Friday, 29 October 2010

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings!

Today the Hebden Bridge Chess Club blog welcomes a new contributor. I recently posted on the dangers of making hasty decisions due to time trouble.  As therealparsnip shows us in this game, sometimes even Fide Masters can make the mistake of playing critical moves too quickly whether they are in time trouble or not!

A fat lady... singing (by Brad Fitzpatrick)
 “I've recently been playing a lot of 45min + 45sec increment games on ICC (Internet Chess Club). ICC is great in many ways, and the recent update of the main software Dasher, has added a 45 minute button to the menu, along with 1min, 3min, 5min, 15min, and 960 variant. Of course you can choose to play any time that you want, such as 2min 12 sec increment.

I have found the 45min 45sec option very useful as you have enough time to have a proper game, much as in evening league chess. To those not familiar with increments in time controls, you have 45 minutes to start, with 45 seconds added each move, so the game can easily last more than 2 hours.

US National Master Dan Heisman does weekly videos covering amateur games at this time control which are very interesting. In one of these recently he mentioned how some players, no matter how strong, don’t use this time properly and sometimes start playing like they were playing Blitz chess.

It's also interesting looking at chess etiquette in this format. For instance if you start one of these games, its probably fair to make sure you have the time available to actually play the game! It is not unheard of for some players to start nagging their opponents to make a move! Alas, whilst internet chess is in many ways brilliant, it does bring out the rudeness in some people that in over the board chess is generally hidden, though we do of course all have our stories!

One of the good things about this time control is that it works as very good practice and training for proper matches. There is no reason why you cant have your chess literature spread out around you whilst you are playing, helping you in the opening etc. This allows you to work and study your openings in a way you would not normally be able to do. Of course at some point in the game you are going to have rely on your own skill!

In this game I was playing with the Black pieces against Fabio Samaritani, a Fide Master with one IM Norm, who has been rated 2340. In this country would put him in the top 60 players nationally.”

"So in conclusion I was very pleased with this game. After the first 15 moves or so, when I had been using material available to me, I was on my own, and after a blunder on f5, I was able to fight in the position, defend, create counterplay, and then take advantage of my opponents blunder. My opponent like me, used plenty of time in the middle game, up until the last few moves, when presumably, feeling that the position was won, played far too quickly and allowed me to win. As such I was able to beat someone who would be seen as one of the best players in the UK, while at the same time, learning a lot about this line for the next time I get it over the board."

Many thanks to therealparsnip for this excellent and entertaining game. In this particular case it was less of a fat lady singing and more like a case of "it ain't over 'til the royal lady's pinned!"

If any other readers have taken any notable scalps in the course of their careers and would like to use this blog as an opportunity to share the secrets of their success please feel free to e-mail me your games. New contributions are always welcome.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Hebden Bridge forfeits inflict a heavy toll

This Monday saw the return to action of Hebden Bridge Chess Club's 'C' and 'D' teams as the Calderdale League Division 2 had another round of fixtures. Peter Rawlings brings us this match report for the 'C' teams encounter away to Halifax 'B'.

The C team unfortunately fielded a default, a rare event.
It was back to Lee Mount and the upstairs barn-like space, unheated of course on a cold night, but the chess was just enough to fend off rigor mortis.

For connoisseurs of these things the openings went as follows:
1. Sicilian; 2. Ruy Lopez; 3. French; 4. Orangutan.

There were dour struggles on boards 3 and 4. Josh Blinkhorn on 2 arrived at an interesting position by the time control, turned down the draw, then grabbed a free rook in order to walk into mate. Dave Sugden's game was soon in crisis and all over in 21 moves.

The match card for the fixture was as follows:

Halifax ‘B’ – Hebden Bridge ‘C’
R .Cully 1 – 0 D. Sugden
A. Dawson 1 – 0 J. Blinkhorn
B. Wadsworth 0 – 1 S. Priest
G. Cash 0 – 1 N. Bamford
J. Nicholson 1 – 0 Default
3 – 2

Meanwhile, over at the Claremount Club on the other side of Halifax, Courier ‘B’ were visiting further horrors upon our ‘D’ team which was without it’s Captain, Danny Crampton, and also missing a player on board 2 as well as the regular board 1 player, Dave Pugh. Despite this, the team did manage to increase their board wins for the season through a win on board 3 by Tim Whelan. The score card for the game is below.

Courier ‘B’ – Hebden Bridge ‘D’
D Colledge 1 – 0 M Vorstman
J Smith 1 – 0 Default
J Whitehead 0 – 1 T. Whelan
P Jacobs 1 – 0 P Deardon
R Bottomley 1 – 0 Default
4 – 1

As a casual observer of happenings in Division 2 I should perhaps be careful about making judgements… but I’m going make one anyway! It would appear to me that, with what looks like a very high volume of defaults going on across the Division, the winners will be the team who can manage to field 5 players for all their fixtures! It will be interesting to tot up the number of defaults in the Division at the end of the season in order to assess whether this situation is becoming a significant factor the league.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Fleet of steamrollers squash the 'B's

The 'A' team arrived at the Trades Club in their new team vehicles
I hope that readers will accept my apologies for the long period of radio silence on this site. Certainly the longest since I started the blog. After a prolific period of 3 or 4 posts a week and lots of sub page updates I decided that I needed a bit of a break (call it half term if you like) and so although I’ve had plenty of material to hand I decided to have a little breather. Business as usual should now resume from this point until the Christmas vacation. At any rate, I hope that this next bumper post will in some small way make up for the recent famine.

Matthew Parsons (rear) and Nick Sykes
(front) were given plenty to think about
in their games which both ended in draws

Last Monday the strongest players in Hebden Bridge Chess Club convened for the first derby match of the season between the club’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams. With Alastair Wright’s ‘A’ team currently riding high in the league and Martin Syrett’s ‘B’ team languishing near the bottom of the table the outcome of the match might have been predictable. In the event the ‘A’ team ran out as comfortable victors by a score of 4-1. However, should any conspiracy theorists start speaking of collusion it ought to be pointed out that the ‘B’ team fielded their strongest side of the season so far and that, even though the ‘A’ team had the “home advantage” of all playing with the white pieces, the games were very competitively contested with three of the five finishing right at the end of the evening’s play.

Before all that though the first game of the night to finish was on board two where Matthew Parsons and Dave Shapland agreed a draw on move 21. Dave seems to be making a habit of taking an early bath as all three of his games so far this season have been the first of the night to finish and in less than 30 moves. That should not suggest that some kind of turgid, sterile, festival of wood-chopping was enacted however. The game was actually quite complex and full of interest. Both players have contributed to the commentary below.

Matthew Wedge-Roberts and Martin Syrett get re-acquainted
‘B’ team Captain, Martin Syrett, cut a dejected figure not long after this as he lost to Matthew Wedge-Roberts for the second week in a row. He even ventured to play the same line of the Scandinavian Defence that had served him well in the previous week’s Individual Knockout match (though he later went on to lose in a very tight game). This time however, Matthew got a better position from the opening and essentially decided matters with the excellent piece-winning combination shown below (the whole game can be viewed by scrolling to and clicking on the first move in the viewer). Matthew has now scored 3/3 for the season so far.

As I mentioned above, the final three encounters went right down to the wire and all of them looked to be in the balance until the end. On board 5 Nick Sykes got into some fairly serious difficulties against Dave Sugden but managed to save the draw. Commentary in the first of the games below is from Nick.

Then Dave Wedge (yet again sailing close to the wind on his clock) won his game against Pete Olley, who was making a welcome first appearance of the season for the ‘B’ team. This is the second game of the three that follow.

Finally as the clock ticked towards 11pm, Alastair Wright finally saw off Andy Leatherbarrow’s spirited resistance in an end game grind to make the winning margin look most convincing. The final game of this post starts from the crucial endgame position but you can play through the whole game as well if you like. I should add that Alastair is now also on 3/3 for the season so far.

The final match card then was:

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ – Hebden Bridge ‘B’
D.Wedge 1 – 0 P.Olley
M.Parsons ½ – ½ D.Shapland
A.Wright 1 – 0 A.Leatherbarrow
M.Wedge-Roberts 1 – 0 M.Syrett
N.Sykes ½ – ½ D.Sugden
4 – 1

On this form the steamrolling ‘A’ team look very hard to stop indeed. They haven’t even lost a game yet and, as both Huddersfield ‘A’ and Courier ‘A’ have already stumbled to defeats, it would now appear that Belgrave are the Champions’ main rivals for the title this season as they are the only other team to have a perfect score after three rounds. The two sides meet at the Trades Club on the 15th of November by which point the ‘A’ team will also have faced Huddersfield at home. I’m going to make a bold prediction and say that the ‘A’ team will be at least 2 (and conceivably even 4!) points clear at the top by Christmas.

Friday, 15 October 2010

The French, fried!

Hebden Bridge Chess Club members who are not medieval historians may not be aware that the 15th of October is a truly auspicious date for Englishmen. Today is the 595th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt where Henry V’s English army took on a numerically superior force of Frenchmen and absolutely thrashed them. With the black pieces too!

To celebrate this auspicious occasion I hope to entertain readers with another victory over the French. In this instance however, the battlefield is the chess board and the French concerned is the opening variation and not the people.

Rozbeef 1, Froggies 0! I can feel a warm jingoistic tingle running down my spine.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Rawling's men ease past Courier

Hebden Bridge Chess Club hosted two Division 2 matches at the Trades Club on Monday night. The ‘C’ team took on Courier ‘B’ and the ‘D’ team faced Wheatley. I’ll get straight into the action with Pete Rawlings’ match report for the ‘C’ team.

We were lucky to acquire Martin Fairhurst on board 5 before he leaves the area. Everyone else moved up a board (in Terry Sullivan’s absence) and prospered on the challenge. Dave Sugden’s draw against the much higher rated John Morgan being particularly creditable.

This result continues the ‘C’ team’s best start to the season for years. At this rate we will be in danger of being offered promotion. Last season we avoided this threat by the narrowest of margins, namely one board point.

We must, I think, forgive Captain Rawlings for a slightly less exuberant match report than usual as I suspect he is still checking whether his nether regions are fully intact after Dave Wedge administered unto him a metaphorical kick in the groin of excruciating proportions in the Quarter Final of the Individual Knockout on Monday. We feel your pain Pete. Mr Wedge’s “Time Scramble Victim Support Group” grows in number with every passing week.

Anyway, here is the score card from Monday night’s match:

Hebden Bridge ‘C’ – Courier ‘B’
D.Sugden ½ – ½ J.Morgan
J.Blinkhorn 1 – 0 J.Smith
S.Priest 1 – 0 J.Whithead
N.Bamford 1 – 0 P.Jacobs
M.Fairhurst 0 – 1 R.Bottomley
3½ – 1½

Manager Rawlings is quite right to give recognition to Dave Sugden’s solid display against John Morgan. His draw was very straightforwardly achieved against a player rated 37 points higher than him. Dave told me afterwards that the game “was not particularly interesting”. That may be Mr Sugden but the result certainly was interesting and therefore the game justifies full publication!

I’m also going to publish Josh Blinkhorn’s nice attacking win on board two. He developed a very strong attack before his opponent simplified matters for him by making a serious error.

Now on to the ‘D’ team’s match against Wheatley who generously turned up with only three players! John Kerrane picks up the story.

The ‘D’ team did not fare so well, going down 2-3 to a weakened Wheatley side. The experienced players which the visitors did manage to field were just too strong for the members of Hebden Bridge’s development team.

The match card for this fixture was:

Hebden Bridge ‘D’ – Wheatley
D.Pugh 0 – 1 D.Loughenbury
J.Todd 0 – 1 B.Donkersley
B.Fearnley 1 – 0 DEFAULT
D.Crampton 0 – 1 G.Roper
P.Dearden 1 – 0 DEFAULT
2 – 3

If we need to search for a silver-lining in this result it is that the ‘D’ team have trebled their overall board score with this fixture. In addition and each member of our club’s team of fresher prospects will hopefully have gained some further valuable experience from this match.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The most iconic chess set of them all

The Lewis Chess Men at The British Museum
Over the weekend I was in London and had the opportunity to visit one of my favourite places - The British Museum. I've been hankering after a visit ever since the 'History of the World in 100 Objects' series started on Radio 4 at the beginning of this year.

Of course I took in all of the sites but the artifacts that always capture my imagination the most are the Lewis Chessmen. For me they are the most iconic set of chess pieces in existence (at the very least in Europe anyway!) I first saw them when I visited the museum as a child and, even though I couldn't play the game then, those little walrus ivory pieces were so full of character that they burned themselves into my memory banks. I suspect that my romanticised notions of the medieval era and the game of chess, which played such a big part in spurring my interest in the game when I did learn to play it properly in my late teens, probably originated from that first visit to the British Museum all those years ago.

On this trip I learned something new about the Lewis Chessmen. Evidently some of the pieces used to be stained red in colour and it appears that, in the medieval period, it was common practive to have white and red pieces and a white and red checkered board. Black and white evidently only become the norm in more modern times.

Anyway, any visitor to our Hebden Bridge Chess Club website can't help but notice that I have a passion for these particular chess men and I do urge anyone of you planning a visit to London to try and squeeze in half an hour or so to visit the display in The British Museum - it's free! If you aren't going to London any time soon then you can download or listen to the 15 minute episode of the 'History of the World in 100 Objects' about the Lewis Chessmen on the BBC website.

Friday, 8 October 2010

'A' team show Europe's golfers how to drive home an advantage

Montgomerie - nervous on the sidelines
As the European Ryder Cup team crawled fretfully to victory in Wales on Monday afternoon, Hebden Bridge ‘A’ showed them how it should be done as they walloped Todmorden ‘A’ ½ - 4½ on Monday night.
How Colin Montgomerie must have wished he could have picked up his clubs and taken to the course at Celtic Manor as the Ryder Cup drew to a climactic close. When the tension reached unbearable levels I’d guess that he would much rather have been playing the course than Captaining from the side of the greens.

Wrighty - tremendous in the frontlines
There are no such problems for Alastair Wright who Captains the Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team. He gets to have a direct impact on the outcome of his team’s matches and, so far this season, he has led by example with two wins out of two.

John Kerrane provides us with the match report below which is also published in this week’s Hebden Bridge Times (as was the exert from yesterday’s post on the ‘B’ team).

Hebden Bridge ‘A’ travelled to Todmorden on Monday evening to play their ‘A’ team in the first division of the Calderdale Chess League. The Todmorden club has been revived in the last two seasons and now boasts a strong line-up for it’s ‘A’ team. Hebden Bridge were missing two of their regular team members, but nonetheless, came away with a thumping 4½-½ victory. The main features of the match were Dave Shapland’s 16-move win on board 3, taking advantage of Richard Bedford’s exposed King, and Dave Wedge, on board 1, yet again getting into time trouble which would have be desperate for a lesser player, and still emerging with a win against Chris Edwards.

The individual results were:

Todmorden ‘A’ – Hebden Bridge ‘A’
C.Edwards 0 – 1 D.Wedge
S.Gornall 0 – 1 A.Wright
R.Bedord 0 – 1 D.Shapland
P.Edwards 0 – 1 M.Wedge-Roberts
G.Bowker ½ – ½ A.Leatherbarrow
½ – 4½

Here are some highlights from the games themselves. There are usually two sure things that you can stake your house on when the Hebden Bridge teams in Division 1 are playing
  1. Dave Wedge will get into horrendous time trouble and yet somehow get away with a result
  2. Andy Leatherbarrow will be involved in the last game of the night to finish as he tries to squeeze every drop of juice from his position
So, no surprises then when business was served as usual in this match. Dave got into horrendous time trouble against Chris Edwards but still emerged victorious and Andy Leatherbarrow played a game that finished at 11pm with just bare Kings left on the board!

Here is Dave’s game to which he has kindly added some commentary.

Now for Alastair’s game on board two. I’ve attached the whole game for your pleasure but the start position in the diagram below is at the dramatic denouement.

Finally, here is the board 3 game in which Dave Shapland served up a nice miniature. The notes are Dave’s.

In the next round of Division 1 fixtures the two Hebden Bridge teams will play one another. It will be interesting to see if the ‘B’ team can manage to score more than the half point Halifax ‘A’ and Todmorden ‘A’ have managed against the Champions so far.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Depleted 'B' battle to a draw

Monday night was 'Match Night 2' in Calderdale Evening Chess League Division 1. Hebden Bridge Chess Club had two sides in action. Today we’ll tell the story of the ‘B’ team’s home match against Halifax ‘A’ and tomorrow we’ll cover the ‘A’ team’s match away to Todmorden ‘A’.

John Kerrane picks up the narrative for the ‘B’ team’s match.

The ‘B’ team had to face Halifax without their three strongest players, two of whom (Dave Shapland and Andy Leatherbarrow) were doing duty for the ‘A’ team. Drawing heavily on ‘C’ team regulars, they still managed to finish with a drawn match, with Dave Sugden and John Kerrane winning long games when their opponents, both in difficult positions, ran out of time.

The individual results were:

Hebden Bridge ‘B’ – Halifax ‘A’
M.Syrett 0 – 1 D.Ursal
J.Kerrane 1 – 0 H.Wood
T.Sullivan 0 – 1 C.Velosa
D.Sugden 1 – 0 P.Moss
S.Priest ½ – ½ A.Dawson
2½ – 2½

This was a great result for the ‘B’ team considering the circumstances. Dursan Ursal is the strongest player in the league and therefore board 1 was always likely to be a positive result for Halifax. Needing to score at least 2½ points from the remaining 4 boards was always going to be tough but they did it. Well done chaps!

Here are the two Hebden Bridge wins.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

"Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error"

All chess players know the truth of these words from French playwright Moliere. Blitz and Lightening games are strewn with errors that wouldn’t occur in games that take place under the auspices of the ‘normal’ time limit. Despite this undoubted truth however, some of us still mismanage ourselves into ‘time trouble’ occasionally. In fact I can think of several current and previous team mates who rather make a habit of it.

Experience suggests to me that, attitudinally, players tend to fall very firmly into one of two camps when it comes to time management. Either, they persistently get themselves into time trouble and then blame the clock for any defeats they may suffer as a result (how many times have you heard the “I was winning at the end but I ran out of time” excuse). Or, they virtually never get into time trouble and simply can’t understand how certain team mates regularly end up ensnared in time scrambles.

I tend to fall into the latter group, but once in a while I do get wrapped up in a position and fall behind on the clock. Usually this is in mid-week league matches where I get 75mins for 35 moves or so. At longer time limits I don’t tend to have problems and, interestingly, the statistical evidence also suggests that I perform rather better. Today's cautionary tale comes from one of the shorter matches and on this occasion both I and my opponent got into quite acute time trouble.

After the game above had finished I’m sure that my opponent must have felt regretful about its outcome, I know I would have done. What really fascinates me though is whether he would have blamed himself for getting into the time trouble that cost him the game. When I've lost games on time in the past I know that I've tended to focus my frustration on the inaccuracy of my moves rather than on the lack of organisation and indecision that led me into the time shortage. You can see from the game above that both players made crucial errors when under pressure to reach time control.

In the end I can't put it any better than Moliere really. The best course of action is to avoid time scrambles!

Friday, 1 October 2010

When castling goes bad!

Way back at the beginning of September I posted some evidence to support the elementary chess principle that castling is, both from a positional and tactical perspective, a necessity in the game of chess. Today I'd like to bring Hebden Bridge Chess Club's members attention to some examples where castling turned out not to be such a good idea. Of course these illustrations all fall into the category of “tactical oversights”. It would seem perfectly possible to argue that the only way castling can be “strategically unsound” is if a player can choose to castle on either side of the board and selects an option that is not consistent with the strategy he has pursued up to that juncture.

Let’s begin our exposĂ© with some amusing cases of chess blindness, namely, players castling into an immediate checkmate. My fellow blogger, Greenpawn34, has, once again, come to my aid with the fruits of some insightful database queries.

“Players castling into mate in one. So far I have found 116 examples of this on the 1400 database.” (A database of games played on the Redhotpawn website).



Is that h1-a8 diagonal going to cause a problem?
White played 16.0-0 and Black check mated him


Watch out for that half open h-file! White played 11.0-0
and Black check mated him


Cunningly, White played 24.Nf4(!) ignoring the enprise
Rook in order to allow Black to play 24...0-0-0?? Oh dear!

In all of the cases above the losing player simply failed to visualise what the position would look like after they'd castled. In other words, they played the move on autopilot and paid the ultimate price. These are fairly unusual cases. However, in contrast to this "instant check mate" scenario, I should imagine that most of us have games in our score books where either ourselves or our opponents have unwittingly castled straight into the teeth of a blistering attack that led us/them to defeat. This can often be a case of, “right idea, wrong time to try it,” or it could be that we’ve underestimated or failed to notice our opponents attacking threats. I’m ashamed to say that these next two examples are not only my own, they are even from the same tournament!

Calderdale Individual Championships 2009/10: Round 2

Calderdale Individual Championships 2009/10: Round 5

Finally, by way of redemption for my sins in the games given above, I offer readers the game below which I played over 15 years ago! I still find it hard to believe that I’ve only played a handful of games since then that I think can hold a candle to this one. In all fairness to my opponent it would have been very difficult for him to envisage the full horror that awaited him when he played 12…0-0.

This one is definitely amongst the “best three wins” in my chess career. I hope to play this well again one day in the next 15 years!