Ray Starkie Best Game Prize

Did you mark the return to over the board chess with your own brilliancy? If so please consider submitting your game from either the ODCL, Frank Wood Shield or Oxfordshire county match for the Ray Starkie Best Game Prize!

Entries can be made by submitting games to me to be passed on to Matt Rose, who has kindly agreed to judge again this year, and will initially close on 7th May with a final deadline of midnight 14th May for games played after the initial deadline.

Cumnor 2: Second in Division 3!

 

Cumnor 2 finished their season on 21st April with a with a 5-1 win against Witney 3, the culmination of an excellent season which sees them finish second in division 3

In fact over and above this superb result, Cumnor 2 have a unique record this season, they are the only team in the OCA to beat a University team this season!

So clearly his has been a great season for the team, and there have been many fine individual performances

Andrey and Andy stand out, in fact we reckon Andy will win the David Del Nevo prize for the best performance in division 3

(Andrey hasn’t played quite enough games, tied up with first team duty no doubt). But over and above that it is great to see so many new faces playing. I think it’s fair to say Steve chose his teams not with a grand plan of placing high in the division, but more with the idea of giving everybody who wanted it a chance to play. I count 7 new players in the above list – and that indicates the rude health the club currently finds itself in!

 

Match Reports: Cumnor 1 v. Banbury 1 and University 1 v. Cumnor 1

 

I’ve got a bit behind on the match reports for Cumnor 1, unfortunately ill health has left me rather low in energy, but here is an attempt to catch up on the two matches that we’ve played. Unfortunately we lost both 5.5-0.5, but in fact the raw results hide two somewhat different stories.

Firstly against Banbury 1, played a while ago on 31st March. Here the story is quite simple – Banbury were better than us. In fact when a team turns up with James Jackson IM on top board, and as good a player as Paul Rowan on board 6 you know you are going to be in for a tough night. Mark saved our blushes with a good draw against Georgs, but that was it as far as we were concerned:

So simply we were outplayed, nothing to add save for the top boards being a night for the hypermodinists, featuring two Pircs and two Alekhine Defences. Well played Banbury!

On April 28th we went to Wadham College to face the Champions elect, University 1.

Despite again facing a titled player on top board and having a somewhat weakened team due to illness the match was much closer, and we can, I think, feel unlucky with the final score – a comment echoed by one of the University players as we left. Debutant Callum and Andrey both had excellent winning chances, as did Nigel against his FM opponent and Liam nearly held a draw, only for it to slip away in time trouble.

Nigel’s game was excellent, despite his loss here it is in full. Under a bit of pressure early on Nigel decided to sac a piece for two pawns for activity. This turned out to be an excellent decision, giving Tom the eventual choice of accepting a perpetual check or playing for a win by returning the material. Understandably Tom chose the latter, but Nigel was better through much of the rest of the game, only to make a tired looking blunder when time was getting short:

It was my turn to save the team’s blushes, scrambling a draw for the second time this season against Max French. The game went straight down one of the more important variations of the so-called “Modern Main Line” of the Modern Benoni. This is a line where rather than trying to smash Black off the board, White initially spends more time stopping Black’s counter play and setting up a solid position from which to grind an inactive black down. I avoid the main main line with 10 … Nh5, stopping Bf4, which while not as solid as an earlier b5, tends to leave Black less passive – the latter is not my style. After that I slightly misplayed the queen side, 18 … Bd7 is a definite improvement as indicated, and Max slowly built the pressure until like Nigel I sacced hoping for activity and specifically a perpetual check. Which is what happened, though as you will see not quite in the way I expected after Max missed a cheapo when we were both short on the clock!

In fact I missed a chance to get a significant advantage near the end (i.e. after move 40), this month’s tactical quiz – can you find it? Warning: Not at all trivial, especially with seconds left on the clock!

So it could have been so much more but the final result was

In fact I think with a weakened team we can be tremendously proud of giving them such a good match, on another day who knows?

Answer to the tactical quiz

The point is black doesn’t have to take the bishop at once, white has the queen en prise and has to deal with this, allowing black to grab a pawn and the much more important black squared bishop, as opposed to the white squared one. This leaves black a strong passed pawn up with the initiative in a Q+opposite squared bishop ending, both very useful advantages.

Chess event in historic Abingdon venue

As a fundraiser for the Abingdon Passion play a 6 round rapid play event will be held at the Roysse Room, Guildhall, Abingdon on 28th May, 10:00 – 17:00.

There is a £10 entry fee, tickets can be bought here, where there is also more information.

All ages are welcome and it is restricted to the first 32 contestants. The event is not ECF rated. Registration will be at 10am, and the time table is
Round 1 10.15 – 10.55
Round 2 11.10 – 11.50
Round 3 12.05 – 12.45
Lunchbreak
Round 4 1.45 – 2.25
Round 5 2.40 – 3.20
Round 6 3.35 – 4.15
Presentation of the trophy at 4.30pm.

Thanks to Will Burt for bringing this to our attention.

Match Report: City 1 v. Cumnor 1

 

Last Monday, the 21st March, saw the first team in action away at City 1, on Polstead Road in North Oxford

We were weakened due to illness and the absence of a top player or two, but unfortunately so were City, their captain Phil Hayward having contracted the evil lurgee – Hope you are better now Phil! Nett result was that while we were somewhat outgraded it was not totally without hope, but we would probably need a bit of luck …

As usual I shall go through the games in more or less the order they finished.

Tony finished first. He is obviously learning from his time at Cumnor, as he dropped a pawn early on. And then to be honest I didn’t see what happened after that until he stood up having resigned. City 1 Cumnor 0

Another Bicester loanee, Andrey, was next. Andrey has been having a fantastic season at the top of the second team with a 100% record, helping drive them up to second place in division 3, and here he managed to notch up his first win for the first team – well done Andrey, in this form many more are to come! The game itself was interesting, a roller-coaster with both Andrey and Lanre having chances, with a wild first half and an instructive endgame for the second half. From the first half let’s pick one of many possibilities for our first tactical quiz, from very early on in the game. In the position below white has just played g3, what’s black’s best continuation in the given position?

Answers to the tactical quizzes are at the end.

Anyway the opening and middle game went as follows:

Amongst this madness there are some positional themes going on. Early on Andrey has noted white’s backward pawn on d2, and has made it his plan to attack it – note how he takes with the rook on move 14 rather than the pawn in order to leave the way to it open. Generally this is a good idea, try and leave lines to weaknesses open, though in this specific instance 14 … cxd3 does also look pretty good, the pawn on d3 more or less splitting white’s army in half.

All the above lead to an instructive endgame position where Andrey has a decision to make at move 35 (Yes, I know I’m going to start talking about endgames – d’Souza-Eva, Terrington, stop laughing at the back there!)

Should black take the rook and go into the pawn endgame? The possibility of an outside passed pawn for Black on the queen side is a plus, that is on the queen side black has a 2-1 majority which could be very dangerous in a pawn endgame, but the more immediate issue is that after the exchange of rooks White’s king will be much better centralized and active than Black’s, and for me this is the much more important observation – Andrey swapped off rooks, but I think he should try and activate his king first before he does this. Mr Stockfish and the game continuation seem to agree:

In the final position Black is in real trouble. If it were black’s move, and if he had to move his king he would lose very quickly – after something like Kd8 White can play Kc6 and eat all Black’s queen side pawns leading to a winning endgame. So all white has to do is move has pawns until black runs out of reasonable pawn moves and the black will have to move his king, so losing – The technical term is zugzwang, and this idea of forcing your opponent into  a position where if they could pass they would be OK, but having to move loses, is very common in endgames. A not unreasonable continuation following this theme might be

where white wins by advancing his a pawn, and while black is dealing with that the moving his king to the king side and eating black’s pawns there, and queening either the g or h pawn. Note especially the zugzwang after move 45. h5, where any move by black loses very quickly, but if he didn’t have to move he would be OK

Luckily (and it’s not the first time I will use this word) Andrey’s opponent didn’t spot the zugzwang possibility! I have a lot of sympathy for this, I find it very hard myself, and the game in fact continued

So in the end just one tempo in it, Andrey making contact with white’s king side pawns first was all it took to win. An interesting and instructive game, and I hope it shows that pawns endgames are both interesting and very difficult! And well done again Andrey on your win, the whole game was

That made it City 1 – Cumnor 1

Next to finish was me. To save embarrassment all round I won’t show the game, many apologies to Matt for the result, this went beyond luck. I will however report the exchange after the game

Ian: “Sorry Matt, I didn’t deserve that”

Matt: “I blundered and you spotted it. And I only spotted the trap in the opening because I found it about 2 years ago when somebody played the same line against me”

Ian: “Yes, I know. It was me!”

Aren’t we supposed to learn things? Anyway tactical quiz 2 is the little combination Matt found (twice!) against me:

I’d played (twice) Re1 last move to support e6 in response to the expected d6. Why is it not a very good plan, and in particular why is Bxe6 poor? Answer at the end, and somehow the game made it City 1 – Cumnor 2.

Liam was next, another roller coaster of a game where either side could have won, but again luckily it was Liam who made the second to last blunder, to misquote the learned Dr Tartakower. Here is most of the game, what is the nice move that Liam found that finishes it off rapidly at the end?

Amazingly it was now City 1 – Cumnor 3 and we couldn’t lose the match!

Soon after Mark finished on board 2. Outgraded he had been under the kosh most of the game, with Ross having strong pressure on the king side. To be honest I was amazed Mark had survived that long, but eventually the tightrope walking came to an end and Ross caught Mark’s king with his doubled rooks on the open h file against a king side castled king. City 2 – Cumnor 3

That left Nigel and Arya on top board. Nigel had thrown everything including the kitchen sink at Arya in a fantastic attacking game:

It might not all be amazingly sound, but defense is harder than attack, and holding it all together when the match depended upon it was a great display by Arya, it would have been so easy to go wrong – and well played Nigel, very entertaining stuff, and Liam and I kept spot perpetuals or better which on deeper thought went away, it was a great game on which to finish such a close match.

So City 3 – Cumnor 3 in the end, a result we can be very proud of, even if we rode our luck:

Still fourth!

Next up the big mid-table derby against Banbury.

Answers to the tactical questions. As these are real games they are a bit more messy than normal tactical quizzes, but I’ll show the main lines. Firstly from Andrey’s game while dxc4 as played is pretty good Black can get a winning advantage by

This idea of a queen attacking a rook from the centre of the board after g3/g6 or similar comes up once in a while; it’s worth remembering.

The trap now officially named after Matt Brown goes

when either White drops at least a pawn (the a1 rook drops in many lines), or (least bad) leaves his king almost completely open to attack (as I know very much to my cost).

Liam’s game finished off

 

Four BLTs at the Club

 

Well last night as both Cumnor 1 and 2 had a break from the league and cup it was time to crack on with the internal club competitions – these are The Players Cup for members of the first team squad, and the Bill Laar Trophy, locally known as the BLT, for everybody else. Six games were played in total, 4 in the BLT, and 2 in the Players Cup.

In fact last night was Grand Prix night in the Players Cup, both games featured this aggressive set up for white which can be played against a number of black approaches – Liam used it against Nigel’s Sicilian and Tony against my Pirc/Modern, but it wasn’t a total success for the white side, Nigel winning and me having the better of a draw with Tony. After this Nigel is currently well ahead in the competition

(the current score can be found on the ECF LMS) but is catchable, especially by Mark, the only person to take points off Nigel so far.

In the BLT Allan Evans won the battle of the Al(l)ans, newcomer Callum beat Pedro to take the overall lead in the competition, and Andrey won in his nice, tidy positional style, but game of the evening was the utter madness that erupted on the board between Jonathan and Robin – part driven by the short time control (45 minutes) no doubt as indeed Robin won on time, though he is better in the final position:

 

Now That’s Chess! Anyway as mentioned Callum now leads the BLT overall

A long way to go in both competitions, they follow the calendar year rather than the league’s seasons, so much time for twists and turns – and games like Jonathan’s and Robin’s!

Teaching chess in Oxfordshire schools with CSC

The charity Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) is currently recruiting new tutors to teach chess to school children in the Oxford area. There has been a significant amount of interest from local schools in our classroom teaching in primary schools and in after school chess clubs recently and we expect this to expand further again next academic year.

You do not have to be a brilliant chess player as most of the lessons are at beginner level. If you enjoy teaching, have some knowledge of chess and are interested in committing to some hours in the afternoon on one or more days each week during school term time, we would be very interested to hear from you. Please take a look at the CSC website for further information about the charity and fill in the application form if you would like to apply.

We are planning a one-day initial training day in Oxford in April or May (I will post the date and details on here once it is confirmed). If you would like to know a bit more about what is involved in the training and other requirements, how the lessons themselves work, remittance and such like please also feel free to contact me (see contact pages).

Andrew Varney
Regional Organiser (Oxfordshire)
Chess in Schools and Communities

https://www.chessinschools.co.uk/we-need-you

Match Report: Cowley 1 v. Cumnor 1

 

Thursday 10th Feb saw us travel to far end of old Oxford town, to Rose Hill Church to play Cowley 1

A win for either team would see them go second in the league, but it would be a tough one for us, missing a few of our top players we were giving away over 100 rating points per board (about 15 in old money). But try we must, and try we did, and in the end the match was close on almost all the boards, and could have gone either way.

“Almost” I stress. The exception was mine. Advice to anybody playing a wunderkind: Don’t get your queen trapped on move 14. This turned out to be a very poor strategical decision on my behalf when playing Kenneth Hobson, rated 2090 at a very tender age, and I only carried on after losing it for a rook to avoid losing a miniature. The less said about it the better, apart from me apologizing to Kenneth for playing on; I should have resigned on the spot –  and probably would have done if I wasn’t off the beer at the moment.

All the other boards were keenly fought. On board 4 Tony got a fine result drawing with Graham Cole. In a classical French Defense early on Graham established a knight on d6, but as time went by it was clear it was more impressive than effective. The queens came off, then the knight, and a draw was agreed in a position where it was far from clear how either player could make any progress.

On board 6 Andrey was facing Bob Waugh, a tough one indeed for him. Early on Bob seemed to have pressure, but Andrey fought it off and then came up with an pawn sac to open the g file against Bob’s king which was sitting on g1 – when I saw it I have to admit I didn’t really believe it but it certainly showed imagination, and did offer practical chances. But Bob is an experienced warrior, grabbed the pawn, and survived to tell the tale ending up material up in an endgame which he did in the end convert but not without a fair bit of excitement along the way – well done Bob, and bad luck Andrey, one slip and it could have gone the other way.

On the other 3 boards we had real winning chances. Going in increasing order of those chances Gareth was white against Rich Weston on board 5. All was going fairly routinely until, in a slightly better position, Gareth offered the Greek Gift:

Any chess player above the very casual should know this idea, sacrificing the bishop on h7 (or h2) to draw the king out, which will get attacked with Ng5+ and then the queen coming into the attack, on h5 or g4. And all my ex-colleagues at MCS are probably smiling now as I was well known for offering dodgy Greek-gift type sacs at any opportunity – a game against Liam contains a fine example of the rubbish I can come up with, and that has even made it as a Lichess Puzzle. Anyway the game continued with Rich finding what is often the best continuation

The king is out in the open, and the queen ready to come into g4. Is it enough for the bishop? To be honest Stockfish thinks not, and given my vast experience of bad Greek Gifts I have to in principle agree. As a rule of thumb the attacking side tends to need one more attacking piece over and the the above the queen and knight, often it is a rook coming in via the third rank. However I stress “in principle”, certainly at most club players level white has real chances. Rolling forward a few more moves comes to the crunch moment

Here Gareth played the obvious Nh7+ picking up the exchange, but removing his best placed piece and dissipating his initiative, which is everything in this position. Now it is very easy to play other people’s positions when material down, but the cool Be3 leaves the position about equal according to Mr Stockfish, white having compensation for the material sacrificed due to the open position of the black king and better development. But very easy for me to find with an engine, very hard to find while a rook is on offer at the board with the clock ticking. Anyway Rich gained the initiative from that point, and carried on to win very effectively, his two bishops dominating the white rook:

Board 3 was closer – Mark Sayers was facing his bunny, Will Burt (Will’s words, not mine!) I can’t deny this possibility was in my mind when I chose the board order – Mark has had two very nice wins in his last games against Will. And for a long time it looked as though it might be 3 out of 3, Mark going two pawns up in the opening. Will had pressure in compensation but it certainly didn’t look enough, and on its own Mr Stockfish agrees. But Mr Stockfish doesn’t look at the clock, and dealing with Will’s pressure ate a lot of Mark’s time, so while Mark did sort his position out time was running short, and in the scramble it eventually went pear shaped – well played Will:

Oh dear! Well at least we had Nigel on Board 1 showing us all how to play. Against Mike Handley’s Dutch he managed to obtain a very nice position where Mike’s bishops in particular seemed to be very ineffective – and play against weak e and f pawns bagged the both of them. Now I’ve made clear how little I understand the Dutch before, so I’ll quote Nigel on some of his thoughts and then show the game:

Where he seemed to go wrong most was in not developing the Nb8, which should have been ready to retake on f6 (which is why I chopped off the Nf6 as soon as it looked like he was about to play Nbd7). Then Dutch players aim to get in Nf6-e4 at some point and as soon as I pinned the f6 N I felt my control of e4 was good.
I think I was most pleased by the move by which I returned my N from b3 back to d2. I vaguely remember reading that strong players can admit to themselves that they got it wrong and can go back to square one. My N should probably have gone to c3 in the first place, but having gone to d2 it should have stayed there to support e4.

As can be seen Mike’s bishops didn’t get into the game until right near the end, and by then, like Mark, he was another victim of the clock after sorting out his troubles – he lost on time.

So I have to say I think Cowley deserved to win, but the score line doesn’t quite do us justice, and given the rating difference we can’t be too displeased.

Down to fourth, I’ll still take that!

Next off to Wantage in the cup.

Match Report: Didcot 1 v. Cumnor 1

 

So last Thursday, the 24th January, saw Cumnor 1’s first match of 2022, away in the Deep South at Didcot.

Following our great first half of the season a win or a draw would see us go second, over taking Banbury, and as such we got out about our strongest side. Unfortunately, at least for us, Didcot also had pulled out all the stops and the match card looked very closely balanced:

Don’t be deceived by Joe Conlon’s rating – he is a very strong titled player coming back to “proper” chess after a bit of a break.

Well, what to say … After riding our luck a bit through the first half of the season the chickens came home to roost, so I’ll keep this short but the most important thing is we were outplayed – Didcot were definitely the better team on the night. I’ll gloss over Mark and Eldar who both had games they probably want to forget, and while Liam had more chances it probably won’t feature amongst his top 10 either. Even Nigel, one of our three draws, I know was not happy with his play. So that leaves me, and especially Stuart.

My game was fun if not wonderfully correct:

I got move-ordered in the opening going into a setup Peter obviously knew much better than I, and my 10. O-O was just very short-sighted, I knew the form his attack would take and I castled straight into it. Having no sensible counter-play I managed to make some complications with 20 Nfd5 which I muddled through  into a better endgame, which I then misplayed. Thankfully for me Peter missed a horrible blunder by me near the end (in time trouble) and it ended as a draw – probably overall a fair result, though I came away feeling a little lucky.

Stuart’s game was also not a thing of subtle strategy, here it is, along with some annotation that Stuart sent around:

I first wandered over at about move 15, and was amazed to see Black’s King so open – “this looks fun” was very much my thought. I don’t play 1.d4? nor the Kings Indian (except by transposition), so I don’t know if this is mainline theory but it does look like a good try by white! Stuart did everything but win it – he just needed to get the knight out and get on with the attack rather than worry about niceties such as the e4 pawn – something it is much easier to say when firstly it is not your game, and secondly somebody has kindly provided some analysis! Anyway Joe survived Stuart throwing the kitchen sink at him, and an honourable draw was the result – and a good game to look over.

So 4.5-1.5 was the final result

Oh well. Well played Didcot again, and I really shouldn’t feel upset that we are “only” third in the table!

 

Tournament News

The Kidlington Chess Congress was due to be played online over the the usual Kidlington weekend (the first full weekend in February), however for a variety of reasons, it will not now be possible to hold this event on that particular weekend. We hope this will be merely a brief postponement of a few weeks and are currently considering dates towards the end of February.

Looks like we will have to wait until 2023 to see Exeter Hall in Kidlington this busy again!
Further news will be posted here and on the Kidlington Tournament website as soon as arrangements can be made.

The 2023 tournament has been booked out the usual venue, Exeter Hall. As ever, the event is scheduled for the first full weekend in February, so we look forward to welcoming returning and first-time players for our next annual over-the-board tournament on Saturday and Sunday 4 & 5 February 2023.

In some good news, The Swindon 2022 Rapidplay Chess Tournament will take place in Swindon on Saturday the 5th March 2022. This new (as far as I am aware), Rapid play will be over the board and I am sure some local players might want to make the relatively short trip down the A420, more information can be found here.