Wednesday, 25 September 2019

It's Chess, Jim - But Not As We Know It!

Yes, of course, I'm referring to Joshua's latest performance. In action for the A team in the home match with Solihull B on Monday, he first essayed a supposedly dubious opening (no surprise there), which is actually not as dubious as the books say (now that is a surprise, and I know it's correct because I was the one who told him about the variation!). Then he forgot the chess player's mantra LPDO (loose pieces drop off) and overlooked a Nxf7 sac that immediately regained the piece (an undefended bishop on b4) via a queen check. So his king was stuck in the middle and even though the queens were soon traded, it wasn't the most comfortable place to be while the rooks were all still on, and his opponent (Paul Roper) also had a bishop against Joshua's knight. At one point Josh ended up with his king on e8 and a rook on f8 - it looked as though he had been about to castle but had moved his rook first and been forced to abort the move half way through. Around here I couldn't take any more and basically stopped looking, but you'll have already guessed the inevitable outcome - Joshua won.

We had already annexed a full point on Board 4 where Mike gave Nigel Byrne's Dutch Defence a terrible going over, breaking through in the centre and the c file to win a couple of pawns. With an unopposed rook on the seventh and g7/h7 about to be attacked by the White queen, Nigel decided enough was enough.

On Board 2 David Phillips played his first game for us since a one off D team appearance (unsuccessful against an opponent graded 40!!) almost exactly 4 years earlier. Now David has become rather stronger in the meantime, and was never in danger of repeating that result, but despite a clear positional edge, he couldn't make much progress against Ray Carpenter's steady defence and the game ended up in a relatively uneventful draw. Its good to have David back playing for his home town team and now he only needs one result (a win!) to have the full set in Kenilworth colours. Hopefully it won't be long coming!

Which just leaves me. Thankfully the match was already decided in our favour by the time that my Board 1 game against Neil Clarke came to a crisis. The game had been a rather tense affair, where neither side looked to have a good position, but eventually the position clarified itself and I started to take over. Neil organised doubled rooks on a semi-open g file to try and get at my king, but I had already got a passed pawn to c3 by this stage, and my rooks and queen seemed to be controlling the centre of the board. But as we both went below three minutes, panic set in. Neil put a piece en prise, but I failed to take it due to an elementary miscalculation. Nevertheless I was still totally winning (+8 according to Fritz), but Neil resourcefully found some confusing queen moves that threatened to get in on the seventh rank. And under increasing pressure from the clock, I then stopped the threatened check with the wrong rook and my wonderful passed pawn promptly fell off, to leave a totally drawn rook and pawn ending. Still, it could have been worse, as the only harm done was to my grading. Our 3-1 win took us - temporarily I expect - to the top of the Division 1 table as (so far) the only team to get to 4 points.

And despite the presence of Mike and myself in the team, this could well have been the youngest Kenilworth A team to take to the field for some time! This was brought home to me afterwards as I gave David and Joshua a lift, as the music playing in my car was Billy Joel's Greatest Hits 1973-1985 (no sarcastic comments please!). It transpired that this covered a period before Joshua had been born. And as David is a child of the 21st century I suspect he has never even heard of Billy Joel. Sigh. But let's at least try and address that knowledge gap!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Summer time is over

All aboard and off we go again. This season Div 2 has a whole new look with only one Kenilworth team. There's also a whole new look to to the C team. After a successful off season recruitment campaign, Some of the old B team are now the C team and are joined by a host of others which leaves the squad looking like Mandela united.

Another member of this illustrious squad is Kenilworth old boy Ed Goodwin. It has been so long since Ed last played for Kenilworth that he can't actually remember anyone else who was there at the time. Welcome back Ed.

Ed was playing on board 1 against Richard Reynolds. With the white pieces and playing a queens pawn game, both sides castled on opposite wings and white rushed the king side with pawns. Richard defended well and forced white back. Fortunately, black then decided to trade queens and offer a drew. Short of time, Ed agreed.

Drago had the black pieces against Richard Liszewski. From a benoni, black to was able to contain the white attack and open attacking lines against the white king. However white defended very well and accurately and arrived at an ending where he was only two pawns down but still had attacking chances. Eventually black got his pieces into active squares and eventually white made a mistake which allowed black to win material.

For most of game Phil had a very good position with a white queens pawn game against Robert Walman attacking on the king side. Unfortunately accurate defensive play by black bought his attack to a halt and then won a pawn. Black advanced his a pawn and pulled white queen away from the centre allowing him to win a central pawn and ultimately the game.

Dave got the award for the luckiest win of the evening with black against Ken Allen. Black has soaked up white's initial pressure and then reached an even position. Seeing that a win was required by the team he played on rather than agreeing a draw. White then managed to regroup and win black's c pawn but at the expense of running short of time. Black then just sat on the position and allowed his active pieces to hold the position and wait for white to run out of time. Ultimately, white lost material and then the game on time.

From the Archives - Part 12, 1997-2003 - Juniors to the Fore!

There's a lot of ground to cover in the latest instalment of our never-ending club history, so I'll cut straight to the action.

1997-2001 - No idea what happened, as all the records have disappeared. For all I know we may have had Gary Kasparov pay us a visit in 2000 to celebrate the birth of a new Millenium - or indeed the 25th anniversary of the re-founding of the Club. Though, I'm guessing we didn't.

May 2002 - History recommences on the second of the month with the AGM. Yes, sometime between 1997 and now the Club finally came to its senses and moved the AGM date from September. After a five year information black hole, will we discover a whole new cast of characters at the helm of the good ship KCC? Well, yes and no. New blood has taken over as Chairman, in the person of Rod, but its old timers everywhere else. Bernard is Secretary (again) and Geoff King is Treasurer (still). However, the list of attendees records first mentions for some well known names - Paul Lam is in attendance (and so is his brother Mark!) and the meeting was also graced by the presence of Paul Mills, Nick Mottram, Steve Payne and Phil Wood, as well as veterans like Bruce, Chris and Tony, though it transpires that all had attended previous AGMs. The Chairman welcomed the only two actual debutants, Nigel Morris and Frank Holmes.

In total 18 people are present, and for the first time ever Secretarial satire makes an appearance in the minutes, as it is recorded that "Apologies were received from Mike and Simon Whatson, No apologies were received from Paul Marsh." No wonder he didn't stay around for too long given such vituperative comments! This would seem to indicate that we have 21 members of whom, three are called Payne; two Lam; and two Whatson. (Plus two Kings, though I don't think they were related.) Talk about keeping it in the family!

It transpires that Rod may be a slightly unwilling Chairman, as the incumbent Geoff Quilley had left during the year and he had been co-opted to the post. Nevertheless, he retains the role for the coming season, and Bernard and Geoff are also re-elected.

The club's fortunes during the season had been mixed with one team promoted (unnamed) and one relegated (Ken C). However, I'm slightly confused, as the only team to score more than 50% was the A team, so maybe they had found themselves in Division 2? Could we have sunk that low?? In a typical AGM burst of optimism, we decide that we will have 5 teams in the 2002-03 season, and there is a vote as to whether our D team should apply for Division 3 or Division 4. By a vote of 6-4 it was to be Div 3. Although by my reckoning, the abstentions carried the day easily! Match Captains will be, Phil, Paul M, Tony, Mike W and the newcomer Frank. Nice work getting a  newbie to volunteer!

Great news on the junior front, as the Club clearly has a golden generation on its hands. Paul had won the U-14 and U-16 Warwickshire titles, and played for England at U-14 level in Estonia, while brother Mark had won the county U-12 title and together with Adam Sykes had been members of the winning Warwickshire U-16 Minor Team. (Though winning what is not specified. Really, the Secretaries we had in those days.) I wonder, did we end up with the wrong Lam brother?! After all, we drew the short straw where the Wood siblings were concerned, so we had previous in this respect!

Bernard is Club Champion, and Bruce Club Lightning Champion. (Or Lightening Champion, according to the Secretary, so presumably we are talking some heavy lifting competition here?) Bruce and Nick were still to do battle in the final of the Club Plate, which subsequently went Nick's way.

The club had been in spend, spend, spend mode during the previous 12 months, and had racked up a loss of £164.17 after the purchase of several clocks, bringing back chilling memories of the financially incompetent years when Bernard had been Treasurer. Unlike then, however, we had been spending from a position of strength, and still had reserves of £190.

The Secretary had nothing to report.

May 2003 - 19 people attend the AGM on the 8th of the month (presumably at the Sports and Social Club?), with apologies from Phil Wood (supervising detention?), John Skinner (feeling somebody's collar?) and Paul Lam (out clubbing?!). Roy had returned from a year abroad (yes, that's how absences used to be described, I believe), but was not sufficiently re-enthused to turn up at the AGM or send his apologies.

Financial probity had been re-established, with a surplus of £94.68 on the year, and a healthy surplus of £284.79 to carry forwards. Subs were to stay unchanged at £10 for adults; £5 for associates (?) and £6 for juniors. (This means that club subs today (2019) are the same as they were at least as long ago as 2001!!)

The club's performance over the board had been pretty dire, with the A team coming bottom of Division 1 and the B team bottom of Division 2! However club honour was partially upheld by the C and D teams (3rd and 5th in Division 3) and the E team (3rd in Division 4). Not surprisingly, the A team Captain Phil Wood was unceremoniously dumped (no wonder he didn't show up to the AGM - he was lucky to escape a flogging in my opinion) and a new name in Carl Pickering was voted in to restore the club's fortunes. Somehow, though, Paul M kept his job as B team Captain. The meeting decided the club should throw itself on the mercy of the League and ask to stay in the same divisions for the coming season.

Our junior renaissance was still in full bloom. Paul had now become joint U-18 county Champion, despite being, by my estimate, only 14 or 15. (So that's your target to beat Jude and Billy!) He had also won the first Tony Miles Memorial Tournament. Adam Sykes was joint county U-16 champion, and Mark Lam joint U-14 county champion. What on earth were we doing languishing at the bottom of Divisions 1 and 2 with talent like this on our hands?!

Mrs Lam had nominated the club for the BCF Small Club of the Year award. We await the results of the judging.….

Oh yes, and the Secretary had nothing to report. Again.

Let's hope he finds one thing to report on - just one, that's all I ask - before this epic draws to a conclusion!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Battle of Kenilworth

No, not some obscure encounter in the English Civil War, but the Kenilworth B v Kenilworth A match which kicked off the 2019-20 Leamington League season last night.

This was the first time I had ever played in a Kenilworth v Kenilworth encounter, but it was not new territory for several of the participants, as the B v C team match has occurred in each of the last two seasons. And with the B team winning Division 2 last season, the intra-Kenilworth encounter now takes place in Division 1. Neither team was at full strength, but it was still a pretty meaty encounter. The A Team averaged 177, and the B Team 153 - though that did include Jude's distinctly understated (as he was to prove) grade of 141.

Ben pulled off the first masterstroke of the evening by putting Andy W on Board 1 to play me, when I had been expecting Ben himself. But he was unable to bask in the glory of out-captaining me for long, as he had guessed our Boards 3 and 4 the wrong way around, so it ended up that no-one in the entire match played their expected opponent! Except that some of us have a lot of time on our hands, and can prepare for more than one eventuality.....

And so it was that I had taken a look at Andy's pet opening and had a good line ready against it. (Which was more than I had when he first unleashed it on me at the Perth Open in 2017!) Although Black got some activity for a few moves in the middlegame, as soon as this petered out he was in a very difficult position, with a knight stranded on h6 and his king in the firing line of a White pawn storm. I quickly got in the thrust f4-f5-f6 and it was curtains for the Black king.

Meanwhile, on Board 2 a modern-day masterpiece was being created by Joshua (as Black) against Ben. Or it was a totally unsound hack, I'm not sure?! What I do know is that as A Team Captain I was distinctly worried when Ben simply won the exchange, but then he made the fatal mistake of castling queenside and walked into a Pink brilliancy as a Black knight landed on b4 and after being taken by a pawn (leaving White a whole rook up) was replaced by another knight which not only won back a piece but forced the White queen to the pathetic square a1. Ben tried to save himself by returning the exchange, but Josh was having none of it and simply advanced his a pawn down to a3, causing ruination to the White king.

So 2-0 to the A team, and the match was clinched almost immediately when Jude and Mike agreed a draw on Board 4. Jude, showing little respect for his elders, had gone for the jugular from the opening with an e5-e6 pawn sac, but Mike defended this well and used some nifty knight jumps to consolidate his pawn advantage. But the extra pawn was doubled and on e6 and Jude adopted a very good piece set up that seemed to tie down Mike's pieces. With a massive time disadvantage, Mike opted for the pragmatic decision to offer a draw and Jude accepted, to make it a memorable Division 1 debut for him.

Which left Board 3, where our new recruit Dragomir enjoyed an even more memorable debut by winning, as Black, against Bernard C. Bernard seemed to be doing all the right things as Drago kept his king in the centre, but at a crucial moment Bernard decided to castle queenside and - like Ben (but thankfully not like me!) - found this caused him major headaches. Drago produced a highly imaginative piece sacrifice that, in the heat of battle and with the clock ticking (digitally, of course!), was very difficult to refute. Bernard gave up his queen for a whole heap of pieces, but the Black queen was a monster and Bernard's defence eventually faltered. The Black queen then danced in to deliver mate, aided by a monstrous pawn on c3.

So 4 highly entertaining games, a very close match, and a result that left both sides with plenty of positives for the season ahead. Its good to be back in league action!