Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Coventry Online League - Week 7

Finally a great week for the club, as we managed to win both matches, including the local derby against Coventry, where our two double agents (code-named Burgess and Philby) successfully infiltrated the opposition to glorious effect. While also maintaining their cover. Until I just blew it. Oh well, nothing for it now, boys, but to come back home where you will be greeted like returning heroes!

Kenilworth B v Birmingham University

As always, the B team kicked the week off on Monday, and helped themselves to a splendid 5.5 - 2.5 win against - for the first time yet - a somewhat weaker side than the A team had faced the week before. For once Artistic Bernard got - well, almost! - the rewards that his quality of play deserved, though again it made for agonising viewing at times. Those times were the whole of Game 1 against Anna Wang, where Bernard played terrific chess to get a completely winning position (where have we heard that before?) with 3 pieces against a rook, only to suffer the same time induced wobbles that have prevented him from racking up a tremendous score on Board 1. In the end he was very relieved to escape with a draw from a position where his lone bishop and knight were confronted by White's rook and 2 connected passed pawns on h7 and g6. Even after he managed to sac the bishop for the two pawns, the resultant rook v knight ending was not a trivial draw as Black's king was stuck in the corner and White's king was very advanced. But luckily White didn't even try to win. Game 2 (see below) was much less stressful all round, as Bernard set up a mate in double quick time. Tom exchanged wins with Dan Jones on Board 2, producing a monstrous mating attack with White before hallucinating in Game 2 and ending up too much material down. An initial piece sac looked completely unsound to me, but in no time at all, the engine was screaming that he was winning easily. And then he blundered! A shame as 2-0 would have been a nice return for some dynamic attacking chess. Ben had another disaster in Game 1 against Frank Crossley dropping a piece and then getting mated - will he now heed my wise advice to ditch his ropey Black opening, which just doesn't suit his style?? At least in Game 2 he bounced back to register his first win of a season, after a nice tactic exploiting a pin that wasn't a pin won a piece. And on Board 4 Solomon continued his recent good form with two convincing wins against the splendidly named Jack Attack, winning copious amounts of material before delivering mate in each game. 

Kenilworth A v Coventry A

There can't be many sports (alright, chess isn't officially a sport, but cut me some slack here!) where Kenilworth, population 22,000, can take on and defeat Coventry, population 326,000, but chess is one, especially when our two double agents carry out their mission so successfully! Very little happened in the two games between Jude and Joshua on Board 1, except that in Game 2 Joshua missed a trick ..... and Jude most definitely didn't! Resulting in an extra piece for Jude and a solid one and a half points for us. I managed a similar score against Lionel on Board 2. He played a typical Bxb5 sac against my Sicilian, but it wasn't sound, as when he took the third pawn (Nxd6) he should have lost a second piece! But of course I missed the right move... then he went wrong and I was +11. Then I went wrong and he found a great resource in desperate time trouble...... but then he went wrong and missed his drawing chance, and ending up getting mated. Game 2 saw me build up an attack against the Black king, but I was one move slow with the winning idea, and even though I was still winning at the end according to the engine, it was very complicated and I was happy to repeat the position to secure the match victory. Meanwhile Mike stuck to the script and also notched up one and a half points against Sam Cotterill on Board 3. A Ng5 jump in Game 1 threatened a pawn and a big fork on e6 - and it couldn't be parried. Mike then won further material and took a convincing victory. Game 2 was very irregular, but Mike was always better, even though material was level, and was able to take a draw from a position of strength. So 4.5 points and match won for the good guys, but regrettably events on Board 4 suggest that one of our double agents may actually be a double-double agent! Capitalist Bernard has been stricken by disconnection issues on all season, but last week our undercover agent Philby "fixed" it for him, and he lined up to play Bava Manickam with renewed confidence. Which was totally misplaced, as he lost both games due to yet more disconnection issues! It looks like Agent Philby has been turned against us! And now we all discover that as well as love, money can't buy you a decent connection to, either. Sort it out, Bernard! The club may, at some unimaginable future stage, and after an unimaginable series of unfortunate coincidences, be so desperate that it briefly needs you again. You must be ready to answer the call!

The A team will finish up its season next week against Warwick Uni A, when a draw would be enough to guarantee us second place, albeit well adrift of runaway victors Nuneaton. The B team still have two matches to go, and after this week's triumph have clawed their way off the foot of the table to lie in 7th place. Next week its Coventry A for them, when our double agents had better deliver the goods or serious questions will be asked, followed by a final match the week after against Warwick Uni A.

Well, I promised you a game, and here it is. Artistic Bernard in beast mode!

Friday, 20 November 2020

The Worst Chess Move Ever Played

 About 18 months ago I offered up a candidate for the worst game of chess ever played, and I'm delighted to report that we now have a companion game - which thankfully doesn't involve me - which features what could be the worst move ever played. I had the pleasure and privilege of watching this game live, and I can tell you it was one of the best laughs I've had in 2020. Come to think of it, it was the only laugh I've had in 2020. Now our esteemed webmaster is a much loved member of our humble little club, and we all know that he is capable of some impressively imaginative play at times. And his competitive record for the club is unmatched and absolutely awesome. But last Wednesday evening ....... oh dear!

Joshua found himself drawn to play two rapid games (15 min + 10 secs) against none other than LDCL Chair, and KCC stalwart, Ben Graff. They were competing in Week 4 of the LDCL Individual Online Tournament (a great creation by Ben!). Now Joshua had been busy taking half point byes in two of the previous three weeks, so he really needed to chalk up a big win to give himself any chance of catching up with the front runners (who surprisingly include KCC Chair/all round legend, Capitalist Bernard!). Things seemed to be going Joshua's way in Game 1, as he was pressing very hard with the Black pieces, but Ben defended stoutly, despite considerable time pressure, and then Joshua inexplicably swapped off into a rook and pawn ending where his previously thorn like pawn on g3 proved to be a sitting duck. Ben rapidly got himself a winning position, then blew it, but Joshua, with plenty of time, was having one of those nights and missed his opportunity, losing a couple of moves later.

Which made the stakes for Game 2 even higher - and possibly made the red mist descend on the tournament's second seed, since what followed was absolutely epic. Though not in a good way. Prepare to be shocked, amused and horrified ........

I know we've all blundered into mate in 1, but this was definitely one of the very best. I'm not sure what he thought Ben's final move was for - deep defence against a future Rb1 attacking the b7 pawn?? And its not as if he was in time trouble. Just one of those moments of pure chess blindness (leading to a pure mate!). But ghoulishly enjoyable for us neutrals - and Ben! Though doubtless it'll be our turn to have that Homer moment next time.

What we can safely say after that game is that with 3.5/8, Joshua will probably not be winning this event, but our other brave lads - Bernard (6.5); Ben (5.5) and Solomon (4.5) - are all in the running for outright or grading honours. Good luck chaps - and thanks for brightening up my Wednesday evenings with some highly entertaining chess.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Coventry Online League - Week 6

It seems we just can't break the cycle - so it was, yet again, one win and one loss for our teams this week, but it was very nearly so much better than that.

Kenilworth B v Nuneaton A

A tough task for our plucky lads, against the League leaders, who came into the match sporting a 100% record and fresh from an absolute whooping of our A team the week before. But boy, did they get a fright in this match. With Artistic Bernard rotated to the subs bench, Tom took over on Board 1, and fared considerably better against Colin Green than I had managed with two draws. He had to suffer slightly in Game 1 with Black, but always seemed to be holding, while in Game 2 Colin was quite happy to repeat moves for an early draw, despite the 400 points rating difference, Which in ECF terms is actually just 2!! Ben's woes continued on Board 2 when he went down in the ending in Game 1 to Tony Green, after being on the back foot the entire game with White. But at least he changed his opening approach! Game 2 could have gone the same way, as he entered an opposite bishops ending a pawn down, but with White having passed a and h pawns. He seemed to be digging in for a tough defence, when he played one of the worst moves ever seen, which allowed Tony to simply queen his a pawn. But bizarrely he neglected to just march the pawn to a8, and with Ben finding some good moves after this reprieve he finally held the draw with some careful play when left with just a bishop against two connected passers. So Ben is on the scoreboard for the season. It's onwards and upwards from here, I hope! Dave's impressive start to the season unfortunately came to a juddering halt on Board 3, where he went down 2-0 against Paul Davies, who had done the same to Mike the week before. In Game 1 bad things happened to Black on the f7 square, while Game 2 was very grizzly as a French Defence saw Black get connected passed pawns to d3 and e3. Ouch! But 4.5-1.5 to Nuneaton ended up as a narrow 4.5-3.5 final victory, as Will produced a tour de force on Board 4 to score a 2-0 victory over fellow junior Thomas Glenn. Game 1 did not start well, as Will tried the Hopelessly Unsound Double Pawn Gambit against Black's French Defence. (Of course, his opening play could just have been a terrible mistake!) But making the best of a bad job, Will got compensation from a rook on the 7th (though it should probably have been trapped and won!) and then used a nice pinning combo to win a piece, followed by mate from a rook and light squared bishop. As Black in Game 2, Will was always slightly better and then used a nice pinning combo to win a piece followed, after neutralising some slightly worrying advanced pawns, by mate from a rook and light squared bishop! So coincidental finishes after 2 very different games. But well done Will, for an excellent evening's work.

Kenilworth A v University of Birmingham

First surprise of the night was discovering that I had been displaced from Board 1 by Jude whose inexorable rise up the rating list was to gather further pace during the evening! He found himself up against former - and possibly future - Rugby Board 1, Jamie Kearney, and they had a rare old set to in Game 1. But Jude always seemed to have the tactics under control, and his queenside attack eventually proved stronger than White's kingside assault. Good fighting chess from both players, but the point went to Jude. As it did in Game 2 where he won a piece in 10 moves, upon which Jamie instantly resigned. My indifferent form reached a new low on Board 2, as I lost Game 1 against Anna Wang from what was a very good position with an extra pawn. Getting into severe time trouble, I went to pieces and started to shed material with every move. Ugh! Game 2 at least enabled me to equalise the score, from a game where I got an edge from the opening, lost it for a move or two, but then got back on track in the ending, eventually shepherding a passed pawn home in a rook and opposite bishops ending. Mike should have had a 2-0 evening against Dan Jones on Board 3, but blundered back one of his two extra pieces and then found that the remaining one was actually worse than White's pawns. A swift and timely draw offer thankfully prevented total meltdown. Game 2 followed a similar pattern, as Mike played powerfully to win lots of material, and this time there was no escape for Dan. Bernard R was back in the team on Board 4 (sporting a rapid rating of under 900!) but unbelievably managed to repeat his earlier experience and get timed out for disconnection. At least he managed more than the 0 moves of his earlier effort, and, with White, was a comfortable pawn up this time when the very unsatisfactory platform threw him out. Finally, though, his luck turned in Game 2, as he managed to stay connected for long enough to win a messy, but ultimately convincing game (despite missing a very obvious mate in 4!) against Birmingham Uni captain, Frank Crossley - who I recently discovered is the godson of a very good friend of mine! Small world. eh? So, a final score of 5.5-2.5 to us, including a 4-0 clean sweep of Round 2. Not bad after we started by going behind 0-2!

And so on to Week 7 when the B team are first up against Birmingham Uni on Monday, while the A team play against Coventry A the following day. It will be interesting to see which of the double agents (on both sides!) turn out for this potentially treachery laden encounter!

But we can't go this week without a game. And when someone wins in 10 moves, there's not much doubt which one it's going to be! Take it away, Jude!

Friday, 13 November 2020

1st KCC Online Arena Tournament

So last night, ten hardy souls - spread far and wide from Bishop's Tachbrook to Lithuania - sat in front of their computer screens for two hours, and played each other to a standstill at rapid chess (10 mins + 5 secs) in the first ever KCC Online Arena Tournament. At the end of it all, what can I say? ........ except that I won! With a 100% record - as I skilfully prolonged my last game against Jude until it was past the tournament finishing time, so that my abject loss didn't show up in the results! Joining me on the podium were Jude and Ben, while there is a special mention for Algis, who registered the largest rating point gain during the event (+42 if memory serves me right, pipping Solomon by a single point!).

Most noticeable is the considerable variation in the number of games played, with the two Bernards at the extremes. Neither of them quite seemed to get the balance absolutely right. More games theoretically increases your chances of scoring more points, but you do also have to win or draw the odd game for this approach to work! The best way of speeding up the games is to go Berserk, which halves your time (and cancels your increment) but gives you an extra point if you win. But the best strategy of all is to just keep winning, as after you win two in a row you score double points in all following games until you fail to win. Apart from me, though, only Ben was able to get a successful streak going. My Berserk rate was 0%, but for the tournament as a whole it was 22%, which shows what a lot of Berserkers we must have in the club. 

And to end, how about this amusing miniature?!

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Jude Takes on the World!

Fantastic news for KCC!

The remarkable Jude Shearsby has been selected to play as England's sole representative in the World U-10 Online Rapid Championships in December. Jude faces an initial 7 Round Continental Qualifier (10 mins + 3 secs) against the cream of Europe's junior chess players. There are just 3 places up for grabs in the Final 16 Knockout Tournament (15 mins + 10 secs), where the European qualifiers will be joined by another 3 from each of Africa, Asia and the Americas, plus the top four rated U-10s from the October FIDE list.

Jude is already a veteran of over the board European Age Group Championships in Latvia and Slovakia, and now joins his fellow KCC mighty atom, Billy, in participating at World level. 

Good luck Jude, from everyone at KCC. To say we are proud of you is an understatement!

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Coventry Online League - Week 5

 Our now traditional one win, one loss result again this week - but, and prepare for a shock, this time it was the B team who triumphed while the A team went down in flames.

Kenilworth B v Shirley A

A tremendous triumph for our brave lads, picking up their first points of the season against Shirley A, complete - as predicted here! - with their two 190 players. Bernard C finally got a slight change of fortune on Board 1 against Don Mason, when Don missed a forced mate and then a perpetual, to leave Bernard up a piece for a couple of pawns. Time was short and Bernard took a draw, though my engine says he was winning. But after recent experiences, a wholly understandable decision. Game 2 went less well, as Don won a double rook ending a pawn up. Tom faced Chun Chui on Board 2 and was perhaps relieved to come away with two draws. In Game 1 he just about always had enough activity for his pawn deficit to hold the balance, but Game 2 looked very dodgy as he was 2 pawns down in another double rook ending. Thankfully, though, doubled rooks on the seventh enabled him to win one pawn back and simplify to R and 2 v R and 3, all on one side, which he held reasonably comfortably. Though not until his opponent had played 50 moves of R v R with no pawns left. Dave continued his good form, despite an elevation to Board 3, where he faced Iain Galloway, the second of Shirley's 190 graded players. With any luck he would have had 2/2, but after playing superbly in Game 1 with White to reach a winning position, he imploded in time trouble and was mated. Game 2 was a tough struggle, as Iain threw his kingside pawns up the board menacingly. But Dave defended well and had repelled the direct assault when White blundered a piece, and then found that the lack of any pawns around his king meant that mate could not be stopped. Now, if you've been counting, you'll realise that so far we are trailing by 2.5-3.5, so where does this famous win come from?? Well, it comes from Board 4, where Solomon enjoyed the best day of his very brief KCC career, by beating Arnold Peace 2-0. Game 1 was probably heading for a draw, when Solomon was gifted a whole piece, which he no doubt gleefully accepted, but the real heroics occurred in Game 2, where, quite simply, Solomon played a near flawless opening and middle game as he seemingly demonstrated that the Ruy Lopez is a forced win for White! It was very impressive stuff, though he did slightly spoil his immortal game near the end, but as he was at least a rook up at the time, this didn't matter. No way can this guy really be graded 106!!

Kenilworth A v Nuneaton A

A top of the table clash, but rather one sided, as far as the result was concerned, since we crashed and burned by the score of 2-6. I didn't set a good example on Board 1 against League Chairman Colin Green. I was supposedly better on the Black side of a Closed Sicilian, but the problem  with this opening is that White is aiming at the Black king, and Black is aiming at the White queenside, which is rather less important! Sure enough, Colin found a way through to my king and I had to give up a pawn. I was close to being lost, but then I got some counterplay and for no reason Colin panicked and gave up his queen for a rook and piece. I immediately missed a move to trap a whole rook for nothing, but I was still winning as my queen was very strong. Fritz says I was +11, but short of time I stupidly allowed myself to be bluffed into swapping my passed e pawn - which was about to win the game - for White's passed h pawn, which was going nowhere and Colin then set up a fortress that I couldn't breach. In Game 2 I went wrong in the opening (and in the middle game!) and Colin played an excellent game, squeezing me to death before a nice final combo to queen a pawn. Thankfully, Jude was restored to the team on Board 2, and scored our only victory of the evening as he beat Tony Green (no relation!) 1.5-0.5. Game 1 was very eventful. After much toing and froing, Tony suddenly started winning Jude's pawns, but then allowed Jude to double rooks on the 7th rank and Jude must have been totally winning. But an unexpected Bg8 retreat by Tony trapped a White rook on h7 and won the exchange. The ending of RB v RR with one pawn each looked very difficult for Jude, but after trying for a few moves, Tony surprisingly took a draw. Game 2 was a bit of a mind blower, and beyond my understanding. I thought Jude was lost from the opening, but the computer disagrees totally with that assessment, which shows what I know. Jude played superbly with limited space to take complete control and Tony resigned when faced with serious material loss. A remarkable game by Jude. But there the good news, and points, end. Our 100% performer Mike, went down 2-0 to Paul Davies on Board 3, despite good positions in both. Game 2, though, did see an excellent exchange sac by Paul and domination of Mike's extra rook by the Black minor pieces. Billy also went down 2-0 to Nuneaton's junior, Thomas Glenn. In Game 1 he was better from the opening and pressing in a rook and opposite bishop ending, when he missed a deadly attack against his g2 pawn, which won a piece and the game. But Game 2 was a bit of a disaster as Billy's queenside castled king got a real going over. 

Next week its KCC A v Birmingham Uni, who I suspect we have never played before, and KCC B v Nuneaton A. Can our B team manage more heroics and derail the runaway Nuneaton train to keep the title race open? Tune in on next Monday and Tuesday at 19.30 to follow the games (though only if you are friends with the KCC players), or else wait for my report which will hopefully be online on Wednesday.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Black to Play and .......... ?

Mike has submitted an interesting moment from a recent Coventry Online League match between Kenilworth A and Warwick University B, which was the setting for a real comedy of errors.

Let's not be too harsh. Strange things happen in the world of online chess. And, after all, it is a difficult game!

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Coventry Online League - Week 4

Another week, another round of fixtures, despite the best efforts of to frustrate our efforts by having different clock timings for match start times on different parts of their site. But we are not that easily deterred!

Kenilworth B v Sutton Coldfield

The B team were unlucky to come up against a stronger Sutton team than that which the A team faced last week. It is getting to be a painful experience spectating at B team matches, especially when watching Artistic Bernard's games. This week he was +7 straight out of the opening as his opponent, the Sutton captain Neil Owen, tried a manic hack attack with Black (pure poetry from me there!) that Bernard was about 1 move away from completely refuting. Until he inexplicably collapsed and lost horribly. Game 2 was tame by comparison, but after Bernard returned a sacrificed piece rather than give up 3 pawns to keep it, he was always in a bad position, and an unfortunate second loss occurred. Ben also went down 0-2 again, to John Mildenhall. I don't know who Ben bought his opening systems from, but he should really ask for his money back, as they are not doing him any favours. He needs to get back to the style that saw him play the game of the season against Neil Clarke a couple of years back! Solomon rather unluckily found himself on Board 3 against the 183 graded Mircea Mesesan. He was doing well in both games according to the online engine, but the rating difference - and the clock - eventually told, and it was another 2-0 to Sutton. For the second week running, the whitewash was averted by Dave, who from his lowly position on bottom board, ran up another 2-0 victory of his own. Game 1 with Black was slightly uncomfortable at times, but Game 2 was a bit of a rout that ended in a swift mate. Thanks to the rating system finally starting to catch up with his playing strength, he won't be on Board 4 any more!

Kenilworth A v Shirley & Wythall A

More drama here, as Tom and Frank Jiminez simply disappeared from the screens as the match started, so that we only got to play over 3 boards! I think this website is not totally fit for purpose. If only Lichess would develop a match system we could all happily leave and never have to go back. Shirley were fortunately missing one of their two 190 players, Iain Galloway ..... but on the evidence of previous matches, I'd be amazed if he didn't turnout against our B team next week!

Mike chalked up his fourth consecutive 2-0 victory on Board 3, against Arnold Peace. Game 1 was over very quickly when a queen check won a whole Black rook, but Game 2 was a much closer affair, for much of which a draw looked the most likely outcome, but Mike's perseverance eventually led to the win of material. Andy was similarly efficient on Board 2, playing an excellent game with Black against Gordon Christie to win very convincingly. Game 2 was in the balance for  along way, and it may well be that Andy should have lost material at one point, but Gordon missed his chance and Andy eventually won in a rook ending. I got two draws against Don Mason on top board (yes, I have eventually made it there - but only just). Game 1 was rather unexciting after I missed my chance for an advantage by forgetting my opening prep from earlier the same day! Game 2 was far too exciting, and I was totally lost for virtually all of it. I desperately sacked an exchange in the vague hope that I might be able to save the ending where we only had 2 pawns each. This should have been lost, but short of time, Don gave back the exchange thinking he was winning my pawns, but by a huge stroke of luck he wasn't!

This win should keep us close to the top of the Division 1 table, and next week we are up against Nuneaton A who have 100% so far. Time for the manager to work his team selection magic. Regrettably the B team are yet to collect any points, but fingers crossed that another squad shake-up will get them off the mark against Shirley A.