Friday, 24 December 2010

The Chess Players' Film Festival - Christmas Competition

Graham Garden and Barry Cryer are regular
panelists on "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue"
When it’s on, I’m a regular listener of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” on Radio 4. For those who aren’t familiar with the show contestants are invited to take part in numerous silly games. One game that features regularly is the “Book Club” or “Film Festival” idea. In this game the teams were asked to suggest titles for (for example) a “Car Mechanics Film Festival”. Titles such as “Daewoo of the Jackal” might be suggested. Listening to an old show earlier this month got me thinking about what some of the suggestions for a “Chess Players Film Festival” would be.

After coming up with a few suggestions below to get things started I decided to set readers here a festive challenge. The question is: “What films might feature at the chess players film festival” (You aren’t allowed to have films that are actually about chess!)

Here are a few of my suggestions:

  • Any black and white film
  • Any porn film
  • Any film by J Arthur Rank
 Some film titles that will do just as they are:
  • The Ipcress File
  • When We Were Kings
  • Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
  • Clockers
  • The French Connection
  • The Pelikan Brief
Some films titles that need a little creative amendment:
  • The Magnificent Mate in 7
  • Mating Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
  • Knight of the Living Dead
  • Dungeons and Sicilian Dragons
  • Taimanov Bandits
  • Gentle Benoni
  • Two Knights Tango in Paris
  • Kasparov the Friendly Ghost
There must be zillions more! Please post your suggestions as comments here or e-mail them to me. I am offering an exclusive book prize (kindly donated by an anonymous club member) for those who offer the most creative suggestions!

That just leaves me to say "Merry Christmas" to one and all. Have a great time and I'll see you in the New Year.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Revenge of the underdogs!

The big beasts had a real scrap on their paws in round 2!
Having been well and truly put in their place in round 1 the collective underdogs bit back in round 2 of the Calderdale Individual Chess Championship at the Trades Club on Monday night. This year’s 5 rounded event takes place on the second Monday of each month from November through to March. November’s 1st round pitted the top half of the draw (in grade order) against the bottom half and the top dogs won every game.

Round 2 always threatened to be more interesting as the grading gap between all of those players on 1 point reduced considerably and this turned out to be the case with several cases of ‘giant killing’ and a couple of ‘giant pacifications’ handed out. There is plenty of material for us to review in the games section so let me first provide you with the results of the round.

Four players exercised their right to take a half point bye and these included the tournament’s top seed, Chris Booth of Huddersfield.

Several efforts are worthy of a specific mention. First of all, Nick Sykes managed to hold a draw against the 4th seed John Morgan in one of the evening’s most interesting games. John played his trademark St George’s Defence (1…a6 and 2…b5) and Nick responded sensibly rather than trying to refute the opening outright. He maintained a potentially dangerous initiative in the early part of the game before John’s accurate play succeeded in equalising the position. The players then concluded peace with plenty of wood left on the board but never-the-less in a dead even position.

On board 5 Terry Sullivan also played well with the White pieces to keep 6th seed, Pete Olley, at bay. The opening, a Ruy Lopez Exchange Variation, has a reputation for being drawish but in fact both players tried hard to gain an advantage in a simplified position before agreeing terms.

The advantage of the white pieces also offered the underdogs with some consolation on boards 7 and 9. On board 7 Dave Sugden draw with Todmorden’s Scott Gornall and on board 9 Steven Priest read Chris Edwards his last rights.

So far so good for the underdogs, but even better was to come. First of all, James Todd scored a superb victory over Brian Corner with the Black pieces. Then, at the very end of the night, Josh Blinkhorn checkmated Mike Barnett. Showing nerves of steel Josh had only 30 seconds left on his clock to deliver checkmate with his king and queen against Mike’s bare king. Anyone who has tried to do that kind of thing in a time scramble knows how easy it is to allow a stalemate.

Elsewhere, the top dogs held sway. The board 1 clash saw two time trouble addicts slugging it out. Andy Leatherbarrow and 2nd seed Dave Wedge are both infamous for their clock-management antics and indeed, both players ended up with 5 minutes apiece to play their last 10 moves before the time control. Having made it that far in one piece, Andy then tragically blundered a knight in the end game to give Dave the win.

Finally, here are the standings after two rounds.

2 points:
D.Wedge, M.Parsons, A.Wright, R.Sutcliffe, J.Blinkhorn

1.5 points:
C.Booth, J.Morgan, P.Olley, S.Gornall, M.Wedge-Roberts, N.Sykes, T.Sullivan, A.Gonzalez, D.Sugden

1 point:
M.Barnett, A.Leatherbarrow, M.Syrett, P.Edwards, A.Dawson, S.Priest, J.Aldridge, M.Shah, N.Bamford, J.Nicholson, J.Todd, J.Whitehead, T.Webster

0.5 point:
C.Edwards, D.Milton, D.Crampton

0 points:
M.Levy, B.Corner, B.Wadsworth, P.Dearden, D.Pugh, J.Gilhooley, C.Greaves, J.P.Ellis, T.Whelan

I'm hoping to publish some photos and also more interesting positions from the round 2 games at the end of the week.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Chess Ethics - Retreat and recapture, it's the right thing to do!

Colonel Polhill consulting
a very old edition of ECO
Today I'd like to introduce (or perhaps for some of you who are very well read, reintroduce) Hebden Bridge Chess Club members to a new guest columnist; Colonel Walter Polhill (Retired). The Colonel's editorial was first published in The Independent on Sunday back in the mid to late ninties and he mainly concerned himself with the moral code associated with the game. In today's regergitated post he debates whether or not standards of decency at the board may be on the wane.

"There is an unhealthy mood of bravado laced with machismo running through modern Russian chess. In the old days, captures were met with the politeness of a recapture and any player with pretensions to be considered a gentleman would retreat a piece that his opponent had attacked. Such old formalities, however, are no longer observed, as the following game attests".

I was reminded of Colonel Polhill's articles (and this one in particular) when I played this fun game below on the website. If you want to see a game with pieces being placed and left enprise in the most outrageous fashion then there is no better opening line to study than this bloodthirsty line of the Classical Sicilian.

There is just time for me to add that the second round of the Calderdale Individual Championship takes places at the Trades Club tomorrow night. I'm very much looking forward to watching events unfold and will be reporting on proceedings next week.

Friday, 3 December 2010

You have to speculate to accumulate

On Monday night Hebden Bridge Chess Club's 'A' and 'B' teams competed in the latest round of the Calderdale Evening Chess League. Both matches featured wins for Hebden Bridge players who sacrificed material relatively speculatively in order to gain the initiative and put their opponents under pressure. Both players won but you can judge for yourself whether or not Matthew Parsons' and Dave Shapland's assessments were correct.

Hebden Bridge 'A' started the night at the top of Division 1 and they maintained their position with a comfortable away victory over Brighouse. Matthew Parsons has been on excellent form at the start of the season and continued his unbeaten run with a very fine win over Dennis Breen on board 2. Take a look at the position below and see if you can figure out the best way to proceed with the Black pieces.

Here is Nick Sykes' smooth win on board 5.

The full scorecard for the match was:

Brighouse – Hebden Bridge ‘A’
R.Broadbent 1 - 0 D.Wedge
D.Breen 0 – 1 M. Parsons
 B.Bendall ½ – ½ A. Wright
 P.Whitehouse 0 – 1 M.Wedge-Roberts
N.Hudson 0 – 1 N.Sykes
1½ – 3½

Meanwhile the 'B' team have been struggling at the other end of the table and are heavily involved in the relegation battle. They also travelled to an away fixture in Halifax where they played against this season's surprise package Belgrave who started the evening behind Courier 'A' and Hebden Bridge 'A' only on board count. The 'B' team had their strongest possible line-up and were unfortunate to go down 3-2.

Early on in the evening John Kerrane obtained an extra pawn and a bishop pair versus bishop and knight in an endgame against Angel Gonzalez. The position should have yielded a victory but unfortunately John made a critical error and lost. The bad start was made more acute when Pete Olley succumbed to Gordon Farrar on board 1. Gordon had taken the unusual (for him at least) step of playing 1.e4 and had played a Classical Variation against Pete's Dragon set up. Gordon seemed to maintain a small edge right through the opening and middle game and eventually his pressure was made to count. At 0-2 down it looked bleak for Hebden Bridge but then came the fight back.

Dave Shapland decided a tight positional battle with Les Johnson by sacrificing a knight for two connected passed pawns which turned out to be very hard to stop. Les gave back the piece but Dave maintained the advantage and was able to convert the endgame for a win. The notes in the game viewer below are Dave's.

Team Captain, Martin Syrett, conjured up another wonderful act of escapology (see his earlier effort this season against Todmorden) as he tricked Mike Barnett to equalise the score at 2-2.

With the scores level it looked like Hebden Bridge would manage to glean a much needed win as Andy Leatherbarrow was a comfortable piece up in his game on board three. But then with victory in sight he ran out of time and Belgrave won the match. Below is the agonising final position on the board when Andy's flag fell.

The match scorecard was:
Belgrave – Hebden Bridge ‘A’
G.Farrar 1 - 0 P.Olley
L.Johnson 0 – 1 D.Shapland
S.Haggas 1 – 0 A. Wright
M.Barnett 0 – 1 M.Syrett
A.Gonzalez 1 – 0 J.Kerrane
3 – 2

In the rest of the night's action Halifax 'A' caused a shock by beating high-flying Courier 'A' who were missing a board 5 player. This lifted Halifax out of the relegation places and saw Hebden Bridge 'B' supplant them there. Meanwhile at Todmorden, Huddersfield continued their resurgent run after a slow start to the season by beating Todmorden 'A' 3-2.

All this means that Hebden Bridge 'A' and Belgrave lead the league by a point from Hudderfield 'A' and two points from Courier 'A'. The last round before Christmas pits Hebden Bridge against Courier and Belgrave against Huddersfield so the top four positions could still change significantly before the mid-season break.

Hebden Bridge 'B' will host Brighouse in a match they really must win in order to get out of the relegation zone and send Brighouse down into it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Raise a glass to the Scotch!

This type of Scotch makes for a better
picture though don't you think?
No, not the Scottish, (fine people though they be) but the Scotch. Not the single malt variety of Scotch either. No, yesterday was St Andrew's day and that seems good enough reason for this blog to celebrate the Scotch Game. It is a venerable system that is first mentioned by Ercole del Rio in 1750 but which owes its name to a correspondence game played between the Edinburgh and London chess clubs in 1824.

For a very long time the opening lay dormant and slumbering as the players of the 20th century generally thought its waters were too quite to offer the White player any sort of advantage. That assessment was changed forever when Garry Kasparov sprung it on Anatoly Karpov in their 1990 World Championship match which was played in Lyon.

Since then the Scotch has gained a new lease of life as today's Grandmasters use it as a viable alternative to the well trodden paths of the Spanish.

For me, the Scotch has been a reletively new acquaintance. For many years I exclusively played the Sicilian against 1.e4 but in the last four or five years I have started to insert 1...e5 into my repertoire and that has meant that I've had to figure out a way of meeting the Scotch. I have had some excellent results against it (in fact I don't think I've lost against it over the board), and yet I'm beginning to consider playing it with the White pieces too as an altenative to the Italian Game that I usually trot out.

Today I shamelessly offer readers of this blog a couple of my greatest hits against the Scotch which may serve either to recommend or put off members from the opening, who knows.

This first game was played over the board.

And this one was played online.