Monday, 27 April 2020

Did You Know There are Currently 8 KCC World Champions?!

I know, I know - you're all thinking that the Club Organiser has gone lock-down crazy and finally lost all contact with reality. But just bear with me on this.

There are several World Chess Champions at the moment - Magnus Carlsen (just the three titles, Classical, Rapid and Blitz); Ju Wenjun (women's Classical); Humpy Koneru (women's Rapid); and Kateryna Lagno (Women's Blitz) will do for starters, but then there are all the senior and junior age groups (male and female, too many to count). Plus bullet and 960. And correspondence. And visually and physically impaired. And Problem Solving. And maybe more that I can't even think of. And the one thing that all these World Champions have in common is that they aren't KCC members.

So come on, Mr Club Organiser, what's with the claim of 8 Kenilworth World Champions??

Well, its really quite simple, because there is another category, of which you might be unaware (as is FIDE and the rest of the world), which is World Surname Chess Champions.  And its here where we really come into our own. Because of the 17 KCC players with ratings on the April 2020 FIDE list, no less than 8 of them are the highest rated players in the world with their surname! If that doesn't make you a World Champion (of a kind!) I don't know what does. Read on for the glorious roll of honour.

First, there's the "by default" category, where we have the only FIDE rated player with a particular surname. So maybe not such a great achievement - but so what? It's still a World Title for Kenilworth! We have three of these:-

Billy Fellowes (1493 Rapid)
Lionel Riou-Durand (1954)
Jude Shearsby (1673)

This group is closely followed by Bernard "The Artist" Charnley (1896), who had to out-perform a whole one other Charnley (Chris, from Australia, rated 1415) to secure his World Champion crown. And next is Dragomir Zarev (1645), who has left two unrated Zarevs trailing in his wake on the way to his own title. But then the competition gets tougher. Much tougher!

So, in ascending order, in third place in the pantheon of KCC World Surname Champions is Andy Baruch (2063), who towers over a group of 9 Baruchs, with the next best being an Israeli (Dror) who is almost 450 points adrift. Andy seems to have his World title in the bag in perpetuity!

In a glorious second place (and it would have been first if I'd written this when I first had the idea!) is yours truly (2121), who heads a massive group of 19 Pages ahead of my German namesake Pascal (2009). Not much room for a slump there, if I want to keep my title, so I'd better try and keep my wits about me.

But the undisputed winner, and the greatest of the KCC World Champions is the phenomenon that is Paul Lam (2115- yes, lower than me!), who emerges as King of the Hill from no less than 89 Lams on the FIDE rating list. But his tenure may be short lived, as there are plenty of other Lams snapping at his heels - most obviously FM Daniel KW Lam from Hong Kong, who is just 6 points behind. If they tie, Paul will still retain his title however, due to a better tie break of middle initials. GM trumps any other combination, after all!

So there you have it - 8 KCC Surname World Champions. A proud achievement, to be sure. And if some of the other members of the club would just get their fingers out, the number could be even greater.

I have not yet given up, for instance, on the chances of Bernard "The Accountant" Rogers (1842), overhauling the ratings of the 9 other Rogers currently ahead of him. Which admittedly includes Australian GM Ian (2545) - but Bernard just needs to practice a bit more! And then there's Andy Ward (1873 and the 8th strongest of 43 Wards), who also has a GM (Englishman Chris, at a far more manageable 2402) to chase. Come on chaps - what's keeping you?

I also have high hopes for Mike Donnelly (1855), who ranks second amongst all the World's Donnellys - but first amongst males. Admittedly he trails someway behind the 2030 rated American Ruth Donnelly, but her birth year is given by FIDE as 1920!! If that's right, he must surely become outright World Champion soon?!

But, alas, I fear there is little hope for Phil Wood, who is not, of course, even the highest rated person in his own family and overall comes in at 10th of 46 amongst fellow Woods. And I am especially disappointed in Joshua Pink (1924). With only one other Pink to beat, he finds himself in second place some 126 ELO points behind fellow Englishman Stuart. So not even an English Champion. I fear a name change may be required for Joshua to lift a world crown!

And for completeness (and because I've done the research and don't want the effort to go to waste!), I can also mention William Morris (1375, 21st of 51 Morrises, headed by Australian IM James at 2473); David Phillips (1825, 9th also of 51); Andrew Paterson (2046, 3rd of 9) and Ben Graff (1867, 2nd of 19).

So there you have it. Eight KCC World Champions, and more in prospect. Makes you proud. Doesn't it?

Monday, 20 April 2020

An Unlikely Star is Born!

I've always thought that I have a great face for radio, but amazingly that hasn't stopped me from becoming an internet sensation (at least in my own home; OK, to be strictly accurate, with 50% of the residents of my own home) following my appearance on the latest video from Matthew Sadler and Natasha Regan in their series, "Chess for Life in the Time of Corona". The series follows on from the work the two distinguished authors did when producing their 2016 ECF Book of the Year, "Chess for Life".

Having been suggested for this series by my old friend John Saunders (himself the subject of another one of the videos), I was delighted to discover when taking part that both Natasha and Matthew are exceedingly sympathetic and generous interviewers, who made the whole experience very enjoyable. They cannot be held responsible, of course, for any of the drivel uttered by myself. Or indeed any drivel not uttered by myself, as I discovered to my horror on first viewing that I failed to mention Kenilworth by name even once! Or any of you lot!! You'll just have to get your own video interview!

Given that many people have plenty of spare time at the moment, the next time you find yourself with a spare 41 minutes and 28 seconds, then take a look at this video. You not only get to see and hear my erudite thoughts on the human condition, but also my thrilling win - never previously published - over GM Mark Hebden -  commented upon by super-GM, and former World top 20 player, Matthew Sadler. Sounds like the perfect way to spend 41 minutes and 28 seconds to me!

And if that has whetted your appetite, then why not take a look at the other videos in the series, all of which can be found on Natasha and Matthew's Chess For Life You Tube channel here. Which Ben has already described, in print, as "a brilliant series". Though that was before he knew I was part of it! And as a bonus, if you take a look at the short "Chess for Life" book promo video, you'll even get yet another shot of yours truly - but don't blink, or you'll miss it!

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

In the Presence of Genius - Part 2

In the summer of 2016 I made my first ever foray into International chess at the World Seniors Team Championships in Radebeul, just outside Dresden.

I was in the England 50+ second team, which comprised 4 amateurs and - for reasons which still elude me - one GM, Jim Plaskett. With such a strong board 1, we were no pushovers, and as late as round 8 we found ourselves playing on a very high board against the all GM Armenian team. In fact, we were on such a high board that we played in a roped off area to keep the hoi polloi away. Boards 1 and 2 of our match were placed immediately by the rope, so that spectators could see the action, with 3 and 4 behind and next to them, But for some reason, Board 4 was placed next to Board 1, so I found myself just a couple of feet away from the monumental game which appears below. In opposition to our GM was none other than former super-GM, ex Soviet champion, and two times World Championship Candidate, Rafael Vaganian.

Wonderful stuff. Well played Jim!

Now it appears as though this website has something against GM Vaganian, since he also appeared in a post dated June 29, 2016 (with photo!) when he was on the receiving end of a brilliant miniature by Albin Planinc, but nothing could be further from the truth. I would be delighted to welcome him to our club with open arms should he ever make the trip from Yerevan!

While the Plaskett - Vaganian epic was going on, Jim's team-mates were proving no match for the other Armenian GMs, though at one point I got very excited as I was obviously better and even thought I might be winning.  Of course, I was wrong, and a couple of moves later my position was a wreck. I don't know for sure, but my guess is that Jim Plaskett has not written an article about sitting alongside this game!

Now, I imagine that Joshua is sitting at home (self-isolating) reading this, and is now about to go incandescent with rage when I say that this is the end of this (brief) series of articles. But, imaginative as some of his efforts for Kenilworth have been when playing alongside me, I'm not sure I can truthfully say any of them have the stamp of genius. Still, I would be delighted to be proved wrong - if we ever get back to playing OTB chess again - in which case, there might yet be a Part 3 article. Just don't hold your breath!

Friday, 3 April 2020

In the Presence of Genius - Part 1

Unlike most sports (and we all agree, I hope, that chess is a sport!), chess gives ordinary mortals the chance - very occasionally - to play against a superstar (and I'm not talking simultaneous displays here). Its happened to me a couple of times - Speelman and Nunn spring to mind. And team events provide a variant of this theme, as you can sometimes - when the stars align - find yourself sitting right next to, or at worst a few boards away from, high level encounters between very strong players who would normally never be seen dead in the vicinity of such a weak player as oneself.

I'd like to share a couple of those "I was there" games with you. Part 2 will feature a truly heavyweight encounter, but we start at a slightly lower level, although still one that is up in the stratosphere compared to my normal orbit.

We go back to 1982 when my club, Mitcham, somehow recruited two rather useful players for our Division 1 London League team - Tony Kosten and Peter Large. I'm pretty sure Tony was already an IM at the time (and subsequently became a GM in 1990), while Pete acquired the IM title in 1987. We suddenly went from being relegation possibles to title challengers, though we eventualy wound up in 3rd place. And leading the way was Tony Kosten, whose performances on Board 1 were quite remarkable. In that glorious season his results were:-

v Howard Williams (220) Win
v Alan Hanreck (212) Win
v Andrew Whiteley (225) Win
v John Ady (209) Draw
v Peter Sowray (209) Win
v Danny King (223) Draw
v Dave Stewardson (174) Draw  - no idea what went wrong there!
v John Sugden (203) - result lost in the mists of time!

At the time Tony was 24, and working for the DHSS. He annotated the following two games for the Mitcham club magazine, Dinosaur, fortuitously also providing an important historical insight into 1980's work practices in the public sector - "You asked for some games and everyone at work has gone home and I've got to stay another hour and a half to make up my flextime. Just light annotations as I'm doing this from memory without a board."  (!!!!)

Impressive stuff against the multiple Welsh champion, but even better was this amazing tour de force played just a few weeks later.

I half thought of providing the games I played in these two matches as a point of contrast, but as that would not reflect too well on me, I promptly shelved the idea. My records show that in the Hendon match I lost on Board 9 (!) against D.V. Booth (165!!) as we lost the match 4.5-7.5, while against Cavendish I beat the ungraded G. Thomas on Board 7, a match we won 9.5-2.5. 

I think Tony played one more season for us, but as I left for Australia in January 1984, my memory of this is very hazy and I have no details of his subsequent performances. But there is little doubt that the dynamism and energy of his play in the two games above were already at or very close to GM level, and its no surprise that he didn't waste his time hanging around in the DHSS for too long!

Part 2 to follow in due course, when we get to see a team-mate of mine inflict a severe beating on a former USSR champion and two times Candidate. No more details for the time being, but I don't think I'm giving away too much information if I just say that this did not occur during a Kenilworth match!