Saturday, 31 August 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful

The new season is fast approaching, and once again all the mistakes are there waiting to be made. And we'll probably make them. Even when we have made the very same ones countless times before. But the next time disaster befalls you at the chess board, try to remember that however bad it was for you, its been even worse for somebody else. And if you don't believe me, read on!

In one of his marvellous books of reminiscences of the Soviet chess world of the 1950s and later (Smart Chip from St Petersburg), Genna Sosonko tells the tale of a blitz game between Genrikh Chepukaitis and Mark Taimanov. Now we've all heard of Grand Master Mark Taimanov, even if his chief claim to fame is losing 6-0 to Bobby Fischer in the Quarter Final of the 1971 Candidates Matches. But, of course, he was an exceedingly strong player. He won the Soviet Championship in 1956 and only lost out to Botvinnik for the 1952 title after a play off match. For the best part of 25 years he was one of the 20 best players in the world, and he is one of very few people who can claim to have beaten 6 (yes 6!) World Champions - Botvinnik, Smyslov, Tal, Petrosian, Spassky and Karpov. (But his overall record against Fischer was 0.5-7.5. It must have been something to do with the name, because he couldn't even beat one Johann Fischer at the 2003 European Seniors Championships. Though Taimanov was 77 at the time!)

But it isn't Taimanov that Sosonko's essay is about. It's actually a very affectionate remembrance of his opponent - almost unknown in the West - who was a ferociously strong blitz specialist. He played in the St Petersburg Blitz Championship 47 times (!!), winning it on 6 occasions and regularly beating the likes of Tal, Spassky and Korchnoi. In 1966 he also won the Moscow Blitz Championship, despite sleeping on a bench at a Moscow railway station between the semi-finals and finals. One year, Sosonko recounts, Petrosian was persuaded to give this event a miss by his wife, Rona. " You're the World Champion. Who will praise you if you win? And if you lose? It's fine if Bronstein, Tal or Korchnoi beats you, but what if you lose to Chepukaitis??"

Another anecdote relates to Karpov, who was bemoaning the ever-faster rates of play in tournament chess, complaining that eventually there would be nothing but Blitz, and then Chepukaitis could become World Champion. To which David Bronstein replied, "Yes he might, and I don't see anything wrong with that. Chepukaitis is a magnificent strategist and a brilliant tactician."

Well, this has been a very long introduction to what is going to be a very short game. It features Chepukaitis' pet opening - which he referred to as the mongrel variation, even though he thought it should really be named after himself rather than a certain Mr Trompovsky. It took place at a Leningrad Blitz Championship, in an unknown year. Don't blink or you'll miss it!

I think we can all sympathise with Taimanov's mood after such a debacle. It would be bad enough for the likes of us, but for a two times World Championship Candidate it must have been excruciating. So let's all remember this game the next time we make an appalling blunder. Far better players than us have made far worse mistakes!

And if that isn't a reason to be cheerful, I don't know what is!

Monday, 26 August 2019

From the Archives - Part 11, 1996-97 - Snoozefest!

Now, where was I? It seems like an age since Part 10 of this epic was published, but its only just over a month ago. And in that time a miracle has occurred, as - somewhat on a par, as far as historical significance is concerned, with the discovery of the Hitler Diaries - several more years' worth of AGM minutes have come to light, and we will get to them next time. Thanks to our Chairman for delving into the depths of his own archives to make sure these once more saw the light of day. So, with more material to hand, its off we go again.

Sep 1996 - It's AGM time, but one critical issue is left off the Agenda. The apparent disappearance of the Club Secretary's hole punch. Suddenly all our documents are unfiled, loose and out of sequence. (Or missing.) At least we didn't waste club funds buying a third ring binder, as with the loss of the hole punch this would have been as much use as a chocolate teapot. Although at this point I should own up to the fact that I have just spent £1 of KCC funds on a third ring binder. However, I must stress that while I am happy to donate the holes which my own personal hole punch has made in said historic club documents, I am not donating the hole punch itself, and the club must remain entirely dependent upon my good will for the continued punching of holes in any club papers. Moreover, whereas the club ran on a 4 hole punch up to 1995, all subsequent documentation will adopt the new Eco-friendly standard of 2 holes only. I cannot in all conscience advocate producing more holes than are necessary at this critical time for the environment. As long as all this is understood, I am sure we can manage the situation amicably going forward.

So, onto the 1996 AGM. But distressingly the minutes have seemingly been lost, as indeed have those of the 1995 meeting. But there is a slight compensation in as much as the 1994 minutes, which I couldn't previously find, have now turned up! (The loss of that hole punch has a lot to answer for!) And a very boring set of minutes they are indeed - by some distance the least informative of any in the archives. 16 members had turned up on September 8th 1994, and 4 had apologised for not turning up. There were no matters arising from the previous minutes. The Secretary (B. Rogers) had nothing to report. There were no matters arising from the League AGM minutes. And the only item raised under AOB was the possibility of a summer internal cup competition, for which there was "little enthusiasm". At least the club officials and match captains (all 5 of them!) were elected and the accounts approved. In keeping with the general tenor of the meeting, there was to be no change in subs!

If we leap forwards again to 1996, there may be no minutes, but there are accounts, which record that we had 20 adult (£7.50 pa) and 3 junior (£3.00 pa) members, and that the purchase of 4 clocks had pushed us into a deficit on the year of £50.93. We were still sitting on a reserve of £118.59, though, so the bailiffs were not yet banging at our door.

In the file there is a copy of the August 1, 1996 newsletter of Kenilworth Chess Club in New Jersey - the Kenilworth Kibbitzer. A 5 page densely typed bulletin which inter alia records that our namesakes had just recorded their best ever finish in the 6 team North Jersey League, finishing 2nd on 4/5 behind Rutherford Chess Club who scored 100%. I am struck by the following sentence: "Richard Falcetano did a fine job getting 4 players each month to play in the League. Sometimes Rich had to make a lot of phone calls trying to get a team together for the 5 matches." So apparently its the same the whole world over! Only sometimes its 14 matches. Plus cup ties! And another 12 in another league!! The club met every Thursday (snap!) and had 20 participants in its ladder tournaments, so was presumably very similar in size to us. Emblazoned across the front age is the statement that "We will write or call the Kenilworth Chess Club in England to try and get a postal match with them for September." My inherited archives do not record what became of this initiative. Someone out there presumably knows?!

1996-97 - The Club Membership List records 26 names, resident as follows:-

Kenilworth         14
Coventry              5
Leamington          5
Warwick               1
Balsall Common  1

So very nearly half our members lived outside Kenilworth. (A percentage that is only slightly lower in 2019!) While not wishing to run foul of GDPR diktats, it is interesting to note that one of our Coventry based members, Geoff King, lived in the same road where Paul now lives, while back in Kenilworth, Bernard and Tom Swallow lived at nos 3 and 4 in the same road. Very cosy!

This list also records match captains for our A, B, C, D, E and F teams. Yes, we apparently were running 6 teams in the Leamington League! And even more amazingly had found 6 volunteers to run them!!

That'll do for now, and in fact next time we will take a giant leap forwards to 2002, due to a complete black hole in the club's archive. I don't want to point the finger at anyone, but all I will say is that the last recorded club secretary in 1997 was a certain R. Watson Esq!!

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Billy Blitzes Belarus!

What a fantastic international debut from the one and only Billy Fellowes in the World Cadet Rapid and Blitz Under 8 Championships last weekend in Minsk, Belarus. In massive fields of over 140 players in each event (including more than 80 Russians!), Billy finished right towards the top of the scoreboard:- 18th= in the Rapid (6/9) and 27th= in the Blitz (5.5/9). In the process Billy earned himself FIDE ratings - at the age of 7! - of 1484 (Rapid) and 1314 (Blitz) and - more importantly - finished both events as not just the highest placed English player, but also the joint highest placed West European!

Billy in Belarus

And he had very tough pairings, too, having to play against Russian opponents in more than half his games. But far from being intimidated by their reputation, he cut a swathe through the most respected chess nation on the planet, scoring a quite phenomenal 7.5/10 against them, with only two losses and seven wins! The only other games he lost over the course of 18 games across the two tournaments, were against players from Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Incredible stuff!!

Both Billy and Jude have performed superbly on the international stage in the last couple of weeks and they should be massively proud of their achievements. The sky really is the limit for them on the chess board. And their coach, the one and only Paul Lam, has every reason to feel more than slightly chuffed with himself, too! A truly great effort, guys. This has been simply sensational stuff.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

EYCC Slovakia Round Up and WCRB Belarus Preview

The European Youth Chess Championships are over and Jude is already back home from Slovakia, where he finished with 5/9 (+3, -2, =4) for 45th= in a field of 149, having started as the number 63 seed. (And amongst the West Europeans, he finished 15th.) Jude gained a phenomenal 93.6 ELO points (did he have to declare them at Customs on the way back, I wonder?), which takes some doing when you are playing against a seemingly endless supply of under-graded opponents. (And in view of this, massive kudos to young Lukas Dotzer of Austria, who managed to gain 211 points from his low starting rating of 1070. In a single tournament! Mind you, it can go the other way, as Bosnia's Borna Pehar unfortunately discovered, losing 188 points!)

That was a really great effort from Jude, who is, of course, technically an Under 9, so was giving away a whole year to most of the field. Kenilworth is massively proud of your achievements, Jude! As before, even more details of the event, complete with action shots of Jude, can be found on the Coventry Chess Academy news page.  (But be careful, as otherwise you might inadvertently read some positive reports about Roy, which could come as a massive shock to the unwary!)

The attention now switches to Billy who is jetting off to Minsk this week to play in what is bound to be an enormously strong World Cadets Rapid and Blitz (August 16-18) where around 170 players are due to start in the Under-8 tournaments - including more than 80 Russians!

(I don't suppose there will be much/any time for sight-seeing, as the action looks set to be fast and furious - so Charlotte is excused from being sent off around the cemeteries of Minsk as official KCC photographer to search for the grave of almost-World Champion, David Bronstein. Which would be a bit unnecessary, anyway, as there is a perfectly good photo on Bronstein's Wikipedia entry!)

The top seed in both tournaments (which are 9 rounds each) is from Ukraine, and boasts a Rapid ELO of 1696 and a Blitz ELO of an astonishing 1825 (equivalent to an ECF grade of 153). At the age of 8! But I have no doubt that Billy is going to put in a great effort and notch quite a few scalps along the way. And Billy is technically an Under-7 so like Jude he will also be giving away a year to most of the field. Good luck from everyone at KCC to Billy, and I hope he has an amazing time on this fantastic adventure.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

News from Slovakia

Not sure where Joshua's day 9 report from the British Championships has gone - surely there can't have been any happenings which he doesn't want to write about? Anyway, I'm sure he'll get round to it soon. His public expects!

But in the meantime, here's a quick update on Jude's progress as part of the England team at the European Youth Chess Championships in Bratislava. And great news it is, too, as after 6 rounds Jude has the terrific score of 4 points, achieved against opposition which in each of the last five rounds has been rated more than 200 points higher than him. He has so far won against opponents from Greece, Hungary and Poland; shared the points with a Russian and a Turk, and only lost the one game to a lad from Serbia. He currently sits in joint 23rd place in a field of 149, from his starting ranking of 63rd - absolutely sensational stuff against the very best juniors in Europe.

Next up in tomorrow's 7th Round is the 34th seed from Denmark. Let's hope that the Thursday vibe which usually helps Jude take numerous scalps at the Gauntlet each week will work in Slovakia!

Good luck, Jude. You are doing great and we can't wait to hear all about it on your return.

For even more details, and some photos of Jude in action in Bratislava, take a look at Paul's regular reports on the news page at the Coventry Chess Academy website.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Joshua fails to qualify for the British Championship (part 8)

Only one medal placing to report on today, a disappointing halving of the club's achievements from yesterday's heights.

Team Sprog

As discussed yesterday, David started today in third place 1 point behind the tournament leader, and was playing him with black. A tough assignment on paper, but in what looked to me like a very well played game David managed to grind out a win and move level with him on points. Unfortunately the person in second place also managed to win so David only finished in second place, but still an excellent result that means we deserve one more of these - 🥈


With Ben having departed to return to the dubious delights of the West Midlands, we and Andy were left to hold the team together, and both ended the day with draws. The similarity ends at that point though, with Andy holding a very impressive draw in a queen endgame a pawn down, whilst I managed to swindle a perpetual check draw in a completely lost position, save only by my opponent's lack of time. Still, the scoresheets say the same thing so in the long-term no-one will remember that difference.

Team Charlemagne

Roy wisely decided not to play any more chess after yesterday's zero move triumph, so the only interest today was in the senior event. Bernard's opponent attempted some what appeared to me to be very unsound hacking against his king in the opening, which I presumed meant Bernard must have at least a small advantage. However, it may never have been anything substantial, since the next time I looked the position had changed to something that looked incredibly drawish, and so it ultimately finished.

Mark on the other hand finally decided to play a sensible opening (see below), so unsurprisingly to me it appeared he had an excellent position. His opponent decided to never capture the lurching g pawn and thus consequently it remained on g5 for a large proportion of the game, seemingly putting an unpleasant cramp pon black's position. Apparently Mark feels the game was decide by blunders in the endgame, but a more strategic player like me can see it was essentially already over from move 5.

Team Eclectic

With Bruce's tournament over, it was left to David Howell to carry the flag alone, and he could only manage a draw with the black pieces against Ravi Haria. This means he goes in to the final round half a point behind Michael Adams, but he does have the white pieces so it should be an exciting conclusion to the championship.

Current standings:

Team Sprog: 74% (14/19)
Team PAYE: 59% (17/29)
Team Charlemagne: 67% (18/27)
Team Eclectic: 48% (11.5/24)

Obviously we need to look at Mark's excellent opening. I confess I'm not sure the move order is completely correct, but the position is the important thing. I'm convinced if I'd come up with moves like this there would be some unkind commentary about it's soundness.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Joshua fails to qualify for the British Championship (part 7)

We are moving towards the end of the tournament, and we have some silverware to report on in this edition.

Team Sprog

Another draw for David today means he is one point off the lead in the U16 event with one round remaining. However, a good draw means he is playing the person in 1st place, so a win still gives him a chance of shared first place (there is one annoying person half a point behind the lead who can still spoil that ending).


I managed to acquire some kind of illness today, I assume a result of too much fresh air and not enough time spent in a still, airless office in my job. Consequently fighting spirit was at a Very low level, so I was very happy to achieve two of the world's most boring draws today. I guess it is positive I still have the ability to kill all the excitement out of a game when desired, but not perhaps the most exciting talent to have. On a more exciting note, another fine win for Andy means he is currently on track to make a gain of over 50 rating points in one tournament, something which I haven't seen happen too often for anyone older than about 11.

The best result of the day though was definitely Ben. A win and a draw would be good results in any circumstances, but the win in the morning means he finished joint third in that event. A first piece of silverware for the club means for the first time in the event I get to dig out the official "Third Place Medal" emoji - 🥉

Team Charlemagne

Very much a mixed bag of results today. Bernard picked up a very creditable draw with the black pieces against a player rated of 200 points higher. Mark unfortunately was not able to match this result, and his defeat means he is one point off the lead with two rounds to go, so the same position as David found himself in this morning.

Roy as usual though managed to result to rescue the day for his team. His afternoon draw was nothing to write home about, coming against a player I'm sure must have been stronger than her rating of 1040. The more important result though was in the morning, where a victory means he finished joint second, meaning a second relevant emoji can be brought in to play - 🥈. We now just need someone to win an event and I'll have the full set.

Team Eclectic

Two draws for our dynamic duo today, though I guess objectively David Howell's draw with Michael Adams must be ranked very slightly higher than Bruce's with a very welcoming Frenchman.

Current standings

Team Sprog: 72% (13/18)
Team PAYE: 57% (16/28)
Team Charlemagne: 66% (16.5/25)
Team Eclectic: 48% (11/23)

There is no doubt that for today's featured game we should look at the flawlessly played win that took Roy to the podium in his event:

Friday, 2 August 2019

Joshua fails to qualify for the British Championship (part 6)

Team Sprog

The Phillips juggernaut slightly slowed down today, with David only picking up a draw, to leave him one point off the lead with two games left. Still just about within striking distance, but two wins probably required from his text two games.


Andy continues his excellent performance, with another comfortable looking draw against a player rated well in excess of 2000. Ben had an equally solid day, with two draws, including yet another game in that dodgy version of the London System he can't bring himself not to play. That means there was only one person remaining to let the team down, which I duly managed to do. I matched my teammates with a draw in the morning, albeit in considerably less convincing style than they had managed, but the afternoon was something of an opening catastrophe. It is the first one I've had, which I guess isn't too bad given the whole set of new openings I've been playing, but it still isn't fun to be completely lost after around 15 moves. Perhaps these openings won't survive the end of this tournament.

Team Charlemagne

After yesterday's excellent 4/4 performance, surely the team would come crashing back down to earth, unable to rescale those heady heights. At least this was my initial thought, and I couldn't have been more wrong, with an identical result being achieved again. Bernard slowly ground down his opponent; Mark was slightly more exciting with a pawn sacrifice in the opening to leave his opponent with a chronically weak king, and Roy was undoubtedly the best of the lot with two wins, including an extremely impressive trapping of his opponent's queen in the centre of the board. He assures me this was planned in advance, and I will leave it with our readers to decide if we believe him.

Team Eclectic

A slight improvement over yesterday's performance, with David Howell this time managing a win as black in some slightly drab looking symmetrical English, where the computer interestingly thinks he is better from quite early in the game. Bruce unfortunately could not join his teammate in improving on yesterday's result, so 50% for the team today it was.

Current standings:

Team Sprog: 74% (12.5/17)
Team PAYE: 54% (12.5/23)
Team Charlemagne: 69% (14.5/21)
Team Eclectic: 48% (10/21)

For those of us not in good form, we can at least take solace in the fact that even GMs sometimes have disasters. The game below from the main championship would be a good illustration of this point, where a grandmaster sacrifices a piece (seemingly unsoundly) on move 9, and never really gets in to the game, with white avoiding all the tactics and continuing to grab all the extra material on offer.