Tuesday, 30 November 2021

KCC Road Trips - Number 3 - The US Midwest

Yeehah! Line up the wagons; hitch up the horses and off we head into the west on the third KCC road trip. On our 1,194 mile journey, which will take us 17 hours and 35 minutes - plus comfort stops! - we're going to call in at another seven places named after KCC members. After which we will certainly have earned a cuppa followed by a long lie down.

We start our trip in Rogers, Ohio. You'd think one of our founder members deserved a more impressive town to be named after him than this village in Columbiana County, which has a population of just 237. Mind you, it is home to one of the biggest flea-markets in Ohio, so that at least shows a bit more respect.

In 3 hours 2 minutes we should have covered the 181 miles west, slicing between Akron and Cleveland and turning off the I-90 at Fremont and making our way to Lake Mottram, in the town of Fostoria. This is actually a bit of a cheat by me, as it's not much of a lake - more a large pool actually - but any town that has a purpose built viewing platform for train-spotters (I kid you not!) deserves a mention in my book.

But, mention over, its on for another 147 miles/2 hrs 19 mins to the small town of Eaton. I say small, but its positively gigantic compared to little Rogers, with a population of 8,407. Eaton is obviously a bit of a cultural oasis as its the birthplace of both Victor J Banis ("the godfather of modern popular gay fiction") and Jane LeCompte who, under the name of Jane Ashford, has written over 20 romantic novels. Good luck trying to borrow either author's works from Kenilworth Library!

After more than 5 hours of driving, we're still in Ohio, having travelled across virtually the whole state from east to west, but the next leg of our journey - a comparative sprint of 67 miles/ 1hr 18 mins - takes us over the border into Indiana, to the town of Eaton. What the ....?? Yes, we're in a second place named after one of our post-pandemic new members. We like to be welcoming, but don't you think its a bit pushy to get two mentions in one article, Patrick?! Anyway, this is a much smaller Eaton, mustering just 1,805 inhabitants. But still miles bigger than tiny, wee Rogers.

Regrettably, there's not even a flea market to detain us any longer, so we press on west for 133 miles/2 hrs 10 mins to Seymour, Indiana. Having already got a name check in Part 2 of this series, I might also think that Noah is being a bit pushy, too, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt on that.  Anyway, we are now in a serious metropolis, as Seymour is a city of over 17,500 folks. Supposedly named after the then head of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad, Seymour is home to the second largest high school gym in the USA. which I'm guessing makes it pretty big! It is also the site of the world's first ever (moving) train robbery in 1866, by the Reno gang. For whom it didn't end well - they were lynched at Hangman's Crossing, the name of which maybe should have given them a warning about local justice practices! All this, and the birthplace of John Cougar Mellencamp, too! And I haven't even mentioned the 2009 Miss America, Katie Stam. Eat your heart out, Rogers!

But even all these interesting facts can't make us stay, because our sixth destination is calling. Its a long drive too - 381 miles that will take us 5 hrs 47 minutes. And so we arrive in .... Seymour, Illinois?! Good grief! And I thought Patrick was being greedy! I'm not sure why we've come here, though, as the population is Rogers-like at just 303. Its not even a town or a village either, just a census-designated place. Which makes it all the more impressive that it should have been the birthplace of a seriously good baseball player, the marvellously named Jeff Pfeffer, who was a major league pitcher, mainly for the Brooklyn Dodgers, in the early 20th century.

The final leg of our journey is another major trek - 381 miles and 5 hrs 47 minutes - which takes us across the Mississippi at the new world capital of chess, St Louis. But we have no time to pop in at the Chess Club or the World Chess Hall of Fame, or stop for a blitz game or two with Fabi and Levon, as we only have eyes for our final destination at .......?!?! I don't believe it - Seymour, Missouri! You might think there were a lot of people around called Seymour in the 19th century when all these Midwest towns were being established, but rather derivatively this one was simply named after the city in Indiana that we've already visited. As the name was chosen by a Mr Crabbe, everyone is probably quite pleased he made that choice! With a population of 1,921, this Seymour is a modest size, but close by is an Amish community of over 3,000 people, making it one of the 12 largest Amish settlements in the world.

That's quite enough road tripping for one day, I think - and quite enough places called Eaton and - especially - Seymour. But just be patient, as I haven't finished yet. If you haven't had a name check so far, there's still every chance you will. Unless your name's Smiglarski. When your chances are zero. Sorry, Matt!

Wednesday, 17 November 2021


How uncanny. After the very last post recorded the loss of my unbeaten record, I now have to do exactly the same for Andrew. And in his case the shock is considerably greater, as it wasn't just an unbeaten seasonal record that came to an end, but a 100% one. However, just as with my loss against Solihull, I'm pleased to report that the rest of the team rallied round, and another KCC win was recorded.

Our opponents this time were Warwick University R, who we saw off by 3-1 in this week's Coventry League match - a result that guarantees we will be top of the table at Christmas in both the Coventry and Leamington Leagues. I can safely say that this was the first time I have ever played against an R team, but don't go thinking that this is Warwick Uni's 18th best team! The team was only inserted into Division 1 after the commencement of the season, and so they were christened the R for Replacement team, as there was already a Uni C team on the fixture list in Division 2.

I have to say that Jonathan Fowler played an excellent game to end Andy's winning run. You know that when Black plays Nh3+ and this has to be taken by a fianchettoed bishop, something has gone wrong with White's opening play. Jonathan went on to sacrifice an exchange for strong pressure against the White king, and when Andy was obliged to return the exchange an ending was reached with an extra pawn for Black. I thought that with bishop v knight (plus a rook each) the position might be holdable, but in time pressure (and with no increment) Andy's bishop was lost. And so was the game!

But not to worry, as by that stage we were 2-0 up. I was first to finish again - for the third successive match! My opponent played very, very solidly with the White pieces, and I feared that I wouldn't be able to get anywhere, but then from what was still an eminently defensible position, she blundered an exchange and a pawn - and found that a knight which had been forced to retreat to h1 could also not be saved. Mike won very efficiently, using his c file control to invade the seventh rank and deliver mate. Hopefully this presages the London Bus syndrome, and that after his first win of the season last week yet more will follow in quick succession.

And so all eyes were turned to Ben's game on Board 4 where - in his 8th successive Black game - he was under some pressure after playing his infamous rubbish defence that leaves his c8 bishop stuck behind pawns on e6, d5 and c6! Probably in the absence of any better plan he decided to grab a couple of pawns, at the cost of an exchange, but this actually turned out to be a very favourable transaction for him, as the White attack ground to a halt, and the extra pawns - now ably supported by that once pathetic light squared bishop - yomped down the board to win first an exchange and then a rook. Game and match won, and we are now set to top the table until at least January 25th - yes it is 10 weeks until our next Coventry League Division 1 game!

But what song do we have this week? I can hardly recycle last week's Jackson Browne offering, even though it would be highly appropriate, so I've gone a bit left field. I'd forgotten all about this song until I heard it at The Gauntlet last Thursday  - where the music selection is almost as good as the beer! Consider it a tribute to the lifetime efforts of club stalwart Bernard R - not because it's one of his favourite songs, but because it must be one of very few that gives a name check to that rare breed of super-hero: - accountants!! Happy listening, Bernard. To what is is surely one of the most amusing rock songs ever written.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

All Good Things Gotta' Come to an End

Its been Kenilworth v Solihull week in the Leamington League. On Monday, our C team edged out Solihull B 2.5-1.5 in a Division 2 encounter, and last night there was a double header at the Blossomfield Club, when it was A v A in Division 1 and Solihull E v Kenilworth D in Division 4. The indomitable Roy led the D team to a 2-1 win, (taking his own seasonal tally to 3/3), ably supported by new kid on the block Hector, who took his competitive record to 2/2 with a convincing victory. It could so easily have been 3-0 as well, since fellow newcomer Patrick was well on top, only to blunder the game away. But it's great to see two of our new members playing successfully in the League only a couple of months after first turning up at The Gauntlet. Thank you lockdown/The Queen's Gambit/online chess for giving us a shot of new blood! Toby should be the  next off the KCC talent conveyor belt to make his competitive debut for us.

But I digress. What about the big match between the two A teams, I hear you ask? Well, I've been putting this off as long as I can, but now I have to bite the bullet and admit that I very nearly sank the team by playing a pretty poor game with White against Ray Carpenter on top board. I failed to notice when my initiative had been blunted, and with the game having turned against me I went downhill quickly - walking straight into a knight fork to end my miserable evening. So 0-1, and things looked pretty bleak. Our human points machine Andrew was decidedly on the back foot against Neil Clarke on Board 2, while things were at best unclear in the other two games. I departed to the bar for a post mortem with Ray but before you could say Jack Robinson, in sauntered Andrew and Lionel to report that they had both won! Not sure how Andrew pulled off that trick, but this latest win now puts him on 8/8 for the season, while Lionel was delighted to announce that he had gone to 2/2 for the season by winning on time! And - are you reading this, Phil? - he had noticed! To be fair to Lionel, he had apparently taken over the position and was making life very difficult for Julian Summerfield, and even the increment was not enough for him to be able to handle Lionel's pressure.

Which left Joshua to decide the match on Board 3 against Tony Sadler. After a very exciting opening, the game settled down somewhat, but just when Joshua seemed to be winning a very important pawn, he decided he couldn't take it and the game - helped by opposite bishops - settled down towards a draw. Which both players seemed reasonably happy about, even though it confirmed our match victory - and a clean sweep of the three KCC v Solihull encounters this week. We now need the B team to make it 4/4 when they play Solihull A at the end of the month.

So thankfully, my wonderful team-mates got me off the hook and saved the day. Chapeau, mes amis! But, of course, while Andrew, Lionel, Roy and Hector were all keeping up their 100% scores, I had to accept that after 9 unbeaten games my run of invincibility was over. Oh well, it was good while it lasted, but all good things have to come to an end, Take it away, Jackson!

Surprise, Surprise!

Guess who's leading Division 1 of the Coventry League at the moment!? Yes, amazingly it's little old Kenilworth with 7 points from 4 matches. And if that's not surprising enough, considering we only had 3 confirmed players a couple of weeks before the start of the season, we confirmed our table topping position this week with a surprising, and surprisingly convincing, win over hot title favourites (6/4 on at MarkBet, the bookie you can trust) Warwick University A. But as all match captains around the world know, its not how many strong players you've got that matters, its how many of them you can get to the board! So perhaps our 3-1 win was not so surprising after all, but hey - having thought of a good song for this week's video, I'm not going to let the truth get in the way, am I?

For one of the first times ever, I finished first, refuting a piece sac straight out of the opening, and then adding an exchange to leave me a whole rook up. This early win was counterbalanced by Bernard's subsequent loss on Board Four when his opponent's sac/loss of the exchange proved to be virtually winning on the spot, as a pair of connected centre pawns yomped down the board towards unstoppable touchdown.

So it was 1-1 when I departed the scene, and the match was still in the balance. Mike had just pushed a monster passed pawn to d7 in his game, and although he was a pawn down, it looked as though he was winning, but converting won positions has not been easy for Mike so far this season, so I was certainly not counting any chickens just yet. Earlier in the game I very nearly interrupted the players to point out that they had set up the board wrongly. On move 10, Mike's opponent (Black) had a knight on a8 and a rook on b8 - surely this was a mistake? But on sneaking a look at Mike's scoresheet I discovered it was all above board! And that knight was still there on a8 when I left!

Meanwhile on top board, Andrew was having a terrific battle against Joe Varley. Andrew's bishop on g5 was attacked by a pawn to h6 prod. To which he responded by attacking a Black knight on g4 with an h3 prod. But when his bishop was immediately taken, Andrew did not recapture a Black piece. Instead he threatened a monster knight fork. Then he re-threatened the monster knight fork. Then he attacked the Black queen. And he still hadn't recaptured the knight when I left!

Anyway, news later reached me that both our players had finished off their games favourably - Mike notching his first win of the season to get himself to 50% (with a lot of draws!) and Andrew an incredible 7th consecutive victory to keep his 100% record for the season!

Over to you, Bruce.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

An Unlikely Hero!

Another night, another match! Fresh from the previous evening's Kenilworth A v Kenilworth B match, three of the combatants were back at the Abbey Club as part of our Coventry League team for a Division 1 encounter against a strong Nuneaton A team. But it was the 4th person - not considered good enough for either A or B the previous day - who would prove to be the hero!

Yes, step forward club living legend Bernard R, who scored an excellent win on Board 4 over Nuneaton stalwart Colin Green. I say excellent, because it was a win, and really that's all that matters. In fact, Bernard had offered a draw not long before, but Colin was trying to annex Bernard's isolated a pawn and decided to play on. And then, apparently with plenty of time to spare, just walked into a humungous knight fork which cost a whole rook. And unlike Phil's notorious winninbg knight move of years' back, this one was actually quite legal. Tricky things, knights!

We consolidated soon after when Mike drew against Tony Green. I could possibly have forecast this result, though not the way it would have arisen, as things were very unbalanced for a number of moves, as Mike advanced a pawn to d6 where it would likely be a game winner or just fall off. It definitely wasn't the former, but even if the second option came true (which I have no idea about), it wasn't enough to derail the draw.

I then drew against Phil Briggs on top board after a very tense and exciting game, where I thought way too long at some crucial stages of the game, and fully confirmed Bent Larsen's aphorism, "long variation, wrong variation". I missed playing a great shot in the opening, after which my position looked very dodgy for a good few moves, before I was able to get my two bishops into the game. I then came within a whisker of winning a piece, and then of winning a pawn and establishing a rook on the seventh. But Phil just managed to counter my threats in time and we agreed a draw when an opposite bishops ending was about to appear on the board.

Unfortunately, though, Ben had been struggling against Paul Davies on Board 3 all night. You know things are not going well when you see a Black rook on f8, with the Black king still on e8. Paul was pressing on the kingside and the queenside. Oh yes, and in the centre as well. I didn't see the denouement, but its not surprising that something had to give eventually.

Never mind, a drawn match was very respectable in the circumstances, and leaves us on 5/6 as we head for two more matches against Warwick University to round out the pre-Xmas fixtures. Next week it's the potentially super-strong Uni A team, followed by the mysteriously named Uni R team. All will be revealed, team-name wise, in due course!

I'm afraid that this is the only suitably titled song I've been able to find. Sounds pretty dreadful to me, but hopefully at least one reader will like it! Though they may need to be tone deaf.

It's a Family Affair

The first of this season's two intra-club punch ups (Kenilworth A v Kenilworth B) took place on Monday when the B team did the A team no favours at all and became the first side to take a point off them this year.  Although quite how this happened is beyond my ken. (That's partly a pun, and partly a nod to my recently discovered Scottish ancestry! Just brilliant, though I say so myself. How do I do it??))

Let battle commence! Joshua and Mike already trying to hide their identities.
Left to right: (B team) Ben, Phil, Bernard, Jude; (A team) Mark, Andrew, Joshua, Mike

As always, Joshua was the first to finish, but this time it was because he lost to Phil. Fresh from failing to claim a mobile phone win against Olton, and failing to claim a win on time against Leamington, Phil made it a hat-trick of KCC-self harming incidents in a matter of weeks, by this time playing a thoroughly excellent game to notch up a key point for the B team on Board 3. The end came after a nicely played king and pawn ending, but the truth is that Joshua's position had been dire for most of the game.

This was balanced shortly afterwards when Andrew continued his 100% start to the season (Player of the Year looks to be sewn up already!) by scoring a very convincing win over Bernard C on Board 2. In a game which had strange echoes of his win last week against Warwick University, Andrew's pieces all jumped onto monster squares while Bernard's king was stranded in the centre and his queen side pieces locked in by a monster White bishop on d6. Bernard's quest for creativity can sometimes see him push the boundaries too far. And I'm not talking about his paintings!

My encounter on top board with Jude ended shortly after in a draw. One strange opening move apart, Jude played a very controlled game. Not a lot happened, but he was the one with the more active play, but my position was sound and a crisis was never reached for either party. I wonder if this is the last time I'll ever be able to get a draw off Jude?!

Which left the Mike v Ben encounter on Board 4, where Mike seemed sure to notch his first win of the year after 6 draws in his first 7 games. He was outplaying Ben for most of the game, and while I was busy analysing with Jude next door, reports reached me that he was 2 pawns up with a dominant position in the ending. But then the players emerged and somehow Ben had managed a draw to halve the match and ruin the A team's 100% record. Chess truly is a mysterious game at times!