Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A Solid Start

Hebden Bridge A made a good solid start to our new league season with a 3.5-1.5 victory over Courier A (from Halifax) last Monday (the 14th of September). As the match was a home fixture our team played with the white pieces and won fairly comfortably in the end against the team that finished just behind us in last year’s campaign.

It would be fair to say that Courier’s team was weaker than it had been last season as they’d lost one of the best players from their line up. Never the less, it was a good result for us. This was emphasised as our B team (also playing at home) did very well against the champions (and favourites for the title again in my view) Huddersfield, losing by the narrowest of margins, 3-2. This result suggests that Huddersfield may not be capable of the high board count I was afraid they would achieve again this season and gives us grounds for optimism provided we can keep winning or matches.

Hebden Bridge B are just about the strongest I’ve ever seen them with a good level of playing strength right through to board 5. They may well be a factor in the season this year if they can wheel out the same team for every match. It’s good to see our B team looking so healthy after having gained promotion from the second division last season.

My game in the A team’s match was not of the most stupendous quality. I played well in the opening and capitalised on some provocative play from my opponent. However, having gained a good positional advantage I didn’t handle his subsequent attempts to complicate the situation as well as I could have done and was fortunate to see him miss a few good opportunities.

Not one of my best games for sure but it’s nice to start the season with a win. Incidentally, this game continues a fairly rich seam of from that I’ve struck with the white pieces in the closed variation of the French Tarrasch. I was planning to post an entry about lucky opening variations at some stage and this one is certainly a strong candidate for me. Keep an eye out for more on “lucky openings” in the near future.

Friday, 11 September 2009

A Shiny New Season is Dawning

As a new chess season looms large in Calderdale can I find fresh grounds for unjustified optimism? Of course I can! Show me an “over-the-board” (OTB) player who doesn’t feel a surge of excitement about the untold stories that lie in wait over the coming months and I’ll show you a dead man. The very fact that OTB is seasonal in nature means that it provides a very welcome adrenaline injection for club players. No matter how much online or correspondence chess you play you never get the same buzz that you get at the start of the season. I’m sure every amateur sports person would testify to getting the same feeling, no matter what their sport.

So, what should I expect from the new season? Well, last year in the Calderdale league my team, Hebden Bridge A, finished second in the first division and I made third place in the Calderdale Individual Championships. Frankly, I’d be delighted with a similar performance this season. In the league, the champions, Huddersfield A, are almost certainly going to be the strongest team and will probably win again this year. The season will probably boil down to our two matches with them and I give us maybe a 1 in 5 chance of winning either of those ties. I can’t see anyone else taking points off them so we’d need to win all the rest of our matches (certainly not a given) and probably match their board count as well. Hebden Bridge A are capable of winning the league but it will be very difficult indeed.

From an individual perspective I was pretty happy with my Calderdale Championship result last year and I know from having played in it for 3 years now that it is a very open tournament indeed with the top 15 to 20 players all capable of beating each other on their day. I’ll be happy if I’m in contention again this season come the final round in March. The area where I want to make big improvements is in my league performance. Last season I did no better playing board 3 in our “A” team than I had done in either or the previous two seasons playing on board 1 for our “B” team and I was in the same division for each of those seasons! I need to tighten my game up this season which will probably mean deploying a slightly more reserved opening repertoire. Last season I simply lost too many points to players graded below me. In addition to this I lost twice in our matches with Huddersfield and that cost us dearly we lost at home by an odd point and drew away. If I’d drawn both games we’d have drawn and won those matches. On such fine margins will the success of our season be decided.

The new season starts tonight with Hebden Bridge A, playing Courier A at home, a tough opening fixture. I’ll be posting a journal entry on this blog for every game I play in Calderdale so if you want to have the pleasure of watching my suffering unfold as it happens do tune in regularly.

A Very Happy Anniversary

I know that September the 11th is not the best day to publish a blog post entitled "A Very Happy Anniversary"! The selected title isn't designed to provoke controversy. The simple fact is that I should have posted this item 2 days ago when it would have celebrated the third anniversary of today's game. Sadly, I struggled to finish the commentary on time and now that I try to think of an appropriate alternative title I can't come up with one that conveys the right sentiment without seeming equally inappropriate in some subtle way or other. It seemed better to just go with what I had and recognise that the title isn't a good one for the date. I hope readers will forgive me.

As I cast about in my game books to try and find a suitable effort to put on this blog for my first game posting I realised that the game below was played on the 9th of September, 2006, almost exactly three years ago. "What convenient timing" I thought. It also happens to be one of the best over-the-board games I’ve played and it therefore must qualify as suitable first game to publish.

This game was my first league match for Hebden Bridge B in the Calderdale League, Division 1. We were playing against our own “A” team and, as I was playing on board 1, I was, naturally, playing the clubs highest rated player.

At this point I should ‘fes up to a couple of factors that swung the outcome of this game in my favour before we even sat down to play. The first is that I was new to the club and therefore very few players knew anything about either my opening repertoire or my style. The second was that I had managed to get some inside knowledge on my opponent from a colleague and, as I also knew that I would be playing black, I had the chance to prepare for this game with a fairly good idea in my mind about the direction that the game would take.

Play chess online

Despite the fact that I had the advantage of my opponent in terms of preparation for this game, I still regard this as one of my very best efforts as I don’t think I really made any errors or missed any opportunities here. It isn’t very often that I can say this about any of my games!

I hope you enjoyed this one. Feel free to post any thoughts or improvements you find.

Who is Intermezzo?

Before I start posting games and comments I guess that I should probably share some personal chess history with you. I came to chess fairly late at 17 years old but (with some excellent tutelage from a family friend who spotted me getting battered by a chess computer whilst visiting our house over the Christmas holidays and subsequently offered to teach me how to play better) I became firstly proficient and then addicted!

Serious competitive play began when I went to university and I’ve been playing league chess (with the occasional congresses thrown in) ever since. A few years ago I started to play chess online and I now use the excellent correspondence web site, Redhotpawn (RHP), to try and keep my game as sharp as I can year round.

As you will see in future posts, I’ve chosen to use my “nom de guerre” from RHP on this blog simply because I feel more comfortable publishing my games without the antagonists’ real names against them. I do this more as a mark of respect for my over-the-board opponents (who may not want their names on the internet) than any personal desire to remain anonymous.

My next post will be a game with some commentary and hope it will bring readers some entertainment.

Friday, 4 September 2009

By Means of an Introduction

Ok, so I hope that my profile (top right) will accurately set your expectations as to the tone of voice you will hear coming from this tiny corner of the blogosphere. In terms of content you can expect the following types of post:

  1. Self-indulgent and wallowing analysis of my own (lamentable) performances as my chess season progresses both online and over-the-board
  2. Some “special guest” posts providing decidedly absurd, and hopefully, amusing, commentaries on games from the “anals”
  3. Randomly themed offbeat strands of chess related conversation posted with the aim of gathering opinion and provoking amusing “tete-a-tete"
  4. Links to any chess humour that I stumble across on the internet and am not clever enough to have thought of myself

If I can dream up any other creative ways to help you, the reader spend more time thinking about chess than you reasonably ought to then I will. Always remember, the basic premise here, “if chess is heroin then this blog will be my methadone”. In other words, reading this blog won’t be as much fun as playing chess but hopefully it will be diverting enough to take your mind off the fact that you aren’t playing it right now. Also, remember that like any good group therapy session it will work much better if you all join in!