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.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Game of the Month, October 2017

Never mind showing us all these games by other club members, what we want is one of your own masterpieces, Mark. Is what non-one has been saying to me, but I'm sure that has just been an oversight and that deep down you are all desperate to see another example of my mastery of the chessboard. And since it has now been officially decided by no less a judge than Richard Weaving that I played the Best Game in the Leamington League last season (beating off masses of competition in the form of a whole four other submitted games - another of my own efforts; a game by Nigel Byrne; one by Jason Madden and one by Peter Stiff), it seems obvious which game I should present to you.

A fairly easy game to understand. Black played for a crude kingside attack; white co-operated by being far too passive, and a pleasing and not too common rook, knight and pawn mate concluded the evening's entertainment. What's not to like?!

Anyway, just remember that I am constantly on the lookout for good - correction, exciting - games played by KCC members for future Game of the Month articles. So could somebody please play an exciting game or two!!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A Pair of Draws

Now, now - no tittering at the back, thank you. This article is nothing to do with Roy's underwear, but rather a summary of the two A team matches played on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

In the Leamington League, we went to Shirley to kick off the week's activity and found ourselves embroiled in a heavyweight encounter. For the first time this season, we were able to call on the services of Carl, fresh from his world tour to single handedly save the British (or do I mean Indian?) automotive industry. And he rose to the occasion splendidly by notching up our first (and only) win of the night against Keith Ingram on Board 3. Keith played the Dutch Defence but somehow contrived to fall for the age old trick of allowing White to play Ng5 attacking an undefended and undefendable pawn on e6. And worse, he had to lose an exchange as well. A spirited resistance followed, but Carl remorselessly exploited the extra material and duly scored the win.

The scores were soon balanced, though, as Ben's rocky start to the season continued on Board 4 when he contrived to get his rook virtually trapped on a4 in a level material rook and pawn ending against Jonathan Dale. The only way to extricate it was to sac a pawn, but this gave White two connected passers and they proved impossible to fight against.

The top two boards featured crazy games. Andrew played his speciality Makeitupasyougo Attack as White against Jeremy Fallowfield. At a very early stage of the game Black instigated a sequence starting Qx(p)g2, met by Qx(p)e4+ Kf7 Rh2 (luckily Andrew had earlier played h3!) Qg1+ Nf1. The game was manic, but our man played rather well. He won a pawn, and successfully negotiated a lot of tactics before arriving at an opposite bishops ending where he could burp a second pawn at any time and win by advancing his queenside pawns, as Black was tied down by a White pawn that could have got (safely) to g7. But something disastrous happened and White's g pawn fell off, so it was unfortunately only a draw, when he/we deserved the full point.

I also drew on Board 2 against Phil Purcell. I played a line I last played in 1986 - but, showing the effect of the ravages of time, I failed to find the good move I played then, and instead headed into a totally lost position. And I mean totally lost. At one point Phil had a crushing Rxf7+ tactic that won on the spot, but as he had so many other ways to turn the screw he didn't notice it (nor did I!). But in time trouble he mistakenly abandoned the attack and bailed out into an ending where only Black could be better. I pushed a bit and could perhaps have won in a rook and pawn ending, but very short of time I couldn't calculate the critical line and only drew.

So a match that could have gone either way ended in a share of the spoils - perhaps the inevitable outcome with both teams averaging a reasonably meaty 177.

On to the Coventry League, and a home match against University B. Its always a bit of a mystery who'll turn out for the top University sides, and last night was no exception. They kindly left Peter Batchelor (222) and Peter Williams (199) at home this week, but with Ioannis Lentzos (192) and new English women's champion Louise Head (186) stepping in, they still packed quite a punch, with a team averaging 181 to our 170.

I don't know if Carl is a Bob Dylan fan, but he must be aware of Bob's lyric from The Times They Are A-Changin' - "And the first one now will later be last". Because after being the previous night's hero, he was Tuesday night's scapegoat, again finishing first, but with a very different result. He seemed to play a pretty ropey version of the Scandinavian against Tom Thorpe and was getting pushed back when he lost/sacked a piece for virtually nothing. He could have spared himself the last twenty moves or so, as it was White who had both the material and the compensation.

The other three games were all right in the mixer, though, and any match outcome was still possible. Ben righted his capsized ship by steering it into the safe waters of a draw against Louise Head. A strange variation of the Caro Kan saw White threatening to attack on the kingside with a g4-g5 push opening up the Black king, while Black was doing something similar against White's king which had castled into a distinctly draughty queen side. I didn't see the conclusion, but a draw seemed a fair result.

I had hopes that Mike would bring home a full point on Board 4 against Uni debutante Victoria Sit, but Black seemed to play pretty well in a QGD Slav position about which I understand nothing. Mike slowly built up in the centre and then pushed his king side pawns, but Black had the c file and a long diagonal against Mike's king. It still looked exciting when a draw was agreed, though Mike tells me that Black was the one who should have played on as she had a winning rook sac available.

So that just left me in play against Ioannis Lentzos, needing to win to save the match. For a long time I was very slightly worse, but as we both ran short of time, the position got more and more difficult and increasingly tactical. I grabbed the White a pawn and he grabbed my h pawn, but at a crucial moment he miscalculated and I snaffled his e pawn to go up on material. But he had two bishops and then created a very dangerous looking passed h pawn. However, by this stage I had engineered a passed a pawn and it was soon clear that this was going to win a whole rook as it could not be stopped from reaching a1. White's attempt to force his h pawn home was just stopped in time by me, and Ioannis had to resign. Phew, that was tense, but the valuable match point saved was worth all the angst.

We now have a two week break in both the Leamington and Coventry League Division 1 fixtures, giving us a chance to draw breath. The games have certainly been coming thick and fast lately - and by that I'm not referring to Roy's play on a Thursday night at The Gauntlet!

Friday, 13 October 2017


After Tuesday's absolute shellacking at the hands of Warwick University A, there was a return to the calmer waters of the Leamington League Division 1 the following night, as the A team had an away match against Solihull B. We couldn't quite produce a complete turnaround, but a 3-1 victory was good enough to steady the ship and get our first league points of the season on the board.

Mike D was first to finish on Board 4. Normally this would imply an early draw, but not so this time as he successfully brought home the full point with Black against Geoff Stokes. White sacrificed an exchange for compensation with two raking bishops, but Mike successfully negated their threat and subsequently invaded with the queen on e3 and a rook on d2 to overwhelm the poor white king on f1.

Andrew then chalked up our second point with a very smooth top board win over Neil Clarke - recent star of highbrow BBC2 quiz, Only Connect. Black chose a Stonewall Dutch type set up but found himself steadily outmanoeuvred, with his white squared bishop remaining a problem  piece all game. Andrew lined up a minority pawn push with b5 to force a breakthrough, and despite a pawn sac to finally liberate the hapless bishop on e6, the Black position crumbled.

On Board 2 I spent some time suffering in the early middle game against Nigel Byrne, after he played the Bf4/h4 London System attack popularised (to chess's detriment, in my opinion) by Simon Williams, aka the Ginger GM. However, he missed a crucial line which would have given him a sizeable advantage, and instead swapped off into an equal position. But then he lost a pawn, and compounded the error by giving me a passed h pawn. This was able to distract the White king and rook long enough for my own king to invade, and victory was ensured by my f pawn which lurched all the way to f2 to win White's rook. (Memo to self - move faster! After reaching the time control on Tuesday with 2 seconds on my clock, going down to 3 seconds in this game may have constituted a 50% improvement, but is still cutting things far too close for comfort!)

Unfortunately, Ben couldn't wrap up the 4-0 win on Board 3, but came very close after building up a nice king side attack against the Dutch Defence and then sacking the exchange to drive the Black king into the open. However, Jeremy Summerfield somehow kept the White attack at bay, and Ben's knight, which looked poised to hop into d5 and cause mayhem, somehow never got involved. The pieces were gradually exchanged and the knight v rook ending was lost for Ben.

Overall, though, this was a good recovery from Tuesday's demolition job - a fine demonstration of the concept of bouncebackability, a term memorably coined by that great sage and philosopher, Iain Dowie. From now on, I am hoping we can show a bit of stringsomewinstogetherability, too!

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Total Wipeout

It had to happen eventually, I suppose, but that didn't make it any more enjoyable to lose 4-0 to Warwick University A last night. Seven times in our first two Coventry League seasons we have lost matches 3.5-0.5 (modesty forbids me from saying who got the half point on six of those occasions), but there were no heroes last night and we ended up with precisely nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Sweet FA. Nil points. Rather like the Chilcot Report, it was a complete whitewash.

Image result for zero

Which was very harsh given our concerted efforts. We were outgraded by a minimum of 30 points on every board, but all four of us gave it a good shot.

Ben finished first on Board 2, losing against University newbie Guy Moss - just the 199 grade. Ben slightly misplayed the opening and found his c2 pawn under seemingly deadly attack. But he found some tactics and came very close to winning material. Unfortunately, it was a case of close, but no cigar, as Black seemingly played very well to tiptoe his way to a won ending 2 pawns up.

I was next to subside, against the very strong Dimiter Daskalov. I played an interesting - and probably sound - pawn sac in the early middle game, but missed a golden opportunity to really upset the applecart a couple of moves later. I still had some compensation until I played the move I had missed some three moves later - when it simply dropped another pawn. I played on to past the time control, but the position was hopelessly lost long before I resigned.

Nic went down next on board 4. Interestingly this was a game between two Russians, neither of whom is Russian. As we all know Nic is actually Ukrainian, despite what Roy may call him on a Thursday evening after a couple of pints, and his opponent, Carlo Russian, turns out to be a Belgian. Black played rather well, I thought, against Nic's patent opening and gradually assumed control, eventually winning a double minor-piece ending by breaking through with his king.

And finally - just like last week at Rugby - it all came down to Dave's game. Black against Ioannis Lentzos, he eventually went under in a bishop v knight ending a pawn down, when Dave's knight just couldn't find a way to attack White's queenside armada of pawns.

So a humbling evening for us all but in true British (and Ukrainian) fashion, I'm confidently expecting us to bounce back stronger than ever in the next match. But then again, as I confidently expected us to vote to stay in the EU, I wouldn't put too much trust in my judgement!

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Fortunes improve for B team at Solihull

Board 1 saw Ben try a new opening line which turned out to require further work and he ended up with a passive position. Black took the opportunity to sacrifice a piece for two pawns to open up whites king side but could not force anything decisive. Fritz style defending may have delivered the full point but Ben felt he had to return the material to neutralise the position and resulting opposite colour bishop ending was always going to be drawn.

On board 2 Geoff Stokes played a very solid Maroczy bind against Mike. The resulting middle game was very even and white accurate opening play had prevented b5 which would have led to active counter play. An attempt get b5 in last in the game just allowed white to play Nd5, forcing multiple exchanges and resulting in a drawn endgame. 

Phil on board 3 emerged from a queens pawn opening with an excellent bishop on a3 that prevented black from castling until the middle game. In the time that it took black to reorganise his position and get castled, white had claimed most of the board and nearly all of black pieces were stuck on his back two ranks. With double rooks, queen and opposite colour bishops on the board a simplified position would have been given black drawing chances. However white managed to exploit black cramped position and force two pawns onto the sixth. Black resigned when faced with the substantial loss of material.

Dave's objective was to get to the time control without ending up in a hopeless ending after his last game on board 4. This he managed to do against white's very solid queen pawn opening. However, even with a rook on the seventh, black could not make progress and game was drawn.

 So it's two out of three and this result puts the B team in third place.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Honours Even

We made a reasonable start to our Coventry League Division One campaign against Rugby A last night, the match ending up all square at 2-2. This was certainly better than the 3.5-0.5 pounding we suffered in the corresponding fixture last season, but on the balance of play we were probably unfortunate not to win.

My game on Board 1 didn't last very long. From a pretty innocuous opening I was able to build up a bit of pressure, and was able to give Black doubled isolated c pawns. At least that's what should have happened, but in trying to avoid such a fate (and a long, depressing evening of defence), Jamie Kearney made a massive blunder that lost a whole piece.

We consolidated our lead with a draw from Mike on Board 3 against old adversary Bob Wildig. Perhaps as a political counter to my Spanish opening, Mike went for a Catalan and managed to build up a nice position. However, Bob defended well and the position was pretty level when a draw was agreed.

Ben then ensured we would not lose by drawing with Black on Board 2 against Patrick Reid. The opening was, to put it politely .... irregular. Still, Ben managed to plug the holes on his queenside and a small combination swapped some pieces on the kingside and left the position fairly balanced.

Which left Dave in the spotlight. He had misplayed the opening (a 3 Bb5+ Sicilian) and ended up with an isolated pawn on e6 that seemed certain to fall at any moment. But he set up a good defence and tried to use the open f file and some active pieces to counter the pawn weakness. He looked to have good chances of holding until his king suddenly had to run to h6 in front of his own g and h pawns. It still wasn't lost, though, but at a crucial moment he moved his rook from f6 to g6, putting his king into a mating net, whereas moving it to f5 might have held on.

So while we were close to a match win, victory was nowhere near as close as in the same fixture 2 years ago when Roy lost his famous "bollocks" game and cost us the match! And as Roy has now defected to Coventry Chess Academy, it is quite acceptable for me to dredge up his old failings!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Just wasn't our night

A long journey in the rain didn't seem too bad as we expected to out grade Daventry A on all but the top board and had hopes of winning.

Ben had a great position out of the opening against Steve Willets and had a great attacking opportunities against blacks exposed king. However, some very accurate play by black allowed him to exchange off into an ending that was very difficult for white to hold. When the position simplified into a knight ending black emerged victorious.

On board 2 Mike had the black pieces against Andrew Foulds and faced a very sharp version of the four pawns attack against a KID type setup. Luckily Mike was prepared for this line and refute an e5 pawn sacrifice with an accurately timed return of the material to gain sufficient tempi win a piece and secure the full point.

Board 3 saw Phil's opponent, Kevin Bowman, play an Albin counter gambit – a defence that I have not seen played since the 80's. Phil declined the pawn but still ended up with an inferior position out of the opening. White dropped a pawn in the middle game but black got into time pressure and white was able to draw the game.

On board 4 Dave had the black pieces against Abbie Stevens. White's passive play in the opening allowed black to gain equality. Unfortunately black played too slowly during the middle game and ultimately ran short of time. With the last 15 moves to the time control being played in about 10 minutes, black not only managed to avoid winning material but also gain a difficult rook and pawn ending that he wasn't able to hold.

A long miserable return journey in the rain was had by all!