I then brought the scores level with a win from a very slow Ruy Lopez against my 4NCL Warwickshire Select team-mate and long-time friend, Keith Ingram. I wasn't too happy with my opening play, but things started to get a bit better for me when I managed to get in b4 and c4 pawn thrusts which brought my Spanish bishop to glorious life from b3. However, this came at the cost of allowing the Black rooks to gang up on my king on the f and g files. I'd like to say I had everything under control, but I'm not sure if I did. Anyway, I stormed down the c file with my rooks and then found a nice combo which seemed to open up my own king, but gained enough time for my queen to get to f8 for an unstoppable mate.

But let's get back to the main dish of the evening - Paul's victory on Board 1 against his 4NCL Warwickshire Select team-mate and long-time friend Jeremy Fallowfield. (BTW, are you spotting a theme here?) Now we all know that Paul hasn't been playing much this season, either for us or for anyone, because of his other commitments, and that when he does play, the opposition tends to be seriously good, but even so ..... Can it really be that he hadn't won a long play game until March 6th?? And if you had seen the game, you'd be amazed that his unfortunate record isn't still intact. Because this was Paul Max; Paul Ultra and Uber Paul all rolled into one as far as his time trouble habit is concerned. (Even he admitted afterwards that this was his worst ever!!) He had an agonisingly long think on about move 4 and didn't really speed up much after that. He had to stop writing the moves down due to lack of time on about move 15 - yes with 20 moves to the time control! - and by the time his clock showed 1 minute he still had 12 moves to make. I had to leave the room, especially as his opponent had seemingly engineered a big invasion of Paul's kingside with a queen and bishop. But minutes later it was all over. Paul had had it pretty much under control all the time. He nabbed a pawn with a neat tactic (how did he see that with no time to think??) and then rushed his queen back to defend along the second rank at the crucial moment, and almost as soon as the time control was reached Black had to resign And did I mention that this was another Dutch Defence? So 0/2 for our friends from the Netherlands so far.

And now everyone left the room to leave Carl in play against Jonathan Dale on Bd 4. While neither player is in the Warwickshire Select 4NCL team, they didn't want to feel completely left out, so they also played another Dutch. Three in one night!! (Plus the Spanish in my game, so take that you Brexiteers - KCC has seemingly nailed its colours firmly to the European mast.) Thankfully for us, this turned out to be the one game where Black didn't lose, though it certainly looked nasty for Carl at a number of stages. Carl's problem wasn't so much time trouble, as time zone trouble, as he had only got back from a 2 week business trip to the US a couple of days earlier.  He defended well for most of the game, retaining enough counterplay to offset a weak, backward e pawn, and in fact his structure was better as he had inflicted doubled e pawns on White. But close to the time control he allowed White to make a breakthrough from absolutely nowhere, which ended up with a White pawn on h7 defended by a white rook on the seventh rank and Black's king on h8. White just needed to engineer a check from his dark squared bishop and it would have been Goodnight Vienna, but Carl's defences held firm and he was able to simplify down to a draw to win the match. Quite an achievement with his brain still on Pacific Standard Time!

Phew, that was a hell of a match and one where we just made it over the line thanks to some tremendous fighting chess against very strong opponents. If it's really true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, then we should have a team of Supermen this morning! Olton remain in pole position for the title with their games in hand, but they still have to play Shirley, so its not cut and dried yet. In the meantime all we can do is try to keep on keeping on!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

This Is The Way, The Season Ends .......

........ not with a bang, but a whimper. (If I remember my TS Eliot correctly.)

We failed to cover ourselves in glory at our final Coventry League Division 1 match of the season, last night. We had to play University A, whose record before last night read:-

Played 11, Won 11, game point difference +29

So against those odds, the last thing we needed was to be a point down before we started, but unfortunately we could only muster three players on the night. Kenilworth chess playing folk were instead to be found in the USA, Yorkshire, Liverpool and Peterborough, while others were otherwise unavailable or uninterested. This did not bode well for a positive result, and even though our opponents tried to take pity on us by fielding a rather understrength team by their standards, a grade of 175 on Board 4 is hardly weak by Coventry League standards.

So a 3.5-0.5 victory for the students could hardly be classed as a surprise. There was, however, just a glimpse of an upset for a few minutes quite early in the evening. On Board 3 Nick F was material up after Morgan Blake sacrificed a piece for a couple of pawns and a big mess. Nick's king was not happy in the middle of the board, but as well as his extra bit he also had a passed pawn on f6. I suspect he was probably winning with anything like careful play. Unfortunately, he was in his high speed mode (these youngsters, eh?!) and instead of stopping to think in a very double edged position he tried to win more material but found out that it actually blundered a rook. It must be the low attention span of kids these days, I think. As you get older, Nick, you'll understand the attraction of spending ages over each move - because life is so empty there's nothing better to do with your time!

For once I was not last to finish, as my game on Board 1 against the very strong Dimitar Daskalov (ECF grade 233!) ended in a repetition in 22 moves. He knew the opening variation better than me (no surprise there), and went into an early forcing line that seemed to win the exchange for a pawn. But then he found that it was too dangerous to take my rook, as I had two massive threats of Bc4+ (mating or winning a rook) and Nd5 (attacking Black's queen and threatening Ne7 mate). He was forced to keep attacking my queen on e7 and e8 with a rook from f7 and f8, and it was a draw. That put me in a club of just two people (with Paul) who have managed to draw against him this season in 10 league games! This was the fourth time this season that I've secured half a point to spare us from losing 4-0. When we crash and burn, we really crash and burn!

So before nine o'clock I was on my way home and there was only one game still going - though I doubt it lasted very much longer. Ben was getting well pulverised by Ioannis Lentzos on the black side of  a rather brutal advance French. He dropped an exchange and then White decided to sac a piece on h7 so that his queen could pick off all black's kingside pawns with check. I left as White played what looked like the killing move e3-e4, clearing the way for a rook on c3 to swing over to the h or g files to put the boot in decisively.

So there we have it. The Coventry League season is over and we've done OK (fourth place) in what has turned into a very tough competition - thanks to Warwick University its much stronger than Division 1 of the Leamington League at the moment. And now its on to the KO Cup, with Rugby C as our quarter final opponents next week.