Thursday, 28 October 2021


No, not on the board, but off it! There was an organisational meltdown by Warwick Uni this week, as we took on their B team in our second Coventry League Division 1 match of the season. Having been given a dispensation to drop the incremental time limit, because they supposedly had to vacate the venue by 10.30 prompt, the Uni B team managed to delay the start of our match by 20 minutes. But when the final game eventually finished - at around 10.45 - no one had tried to kick us out, so we could have played with an increment anyway. Except that we couldn't, because only one digital clock was available when we got off to our belated start! So three far from pristine analogue clocks had to be used. That shiny digital clocks then turned up about 5 minutes later only rubbed salt into the wound. And there were no score sheets available, either. Though scraps of paper were kindly provided.

Anyone hoping to see the first ever usage of this word here, will have to be disappointed, I'm afraid, as it has failed the KCC Acceptability Test. Well, we do have our younger readers to think about! But if you are determined to explore further you won't have much trouble finding the clip on YouTube. Just don't play it at work. Or at school. Or with other people in the room!

Thankfully things proceeded more smoothly on the board - at least for us. Andrew, playing his first ever Coventry League game for Kenilworth, continued his 100% start to the KCC season with a very convincing refutation on Board 1 of Black's optimistic opening set up. The way he dismantled the Black position was almost surgical - in the same way that Jack the Ripper's methods were! Ben finished next, chalking up the full point on Board 4 after a very expansive piece of play by his opponent who advanced his pawns to h4, g4, f4 and e5 - leaving rather a lot of space in behind them. When Ben was allowed to open a kingside file, the White position collapsed.

I continued the good work by winning a rather dull game on Board 2 - no sarcastic comments, please. After equalising from the opening, I managed to swap most of the pieces off and win a pawn. In a double rook ending I then won another pawn, and eventually I was able to get my queenside connected passers rolling to victory. For much of the evening it looked like Mike would win on Board 3 to complete a clean sweep, but despite him pressing hard, his opponent stood firm, and when Mike finally won a pawn it was at a cost of disco-ordinating his pieces. Even so, getting a piece trapped in the middle of the board was hardly forced, but when it happened he quickly offered a draw which turned out to be the best move of the game. His opponent was very low on time - yes, even lower than Mike - and with no increment (am I the only won noticing the irony, here?) he decided he had no alternative but to accept.

That makes it 2/2 so far, but the two Division 1 heavyweights, University A and Nuneaton A now await us, so that perfect record is not likely to continue much longer!

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Odds and Sods

A good name for a post about KCC, don't you think? In fact. so good I've almost certainly used it before. But so what? If it was originality you were after, you'd hardly be visiting this site, would you?

As I'm writing this, we've been back in OTB action for just over 6 weeks, and more or less everything has been going swimmingly, results wise. All 3 Cup teams have progressed to the semi-finals, while the A and C teams are on 100% league scores, and the D team has drawn its only game so far. The B team are obviously in deep water, mixing it with a teams in Division 1, but having already scalped Banbury A, and been moral victors over Olton A (did anyone hear a mobile phone ring?), Ben's lads can also be well proud of their performances to date. And our Coventry League team is - for the moment - on 1/1. But don't anyone think this over the board success has been achieved easily. It took considerable strategical and logistical planning to put the club in such a healthy situation - as evidenced by this exclusive, and hitherto top secret, photo of the KCC Planning Summit which was held during the summer, and where the season's strategy was formulated by the club's greatest brains. We decided to call our 2021-22 plan, "Operation Barbarossa." What could possibly go wrong?

It's a miracle we've even managed to get any players to the board on this evidence! Presumably, our success must be down to the KCC mega-brain who - for security reasons - does not appear in this photo.

Due to pandemic related quirks, I now find myself in proud possession - on the club's behalf, of course - of both the Leamington League Division 1 and KO Cup trophies. The last time they both adorned my sideboard (poetic licence - I don't actually have a sideboard) was in the glorious season of 2013-14 when, superbly led by Paul on top board, we did the double. Now we (by which I really mean I) have the two trophies again - but without doing the double at all! We won the KO Cup in 2018-19, and I still have it - the 2019-20 season competition was abandoned at the semi-final stage (I am confident we would have won it anyway!) and 2020-21 was a complete washout due to Covid. By contrast, we were awarded the Division 1 title for 2019-20 on a points per game basis, when play was stopped by the first lock-down. Anyway, here they both are, with the KO Cup looking especially resplendent having just been giving a long overdue clean by yours truly!

In fact, somewhere there's a third trophy we should have, as the C team won Division 2 in 2019-20. And in fact maybe we do already have it, as the B team won it in 2018-19!! 

You'll probably have gathered by now, that the sole reason for this post is for me to use up some photos I've taken in recent months. So while I'm at it, and a propos of absolutely nothing else, here is this year's must-have fashion accessory for any self respecting chess player. Get your significant other to treat you for Christmas, or even put your hand in your own pocket and do the decent thing! Either way, make sure you mention it in your letter to Santa.

The Immortal Game, as modelled by an Immortal Body!

Well, there's only one way to finish up this meandering, and that's obviously by presenting the Immortal Game itself. Observant readers will have noticed that we have had to switch to another player to feature games here, due to technical factors beyond my understanding. Please refer to the Webmaster if by some remote chance you want more information!

In the final position Black is a mere 21 points to the good, materially speaking, but if I had to choose, I think I'd pick White! A truly awesome game. Certainly deserving to be remembered by a sweat-shirt

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

I'm Nervous - It's All Going Too Well

A third Leamington League Division 1 match for the A team, and a third convincing vicdtory, as we followed up our earlier KO Cup win over Shirley with a 3-1 league win. For once, I stuck to the adage of "never change a winning team" by keeping the same 4 players that had won at Banbury in the previous match.

Inevitably, Joshua finished first, beating Dave Thomas with Black on Board 3 from what looked a very dubious position to me, right out of the opening. This, though, is par for the course, as no normal spectator (and I count myself as one of them!) has any chance of ever knowing what is going on in Joshua's games. So doubtless it was all good stuff really - at least in the parallel universe that is Joshworld!

The second game to finish was Andrew's very exciting encounter with Iain Galloway on Board 2. Our man took his season's record to 4/4 with another terrific game. Iain threw the kitchen sink at Andrew's king, though in the process his own monarch looked similarly compromised. At one point I thought Black had a perpetual, but apparently he never did, and when the smoke cleared Andrew had another win. Maybe I should take a year off playing chess if this is what it does to your results!

The last two games went the full distance and finished almost simultaneously. On Board 1, I  eventually found a way to make my extra pawn count against Phil Purcell in a rook and opposite bishop ending, though for many moves it was very hard going. Unfortunately, Jude couldn't complete the clean sweep on Board 4 and rather unexpectedly went down against Gordon Christie, who understandably looked like Christmas had come early at the end of the game. I would have felt the same! I think Jude may have been feeling the after effects of a terrific effort at the Birmingham Rapidplay the day before, when he had 7 very tough pairings, but notched up some terrific results in the process.

This latest victory leaves us in splendid isolation at the top of the table, and remarkably we are the only team with a positive board difference! It's clearly going well. Too well. Something's bound to go wrong!

Thursday, 14 October 2021

David Beats Goliath ...... Again

The Coventry League got off to a somewhat belated start this week, when joint defending Division 1 champions, Coventry A, breezed into our small town (population c25,000) only to be sent back to their teeming metropolis (population c325,000) on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline.

There was, though, quite a difference between the Coventry team which won the title in 2019-20 and the team which we faced on Tuesday. Missing/gone were top board Henrik Stepanyan and Board 3 stalwart Dave Ireland, while first and second reserves Bernard Charnley and Ed Goodwin were also conspicuous only by their absence. This left much-loved KCC double agents, Joshua and Lionel on the top two boards for the visitors, with Bava Manackam and Warwick Scaife rounding out their team. We fielded our normal job lot, except that Bernard R had been drafted into the squad (rather unwillingly!) to replace Dave Shurrock, who is on a sabbatical from league chess.

Four tough games ensued, though it was slightly disappointing that we managed only two draws from the first two games to finish - in both of which we had White. Bernard was close to mounting a decisive kingside assault in the Board 4 encounter, but he couldn't quite line up the right sacrifices to breakthrough. In the end he sacked a bishop on h6, but this was only enough to force perpetual check. Still, a decent Division 1 debut for Bernard, and only his third ever CDCL game, despite being an active KCC player for over 40 years!

The second draw came on Board 2, where Mike seemed to be just exerting a slight squeeze on Lionel's position, with a doubled Black pawn on c6 looking rather vulnerable and a great outpost on c5 for a White piece. But as we all know, Lionel plays a tough game, and he was able to keep the balance with some kingside counterplay and both players were content to agree a reasonably early draw.

Then we struck a decisive blow on Board 3, where Ben beat Bava after a very tough struggle. For all evening it looked far more drawish to me than the two games that did end in draws, but both players just kept grinding away and in the end it seemed to be White's clock management that let him down and enabled Ben to win in the ending. A splendid example of perseverance and determination.

And so to Board 1, where I was playing Joshua for the first time OTB since January 2015 - other than the 27,000 blitz and rapid games we have played on club nights in those ensuing years - and for the first time in a Kenilworth v Coventry encounter - other than the three online games we played during lockdown, in one of which I/Joshua contrived to lose the league title for KCC through him winning. Still, I went into the game with a +3 =3 score against him OTB, but knowing that there was going to be a big fight. That's just the kind of guy he is! Though hopefully with age he will become just the kind of guy who agrees quick draws so we can save ourselves a lot of angst and torment!

Of course, he went straight for the jugular, but an early inaccuracy left me in a comfortable position, though I was apparently not better as I wrongly believed during the game! But then he went wrong, and I missed a one move win. Then he went wrong and I missed another win (both times the key move was Rxa3+ sacking a whole rook!), and we all know what happens in those circumstances. In increasing time trouble I refrained from an obvious and strong move in favour of a "safe" move - which was actually so unsafe that it almost lost the entire house. From two pawns up, I lost both and also had to give up my queen for two rooks - at one point going down to 4 seconds on the clock. Joshua soon followed me down on the clock, as he looked for a win that wasn't there, but which he had to try and find for the sake of the match score. Many moves were made, (some of which may not even have been blunders); Joshua made some progress, but my defences just about held and it remained a totally drawn position. But when you can't/won't play a drawing move, you are eventually bound to play a losing one, and so it came to pass and Josh had to resign as a surprise mate threat proved impossible to stop without giving up the queen. An epic game with - from my perspective! - a fair result, though definitely not achieved in the right way. Josh may have a different view of events!

It was nice to get off to a winning start, as with only 8 league games in total, there are not that many opportunities to win any points. And once again, no individual games lost. Not sure how long this will continue, but let's enjoy it while we can.

And meanwhile, here's the last time Coventry suffered such a giant killing - though on that occasion - when I was unfortunately present - Sutton could only win 2-1. Which was still enough to make it one of the worst days of my life!  

Monday, 11 October 2021

Roll Up, Roll Up - Check Your ELO Rating Here!

During the Covid pandemic we've all got very used to self-testing, and here's a chess-related example, reported on Chessbase today, that's definitely more fun than sticking a swab up your nose

By completing a single test of 76 chess positions (which should take at least half an hour), you can generate an estimate of your playing strength thanks to the Elometer, as developed by researchers at the Institute of Experimental Psychology,  Dusseldorf University. So if you've got an ELO already you can check it out against the computer generated estimate, while if you haven't, you can save yourself the trouble of taking out ECF Gold Membership and playing a sufficient number of FIDE rated games to actually get yourself one!

I'd be very interested to see how everyone else gets on with this test. In my case it was relatively accurate, but rather worryingly thought I was slightly over-rated. So my current ELO of 2121 compared to the Elometer estimate of 2059.

Can anyone who takes the test, please post their ELO estimate in the comments section of this post, so we can all see how accurate we think it is!

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Unilateral Nuclear Disarmament

It seems wrong to play league matches on a Thursday night, as that should be club night at the Gauntlet for some of us. But last Thursday there was nothing for it, but to make the trip to Banbury for the A team's second league match of the season. And it turned out to be a journey worth making, as we came away with a 3.5-0.5 win that should have been 4-0, were it not for massive incompetence on my part.

This was my first visit to Banbury's latest venue, which is certainly quiet and spacious, but rather lacking in facilities - ie anywhere to get a drink (of any kind)! I must remember that for future visits and go prepared.

The great unknown before any match against Banbury A, is whether they will be deploying their advanced nuclear weapon, IM James Jackson, who does make rather a difference to the balance of power! Having been absent from the B team's recent splendid victory over Banbury, it transpired that he would be absent again - unilateral nuclear disarmament at its finest! And indeed for nearly half an hour it looked as though Banbury had decided to dispense with a Board 1 at all, but with his clock already down to 46 minutes Georgs Vikanis did eventually appear to take up the fight.

The first decisive result of the evening came on Board 3, where Joshua played what I thought was a brilliancy to win against Arran Gundry. Those who had been watching more closely, including the victorious protagonist himself, put me right later, when it transpired that the brilliancy was rather superfluous, as Joshua had missed a very elementary win just before. But never mind. A win is a win, and who doesn't like playing a flashy move or two?

Jude, fresh from his latest B team outing on Board 1, was in the less choppy waters of Board 4 and soon assumed the initiative with Black against Paul Rowan. His two bishops were raking across the board towards the White king, and with the h1-a8 diagonal completely open, there was no escape for Paul. A very impressive and forceful win for Jude.

Things were not going quite so well on the other two boards, but we still seemingly had the match under control. I had got no advantage, either on the board or the clock, against Georgs, and in fact was slightly worse for a few moves. But then he sort of lost the thread and we traded to down to a queen and rook ending where I had some slight pressure. It was pretty equal, but when the queens got swapped off, my rook took up a powerful position on the seventh rank. Then Georgs made a terrible mistake and gave me the chance to trade the rooks for a completely winning king and pawn ending ........ which I failed to take, preferring to win a pawn instead. But Black's newly liberated rook then took two of my pawns, and I was quite relieved to discover that the resultant rook and 3 v rook and 4 was a dead draw. A massive missed opportunity, though on the balance of play I can't say that I deserved to win this game.

And much the same could have been said about the  Board 2 encounter between Andrew P and Gary Jackson. It wasn't at all clear who - if anyone - was better, but both players were up for the fight and there was a lot of toing and froing. With time getting very short Andrew won a pawn, then immediately fell into a knight fork losing an exchange .... but Gary missed it. Then Andrew zoomed in on the queenside with a rook and bishop to win another two pawns, but lost a piece in the process! White only had one pawn left, but once Andrew managed to swap off the rooks, he was able to eliminate this, so that it came down to three pawns (h, c and a) against a dark squared bishop. It should have been a draw but Gary went the wrong way with his king, and suddenly Andrew was able to force the bishop from the key square where it controlled both of the outside passed pawns. In desperate time trouble, Gary blundered allowing Andrew to queen his pawn which had reached a2, but ....... Andrew failed to push it one square further. Luckily, his alternative move c4-c3, prevented the White king from coming from c1 to b2 to take the pawn anyway, so Gary had to resign.

So 2/2 for the A team, and a cup victory too. But let's stay alert and focussed. After all, accidents can happen - and if they involve nuclear weapons they can be very nasty indeed - except when they are very funny instead!

Thursday, 7 October 2021

When it rains...

 We headed to Shirley in good spirits, after our fantastic victory against Banbury A. Yet from the get-go, it seemed like it was not going to be our night. I managed to get completely soaked walking into the club from the car and spent most of the evening nursing cups of tea and shivering, while drips of rain ran down the back of my neck. Who says chess does not require physical toughness?

My game was the quietest for the four. Playing black against Darren Whitmore, the Queens came off early. I managed to neutralise Darren's initiative and set a few tactical traps which he neatly avoided. We ended up in a level King and pawn ending and I had little option but to agree to split the point.

Mike was next to finish on two. If anything he probably had the best position of any of us, against Iain Galloway, but Iain defended well and it was very theoretical. Things looked to have levelled out and both were short of time when peace ensued.

Jude and Bernard had the livelier games. Jude is continuing to take his online lockdown form into the three-dimensional world, and proving that he is more than ready to be a Division 1 Board 1. He had a real battle with Phillip Purcell. Jude looked to me to be better out of the opening, but Phillip fought back and I feared the worst. Yet Jude is such a competitor that he was not phased, digging in and holding out for a well earned draw against a very strong player. High stakes chess and great (if a little nerve-wracking) to watch. Well done Jude - definitely our player of the night!

So it all came down to board three, where Bernard C was up against Dave Thomas. Dave just seemed to continually set Bernard problems. While Bernard expertly navigated most of them, it took a toll on his clock and the challenges kept coming. In the end, Bernard succumbed to the pressure, but it was an impressive effort on Dave's part.

You could not really say we were robbed. But it would be fair to say it was very close. On another night and all that...

Driving home, the heavens opened once again and I was reduced to 40mph by an inability to see very far in front of me. The effects of my last cup of tea had worn off and I shivered in the gloom of an unlit stretch of motorway. Of course we had also lost... Still, my overring thought was how much I have missed nights like this during lockdown! What else can feel as real as League chess? Bring on Olton! We will be back...