Saturday, 27 June 2020

Brave New World

KCC made its match debut in the online world last night, and emerged victorious by 6-4 in a friendly against Nuneaton. The match was played on, over 5 boards, double round, with a time limit of 15 mins + 10 secs for each game.

We had tried to balance the teams to provide a close contest, but our plans were slightly derailed when Bruce's plan to participate from his car in Tesco's car park, Hereford, was thwarted by technological problems. Luckily, Joshua was on stand by to deputise at the last moment, although this did somewhat tilt the balance in our favour. Nevertheless, in ECF terms, there was not much between the teams except on Board 4, where Ben was a strong favourite. But more of that anon!

So the team which actually took to the field in this ground breaking encounter was:-

1 Mike
2 Bernard C
3 Joshua
4 Ben
5 Billy
(Teams had to play in order of their rapidplay rating)

I joined the massed throng of spectators (0) towards the end of Round 1, and was delighted to see that Billy had already won convincingly with the Black pieces over John Rayner (last seen drawing with Dave in the KO Cup Semi-Final!). But this was balanced by a dreadful loss by Joshua against Colin Green which featured the blundering of a bishop on move 7. He says it was a mouse slip, but in about 3 months of on-line club nights, he hasn't perpetrated a single one of them, so I have my doubts. We were back in front when Bernard scored a tremendous win over Paul Davies on Board 2, where he found a fantastic sequence of positive moves. No wonder Paul eventually dropped his queen under such pressure. This easily got my vote for Game of the Match.

Regrettably, though, my arrival found Ben in a rather dreadful position, and his junior opponent, Thomas Glenn, despatched him with considerable efficiency to level the scores! However, we still went into the second round with a 1 point lead after Mike defeated Tony Green with Black on top board after a truly chaotic and very complicated game. However, at the end it became obvious to me that there could only be one outcome to this chaos - Tony would lose on time. And the inevitable duly came to pass!

And so to Round 2.

Joshua made up for his disastrous showing in Round 1 with a quick win, that ended with the crushing Nf6+ winning the Black queen. Billy almost made it 2/2 on the evening, but after winning an exchange he wasn't able to finish Black off, and had to settle for a draw. Things looked distinctly dodgy for Mike on Board 1, but perhaps Tony had been unnerved by the events of game 1, as he agreed to a draw when he seemed to have a clear advantage. Something went very wrong for Bernard in the opening, and by the time I saw the position he was an exchange down and facing two connected queenside pawns. He somehow conjured up tremendous counterplay with a rook and two mighty bishops, but just when I thought he had a draw within reach he went wrong and the material advantage became too great to fight against. So the match was in the balance at 5-4 to us, but thankfully Ben made no mistake this time around and secured a dominating endgame win, finishing too many pawns up to count, and clinching a 6-4 victory for KCC.

No-one on either side scored 0/2, so the plan to try and balance the teams was pretty successful, despite our last minute enforced reshuffle.

Apart from Bruce's technological woes, I think everyone enjoyed the experience and it seemed to go pretty smoothly, for which thanks are due to Joshua and Paul Davies, who were the respective team administrators, while myself and Colin Green had rounded up the players. And thanks to Nuneaton in general for inviting us to play, and for helping us while we got familiar with the process.

There might soon be a small summer league for a few local clubs, and I would hope that we will be able to raise at least one team, and preferrably two. To that end, anyone else who would like to throw their hat into the ring for future matches should in the first instance join the Kenilworth on-line club here. (And don't forget our lichess club where we run our Thursday night club evenings every week. Contact Joshua for details if you haven't already joined.)

Saturday, 13 June 2020

You Just Kinda Wasted My Precious Time, But Don't Think Twice, It's Alright

Its now at 12 weeks (I think - I may have lost count!) since anyone was able to play chess Over The Board, and all I can say is thank goodness for the internet. Of course, online chess has its problems, especially the never absent elephant in the room, cheating, but hopefully the smart algorithms of the major platforms weed out the culprits to leave a level playing field for the rest of us who just want to play chess. And boy, do we play!? 

Thanks to Joshua, we were very quick off the mark with our very own Kenilworth online club on Lichess, which has become a regular Thursday night institution for some of us, and a more infrequent stop for plenty of others. But that still leaves another 6 days and about 20 hours per week, when we can cast our search for an opponent just a tad wider, and take on the whole world. So I thought I would take a quick peek to see just how active the 17 KCC online club members are.

Now, bear in mind that I have had to restrict the search to just the single platform of Lichess (as I don't know user names for anyone on other sites), and also that the numbers I have collected relate to life-time, not lock-down, activity. So plenty of people were already active online pre lock-down, when everyone still thought that Covid 19 was a local postcode. With that in mind, here are the activity lists for the KCC online fraternity. (Numbers accurate at mid-day, Saturday June 13th.)

We start with the Ultra-Bullet category. Which is 15 seconds per player for the entire game! Not a suitable pastime for the old timers, or even the middle aged! Which explains why Jude is way out on his own as a practitioner of this scary format with 562 games, well ahead of Paul (who is old enough to know better) on 142. The only others brave/stupid enough to even dip their toe in the Ultra-Bullet water are Matt (29 games) and Billy (11).

Moving up to the slightly slower Bullet category (typically 1 min +0, but also available as an old man's version of 2 mins + 1 sec)  we find the same two leaders, but with rankings reversed. Paul is the most active Bullet player from the KCC ranks, with 3.025 games, some way clear of Jude's 2,294. The less predictable names of Matt (1,276) and Bernard R (971) come next, followed by me (862) and Billy (362). Ben (327), Joshua (147) and Lionel (83) complete the list.

So just the 9 active Bullet-eers, but numbers start to mount when we move into the much more respectable area of Blitz (typically anything from 3 mins + 0, through to 5 mins + 5 secs). So now we need a proper list, on which we find a runaway leader:-

Matt                 5,186 (No wonder he didn't have the time to play OTB for us last season!!)
Mark                1,441
Paul                 1,330
Joshua             1,086
Lionel                789
Bernard R          766
Jude                   512
Algis                  486
Ben                    322
Billy                   123
Bernard C            30
Andy B                21

It's quite clear that neither Bernard C, nor Andy B, has yet discovered the joys of playing against the wider world. Perhaps just as well, given how it can take over your life. Isn't that right, Matt?!

Perhaps befitting the demographic of the club, it is in the Rapid category (10 mins to about 25 mins per game) that we find the widest levels of participation, with no less than 16 of the 17 KCC Online members having played at least 1 game. And if I gave you ten guesses, it's unlikely you would be able to successfully pick the man in second place!

Matt                 1,539
Roy                  1,403 (Amazing - as he didn't know the internet existed before lock-down!)
Jude                    165
Ben                     154
Bernard R           141
Joshua                  76
Mark                    65
Billy                     48
Andy B                45
Algis                    37
Bernard C            35
Lionel                  18
Paul                     14
Phil                        3
Noah                      1

Now, some club organisers would be massively affronted that someone could play 1,403 games on-line since lock-down - all at time limits which we play in the KCC online meeting every Thursday, without playing a single one of those games with his "mates". But not this one. No, I won't hear a word said against the man.  But only because I'm abusing him so loudly myself, I can't hear what anyone else is saying.

There are plenty of other time-controls/variants available on Lichess, but as I don't have anything to do with them myself, I regard them as somewhat irrelevant, but for the sake of good order, here's an aggregated assessment of activity at slow play and chess variants:-

Matt        335
Jude        102
Joshua       68
Billy          29
Ben             8
Bernard R   5
Lionel         1

And in case you are interested, the overall winner in terms of games played, is - as you'd expect since he's been first in three of the categories - Matt, with 8,365, which is almost double of his closest challenger, Paul (4,511), while the bronze medal goes to Jude (3,641).

Interesting as this all is (and it is interesting, isn't it?), what we really need to know is how much time we have all wasted, I mean spent, playing chess on-line? Well, we're in luck, because I've got those very numbers. And here they are:-

Matt                 54 Days    16 Hours
Roy                  11 Days      4 Hours
Mark                10 Days    17 Hours
Paul                  10 Days    16 Hours
Bernard R          7 Days    11 Hours
Jude                   7 Days       0 Hours
Joshua                5 Days      5 Hours
Lionel                5 Days       0 Hours
Algis                   3 Days     5 Hours
Ben                     3 Days     4 Hours
Billy                    1 Day     15 Hours
Bernard C                           18 Hours
Andy B                               15 Hours
Phil                                       1 Hour
Noah                                     1 Hour

So, Matt seems to be the biggest time-waster by far ……… but is he?? He has been a member of Lichess for over 4 years, so he's averaging something like 12 days per year playing chess on that platform. Whereas Roy has been a member for less than three months, so he's averaging close to 50 days a year on Lichess! I knew there wasn't much to do in Fen End, but that's plain ridiculous. As is the fact that Dave hasn't spent a single second playing even one game of chess since he registered with Lichess!

But leaving Dave out of this, in honour of all the precious time the rest of us have "wasted" playing the greatest game ever invented, let's finish with the incomparable Nobel Prize winner, Mr Bob Dylan. (And if you don't like the music, you can enjoy a ride on the Metropolitan Line to Northwood.) After which I'm off for a few blitz games on (just so it doesn't look as if I've wasted any more time!)

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Game of the Month, June 2020

The more perceptive amongst the KCC readership will have noticed that there hasn't been a Game of the Month for over a year, for which I tender a grovelling apology. But boy, was the wait worthwhile, as I am able to revive the series with an absolute humdinger of a game in which our second youngest member, Jude Shearsby - now having just made it into double figures, age-wise - gives an almighty beating to an American Woman Grand Master sporting a Lichess rating of around 2400.

Now, we don't know for sure who lurks behind the online moniker of Crush09, but it must surely be a reasonable guess that it might be Irina Krush - just the 7-time US women's champion and a fully fledged Grand Master to boot. That would be a truly brilliant scalp.

The game below was part of an 8 game bullet mini-match (1 minute with no increment) on Lichess between Jude and Crush09, which Jude won 4.5-3.5. Admittedly, in three of his wins he was saved by the clock - but that's the whole point of bullet, after all - if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. (Like I do!) Coming out on top over 8 games against such a strong player - whoever she was - ranks as an absolutely tremendous achievement. At the age of 10, for goodness sake!!

And there's absolutely nothing lucky about the Game of the Month, as Jude is about to deliver mate next move when the WGM throws in the towel (Tal?). And remember when you are playing through this - each player had only 60 seconds for the entire game. That needs some seriously quick brain-work, and even faster mouse skills. Right, let the massacre begin!

What a game! And by the way, did I mention that Jude is just 10 years old?! Awesome play, Jude. Absolutely awesome!

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Kenilworth online chess ratings (May 2020)

So, let's start by getting the awards themselves out the way, with a reminder that this is based solely on rated games played between club members in the month of May, with previous ratings not mattering, and everything being calculated from scratch.

Most active player

Now I know this is an award, I can calibrate the amount I play to make sure I win it every month, and so I did win, with a total of 70 inter-club games

Most points scored

A competition between the active and the good, with the active winning out on this occasion, so I also take this award, with 40.5 points scored against other club members. I would like to dedicate this award to Jude, since my cause was tremendously helped by that day when we played about 12 bullet games in a room. I lost a load of them, but I still racked up a few useful points along the way.

Overall ratings (with changes from the previous month)

Mark Page (+2)
Paul Lam (-1, provisional rating as less than 10 games played)
Phil Wood (new entrant, provisional rating as less than 10 games played)
Joshua Pink (+3)
Jude Shearsby (+1)
Bernard Rogers (+2)
Lionel Riou-Durand (-2)
Andy Baruch (-6)
Algirdas Toleikis (0)/Bernard Charneley (+1) - this pair were exactly tied on rating to 2 decimal places - I wasn't prepared to go any further
Matthew Smiglarski (+1)
Ben Graff (-7, provisional rating as less than 10 games played)

I may need to look in to the system, if Phil is coming ahead of me.

I suppose I should also show some chess, so the below is the final game of this most recent Thursday, which was one of our by now traditional hand and brand games at the end of an evening. For those not familiar, this is where you play in teams of two, with one of the team announcing which type of piece (pawn, bishop etc.) their partner has to move that turn, and the other allowed to make any legal move with one of those pieces. In this game, Mark and Bernard R were the hands (moving the pieces), whilst I think quite correctly myself and Bernard C provided the brainpower.

A couple of points to note. When I announced my piece choices for moves 2-10, my hoped for moves were, 2. f5, 3. f5, 4.b5, 5.Bg4, 6.Nf6, 7.Qb6, 8.e5, 9.e5 and 10.e5. You will notice that Mark played none of these moves. Secondly, there was a load groan of despair from my partner on move 31, when I didn't say pawn and let him play g4. I maintain the fact we played the same move 2 moves later and it won a piece is evidence of my excellent forward planning, and in no way the fact I completely missed it (just like I did on move 11 when it also worked).

As ever, the standard reminder that if anyone else would like to join us in these evenings, where you not only get scintillating chess like the above, but also reports on Mark's beer drinking, Bernard R's ever receding retirement date, and those strange moments when Bernard C goes out to clap NHS staff with his neighbours, and forgets to come back and finish his game for half an hour, you just have to get in touch. I think I have a 100% success rate with people who have actually talked to me about any problems they may have had getting involved, and the offer always remains there.