Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Woof! Woof!

Send for the drug testers! No sooner had we swept the board against Rugby last week, than we very nearly did the same against perennial league champions; current leaders; and frequent nemesis Olton A last night. Typically, it was that ultra-conservative chess player Joshua, who concluded an early(ish) peace treaty, leaving it to the more doughty fighters on the team to chalk up victory after victory culminating in a remarkable 3.5-0.5 triumph over the reigning champions.

Quite ironically, it was the kamikaze King's Gambit that produced the only draw of the evening, but even two such axe merchants as Mark Cundy and Joshua failed to produce the fireworks that might have been expected. This would never have happened in the 19th Century. Still, when Mark offered a draw it seemed as though the match was going in our favour elsewhere, so it was a good team decision to take the half point.

Mike then brought home the first win of the evening after a very one-sided game against Rob Wallman on Board 4. After a King's Indian was met by a kingside fianchetto from White, Black's d6 pawn fell off very early for no compensation. In fact quite the opposite, as the White forces took over the entire board, leaving Black to grovel on the back three ranks as Mike's pawns lurched forwards and his pieces jumped into strong squares. He was three pawns up and about to queen when Rob had to throw in the towel.

Match victory was then secured by Andrew, who completed a double over Alan Lloyd this season after a very strange game. From the opening Andrew seemed much better, and Alan decided to give up his d6 pawn for what looked like nothing. However, even though he had most of his pieces stranded on the queenside he somehow managed to whip up a lot of counterplay, thanks to an enterprising f5 push which opened up Andrew's rather draughty king's position. The pawn was won back, and then another, and a Black rook was wandering around Andrew's position rather threateningly. Even though it was happening right next to me, I couldn't look (because all my attention was on my own game of course!), and so I missed the sudden denouement when Alan somehow contrived to blunder a piece - the second week running this has happened to Andrew.

And then finally the match concluded with me winning against Phil Holt on Board 1. He found an interesting pawn sac in the opening and got plenty of pressure thanks to more space, two bishops and my weak pawns. But by refraining from re-establishing material equality Phil allowed me to grovel to some purpose and slowly find some play of my own. Both sides actually played rather well, with not a blunder to be seen, and the advantage never going more than a smidgen above 0.5 for either player. Deep into time trouble Phil made a pawn thrust against my king and I mistakenly allowed him to breakthrough with h5 and hxg6. Luckily I had strong threats of my own against f2 and the position was still a draw. Phil avoided a variation leading to perpetual and instead played into an ending, where he finally got his pawn back, but which should have been an instant draw. However, he overlooked a knight fork which won the exchange and then, in what was already a lost position, made another error which let me win a piece as well. So a somewhat fortunate full point for me, but I'll take it after my recent form, especially as Phil was on 8.5/9 so far this season and I had never previously beaten him in the Leamington League (5 draws and 6 defeats!).

Well, we are certainly firing on all cylinders now, but what a shame that we had that costly new year blip, when we managed only 1 point from 3 matches, including crucial losses to title rivals Solihull A and Banbury A. Although last night's victory took us back to the top of the table, the three teams below us all have games in hand and will overtake us if they win them. Still, let's enjoy the moment. It's not often that anyone hands such a big defeat to the League's top dog, Olton A, but today its Kenilworth who are barking loudest!

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Clean Sweep!

Things have not gone to plan for the A team in the Leamington League since Christmas - in fact we haven't won a single match (largely due to my terrible form) - and as a consequence we have fallen off the pace at the top of the table.  So it is with a very large dollop of relief that I am able to report a 4-0 whitewash of Rugby A this week.

Inevitably, Joshua was the first to finish, using the dynamic 1 c3! to quickly bamboozle Patrick Reid on Board 3. After two consecutive losses against his opponent, Joshua was doubtless keen to avoid being on the end of a hat-trick, and after winning the two bishops thanks to a strong Nd6 jump into Black's position, he found a nice tactic to win material in the centre of the board.

It was 2-0 a while later as Mike outplayed Simon Turner on Board 4 thanks to an overwhelming control of the dark squares. This led to the win of an important White centre pawn and Black taking over the whole position. The only moment of concern was when I went over to him to confirm the result and saw 1/2 - 1/2 written on his scoresheet! Thankfully it was just a senior moment, and Mike had indeed won convincingly.

2-0 then became 3-0, as Andrew was the beneficiary of a gross blunder by Jonathan Cox which simply put a piece en prise. I thought our man was better, but it certainly wasn't a position where a sudden conclusion could have been predicted. Still, we'll take it!

And then, eventually, I made it 4-0 when mating Paul Colburn. As I had a queen, bishop and two pawns against his lone king by that time, the win was not exactly unexpected. But in fact I had been an exchange and a pawn up for almost the whole evening after a strong f5 pawn break in the opening busted the Back position wide open. Unfortunately, I missed a follow up piece sac which would have finished the game quite quickly, and instead of being first to finish I was the last, as it took a long time to open lines for my rooks and infiltrate the Black position.

Even after this crushing win, though, our title hopes are pretty minimal, but it was a great relief for both team and captain to get back in the winning groove.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Hyper-super-dooper-modernism succumbs to a one-two

Monday night it was the might Kenilworth D facing what turned out to be the mightier Daventry B. We entered the ritual of 'The Clock' and 'The Setting of The Clocks' before reaching the climax of  the ritual - 'Leave Everything alone - Mark has already set them. Don't touch anything'.

The scene was set fair for 'The Battle'.

Roy faced Alan Eley in an epic struggle. Alan dropped a pawn on move six which was nice. This was followed by White putting ALL his pawns on the same colour as his Bishop, it being particularly immobilised on e3 by his blocked pawns on f4 and d4. White, however made it difficult and after a series of wally moves by Roy he threatened to recapture a pawn forcing Roy into a desperate Queen exchange which, I think should still have lost the pawn. But following an inaccuracy by Alan, the coup de grace was a Knight fork against King and Rook when an unavoidable slaughter followed. Alan's noble, last stand in the final stages of the battle of the Custer variety -  did not rescue the situation. One/Nil to Kenilworth.

I did not see much of Tony's game but Angela Pates looked to have the better of it from early on. After he had succumbed to a the loss of the exchange (and I think a couple of pawns) Tony wisely resigned - although he could have played on for a bit longer. But I do not think eternal hope was springing in Tony's breast that night. One all.

So we come to Steve.

Again I did not see much of the early game although it appeared to me that having smashed his opponent's King-side pawns and following up with a Queen check he had more than the edge against Huw Davies. Sadly, Steve had no other pieces in the vicinity and his Queen on the same semi-open g-file as his King was asking for Huw to play Rg1. Which he did. Sadly for Steve, Huw also had a Bishop on the long a1- h8 diagonal - a diagonal which just happened to be clear of all pieces. This enabled Huw to force Steve to give up his Queen for zip in order to avoid mate.

BUT this is when Steve's strategic creativity came to the fore with his hyper-super-dooper-modernist interpretation of chess strategy. Joshua might have invented the powerful fianchettoed knight but stand aside and gasp! Weep aloud! Steve realised that when you are Queen and Knight down the best approach is to exchange  your rooks in order to create chances on the open lines for your Knight! Bingo!

Now those of us in the nether bowels of the chess world are, I feel, much more insightful to chess psychology than those of the lofty 180+ world. Hence Steve's famous, if individualistic, H-S-D-M strategy confounded his opponent who failed to see a) mate in one on SEVERAL occasions b) the win of a Rook for zip c) some other things too deep to explain! Sadly, Steve also failed to see these wrinkles in his grand strategy. As with Harry Potter's 'Invisibility Cloak' NOTHING can be seen. Notwithstanding this, Steve put up a fight of Gotterdamerung proportions before eventually succumbing and exclaiming, in General MacArthur mode 'I shall return' (last bit [and much more]  made up). One/Two to Daventry B.

We need an anthem!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Post Match gentle let down!

Re my previous blogg, the chant 'Come On Ken D' cut no ice - or anything else for that matter - with Stratford C. Ice being the operative word. This pre-match warm up blogg was clearly out-weighed by the freezing room we played in. That's the ONLY reason I can think of why such a stellar team did not win the match.

Board one saw me in my first encounter with the youthful and up and coming Ben Larkin - also one of Paul's pupils. Ben played  a line with which he was very familiar but, and the foible of many a youngster, he played very fast. He exchanged both my bishops for his knights - but in a closed position. Shuffle, exchange, shuffle, push, exchange, shuffle, push, exchange, push. Two rooks and five each. I offered a draw - which I am pretty sure it was - and Ben declined, only to go on to blunder and lose the game.

Board three saw a move four knight 'sacrifice' by Steve. Some, unkind people, might describe it as an uncompensated blunder. But I think I saw the psychological depths of the 'sac' - Steve likes to play from behind. Which he achieved in spades! Losing a further pawn and eventually facing - with his rook and one - five connected passed pawns, rook and knight, Steve was helped by his opponent seeing a massive 'ghost' - the no-chance promotion of Steve's h-pawn - and concentrated all his efforts into its capture (just in case) which he eventually did. In one of his final moves Steve picked up his rook, placed in on g2 - but did not let go before wisely placing it between g2 and g1! Steve lost.

Board two had Chris Aldridge facing Adrian Grimes. Not quite a thriller but it all looked pretty evens to me when Steve and I had to leave. But obviously not as equal as I thought. To quote George Orwell, ' some positions are more equal than others'. It seems Chris was on the wrong side of equality and went down to a loss.

Final result 2-1 to Stratford.

All I can say is 'COME ON KENILWORTH D' for our next and last match of the season,  away against Daventry!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Pre-Match Build Up - 'Come On Ken D'

Tonight, Kenilworth D play Stratford  C in a chess match. Mike J  - who is on hols - has  delegated the awesome responsibility of team selection to myself! I have selected from the crème de la crème and we are: Board One - Roy Watson, Board Two - Chris Aldridge (back from injury) and board Three Steve Payne. (I made up the 'back from  injury' bit for effect). 'How can I rally the team' I thought to myself.

I recently watched Jennifer Hudson singing the USA National Anthem at the Superbowl. The KCC do not have an equivalent 'tune' around which we can all rally. Now, the obvious one  -  Queen's 'We are the Champions' is OK if we keep winning. In the more likely event of  keep losing, perhaps Shaggy's 'It Wasn't me!'

Any road up, I throw it open to the club - perhaps an AGM item? - to identify an inspiring club Anthem. I'd be happy to belt it out at all home matches - pom poms included but not the short skirt!
We could have a sound clip attached to every blogg.

Come on Ken D!

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Oh, the Shame, the Shame!

Observant readers will have noticed the absence of a recent match report after the A team's final game of the season against Nuneaton A. From this you could correctly guess that things did not go well - hence my limited enthusiasm for putting finger to keyboard.

On one level we performed really well, as we improved upon our 0-4 loss against them earlier in the season by only going down 1-3 this time around (draws for Mike and Dave, losses for me (yet again) and Ben) against a very strong Nuneaton team. But regrettably, this was not really that great an achievement, as it extended our recent run to four consecutive league losses (plus one cup defeat) and - this is where the shame comes in! - meant we finished bottom of Division 1.

This state of affairs was considerably influenced by the failure of Warwick University B to play their final match of the season, which gifted Coventry A a 4-0 win and saw them leapfrog us to the elevated position of 4th. Students - dontcha just luv em?! Fortunately, there is no relegation - or at least, there'd better not be!

Nevertheless, in accordance with the time honoured requirement for failing leaders to fall on their sword, I shall of course be offering my resignation as manager/captain of the team. In the confident expectation that no-one will volunteer to replace me! But please - be my guest!

Ben ended as top scorer with 5/10, while Mike, Dave and myself could only manage 3.5 - albeit that Dave played one game less, when Rod substituted for him and got a draw.

And there's more bad news to report from the Coventry League, I'm afraid, where our B team ended up next to bottom of Division 2 in their debut season - only saved from last place by the mid-season collapse/withdrawal of he Coventry University team (although the question of points from the unplayed matches against Cov Uni could yet elevate us another place). The final nail in the coffin was the enforced defaulting of the last match against Rugby B due to an outbreak of illness in the team, which struck down both Roy and Jude. Despite the 6th or 7th place finish, though, this has been a good effort by the B team, especially notable for Jude's superb score of 9/11! The next highest scorer being Algis with 3.5/6. (Though kudos to Dave, Bernard R and Andy Ward for 100% scores on their limited appearances.) It seems as though there is another sword to be fallen on, Roy! But again, there is probably no great urge for anyone else to assume the role.