Tuesday, 29 October 2019

They Also Serve, Who Only Stand and Spectate

You can never have too much Milton in your match reports, can you? Anyway, we'll get back to the title of this piece at the end, but for the moment let's concentrate on last night's Open KO Cup First Round tie away at Shirley, where we began the defence of our Trophy. (Which currently resides on my mantelpiece and is in need of a good polish!)

Given that we had already chalked up a 4-0 league win against our opponents this season, and that they were missing their board one from that match, it won't be a massive surprise that we secured a semi-final place (against Leamington) with a 4.5-0.5 victory.

But there were one or two anxious moments at the start, when it looked as though the debut appearance in our Open team of Jude was going to go horribly wrong when he got his (white) queen trapped on e6 after a crafty Bc8 retreat by John Freeman. Oops! But Jude made the best of a bad job and got a rook in return, and when Black tragically returned the favour a bit later and walked into a knight fork, he was suddenly the exchange and several pawns to the good, and the win came soon after.

After that stroke of extreme good fortune, the match was never in doubt. Andy, making his seasonal debut and playing his first game of chess for almost 6 months, simply sped out of the blocks (drug test?) on top board against Jonathan Dale and had Black on the ropes in no time at all. He won a pawn with much the better position, but it seemed scant reward for a totally dominant position, and I suspect he may have missed a quick win. Still, he kept the advantage and finally secured the point in a rook and opposite bishops ending when his a pawn lurched down the board and couldn't be stopped.

I finished next, after unleashing a thunderbolt against Keith Ingram on Board 2 that won a piece from a clear blue sky. Only a couple of moves earlier the position had been totally level and heading for a rather boring draw, but my 22nd move set up a big threat and Keith thankfully walked right into it. See if you can guess Black's idea with a big Boom! moment on move 24.

With the match won, I adjourned to the bar, and our little group was soon joined by Joshua who surprisingly had failed to keep up his 100% A team record and dropped our only half point on the night to Dave Thomas. (OK, it was a Cup match, not the A team, but if he's relying on technicalities like that to keep his status, its clear he's rattled!) Even for Josh, the opening was slightly unusual, as he uncorked Na3 on move one. I suppose he knows what he's doing. Although our man pushed and pushed all the way to a 3v2 rook ending, Dave defended stoutly and held the draw.

Which left Mike in play against Gordon Christie on Board 4, and this seemed by some way the richest and deepest game of the evening. From the bits I saw, it looked as though Mike played a really good game. sacrificing an exchange for a pawn and masses of activity, which threatened to overwhelm White's defences. While Gordon tried to hold back the torrent of Black pieces, it was in vain and Mike won material and the game. Excellent, dynamic chess.

So what was all that stuff in the title about, I hear you say? Well, the match last night was graced by a spectator who comfortably out-graded everyone else in the room, since none other than our number one (non-) player Paul dropped in on his way home from Birmingham to see Jude in action and lend his support to the team. Judging from the score, his presence certainly didn't do our morale any harm, and if we can't have him in the team, then having him there, silently intimidating the opposition ("we're so strong we don't even need Paul!") is the next best thing!

BTW I go away on holiday for seven days, and in that time no less than 4 match reports appear on the blog, none of them written by me! What on earth is going on?? I'm not at all sure I like sharing this platform with anybody else. I shall have to up my blogging game!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Proving a Point

I was sat at my desk this time yesterday unsure whether to weep or type. Still, weeping is not really the done thing where I work (unless things get really bad.) On the other hand as light blogging is positively encouraged (quite possibly) I had no choice but to tell the tale of our Coventry League debacle against Rugby. However, in the back of my mind was the thought that we were in action against Solihull B the following day and I was dreaming of redemption. The plan had been to call this post, "What a difference a day makes," and to regale you with the story of a 4-0 win so emphatic that we were awarded the Division 1 title on the spot. I suppose there is a reason why you can't write blogs before a match has taken place, as the reality last night was much much tougher.

These are big games for the team, as we try and secure our Division 1 status and in the end the point we picked up in a 2-2 draw doesn't represent a bad night's work. Unusually we out-graded our opponents, although only marginally and on paper these looked like two very evenly matched teams. So it proved, even if the result was in doubt until 10.30 and we were the ones who were scrabbling to get anything from the match.

Jude got us off to a decent start with a draw against fellow junior Daniel Chen. The opening was played at break neck speed and they were in an opposite coloured bishop ending almost instantly. I always thought it had draw written all over it. That said, Jude proceeded to make quite a bit of it, but Daniel showed good technique at the end. Despite being down to bishop and one against Jude's bishop and three, Daniel's king was blocking one of Jude's pawns, with his bishop and other pawn completely locking out the other two. Daniel knew to just hold his bishop on the relevant diagonal and there was no way through for Jude. Still, a useful half point to kick us off.

Andy had one of those nights on board two where it just didn't work out. He was in a great position against Paul Roper, and I was certainly expecting a win, but a slight miscalculation undid all his good work. We've all been there, but painful nonetheless. So that put us 0.5 - 1.5 down. I didn't see much of Mike's game, but from what I did, he was always in control. However, this ultimately ended in a draw against Nigel Towers to make it 1-2.

My own game against Praveen Joy was one of the wildest and most complicated I have had for a while. I seemed to get a good position out of the opening, but it was extremely tactical. I managed to win bishop and knight for rook and was pressing on the kingside, while Praveen hammered away on the queenside. There were all sorts of possibilities for both of us and my main problem was that I simply could not calculate any of it quickly enough. At one point Praveen had twenty five minutes to my ten, then a little later twenty to my five. I was definitely better, but the position was fraught with danger. Still, only a win was any good and I felt I had no choice but to press on. Ultimately with three minutes left, I sacked a pawn, to open things up - more on instinct than concrete calculation and suddenly Praveen was massively on the back foot. It still wasn't easy to mitigate his ongoing threats with no time to analyse them, but I found a way to break through and force mate. One of those moments players dream of when suddenly your attack fully falls into place. No matter that by this point I had 50 seconds left on my clock to his 40 seconds! I expect in the cold light of day I was always winning, but it was terrifying at the time. (And still is if I think about it too much.)

So I suppose I get to award myself the man of the match award - this captaincy lark is terrific! In all seriousness, a good team effort and another useful point. We play Solihull A next, in a couple of weeks. We know from the Olton experience that we have nothing to fear, but we will have to find a little more to get something out of that one. We know we have it in us! I'm certainly hoping there will not be a Halloween theme to my next post...

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

The Power Of The Bishop Pair

A truly disastrous night for us in our first home game of the Coventry League season. Mark was away, but equally Rugby were missing Bob, so the teams were reasonably matched on paper. If not the sixty four squares when the action got under way. None of the clocks were properly set and it took a combined effort by both teams to fix this. Perhaps this was an omen. As the night went on, things certainly did not improve...

Mike's position against Dave Phillips on board one always looked very difficult. David had queen and knight threatening to mate on h7, and David's game plan consisted of finding a way to kick out Mike's defending knight on f6. Eventually he did and that was that. On board four, Dave Shurrock was playing Alan Phillips and seemed to be winning for most of the evening. However, while up an exchange it was far from easy. At least Dave earned what proved to be our sole half point.

On two and three, bizarrely, Drago and I ended up with similar looking positions (me against Jonathan Cox, Drago against Simon Turner.) We both reached heavy piece endings with two knights against two bishops. My position was always harder to play than Jonathan's even if not actually losing for most of the night. Drago's position was probably a little better, but the power of the bishop pair on both boards was plain to see. Both games went to the wire and on another night, we probably would have got something from the two games - albeit not enough to make a difference. As it was, we both lost.

So we went down 3.5 - 0.5. Sorry Mark. At least the clocks are now on the right setting for next time, so that's a positive! We've also amply demonstrated the strength of the bishops, which I suppose is something, even if they were our opponents bishops... We'll try and put things right next time.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

First loss of the season

It all started quite well with Leamington A only having three of their regular players. However, last years relegated team is still quite strong on the top three boards.

Dave won fairly quickly against Friso Jansen with the white pieces. Black had emerged from the opening a rook down. Despite efforts to try and hold the position together, further pieces were exchanged leaving an easy ending.

Phil looked to have quite a good position against Rob Gill. However, whilst the rook ending looked good for black, Phil was unable to make progress and a draw was agreed.

Lionel had the most lively game of the evening against Tom Darling. An unusual line of the French defence, Milner Barry gambit variation left him with the opportunity to go two pawns up after the knights had been exchanged. However, the positions was not without complexity and risk. Tom played well to generate some counter play and unfortunately a miscalculation left white with an excellent attack. Tom finished off with an subtle queen sacrifice to mate black.

Jude had to play an exceptionally long game against Andy Collins.This in itself is extremely difficult for someone so young. An even game resulted in a rook and minor piece ending where white had advanced central pawns and black advanced queen side pawns. Black managed to shore up his king side and infiltrate whites queen side with his knight. With both sides very short of time, black succeeded in blocking white's passed pawn and promoted his own.

Friday, 18 October 2019

The Division One Carnival

For the B team, finally making it into Division 1 this season, has already been something of a roller coaster. (You see what I did there..) Having lost narrowly to last year’s runners up (our own A team), we had followed up with victory against the champions Olton A. My own contribution to this fantastic achievement consisted of asking Dave to captain and cheering the team on from 3000 miles away. Given that, I really wanted to put on record another massive well done to Joshua, Mike, Dave and Jude for their amazing achievement. The question was, could we follow that against a Banbury A team who had an International Master (James Jackson) on Board one and Carl Portman, fresh from his battle with Karpov on three. (See this month’s Chess for more on Carl’s exploits – I hear there are lots of other interesting reads as well!)

They always say that Division 1 has something of a carnival atmosphere (ok no one ever does) but we were still somewhat taken aback to find an actual carnival in full swing in the centre of Banbury on arrival. Had the local residents heard of our triumph against Olton A? Were our achievements seen as being on a par with Norwich’s triumph over Man City? Was the town in a near frenzy of excitement, because of us? Possibly, possibly, albeit the candy floss and rides proved too much of a draw and we did not get any spectators – they were obviously all content to wait for this write up…

It had been a slightly bizarre week on the selection front with A, B and C matches taking place and a Coventry League game (which was ultimately cancelled) but we had Mike on one, me on two, Phil standing in on three and Jude on four. Their grade average was nearly 30 points higher than ours, slightly distorted by James’s whopping 226, but we still had a lag of between 15 and 19 points on the other three boards. It was always going to be tough, and so it proved, but what an effort.

After 45 minutes, Jude and I were level, Phil’s position was unclear and Mike was playing brilliantly against James. As the evening progressed, Jude was the first to finish, drawing comfortably with the uber-strong Dan Rowan. Jude played simply and sensibly with incredible maturity and Dan never looked like making anything of white. A calm, controlled game, which just underscores how comfortable Jude is at this level – and what a great start to the season he has made.

I was next to finish on two, against Georgs Vikanis. A rare first for me, in that I don’t think we have played before (but happy to stand corrected.) Against a N-f3, c4 set up, I managed to get quite active, with a strong bishop and some nice pawn levers. Georgs pushed a bit, but I had a very well placed defensive knight on d6, and a possible queenside push that made him reluctant to fully commit to an attack. Equally, with everything fully under control, I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to go all in either, so a draw was probably inevitable.

Mike seemed to get a super strong position against James, with his queen and knight angrily massed close to James’s king. Equally, James’s queen seemed to be marooned in the middle of the board and very short of squares, with Mike’s rooks well placed to attack it. I did not see exactly what happened, but listening to Mike and James discussion afterwards, it seems that possibly a slightly too passive knight move gave James a moment to breath and turn the tables. Eventually a bishop (James) v knight (Mike) endgame ensued. Unfortunately Mike had a much more fragmented pawn structure and it was a great board for the bishop with pawns on both sides of the board. Even so, James technique (despite Mike’s strong defence) was impressive to watch. Fair to say from the way he closed it out that James is not 226 for nothing!

On Board three, Phil was the last to finish. I didn’t see how Carl managed to get on top, but he ended up in a position with rooks and queens honing in and a knight really making things awkward. I thought Phil was done for, but strong defence saw him push Carl back. However, the material cost was too high and ultimately the three pawns Carl picked up were more than enough. With an exchange of queens inevitable, the game was done. Nice play by Carl, but Phil definitely made him work for it.

So 3-1 to Banbury A, but we were by no means outclassed. A number of their players remarked on how strong all the Kenilworth teams seem to be this year, which is always nice to hear. The B team now has a double header coming up, away to Solihull A and then home to Solihull B. Something to look forward to. We certainly look like we are making the transition to Division 1. Who knows, we might still need a B team float at the Kenilworth carnival at the end of the season, to celebrate our triumphs. Or at the very least – the effort we are putting in. Division 1 may not be a piece of cake, but we all earned at least a stick of candy floss last night.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

It's Not How You Win, It's Whether You Win!

The A team extended its 100% record to 4 games at Rugby last night with what was ultimately a clear-cut 3-1 win, but as with so many of our matches, the final score did not look likely for much of the evening. Especially when our normal "points machine", Mike, suffered a very sudden and embarrassing reverse on Board 3 against Jonathan Cox. After seemingly making all the running and pressurising Black's IQP, Mike went horrendously wrong and ended up getting checkmated by a queen on h3 and a knight on f3. Regrettably Mike's fianchettoed bishop had gone AWOL from g2 - and even a fianchettoed knight, so beloved by the Manchester School of Chess, would have been useless in repelling this particular attack.

This was a major blow, as we were not doing all that well on a couple of other boards. In particular, Joshua had played the opening in typically idiosyncratic fashion, and appeared to just be getting crushed to my untrained eye. But what do I know? Not for the first time he seemed blissfully unconcerned and just kept playing, while avoiding losing any material - though he doesn't always comply with that second condition! Somehow he was able to eke out some squares for his hitherto pathetic collection of minor and major pieces, and before you could say boo, he was two pawns up and into a rook ending! One of the extra pawns fell off, but with White's king cut off Josh was able to show fine technique and queen his last pawn.

On Board 4, Bernard C was engaged in some very strange manoeuvring against Dave Riley, which was not guaranteed to bring a warm glow to the average Match Captain. (And I fully acknowledge that I am most definitely an average Match Captain.) However, I needn't have worried as our artist in residence clearly knew what he was doing. The next time I looked he was several pawns up and despite his king looking to be in a mating net from a rook, bishop, pawn and king there was in fact no threat at all, and Bernard simply queened a pawn to win the game.

By which time I had also won on top board against Rugby's stalwart, Bob Wildig. I misplayed the opening somewhat (that's what sitting next to Joshua too many times does to you!) and came close to losing a pawn on d5 which would have spelt ruination. Thankfully the crisis passed, and with Bob rather hemmed in on his back two ranks I started to apply some pressure. His position may have been defendable, but it was very difficult, and gradually my pieces infiltrated to strong squares. In mutual time trouble, Bob had to give me a passed b pawn to avoid losing material and my active pieces were enough to shepherd this through to b8 for the win.

So a fourth straight win, and we still haven't got any of our three highest graded players to the board! And I'm not holding my breath that this state of affairs will change much, either!! So well done to those who have got us this far, especially the oft-maligned Mr Pink (we all love you really, Josh! You do know that, right?) who has run up a rather impressive 4/4 to start the season. Let's keep the run going!

Friday, 11 October 2019

From the Archives - Part 13, 2004 - BCF Club of the Year!!

Either we were a very succinct lot in those days (unlikely) or the Secretary (B. Rogers, Esq) was exceedingly choosy in what he recorded for posterity, as the AGM minutes in 2002, 2003 and 2004 only ran to two pages each year. And half of one side of the paper was taken up with a listing of attendees - a good trick for making it look like more had happened than actually did. I must remember this for next year, instead of packing all the names onto a couple of lines.  But I digress...….

May 2004 - The AGM is held on the sixth of the month, with 17 people in attendance, plus apologies from Geoff King and Tom Swallow. Two new names appear in the form of Nick Waterman (ex Leamington) and Rob Olley. Membership is 24-25 people. I wonder who the undecided person was? Rod is in the Chair and with great foresight stresses the need for more junior members - Paul was in attendance and doubtless took these words to heart, though it was a good few years before he put his plan into action!

Hurrah!!!!  Subsequent to the nomination by Mrs Lam (for which, many thanks!), the club had won the BCF's Club of the Year award. This had been presented by David Anderton who had visited us shortly before Xmas, 2003. A photograph and article had appeared in the KWN. As a bonus the award gave us full BCF membership until January 31, 2005. (I remember the small, framed certificate sitting on a shelf at The Royal Oak when I first started attending on a Thursday evening (2010 or 2011), but regrettably the award subsequently disappeared without trace. Anyone who tries to link my arrival on the scene with the disappearance of the award will be hearing from my solicitor. Chris, are you taking on new clients?!)

Adam Collinson is back on the scene, and had won the Club Championship, with Carl winning the Plate. Adam and Paul were joint winners (seemingly - the Secretary is less than definitive in his records!) of the Club Lightning tournament. Five teams had been run in the Leamington League, with finishing positions as follows:-

A Team - 4th of 9 in Division 1
B Team - 7th of 8 in Division 2
C Team - 1st of 9 in Division 3
D Team - 9th of 9 in Division 3
E Team - 6th of 7 in Division 4

The U-625 Cup had also been won, while one of our two (!) teams in the U-100 Cup had got to the final. So two excuses for an end of season celebratory meal! And the silverware just kept coming, with Carl winning the LDCL Open Individual title and Tom Swallow sharing the U-125 prize.

For the third year in a row the Secretary has nothing to report. Talk about an easy job, eh?

The Treasurer was not in attendance, but the accounts were presented and presumably accepted. However, I have no idea of how we had fared financially, as the Secretary neglects to provide any details of our P&L or Balance Sheet, though does let on that subs will be unchanged. Well, he's clearly not a numbers man, so its probably unfair to expect too much. The BCF game fee is going up from 36p to 44p (+22%!), and either in protest, or because we've won the Club of the Year award and no longer need to curry favour, the meeting votes to discontinue the Club's BCF Corporate and Vice Presidents membership.

Our 24-25 members were clearly champing at the bit for more chess, as it was decided to enter 6 teams in the Leamington League the following season - A in  Div 1; B & C in Div 2; D in Div 3; and E & F in Div 4. I don't know how, but 6 Match Captains were recruited:-

A - Carl
B - Phil
C - Nigel
D - Mike W
E - Frank
F - Rob (another newbie gets press-ganged into office!)

But that's not all, as we also had captains for our 4 Cup teams, and while Carl doubles up by taking on the Open team, we need separate skippers for the other three. Step forward Paul M, Tony and Steve. Which means we had 9 volunteers to captain our various teams. 9!!! Plus three Club Officers. So 50% of the membership took part in the organisation and running of the club. Many hands make light work - or too many cooks spoil the broth? I just can't decide.

Well, that leaves me with just two more years worth of AGM Minutes to document on the club web site. If I'd known it was going to take 14 or 15 instalments to recount our early history, I might have thought twice before starting this journey!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

A Very Modest Act of Revenge

Last season Nuneaton gave us two major wallopings in the Coventry League. A 1-3 defeat at home was bad enough, but a 0-4 thrashing in the away match was a real humiliation. Even the warblings of the local music and dance troupe, rehearsing vigorously for the Xmas panto, couldn't soften the blow.

So it was with a little trepidation that we drove over to Attleborough Liberal Club on Tuesday to kick off the new Coventry League campaign. One good omen was that Credeence Clearwater Revival's Greatest Hits were not playing in my car as they had been, with such disastrous effect, the previous year. The more mellow sounds of Buffalo Springfield seemed much more appropriate for our pre-match mental state, though it was a close run thing, since my in-car music plays alphabetically, and seconds before we arrived, "Buf" ominously gave way to "Cre". I had to hurriedly switch it off to prevent any repeat calamity!

Although for much of the match, it looked like we were heading for defeat anyway. On Board 3, Ben got into a bit of a cul-de-sac playing that accursed opening of his (I refuse to type its name!) and lost a pawn against Colin Green, in the match-up of the Coventry and Leamington League Chairmen. But a slip from Colin allowed the extra pawn to fall off and a draw was soon agreed. So that was one prospective bullet dodged.

Dave was next to finish, with another draw on Board 4 againd Dave Kearney. While dodginess and murkiness were going on all around him, Dave was comfortable for the entire game, and never seemed to be worse at any time. And pretty soon it was three draws, as I easily held a pawn down opposite bishops ending against Phil Briggs on top board. This was definitely a second bullet dodged, though, as I had got myself into big trouble with some rather insipid play against his offbeat opening. Fortunately for me, Phil cashed in his positional advantages for the sake of a measly pawn, but at the cost of activating my pieces and he could then find nothing better than to swap off all the rooks to leave himself in a dead drawn ending.

So it all came down to the battle between Mike and Tony Green on Board 2. Tony went a bit all in from the opening with a very early f5 (leaving a big hole on  e5), but Mike countered with a b5 break. It all got a bit messy for a time, but Tony failed to find a convincing way for his pieces to follow through behind his pawn advances and Mike gradually took over and won a pawn. With the clock doing him no favours, Tony threw in the towel as a Black queenside pawn was set to motor all the way through for a touchdown. A win for Mike, and a win for us!

Not very convincing, but a win is a win - although 2.5-1.5 is a pretty modest act of revenge compared to last season's two pummellings. And we didn't win many games last season - just two - and managed to lose all 5 away matches. So we'll gladly take 2.5-1.5 any day of the week, thank you very much!

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Captain without a board or a clue

The next C team outing was at home against Banbury C. Unfortunately this was the first home fixture for the regular captain and all the clocks had been replaced during the summer. A clock setting crisis was averted when Drago and Jude demonstrated just how easy the new clocks were to set.

With the non-playing captain now calmed and sent to the bar, the playing members of the team got on with what they had come to do.

Jude was playing Chris Evans with the white pieces. Some careless opening play by black saw white establish a strong pawn on e6. Blacks attempted to generate some counter play and maintain material equality but saw the queen exchanged leaving white with a favourable ending. Black offered a draw which white declined and proceeded to demonstrate why the game wasn't drawn. White strong central pawns ultimately won the day.

Ed was playing Neil Staples with black on board 1. A long game saw white reach a favourable ending but black's tenacious play in a time scramble saw the point shared.

Drago looked to have quite a good position with black on board 3 against Nathan Manley. Well ahead on the clock, he sacrificed a pawn to attack in the centre. However, Nathan is no stranger to playing quickly and accurately and he managed to deflect black attack and reach an ending two pawns ahead. With it now being black's turn to be short of time, the ending was ultimately lost.

Phil was playing white against Steve Rumsby on board 4. From a very even position, white managed to infiltrate the black position with his queen and win black's a and b pawns. Black declined exchanging queens and then somehow managed to generate some king side play by sacrificing a pawn and exposing the white king. What followed was a long sequence of moves whilst black attempted to force a perpetual check and white advanced his e pawn. Eventually white managed to get his king to the only square where no more checks were available and black had to resign.

An excellent result against a strong Banbury team.

Temporary standin captain Dave

With the regular captain on foreign shores, it fell to Dave to be captain for a night against Olton, presumably as some sort of compensation for not being able to play in team that he had helped to get promoted the previous season.

Jude was the first to finish with a fairly quick draw against Dave Costelow with the black pieces. Black had looked to have quite a comfortable position and the draw offer was made by white.

Mike was playing Alan Lloyd and followed a line for which he had played nanny times against highly qualified correspondence opposition and reached an even position having only used two minutes. White attempted to unsettle the position with a pawn sacrifice but was Mike was able to return the material and reach an even position from which a draw was agreed when white was running short of time and patience.

Joshua was playing Phil Holt with white pieces. A surprise move order (for Phil anyway) led eventually to an even position. However, a tactical mistake by black allowed white to gain an initiative and black was force to jettison a pawn in order to hold on to the position. A well time draw offer was accepted when the match was swinging in Kenilworth's favour.

Dave managed to obtain a good position against some passive play by Mark Cundy with white. Unfortunately Mark just seemed to get his pieces onto the wrong squares in order to hold the position. A rook sacrifice saw Dave forcing mate.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Manchester School of Chess - Lesson 3

It's been a while since my last stunning insight, but I assume members of this club can only take in information very slowly, so I wouldn't want to overload you. For today, we need to consider the following position, where I hope people can deduce that white has just captured a black bishop on g6, and black is considering how to recapture.

First we will consider this position using the two standard rules people are often erroneously taught to help them make these decisions. The first would be that “having fewer pawn islands is better than having more”, leading us to assume hxg6 is the correct move. The easiest way to dismiss this rule as nonsense is to consider any situation where you still have all three of your major pieces on the board. Then, your ideal plan wold be to have an open file for each of your pieces to work on, thus meaning you need three separated open files, thus meaning your optimum number of pawn islands is four (since obviously the a and h files are much less useful than others) which is, you will note, not the smallest number possible.

The second bad piece of advice is to “capture back towards the centre”, which would again imply hxg6. This is simply absurd, since we all know that in the majority of endgames, having an outside passed pawn is advantageous, so why would we select the very captures that make this less likely to occur.

Then we move on to an actually useful thought, namely:

"When you have a choice between two pawns with which to make a capture, decide based on which file you would prefer to be open."

Using this maxim brings us to a different and much more accurate conclusion. Capturing back with the h pawn doesn’t really do any harm or any good, since it is unlikely either player will be making use of the h file soon. On the other hand, capturing back with the f pawn allows black to soon play Rf8 and target the backward and weakened white f2 pawn. It also, helpfully, increases our number of pawn islands (thus giving more activity to our major pieces) and captures away from the centre (thus giving us a better pawn structure for most endgames). All in all, very easy to see why the computer rates this as the best move, and not at all difficult to work out, provided you ignore all the mistaken advice you will have previously been given.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

A Cosy Evening at the Abbey Club

The A team kept up its 100% record for the season last night, with a very convincing 4-0 win over Shirley A - who less cheerfully kept up their 0% record for the season in the process.

Inevitably it was that man Pink who was fastest off the grid and first to finish. With Black against Dave Thomas on Board 3, the game got very tactical when Dave snatched a red hot pawn on d6 with a bishop. However, the pin Dave had been relying on to save himself against a double attack turned out not to work after Joshua's very nice reply which blocked the pin and left two White pieces hanging. After duly annexing a full piece for a pawn, Josh comfortably brought home the point.

There was a bit of confusion on Board 4 towards the end of the game between Mike and Eric Ward. I thought I heard Eric decline a draw offer, which was a surprise, since the last time I had looked Mike seemed to be crashing through against the Black king. Apparently, though, Mike's attack had got stuck, and he had offered to split the point. But right after declining the draw, Eric blundered the exchange (and also brought Mike's pieces to life) and had to resign immediately. As I was rather pre-occupied with my own game, it took me several minutes to discover what had actually happened, but thankfully it all turned out well for us. And Mike was spared the shame of being the only non-winner in the team!

My game finished next, when I was able to avenge last season's loss against Phil Purcell after a very exciting game.  After some well known moves in a King's Indian, I (accidentally) innovated by retreating a knight from c5 to b7. Kasparov - and everyone else to reach the position! - had put it on d7, but I have clearly fallen under the influence of the Manchester School of Chess, which as we know from this website, is a strong advocate of the knight fianchetto.  Wherever the knight goes, the variation involves a pawn sacrifice by Black, but in return the White king, castled queenside, starts to feel very draughty. Neither side played perfectly (surprise, surprise!) but I managed to get quite an attack going and an exchange sac opened up the White king even more. Phil refrained from taking the exchange, but this allowed me a nice combo which forced him to give up his queen for a rook and knight. Then my queen got active and one defensive slip allowed me to deliver mate - with my fianchettoed knight still on b7!

David wrapped up the match, and the clean sweep, with a win over Jonathan Dale on Board 2. Black got a very passive position from a Dutch Defence, and rather than sit behind his stonewall structure he tried to break the bind with an a5 pawn push. But this gave David's queen a way into the Black position and it zoomed down the a file to cause mayhem. With White's bishops raking across the board, the Black position came under considerable stress and a piece was lost. Then some pawns. Then a rook. And only then the game.

It was actually a very cosy evening at the Abbey Club, as the D team were also in action against Leamington C, and we all played in the same room. After starting the season with two narrow defeats, I'm pleased to report that the D team picked up its first match point after a 1.5-1.5 draw with youth was very much to the fore. Noah Seymour made his competitive debut for us (also becoming the first graduate of The Gauntlet chess school in the process!) and had a very solid draw on Board 3. From what I saw he had the better of the game and was never in any trouble. Well done, Noah! Roy, by contrast, played a rather abject game (with White!) on Board 2 and lost somewhat ignominiously. Which made it a good job that we had more youth on our side in the shape of William, who was the hero of the hour on Board 1. He won a couple of pawns but was seemingly under the threat of a big attack on his king. Despite inevitable time pressure, though, he defended well and after forcing the queens off he made no mistake in wrapping up the victory to level the score. With more juniors waiting in the wings the future is looking very bright for the D team.