Wednesday, 31 January 2018

A win!

On Monday night we played Coventry B in a Divisional Cup Game that had been postponed before Christmas due to the snow. We needed to win 3-1 to win given the handicap system - and guess what? We won 3-1! This season has been pretty awful but the Divisional Cup is one event where we still have a chance of glory.

Dave playing against Kate struck the first blow, opening the position up with her King stranded in the center and nicely converted. Mike soon followed with a nice win against John Harris for 2 - 0.

My game against Bernard appeared to be heading for a draw from early on. The Queens came off and a lot of wood was traded, but Bernard proceeded to make some headway and things got very tactical. I managed to find an "only" move to hold things together and we agreed to split the point around the time control, with everything becalmed once more.

Rod making his debut in the Cov League was the last to finish - a wild game with Mike Johnson in which honors were also shared. His half point secured us all the points!

We host Coventry C on Tuesday and look extremely well placed in this competition, which is something.

Despite the draw, I am looking on my own season with stunned horror. (Obviously I followed this draw up by losing again the following night.) It has never been worse. But it's Kidlington this weekend and I continue to hope against hope for an upturn in personal fortune.

What is it that they say? Sometimes it is the hope that kills you. I guess we've all been there.

Double Defeat

The Coventry League fixture list gave us Division 1 encounters with Nuneaton A and B on successive Tuesdays, and with a certain symmetry we went down to successive 2.5-1.5 defeats. Any aspirations we may have had for a top three finish have been well and truly blown out of the water. Last night's defeat to Nuneaton B was particularly galling, as for a long time a draw looked like the minimum we could hope for.

But I get ahead of myself, as the previous week we had lost against their A team, on our first visit to Attleborough Liberal Club. I don't know how many Liberals were actually on the premises, but a conservative guess, and I don't want to labour the point, would be not many.

Nuneaton A managed to wheel out their top four against us, which probably made them slight favourites. There were not very exciting draws on Boards 1, 3 and 4 for me (against double agent Andrew Paterson); Carl (against Paul Davies) and Mike D (against Colin Green) where we never seemed to have any advantage at any stage of the evening, so the match was decided on Board 2 where Ben went down to Maurice Staples with black. White seemed to play a very controlled game, slowly building a kingside attack, while Black's queenside play against a long-castled king never got off the ground. Something horrible eventually happened in Ben's time trouble and a piece fell off.

The Nuneaton B encounter was a lot more exciting, though the end result was unfortunately the same. Carl finished first, but not in a good way. Facing an exceedingly tepid Exchange Slav, Carl spiced things up with a kingside pawn advance. However, when he pushed with g4 this was met, unexpectedly I imagine, with a piece sacrifice and after fxg4 the reply Qxg4+ forced Carl's king onto the middle of the board where it perished in surprisingly quick order. Either this was a crushing attack and a very good game by Dave Kearney, or Carl defended dreadfully. I couldn't possibly comment. (No really, I couldn't, as I didn't see what happened!)

This loss on Board 3 was quickly balanced on Board 1 where I was essentially gifted the full point by Phil Briggs. After a somewhat unusual Sicilian that was probably misplayed by both sides, we quickly reached a position where Black was going to be slightly better in a double rook and minor pieces ending due to two bishops and pressure along the c-file. At least if White had swapped queens that would have been the outcome. But in trying to keep my king on the centre, Phil put his queen offside and let me grab his c2 pawn with my queen. He had been relying on the move Rc1 in response, spearing my queen against a loose rook on c8, but only when I took the pawn did he notice that I was threatening Qg2 mate. Phil could have bailed out into a queen-less position a pawn down, but in trying to keep the queens on, he walked into another tactic that won a whole rook.

Ben was not getting anywhere against Tony Green on Board 2, and indeed Tony started taking over as he advanced on the queenside to gain space while Ben didn't seem to be doing anything much at all. Things then went seriously wrong when Ben had to trade off a Black rook which had got to d2, and allow a Black pawn onto that square. With White's queen stuck on d1 to blockade the pawn, his knight struggling to find any squares, and his king wide open, Tony's queen and bishop jumped into the kingside dark squares and forced the win of Ben's knight in exchange for the d2 pawn. The outcome of the resultant ending of bishop v no bishop was as predictable as you would expect.

But not to worry, as we were two pawns up on Board 4 in the battle of the 2 Mikes (Donnelly v Maher). Well, we had been two pawns up, but then it became one, and then we were in a rook and pawn ending. Our Mike went all in by pushing his passed e pawn to e6 and then creating another passer on the a line. But his king was miles away from the action and Black was able to block the e pawn with his king and get behind the a pawn with his rook. Eventually all the pawns came off and Black was able to secure a draw with about 30 seconds left on his clock. This was definitely one that got away, as Mike was winning on the board and on the clock for most of the evening.

So there you have it. Refined Kenilworth (population 22,000) proves no match for Warwickshire's largest town, gritty Nuneaton (population 86,000). I guess that means you can stick your gentrification in your pipe and smoke it!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Karma in Solihull?

Last night at Solihull we had a double header. The A team against Solihull A, and the D team against Solihull E. So prepare for a special bonus "twofer" report.

The D team match was over first. Tony drew on Board 3 against one of Paul's mighty microbes, and Mike J drew on top board against Penny Wood. which left Matt to decide the match against a 104 graded opponent on Board 2. I'm pleased to report that the Thursday evening school of hard knocks at The Gauntlet has served Matt well, and after more than matching his opponent he won a pawn and established a winning position. But instead of taking a second pawn and keeping decisive threats against the White back rank, he tragically undid all his good work in trying to win instantly and dropped a rook to a queen check. Most unfortunate and most undeserved, but the D team thus went down to a 2-1 defeat.

I'm able to recount all this in detail as my game against Tom Thorpe had ended quite early in a draw after what was a very boring game, despite him playing the "interesting" move 1 e3, and I was in the unusual role of spectator for much of the evening.  And it wasn't making pleasant viewing, since in addition to the sad demise of the D team, I was having to watch the A team struggle in each of the three remaining games.

On Board 4, Ben had taken a hot pawn in a 2 c3 Sicilian after an enterprising sacrifice by Paul Roper, I imagine this is well known, but it didn't seem to be to Ben or his opponent (and certainly not to me!) as they both consumed lots of time in a very tense position. Ben suffered the tortures of the damned to hang on to his extra pawn and gradually get his pieces out, but just when he seemed to have achieved this he dropped a key pawn on e6. If Paul had captured with a rook, I wouldn't have been enthusiastic about Ben's survival chances, but instead he took with a bishop. The crisis had passed and a draw was swiftly agreed.

It was equal purgatory for me on Board 1, where Andrew P started off by building up a big attack on the f file against Olivia Smith's king, but when this failed to break through he found Black's counterplay on the queenside coming rather fast. A pawn fell off on c4 and the White pieces lost all co-ordination, essentially looking as though they had landed on random squares when someone had emptied a set onto the board. When you have a loose rook on h5 that isn't threatening the Black king, you do kind of wonder what it's doing there! Around the time control, though, there was a flurry of activity and when I next looked most of the pieces had come off and Andrew had somehow won his pawn back. So another draw from a game where we could very easily have slipped to defeat.

(BTW, with the two games at Solihull on Wednesday, plus the Cov League game on Tuesday, Kenilworth faced female top boards in three successive matches. This must be a first!? And we ended up with one defeat and two draws. Memo to Club Recruitment Officer - sign up some women players!)

But I have saved the worst to last. Since on Board 3 Carl was simply horribly lost against Ray Carpenter. As White he mislaid (or sacrificed, who knows?) a pawn fairly early on in a Closed Sicilian. Try as he might, he couldn't get good squares for his pieces, while Ray established a monster knight on d4. Eventually the crisis came. Carl tried to activate his queen at the cost of giving Black a massive passed pawn on c3. Ray picked up a second pawn and parried Carl's queen incursion. Almost any move would have won. Instead he needlessly captured a third pawn with his queen, and this allowed Carl to get his own queen to a7. His bishop was already on h6 and his rook on f1. All of a sudden he was threatening both Qg7 mate and Qf7 check followed by Qf8+ and after Rxf8, Rxf8 mate. Ray's clock was declining rapidly towards zero and under this sudden pressure he blundered. A draw was still to be had with Nd4-e6 which would have guarded both g7 and f8, leaving Carl with a perpetual after Qf7+/Kh8/Qf6+Kg8/Qf7+. This would have been a major success given the position he had two moves earlier, but instead Ray defended with Nf5 only to find that after Rxf5 he was completely lost. A recapture would allow Qg7 mate, and after a queen check the White rook retreated to f2 and Carl was just a piece up and the mate threats were all still there. Incredibly Carl had won, and instead of losing the match we had not merely saved it but actually won. An amazing turnaround.

So there you have it. Karma in Solihull. Matt lost undeservedly to lose the match for the D team, and to balance things out the cosmic forces decided to let Carl win undeservedly and win the match for the A team. Its good to know there is a harmony of sorts in the universe. The gods take with one hand and give back with the other! Though I doubt that's much consolation for the victims of this cruel reversal of fortune.

Rats! We Had to Play a Chess Match

After consecutive wins in the Coventry League against Nuneaton D (KO Cup) and Rugby A (Div 1) when our opponents declined to field any players against us, Warwick University B went and spoiled our run of 4-0 crushes by turning up with three people last Tuesday. And unfortunately for us, this was enough for them to secure a 2-2 draw and split the points.

This was especially disappointing as Mike won very convincingly on Board 3 to propel us to a 2-0 lead. His opponent gave up a pawn on b7 very early, then another one a few moves later and then a third on around move 20. She played on until Mike had a bishop and about 4 pawns to her 2 before deciding enough was enough.

But that was as good as it was destined to get for us, because on the top 2 boards both Ben and I messed up from good/very good positions and managed to gather precisely zero points. And to add insult to injury we both ended up being mated!

So not the greatest evening's entertainment, but the draw was enough to leave us in 4th position in Division 1 with a rather useful cushion of 5 points over the fifth placed team.

Monday, 15 January 2018

The harsh winter wind continues to blow into 2018

The B versus C fixtures opened the second half of the season but unfortunately the B teams fortunes didn't improve with a new year.

On top board, Ben was playing Rod in a line of the closed sicilian. Just to emphasis the nature of closed, there were no exchanges for the first hour and forty five minutes of play. With time running out white decided to attack the king side and it all looked so promising. However, Rod excellent defending was very resilient and white's initiative run out leaving black with the slightly better endgame prospects. With both sides now short of time a draw was agreed.

Mike D was playing Roy Watson in a Kings Indian defence. Black was able to temporarily sacrifice a piece to leave white with a isolated pawn. The resulting posotion allowed black more space and opportunity and ultimately white lost a rook via a fork whilst trying to defend his pawns.

Phil was playing Nick on board three and his queens pawn position looked okay out of the opening. White opted to play on the queen side but over extended himself and lost a queen side pawn and found himmself in a rook and knighth ending. Black cleverly managed to exchange rooks leaving white with an ending that was too difficult to defend.

Dave played Make J in another very slow closed sicilian position. When the queens were exchanged white had a slight advantage but offered a draw. At that point in the match the B team were one point up from one game and only needed a point from the other two games with the white pieces. Surely we could get that and a draw as agreed between the players.

Don't call me surely. Match drawn 2 all.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Warwick University Rapidplay

As old Will Shakespeare so nearly wrote, when local chess tournaments come, they come not single spies but in battalions. Even before we reach the Warwickshire Open in early March, you will have a chance to strut your stuff at the inaugural Warwick University Rapidplay tournament on Saturday February 3rd. For a very low entry fee (especially if you are already an ECF member at Silver or above), you can get no less than 7 games of (rapidplay) rated chess, in either Open or Minor (135 and below) sections.

Full details of this new local initiative can be found here, entries can be made online here and a list of entries plus travel/parking information is here. I hope a few KCC players will be able to support this very welcome new event.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Warwickshire Open 2018

A chance to play some serious chess (whatever your grading) at the upcoming Warwickshire Open  weekend tournament (March 2-4), which is once again being run by Ed Goodwin. There's a new venue this year at the Alan Higgs Centre in Coventry. Main details below. Look out for an entry form for even more information, or enter online at the address shown at the bottom of this post.

Warwickshire Open Chess Championships 2018

Organised by the Warwickshire Chess Association Ltd

Friday March 2nd to Sunday March 4th

Alan Higgs Centre

Allard Way

Coventry CV3 1HW

 FIDE rated Open

FIDE rated Under 1975 (U170)

ECF Under 140

ECF Under 110

Chief Organiser: Ed Goodwin

Arbiters : David Thomas (Chief Arbiter)

                                                     Tom Thorpe

Entry fee
Open      £30 adults £15 Juniors
Other  £25 adults £15 Juniors
Juniors are players who are under 18 on 2nd March 2018

Open and U1975  – Additional £10 for players who are not ECF Gold or Platinum members.

U140 and U110     –Additional £7.50 for players who are not ECF Silver Gold or Platinum member

No entries taken after Thursday 1st March

Time Control        All moves in 90 minutes plus 30 second increment per move from move 1.


                       Friday       R1 19.00 – 23.00
                   Saturday: R2 10.00 – 14.00 R3 15.00 – 19.00
                       Sunday:    R4 10.00 -  14.00 R5 15.00 – 19.00

Prizes              Open             1st - £250, 2nd - £150, 3rd - £75,
                         Best Performance Prize - £50

                         Under 1975  1st - £175, 2nd - £100, 3rd - £50
                         Best Performance Prize - £30

                         Other             1st -£175, 2nd - £100,  3rd - £50
                         Grading Prize £30