All the Latest News from the St John's Chess Club 2017-18
Dear St Johns Chess Club Members,
There was a real buzz at chess club last night following the exploits of our Williamson Cup team earlier in the week. It was also a nice relaxed atmosphere, without any league matches for a change. Apart from several internal competition games, there was some competitive friendly action between several members, and this week's guests Oli and Niko, both now prospective members.
In the Ladder, Alan's attempt to knock Richard off the top spot came unstuck - I walked over just in time to witness the decisive checkmate. Meanwhile, Brian and Nigel fought out an interesting draw, with Brian learning that even winning Nigel's queen, in exchange for rook and knight, is not necessarily enough to put Nigel on the canvas.
Our newest member, Nathan Abbott, now joins the Ladder competition, with his estimated grade of 110 slotting him in in 11th position. He is currently able to challenge Tom, John or Vijay, or be challenged by Crumpton, David P or Ken. Why not get something in the diary?
In the Rapidplay, Group B was finally resolved, with Simon taking the full points from David E. The Quarter Final draw now looks like this:
QF1 Nigel v Ed
QF2 Dennis or Phil v Richard (Dennis and Phil will play-off on 14th December)
QF3 Simon v Rod
QF4 Crumpton v David P
All Quarter Finals are best of three. David E and Tom can complete their Group Stage fixture, if they wish to do so.
As always, updated tables attached, games submitted for grading and website updated. Next Thursday we have a double-header with two of our league teams playing at home on the same night. Anyone who is not playing for either the Crusaders or Bishops is very welcome to come along as usual, but will have to take a chess set down into the bar area.
Dear St Johns Chess Club Members,
And now for your further pleasure:
Sneesby, Phil (121) - Orton, Stephen (194)
Williamson Cup - St. John's v Norfolk & Norwich - 14.11.2017
It is a rare privilege to play the current Norfolk Chess Champion over the board.
After the game, Stephen said he had not met the Sämisch Variation against the King's Indian Defence for about 20 years!
[14...Qxg2 15.Qe3 (or 15.Rdg1 Qh3 16.Nd5 Bxd5 17.cxd5) 15...Rfe8 16.Rdg1 Qh3 17.Qg5 These seem 'unclear' but White does appear to have compensation for the pawn.]
Thought this was definitely the best response.
[My engine suggests 20.Nxc7 Bxc4 21.Qd2 Rad8 22.Nxa6 as better for White, but I did not consider this during the game.]
[I decided against 28.Qxa6 Qf5+ 29.Ka1 Qe4 30.Red1 worried about possible threats on the Queenside.]
Liquidating pawns in the endgame increase drawing chances.
After the game, we both agreed this was a key move, to give the White Rook mobility to prevent advances of the d-pawn.
43...Ra6= Draw agreed on Black's proposal.
Dear St Johns Chess Club Members,
Here for your delectation, is Harry's fine draw against Terry Turner in last night's match; part notation, part narrative thriller.
Williamson Cup – Preliminary Round
14 November 2017
White: Terry Turner (177)
Black: David (Harry) McLean (e85)
1. b3 e5
2. Bb2 d6
3. e3 g6
4. d4 e4
5. d5 Nf6
6. Nd2 Rg8
My opponent opened by fianchettoing queenside and, nerves-a-jangling, I immediately made a small blunder in attempting to fianchetto kingside. This would, due to my not yet properly defended weaker central squares, mean I had to push my e-pawn to prevent losing it and also protect my fianchettoed bishop with my rook thus preventing my castling kingside.
7. c4 Bg7
8. Ne2 Na6
9. Nc3 Bg4
However, this blunder actually worked okay as it enabled me to deny him a little room with the e-pawn and then disrupt his kingside pawns. Then, after he blocked his own fianchettoed bishop with a knight, my fianchettoed bishop gave me decent control of that diagonal for a lot of the game. The ‘blunder’ also made me focus a bit better - I seem to be a player who needs to be on the back foot to concentrate.
10. f3 exf3
11. gxf3 Bh5
12. Qe2 Qe7
13. 0-0-0 0-0-0
14. e4 Nd7
15. Bh3 Kb7
16. Bxd7 Rxd7
17. Qe3 b6
18. Re1 Re8
19. Nb5 Bxb2
20. Kxb2 Qf6+
21. Kb1 Nb4
22: a3 c6
23. Nd4 c5
Throughout the game I feared a pawn storm on both sides of the board. In an effort to counter this I disrupted his kingside pawns early in the game as mentioned and awaited the storm on the queenside, but it never materialised even though my pawn structure vs his on the queenside was, I thought, weak. I finally rectified that weakness by solidifying my queenside pawns with what I thought was a nice bait move of my knight which enabled me to threaten his own knight by advancing a pawn twice; thus avoiding the en-passant or taking that I feared would've happened without the double pawn advance with threat.
24. Ne2 Na6
25. Ng3 Rd-e7
26. Kc2 Qh4
27. Nxh5 Qxh5
28. h4 Qe5
29. Re-g1 f5
30. Rg5 f4
31. Qg1 Qf6
32. h5 Rg8
33. hxg6 hxg6
[and here the notation went wrong doo-lally]
With my queenside now in fairly good shape (or shape that was better than the bad shape it was in) my opponent’s attack switched to the kingside with my own efforts being to defend that and try and open up the central files. This went on for a while, and with something like twenty minutes to go he started to get a bit of a toehold. It was at this point (due to pressure rather than my innate idiocy, natch) that my notation went to pot and so apologies for that, you'll have to go on my following description below.
His toehold came by pushing his h-pawn and supporting with rooks to threaten my kingside pawn structure and break through. Eventually he did break through, but I felt I did my best to delay total collapse on that side until finally, with about twelve minutes left on each clock, we were down to rook/knight/queen each and his queen was on my side of the board and threatening nasty things with his last rook. Even so, as I still had queen, rook and knight and felt I could hold him for a while even though he was amongst me.
With just over 7 minutes to go on each clock I thought if there were 15 minutes left he would have an easy grind-poor-Harry-down kind of a win due to position and pawns, but there wasn't 15 minutes left and I so reckoned it'd either be a case of hanging on and trying to win on time (I think he had 20 secs less than me) or forcing a draw by perpetual check. Knowing that I would prolly blunder on time pressure I went for the latter option and exchanged the last rooks - giving up a pawn and some position to do so. I felt justified in doing this as time was so short and I knew he'd have to bring his knight - the only piece that might block my planned perpetual check in its current position - in to finish me off quickly.
Thankfully he started to bring his knight in rather than develop a more time-consuming but lethal attack with his pawns queen and knight. I made a small preparatory queen move to the open h-file that I hoped looked defensive rather than in readiness to check him into a draw. Either it did look innocuous or he missed the possibility of perpetual check as he moved his knight into the fray on my side of the board and, with his final king defender too far away now, I scooted into his half of the board with my queen to give the first of my checks.
After the second check, and dizzy with excitement (or should that be sheer relief), I offered a draw telling him I was just going to keep checking him. To this he smiled and said 'let me go on for a little while longer,' to which I thought: 'oh bugger, I've missed something'.
With each of my checks he moved his king toward his queen and knight on the g and f-files until it was in front of his queen in the hope of an exchange and some defence. I avoided the exchange as time was getting short; he had better pawns than my badself for an endgame; and also it was those pawns (and one of mine) which were doing a great defensive and blocking job on his king, stopping it from getting to shelter from my checks.
In having avoided the exchange of queens, he had one free and unchecked move. In either a blunder or a final act of desperation to get out of the coming checks he moved his knight back to defend his king, but I had it covered and was able to capture-check him with my own knight. He then took back with his queen, but there was nothing to stop the checks now due to position of my queen and the blocking pawns.
At this stage, with about five minutes left on the each clock, he accepted the draw and I breathed a sigh of relief, but was also happy that I'd sort of, with a little help from his eagerness to get his knight involved and maybe an oversight of the possibility of perpetual check, forced the draw.
1/2 - 1/2
To put last night's 3-1 defeat into proper perspective, it is worth noting that the grading difference between the two teams was over 300 points, which is more than a whole Magnus Carlsen!
Phil's epic result against Norfolk Champion Stephen Orton to follow.
Dear St Johns Chess Club Members,
A short update this week, beginning with some sad news. We learned tonight of the death of former club member Dick Cozens who had been ill for some time. His son Rick called in to let his father's club-mates know the funeral plans. The funeral will be at the Woodland Burial Grounds at Colney on Friday 24 November at 11am. Rick asked if we could ensure that Jack Richardson is made aware - Gerry, can you handle that please.
I said that I would let Rick know how many from the chess club would be able to attend - I think for catering arrangements. Can anyone who wants to attend let me know please by end of next week and I will pass the message on. I am sorry to say that I have a commitment that day so will not be able to go myself.
Chess-wise, our Crusaders were away playing at Broadland, while the Bishops played a Wymondham team at the Coachmakers and won 2.5/1.5. Ken may wish to put some meat on the bone of the bare result (See his update under Match Reports). There were no internal competition games played (though several are arranged for next week). However, there was some really good friendly action, with several new guests joining existing members, including Brian's work colleague Oli, and two maths student friends of our newest member Nathan; Niko and Vicky.
Good fun was had by all.
Let’s Go Chess-boxing!
Four intrepid St Johns Chess Club members went to watch the Chess-boxing on Saturday night. It was held in The Open (the old Barclay’s bank on Bank Plain in Norwich) with its impressive, ornate high ceilings offset by a slightly tacky modern interior.
The place was almost full and a raucous atmosphere soon began to build up. It seemed the vast majority of the audience were of the boxing persuasion with only a few being chess aficionados. We were all surprised by the large number of women there, expecting it to be an almost entirely male audience, and could only assume they were girlfriends or wives dragged along against their will. One of them turned out to be a very vocal supportive mother of one of the boxers.
The format was quite simple and easy to follow. Each bout would commence with the combatants playing three minute’s worth of chess whilst seated in the boxing ring, with the chess board connected to a large screen for the benefit of the audience. There was a commentator who explained all the moves and offered hints, but only the spectators could hear him, the players were wearing headphones with loud music blaring out. Each session at the chess board was followed by a round of boxing. The winner was declared by knock out, checkmate, retirement of opponent, or by one’s opponent running out of time on the chess clock (seven and a half minutes total on each clock).
We watched four bouts and whilst there no knock-outs (one guy retired on his stool, unable to continue, despite being a move or two away from a win on the chessboard) there were three checkmates; indeed the final one was actually a thing of beauty; a checkmate by the knight rather than the taking of the queen which most of us were expecting.
It soon became obvious that apart from the opening pair who played a fine game of chess, boxing was the stronger suit and we saw errors made on the chessboard which would have shamed a beginner. Mind you, even beginners don’t usually have to find moves after being punched senseless for three minutes! We had ringside seats and could smell the sweat, see the blood and revel in the atmosphere. The punches landed with sickening thuds and the welts on the fighters showed up red and angry. Yes, these eight guys mostly boxed better than they played chess, but after having your head pummelled, your senses scrambled and gone haywire and then having to play decent chess moves in front of a baying crowd, it was really not that surprising. As that famous philosopher Mike Tyson once said; ‘Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth!’
One of the tactics seemed to be that, if about to lose at the chessboard, a fighter would go all out for a knock-out punch in the boxing round, and some of the action was very fierce indeed, though a boxer sitting next to us explained that they wear gloves designed to lessen the impact of the blows (either heavier or lighter than normal boxing gloves, I’m not sure which) and that most chess-boxing bouts were decided over the chess board.
We were all impressed by the boxers’ show of good sportsmanship. They treated victory and defeat with grace and humility and it was a lesson to all the strutting peacocks of the boxing world.
All of the combatants were given nicknames like “Crazy Arms” - the guy was a six foot seven inch beanpole with the long reach of his crazy arms able to keep his aggressive opponent at bay for the duration of the boxing bout, but not able to withstand the checkmate on the chessboard - “Hurt-Locker” and “Bomber Harris” who was in fact a slender seventeen year old making his first appearance in chess-boxing and hailing from Norfolk. In fact three of the guys were Norfolk born, and all got a stirring reception.
We thought it appropriate to give ourselves monikers too for the evening, and so Richard ‘The Real Deal’ Downing, Gerry ‘Pacemaker’ Clayton, Crumpton ‘Bone-crusher’ Clarke and Brian ‘Hit the Canvas’ Cunningham were duly christened.
Just for Rocky-style authenticity, a stunningly attractive young lady in very short hot-pants paraded around the ring before each round holding up the number of the round.
So, did we enjoy it? Not half! - though doubtless chess-boxing would not be everybody’s cup of tea. Indeed, we all felt it was much more entertaining and better organised than we expected. The only points which could have been improved upon were that the electronic links between the chess board, the computer and the big screen broke down on three separate occasions during the evening, causing some lack of continuity, and the background music which was of the loud, boom-boom rap style variety, didn’t suit our more ‘mature’ musical tastes, although actually they did play Jimmy Hendrix’s Voodoo Child which seemed just right for the event.
We left musing on what other chess related sports could be included. How about Chess-Mud Wrestling for example?
Richard ‘The Real Deal’ reports that when he got home, his Dalmatian Oswald gave him a playful head-butt, smashing his lip open and giving him a mouthful of blood and a deep boxer-type gash on his top lip, which is definitely taking this whole boxing thing too far!
Article by ‘The Real Deal’ Downing and ‘Hit the Canvas’ Cunningham
Photos by ‘Bone-crusher’ Clarke
Here's another of Richard Downing's very artful photos showing some of the prizes that will be awarded in this season's internal competitions (not the nice chess set though - he gets to keep that!)
My Views on the Ladder Tournament
A couple of evenings ago,Gerry Clayton asked me my views on how the newly formed Ladder Tournament was going. He,himself opined that it was clearly better to make a quick and successful start in order to climb up the league before the big guns started firing….a blitzkrieg if you like.
After returning home I thought about this and realized that Gerry was right, and in my own mad way regarded it as somewhat akin to a large frog pond where at the bottom in the mud and slime lurked the tadpoles fighting tooth and nail to escape to the cleaner,clearer reaches of the upper pond where they could bask in the sunlight,feast on the whatever it is tadpoles feast on and eventually become….a frog.
I am a big fan of the Ladder Tournament for quite a few reasons.
Firstly it gives the lower-rated players their “time in the sun”
In many club tournaments the higher and the lower rated players seldom come to grips with one another,and to have the structure as it is which is having the higher graders start at the bottom and vice versa is not only very exciting,but also beneficial;.they will learn more about tactics,strategy and become used to tough match conditions.
It also creates real battle conditions in which both players are either striving to hold their position in the league at all costs or else to storm the ramparts.
Imagine the scenario it this was applied to the football league…we would have the Arsenals of this world travelling to such teams as Grimsby,Hartlepool and Ipswich;and if they lost they would forfeit say five points.What fun!
I love the colour co-ordination of the groups of players as well, either red for the big guys blue for the middle and green for the rest and the “newbies”.
For the better rated players one thing they must overcome is the fear of losing grading points.
For example imagine you are a 140 guy and playing a 50.Let’s imagine that you have a moment of madness and lose a piece and then get strangled slowly and lose the game.How many rating points have you thrown away?
I know it has happened to me on three occasions in the past and my ratings took a real hammering .Fortunately I am never too bothered by ratings and have taken on all comers and will continue to do so (probably at my peril) but I don’t think I have enjoyed playing in such a fine league for ages, if not ever.
I believe this goes for everyone else judging by the attendances at the club of late.
Plus the prize of being known as the St Johns Club Champion and getting one’s hands on the lovely “Ritchie Downie” chess clock is too much to turn down;plus prizes for all the colour co-ordinated winners.
Looking at the tables now with still a lot of the better players still mired at the bottom it is evident that they will have to win around six on the trot to make it to the top echelon.
So that would at best take six Thursdays of hard trench warfare.A month and a half and that is without all the other guys fighting it out as well to prevent it…plus the divisions two and three soon about to start and other matches to contend with.Get cracking!!
But to my way of thinking whoever came up with the concept of “The Ladder Tournament” is a genius.
Here is Richard Downing's superb photo of the chess clock which was a prized possession of our friend and club-mate Ritchie Downie (a.k.a. The Gunslinger) who passed away earlier this year. The clock will be awarded annually to the St Johns Chess Club Champion e.g. the winner of our Ladder Competition.
St Johns club members Alan Holmes and David Elsey battle out the finish of their Internal Ladder match. Alan had five pawns for David's extra rook, in a tricky endgame. Which way would it go? - 14/09/2017