Friday, 30 November 2018

Time waits for no man at Daventry

When all your games in a match finish after 10pm, you know it has been a long day in the office.

First to finish was Mike who was down to his last few seconds when he resigned. Playing Steve Willets in a kings Indian with the Kings castled on opposite wings he had to endure an attack against his king which took its toll on his time. His successful defending of this led him into a rook and pawns ending a pawn down with only two minutes on the clock. It always difficult to defend a position like this against board one opposition.

Next to finish was Dave although he did have the luxury of a full ten minutes at the end whilst his opponent had only a couple of minutes. Black had deployed a slow double fianchetto defence which left his centre week. With all major pieces on the centre files, white pushed with e5. Unfortunately, black didn't defend this well and lost a piece rather than an exchange. However, he did emerge from this with some attacking chances as his queen got into white position. Once again, time proved a decisive factor as whilst black captured queen side pawns white got his queen and knight into black kingside and black didn't defend accurately enough.

The remaining two board almost finished simultaneously with all players down to their last minutes. When the dust settled, it turned out that we had won on both boards and the final score was 1 - 3 to Kenilworth.

Phil had played yet another Scandinavian defence against a fourteen year old opponent. Careless play in the opening by white left him with doubled isolated centre pawns. Black won one of these pawns but white generated some counter play against the black king. Unfortunately, white was trying too hard to win and allowed black to skewer his rook and queen. With both side desperately short of time a massive time scramble ensued in white the chess clock took one hell of a beating! Note to Daventry - don't trust these players with expensive analogue or digital clocks ever again and consider buying a replacement Garde clock.

Ben had black against Andy Johnson and looked to be winning out of the opening. However, Andy defended well and reached an active middlegame position a pawn down. From this point on, both sides pursued their individual attacks and it was just a case of who would mate who first. Fortunately, Ben had sacrificed his extra pawn to gain the initiative, had an extra tempo and mated white just before he got mated. Quite impressive considering the sheer racket that was emanating from board two as they wrecked Daventry's clock!

At 10.10, the game could have gone either way. At 10.15 we had won. Well done everyone.


Playing for the B team this season has been all fast cars, champagne and night after night of revelry as victory has followed victory. In contrast the C team has felt more like hanging out in the cafĂ©, the losing team in "The Apprentice," are banished to after another failed attempt to chalk up a task win.

Until last night that is...

We went to a freezing cold Banbury and won 3-1!

Bernard C got us of to a great start by winning very quickly against Dan Rowan on top board - a really good effort. Some feeling afterwards that Dan had strayed into unfamiliar opening territory, but Bernard didn't half convert well.

On board two, I was playing Arthur Hibbitt for the first time in about six years, since our last encounter in the Worcester Major. (A game I have always felt a little guilty about as Arthur hammered me for hours on that occasion before blundering at the very end and losing.) Nothing quite so dramatic last night, but Arthur built up a decent looking position and appeared to stand better. I found a way to neutralize and get the Queens off. Arthur immediately offered a draw and I was happy enough to take it to put us 1.5 - 0.5 up.

Particularly as on board three, Bernard R (bought out of retirement now that he is approaching retirement!) showed us again what we have been missing. You're wasted on The Gauntlet Bernard! A really crushing win against Paul Friend.

On Board 4, Roy Watson was up against Nick Martin. All the other games were long finished when these two were just getting going. I must confess I didn't see the end, but Roy held the line for a very good draw.

So two wins with white, two draws with black and finally two points in the bank. Possibly not time to crack open the champagne just yet, but we've definitely earned ourselves more than a coffee and a telling off from Alan Sugar/ The Club Organiser!

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

White to Play and Win

Consider this complex study (M. Page, 2018) and see how long it takes you to solve it. The task is very straightforward - it's White to play and win.

How did you get on? If you were present at last night's A team match against Rugby A, you will have found this to be  a very easy problem, with multiple solutions.  Any of 1 Nf3; 1 e4; 1 d4; or even 1 Nc3 seem to lead inexorably to a win for White. No need for further analysis, they just do! In fact, I really don't understand the problem that Carlsen and Caruana have been having in trying to eke out even a single, solitary win between them.  Mind you, they have been trying to play good moves, which two of our team signally avoided last night. Regrettably, I was one of them.

But while I lost horribly to Jonathan Cox on Board 1, I still somehow did not play the worst game of the evening. That honour went to the normally rock steady Andrew P, who perhaps sulking from finding himself languishing on Board 3 at times this season, went down in excruciating - but rapid - fashion to Simon Turner. I glanced at the position after about 10 moves and noticed to my surprise that Simon was threatening to win a piece by playing Bxb8 (a knight on its home square). Then I noticed he was also threatening to play Qxg7 (only a measly pawn) followed by Qxh8 (a far from measly rook). Surely our man couldn't have overlooked something as elementary as a double attack could he? Surely he had a clever response up his sleeve?? As the game ended soon after as a White win in what can best be described as a rout, you can guess the answers to these questions. Why he didn't play like that for Nuneaton against us in the Coventry League last week, I can't imagine! Still, we're all allowed the occasional off night, I suppose.

We then struck back in rather less one sided games, as first Joshua (against Alan Phillips - nice to see you, Alan!) and then the infrequently sighted Andy B (against Patrick Reid) also proved the power of having the first move to put us 2-1 up. Joshua seemed to play remorselessly against Alan's hopeless clock handing (there may have been the odd good move in there, too, though I can't vouch for that), and Andy finally crashed through when his third or fourth plan of the evening actually worked, though I had a bit of a scare when I saw a knight sac against Andy's king, but luckily it could be ignored and Andy eventually powered in against the Black king on the g file. Any thoughts of a match victory were not realistic though, as I had been slightly worse for the whole game before collapsing appallingly and walking onto a crushing mating attack. Well of course I did - I had the Black pieces. (See diagram above!) Still, as I may have said before, we're all allowed the occasional off night.

So honours even at 2-2, and all four games won fairly convincingly by White!

Ultimately this was a very disappointing result, as on paper we should have won comfortably. In fact, maybe that's what I need to propose at the next League AGM - we play the matches on paper, rather than on the board. That way we can all stay at home and watch the telly, while avoiding damaging calamities such as befell two fine fellows last night. Still, in case I haven't already mentioned it, we're all allowed the occasional off night!

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Bad Moon Rising

I must be more careful what music I have on in the car before matches in future. Creedence Clearwater Revival is now firmly on the blacklist, as this song proved to be frighteningly accurate on Tuesday night as we made our way to what should have been a close Coventry League match against Nuneaton A.

Several hours later our weary team slunk back to Kenilworth with precisely the same number of points we had left with at 7.00 pm. Yes, we had been rolled over 4-0. Embarrassment hardly begins to describe the evening's events.

I have no idea of the sequence of results, as I was glued to my own game, but it was a tale of uniform disaster. I lost against Phil Briggs on Board 1, despite him playing an opening that even Joshua would find a bit outrageous - anyone for this variation of the Nimzowitsch 1 e4 Nc6 2 Nc3 Nd4? (And the question mark is for the move as well as being a grammar requirement!) We will draw a veil over the rest of the proceedings, except to say that I collapsed around the time control and got well turned over.

Mike went down to the double agent Andrew Paterson on Board 2, for his first loss of the season. He was rather passive out of the opening, and finally went down in a king and pawn ending, though apparently not before missing a golden opportunity to deliver mate in the queen-less middlegame.

Ben seemed to be doing fine against Tony Green on Board 3, but somehow contrived to lose a pawn and went under, but Dave was always in trouble on 4, where Colin Green wheeled out his favourite Closed Sicilian set up and seemingly just rolled Dave off the board.

So a chastening evening, not made any more palatable by the panto rehearsal going on continuously in the next room. I would like put it all down to playing that CCR song on the journey there, but I suspect that some very bad moves by Kenilworth players might have had something to do with it as well.

But at least learn from my mistake and be careful what songs you listen to en route to matches in future. Recommended titles include Victory (Kool and the Gang), Triumph (Wu-Tang Clan - coincidentally also responsible for a song titled Da Mystery of Chessboxin'!) and, for the D team in the Leamington League, Meat Loaf's 2 out of 3 Ain't Bad.

Other titles for the blacklist, meanwhile, are The Last to Die For a Mistake (Bruce Springsteen), Trouble (Little Feat), The Worst Night of my Life (Eddy Arnold) and Loser (Beck).

Win, Lose or Draw by the Allman Brothers Band would seemingly not have any effect either way!

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Will Wills a Win

Ken B v Rugby B was tonight's entertainment and it was indeed full of thrills and spills. The pre-match tension was heightened by the last minute finalising of the team. Captain, Roy, was confused by the new 'improvement' to his email front page and missed an email from Stuart - but by 5.00 the team was clear - Stuart, me, William and Jude.

I did not follow much of Stuart's game but he seemed to be doing slightly better out of the opening. He then explained how after the appearance of a ghost on his board he felt he needed to defend a pawn - at which he was very successful. But the downside of this - in fact needless manoeuvre- was that Black's knight forked Stuart's King and Queen! Game over. 1-0 to F. Fabik (who I think is a new kid on Rugby's block).

Match score 0 - 1.

A classic Samisch was my offering. My opponent - M Wilson - played very quickly but still the result was that my Kingside attack was slower than his Queenside attack despite the sac of a pawn and I had serious doubts about the way the game would proceed. My only explanation  for what happened next was a case of excitement clouding thinking - even though his confidence was probably well-founded. In an attempt to execute the coup de grace he placed his rook en prise for nothing and he instantly resigned. Shame really and I was very fortunate.

Match score 1 - 1.

Next was Jude playing his signature London System on bottom board against M. Harding and came out of the opening much the better - in command of a half-open h-file (and I think a couple of pawns up). A routine 0-0-0 was followed by a Rook and Queen on the now fully open h-file and following the thematic f3 move and a wide open position, Jude churned out yet another clinical win.

Match score 2 - 1.

So we needed William on board three to draw for a match win. But it was not promising. Having gained a clear advantage from the opening [1.c4 e5, 2.Nc3 Nf3, 3.g3 Bc5 - does this have a name?] in the form of wrecking his opponent's pawn structure. And I thought Will was going to win right out of the opening. But next time I looked Will was two pawns down. In an endgame with both having  two rooks and a knight Will showed great character, grit and determination and imposed his will on the game. Playing far above his grading he conceived a lovely manoeuvre which pacified the rook of his opponent (N Malka) and Will had a far better placed King. He won back one of his pawns and was offered a draw.

Final match score 2.5 - 1.5

Postscript 1

Joshua has shown me how to enter a game into a match report. When I receive Jude's scoresheet, I will give it a go.

Postscript 2

After looking at my game with Paul, I was in fact doing alright when Black blundered - so I was not lucky.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

'Johnson Polish'es his Team

Solihull F faced the might of Kenilworth D last night. As I write I await a game report on his win from first to finish on bottom board Matt. Watch this space.

My game  on board one was a fairly straightforward one helped with the classic 1.d4 d5, 2.c4 Nf6, 3.pxp Nxp, 4.e4 Nf6 giving me a massive space advantage and control of the centre. Pile up down the c-file and a minority attack was then the simple plan. However, Black overlooked some tactical nuances and after my central push Black's position collapsed.

Last to finish, on board two was William, who writes " The match started with my standard d4 e6 and just after four moves our queens were off the board. Due to my lack of development my opponent gained an advantage in the middle game. I was, however, able to turn this around and my opponent fell for a trap which led to the loss of his bishop for a pawn. Poor play on his behalf allowed me to claim another piece and he was unable to stop my pawn due to a nice knight sac'.

Excellent team selection by non-playing Mike - it is three clubs? - Johnson. Well done Mike.

Final result 0-3.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Home and Away

Last night, thanks to the good offices of Drago, Ken B played both Home and Away. Our 'away' match against Cov Uni was played at 'home' in order to accommodate our juniors.

Once again my eternal optimism was confounded.

First to finish was Algis. It looked like a pretty standard Ruy Lopez but I did not see much of it and can only report that Algis lost on bottom board.

Next to finish was Jude playing a London System in which he played his trademark delayed Nf3 move in combination with a devastating h-pawn push - all against a double fianchetto - and winning the exchange before Black decided to try his luck on the Queenside. Sadly for Black this only resulted in dropping his h-pawn, then his rook, then the b-pawn then the c-pawn and the game a couple of moves later.

Ben also played a London System but this time I think an early Nf3 was played.  Ben reports that essentially 'we played out a very complex doubled edged opening. In a tension filled position I miscalculated and simply made the wrong choice. The game was still very tense and tactical for a while, but when my counter-play was eventually extinguished it was game over. Good play from my opponent. Clearly, being at Carlsen-Cajurana the day before did not rub off on me!'

Last to finish was yours truly, needing a win to draw the match. Probably with inadequate preparation I played a Nimzo, got outplayed, dropped two pawns and was only saved from disaster by a blunder by White who, forgetting queen's can move sideways, dropped a bishop for a pawn.  Material equality, my four isolated pawns, my king exposed, rooks and queens flying all over the show - this was too much for me to overcome and a draw was offered by my opponent and accepted - with great reluctance but to press on would almost certainly have resulted in a loss.

Having gloated last week about my Captaincy and claiming unwarranted credit, I must, in the interest of balance, claim at least some discredit for my Captaincy in this match. Must do better!

Final score 2.5 v 1.5 loss.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Pictures at an Exhibition

Our Arts Correspondent Reports:-

We are a multi-talented lot in KCC (myself excluded - I am strictly a one-trick pony, and not a very good one of those) and in the creative arts, Bernard C is our standard bearer.  An exhibition of his work was recently on display at Rugby Art Gallery, and as regrettably few of his club colleagues could seemingly be stirred to make the short trip to view his work, I thought I would give you a brief taste of what you missed.

I won't pretend to be the most sensitive when it comes to appreciating art, but I know what I like, and like isn't exactly the word that springs to mind where Bernard's work is concerned. If you want fluffy kittens, or waiters dancing on the beach, look away now, because Bernard's vision is concerned with rather darker matters. No wait, make that considerably darker matters.  The exhibition was presented under the title "Colour Radicals", and Bernard's accompanying Artist's Statement gives a clear signpost that we can expect to be both unsettled and challenged. (I know I was!)

"The selection of paintings is from a current series of work exploring an imagined collapse of the normal with unexpected results. Each image can be likened to a theatrical event, where the props are caught in a moment of destruction or drama. Yet that same moment yields a surprising contrast. Colour emerges from, ignites or lights this virtual stage. These visual metaphors touch on ideas of dystopia, while at the same time releasing the beauty of colour as an emancipatory radical energy."

So if you are sitting comfortably, prepare to be shaken out of that complacency.

I am immensely impressed by Bernard's work, but I can't say I would want to have any of it on my living room wall. I find it far too disturbing for that.  This is powerful stuff, and those like me who in our advancing years have retreated to a smaller, largely self-contained/private world, will naturally shy away from confronting the dramatic/cataclysmic events presented in Bernard's art. But thank goodness there is one amongst us who, at an age when he could be excused for resorting to jigsaw puzzles or daytime TV, has the energy and vision to produce such striking images. I think I would call these paintings loud, not just because of their striking colours, but because they demand your attention so forcefully it almost seems as though they are shouting at you.

Whatever's happening here, it is not going to end well!
But behind that forceful element, and the accompanying sense of motion/change/drama, Bernard also captures a still/precise moment amongst the chaos - and it is that which I find particularly disturbing, because its a moment when bad things are happening, but which heralds even worse to come. Cheerful stuff, eh?

Apologies to Bernard if I have massively misrepresented his vision. But after all, the views expressed here are those of the reviewer not the artist!!

Portrait of the Artist as a not so Young Man

And to see more of Bernard's work, visit his website.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Blog Inserts

Does anyone out there know how to insert a position diagram into a Blogg?

WUC Whacked!

For reasons which should not be allowed to deflect the reader from the substance of this report a team of six turned up for the home match on Tuesday against Warwick University C.  So, with apologies to Rod - who was left on the bench - I can only take my hat off to the Captain whose managerial and man-management skills were fully revealed for the first time. Watching from the side-line I can reveal that:-

First to finish was Mr Shurrock who as White on board two was "playing Ben Lee for the second time this season. A different variation of c3 Sicilian allowed White to establish a knight on e5 and cramp Black's position. Black pressed too hard to equalise and allowed an attack against f7 which lost him an exchange. A queen foray into the white queenside only served to pull the queen away from defending the king and White subsequently won the h-pawn. A long drawn out ending was avoided when Black allowed an undefended piece to be taken".

Hurrah! One Nil

Second was Mr Shearsby as White on board four and facing a Dutch. Mr Shurrock comments "the black-squared bishop exchanged immediately. Out of the opening Black had the bishop pair but doubled kingside pawns. White was allowed to advance his queenside pawns and created space and restricted the bishop. The resulting pressure placed on Black's position allowed him to win material and ultimately the game". A very mature performance from Mr Shearsrby.

Hurrah! Hurrah! Two Nil.

Next, on board three, Black, was Mr Morris. A London System was played and the middle game position looked almost losing. BUT, as, Mr Shurrock advises that 'Black traded dark square bishop but this allowed the opening of the rook's file against the black kingside castled position. However, White was too slow to launch a kingside attack and this allowed Black to force weakness in the White camp on the queenside. The exchange of a knight on e5 proved the turning point and it allowed the black queen into White's position via c3. Further exchanges left White with a difficult ending, Black's passed h-pawns allowed him to get his king amongst the white queenside pawns and winning'.

Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Three Nil

And in the final few minutes Mr Graff  'done us proud'. He writes that 'After a near symmetrical flank opening I managed to get my pawn break in first and took a slight initiative. My bishops ended up with a little bit extra room to manoeuvre and my pawn structure was slightly more robust than my opponents. Essentially, it was all more or less still equal but White needed to find the right moves and under pressure on the board and on the clock seemed to lose the thread a bit. I was on the brink of winning a pawn when in a desperate attempt to hold on to it White miscalculated and I was able to win both his bishops for my rook with the queens coming off. In the resulting endgame my bishops had terrific diagonals and my remaining rook was well placed whereas his rooks had no open lines to work with. It took a while but my bishops, rook and pawns built a fantastic net completely controlling all the squares. White resigned when it was clear I was going to mop up'.

Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Four Nil!

'Clean Sheet'! Job Done!

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Small Earthquake in Chile

Nothing too dramatic to report from last night's fairly routine 3-1 win for the A team over Leamington. The players of the white pieces, Andrew and Joshua, annexed the full point, while the players of the black pieces, myself and Mike D, contented themselves with draws.

Except that in my case, I didn't. I was completely winning against Andy Collins, but my disastrous clock situation led - once again - to a total meltdown where I frittered away my two extra pawns and overwhelming attack through gross incompetence. Mike's game featured the inevitable Tom Darling sacrifice (only a pawn, but its the thought that counts!) which he neutralised easily enough, but at the expense of a rather balanced position that did not induce either player to persevere for long.

However short that game, though, it looked like War and Peace next to Joshua's. Once again the British rail network conspired to make him arrive late, but that didn't seem to matter one iota. In no time at all he was simultaneously threatening mate on h7 and the Black queen on d7 after a nice, but rather obvious, exchange sac on f6.

Andrew's win was more of a technical effort against Rob Gill. He put his pieces on good squares to attack Black's horribly weak queenside pawns, which eventually fell off. Rob managed to generate some counter-play but Andrew played precisely to defuse the threats, and secure the victory.

Match over. Move along. Nothing much to see here.

Monday, 5 November 2018

High Apple Pie In The Sky Hopes

Like Frank Sinatra I had high hopes for this one with Bernard on top board. But also like Frank, they turned out to be apple pie in the sky hopes.
First to finish was Jude. I did not see the opening but early on Jude established a powerful attack on Mike [Two-Clubs] Johnson's King position, winning  a pawn. Jude missed some possible middle game chances. In the endgame he felt Mike Two-Clubs was threatening to win the pawn back in a four v five pawn endgame and offered a draw which was duly accepted by Two-Clubs.
Next finish was me. Lazy thinking on my part - once again - resulted in me playing like a lemon mixing up two King's Indian Systems. My opponent, Nigel, played his usual mechanical opening stuff and completely annihilated me. Our pie was now in desperate need of some cream to pour over our troubled waters! I do love a mixed metaphor.
Could this be poured on by Matt? No. In his own words " I played a Scandinavian as Black and received a lot of early pressure on the e6 pawn. Avoiding the threat of a scary looking sacrifice around and uncastled King cast me my favourite pawn and White more than maintained the advantage through the middle game, with my rooks unable to move to the second rank. There was still some hope going into the endgame but then I lost'. In fact the last move was a simple king/rook fork, costing Matt the rook at which point he resigned after what looked to me a well-fought game.
With all hope of a victory now revealed for the pie in the sky it perhaps always had been all pressure was off Bernard who in any case had slightly the better of it on board one at this stage - better pawn structure and the opponent King slightly exposed. I only saw the final, exciting, stages of the game in which Bernard's opponent made a - not obviously - unsound sacrifice. Bernard, as is his custom 'saw all' and won a knight. To be fair if Black had not gone for the sac he would probably have been ground down in the endgame anyway. I understand this was Bernard's first competitive win since 2011.

Friday, 2 November 2018

A beer festival that doesn't get much more local than this

The church hall next to our venue is holding a small beer festival on Saturday 17th November at 6.30pm to raise funds for the church.

It might not be a festival to set the world of CAMRA alight but it's a good cause.

All the beers are local.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Nick of Time

Phew! Last night's crazy, topsy-turvy match against Solihull B ended in a dramatic 2.5-1.5 victory for the A team, but only one man was able to walk away from The Blossomfield Club with his head held high. Step forward our peripatetic hero, Joshua Pink. What a glorious day that was when he walked back into KCC to become our commuting saviour. And how amazing that a man who nominally lives in Manchester can be a more regular player for us than most of those who live in Kenilworth!

He cut it rather fine last night, having been delayed on his return from London by the inevitable train problems. The clock ticked on to past 8.00 pm when he finally made his dramatic entry  - well, what else would you expect from a noted amateur thespian? But thank goodness he made it in the nick of time - which gives me an excellent excuse to present a great song by the absolutely magnificent Bonnie Raitt.

For most of the game he seemed to be about to crash through with an attack down the a file against Ray Carpenter's queenside casted king, but Ray defended cleverly and when I took my last look at the position, I feared any hopes of victory were gone. But in trying to force a draw, Ray apparently sacrificed a rook, only to discover it wasn't perpetual check after all.

This was a massive boost, as we were reeling from the sad ending of the Board 4 encounter, where Bernard C had played an exemplary game with Black against Ian Brodie, winning a pawn, then a second, then an exchange before discovering that his remaining pieces were all being dominated by White's small, but perfectly co-ordinated army. Bernard returned the exchange, but to no avail, as this was one game that did end in perpetual. So a point I had mentally chalked up for most of the evening, ended up as just a draw.

Another draw was then concluded on Board 2 where Andrew P's attempt to hang on to the c4 pawn ultimately failed and left him in a slightly dubious position. At one point in the late opening/early middle-game he still had every piece still on  the back rank, but found it necessary to play the move f6. You know something is not quite right when that happens! Somehow, though, he then marshalled his forces rather cleverly to not only avoid disaster, but to establish a slight edge thanks to two superbly centralised knights. But it wasn't enough to gain any decisive advantage and a rook ending was eventually agreed drawn.

Which left me to wrap up the match on Board 1 against Neil Clarke. Which I did, but not in a way which reflects any credit on me whatsoever. After an offbeat French Defence, Neil enterprisingly sacrificed a pawn for the two bishops and some initiative, and steadfastly refused to win back the pawn in favour of keeping the bishops.  However, I gradually unravelled, took over the only open file and blotted the bishops out with my 3-1 queenside majority Or at least that was what I thought was happening, but as both clocks ticked under 5 minutes I snatched a second pawn (leaving me with 3 connected passers!) but crucially gave Black the opportunity to free his pieces which he did to marvellous effect as I completely collapsed. A piece fell off (in my shock I failed to see I could have given up my queen for a rook and minor piece instead) and I must have been totally lost. But Neil possibly misjudged how much time he had left and took a perpetual check (yes another one!) when in what must have been a completely winning position.

So a very close shave, and a less than convincing performance. Memo to self - and rest of team - buck your ideas up!