Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Pick a piece, any piece

The Duchess is back!
Today I am delighted to welcome back to this blog our resident chess historian, Cynthia, the Duchess of Blunderboro. Readers may remember that on previous visits she has revealed who won the famous game between Lenin and Hitler as well as explaining the origins of the “hardest chess problem in the world”. After the success of that last post she e-mailed me saying:

“If you liked that one I have another, even older tale, from the life of my Great Grandfather that your readers are sure to enjoy”.

Of course I couldn’t resist such a tempting offer and immediately replied to confirm the commission of the post below. I leave it to the Lady Cynthia herself to explain further.

“Greetings chess fans. Let me start this column by asking you to consider the diagram position below. Some of you may be familiar with it as it is one of the few chess problems that has become so legendary that many chess players have heard of it by name. It’s called “Excelsior” and it was composed by the American problemist Sam Loyd and first published in 1861.

"Excelsior" by Sam Loyd, 1861

“What’s so special about this problem?” you may very well ask. In reply I will draw to your attention the fact that most chess problems are given names by their composers but there aren’t very many of those names that the average club player is likely to have heard mentioned before unless they have spent a lot of time studying chess problems. By contrast think about some of the famous chess games that have been given names such as “The Evergreen”, “The Immortal” and “The Game of the Century”. They are all renowned for their enduring beauty.

This is one of the few chess problems that could be considered to be an “immortal” and the tale I have to tell you today is the interesting and amusing story of its creation.

Let me begin my account in the school holidays of December 1935. I was 13 years old and passing some time studying a book of chess problems in the drawing room at Blunderboro Hall cosied up in front of an open fire. I think that the book may have contained some rather light-weight challenges for I recall that I was starting to feel like they were all a bit too easy when suddenly my Father burst into the room red-faced from his morning ride and chortling over some joke he had just shared with my elder brother who had accompanied him that day. When he saw me he stopped and afforded me one of his broadest smiles.

“Well, someone is taking their chess studies seriously I see.”

He ambled over, hands on hips and peered closely at the position I was studying. It was a mate in 3 puzzle.

“Chess problems today is it? What do you make of them?” he asked me, pointing at the book.

“To be honest Father, I’m beginning to think they are a little ho-hum” I sighed.

“Ho-hum!” He exclaimed and then laughed. “Why do you say that little one?”

“Well they just seem to me to be a little too contrived. The positions aren’t always natural and that can lead to a situation where the key suggests itself.”

As I said this my Father straightened and fixed me with a look that was a mixture of seriousness and surprise. He really hadn’t realised how seriously I was taking my studies.

“Go on,” he said “explain what you mean”.

“Well, in this position for example (see below) it seems obvious that the rook on f4 is the piece White must move first if he is to give check mate in three moves.”

White to play and mate in 3
 “Explain how you reached that conclusion,” my Father said as he pulled up a chair on the other side of the board from me.

“Well, first of all, it’s a mate in three puzzle so White doesn’t have much time. Because Black has threats of his own, such as Rxg2+, that rules out any sort of sneaky creeping moves such as 1.Kh2. That tells me that the solution must involve forcing moves, probably checks. Most of the checks in the position simply lose material and so already there are only two plausible candidate moves. 1.g4+ or 1.Rh4+.”

“That’s very good thinking” interjected my Father. “Keep going”.

“1.g4 looks tempting but then it is easy to see that the Black king will move to h4 and it will be impossible to mate him in 3 moves, if at all. No, the only way to achieve checkmate must be to use the White pieces to drive the enemy king towards the White king and pawns. So after 1.Rh4+ Kxh4 White can play 2.g3+ and now I can see that mate will be delivered by the White knight moving to f4 whether the Black king moves to h3 or h5. It’s a pretty solution but not that difficult.”

My Father sat silent for a moment looking at the board deep in thought and then he nodded as if he has just reached an important decision.

“Your solution is absolutely correct of course and much of your reasoning is also sound. Building up such reasoning skills is the main benefit of studying these kinds of problems. However, I’d advise you to be careful about jumping to hasty conclusions about thinking all chess problems contain the obvious signposts to their solutions. That isn’t always the case. In fact, your Great Grandfather once came to the same conclusion and it cost him a slap up dinner.”

“I should like to hear that story” I said enthusiastically. I loved hearing stories about my ancestors and Father was such an excellent raconteur.

“Then I shall tell it my darling” my Father beamed. Then he quickly cleared the chess board and set up a new position. The one I gave at the start of this post.

“It’s probably about time I gave you some more challenging problems to study and this one is certainly that. Before I ask you to try and solve it though, I’ll tell you about how your Great Grandfather was ensnared by it’s trickery.

In 1858 your Great Grandfather, Herbert, was in New York. For some time he had been involved in establishing new trade opportunities between the United States and Great Britain and he had spent a large portion of the previous few years in New York which was an essential trading hub at that time. New York at that time was an exciting place to be for a chess enthusiast. Just the year before this story takes place the First American Chess Congress had been held at the St. Julien Hotel on Broadway and the winner of the tournament was none other than Paul Morphy, one of the greatest players of all time. He had emerged from obscurity to become a great celebrity of the day and after winning that tournament he travelled on to Britain and France where he was hailed as the best player in the world.

Sam Loyd, 1841-1911
Morphy had spent some considerable period of time in New York before during and after that First American congress and as a result the already burgeoning chess scene enjoyed a real golden age. This was the era just before the New York Chess Clubs were founded and so the St. Julien was the place to meet and play chess at that time and many of the best players in the states as well as visiting European stars spent time there when they were in town. Your Great Grandfather spent a lot of his recreational time there and got to meet and know many of the important characters on the scene including Morphy himself and the owner of the hotel, a great patron for chess in New York, Denis Julien. He also befriended the man who composed this problem a young fellow called Samuel Loyd.”

“I know that name” I interjected.

“And well you might” my Father responded. “Sam Loyd became a famous puzzler and not just in chess circles. He also invented that puzzle I showed you last Christmas. 'The Trick Donkeys Problem'.”

“I remember that”.

“Well, Loyd was still a youngster when your Great Grandfather met him. However, even at the age of 18 he was already a very successful composer of chess problems and a reasonably accomplished player. One night Loyd was playing, chatting and making merry at the St. Julien Hotel with a group of players of which your Great Grandfather was one. The topic of their conversation turned to problem composition and solving and Herbert said that he found most chess problems to be rather easy to solve. Sam asked him why he thought that was the case. In answer Herbert made a similar case to the one you gave a few minutes ago saying that it was usually all too easy to find the piece that was the key to the solution. Immediately Loyd offered to wager that he could design a problem in which Herbert could not pick the piece that was the key to the checkmate. Herbert readily agreed thinking that the task was an impossible one and the stakes were agreed as being the cost of a dinner at the hotel.

After that evening a few weeks passed by and Herbert didn’t see Sam at the hotel. He thought that he must have become engrossed in one of his many projects and had forgotten about the bet but then, three weeks later, as he played a friendly game in the hotel someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to see a beaming Sam Loyd who told him that, when he’d finished his game he had a present for him and that he hadn’t eaten all day and was starving! Your Great Grandfather quickly agreed a draw in the game he was playing and hurried across the room to another table were a gathering crowd of a dozen or so kibitzers parted to let him take a seat across the board from Loyd. On the board in front of him was this position.”

"Excelsior" by Sam Loyd
"White to play and mate in 5 with the least likely pawn or piece."
“It’s White to play and give checkmate in five moves,” grinned Sam. “But my challenge to you Herbert is to pick a piece, any piece, that doesn’t give mate in the main line.

“So, now my girl. Can you meet Sam Loyd’s challenge and find a White piece that doesn’t give mate?” Chuckled my Father. “I’m going to go and bring myself some breakfast and so you have some time to think on it.” He stood and left the room leaving me rapt in thought.

After five or ten minutes he came back with a plate of eggs and bacon and a steaming cup of coffee.

“Pick your piece young lady” he said.

“I chose the pawn on b2,” I answered, “I’ve looked for tricks and traps but I can’t envisage how it can be involved in the solution in any way. Besides this to avoid being captured it would have to be the first piece to move and I can’t see how it contributes.” My Father’s laugh boomed out.

“Well, that’s exactly what your Great Grandfather Herbert thought and I’m afraid it cost him the price of that dinner. Not only does the b-pawn have a role to play in the solution, in the mainline it actually delivers checkmate!”

I could do nothing but stare at him in amazement.

“Let me show you how”, chortled Father.

I’ve never forgotten the feeling of total surprise and joy I felt when my Father revealed that solution to me. I’m sure that Herbert must have felt the same way back in 1858.

That then, is the story of how Sam Loyd won a splendid dinner at the St. Julien Hotel from my Great Grandfather. It is also the story of how a legendary chess problem was born. In fact the mystique of this puzzle has embedded itself so vividly into chess folklore that any chess problem which involves a pawn making consecutive moves from its home square to reach promotion is said to utilise the “Excelsior” theme. What a wonderful puzzle by one of the great puzzlers!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

End of season review - Part 1

Today we begin a review of the 2010-11 season which I’m aiming to cover off in several parts. We start with Hebden Bridge 'A's title challenge in Calderdale League Division 1. Here are the standings in the final table.

Ultimately this result spelt out disappointment for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ who lost their title to Huddersfield, and jubilation for Hebden Bridge ‘B’ who escaped relegation from the top flight.

Of course the story is much more complicated than that. The ‘A’ team seemed to be strong contenders to retain their title right from the start of the season and on paper it appeared that Huddersfield would be their main rivals with Courier ‘A’ looking like potential dark horses as they sported very competitive players on their top 3 boards.

The reigning champions fielded almost exactly the same side they had finished the previous season with. The exception was that Matthew Wedge-Roberts replaced Dave Shapland on board 4 as Dave moved into the ‘B’ team. This made virtually no difference to the team on paper and indeed the ‘A’ team started the season with a string of powerful and conclusive victories as they raced to 3 wins out of 3 and 13 board points out of a possible 15!

Meanwhile, Huddersfield had started very sluggishly as they drew at home to Brighouse in their first match and then lost at home to Courier in their second. This surprising upset seemed to signify the arrival of the Courier team as serious title contenders until they themselves slipped to a home defeat in the very next round against Belgrave. After 3 matches it was Belgrave and Hebden Bridge who topped the table with perfect records.

Round 4 took place on the November the 1st and Hebden Bridge hosted Huddersfield knowing that if they could defeat them they would almost certainly end their rival’s title hopes on the spot. It was on this night that Huddersfield started to show their steel as they clinched a tight match 2-3. Matthew Parsons’ glittering victory over David Firth on board 2 (see below) was scant consolation for the rare defeats suffered by Dave Wedge on board 1 and Matthew Wedge-Roberts on board 5. Suddenly, Huddersfield were back in the title race 1 point behind Hebden Bridge as Belgrave took sole leadership of the table by extending their unbeaten run to four matches with a win at Halifax.

By the mid-season interval however, normal service had been resumed. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ took out the league leaders and then defeated Courier at home in the last match before Christmas. However, Huddersfield had kept up the pace behind them by beating Hebden Bridge ‘B’, Todmorden and Belgrave to move into second place.

The second half of the season saw the two leaders remain locked together as they pulled away from the rest of the teams in the division. Hebden Bridge ‘A’ continued to put away their opponents in a more convincing style than Huddersfield as the racked up an increasingly impressive board count but, try as they might, they couldn’t extend their points lead. In the end the title race came down to the second fixture between the two sides on the 10th of March, this time with Huddersfield having the home advantage.

Sadly, this was where the wheels came off for Hebden Bridge as they fell to a humiliating 4½ - ½ defeat. Dave Wedge dropped down to board 2 for the match and was the only player preventing a total whitewash as he drew with Chris Booth. The rest of the team all capitulated and the disappointment was palpable.

To give Alastair Wright’s team credit, they then lifted themselves to win their remaining fixtures and keep the pressure on Huddersfield but unfortunately their rivals, despite some close run contests, didn’t make any mistakes. In the end the ‘A’ team’s season came down to those two clashes with Huddersfield and on those nights, they didn’t do enough. Let us congratulate Huddersfield however for recovering from their awful start to get through the rest of the season with a perfect record.

Here are the man-for-man statistics for the ‘A’ team this season. A quick note on the players stats below before we dive in. All the numbers below refer only to the Calderdale League matches and the ratings differential is based on accumulating the YCA live rating scores for each league game played. The end-of-season ratings are calculated in a slightly different way. Live ratings only provide a transient flavour of a players form rather than a solid assessment of their entire season so readers should view the stats below as a guideline only.

David Wedge – Board 1

Rating (at the start of the season): 168
Score: 8/14

An interesting contrast in fortunes for Dave this season depending on which colour he played. He scored only 3/7 with White but managed 5/7 with Black. The stats might suggest that he was overambitious with White but, having looked at his games this season, I’d tend to suggest that perhaps he was sometimes not ambitious enough and didn’t manage to put his opponents under enough pressure. That’s just my opinion. I suspect he would say that four defeats in one season is not a vintage year for him but he was the third highest points scorer on board 1 behind Huddersfield’s Leo Keely and Belgrave’s Gordon Farrar. That’s no mean feat. He actually scored the same number of points as Gordon but dropped to board 2 for the away fixture against Huddersfield (which means he scored 7½ of his 8 points on board 1) where he scored the team’s solitary half point.

Analysis of Dave Wedge's league games in 2010-11

Here is Dave at his best, punishing his own team Captain for having the temerity to play a Max Lange Attack against him in the Calderdale Individual Championship. Alastair makes one mistake and is buried.

Matthew Parsons – Board 2

Rating: 167
Score: 10½/13

It was a really tremendous season for Matthew who lost only one game when he played on board 1 away against Huddersfield. He also swapped places with his Captain for the two ties against Belgrave and therefore scored 2 of his points on board 3. Otherwise he made 8½/10 on board 2 which is an awesome accumulation! All these exploits enabled him to increase his live rating by nearly 4 points over the season. Add to this his excellent run in the Calderdale Individual Championship where he was only stopped in the last round by Courier’s John Morgan and Matthew can be very happy with his performance this season although he will no doubt be disappointed to finish second in both the team and individual competitions. Board 1 beckons for Matthew next season.

Analysis of Matthew Parsons' league results in 2010-11

I’ve chosen his mind bendingly complicated game against Dave Firth for his best game of the season, although in truth, there were several candidates.

Alastair Wright – Board 3

Rating: 160
Score: 9½/14

Team Captain Alastair Wright is another player who shows contrasting form with each colour. With the White pieces he was indestructible scoring 5/7 but with Black he showed some frailty. Both his loses this season occurred when he was playing Black. Unfortunately for him, playing on board 3 (except for the two matches with Belgrave and one against Todmorden when he played on board 2) and having a relatively high grade for his board position meant that his high score of 9½ only yielded him a neutral live rating score for his league fixtures. As a Captain he continued to discharge his duties in an exemplary fashion and, as a result, the ‘A’ team were always able to sport a strong side even when regular team members were missing.

Analysis of Alastair Wright's league results in 2010-11

Alastair is pretty open about bemoaning his poor form with Black but, as this game shows, he is also capable of winning nice games when conducting them. This positional annihilation of Todmorden’s Scott Gornall is a case in point.

Matthew Wedge-Roberts – Board 4

Rating: 144
Score: 11/14

Matthew finished the season as the second highest points scorer in the Division behind John Morgan of Courier. Even though two of his 10 wins were defaults he still deserves great credit for this score. A successful team in the league will always require their lower boards to score heavily and he certainly delivered in this regard. Unfortunately his two defeats came at the hands of Huddersfield players in the critical encounters of the season but, other than those lowlights, he should be delighted with the way things went for him this year and his grade must be heading in a northerly direction once more for next year.

Analysis of Matthew Wedge-Roberts league results in 2010-11

Many of Matthew’s wins are pretty destructive. I’ve chosen this game from the few of his that I have on my database for the year (Matthew doesn’t keep any of his score sheets – the shame, the shame!) as a good illustration of the combustible style that has yielded him a bucket load of points against the lower board opponents he has been required to dispatch.

Nick Sykes – Board 5

Rating: 135
Score: 7½/11

Playing bottom board in a good team is always a bit of a thankless task. This is because, if you’re a decent player, you are expected to win pretty much every game you play and any defeat can be costly both for the team and individually. Nick has managed to amass a good scoring percentage in the matches he played in this season but nevertheless he has paid a heavy price for his defeats and draws and ends the season with a negative live rating for his league games despite scoring +4! It must be said that he had a good run out in the Calderdale Individual Championships ending the tournament as the only unbeaten player apart from the winner, John Morgan. Hopefully the end of season ratings will reward him more suitably for his efforts.

Analysis of Nick Sykes' league results in 2010-11 

Here is Nick’s interesting round 2 draw against John in the Calderdale Individual Championship. Baring in mind John only dropped a point and a half all season in the league, this smooth draw represented a great result for Nick.

I hope that readers will offer their opinions about the 'A' team's performance this season. I'm sure the players themselves will have plenty to say! Who do you think we should have playing in the 'A' team next season when Dave Wedge and Matthew Wedge-Roberts are gone? Please do post your comments below for others to see and consider.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Grease lightning!

Looks like they had 5 player teams in Grease as well!
For several weeks now every time I’ve heard or made mention of the annual Calderdale Chess League Team Lightning Competition my internal juke box has been playing the same tune. It’s one that I’m sure you all know. So here it is then, my new lyrics for the eponymous number from the musical “Grease”. Cue John Travolta…

On Monday night down to Tod Workin’ Mens Club we all went
(Some drove there whoa some walked it)
To play in the Calderdale team lightnin’ we were hell bent
(We’re ready, yeah we’re ready)
The guys were ready for the fight it was goin’ to be some night
We all mustered up our darin’ while Dave Milton did the pairin’
It’s team lightnin!
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go.

Have a go at team lightnin but you’ve only got ten seconds a move
(Team lightning go team lightning)
Whoa it’s frightnin when you haven’t got a clue what to do
(It’s frightnin, oh it’s frightnin!)
You must be quick, for the clock ticks
At team lightnin!

If you leave your king enprise then your opponent can take it
Oh yeah!
And if you don’t move in time then you can be defaulted
Oh yeah!
Attempting skewers, pins and forks we try not to play like dorks
And we mask our apprehension though we’re tremblin’ from the tension
Team lightnin!

Have a go at team lightnin you know you’ve got somthin’ to prove
(Team lightning, oh team lightning)
Whoa it’s frightnin when you haven’t got a clue what to do
(It’s frightnin, oh it’s frightnin!)
Get in the groove and make your move
It’s team lightnin!

Todmorden Working Men' Club
Well, I think that’s quite enough of that. I don’t believe I have any future in the song writing business! Anyway, as readers will have gathered from this tomfoolery, the Calderdale Team Lightning Competition did indeed take place on Monday night at Todmorden Working Men’s Club. The competition is the traditional curtain closer to the league season and provides a good opportunity for players from all clubs to get together for a bit of fun. The event is deliberately informal and although a number of clubs brought enough players along for several teams there were plenty of surplus players who were slotted in wherever there was a shortage and that made for some interesting temporary alliances on the night.

Before I go any further perhaps some readers would appreciate a brief summary of the format. It goes like this:
  • Teams have 5 players who are arranged roughly in strength order
  • Pairings are based on the swiss system (i.e. you play a team on the same or a similar score in each round)
  • Colours are alternated on each board and decided by a coin toss
  • There are no chess clocks used. Instead a tape is played with a beeper sounding every 10 seconds
  • Players move on the sound of the beeper and persistent moving before or after the sound can result in forfeiture of the game
  • Check does not need to be announced and kings left enprise can be captured to win the game
  • The winning team is the one with the highest board count at the end of 5 rounds

A team Captain showdown between
Alastair Wright and Martin Syrett is
regarded intently by Nick Sykes at
the end of Round 1
Hebden Bridge Chess Club entered four teams into the competition this year and the Hebden Bridge ‘A’ team closely resembled the side who had swept to victory at last year’s event collecting a record points haul of 24/25 and winning the individual prizes on all 5 boards! The only change from that side was the replacement of Nick Sykes on board 5 with Matthew Wedge-Roberts.

The competition however threatened to be a much more severe test for Hebden Bridge ‘A’ this year with their league rivals Huddersfield (who missed last year’s event) fielding two strong teams. In addition competitive line-ups were sported by Halifax and Todmorden (who both put together two teams), Belgrave and also a pretty handy Hebden Bridge ‘B’ side.

In the first round tournament organiser Dave Milton deliberately paired teams from the same clubs against one another in order to avoid any potential whiff of collusion in the latter stages. The pairings and results for each round are given below. When known the teams named first played with the White pieces on boards 1, 3 and 5.

From round 2 onwards the numbers in brackets refer to that team’s cumulative score from previous rounds.

Round 1
Huddersfield ‘A’ 4 – 1 Huddersfield ‘B’
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ 3 – 2 Hebden Bridge ‘B’
Hebden Bridge ‘C’ 2 – 3 Hebden Bridge ‘D’
Todmorden ‘A’ 4½ – ½ Todmorden ‘B’
Halifax ‘B’ 1 – 4 Halifax ‘A’
Belgrave 5 – 0 BYE
Round 2
Belgrave (5) 2 – 3 Todmorden ‘A’ (4½)
Halifax ‘A’ (4) 3½ – 1½ Huddersfield ‘A’ (4)
Hebden Bridge ‘D’ (3) 2 – 3 Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (3)
Hebden Bridge ‘C’ (2) 0 – 5 Hebden Bridge ‘B’ (2)
Huddersfield ‘B’ (1) 5 – 0 Halifax ‘B’ (1)
Todmorden ‘B’ (½) 5 – 0 BYE

Round 3
Halifax ‘A’ (7½) 2 – 3 Todmorden ‘A’ (7½)
Belgrave (7) 2½ – 2½ Hebden Bridge ‘B’ (7)
Huddersfield ‘B’ (6) ½ – 4½ Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (6)
Huddersfield ‘A’ (5½) 3½ – 1½ Todmorden ‘B’ (5½)
Halifax ‘B’ (1) 3 – 2 Hebden Bridge ‘D’ (5)
Hebden Bridge ‘C’ (2) 5 – 0 BYE

Round 4
Todmorden ‘A’ (10½) 1 – 4 Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (10½)
Halifax ‘A’ (9½) 3 – 2 Belgrave (9½)
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ (9½) 1 – 4 Huddersfield ‘A’ (9)
Todmorden ‘B’ (7) 4 – 1 Hebden Bridge ‘C’ (7)
Hebden Bridge ‘D’ (7) 1 – 4 Huddersfield ‘B’ (6½)
Halifax ‘B’ (4) 5 – 0 BYE

Round 5
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ (14½) 3½ – ½ Huddersfield ‘A’ (13)
Todmorden ‘B’ (11) 2 – 3 Halifax ‘A’ (12½)
Todmorden ‘A’ (11½) 3 – 2 Hebden Bridge ‘B’ (10½)
Huddersfield ‘B’ (10½) 2 – 3 Belgrave (11½)
Halifax ‘B’ (9) 4 – 1 Hebden Bridge ‘C’ (8)
Hebden Bridge ‘D’ (8) 5 – 0 BYE

At the end of the night Hebden Bridge 'A' had retained their title to see their top board player, Dave Wedge, off to pastures new in fine style. (He leaves the area to take up a new job in Cambridge over the summer and was given a “Good Luck” card signed by many of the players before the start of round 5.)
The kibitzers gather like vultures as a tense
encounter between Halifax 'A' and
Huddersfield'A' draws to a close

The manner of the ‘A’ team’s victory could not have been in starker contrast to last year’s cruise however. The team (1.Dave Wedge, 2.Matthew Parsons, 3.Alastair Wright, 4.Dave Shapland and 5.Matthew Wedge-Roberts) actually started the evening in a rather sluggish fashion with a tight 3-2 win over their colleagues in the ‘B’ team (1.Pete Olley, 2. Nick Sykes, 3.Martin Syrett, 4.Neil Bamford, 5,Terry Sullivan) in which Dave lost to Neil and Alastair to Martin.

Then in round 2 they made similarly heavy weather of a Hebden Bridge 'D’ side (1.Andy Leatherbarrow, 2.Ruud Stoelman, 3.Kyle Sharpe, 4.Spike Leatherbarrow, 5.Hephzi Leatherbarrow) consisting largely of promising juniors effectively combined with a pair of seasoned campaigners. This time young Kyle Sharpe claimed the excellent scalp of Alastair Wright when Alastair placed his rook enprise in a rook and piece ending and Ruud Stoelman beat Matthew Parsons.

However, once the ‘A’s got into their stride their was no stopping them as they first crushed Huddersfield 'B' 4½-½ in round 3 and then hammered the leaders Todmorden 'A' 4-1 in round 4. This enabled them to start the final round leading by 1½ points from Huddersfield 'A', who had not enjoyed a comfortable evening themselves, and who needed to win by a margin of 3½-1½ in order to overhaul them. In the event Hebden beat them by the same scoreline to pull even further clear.

Halifax 'A' performed excellently to finish in second place having beaten Huddersfield ‘A’ themselves in round 2 and after that (as you can see below) it was all a bit bunched up.

Final Standings
Hebden Bridge ‘A’ = 18 (5/5 match points)
Halifax ‘A’ = 15½ (4/5)
Todmorden ‘A’ = 14½ (4/5)
Huddersfield ‘A’ = 14½ (3/5)
Belgrave = 14½* (2½/5)
Halifax ‘B’ = 13* (3/5)
Todmorden ‘B’ = 13* (2/5)
Hebden Bridge ‘D’ = 13* (2/5)
Huddersfield ‘B’ = 12½ (2/5)
Hebden Bridge ‘B’ = 12½ (1½/5)
Hebden Bridge ‘C’ = 9* (1/5)

(Teams with an * next to them all received 5-0 match byes as part of their scores. This does distort the final standings somewhat as there were only two other whitewashings in the whole evening!)

Board 5 Prize Winner, Matthew
Wedge-Roberts (front right) finishes off
Jon Hughes of Huddersfield 'B', his
3rd round victim.
Hebden Bridge certainly didn’t have it their own way this year when it came to the individual prizes. These were awarded to the players recording the highest scores on each board. Prize winners were as follows:

Board 1 winner = Andrew Clarkson 5/5 (Todmorden ‘A’)

Board 2 winners = Carlos Velosa (Halifax ‘A’) and Matthew Parsons (Hebden Bridge ‘A’) 4/5

Board 3 winners = Neil Suttie (Todmorden ‘A’), Les Johnson (Belgrave), Richard Boylan (Huddersfield ‘A’) 4/5

Board 4 winner = Dave Innes (Todmorden ‘B’) 4½/5

Board 5 winner = Matthew Wedge-Roberts (Hebden Bridge ’A’) 5/5

Special mention should go to Andrew Clarkson and Matthew Wedge-Roberts who were the only two players with perfect scores at the end of the night. Andrew’s feat was particularly impressive as it was achieved on board 1 and therefore he had to beat some of the best players in the competition including Darwin Ursal, Leo Keely and Dave Wedge in order to attain his score.

Recognition and thanks must also go to Dave Milton and the Todmorden Chess Club for hosting and organising this year’s event. The hospitality was first class and the event an unqualified success.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Chess Improvement Carnival V

The Jedi Knight School Edition

Yoda and Obi-Wan practice their over-the-board
psych-out technique regularly
Welcome to the fifth edition of the Chess Improvement Carnival where (today being Star Wars day) we are deeply honoured to welcome two very special guests to host and introduce this month’s content. That’s right. Two of the finest tutors a chess improver could wish for, legendary Jedi Masters Yoda and Obi-Wan-Kenobi are here.

Obi-Wan: Welcome to “Jedi Knight School” my Padawans. We will begin our studies by considering the works of a great Jedi master, Dr Emanuel Lasker. Padawan Blunderprone has studied the career of Dr Lasker and shares his thoughts across a most excellent series of four posts. In his first article "The Beginnings of the double sacrifice" Blunderprone illustrates that this legendary Master was even prepared to make a double-Jedi-Knight sacrifice in order to achieve victory. During his win over Mieses he sacrifices one knight to trap the enemy king in the centre and then a second to gain the time he needs to bring his second rook into the attack. Exemplary!

Yoda: Yeesssssss, very strong in that one, the Force was. Master Lasker was it who said: “When you see a good move, for a better one look”. As in his writings Padawan Intermezzo shows, for alert Jedi students these wise words still hold their truth. Awww.

Obi-Wan: Sadly all Jedi Masters, even the greatest, must one day meet their nemesis. Dr Lasker met his when he fought the Sith Lord Capablanca in 1921. Padawan Mark Weeks has spent long days studying their great battle and extracting interesting lessons for all of us to consider.

Yoda: With the help of analysis by the great Jedi Kasparov even, complete understanding of the endgame position he his studying Padawan Weeks struggles to find. Mmmmmmm.

Obi-Wan: Young pupils, we must continue to consider and learn from the wise writings of the great Jedi Masters which every student knows to play a most important part in improving their skills. This month we have included presentations from two experienced Jedi scholars who advocate slightly different approaches to their learning.

Yoda: Awww. Most diligent and thoughtful a student, Padawan Bright night is. Begun a new training regime he has. Call it “The Woolum Experiment” he does. Using Al Woolum’s “Chess Tactics Workbook” a methodical approach he takes. Helped him achieve significant progress it has. Herh herh herh.

Jedi Master John Nunn ponders and teaches
Obi-Wan: In addition, Padawan Chess Tiger reminds us of the significant literary contributions made by Jedi Master John Nunn and asks us to look at them afresh. He reminds us that what can at first seem to be indigestible and remote transpires to be of infinite value on closer inspection. Padawan Chess Tiger goes even further and explains how he has incorporated Master Nunn’s teachings into his daily contemplations and gives some useful practical examples.

Yoda: Difficult and arduous task can learning to teach young Jedis be, but also very rewarding it is. Doubly so is this when the student in question your own child be. About a critical lesson every young Jedi must learn Padawan A Chess Dad writes. “Part of the cycle of continuous learning and improvement” he explains failure is, and to a most useful resource reinforcing his point he directs us.

Obi-Wan: From a distant and troubled world The Closet Jedimaster still finds the time to contemplate the abundant ruminations that he finds on the web and illuminate them for us so that we can increase our own understanding.

Yoda: Been pondering the lessons we can learn from the little ones, he too has. Explain in his post he does how “ignorance virtue is” when considering creativity. Mmmmmm.

Star Wars Chess (Flickr/origamiguy1971)
Obi-Wan: Be mindful of what you see my Padawans for every true master knows that having sight of the board and pieces can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes looking at the things you can see can prevent you from perceiving the things you can’t.

Yoda: Learn to visualise the board and play the game in his mind, a young Jedi should. He free himself from the disability of sight and find the true path, only by doing this can. Herh herh herh.

Obi-Wan: In his “Don’t look now” post Padawan Intermezzo considers the benefits of learning to play without seeing and illustrates his point using examples from the works of two great Jedi masters, Tal and Ivanchuk.

Yoda: To the delirious ramblings of Padawan HeinzK, at last we now come. To a new Dutch word this month he introduces us all: “geestverruimend”. Awww. For the mind the same thing as psychedelic drugs, he goes on to suggest that chess playing does. Taking drugs himself I think he has been! Agree with these methods I do not, yet to provide us with great entertainment and instruction his games of online blitz chess continue. Hmmmmmm.

Obi-Wan: So ends our Jedi Knight class for today Padawans. All that remains is for me to bid you farewell and say “May the 4th be with you!”

Yoda: Next time see you we will. Herh herh herh.

A big "Thank you" to all those bloggers and surfers out there who contributed material for this edition of the Carnival. Keep your ears to the ground for information on next month's edition.