Monday, 31 May 2021

The Kenilworth Chess Club Derby - Runners and Riders

Well, better late than never is all I can say. Two years ago, we had the inaugural/final running of the KCC Grand National (won by Ben ahead of Matt and Tony) and I did threaten everyone that this would be followed by the KCC Derby. But I forgot. Until now!

The real Derby is set for 16.30 next Saturday (June 5th) at Epsom, but our event will be run entirely in my imagination at some unspecified time between now and who knows when! The format is the same as for the Grand National. Every KCC member is represented by a real horse (not necessarily still alive and kicking!) that participated in flat races, with their quality ranging from the truly abysmal to superstars. Its the luck of the draw which type you share a name or connection with.

There are a couple of non-runners compared to the 2019 KCC Grand National, but we also have some extra starters, and so a field of 31 (2 more than the 2019 race) will line up in their quest to win the Blue Riband of the turf.





Algis Toleikis



Andrew Paterson


Baruch Abba

Andy Baruch



Andy Ward



Ben Graff


Glorious Artist

Bernard Charnley



Bernard Rogers


Billy The Kid

Billy Fellowes


The Flying Dutchman

Bruce Holland


Restless Carl

Carl Pickering



Chris Aldridge


Ed de Gas

Ed Goodwin



John Ambler


In the Pink

Joshua Pink



Jude Shearsby


Allez France

Lionel Riou-Durand


Mark of Esteem

Mark Page


Mighty Matt

Matt Smiglarski



Mike Donnelly


Doctor Devious

Nick Mottram


Noah's Dream

Noah Seymour


Randy Paul

Paul Lam


Tap on Wood

Phil Wood


Hot Rod

Rod Webb


Winker Watson

Roy Watson


Chorister Choir

Solomon Hayes


Payne Relief

Steve Payne


The Stuart Line

Stuart Blaiklock


King's Theatre

Tony King


Cape Vincent

Vincent Xia


Mighty Morris

Will Morris

I regret to report several instances of poor sportsmanship already, with three horses disqualified pre-race. Solomon wanted to be represented by the great Sadler's Wells (winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas and 14 times champion sire in Britain & Ireland), but this has been disallowed as he hasn't actually moved to Wells yet. Unlucky! Joshua has also been in conflict with the judge (me) demanding that Rail Link (winner of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe) should represent him, but as he has been in lockdown for over a year and not commuting between Kenilworth and Manchester to play for us, I've had to rule him out as well. Again, unlucky! That accursed pandemic just hasn't been kind to some people. And finally, Stuart's wish to be represented by Mr Bojangles was also disallowed on the grounds that this is a race for horses, not Labradoodles or similar. I like to think the post-race drugs test would have spotted he was a dog, anyway.

The jockeys have been legged up; the horses are at the start; and the crowd (Sid and Doris Bonkers) is in a frenzy of excitement. May the best horse/man win! (To be continued.)

Sunday, 16 May 2021

KCC Road Trips - Number 2 - NE USA

Time for our second journey around places with the names of KCC members, and where else would we go than the USA, the spiritual home of the road trip? But its a mighty big country, and there's no way we can polish this off in a single bite - so this will take two or three separate trips. The first is going to focus on the North East of the country, where in just 26 hours we can do a circuit of 1,417 miles and take in no less than 7 eponymous KCC stops. We won't quite "cover all the North East states", but we'll get close enough to justify including this superb song by The Boss.

There's really no place else to start than Kenilworth, New Jersey. A Borough of just 8,000 people it is home to the other Kenilworth Chess Club and was once closely associated with Sam "The Plumber" DeCavalcante. Who wasn't really a plumber. But I don't think we should dwell on that fact, do you?

Given we have a long journey to make, its a bit of a surprise that our first stop comes up after just 20 miles/26 minutes, when we reach Paterson, NJ. This is a big place at close to 150,000 inhabitants, and can boast comedy/film legend Lou Costello amongst its famous sons. Beat poet Allen Ginsburg lived here as did David Prater, half of the soul duo Sam and Dave, and boxer Ruben Carter, whose wrongful conviction for triple murder inspired Bob Dylan's 1975 epic song, "Hurricane", and the 1999 movie of the same name, with Denzel Washington in the title role.

Now the miles start clocking up, as its a 3 hr 8 minute drive (165 miles) to our next stop in Morris, New York, a small town of about 1,800 people in Otsego County. Far from being named after our own Will, the town remembers General Jacob Morris, son of Lewis, one of the signatories of the US Declaration of Independence. Wikipedia lists five notable former residents, but as I've never heard of any of them, we'll continue our journey, as its another 3 hrs 6 mins and 191 miles to Ward, NY.

This is the most westerly stop on our trip, but with a population of only 350 or so, there's not a lot to detain us here (sorry, Andy!) and we'll head straight out of town and turn north towards Watson. This is a journey of 3 hrs 50 mins/218 miles, but we're still in New York state. Well, I did mention this is a big country, didn't I!? Despite dwarfing Ward, with a population of almost 2,000, there's again nothing special to record here, so now its a case of sorry, Roy and on to the next stop.

Only 50 minutes/30 miles and we are in the similarly sized Webb, NY. (What is it with all these W's??) Named after a minor railway baron (we're not talking Cornelius Vanderbilt here!) rather than our own Rod, the town also pays passing reference to other KCC members - Solomon is remembered by the hamlet of Big Moose, and Bernard R by Bald Mountain.

Right, you'd better settle down for a long drive now, as we have to traverse a whole state (Vermont) to reach Phillips, Maine which takes us 7 hrs 40 mins/359 miles. Where, in the words of Richard Ayoade, "We're here. But should we have come?" Wikipedia lists 8 notable people - very impressive for a place that currently boasts only 1,000 inhabitants, but ....... well, you hardly need me to finish the sentence. See above.

This is the most northerly point of our trip, and now we head south, south, south for 5 hrs 38 minutes/331 miles (passing through New Hampshire and across Massachusetts) to reach Seymour, Connecticut - thankfully a town of more substance than every where we've been since Paterson. Named after the 36th state Governor rather than our Noah, Seymour is home to 16,500 people, but despite its size, its the same story regarding notable people, I'm afraid! Intriguingly, though, there is a charity here called Seymour Pink. Who'd have ever imagined that?  We could have caught a train here from Grand Central Station, New York (changing at Bridgeport) which would have taken just 2 hrs 45 minutes, but that would have meant missing out on Morris, Ward, Watson, Webb and Phillips which would have been a shame. Or not, as the case may be.

But now its, "Home, James", with a 1 hr 48 mins/105 miles dash back to Kenilworth.

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? So much so, that we'll do something very similar when the US road trips continue in episode 3. So if you haven't had a mention yet, be patient. There's a lot of very small places in the USA and maybe one of them has your name on it!

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

By the Way, We've Won Another Cup!

I almost forgot to mention it, but I am pleased to announce that we have won another Cup. Sort of. Well, half of a Cup, anyway.

When the 2019-20 season was suspended, never to be resumed, we had reached the Final of the Coventry League KO Cup. After overcoming the handicap to beat Rugby C (Div 2) and Nuneaton D (Div 3) with a 100% score, in Rounds 1 and 2, we then saw off Nuneaton B (Div 2), conceding just a single draw over the board. We were due to meet Rugby B (Div 2) in the Final, but with this proving impossible due to the pandemic, the League Committee decided earlier this year that the trophy should be shared by the two finalists.

I guess we'll settle for that. Even though we would have won the Final, of course!!

Sorry for not reporting this earlier, but I've just been so busy.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

KCC Online Grand Prix - Round 7 - Persistence Rewarded

The penultimate event in the seemingly endless KCC Online Grand Prix, saw May's event (90 minutes of 2 mins + 1 sec Bullet) go the way of Joshua, who edged home in a thrilling and totally chaotic finish. After finishing second twice and third three times, this was, it could be argued, a deserved success - for persistence, if nothing else.

The event was rather distorted by some strange connection/disconnection issues which saw some people lose games they didn't even know they were playing in, and others simply go offline at the wrong moment. Josh and Bernard R seemed the worst affected, while those of us who pay our phone/broadband bills on time, remained blissfully connected for the whole event. Maybe there is a moral in there somewhere?

Bernard R came out the blocks like a man on a mission, winning his first 5 games, but he was seemingly badly derailed by the onset of connection problems, losing 6 of his next 8 games and never getting on a winning streak again. Josh then took over and at one point seven consecutive wins propelled him into a massive lead. Then the jitters set in for him, too, but despite 3 losses in a row, he just kept enough composure to stagger across the line in first place. But at the end he had only two points to spare over yours truly, who committed the cardinal sin of turning down a draw offer from Ben, completely forgetting that when the clock ran out, the game would score no points for either player. When I remembered a few moments later and offered a draw to Ben, he was in such a state of concentration that he never noticed. A draw would have got me 2 points, as I was on a Streak, and so into a tie for first place, where I suspect my TPR (nearly 200 points higher than Josh) would have seen me on the top step of the podium.

Five points back in third place was Jude, who failed to perform up to pre-tournament favouritism and to his remarkable Bullet rating of 2400+. His insistence on Berserking seemed like a crucial strategic error to me, and despite playing more games than anyone else, he never got onto a Streak, which - with its double points - is far more important to my mind. A TPR of just 1663 was far, far removed from Jude's real/usual Bullet strength.

Ben had a late tournament surge to just edge Batboy Bernard out of 4th place on tie break. Solomon, Algis and Matt completed the 8 strong field, and everyone scored at least 3 wins, so no one left empty handed.

Heading into the last event of the Grand Prix, I slightly increased my lead to 15 points, but Joshua's win puts him only 5 points further back. The baying of the KCC mob for a double points event to end proceedings, riding roughshod over my self-appointed role as Rules Supremo, means he has a real chance of claiming the Grand Prix title in June, when there will be a fierce three way battle for glory.

Monday, 3 May 2021

KCC Road Trips - Number 1 - England

So first there was the Walking Tour of all the premises ever used by KCC for matches and club nights (see post dated May 12, 2020), but now its time to expand the geographic reach and ambition of this website. So how about a series of articles that link all the places which share a name with KCC members, past and present? For no purpose other than to amuse me on a wet Bank Holiday Monday after what seems like 10 years in lockdown. Besides, who doesn't like a nice drive in the country?

First stop from Kenilworth (after 29 miles/45 minutes) is the Staffordshire town of Aldridge - though technically it is now part of Walsall, and so in the West Midlands. Besides being named after our revered former Chairman - and lately D team skipper - Chris, the town (population of around 27,000) is famous for ..... well nothing too dramatic it appears. Multiple paralympic Gold medallist Ellie Simmonds went to school here, as did Colin Charvis, captain of Wales at Rugby Union. But that's about all I've got!

It's back onto the M6 now, and we continue heading North, and after 67 miles/1 hr 30 minutes we arrive at Mottram St Andrew in a very affluent part of Cheshire. A prominent former resident of this small village (population 493) was the inimitable Mario Balotelli, whose home here was the site of an unfortunate firework incident! I'm sure its a much duller, though possibly safer, place without him. Remarkably, though, this is not the only place named after our long standing club doctor, as in another 32 minutes (22 miles) we find ourselves entering Mottram in Longdendale. This village is now part of Tameside (Greater Manchester) and is seemingly in dire need of a by-pass! It was the home of LS Lowry for some 28 years up to his death in 1976, and he is commemorated by a memorial in the village.

Well that's quite enough Mottrams, I think, as we have a long journey ahead of us now. (103 miles and 1 hour 55 minutes will bring us to Pickering, a North Yorkshire market town of some 6,800 people, boasting a splendid castle (Snap!) and a heritage steam railway. A controversial choice, I know, given Carl's abandonment of KCC and his homeland in search of career gold in the Far West of the good ol' USA. But he was a club stalwart and Board 1 for a number of years, and is a former winner of the LDCL Blitz Championship. I could mention the only other KCC player to have annexed this title, but modesty forbids.

We now turn south and face another long drive (149 miles/2 hrs 43 mins), but its worth it, as this brings us to the Leicestershire village of Shearsby. The population at the 2011 census was just 240, but it looks a nice place and as well as honouring the mighty Jude, the village pub also has a chess connection, presumably having been named after GM Murray Chandler! It has an annual beer festival in July, and if it wasn't in such an inaccessible place I would have suggested a club outing!

After another 96 miles (1 hr 49 mins) the M1 and M25 take us to Hayes, in the London Borough of Hillingdon. (Another controversial selection, but despite never meeting any other member of KCC, Solomon has become an online stalwart over the last 12 months, so fully merits his inclusion in my opinion. Which, after all, is the only one that matters here!) We are in the big time now, as the 2011 population was a massive 83,564 - making it almost as big as Nuneaton. Yes, really - that big! Hayes is best known as the home of EMI, and it was here that the Beatles records were pressed. It is also the site of the UK Head Offices of Heinz, United Biscuits and Fujitsu, and notable former residents include William Byrd (the Father of English music, and someone whose works I bet Solomon has sung!) and George Orwell. Other famous folk to have either been born in Hayes, or been brought up there, include Olympic gold medal winning boxer Chris Finnegan, Bond girl Jane Seymour, Barry Foster (Van der Valk)  and BBC Director General Greg Dyke. But football provides its greatest claims to fame. Glenn Hoddle was born here; Ray Wilkins grew up here, and both Les Ferdinand and the great Cyrille Regis played for Hayes FC before they hit the big time. So basically, we've got a lot to thank Solomon's eponymous town for!

But maybe he's pushing his luck a bit, since after a further 49 miles (1 hr 7 mins) we find ourselves in ...... Hayes! Again! This time in the London Borough of Bromley, which is chiefly famous for being the long term home of my brother. Oh, and the birthplace of Pitt the Elder and Pitt the Younger, I suppose.

That's more than enough from Solomon, I think, so we should press on to the last stop on our England Road Trip. And its a bit of an anti-climax I'm afraid, because after 77 miles and 1 hr 34 mins we arrive at Walmer, in Kent. Now if you're thinking that there has never been a KCC member called Walmer, I'd have to agree with you, but regrettably 32, The Beach, the home of the Goodwin Sands Conservation Trust is the closest we can get (without getting wet!) to the treacherous sandbanks located 6 miles offshore, which were obviously named after our past and now present member, Ed. To spare Ed from unjustified criticism, I should probably draw a veil over the fact that more than 2,000 ships have foundered on this maritime danger spot. I should have, but I didn't.

All that remains now is 185 miles, and 3 hrs 18 mins later we are back home, weary but safe and sound, in Kenilworth, having completed our KCC England Road Trip of 768 miles in just 15 hours 13 minutes. Plus "comfort stops", I guess. A pretty long journey - but nothing compared to what's in store for us when the KCC Road Trip goes international in the next episode! So if you didn't get a mention this time around, don't despair just yet, as in addition to some old friends, we'll meet plenty of new ones along the way.