Thursday, 17 February 2022

One More Twofer for the Road

Finally, the seemingly never ending pattern of Monday night Leamington League match and Tuesday night Coventry League match has come to an end. So this is absolutely, positively and definitively the last twofer match report for ........... well, possibly until March 16th. But to commemorate the occasion, I thought I'd throw in a bonus song so that we can hear Boz Scaggs also having one more for the road.

Right, to the week's business. Monday night and we are home to Banbury A just 4 days after they had rather fortuitously edged past our B team by the minimum margin. Who knew that we would now return the compliment? Especially when they arrived with only 3 players, meaning Jude and his Dad had had a wasted journey/evening. But it was hard for me to head too quickly for the moral high ground, as simultaneously in the bar area, our D team was failing to produce even one player to take on visitors Solihull E. Which meant casting the first stone was not really on the cards.

Despite our free point start (for the second match running!) this was to be no walk in the park as all three games were tough encounters. I was (needlessly) worried for Andrew in the opening against Dan Rowan, as he eventually emerged with a solid extra pawn, which was, moreover, passed and supported from behind by a rook. 1-0 I thought, except that soon it was half-half, as Andrew had uncharacteristically blundered his extra pawn away. Then there was a moment when Joshua overlooked a rook sacrifice by Nathan Manley that just won two pawns from nowhere. But in the resultant queen ending, Joshua went checky, checky, checky and managed to win both pawns back, with what I then thought might even be a better position.

Meanwhile I was playing Gary Jackson and was clearly better, with me in total charge of a monster diagonal from a8 to h1. And with the White king sat on g1 it looked like an impossible position to defend. But defend it he did, and after I had missed a couple of wins at one crucial moment I went seriously wrong and there was a near certain draw on the board when Gary could have eliminated my light squared bishop and put an end to all the long diagonal issues. But he missed the moment and soon he was in almost total zugzwang, with his queen, rook and knight all immobilised, meaning he could only shuffle his king from g1 to f1 and back or his bishop from d2 to c1 and back. Still, I hadn't worked out how I was actually going to cash in when he tried to improve his queen's position and found himself having to resign immediately when my own queen jumped into f3 with decisive effect.

Match won, which was just as well, since in trying to avoid perpetual check, Joshua had instead got himself mated by Nathan. So instead of 3-1 and another healthy boost to our already massive game points difference, it was a narrow 2.5-1.5 result, and we had only drawn on the boards actually contested. Still, I would be lying if I didn't admit I loved being the team's match winning hero for once! And before leaving this match, I just want to pass on our best wishes to Paul Rowan of Banbury who has been on the end of a rather nasty bike/car collision recently and is currently out of action, chess wise. Get well soon, Paul.

And so to Tuesday, and a KO Cup Quarter Final against Coventry B (who fielded just the three ex-Kenilworth players!). As our opponents are a Division 2 team, we had to give them a 1.25 handicap start, and so we had to win by at least 3-1 to go through. Thankfully, this meant we could afford one accident, as we suffered just that. Ben had an absolute car crash of a game, being totally wiped out by Margarita Nasibova, who took about 15 minutes for the entire game. All in all this was one of the most one-side games you could ever see - apart from 2 of the others in this same match! On top board Andrew steamrollered Kate Donegan after her Scandinavian went badly off course, while on Board 2 I did much the same to Nigel Morris, who played the opening very well, but then managed to go from a near dead level position on move 16 to resignation 4 moves later.

Now all attention was focussed on the Board 3 encounter between Mike Donnelly and Mike Johnson, which we absolutely had to win. Our Mike amassed a mighty attacking force against our-ex Mike's king, but Black defended very tenaciously, avoiding plenty of traps and tricks. Then our Mike set up a great redeployment of his queen with Qh3-f1, planning to go to d3 and invade decisively on h7 (rather significantly he also had a bishop on b1!). But in a moment of chess blindness, he then put the queen on the pretty ineffective square g2, when carrying on with his plan would, he told me later, have just won a piece on the spot. So the game carried on ...... and on ..... and on. Our Mike won a pawn, but for some reason then found himself in an opposite bishop ending with just this solitary extra pawn. But whether it was winning or not was immaterial, as our-ex Mike had no time left. And as Coventry don't play with increments, because they have to be out by 10.30, he lost on time at around 10.40.

Phew! A very unconvincing team effort, but somehow - on both nights - we kept our unbeaten records going, so that, including cup matches, our LDCL A team is now Played 10; Won 9; Drawn 1 and our Coventry League team is now Played 10; Won 8; Drawn 2. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

As I'm now running on even emptier than last week, after the latest twofer supplemented by a 4NCL weekend immediately before, it's only right that we have another version of Jackson's brilliant mini-autobiography in song. After last week's 1978 full on rock interpretation, here's a totally different, but equally spellbinding, pared down acoustic version from 2006.  Totally mesmerising. And 10 bonus points for anyone who can tell me which LDCL Div 1 stalwart (not KCC), slide guitar player extraordinaire David Lindley reminds me of!

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

A moral dilemma

Whilst we wait for Mark's no doubt upcoming double match report, I thought I would raise a question about a game I played yesterday (for a non-Kenilworth club I hasten to add, though I hope I'll be forgiven for that). The scoresheet up until people had too little time to record is below, but the game itself is of less interest than the final couple of minutes - suffice to say I got slowly outplayed throughout the game, until we ended up in an endgame which white is going to win, but will take a decent number of moves to do so (rook, bishop and pawn versus rook and pawn). Also important to note that this game was played with 90 minutes for both sides, and no increment (which is a terrible time control, but that is a different point).

What ultimately happened is my opponent got a decent chunk of the way towards winning, but then contrived to lose on time, and my questions are twofold:

1) Should I have let him? In principle, I could have offered a draw when he got down to a few seconds, since I'm clearly never going to win by any other means. I think probably there is something of a consensus in the community about this, namely that since my opponent is in a much stronger position I shouldn't be offering him draws, and it is his responsibility to do so when he decides he doesn't have enough time to win. You could definitely make arguments against that, but I think probably most people would say that is the correct approach.

2) The more interesting question then seems to be what should I do if he offers me a draw with a few seconds left. The extra context is that if we win this game we win the match, whilst if I lose or draw we lose the match, so in principle I can just decline the draw, shuffle a few more moves and unless he finds a way to force my rook off I will win on time, but is that an acceptable thing to do? I don't know what the result would be decided as if he formally claimed a draw under the quickplay finish rules - seems a situation that is right on the borderline of whether it would be declared a draw or not. I think probably I would have accepted a draw, even if he was just about to lose on time, given the position, but in a team match would that have been the correct decision?

Answers on a postcode please, then bring that postcard along then next time I see you and tell me what you have written on it.

Anyway, another glorious high quality victory, and on to the next round (we are still on course to play Kenilworth in the final, if we both win our next matches).

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Another Week, Another Twofer

Tufa: A variety of limestone formed when carbonate minerals precipitate out of ambient temperature water. A relatively soft rock to dig into that subsequently hardens - eg the catacombs of Rome.

Twofer: When a weary/lazy writer produces one article covering two events.

So let's be clear - its the second definition that applies here!

On Monday, the A team had another Leamington League Division 1 match, away at Shirley A. We had our normal top 3 playing, supplemented this week by Jude on Board 4. The match got off to an anticlimactic start, when Joshua's opponent on Board 3 failed to show. Far more excitement was generated on Board 2, where Andrew played another dynamic game against Dave Thomas. For the second week running he allowed a White knight to jump in on e6, and for the second week running he then proceeded to win with very strong attacking play. At a crucial moment I thought Andrew had lost all his marbles, as he played Qxf2+, when a White rook was sitting on f1. Amazingly Dave didn't take it, and the reason became clear when after his move Kh1, Andrew played Rxf1 mate. Yes, the White rook on f1 had been pinned by a Black rook on a1, which I had just assumed was a White rook! In my defence, it is very, very difficult to tell the pieces in Shirley's sets apart.

I took this as the signal to offer Phil Purcell a draw on Board 1. The position was almost dead equal, but if anyone had a slight edge it wasn't me. But having lost the last three encounters to me, he decided this was no time to get too ambitious, and agreed the draw which secured the match for us. This left Jude battling away against Keith Ingram - and a near 70 year age difference! \It was very complicated stuff. Jude sacked an exchange for a pawn and a strong bishop pair and then it came down to queen, rook and 3 v queen, bishop and 4. I missed the end, but at some point Jude won the exchange back and then managed to win the subsequent queen ending, to give us a 3.5-0.5 victory. As they say in Wales, tidy!

The next night, our Coventry League team, also topping Division 1, was in action, against our nearest pursuers, Nuneaton A. A tough and intense evening of chess followed, at the end of which honours were even and we had maintained our one point advantage in the table. Mike finished first, drawing on Board 3 against Paul Davies, and then we struck the first blow with Andrew winning on top board against Phil Briggs after a slightly strange encounter. First Andrew won a pawn. Then he won another. Then Phil threw a piece into the fray, but once Andrew - eventually - managed to castle, it was White with all the attack and the game was soon over.

I had a very tense game against Tony Green on Board 2. An early queen exchange took the heat out of the position, but it was quite a struggle for both of us to find the best way to place the remaining pieces. Eventually we each decided that neither of us were going anywhere, and agreed to the draw. This meant we couldn't lose, but unfortunately also that we wouldn't win, as Ben was suffering against Colin Green on Board 4. Colin played an excellent squeeze with the Advance Variation against Ben's French and eventually loosened the Black position so that a couple of pawns fell off. He then made no mistake in the ensuing same colour bishop ending to tie the match 2-2 - the same score as in our pre-Xmas encounter, confirming that the two teams are very evenly matched. With Warwick University A only a further point back - and still to play both the teams above them - it is still a three horse race for the title.

Unbelievably we are now set for our fourth consecutive Monday/Tuesday night double header, so you can certainly expect another twofer next week. Unless I'm so exhausted I decide on a noughtfer instead. Which is quite possible, because I'm already Running On Empty. Talking of which, here's an absolutely epic version. Over to you, Jackson!

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

A Twofer

Yes indeed, two match reports for the price of one - or more realistically a symptom of my blog weariness as the matches come thick and fast. Which does not bode well when there is another A team/Cov League double header next Monday and Tuesday!

Anyway, weary or not, there can be no way that the bi-annual Kenilworth A v Kenilworth B slug-fest can go undocumented. Especially as the encounter earlier in the season had seen the B team cause a major shock by drawing 2-2 and taking the only point dropped by the A team so far. Thankfully (and I'm thinking of the club as a whole here, not just my own self-interests as A team captain!) lightning did not strike twice, as the A team ran out 4-0 winners - though quite frankly how this scoreline occurred is a complete mystery.

Let battle commence! A team on left (Jude, Joshua, Andrew, Mark) and B team on right (Bernard, Ben, Phil and Mike - who can already not bear to watch!)

The only result that seemed never to be in doubt occurred on Board 3, where Joshua put Ben's king in all kinds of difficulties with a massive attack (fear not, there will be no Massive Attack soundtrack to accompany this report!) which won decisive material. A cathartic moment for Joshua after his disaster against Phil in the last A v B match. But everywhere else it was all to play for. Bernard played very well indeed in the nightmare pairing against Jude on Board 4, where his overwhelming advantages in height, reach, weight and drinking capacity failed to come into play. My infrequent glimpses told me Jude was starting to get on top in the early middle game, but then somehow had a pawn less without any clear compensation and was also getting into big time trouble. The game resolved itself with a cry of anguish from Bernard as he contrived to walk into a mating net with Jude down to seconds. Phew!

I was watching on closely as Phil and Andrew did battle on Board 2. Phil got a knight to e6 winning an exchange - but Andrew had allowed this and threw in a pawn sac to boot to rupture the White kingside. There was positional compensation, and although Phil managed to ward off a mating attack by returning the exchange, the momentum - and clock advantage - was all with Andrew and he also collected the full point after a very exciting game which was to the credit of both players.

Far less exciting was my game against Mike on Board 1. The position oscillated between a slight edge for me and dead level - but with the difference that it was only me that had any real chances, Black was always playing to hold the balance. It seemed as though Mike had successfully defended until, deep into a rook ending, he missed his one chance to become active by giving up a pawn (which should have drawn) and by staying passive couldn't stop my rook and king combining to make a decisive breakthrough. A very tough - and largely well played - game.

Which brings me on to last night, and our Coventry League Division 1 home match against Warwick Uni B. Of course, its anybody's guess who will turn out for any Uni team - they have so many players that its pot luck who turns up on the night. Thankfully we were just able to edge our way to a 2.5-1.5 victory.

In contrast to the previous night, I was first to finish against Joshua Simpson, who didn't help his cause by putting a knight en prise on move 11. I hardly played the most precise moves thereafter, but it was impossible to lose with an extra piece and shortly after I annexed a second piece Joshua resigned. Mike then drew a very exciting game on Board 3 against Oscar Butler. Regrettably, he missed a clear win right out of the opening, and despite going all in for an attack against White's long castled king he could only find perpetual check. A difficult couple of nights for Mike, who had also let a half point slip away against me the evening before.

Ben wrapped up the match by winning against Joshua Bugg on Board 4 (yes - 2 Joshuas in the Uni team! As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) I looked at the game just as Ben's knight forked the Black rooks, and he soon made the extra exchange count in the ensuing ending. Which was just as well, as Andrew was having a tough time against Santiago German on top board, where his Kalashnikov was firing only blanks. I couldn't bear to watch any longer when White's queen and rook lined up to threaten mate on h8, and in staving off the attack Andrew ended up a rook down and a frantic counter attack just failed to rescue matters. What is it with the University and Andrew? He wins against everyone else, but seems to find these students a bit of a problem.

Still, two nights and two wins (from an A team perspective!) which mean we stay top of both the Leamington and Coventry Leagues for another week. Lets hope we can say the same this time next week, after we have been in action again in both leagues.

A tenuous link for this week's musical interlude. But in a week when two wins were better than one, how about a bit of Bruce? Any excuse will do, after all!