Thursday, 30 September 2010

"Through sullen swirling gloom we jolt and roar"

From Dawn by Rupert Brooke

Having only recently returned from his holidays, ‘C’ team Captain, Peter Rawlings has been a busy man. Earlier this week he provided us with a brief report on his team’s demise last Monday against Todmorden ‘B’. Today I am pleased to be able to post this typically lyrical and atmospheric match report (after Rupert Brooke methinks) for the Hebden Bridge ‘C’ team’s match away to Wheatley, which took place on Monday evening.

A comfortable win was achieved in the swirling gloom of Lee Mount, and played out in the vast arena of the upstairs theatre/bar where we sat diminished in a modest corner.

Josh Blinkhorn and Neil Bamford had to slog it out over the long silent evening but the others were soon traversing the empty spaces. Dave Sugden, a victim of the default, had to content himself with friendly games against his manager in which he tactfully lost more than he won.

Wheatley – Hebden Bridge ‘C’
D.Loughenbury 1 – 0 T.Sullivan
DEFAULT 0 – 1 D.Sugden
A.Whiteley 0 – 1 J.Blinkhorn
G.Roper 0 – 1 S.Priest
J.Gregory 0 – 1 N.Bamford
1 – 4

Whilst the 'C' team were acheiving this poetic victory the 'D' team were suffering on the road again, this time (and with the 5-0 defeat at Huddersfield still fresh in the memory from only last Thursday) at the hands of Todmorden 'B'. There was however good news for team Captain, Danny Crampton, in the form of an excellent win by Dave Pugh on board one against L.Innes who out-graded him by 78 points! Unfortunately, I do not have the moves of that game (Mr.Pugh I'd love to publish it if you can e-mail it to me) so instead I will publish Danny's game against Mr Pratt (who, sadly for Danny, did not play like one) from board 4.

The final scorecard for the match was as follows:

Todmorden 'B' – Hebden Bridge ‘D’
L.Innes 0 – 1 D.Pugh
D.Innes 1 – 0 J.Todd
D.Logan 1 – 0 B.Fearnley
R.Pratt 1 – 0 D.Crampton
G.Bowker 1 – 0 P.Dearden
4 – 1

Next week Hebden Bridge Chess Club's 'A' and 'B' teams return to action in Division 1. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Tying up some loose ends

Today I’m going to post some solutions and oddments as a means of bringing a few discussions to a close.

First of all, my “Bent Double” puzzle which I set for you to ponder when I posted my tribute to the Great Dane a couple of weeks ago. The solution is given below:

Congratulations to Fruitcake who claimed the proffered prize (a pint of his choosing at our beloved home venue, The Trades Club) on Monday night. The solution really is quite marvellous. It is quite hard to find simply because it doesn’t really fit with any standard mating patterns. Usually chess puzzles (especially mating solutions) can be solved by looking for well known and frequently recurring patterns and themes amongst the pieces in the starting position. Well done Fruitcake!

Now onto more serious matters… A couple of weeks ago I demonstrated that the final position of the final game in the final round of the Hebden Bridge Chess Club Lightening Competition contained hidden depths. The game between father and son Dave Wedge and Matthew Wedge-Roberts was adjudicated to be a win for white (Dave) and no one in the room could have argued with that for he was an exchange up in an apparently straightforward end game.

However, on closer inspection it turned out that the position was not at all easy to win for white. Indeed, I casually played out the game against my computer and found it to be quite tough. Therefore I asked readers of this blog to contribute solutions. I’m happy to say that the main protagonist himself has come forward with a methodology for white to win. I publish this along with my original notes below. In my view this endgame study is highly instructive and I encourage all readers to spend a bit of time running through it.

My thanks go to Dave for taking the time to find the answer. I hope he found the process of uncovering it as interesting as I did failing to find it!

Finally, I’d like to post a witty little denouement to a blitz game that I played last week at my other club, Leeds. I was playing white and feeling pretty glum in the position given below. I had been well ahead in the game and successively blundered away my advantage. Now I seemed destined to lose. But then, I managed to find a nice defensive resource. What does white play in the position below? Try to find the solution before hitting the “forward” button.

Following on from an article I posted a month or so back about knowing the right time to resign I’d like to offer this example as evidence to support the argument that, in blitz games, you really should play on in a theoretically lost position for as long as possible because you never know what might turn up!

Monday, 27 September 2010

'C' team edged out by Todmorden

Today I bring you the final round up from a busy schedule of League fixtures last week. First of all, ‘C’ team Captain, Pete Rawlings, gives us his assessment of his side’s match against Todmorden ‘B’.

Pete Rawlings: did not go to
Khanty-Mansiysk on his holidays! 
The ‘C’ team captain-manager was in foreign parts (rumours that he was helping the English men’s team prepare for the Chess Olympiad in Siberia are greatly exaggerated! – Intermezzo) for the opening match of the season, at home to the newly-formed Todmorden ‘B’, hence, this match report is very late. In his absence, the team shed a player somehow, so everyone that did play had to move up one board. The final outcome was a 2-3 defeat which, in the circumstances, wasn’t too bad. Dave Sugden and Steve Priest won the points.

A full strength team lines up on the 27th of September away to Wheatley, wherever that is (as everyone asks).

Thanks to Pete for going above and beyond the call of duty to bring us that report from his pool-side sun lounger. Good luck to the ‘C’ team tonight as they return to action tonight against Wheatley (wherever that is!) Below is the match card from last week:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ – Todmorden ‘C’
D.Sugden 1 – 0 L.Innes
J.Blinkhorn 0 – 1 D.Innes
S.Priest 1 – 0 P.Logan
N.Bamford 0 – 1 G.Bowker
P.Dearden 0 -1 J.P. Ellis
2 – 3

This just leaves me with the task of providing readers with the match card for what turned out to be a very difficult night for the ‘D’ team away to Huddersfield ‘B’ last Thursday.

Huddersfield ‘B’ – Hebden Bridge ‘D’
C.Stratford 1 – 0 D.Pugh
S.Oliver 1 – 0 D.Crampton
E.Mellor 1 – 0 J.Todd
J.Hughes 1 – 0 B.Fearnley
D.Tyfa 1 – 0 DEFAULT
5 – 0

The ‘D’ team are away again this evening against Todmorden ‘C’. Fingers crossed that they can get off the mark in that fixture.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The chess widow's husband

Marcel Duchamp: played chess on his honeymoon
Last Saturday my wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary and our thirteenth year together as a couple. Despite all of the jokes that I suffered in the immediate aftermath of our nuptials, about no longer being allowed out of the house unattended, I must say that being married has not in any way impeded my commitment to the game. Conversely, nor has my chess addiction had an adverse effect on our marriage. After all, having been together for so long my wife knew exactly what she was getting when she tied the knot.

In fact, I suspect that the love of my life feels there are numerous, and far more reprehensible pastimes to which she could have been metaphorically “widowed”. Never the less, I feel lucky to have found someone who accepts my need to spend long hours indulging in an activity that most people consider to be a boring waste of time!

Chess mania is certainly capable of causing marital disharmony. No cautionary tale is more graphic than that of artist and chess player Marcel Duchamp who, having already succumbed completely to his own chess addiction made the rather naive decision to get hitched to a lady called Lydie Sarrazin-Levassor in 1927. On their honeymoon in the south of France he immediately proceeded to commit a heinous infidelity by spending most of his time playing games at the Nice Chess Club and studying problems (“self mates” I imagine!) in their hotel suite. Finally, his irate bride decided that enough was enough and glued his chess pieces to their board whilst he was asleep! The marriage only lasted three months after which Duchamp was able, once again, to devote himself entirely to his jealous and demanding “mistress”.

I don’t think I’ll ever get to the stage where I’ll be trying my wife’s patience to the extent that Duchamp was with poor Lydie. Compared to Duchamp – and at serious risk of stretching the "infidelity" metaphor to breaking point – I am only flirting drunkenly with a very attractive lady who is completely out of my league and who will, as she always does, spurn my clumsy advances with a crushing put down just at the moment I’m starting to think, "Hello, I might be in here!"

Smokin' season opener for the 'A's

Can you smell burning rubber?
If you were out and about in Halifax on Monday evening you may have noticed an acrid burning smell in the night air.

The cause of the stench was Hebden Bridge Chess Club's 'A' team generating serious wheel spin as they accellerated off the start line in their first match of the new league season against Halifax 'A'. The impressive winning margin was 4½ - ½!

Board 5 player Nick Sykes provides us with the match report for this encounter.

"Hebden Bridge 'A’ travelled to Halifax as reigning Division 1 Champions and were confident of a successful start to the season against last year’s whipping boys, Halifax ‘A’. However, Halifax have substantially bolstered their line up since last season when they were seriously affected by the sad loss of Derek Holmes mid-way through the campaign.

This year they effectively have two new recruits. On board 1 the arrival of Darwin Ursal from the Philippines gives them (on paper at least) the strongest player in the league and on board 2 Howard Wood looks like he may feature regularly for the team this season having only played a couple of matches last year. This meant that Ray Cully, who last season took up Derek’s mantle on board 1, is now playing on board 5! This is the strongest line up that Halifax have been able to put out for some years and that has to be good for the competitiveness of the division in general.

However, despite this extra strength, Halifax were unable to prevent Hebden Bridge from making a superb score of 4½.

On board 4, Matthew Wedge-Roberts illustrated just why he will be playing in every match for the ‘A’ team this season by comprehensively dismantling Pete Moss in short order. Matthew has been one of the fastest improving players in the league for the last two or three seasons and played the opening very confidently, quickly establishing a big pawn centre against Pete’s quiet Reti System. On move 8 he won a pawn and then from move 16 he unleashed a powerful attack that White failed to defend accurately against and he was soon wiped out. The moves from Black’s 16th are given below.


Matthew Parsons was next to finish on board 2 claiming another victim with his pet 'Pterodactyl Variation' (1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 c5) which on this occasion transposed into a hybrid Sicilian. The position stayed roughly equal for quite a long time but Matthew slowly built up a big advantage on the clock and this later expressed itself on the board as well when he created an imbalance by exchanging his Rook for a Bishop and pawn and a very promising position. Howard eventually overstepped the time limit on move 27 but his position at the board was already extremely grave.

The 3rd game to finish was mine own against Ray Cully. I got an advantageous position out of the opening and then Ray went for a dodgy knight sacrifice on move 18. I had to defend accurately but managed to find the right moves. The game is given in full below.

On board 1 Dave Wedge found himself in the slightly unusual position of being the under dog against Halifax's new recruit, Darwin Ursal. It was certainly to Dave's advantage that the opening variation they played was the Modern Benoni - one of Dave's favourites. The game ended in a draw which was a good result against a very strong opponent. The full game is given below.


Last to finish on the night was team Captain, Alastair Wright, who demonstrated excellent technique in remorselessly grinding down Carlos Velosa in a From's Gambit line of Bird’s Opening (1.f4).

In all a satisfying start to the season for Hebden Bridge 'A'. Next up is Todmorden 'A' away on the 4th of October."

Thank's to Nick for his report. That just leaves me with the task of presenting the match scorecard.

Halifax 'A' vs. Hebden Bridge 'A'
D.Ursal ½ - ½ D.Wedge
H.Wood 0 - 1 M.Parsons
C.Velosa 0 - 1 A.Wright
P.Moss 0 - 1 M.Wedge-Roberts
R.Cully 0 - 1 N.Sykes
½ - 4½

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Tough start for Hebden Bridge 'B'

Three teams from Hebden Bridge Chess Club began their league seasons last night. I hope to be able to publish some match reports and games from each of these encounters at some stage during the week as well as coverage of Hebden Bridge ‘D’s season opener at Huddersfield which takes place on Thursday.

Let’s begin a busy week of coverage with Hebden Bridge ‘B’s visit to Courier A. Things didn’t get off to a great start when it became apparent that the ‘B’ team were going to be casualties of a league schedule which dictated that both divisions would begin on the same day. Normally, team Captain Martin Syrett would have been able to draw on reserves from the ‘C’ team but, as they were playing a home fixture, he was unable to field a full side.

Courier ‘A’ have been significantly strengthened by the return of John Morgan after a year away from the league. He is a board 1 strength player but this year he will play on board 3 due to the continued presence of Dave Patrick and Robert Clegg who both have marginally higher grades. The strength of this line up would have made the away fixture difficult for the ‘B’s at the best of times but the absence of a board 5 player made the encounter very difficult indeed.

Unusually, it was the top board that finished first. Robert Clegg and Dave Shapland raced through the opening as they banged out 10 moves of mainline Sicilian Dragon theory reaching the position below.

Clegg vs. Shapland
Position after 10...Nxd5
At this juncture Robert departed from the most orthodox approach (11.Nxc6 bxc6) by opting for 11.Nxd5 Qxd5 and 12.c4. This move selection put the question to the black Queen on d5 and impeded any plans black might have had to send his a and b pawns flying up the board to attack the white king position. After this Dave went mildly astray immediately with 12…Qa5?! (12…Qd7 was better) which handed White some initiative after 13.Qxa5 Nxa5 14.Nb5 Be6 15.Nc7 Rac8 16.Nxe6 allowing him to disrupt black’s compact pawn structure. For the rest of the game White maintained a decent advantage. But, in the end, he couldn’t find the best way to turn it into a full point and a truce was agreed.
Colledge vs. Kerrane.
Position after 7.Qa4?!

'On board 4 John Kerrane played the black side of a Cambridge Springs Variation against Dave Colledge’s Queen’s Gambit Declined. As early as move 7 White took the game out of the book by playing 7.Qa4?! reaching the position on the right.

This gave John the opportunity to win a pawn with 7…Qxa4 8.Nxa4 bxc4 and now white can’t recapture on c4 with the bishop due to 9.Bxc4? b5 forking Bishop and Knight. Having missed this opportunity John never the less built up a perfectly pleasant position before slowly allowing Dave to equalise and agreeing to a draw at time control.

Meanwhile, on boards 2 and 3 respectively Andy Leatherbarrow and Martin Syrett were struggling to stay in touch with strong opponents. John Morgan put Martin out of his misery fairly swiftly after Martin’s light squared bishop got itself into hot water fairly early on in one of those strange flank opening’s that John like’s to play (1.f4 and later 4.b4!? on this occasion). However, Andy made Dave work very hard on board 2, forcing his opponent to chart a course through a labyrinth of forcing lines before finally snuffing out Andy’s desperado attack late in the evening.

The final score card is given below. On this evidence Courier 'A' could be very competitive indeed if they can get Peter Hughes out regularly on board 4 and Dave Colledge on board 5. For the ‘B’ team, better times will lie ahead but they are going to have to score well in their home fixtures where they will be able to put out their strongest line-up.

Courier A vs. Hebden Bridge B
R.Clegg ½ - ½ D.Shapland
D.Patrick 1 - 0 A. Leatherbarrow
J.Morgan 1 - 0 M.Syrett
D.Colledge ½ - ½ J.Kerrane
T.Joemagi 1 - 0 Default
4 - 1

Friday, 17 September 2010

Lightening Judgements

As readers will have seen here yesterday, Dave Wedge retained his title of Hebden Bridge Chess Club Lightening Champion on Monday night. Yesterday's report mentioned that Dave had to see off the spirited challenge of his son Matthew in the final round. The report also records that the game had to be adjudicated after the full allocation of moves (60) had been played without a result having been achieved. However, I am now in a position to reveal to readers more precise details of just how close it was.

The game was stopped in the position below with Dave playing white. He is an exchange up as you can see.

Adjudicated position
Wedge vs. Wedge-Roberts

This position was, to universal agreement, adjudicated as a win for white. However, while the assessment of the position appears to be correct it may have been fortunate for Dave that the tape ran out when it did because immediately after the game had finished he said he had intended to proceed by playing 1.Ke6.

White's intention here is to walk his king up to the black g-pawn and win it. However, had the game continued and this move been played then Matthew would have been given the chance to find the excellent rejoinder of 1...Nh8! when the game would immediately have been drawn as White's rook is now trapped. Black will win back the exchange and draw the game.

Having found this nice tactic the next morning I then decided to use the above position as a bit of endgame practice and see if I could find the right approach for white. It was at this point that I inadvertently stumbled upon some very interesting hidden depths. I decided to play the white side of the endgame against my computer and figured that White's first move must be 1.Ra6. This would enable the white king to approach the black g-pawn without allowing black the Nh8 trick. My game with Fritz now continued from the above diagram as follows...

1.Ra6 Ng5 
2.Ke5 Nf3+
3.Ke6 Nd4+
4.Kf7 Nf3
5.Kf8 Ng5
6.Rg6 ...

Reaching the new position on the left. White has achieved his objective and is now threatening simply to capture the g-pawn and win the game. However, at this point Fritz played...

6. ...  Kh8!

And I realised that matters were not as simple as they first appeared because now 7.Rxg7 will run into Ne6+ and this time white loses a whole rook! "Ah well" I thought, "all is not lost I can try this a different way". So next I tried...

7.Ra6 Kh7
8.Ra8 Ne6+
9.Ke7 Nd4
10.Kf7 Nf3
11.Rg8 Ne5+
12.Kf8 ...

Which now gives us the position in the third diagram. White once more appears to have managed to arrange his pieces in such a way as to win the g-pawn, but again he is thwarted! This time Fritz played...

12. ...  Nd7+
13.Kf7 Ne5+

And now it becomes clear that white can't escape from the knight checks without moving his king away from the rook!

All of this leads me to believe that the original adjudicated position might in fact be drawn! It seems that no matter how white approaches the task of winning the g-pawn, black has a cunning manoeuvre to foil him. This is a most interesting endgame study. I invite readers to take a look at the start position and try to find a win for white. Please do add a comment below or send me an e-mail with your ideas and solutions.

It must of course be said that, even had this final game of the tournament been drawn, Dave would still have been crowned champion using the usual tie break method of "sum of consequent scores". That's not really the point though, the endgame study is fascinating.

I would like to give one more position from the tournament which I was able to remember from my own last round game. This position is interesting because it illustrates some unique aspects of Lightening chess as opposed to Blitz chess where each player has 5mins on his clock.

In the diagram position (left) it is black to play. This may not have been the exact position but the key features are all correct. At this point I decided to take a risk and go for 1...Bxg3+. Of course I only had 10 seconds to decide on my move and so I couldn't calculate all the variations. Now white has a dilemma on his hands. He can't capture the bishop with the pinned g-pawn, so, in only 10 seconds he has to decide whether or not to take it with his king! On this occasion White chose to go for it with 2.Kxg3 and I was then alert enough to spot 2...Qg6+ with which forces mate on g2 next move. I hadn't been able to see the whole idea when I offered the bishop sacrifice. In Lightening chess you sometimes have to trust your gut instinct and hope for the best.

By way of bringing coverage on the tournament to a close I give below the final scores for all competitors:

5 - Dave Wedge
4½ - Nick Sykes
4 - Dave Shapland, Matthew Wedge-Roberts and Martin Syrett
3½ - Matthew Parsons
3 - Josh Blinkhorn, Alastair Wright, Martin Fairhurst, Neil Bamford and Dan Crampton
2 - Tim Whelan and James Todd
1 - Paul Dearden and Steve Priest
0 - Rory Laing

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Club Lightening Tournament Report

Posted below is the article on the Club Lightening Tournament from today's edition of the Hebden Bridge Times. Thanks to John Kerrane for providing these pages with the copy so swiftly. I have also added in exclusive video footage of the final round shoot out between Messrs Wedge and Wedge-Roberts. Readers will have to excuse the poor quality of the video which I took on my mobile phone.

"On Monday evening at the Trades Club, Holme Street, Hebden Bridge Chess Club held their now-traditional curtain-raiser to the new Calderdale League season, the Annual Lightening Tournament.

This event is intended to be a not-too-serious way for members to get together at the start of the season, and get in a bit of practice. At 10 seconds a move, the chess is fast and furious, and usually not too accurate, with often unexpected results.

This year, 16 members took part, and the contest was even closer than usual, with all the leading contenders dropping points in the early rounds. By the final round, the championship depended on the game between the holder, Dave Wedge, and his own son, Matthew, with the old hand just beating the young lion on adjudication after a very close game. The final placings were Dave Wedge first, with 5/6, followed by Nick Sykes, 4½/6, in second place, and Dave Shapland, Matthew Wedge-Roberts and Martin Syrett equal in third with 4/6.

Now, having limbered up, members must face the tougher challenge of the league matches, starting next Monday when the first round of both divisions of the Calderdale League season gets under way.

The club’s junior members have been in action too, with three youngsters entering the Yorkshire Chess Association’s junior mini-congress at West Bretton on Sunday. All three did very well, with Hephzi Leatherbarrow (9) winning her section, while her brother Spike (12) came second in his, with 8-year-old Kyle Sharpe in fourth place."

Full results and a couple of brief excerpts from the tournament will be published here for your delectation tomorrow including some very interesting analysis of the final adjudicated position in the crucial game featured in the video above!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Bent Double

From Second Piatigorsky Cup
(published in Los Angeles, 1968), page xv
Hebden Bridge chess club members must forgive my tardiness in failing more promptly to eulogise the Danish chess titan Bent Larsen, who passed away last Thursday. I must confess that I only picked up the news yesterday when I noticed an obituary in The Times. It seems hard to believe that none of the chess blogs and news feeds that I subscribe to was able to beat the newspaper to it so I guess the news must have been held back by the family over the weekend.

The timing was particularly poignant when you consider that, the day after Larsen’s passing, Denmark’s newest and brightest sparkling chess star, Magnus Carlsen, was taking on and beating “the world” in a live game played on the internet. As one Danish legend passed away another reinstated his claim to be the best contemporary exponent of the game.

I’m too young to have any memories of Larsen’s heyday in the 60’s but I’ve read enough about him to know that he was a truly wonderful player who’s game was characterised by a willingness to accept risky positions in order to take opponents out of their comfort zone. Perhaps his greatest legacy is the opening variation that was named after him beginning 1.b3!? However, this idiosyncratic line tells only part of the story of Bent Larsen.

It isn’t really possible for me to do justice to such a heavyweight career in one blog post but, suffice to say that he reached the World Championship Candidates Semi-Finals on three occasions and was prevented from progressing to the Final itself only by such luminaries as Mikhail Tal (twice) and Bobby Fischer. He also had an excellent tournament record and during his career he won notable games against seven World Champions from Botvinnik to Karpov.

I can certainly recommend the study of Larsen’s games to any novice aiming to improve their play. Larsen’s willingness to play offbeat openings against the strongest players in the world can help to guide anyone who is looking for practical ways of bypassing the most heavily analysed opening variations.

Let me give two brief examples of the great Dane at his very best. The first is a complete game that is widely regarded to be his masterpiece. It was played in California in 1966 against the then World Champion, Tigran Petrosian who had a reputation for being almost impossible to beat. I should add that Larsen also beat Petrosian with the black pieces at the same tournament in a game that he himself regarded as superior to this rather more showy affair. To beat Petrosian twice in the same tournament with both colours really was a huge achievement. The notes are mostly Larsen’s own with a few other explanations thrown in for completeness.

The second example in my "Bent Double" is a position that I offer to readers as a little combinational test. It is a less well known game but, at the time it was played, the magazine "Chess" described this combination as "one of the most difficult two-move combinations ever seen in a practical game". Now that’s a challenge! Can you find the winning idea for white here? The first Hebden Bridge chess club member who can e-mail me the correct answer or add it as a comment to this post wins a free pint! But, be warned I don’t just want white’s first move. You must demonstrate that you have see the whole of Larsen’s concept. The only clue I’ll give you is that you need to give me white’s first move and the two key variations after that move. If you use a chess engine you’ll only be cheating yourself! J

Friday, 10 September 2010

A Knockout Success for Hebden Bridge A

On Monday night Hebden Bridge chess club’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams clashed in the semi-final of the Calderdale Summer Knockout competition. Both teams put out strong sides with the ‘A’ team even managing to bring their Division 1 Championship winning team to the party. The teams lined up as follows with the 'A' team taking white on the odd boards:
Messrs Wedge and Leatherbarrow

Hebden Bridge A - Hebden Bridge B
 Dave Wedge - Andy Leatherbarrow
Alistair Wright - Pete Olley
Matthew Parsons - Martin Syrett
Dave Shapland - Steve Priest
Nick Sykes - Dave Sugden

The first game to finish was on board 5 where Nick Sykes won quite quickly against Dave Sugden. The swift conclusion was all the more surprising as Dave had elected to play the Petroff Defence with the black pieces. This opening has a super-solid reputation and indeed, after following the opening books until black’s 11th move the position could be said to offer white only a slight advantage (see below).

Board 3 was a close run affair
Once Nick had played 12.Ne3 and 13.Qe2 it looks very difficult for black to hold on to both the d and f pawns and in fact it would appear that Dave had to find the obscure 13…Rf7 which prevents 14.Nxd5 on account of 14…Qxd5 15.Bc4 Qd7 16.Bxf7+ Bxf7 which my computer adjudicates as being good for black. Once the d-pawn had fallen white’s initiative became significant and a few more inaccuracies from Dave were all that were required for Nick to finish the game off in short order.

Meanwhile on board 3 Matthew Parsons and Martin Syrett were engaged in a close contest which remained tense right into first a double and then a single rook and pawn ending. The critical position was reached after Matthew’s (playing white) 37th move.

Alistair searches for the
Wright continuation (sorry!)

This made the score 2-0 to the 'A' team. Shortly afterwards board 2 finished as well. This time the result was a draw as Pete took no chances against 'A' team captain Alistair. In an Alekhine's Defence the Queens came off the board early and a draw looked like the only result unless one player or the other blundered. Neither did.

Meanwhile on board 4 Dave Shapland was laying some ghosts against Steve Priest who had won once and drawn twice in three previous games against him during the regular season. This time matters turned out differently. Steve chose the wrong time to castle long and was immediately forced to suffer as Dave inflicted a range of cruelties upon him. Steve bravely staved off the check mate threats but only at the cost of two pawns and an utterly hopeless position. This game is given in full below.

This result now gave the 'A' team an unassailable 3.5-0.5 lead.
The last game to finish was on board 1 where Dave Wedge steadily built up his advantage with the white pieces against Andy Leatherbarrow and eventually converted a very favourable knight and pawn ending into the full point sometime close to 11pm.

The final score card looked like this:

Hebden Bridge A - Hebden Bridge B
Dave Wedge 1-0 Andy Leatherbarrow
Alistair Wright 0.5-0.5 Pete Olley
Matthew Parsons 1-0 Martin Syrett
Dave Shapland 1-0 Steve Priest
Nick Sykes 1-0 Dave Sugden

I don't think anyone expected such a comfortable scoreline at the beginning of the evening.
Please feel free to post comments about any of the games above. My analysis is certainly not flawless and my assessments are therefore absolutely open to criticism!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Two good reasons to stay at home tomorrow

In these troubled financial times we don’t need much of an excuse to stay at home on a Friday night. Today I’m going to give you two more good reasons to stay indoors tomorrow evening.

First of all the game of chess will be making a rare foray into British broadcast media as the BBC World Service goes to air with the first of a two part documentary about chess called “Seeking the Endgame”. The programme goes out at various times on Friday and Saturday and you should be able to listen to it either on the internet or on the radio. Part two transmits on Friday the 17th.

World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen models for G-Star Raw
Second up is an event that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. World number 1 Magnus Carlsen is playing a match against “the world” on Friday evening. I believe that the game starts at 5pm GMT and you can follow the moves and participate by going on fashion brand G-Star Raw’s website. Magnus will be based at a hotel in New York to make his moves. The rest of the world will take advice from three Grandmasters (Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vacher-Legrave and Judit Polgar) who will recommend options for spectators to vote for. The move with the most votes will be played at the board. It would appear that each side will be given 1 minute to select their next move so there will be no standard chess clocks involved.

For those Hebden Bridge chess club members who do go online to watch or take part I can provide you with some exclusive advice from a Grandmaster who knows what it’s like to take on the world – and win! I recently got the chance to post a question online for GM Natalia Pogonina. My request was for some advice about what type of opening the world should play against Magnus to give ourselves the best chance of winning. Here is what she replied:

GM Natalia Pogonina
“My take is that Magnus is a strong favorite to win. As to the opening...I don't know...something sharp probably, this will increase the chances of him blundering (since he will have only 1 minute per move). In a positional game his chances are higher since the move made will basically be a random choice between Naka's, Lagrave's and Polgar's opinions...”

As a live event his match is pretty revolutionary and should be fascinating. I definitely recommend that you take a look if you get the chance.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Club Lightening Championship

Next Monday, the 13th of September, HBCC will be hosting our annual Lightening Championship. This is our traditional curtain raiser for the start of the new league season.

For those of you who haven’t played this format before it differs from Blitz chess (typically played with 5 minutes each on the clock) in that no chess clocks are used. Instead a tape recording is played with a beeper sounding every 10 seconds. Players take it in turns to make their move when the beeper sounds. In addition ‘check’ does not need to be announced and the king can therefore be ‘captured’ to end the game.

This format is a lot of fun and can be a great leveller of chess abilities due to the shorter time limit which induces a much higher volume of mistakes than standard league play. As a result the form book can often be over turned.

The competition is free to enter for chess club members and will begin at around 7.30pm. If you want to take part please get down to the Trades Club promptly so that the first round draw can take place as early as possible.

Do come and take part if you can. It’s a great deal of fun!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

"Castle because you have to, not because you can"

Richard Reti
Words of wisdom from Richard Reti.
This is one of the first pieces of advice that beginners are given by their more experienced colleagues. If the beginner has the temerity to ask “Why?” then a well versed answer is recited in the manner of a priest quoting scripture.

“Get your King out the centre and away from the open files. Develop a Rook by bringing it in from the cold and towards the centre (where the open files are!)”

On this occasion I have quoted fellow blogger Greenpawn34 but a paraphrased version of this answer is essentially the one that any experienced player will pass on (often quite condescendingly) to his or her young sensei.

There are exceptions to every rule of course. I can certainly think of some examples from Grandmaster play where one player has chosen the perfect moment not to castle and gone on to win brilliantly (perhaps I’ll share one or two in a future post). However, the explanation for these exceptions is simply that, in most cases, it would have been a very bad idea to castle. This is almost always due to tactical considerations. In other words, if they’d castled there would have been a high chance of being mated!

If an experienced player is doing his or her job properly they ought to be able to produce some sort of example with which to demonstrate the vulnerability of a king that has been left in the centre of the board for too long. This usually involves the bloody and spectacular demolition of a hapless beginner at the hands of a more experienced opponent. I have my own example of course!

What most experts don’t tend to do is give the beginner a broader statistical overview of why you should castle. This perspective is even more compelling than providing an isolated example as Green Pawn demonstrates ably in a recent blog post on Redhotpawn.

"Got some cold stats for you. On the 1400 DB (a database of games played on Redhotpawn) there have been 19,250 checkmates between 6 and 20 moves. I chose cold checkmates because it is King safety we are talking about and it also cuts out all the resignations due to a pieces lost and time outs.

  • White mates = 11,637
  • Black mates = 7,613

  • White 0-0 and got mated = 3,444
  • White 0-0-0 and got mated = 527
  • White uncastled and mated = 3,642

  • Black 0-0 and got mated = 4,073
  • Black 0-0-0 and got mated = 618
  • Black uncastled and mated= 6,946

Not much of a difference between White 0-0 and not castling is there? Think this highlights the inability of a weaker player to defend himself against attacks to his King. Safest advice to give to a less experienced player based on these figures is to Castle Queenside.

Ok. So, maybe we wouldn’t always advise a less experienced player to castle Queen’s side but the statistics tell an interesting story. In well over half of the games where black got mated in under 20 moves he had failed to castle. When white has been mated in under 20 moves he has been uncastled in about one third of those games. These figures are really interesting and should convince even the most sceptical of beginners to adhere to Richard Reti's commandment!