Saturday, 29 February 2020

Some Early Awards...

The last few weeks have passed in something of a blur for me - unfortunately both at - as well as away from the chess board. Still, the clamour on the streets of Kenilworth has now reached such a pitch that I feel duty bound to write a potted report on our last three matches.

We've picked up three vital points since my last post. A narrow defeat to Solihull A has been followed by a magnificent victory against top of the table Banbury A and a draw with Solihull B. All of this means that with two games to go (against Rugby A and Shirley A) we remain in a relegation dog-fight. We are two points above Shirley A and Solihull B, who at the time of writing both have a game in hand against us. My guess is we need another two points to be safe, so still all to play for.

I'm not going to give you a game by game account, but instead am going to dish out a few awards.

Best game prize - Jude Shearsby won magnificently against Julian Summerfield to secure the point against Solihull B. Jude really held his nerve in a complex endgame and made what might have been quite a difficult task look easy. Mike Donnelly was awesome in the Banbury A match. With every other game drawn, his win against Paul Rowan secured both points. Mike was miles ahead on the board for the last hour, but unfortunately most of the remaining time was on Paul's clock rather than Mike's! I have never felt more nervous watching a game, but Mike couldn't have been calmer. Honourable mention to Lionel Durand-Riou - his demolition of Paul Roper in the Solihull B match was a delight to watch.

Making your captain panic by being late, but ultimately it being worth the wait prize, is as you can imagine a keenly contested category. I certainly feared for our winner, Bernard Charnley when there was no sign of him at 7.50 in the Solihull A match. Still, Bernard is not the first person to inadvertently drive to Shirley instead of Solihull, I'm sure. A bit of quick thinking saw him saunter in as cool as you like, before ultimately securing a good draw with Phillip Hurtado. Special mention to Lionel and Jude regarding the Solihull B match. Neither were massively late, but Solihull had turned up early and we were underway before either appeared. I would have been even more nervous, had I known then that they were going to ultimately contribute 100% of our points!

The super-sub award goes to Phil Wood. Jude was struck down with tonsillitis hours before the Banbury A match. Phil stepped in at short notice and held a great draw with Gary Jackson. Like Mike's game against Paul Rowan this went right to the wire - a brilliant effort on Phil's part.

The most helpful act by an opposing team award - must go to Banbury A for kindly not playing James Jackson.

So there we have it. Readers should not see the early spraying around of awards as a sign of complacency on our part. (Opposing teams who would like to win further "most helpful act awards," please let me know though.) We are very keen and very focused. All of the above means this is still in our own hands. Bring on Rugby and Shirley!

Saturday, 22 February 2020

January 2020 Grading List - KCC Report Card

Yes its that time of the year again. When, as predictably as the swallows returning to Capistrano, the Club Organiser pens his bi-annual summary of members' grading changes …..  and directs his ire at some poor soul for cheating him out of a few valuable grading points! This time last year I was robbed of about 8 points (some of which were never found) when the Leamington League results were mistakenly included twice. I had not had a good 6 months in the Leamington League. This time around the Coventry League results have been completely omitted. And of course I have just had a very good 6 months in the Coventry League. Joshua has also been badly affected by this administrative blunder, and we both have our fingers crossed that the February update will put this egregious wrong to rights.

But in the meantime, I can only mark everyone's report card on the basis of the list as published in January. So here we go, as we see who is top of the form, and who needs to go and stand in the corner of the classroom with a hat with the letter D on.

Yet again youth is firmly in the driving seat, with both of our England Internationals registering double digit increases in the last 6 months. This time around Billy has zoomed to the top of the list adding a massive 25 points in the blink of an eye and, just for good measure adding 16 points to his rapidplay grade. Even Jude couldn't live with this scorching pace, though his 12 point standard play gain is still miles ahead of anything any of us oldies have been able to manage. Making it 57 points gained in the last 18 months. Just think about that rate of improvement - its absolutely awesome.

Both Billy and Jude now rank as number two in the English rankings in their age groups (Under 8 and Under 10 respectively) and Jude is actually number 1 in the rapidplay rankings. This is truly extraordinary. Our two young stars are right up, there with the very best in the whole country. We are all massively proud of their achievements. And hats off to Paul, who seems to be quite good at that coaching malarkey!

Top of the Form

Billy                          +25
Jude                           +12
Andy W                     + 7
Algis                          + 5
Drago                        + 5
William                     + 2
Andy B                      + 1
Ben                            + 1
Chris                          + 1
Ed                              + 1
The Club Organiser   + 1
Roy                            + 1
Steve                          + 1
Tony                          + 1

No change


New Kids in Town


On the Naughty Step

Bruce                          - 1
David                          - 1
Rod                             - 1
Joshua                         - 2
Bernard C                   - 3
Bernard R                   - 3
Paul                             - 3
Mike                            - 6
Stuart                           - 6
Nick                            - 9

Thanks largely to the stellar performances of our two mighty atoms, the club has collectively gained 64 points, while losing 35, for a nett gain of 29. We now have 28 people on the active grading list (though some are more active than others - anyone remember Stuart for instance? or Matt??) and there should be two more come the July list, as Lionel and Noah are in line to get their first ever ECF grades. Indeed, Lionel would have his already were it not for the Coventry League administrative fiasco.

Leading the way for the more senior members of the club, its congratulations to Andy W, Algis and Drago for logging very respectable gains. And a shout out too to William, despite being a virtual veteran compared to Billy and Jude, whose modest 2 point gain belies the fact that he has scored an absolutely splendid 100% for the D team on Board 1 so far this season.

Paul has just retained his place as Club Top Dog, but now has to share the title with the currently inactive Andrew P.  The fact that we can field strong and competitive teams in both the Leamington and Coventry League is all the more remarkable when you think that our only two 190+ players have managed just one game between them this season!

Doctor Nick has not distinguished himself in the first half of the season, and tops the list of grading falls - though thankfully he just about managed to limit the decline to single figures! That's what happens when you stop coming along on a Thursday night! Mike also saw a painful loss of points, as did Stuart. But whereas Mike played oodles of games, Stuart managed it without coming within several miles of a chessboard. Ah, the ECF Grading System - dontcha just love it?!

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

And Still They Keep Coming!

For the third week in a row our top team was in action in each of our two leagues on consecutive nights. And this week it was even more of a struggle for me to get enthusiastic after a heavy weekend of 4NCL chess on the previous two days. But when the club takes to the field, at least a little bit of adrenaline always starts pumping, and so it was when the A team took on Rugby A on Monday night. Rugby seemed to be suffering a bit of chess fatigue themselves, and were not at full strength, while we had - for an unprecedented third match in a row - managed to wheel out ageing maestro Andy to lead us into battle.

And for the third week in a row he duly annexed the full point on top board - but never had he managed this so quickly. The game was over before 8.30 after he just started taking the White pawns one by one, as Ganesh Vishwanath tried in vain to generate an attack down the a and b files against Andy's long castled king. The pawn count was up to three when White made a terminal blunder allowing Qxf2+ (a 4th pawn) with Qxf3+ (a free bishop) set to follow.

Lionel was making his A team debut on Board 4, as Mike took an evening off to save his energies for his own 2 games in a row on Tuesday and Wednesday. And it turned out to be a pretty memorable one, as he uncorked a sparkling sacrificial attack against Dave Riley, giving first a bishop and then a rook to force mate. Sacre bleu! What a way to make your debut!

Joshua was not going to be outdone by this though, and insisted on sacrificing two pieces right out of the opening - bizarrely in exactly the same variation he had played the day before and which we had been discussing before the match started. Spooky! Unluckily for him, Simon Turner played the engine's top choice and a very difficult game ensued where Joshua got one piece back and eventually amassed 3 pawns as compensation. Eventually it came down to an ending of knight and 3 against 6 pawns, and our man engineered too many passed pawns on too many files for the knight to be able to stop them all.

I eventually made it 4-0 by beating Jonathan Cox in a slightly crazy game. From a pretty level position, I started to get a big advantage on the queenside, and when I was able to open a file on the kingside I should have been winning easily. But I missed a couple of tactical wins, and - with Jon playing on the 10 second increment - gambled with a piece sac. It was unsound but with no time to work out why, Jon counter-sacked a rook but only got a couple of checks for it before he lost on time. So we ended with a much healthier score than the 2.5-1.5 wins we have been chalking up recently. And for now at least, we sit on top of Division 1 in the Leamington League.

The next night it was home against Coventry B in the Coventry League. Our opponents have the unwelcome record of losing every league game this season, and thankfully we didn't find a way to end that sequence. But we hardly covered ourselves in glory. Mike was the star with a  comprehensive win over Kate Donegan on Board 2. Kate left her king in the centre, and while it was quite some time coming, Mike eventually jumped in with a torrent of pieces winning decisive material.

Then we entered a dodgy phase. Dave had a rotten position to my eyes against Nigel Morris on Board 4, and should have lost a whole exchange. But he didn't and, after a highly exciting moment when Nigel spilt his drink all over the board, a draw was agreed. And it was only a draw on Board 3, too, as Ben spoilt all his hard work in building up pressure and winning a pawn by simply blundering the exchange against Mike Johnson. For some reason  Mike did not bother trying to win and another draw was agreed.

So the match was not yet won, and my long struggle against Sam Cotterill carried on for almost the full 3 hour session. I had a very hard job working up any advantage at all, but eventually the position got more tactical and while I only managed to score about 5/10 in converting the opportunities, Sam scored even less, and I was very relieved to be able to swap off into a king and pawn ending where, despite equal material, I had a clear win. Phew! A match win by 3-1, and temporarily we were in joint first place in Division 1 of the Coventry League as well. Though that only lasted for as long as it took University A and Coventry A to post their results the next morning!

I think I have a whole two weeks now until my next match. Bliss! Which means I might even have time to finally write up the latest iteration of the ECF Grading List where - you will not be surprised to learn - one of our pesky juniors (no names, but its you I'm talking about, Jude Shearsby!) has again shown up the club's more senior members with yet another substantial rating increase. So we know who's likely to be Top of the Class when I produce the latest 6 monthly report card, but who will be collecting the wooden spoon, I wonder?

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Yet More Matches

Yet again, this week saw two matches on consecutive nights for our top team in each of the two leagues. And if truth be told, these matches are all starting to merge into one, but while the memories are still reasonably fresh in my head, here are a few thoughts on the latest two encounters.

On Monday the A team was away to Shirley in the Leamington League. Now Shirley are not doing well this season, but with Dave Thomas on bottom board they are no pushovers. So although we had already beaten them 4-0 in the league and 4.5-0.5 in the KO Cup this season, this was no foregone conclusion and in Phil Purcell, Shirley had comfortably the highest graded player in the match.

We were out of the blocks quite fast, and Andy built up a very strong position on Board 1 against Phil with a massive pawn advance in the centre. Black gave up a piece for a couple of pawns, but Andy's pieces then jumped into many strong squares and it was soon 1-0 to us. I followed up on Board 2 with another win over Jonathan Dale after he blundered an exchange in the middle game. In fact an intermediate check would have made the exchange a whole rook, but my oversight didn't prove too costly as my outside passed a pawn proved an easy game winner.

But then things went a bit pear shaped. Unbelievably Joshua fell to his first loss of the season when blundering a piece against Keith Ingram on Board 3. He had tried an unusual opening line against the Petroff, and although things weren't going too well to begin with, he seemed to be at least equal when the calamity occurred. Keith had no trouble proving that rook and knight are much stronger than a lone rook - as long as their are still some pawns on the board, of course! So momentarily the match was in the balance, but thankfully Mike was never in danger of losing against Dave Thomas on Board 4 and for all I know he could have been better. But the truth is I never really saw what was going on!. Anyway, a third 2.5-1.5 victory in a row for the A team since Christmas. The stuff of champions? Not really, I'm afraid!

So on to Tuesday, and a home tie in the Quarter Final (otherwise known as the second round!) of the Coventry League KO Cup, against Nuneaton D. And this was a night when a 2.5-1.5 win would definitely not do, as our opponents started with a 2.25 points handicap advantage. Which meant a minimum 3.5-0.5 win was needed. Well, our Division 3 opponents certainly rose to the occasion. Sporting grades of just 44-118 they put up a great fight against our Division 1 titans. Who at one point in the evening threatened to be too titanic and sink calamitously! As late as 10.00pm the score was still 0-0, but finally the match turned decisively in our favour and we started to rack up the points.

Mike won first on Board 2 when initially 3 extra pawns - and subsequently about 5 extra pawns - proved enough in an opposite bishops ending. Then Dave won a piece and the game on Board 4  thanks to a knight fork and I delivered mate after an excellent effort by my young opponent on Board 1. She played the opening absolutely excellently and had me seriously concerned that I might have stood worse after a dozen or more moves, but thankfully it all came good in the end! Which leaves Ben, who subsequently won on time in a winning position to seal the match victory…… but not before he had overlooked a tactic and been a pawn (and possibly position!) down for some time. Eventually, though, he whipped up an attack along the h file with his rooks which ultimately proved decisive.

The Semi Final draw now pairs us against Nuneaton B from Division 2, who knocked out Division 1 side Coventry B this week, and will start with a 1.25 points advantage over us. We will need to win 3-1 to beat the handicap, and that will not be a walk in the park for sure!

Meanwhile, in the other QF matches, Rugby A comfortably overcame Coventry F but - in probably the biggest shock since we lost the final to Chelmsley Wood! - the mighty Coventry A, comprising 4 KCC members, failed to beat the handicap against Division 2 Rugby B and left the competition with their tails between their legs. Joshua's sudden change of form continued as he could only draw with Martin Wilson on top board, while Ed achieved the same result against John Hall. Lionel showed that some KCC members still know how to win, but unfortunately for Coventry, Roy - thrust onto Board 2 to prevent a default when Dave Ireland failed to show up in time - was also only able to draw and the holders were out. Was this a case of the Coventry players showing their real allegiance and deliberately scuppering one of our main rivals? Or did they just play ****? I think we all know the answer to that!

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Local Tournaments for your Diary

Three very local tournaments (two actually in Kenilworth, the new capital of English chess!) are coming up, in which I hope several KCC members will be interested - especially as KCC member Ed Goodwin (great name for a chess player!) is running two of them.

1  Warwickshire Congress

21st – 23rd February
Venue : Citrus Hotel, Ryton on Dunsmore, Coventry
Open, U1975, U140 and U110 sections
Free entry for first 20 female entries
Online entry and more information at

2  2nd 4NCL Easter FIDE Rated Congress

9th – 13th April
Venue : Holiday Inn, Kenilworth
Open (9 rds), plus U2050, U1825 and U120 sections (all 7 rds)
Online entry and more information here

3  English Seniors Championships

30th April - 3rd May
Venue: Holiday Inn, Kenilworth
Over 50s and Over 65s
More information from Ed at

Why not have a go in at least one of them? You know you want to!

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Too Many Matches

I'm finding it difficult to keep up with all the matches at the moment, so here is a brief review of the A team/Cov League encounters from the past week.

Last Monday we edged out Solihull A by 2.5-1.5. Joshua won, as usual, from what everybody else in the team thought was a very dubious position on Board 3. But in surprisingly quick time he overwhelmed Nigel Towers with Black, taking his A team league score to 7.5/8, so clearly he knows more than the rest of us! Mike agreed a draw soon after against Neil Clarke on Board 4, when Black had plenty of counterplay, but not much time. I lost a very annoying game to Tony Sadler with White on Board 2, standing slightly better for some time before drifting to equality and then making a very ill-judged queen sac for a rook and knight. The queen then ran amok and won the game single handedly! But we were saved by Andy, who played a powerful and determined game with the Black pieces against Ammar Karim on Board 1. Confronted by a far from usual White set up he pressed hard from the very beginning and eventually broke through on the seventh rank to deliver a very unusual mate - pawn to c2 being the decisive final move. This was clearly a very well played game.

The evening was further enlivened by Roy, who set a new record for incompetence by going to two venues in one night (including the Abbey Club), only to find that neither of them were where he was supposed to be (away v Coventry). He thus became our third LDCL default of the season, which is not something of which we can be proud. And as if I hadn't seen enough KCC members for one evening, I then bumped into the Club Chairman (and the altogether more delightful Mrs Club Chairman) on my walk home.

The next night, two of the A team were in action again at Rugby, in a Coventry League Division 1 match, where we once again won by the minimum margin. But truth be told we were never in any danger of losing, and as I managed to bounce back from the previous evening's reverse by beating Ganesh Vishwanath on Board 1 (trapping his queen to win the game), the fact that we couldn't convert advantages on any of the other boards was not a problem. The match was notable for Jude's debut appearance in Division 1 (surely the youngest ever in the CDCL?), and for most of it I thought he was going to beat Simon Turner on Board 4 (with Black) - but in the end it was only a draw. Not bad for a 9-y-o!! Mike drew again on Board 2, having been slightly pressed by Jonathan Cox after an early exchange of queens. White had the d file and more space, but Mike defended carefully and swapped into a double knight ending where he easily held the balance. Ben's game was far more exciting, and he really went for it against Patrick Reid, but Black defended well and actively, and with us only needing a draw to win the match, I was quite happy to see the final peace agreement.

Another two matches in the coming week for me. I'm not sure I can stand the pace at my age
 - but as long as we keep winning, I'll try to keep going!