Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Lies, Damned Lies and Computer Evaluations

Exciting news of our Manchester member, who today has finished 2nd= in the Amateurs B tournament at the Gibraltar Chess Festival, bringing home by my calculations some £512.50 in prize money. Greater than my entire life-time chess winnings, I suspect. With 4.5/5 this was a splendid effort, but - and I don't want to appear churlish here - it was not as smooth a road to the winners' rostrum as it might appear. Let's walk ourselves through Joshua's tournament.

Round 1 against an American rated 1690 (about 136 in ECF terms). Joshua plays a very exciting opening. His opponent seems to know it at least as well as he does, and ends up with a winning position. Which he nurtures up to move 62, when the mighty Stockfish proclaims an advantage of +16.17. Does Joshua get downhearted? No, he wins in just 6 more moves! Must have played his Get Out of Jail Free card just in time.

Round 2, and its the splendidly named Spaniard, Gregorio Bizcocho Mellado (1771/146) who is in opposition. The opening does not go well for Joshua and by move 29 the engine puts him at -5.15. No problem. Our hero turns the tables and not too much later the evaluation is +64.03 in his favour! At which point Joshua plays a move that gives away 55 points - the equivalent of 6 queens!! - of his advantage Luckily he is still +9, and duly wins.

Round 3 and its English opposition in the shape of Keith Parker (1810/ECF 145) from Muswell Hill. By move 22, Stockfish has it in for Joshua yet again - he is -3.57, but this is only the equivalent of being a piece down, so its no big deal after the disasters of the first two rounds. Resignation occurs on move 46, and our hero has 3/3.

Then something goes wrong in round 4.  Despite never being worse than -2.3, he is unable to make another great comeback against Dieter Bauer of Germany (1714/139) and so only makes a draw Such an insignificant disadvantage was not enough to get the adrenaline going it seems.

This leaves Joshua half a point off the pace going into today's last round, but unlike at Ilkley (see post dated 7.1.19) the three people ahead of him do not do the decent thing and lose. Two of them draw with each other, but the third, Eddy Bosschem (great name!) of Belgium sees off Spanish opposition to grab sole first with 5/5. Joshua, meanwhile, is playing a rather good game, and his position is never worse than -0.8, which is nothing to a proponent of the Manchester School of Chess. Sure enough, despite a few missed opportunities that could have shortened proceedings, Joshua (the number 2 seed on ELO) eventually scores a well played win over number 1 seed Victor Manual Cernuda Orejas from Spain (1893/162) to finish in a four way tie for second.

And there we have it - worse in all 5 games, of which two were seriously worse and two were dead lost! But that's just computer evaluations. They mean nothing in the real world when two players are competing mano a mano - or in Joshua's case mano a Manchester! Then its survival that counts, and our man is pretty ruthless when it comes down to a slugging match. So well done Joshua. Strutting his stuff and flying the KCC flag successfully on the global stage. While steadfastly refusing to play too many good moves in the process!

Coventry League Division 1 Gloom

Observant readers will have noticed there was no report of the A team's 1.5- 2.5 loss to Warwick University B last week, but I was too depressed to go into print after losing a terrible game myself. Well, I am readier to bite the bullet after another 1.5-2.5 loss to Coventry A last night, but only because I got a very lucky win. Since Christmas we have managed one draw against Rugby, and three losses by the minimum margin, to leave us in grave danger of finishing last in Division 1. Oh the shame, the shame!

Ben was the hero last week, as our only winner, when he kept his nerve in a very complex position to avoid a number of nasty traps and bring home the bacon. All to no avail as Mike and I both lost and Dave only drew, despite being a piece up.

Last night it was all change, as I got the only win (rather undeservedly, as Henrik Stepanyan over-pressed and self-destructed in a better, but probably drawn queen ending) while Ben and Dave lost and Mike drew from what looked like a much better position against Dave Ireland. Ben's loss was the most galling, as he was much better/winning against Bernard Charnley, only to throw the game away. The fact that Bernard's phone went off during the game made the loss even more difficult to take. But how could Ben have claimed a win against one of our own?? Answer, he couldn't, but I suspect that next time he will - with the match captain urging him on! We need the points! Dave's loss against Ed Goodwin was excruciating - Bxh7+ anyone? When you can't even take it, you know you are really done for! To make us all feel even better, this was apparently Coventry's first league win in 3 seasons.

So, only one league game left for the A team, and just the small matter of Nuneaton A, who wiped us out 4-0 before Christmas. What a joyous prospect. Before then we have a repeat fixture and an early chance of revenge next week against Coventry, in the KO Cup quarter-final. Time for some bouncebackability, I think!

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

A Cup Final Place Secured!

Kenilworth safely made it through to yet another LDCL Open KO Cup Final last night, with a 3-2 Semi-Final win over Shirley. And for once we managed it without too many alarms. Both teams were slightly under-strength, but our squad depth was the decisive factor.

It was a strange game, with four boards over before 9.30, and the playing room emptying with indecent haste to leave the Club Organiser in solitary splendour trying, very unsuccessfully, to hold a desperate position on Board 1. Fortunately, this was Shirley's only success, whereas we managed two.

The games on Boards 2 and 5 did not last long. First, Andy B recognised that his opening strategy against Keith Ingram was getting nowhere and offered a swiftly accepted draw. Regrettably, a rather uninspiring effort with the white pieces from our man. Ben's game on Board 5 against Gordon Christie was much more exciting, although lasting fewer moves. I'm pretty sure the already infamous dodgy line of the dodgy opening featured again, and the position was very imbalanced when the draw was agreed. Black (Ben) had no centre pawns, while White's occupied e4 and d4 in classical style. White also had an open g file to work with, but Ben's pieces were developed on good squares and were ready to hop into any holes if the White pawns advanced, while the White king was slightly vulnerable. It could have been an interesting struggle, but maybe both players wanted to get home to watch something on TV?

Then the match quickly moved decisively in our favour. Phil struck first with a big win over Dave Thomas. Phil jumped in on c7 with a rook, attacking a Black bishop on b7 and a Black queen on d7. Surprisingly Dave just let the bishop go, when he could have limited his losses to a pawn by playing Qd8, and then capturing an undefended White bishop on a5 when Phil took the b7 bishop. After this oversight, the game concluded rapidly.

And there was an even more comprehensive conclusion on Board 3 shortly afterwards, when Andrew P had the joy of playing the move Qb2 mate against Jonathan Dale, at the end of a massive attack against White's king which had castled on the queenside. This looked like a very dynamic and energetic game by Andrew. I only wish I could have followed suit, but much later my travails against Phil Purcell ended in defeat, and Shirley had their only win of the evening.

And so we are into the final again, where we will play Olton on Tuesday, May 7th. Having beaten them in our recent successes in both 2014 and 2017, they may well feel they are due a case of third time lucky. Let's try and make it a hat trick for us instead!

Monday, 28 January 2019

A Famous Victory For The Club Organiser

Once every hundred years, the Coventry League comes together for a celebratory rapidplay, as regular as clockwork. So it was that we gathered yesterday at the Massey Ferguson club, for this momentous occasion. Mark, Mike and Bernard C joined me in donning Kenilworth’s colours in the Open section. A fun day was had by all, but there was one particularly notable achievement that I feel compelled to write about. None other than Mark’s incredible victory against a GM!

The trouble with being The Club Organiser is that you spend most of your time lavishing praise on other people. [Bar those rare moments when you suggest such things as members having a dodgy interpretation of a dodgy opening – even when they won the game!!] Still, the point is The Club Organiser has no one else to blow their trumpet when they well and truly bring home the bacon.

So it falls on me to flag that yesterday Mark Page beat Mark Hebden! I saw nothing of the game. Mark may or may not tell us the full story in a subsequent post. What an awesome result though. Not many of us can claim to have done such a thing. I see myself as being more likely to make the 2119 Cov Rapidplay than to beat a GM in a real game! So well done Mark, hats off to you! Surely some form of honorary title should follow?

Mark was clearly the story of the day. Away from his exploits, we all did pretty well. I’ve not see the final table but we were all on for 50% + going into the last round, which is pretty good. Much less momentously Mike and I played out a “blue on blue” round one battle which resulted in honours being even. I had an incredibly random win over Neil Clarke with my queen just about managing to fend off his minor piece attack on my king (which despite him being queen and rook down came very close to doing for me.) Dave Ireland also provided a valuable lesson to all aspiring rapid players out there – namely the benefits of turning up on time. For whatever reason he was ten minutes late for our round four game and lost on time in a won position. I did feel suitably sheepish…

Still, all flotsam and jetsam in the scheme of things. The main point of this post is to say well done Mark! You’ve inspired me to start planning for the 2119 event after all!

Thursday, 24 January 2019

January 2019 Grades - KCC Report Card

Yes, the January 2019 ECF grading list has been published, so its time for my bi-annual review of how club members have fared, chess wise, since the previous list.

Gold Stars

Jude +19
The Club Organiser +8
Dave +8
Matt +7
Joshua +5
Phil +5
Mike D +4
Ben +3
William +3
Andrew P +2
Bernard C +2
Chris +1
Steve +1

As You Were

Nick F =
Tony =
Carl =

Pull Your Socks Up

Nick M -1
Bruce -3
Paul -3
Mike J -4
Rod -5
Andy B -7
Roy -7

New Kid on the Block

Billy - straight in at 121!!

Returning from Hibernation

Bernard R - 131 (ouch! those games in Germany really hurt)

Where Did He Go?

Stuart - disappeared!

With the upturn in club membership and activity, we now have 25 graded players, though regrettably we have lost Stuart who has fallen off the list due to inactivity. Although he did play at least a couple of times for the B team in the Coventry League before Xmas, these games have seemingly been missed by the graders. Given the results, this may be for the best! We also have Algis bubbling under but not yet in possession of a grade, also due to grader incompetence as his results have been split under two different player references. As I'm pretty sure there is only one of him, this organisational issue is being addressed!

Anyway, from our 25 members with current active grades we had 13 risers, 7  fallers, 3 non-movers and 2 new/re-entries. Collectively we gained 68 grading points and lost 30, for a net club gain of 38 points - easily the best result since I started monitoring our collective performance.

Leading the way, with an absolutely stellar gain of 19 points in just 6 months, is Jude, whose upwards trajectory has seen him already pass Roy, who is regrettably heading in the opposite direction. And at this rate of improvement, Jude will be passing everybody else in the club in the next few years, so we'd all better be ready for that moment to arrive. Great stuff, Jude!

I am mystified as to how I gained 8 points, but I think a large part of that is because they have found the points I was incorrectly robbed of in July. Dave also logged a strong +8 performance (become a match captain - it boosts your grade - unless your name is Roy), and given their 100% record, its no surprise he was kept company by the rest of the LDCL B team squad. Nice also to see Matt and William going the right way, too.

Roy brings so much to the club, but regrettably this does not include grading points. Together with Andy B he heads the list of club under-achievers. No need to dwell on the negatives though, is there? So lets move swiftly on to another massive success story. For bursting onto the grading list at 121 is Billy - at the age of just 7. This is an absolutely remarkable achievement. My first ever grade was 106 and I was about 14 at the time!!

Unbelievably, though, I have become, for the first time ever, Club Top Dog, with a lifetime best to boot. Though my recent results suggest that I will not be occupying this lofty perch for long if Paul just carries on not playing any games, he's sure to back at number 1 in July!

Of course, these grades are relatively unimportant for match purposes, as team eligibility and board orders will continue to be determined by last July's grades for the rest of the season.Anyway - keep up the good work, guys - we are on the way up. Especially if we can keep pace with Jude and Billy!

Kenilworth B Victorious

The curtain raiser on this was a message from Coventry Captain Simon Weaver informing me that they would have to default on board four.  I was unable to get hold of Algirdas but in the event, Jude’s mum – though perhaps not Jude – was happy for them to return home to an early night.

Buoyed up by the one point starting advantage, I faced Bava on Board One as Black. In this game I failed to see the BIG PICTURE. In a Nimzowitch, Bava Manickammade a simple error on move four handing me a pawn, thank you very much. From then on, though, Bava completely outplayed me. Foolishly trying to hang on to this extra pawn  rather than exchanging it for some other advantage – a bit like the monkey with his hand on a peanut in a jam jar and won’t let go I was completely outmanoeuvred. Bava built up an attack against my King with his Queen and two knights, which, mesmerized by my ‘advantage’, I underestimated. And was mated. Still, after tI had been mated,  I was still a pawn up!!
Board Two saw a MAGNIFICENT PERFORMANCE by  William Morris playing White against Coventry League’s Simon Weaver.  This game will be used for instruction purposes on Saturday morning at the Chess Academy.

After a shaky start in an Advanced French William won a pawn and entered a Knight (William) v Bishop endgame. With couple of fine finesses and textbook play, White reduced Black to shuffling his Bishop up and down the same diagonal whilst methodically advancing his extra pawn. Black exchange the minor pieces which did not affect the fundamentals. White was then free to abandon his unpromotable advanced pawn, pick up Black’s remaining pawn and promote. And William has not even heard of Silman’s book on endgames. Just a natural. Another KCC major asset.
On Board Three Algirdas, as Black played Ian Evans. The opening looked to me very much like a line played by Ben Graff a few matches ago. There is probably a name for it (Mexican perhaps?) – it looked to me very much like a sort of Queens Gambit Declined with Black having a knight on c6. Any road up,  Algirdas managed to win two extra pawns  - passed a- and b-pawns. With a clear win in sight for Black, White blundered his knight and instantly resigned.

Final score  3-1 (including a default) which should  save us from relegation. It makes you proud to be Captain!

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Dangerous chess

Next up it was Olton B, last years relegation team. The club has quite a few players and so you can never be too certain as to who will turn up. As it turned out, only Richard Reynolds was in the team that we played us in the first half of the season.

Phil was the first to finish playing against Robert Reynolds with white. Having played black for the last eight games, the white pieces must have been a bit of a shock. White emerged from the opening with a slightly cramped position. Black was able to attack on the king side but white had a bishop pair and could hold the position. A draw was agreed.

Dave was next to finish playing Bob Wallman. Black's opening play left him with more space and white position cramped. Black plan to attack on the king side allowed white to improve his position and win a king side pawn. Both sides then moved all their pieces over to the king side and nothing else happened. With Bob unwilling to risk opening up the game, a draw was agreed.

Mike was playing Richard with the black pieces in a super solid opening. Ignoring white's attempt to sacrifice material allowed black to get into an ending with advantage. Black kindly declined a draw offer as he wasn't sure how Dave's game would turn out. However, once Dave game was drawn, Mike prudently offered a draw which was accepted.

Ben was playing what could only be called dangerous chess. Playing quickly he gained an advantage against Warren with the white pieces. When black lost a piece, he felt disinclined to continue and resigned. At the conclusion of the game, Ben thanked Warren for the game and then said that he had to get going as it was his wife's birthday. No one said anything, but I felt sure that we were all thinking the same thing - how did he get away with that! Well done Ben.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Game of the Month, January 2019

Normally the criteria for inclusion in a Game of the Month article would include, as a minimum, being a KCC member and playing an interesting game, preferably ending in victory. But I have stretched the envelope a bit this time around, so we have a Kenilworth resident (albeit one who did make a single appearance for the D team a few years ago and who has more recently made many Thursday evening appearances at the Gauntlet), playing a rather unexciting game, that he lost rather anti-climactically.  But when I tell you that in opposition to David Phillips was 4 times US Champion; super-GM; and on-line Blitz and Bullet Legend/World Number 1, Hikaru Nakamura, and that there was very nearly one hell of an upset, you will see that this was no ordinary game.

The game was played on the platform as a 3 minute Blitz as part of one of Nakamura's regular streams (this one went on for 8 hours!), but David got to play him right at the start of the session, when the GM was presumably at his sharpest.

I feel pretty safe in stating that no-one else associated with KCC in any shape or form has ever played anyone with such a high rating. In fact, at the time of this game (only played earlier this month), Nakamura's Blitz rating was 3122!! So David was giving away the small matter of 1,032 rating points! Despite that, he came within a whisker of landing a very palpable hit on his illustrious opponent.

According to my engine, at no time in this game was Black ever better, not even by as much as 0.01 of a pawn. And of course, at one crucial moment he was considerably worse. Even if David had spotted 14 Nxf7, the GM would almost certainly still have won the game on time, since there was no increment and he was typically averaging only a third of David's time per move, despite the distractions of streaming. That doesn't detract from an excellent effort by David, against an opponent whose playing strength is of an order of magnitude we can hardly even comprehend.

David certainly doesn't need any chess advice from me, but the one thing I do dare to suggest to him is that he changes his internet provider. Every second counts when playing against GM Hikaru!!

Thursday, 17 January 2019

The London 'Leeds' Kenilworth to Victory

Ken B in the Coventry League need all the points we can get but it was not looking good for our match against Coventry Club D team, away. By Monday afternoon, with a player short we were facing a default on board four. Not good. However, by Monday evening, CCA coach and prospective full Club member Andy Ward stepped into the breach. Which was nice!

After a brief pep talk from me about not prematurely offering draws, as is his tendency, first to finish, White on board Three, was Jude beating his opponent (Stan) in about fifteen moves and forty minutes. Deploying his London System in Classic Lam mode, he tore into his unsuspecting opponent's fianchettoed kingside with a delayed f3 knight, no castling and an h-pawn push which smashed open Stan's position. With Jude's Queen lurking, waiting to stick in the boot  Stan resigned. Well done Jude.

Second to finish was Andy, White on board One who also crushed his opponent.  My first look at the game - maybe 30 mins - revealed Andy with the exchange and three pawns up. This did not change - although Andy came very close to trapping his opponents Queen - and eventually Black resigned. Andy has offered to send me the whole annotated game which, after lessons from Joshua , I should be able to put on the site. Watch this space.

Matt lost. I saw him down a piece for two pawns but his queen was misplaced and away from the action and he also had a weak pawn structure. It seemed to me that Matt played very reasonably and I would not agree with his analysis that he was 'hammered'.

On board Two as Black against Dave Filer, I only needed a draw for us to win the match and the valuable points. I am sure there are invisible forces from 'the beyond' which have a greater influence on my play than my coach. For some reason ('the beyond') I played a Slav for the first time ever. Played it really badly and blocked everything of mine in. Dave, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, completely me squashed on the Queenside ( not to mention the centre) and it should have been a rapid 'game over'. But I saw a chance to set a trap by allowing Black to pin a piece against my queen, a bait which Black took, overlooking my intermezzo check followed by a simple pawn fork of his queen and bishop. Whilst I did not win outright I gained a strong initiative with Black's King stuck in the centre. However, although I won a pawn I could not translate this into a victory. I was offered a draw, but as I could not see that I would lose I played on for a further million rook and king moves before accepting the inevitable. Dave had 5 seconds to go but it would have been churlish of me to claim a win on that basis and a draw was sufficient for the match win.

Final result 1.5/2.5 to us.


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Close, But Still No Cigar

For the umpteenth time, the Cov League A team lost against Warwick University A last night. But as in the return fixture earlier in the season, we got very close to getting something from the match. However, unlike the first match, this time we didn't miss any open goals, so we have little to reproach ourselves for.

The evening got off to a bad start, as Dave overlooked a Bxf2 tactic that, after a further Rxc2+ deflection left Black an exchange and possibly a pawn or two up. The inevitable duly followed after a brief, but unequal struggle.

Any worries about a total wipe-out ……..

…… were then allayed by Ben's solid draw (once again using his own dodgy interpretation of an already dodgy opening!) against R Karia on Bd 3. (If it had been R. Haria (IM, grade 247), then he would really have had something to shout about!)

So at least we were on the score-board and then, most improbably, we were level, when I once again beat the ridiculously strong Dimitar Daskalov on Board 1. I felt I was slightly worse for most of the game, after I had to concede the two bishops right out of the opening, but I toughed it out until a crisis arose, inevitably, just before the time control. The position became very murky but I spied a combo which looked very promising for me, only to be rocked back when Dimitar defended by sacrificing his queen for two bishops. In return he also got a rook on the seventh and a very threatening passed pawn on the sixth rank. Remarkably, though, in jumping in to attack my weak pawn on f7 he allowed a most unusual fork of his two rooks (on d7 and d1, but split by his own pawn on d6) by my queen on g4. The best he could have managed was to drop a piece but as this would have left me up a queen for a bishop, resignation occurred instead.

Which left the fate of the match on Mike's hands. Unfortunately, though, Warwick Uni had brought along another very strong player Guy Moss, to insure themselves against accidents, and after a real heavyweight encounter, it was the University man who came out on top in a queen and knight ending. Black had monster squares on e4 and f5 for his knight, but Mike's had no similarly juicy outposts and this eventually led to the loss of crucial pawns and the game.

We can but hope that the next intake of Warwick students does not contain yet more chess superstars, and that we might finally have a chance of securing our first ever point - or dare I say points - against their A team in 2019-20.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Brexit reaches Kenilworth...

The strongest Kenilworth team ever to play in the U-700 Cup took on Banbury last night, on Brexit vote eve. Just like calling a people's vote, what could possibly go wrong? More or less everything it turns out... Still, at least the match did not last for two years (and counting.) I for one am keen to get this post done, such that we can all move on and talk about something else!

When you are lost after a dozen moves and are still only third to finish it does not generally bode well for the team. Unfortunately for Kenilworth our choices were generally as palatable as Theresa May's Brexit options... At least for me and for Dave, as things went from bad to worse and we both fell to terrible defeats.

I got my opening move order horribly wrong to leave myself suffering for several excruciating and chanceless hours against Mal. (My good weekend at the 4NCL seemed more like a mirage with every passing moment...) Disaster also struck Dave who blundered a Queen against Chris Evans when close to won (perhaps put off by the horrors on my adjacent board.) Jude battled well but also went down quite early. Phil and Bernard drew, but that hardly gave the evening a gloss of respectability.

So Banbury are in the final. Perhaps a re-match should be held? Did everyone know what they were truly getting themselves into when we set off on this path? A second people's semi-final might be the only way?? I fear it is not going to happen...

Still, at least we can go back to trying to wrap up Division 2. New games will follow. They can't possibly be as bad as these were. Dave and I can try and put things right in the Coventry League tonight, when we start with all our pieces back on sensible squares. Meanwhile Brexit ticks on. A game that cannot be won and never finishes...

Brexit must by now be almost be as painful for Theresa May as last night was for our U-700 team.

Monday, 14 January 2019

The Manchester School of Chess - Lesson 2

It's time for another dose of wisdom from the North, and you might ask what tired, outdated chess principle shall we be putting to the sword on this occasion. When you think of fianchettoing, what piece comes to mind? Most people have inaccurately been told that the piece you want to fianchetto is a bishop, but this is not true. It is the easiest minor piece to do it with, requiring just 2 moves (e.g. g3 Bg2) to 4 for a knight (e.g. g3 Nh3 Nf4 Ng2) so of course happens more often in practice, but when it can be achieved, a fianchettoed knight is actually much the stronger piece. This leads us to the second principle of the Manchester school of chess:

"On any move where you have the choice to fianchetto a bishop or a knight, always choose the knight."

A fianchettoed bishop can often be badly placed, able to exert influence over only one diagonal, as opposed to the 2 diagonals a more centrally placed bishop can access, and often leaving holes around your king for your opponent to exploit. By contrast, a fianchettoed knight is ready to leap in whatever direction is required, and can simultaneously be used for both attack and defence.

For those not immediately convinced by my flawless theoretical argument, consider the game below, and in particular the choice white has on move 8 as to whether he should put a bishop or a knight on g2.

I think we can all agree the fianchettoed knight achieved far more in this game than a bishop ever could. It defended the white king, kept the black queen from entering on h4, supported the f4 pawn advance, and trapped the black king in a mating net at the end of the game.

It is time for you all to leave the darkness, give up your old-fashioned Catalan, and King's Indian, and other such archaic relics of a bygone era. The time of the fianchettoed knight has come.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Better Never Than Late

Yet another unglory match. The score line, depression and psychological aversion to bad news probably accounts for the lateness of my report. I'd like to say 'better late than never' but the content does not justify this. Only Jude managed to get anything at all. The teams comments are as follows:-

Not sure what happened here. I was fortunate enough to get myself into a completely winning position having outplayed my opponent until the late middle game (honest! Paul says so and that's good enough for me.) I got a an attack going on the queenside and also won the h- pawn. Unfortunately I made a terrible exchange after which the now open h-file provided the basis for a kingside counter-attack by my opponent which proved more effective than mine.

I did not see much of William's game. It looked fairly stodgy and although a pawn down William seemed to be doing OK - until he lost another. Hey ho!

Jude :-
Jude played the London System and “early on, sacrificed a pawn to start an attack which left me with an open position. My opponent forced the trade of queens later on in the game. In the endgame I had a three on two pawn majority and my opponent had a two on one pawn majority. He won the h pawn and I won the b pawn and a draw was agreed”.

No major mistakes were made but I probably played too passively against a Queen's Gambit and my opponent's central pawns proved to be unstoppable.
Final score 3.5 – 0.5.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Shock, Gasp, Horror.......

…….. No, not due to the fact that we drew 2-2 at home to Rugby A in a Coventry League Division 1 match this week, but to the manner in which it came about.

Our brave Kenilworth boys found themselves confronted by the Phillips massive in opposition, though at least they didn't completely abuse the excellent hospitality we have extended to them on many Thursday evenings by beating us. David P and I were both in non-aggressive mode and he did the decent thing by agreeing to my early draw proposal. Very little happened in the 14 moves which we each managed. Alan P almost spoilt the party, though, by playing rather well - and surprisingly quickly - against Dave on Board 4. It was rather fortunate for us when he didn't notice that Dave's last move, accompanied by a draw proposal, blundered a pawn due to a nice back rank combo. Or maybe he did, and just did the decent thing in accepting the peace offer? No, that doesn't sound like him - I think he just missed it.  Anyway, the evening hadn't even reached 9.00pm and already the Phillips gang had left town and the match was half over.

Which left the middle boards in play, and I was sure Mike was just cruising to a smooth win on Board 2 against Patrick Reid, while being rather worried about Ben's position against Simon Turner on 3. Shows what I know!

First, Mike swapped queens, when it looked to me as though keeping them on was almost a forced win. It probably wasn't, but he would have been well on top, for sure. Instead, the Black pieces jumped out and took up very active positions and things looked rather bleak for our man. Help!

But at the same time, and after playing his very dodgy pet opening once again, Ben had grabbed a pawn and was well in the game, even though his position was still nothing to write home about. But then Simon started to lose the thread, and instead of attacking Ben's weak kingside, allowed himself to be attacked on that side of the board. He got a bishop stuck on h2, hemmed in by a white pawn on g3 and king on g1. Ben switched one rook to the open h file and then found a really excellent slow motion repositioning of the other rook from c5, to a5, to a8 and then to h8. All while White could find no active play. The bishop had to be defended by doubled white rooks on the second rank but when the Black queen joined in the h file party it was Goodnight Irene for the white position. And now it was 2-1 to us.

Meanwhile, Mike had battled on valiantly, but had to shed a pawn in the process. Then Patrick honed in on the weak f2 square and annexed the pawn there. He missed what looked like a forced win to me, but still kept up the pressure with only a rook and opposite bishops left for each side. But when material equality was restored, I was expecting/hoping Mike would hold the draw, though the position was still awkward. However, any hopes of a rear-guard save were dispelled when the unthinkable happened - Mike simply blundered a piece. I don't think any of us had ever seen this happen before. I thought there was more chance of Halley's Comet coming round again in my lifetime (and as its not due till 2061, that's  very small chance indeed) than seeing Mike do this. Still, it does prove that we are all human!

So the match ended 2-2, and both teams went home thinking of missed chances.

BTW, as I was just finishing typing this report, I accidentally hit a random key or keys, and suddenly my computer started reading out the entire post to me in a flat, robotic voice. Very spooky indeed. Especially as I didn't know how to turn it off. The crisis appears to have passed, and the machine has gone silent again - but I wouldn't want this to become a regular occurrence!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Trapped in the bar

No sooner had the decorations come down then it was time for the second great B vs C grudge match.

I say great but that's probably only 25% true. Grudge match is probably also stretching the point a little too far. We all just turned up.

Phil was first to finish. Just for a change he was playing a Scandinavian defence, this time against Bernard R. White's solid handling of the opening led to both side having ultra solid positions and a draw was agreed once the queens had been exchanged. Both players quickly adjourned to the bar.

Next to finish was Mike, who had played a unusual variant of the Colle system to avoid established lines against Bernard C. Bernard gained a slight edge in splitting up white's queen side pawns but solid play by white allowed him to take advantage of mistake to equalise the position. With both players short of time a draw was agreed and they headed off to the bar.

Dave was playing Rod in an advanced french defence. Solid play by black allowed the exchange of all the rooks and then gain control of the c file. White attempted to play on king side but black's refusal to move his pieces to the queen side to exploit his advantage meant that white could not make any progress. Dave survived one draw offer before agreeing on move 26. Off to the bar to analyse further.

With 75% of both teams now in the bar, the club room must have been dead quiet. This was fortunate since Ben had a complicated position against Roy. White had gained space during the opening and was attacking the king side. Most of Ben pieces were defending his position and it was difficult to see how he might win. However, 20 minutes in the bar and suddenly the completed team sheet was bought out and Ben had won. He had somehow managed to free up his position, exchange pieces and win a rook ending, all with about 15 minutes on the clock. Remarkable play.

So a narrow victory for the B team and a good start to 2019.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Three Champions!

We don't like to boast about our successes at KCC, mainly because we don't have that many of them, but when we have no less than three champions in our midst, its only right that we should be proud of their fantastic achievements.

To get the least important out of the way first, its hats off to Joshua who somehow managed to claim a British title for himself - though with typical modesty, he has hardly even mentioned it. What a guy! In November, in the unlikely setting of Cowpasture Road, Ilkley (I kid you not!) - so probably hat-less - Joshua claimed the British Major (under 1976/171) Rapidplay title with a score of 8/11. He finished a half point clear of the field (38 players) despite only starting as 16th seed. There must have been drama a-plenty in the last round, as when it started one player led on 7.5, followed by four - one of whom was our hero - on 7 points. None of the chasers were paired against each other while Joshua was upfloated to play the leader. He duly won, but none of the other contenders could score a victory (they actually managed a half out of three between them!) and so it was the KCC man who annexed the title and the £350 first prize. Bravo Joshua!

Far more importantly, though, December witnessed massive triumphs for two of our newest - and youngest - club members, Jude Shearsby and Billy Fellowes, in the highly prestigious London Junior Chess Championships - probably the strongest junior events in the country outside the British Championships and the UK Schools Chess Challenge. Billy was clear first in the U-8 tournament (despite officially being an U-7!) and Jude was joint first, winning on tie break, in the U-10 event (despite officially being an U-9!). And these successes are hardly the only things these two amazing young chess players have to shout about.

Billy just made history by becoming the youngest ever winner in the Leamington League (see Roy's post about the match on this website, dated 20.12.18) at the age of 7, while Jude (who had only just set the record Billy has beaten!) has been performing brilliantly for us in both the Leamington and Coventry Leagues. Oh yes, I should probably also mention that he recently won the U-8 section at the UK Schools Chess Challenge Terafinal, the largest chess tournament in the world! And that he was one of the England representatives in the European Youth Chess Championships in Latvia during the summer!! An amazing roll of honour in such a short space of time.

These two KCC members are a massive credit to themselves, their parents, the club and, of course, their coach, the one and only KCC legend that is Paul Lam. His work at the Coventry Chess Academy, and in his private coaching role, has been phenomenal. We may be forced to conclude from the remarkable achievements of his students (see here for details of these and even more successes) …….. that Paul is actually rather good at this coaching malarkey!  Despite Roy's efforts to disprove that assertion!!