And the winners are…

Firstly, merry Christmas everyone… 🎅

And secondly, well done to the winners of Cumnor Chess Club’s annual tournaments!

Players Cup 2022
1st Nigel Moyse
2nd Mark Sayers
3rd Ian Bush

Bill Laar Trophy (BLT) 2022
1st Robin Carr
2nd Callum Brewerton
3rd Steven Jackson

Well done to all of the above, and thanks to everyone who participated this year! Trophies will be presented on Thursday January 26 2023.

Cumnor Chess Club and Coronavirus

I’m sure this won’t be a massive surprise to any of you, but the decision has been made to close the club with immediate effect, until things start to improve on the Coronavirus front.

So, no more physical meetings until further notice.

However! You can still play online – as Cumnor Chess Club exists a virtual chess team on Lichess.

The club will re-open as soon as possible.

Stay safe everyone – and wash your hands ya filthy animals!

The latest Cumnor Cup / Bill Laar Trophy results

I’ve updated the webpage which details the current standings in the Cumnor Players’ Cup and Bill Laar Trophy.

It should now be easier to see not only where you’re currently standing in your respective tournament, but also who you have already played and what the result was…

… which is either good news or bad news.

Check it out now

The Légal chess trap and Stephen Hawking

Do you know the Légal chess trap?

Named after the French player Sire de Légal, the trap sees White sacrifice their Queen for a devastating checkmate involving two knights and a bishop.

But the trap is particularly well known inside Cumnor Chess Club as it famously saw Ann Willan defeat Steve Bennett one night a few years ago. A great victory which many of us (well, all of us apart from Steve) love to recollect.

Here is how a typical version of the Légal chess trap can play out:

Now, the Legal chess trap may become even better known as Stephen Hawking appears to have tried to use it in a game of Quantum Chess versus actor Paul “Ant-Man” Rudd, as you can see in the following video (narrated by Keanu Reeves).

By the way, Quantum Chess is a real thing.

Cumnor 2 vs Bicester 2 [Match report]

Cumnor Chess Club met again last night, with players from the Cumnor 2 team matched against their rivals Division 4 rivals Bicester 2.

Before the match, Liam showed a few Cumnor players the extraordinary 12-move win that Daniel Varney had had against Peter Hemmings from Wantage the week before.

Demonstration of Daniel Varney's game

Frankly, we’re all grateful that Daniel plays for Cumnor rather than against us!

Sadly, last night Bicester weren’t able to deliver the full compliment of six players, meaning that the bottom board saw no action and a game was defaulted. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that Cumnor 2 had an easy ride of it.

There was tough opposition on all boards, with Bicester 2 seeming to have the advantage in a number of games giving many of us on the Cumnor side the heebie-jeebies that the match would be lost.

In the end though, some precise play saw Robert gain an advantage over his opponent, Alan go on a killing-spree grabbing his opponent’s pieces here, there and everywhere, and Robin trick his opponent into moving her Queen into a trap.

Meanwhile, a tense game on the top board saw Mark Sayers eventually draw, making the final score 4.5-1.5 to Cumnor.

The final game to finish...

Cumnor 2 Bicester 2
1 Sayers, Mark (143) 0.5-0.5 Beckett, Richard (151)
2 Carr, Robin (125) 1-0 Bourliakas, Stephi (52)
3 Steel, Robert (82) 1-0 Bourliakas, Sally (30)
4 Sterrie, David (74) 0-1 Howells, William ()
5 Flockton, Alan () 1-0 Howells, Paul ()
6 Bennett Anton, Susana (67) 1-0 Default ()
Match played on 15 Oct 2015. 4.5-1.5

Could Mark have won his game? Well, consider the following position with Mark as Black to move.

Chess puzzle

Can you spot the mate? Warning: It’s not at all easy!

Find the answer on our Facebook page…

Oh, and if you did work it out, we’d definitely like you to join Cumnor Chess Club! Why not come along one Thursday night?

A great result for Cumnor Chess Club [Match report]

Cumnor 1 kicked off its season in style last night, beating Wantage 1 an impressive 6-0.

Cumnor 1 Wantage 1
1 Glenn, Liam (157) 1-0 Piggott, Roly (151)
2 Varney, Daniel (151) 1-0 Hemmings, Peter (149)
3 Stevens, Gareth (146) 1-0 Spalding, George H (115)
4 Sayers, Mark (143) 1-0 Booker, Julian (103)
5 Carr, Robin (125) 1-0 Mills, Matt (90)
6 Cluley, Graham (116) 1-0 Cordon, Ray (83)
Match played on 8 Oct 2015. 6-0

First to finish, in an impressively rapid 15 minutes or so (and just 12 moves) was Cumnor’s Daniel Varney, playing white against Peter Hemmings.

Here’s the board just before Daniel played the move that forced Peter to resign. Can you see the two different ways that White can force checkmate in two moves?

Daniel Varney vs Peter Hemmings

If you said Bf7+, congratulations. Depending on where the Black king moves to, White can finish the game with Bh6++ or Qe6++.

Well done Daniel!

The rest of the games took a lot longer than that, and in later analysis at The Bear and Ragged Staff demonstrated it became clear that the 6-0 result didn’t tell the whole story, and that in fact Wantage 1 had not only put up a tough fight, but was also seemingly winning on a number of boards.

However, temporarily at least, Cumnor is leading Division 2. Now the only challenge is… how can we stay there?

Wantage 2 v Cumnor 2 [Match Report]

On a rainy Tuesday night, Cumnor Chess Club’s number 2 team set off to St John the Baptist Church in Grove, home of Wantage Chess Club, to play its first game of the season.

Wantage 2 Cumnor 2
1 Richards, Simon A (129) 0-1 Varney, Andrew (128)
2 Booker, Julian (103) 0-1 Cluley, Graham (116)
3 Mills, Matt (90) 1-0 Ives, Leonora (107)
4 Mahon, Paul (88) 1-0 Bennett, Steve (105)
5 Thompson, Steven (85) 0-1 Ives, Marc (97)
6 Leake, John (85) 1-0 Steel, Robert (82)
Match played on 6 Oct 2015. 3-3

KnightCommiserations to Leonora Ives (the OCA website currently says it was her younger sister Frida who was playing on board 3, but it was definitely Leo) who appeared to have a strong commanding position in her game against Wantage’s Matt Mills, only to have things turn sour.

I’m sure the recent improvement in Leo’s chess play will soon be rewarded by more wins in league matches.

Anyway, Cumnor 2’s Division 4 campaign has begun!

And Cumnor 1’s Division 2 campaign begins tonight… playing at home against Wantage’s first team. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Wantage was fielding one or two of its top second team players in the Wantage 1 line-up. Will they be looking for revenge? We’ll find out tonight…

Cumnor Chess Club players in the news as chess boot camp comes to Oxford

Cumnor Chess Club wouldn’t be the same without the Varneys.

Andrew Varney, and son and daughter Daniel and Zoe, have become regular strong members of the Cumnor 1 team, and Zoe recently confidently secured herself the highest grade in the club – with an impressive 171 ECF.

Daniel and Zoe have, of course, benefited over the years from their father’s keen love for chess, and his skilled coaching.

As the Oxford Mail reports, this week Andrew was involved in a two-day chess boot camp at Oxford Spires Academy, training 17 promising young chess players aged 9-15, ahead of a tournament on Thursday.

Oxford Mail report

The Oxford Mail reports that the participants will definitely find the training useful in improving their chess playing:

Mr Varney said students had an intensive look at a particular game, adding: “It will definitely be beneficial to them longer-term.

“My experience from my own kids and people I coach is that if you have a more intensive look at things, you see a change pretty much straight away.”

Andrew Varney is an ECF-accredited chess coach and can be reached on 07786 321095, or via email at

A most peculiar chess opening

You certainly don’t see openings like this regularly, particularly not at a high level.

Chess opening

Yes, your eyes didn’t deceive you.

1. Ng3 Ng6
2. Rg1!?!?!?

All, I can say is “Gosh”.

This unorthodox opening was played by 15-year-old grandmaster Aravindh Chithambaram of India, in a match against South African FM Nicholas van der Nat in the last round of the recently concluded Commonwealth Chess Championship.

The obvious question, of course, is what happened next?

Thankfully Chessbase has the answer:

The bewildered South African sank into a thirty-minute think and replied 2 …d6, but lost the game anyway. Speaks tons about his opponent though, who played an outrageous idea in the second move of the game and proceeded to win it.

Check out the full story, and find out how the game progressed, on the Chessbase website.

Cumnor’s inaugural cold turkey chess tournament

Cumnor Chess Club might be closed for August, but that isn’t stopping some of our players from getting their fix.

Last night, Cumnor saw its first ever “Cold Turkey Chess Tournament”, where four Cumnor Chess Club regulars were driven by their withdrawal symptoms to get together at one of their homes, and have a mini-tournament.

Everyone played each other twice, with 15 minutes on each clock.

Cumnor Cold Turkey chess players

Play commenced in the back garden, with Liam Glenn taking an early lead ahead of Gareth Stevens, Richard Slade and Graham Cluley.

But man cannot live by chess alone. Fortunately, Mrs Cluley provided copious amounts of food (chicken curry, rather than cold turkey) and some beer may have been consumed while there was a lengthy discussion about James Bond movies and the revelation (to some of us) that dinosaurs had feathers.

Recommencing play, Liam’s lead became unassailable – losing only a single game (to Graham in the final round).

For the benefit of historians, we recorded the match results (but not the moves) on a high tech electronic scoreboard.

Electronic score board

Well done Liam.

Next week we plan to meet again for another cold turkey tournament. Let us know if you’re having withdrawals from Cumnor Chess Club too, and maybe you can come along? Alternatively, see you back in the club in September!