Sunday, 28 May 2017

Puzzle Time

Take a look at the following list of famous names, which I present in alphabetical order:-
  • Alekhine
  • Capablanca
  • Chigorin
  • Petrosian
  • Smyslov
  • Staunton
  • Steinitz
  • Whiteley
  • Zhukova
A slightly eclectic and perplexing selection, you might think, and possibly you'd be correct, but at this stage your task is easy. Just put these 9 into what you think is the correct order of their ability. And if you're thinking that you can't compare across different periods in time, well you're only half right. Since 1970, when FIDE adopted the ELO system, we have ratings that cover the last 47 years, but what about before then? Well, there is the Chessmetrics website, where Jeff Sonas has produced an incredibly detailed retrospective assessment for the period 1840-2005. The two systems are not really interchangeable, but this is a quiz amongst friends (isn't it??) so I'd be quite prepared to accept a combination of the two. But ..... before you rush off to check out the ratings that you can derive from these two sources (and I know you were going to), I can save you the trouble, because I've already done it, with the following result:-

                                            Chessmetrics                                               FIDE
                                         Peak 1 yr Rating                                       Highest ELO
Capablanca                               2866
Alekhine                                   2851
Steinitz                                      2802
Smyslov                                    2794
Petrosian                                   2791
Chigorin                                    2765
Staunton                                    2680
Whiteley                                    2527
Zhukova                                                                                                   2499

So there you have it, Capablanca was apparently slightly stronger than Alekhine, with Steinitz best of the rest. And at the bottom come the two who you probably thought shouldn't have been in the list at all. Albeit, still sporting ratings of which we can only dream.

Not much of a quiz, was it? I've seemingly given you the answer. Only I haven't, because the correct answer to my question is the following ranking list, when the only female on the list goes from last place to first:-

                                                 Peak Lifetime
                                                 British Rating
Zhukova                                             115
Alekhine                                              87
Steinitz & Smyslov                              82
Capablanca                                         76*
Chigorin & Whiteley                            70
Petrosian                                              67
Staunton                                              30*

(* Estimated)

If you're not thinking that you could put together one hell of a team in the U-120 or U-700 Cups from these, you're probably thinking I've taken complete leave of my senses. How can this order of ability possibly be right? And why would they have such lowly ratings??  But rest assured, there is method in my apparent madness.

And the question for you, dear readers, is to explain the circumstances in which my ranking list could be absolutely, definitively and unarguably correct.

Happy cogitating. I'll post the answer in a week or two, though I'm sure you'll all have solved the conundrum by then.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

2017 KCC Oscars - Winners Announced

There was no red carpet at the Abbey Club last night (in a former Conservative Club? - come off it!) as the 2017 AGM saw the announcement of this year's Player of the Year (POTY) and Clubman of the Year (COTY) awards.

Taking home the impressive (?) Tilley Trophy as Player of the Year was club stalwart Phil Wood, whose sterling efforts on behalf of the B team saw him amass 11 points from 14 games (+10 = 2 -2) for an excellent 78.6% performance. He follows in the illustrious footsteps of Joshua, Roy and Andrew as a winner of this prestigious award, with the second highest winning percentage to date. Honourable mentions to myself (70.0%), Dave Shurrock (66.1%) and Mike Donnelly (60.3%) for occupying the minor placings.

History was then made as the Club Organiser unilaterally decided that the extremely impressive (????) nameless trophy for Clubman of the Year would once again go to Ben Graff, making him the first person ever (which means the last 4 years) to win a KCC Oscar twice. Can he make it a hat-trick next year, I wonder? Its a tall ask (even Red Rum couldn't win the Grand National three years in a row), but given his massive efforts on behalf of KCC (40 competitive games in 2016-17) and of the Leamington League as a whole, only a fool would write off his chances. Especially with me once again making the decision!

Some other club business was undertaken at the AGM, but if you weren't there you'll have to wait for me to circulate the Minutes to find out if anything important was decided.

Anyway, congratulations to Phil and Ben, not only for their award winning efforts over the past season, but also for refraining from making any tearful acceptance speeches last night.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Graves of Famous Non-Chess Players - Number 1 in a Series of ....?

For the time being I've run out of famous chess players' graves, so when I unexpectedly came across the grave of a famous non-chess player while on holiday the other week, I thought it was a sign that I should move on to another KCC website series. But clearly, just any old famous person won't do at all on a serious chess blog like this. There has to be a connection of some kind to justify their inclusion.

So to kick things off, I present the impressive tomb of Henry Fielding (1707-1754). Most famously he was the author of Tom Jones, the first great English novel - which just happened to be the subject of my dissertation at university. Instant qualification for this blog post!

Fielding died in Lisbon at the age of just 47 and is buried there in the graveyard of St George's Church (also known as the English Cemetery.) The place is not too dissimilar to those atmospheric Victorian cemeteries in London which house the graves of so many great chess players, albeit rather less wild and overgrown. Perhaps not surprisingly, Mrs Club Organiser and myself were the only tourists present on a pleasant Sunday morning in May. Surely all these cemetery visits don't mean I'm weird, do they??

Anyway, I promise to return to chess matters next time!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

We've won the Cup!

Having missed out on the Division 1 title by a point and the Division 2 title on game point difference, both to Olton, it's fair to say that we had a real desire to re-address the balance in the Cup Final, where our opponents again were Olton!

It was an exhilarating evening, which went right to the wire. Resulting in a sense of achievement for the team perhaps only matched by that I felt when I'd finally worked out how to upload the photo of the happy team for the blog!

All of the games were long and all were really tense - such that I fear we are going to have to wait for Mark's return from holiday for some actual technical insight into what happened. But my impressions were as follows:

We lost the toss. Not a great start as that gave us three blacks to two whites. Whilst the match was at Olton, they were essentially a "neutral" venue for the night as they were the hosts for all three Leamington League Cup finals. We were the holders following our win against Banbury last season.

Having spent a lot of the year sat next to Carl, I have certainly been entertained by a lot of attacking Chess and some brutal victories for Mr Pickering. This was one of those games where it didn't quite work against Richard Smith, although for a long time I thought it would - but something seemed to go slightly wrong and Carl's attack fell a fraction short. I didn't see much of Andrew's loss to Alan Lloyd or Mark's win against Mark Cundy, but there we were 1-2 down.

The reason I didn't see much was because my game against Gary Hope was extremely wild and could easily have gone either way. We were castled on opposite sides of the Board and Gary seemed very close to breaking through. His Knight was poised to land on d6 and B-g5 looked to me like it would be a seriously good blow, really cutting through me on the dark squares. However, after B-e3 I was able to repel his Knight, open up the King-side and go on the attack. I missed a great pawn thrust that would have truly put Gary in trouble. I think I simply miscalculated in time trouble after which my initiative was gone. We ended up in an opposite Bishop Rook and pawn ending, which didn't hold out many prospects. A tame end after a wild game.

So - 1.5 - 2.5 - but on either Board elimination or Board Count - 2.5 - 2.5 would give us a win. The only problem was Paul had to beat Phil Holt to make this happen! Paul played amazingly and I finished my game in time to see a very rare sight. Phil staring at an opposing pawn on h2, shepherded by Paul's Queen with no way of stopping it. Phil tried a few tactics but Paul was more than equal to the task and got us home to victory, the man of the match award and doubtless in time the freedom of Kenilworth!

A great way to win the season after two near misses - which means we'll all need to brush up to receive the trophy at the AGM! Given how well all our teams have done this year and the strength and depth we've got, we can definitely look forward to next season with a lot of excitement.

A great way to sign off!


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

NEWSFLASH - KO Cup Victory!!

A miraculous victory for Kenilworth tonight in the Leamington League Open KO Cup Final! We triumphed on tie break (board elimination) after a dramatic and eventful 2.5-2.5 tie with Olton. There were wins for myself and Paul and a draw for Ben, while Andrew and Carl bit the dust. Remarkably Black scored 4.5/5!

Paul's Cup-clinching victory over Phil Holt on Board 1 was truly epic and came after Paul offered a draw with the match score at 2.5-1.5 to Olton - only for Phil to turn it down!! Neither player had a clue what was happening in the match, which was just as well for us!

A full match report will follow in a day or so. I'm catching a plane at 7.00 tomorrow morning, so Ben will do the honours on that score. Hopefully the Social Secretary is already working on the celebration dinner!

Monday, 1 May 2017

I'm In The Money!

Despite perennial champion Phil Holt being absent, Olton once again annexed the 2017 LDCL blitz championship, courtesy of a remarkable 9/9 performance from Alan Lloyd. I managed to pocket the princely sum of £7 (yesssss!!) for coming second with 7/9, but as the number 1 seed, I felt this was definitely an opportunity missed. However, I guess I'm simply not as sharp as I used to be. (And I wasn't that sharp even then!)

Other KCC members who threw their hats in the ring were Ben (5.5 pts); Dave (5 pts) and Mike J (4.5 pts), so everyone scored 50% or better. This now brings the number of KCC second places to Olton to 3 this season!