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!