Winners announced!

Thursday saw the final games of the year taking place, with a fantastic end game taking place between Nalin and Mark.

Both players had two rooks and a stash of pawns each, but ultimately Nalin was victorious and Mark a very strong adversary. Congratulations Nalin.

We can now announce the results for the competitions we ran during 2023.

Winner: Nigel 4 points
Runner-up: Nalin 3.5
Third place: Mark 3

Winner: Issac 10.5
Runner-up Jeff 10
Third place: Andy 6

The earliest dates that we can present the trophies are Thursday 11th January, or Thursday 1st February.

Can all the WINNERS please let Steve know if they cannot attend any of these two dates. Thanks.

Thanks for everyone’s input into the club this year. Enjoy your Christmas break.

We re-open on Thursday 4th January 2024!

An Excellent Weekend For Cumnor At Kidlington


The weekend of the 4-5th February 2023 saw the return of the Kidlington Chess Tournament after a Covid-19 enforced break; the last time I visited Exeter Hall it was for my vaccinations.

Exeter Hall, Kidlington

Six members of the club participated, and between them managed to bring home FOUR prizes! Pride of place must go to Gareth Stevens who managed to share first prize in the Under 1800 section, so retaining that title from when the competition was last run in 2020.

He achieved this unbeaten with a score of 4/5. His second round game in particular had a nice finish, and has been covered in a video by Simon Terrington. Here’s the finale, Gareth is White and on move – how does he win?

Gareth has now 5/6 in the last few games, I expect he’ll be back above 1800 soon, and quite rightly so.

Robin Carr also scored 4/5, this time in the Under 1600 section. This was enough for a share of fourth; Robin lost in the first round and then had 4 straight wins. This was enough for him to win the Veteran’s Prize.

Robin in round 2 at the start of his unbeaten run. Picture courtesy of Carl Portman (

I particularly enjoyed watching his Sunday morning game, a complicated Kings Indian where Robin as black nicely thwarted his opponent’s Neanderthal plans on the king side, won a piece, and then cleanly won the endgame.

The third prize that Cumnor players won was the Team Prize. Gareth and Robin’s excellent scores combined with those of Callum Brewerton and Mark Sayers took them to 13.5, 1/2 a point ahead of  Epsom. Callum made the excellent result of 3.5/5 in the Under 1800 section, a fantastic score in a strong section and what I think is only Callum’s second tournament – he had to overcome much more seasoned competitors to achieve it, and in doing so won the rating prize in the Under 1800 Section. Well done Callum!

Mark and I were in the Under 2000 and both scored 2/5, but had fun on the way. Mark managed to sac his queen in the last round looking for a win, unfortunately unlike another player’s it wasn’t sound and he went down fighting. I particularly enjoyed my second round game, winning helps but I managed to convert after just one poor move from my opponent in the opening ( 6 … Be6?) – but after that accurate defence made me work hard, the knights in particular got a good work out:

Lastly Nigel Moyse was in the Open, scoring a fantastic 50% in a section that contained a number of players with International titles, at least 3 International and one FIDE masters. You might think such games are often heavyweight positional battles where it’s tiny differences that contribute to the final result. But not always – here is Nigel’s last round win which he described as feeling like “a Blitz gone wrong”

So a very successful weekend for the club. And as always a very enjoyable and well organised tournament – thanks to Gerard O’Reilly and his team, Matthew Carr, Keith Freshwater, Raj, Jon d’Souza-Eva and all the others for a great weekend of chess!


Oxfordshire Win

Oxfordshire stormed to a convincing 13.5-4.5 defeat of Buckinghamshire on Saturday 21 January. Although we outrated them on the bottom 12 boards, I was not expecting such a solid outcome of 11.5-0.5 on those boards, so well done for pushing home for a win – in many cases the games were long, hard fought duels. In the upper six boards the picture was reversed: we were heavily out-gunned on board one where Kenneth Hobson fought valiantly in one of the longest matches before conceding.

There was a clear difference in rating in the other five matches so well done to Danut Joian for bringing home the full point against a player rated over 100 elo points above him! Dave Hackett and Ian Bush both obtained draws against higher rated players, thus a very good result even from the top six. We have a crunch match at home against Hampshire on Saturday 18 February, so if anyone who’s name I don’t have is interested in playing, please get in touch, with our very own Nigel Moyse.

The results can be found here.

Kidlington Chess Tournament

After a two year absence the Kidlington Tournament is back. Venue and format very much as before. Early entry discount is still available. More information along with the entry form can be found here.

4 & 5 February 2023

Exeter Hall, Oxford Road, Kidlington, Oxfordshire OX5 1AB

5-Round ECF-rated Swiss tournament
4 sections: Open, Major (U2000), Intermediate (U1800), Minor (U1600)

Total Prize Fund – £2,210 along with gaining points towards the Oxfordshire Individual Championship 2022-23 within the open section.

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.

The Cowley Blitz is Back!

On Thursday 15 December, after a hiatus of three years, the Cowley Blitz as an over-the-board event is returning!

You are invited to our 2022 Christmas Blitz at Cowley Chess Club (at Rose Hill Methodist Church in the Main Hall downstairs). Round 1 starts at 7.15 pm. We look forward to seeing you.

Five double-rounds (ten games in all) with a time allowance per player per game of 3 minutes plus a 2 seconds increment per move added from move 1.

The tournament winner may choose either a prize from the prizes table or a cash prize of 10% of the entry fees. There will be lots of other prizes of books, etc., on the prizes table, including rating prizes, prizes for juniors in various age groups, for the best slow starter, etc.

Entry fee: £5 for adults, £3 for juniors (i.e., players under 18), to be paid in cash when you arrive on the night. For full details, and to enter, click the here


A Grand Night Out: Cumnor Goes To Witney


So on Monday 14th Nov both Cumnor 1 and Cumnor 2 found themselves playing teams from Witney, so half the club decamped to Ducklington for the evening

Cumnor 1 was playing Witney 1, and we were close to full strength, including guest superstar Tom Shepherd. About the only regular missing was me due to poor health, but in Liam we had a more than capable substitute, and, importantly, acting captain.

From a Cumnor viewpoint the interesting games were where we had black, Nigel on board 2, Simon on board 4 and Liam on board 6. Nigel was a bit slow out of the blocks dropping a pawn fairly early, but then playing energetically and effectively to win it back, and then playing the knight endgame really nicely to win the game.

Here’s the first phase of the game, up to where Nigel regains his pawn

Adam spots the tactics around move 18 to win the e5 pawn, but Nigel responds well, and after a king side advance nicely combines threats against the weak pawn on d3 and checkmate on g2 (the queen coming in via h3) to win the pawn back. That said Adam’s last move, 27 Qc1 ?!, is a bit passive, a better try for white is 27 Qb3 and a typical line is

Here Black has failed to regain his pawn, but Stockfish still puts it equal – it’s not just about material! In the final position of this line black has a much better knight, a more active and more centralised king, and a pawn on g4 that is doing a reasonable job of containing white’s king side all by itself. All of this adequately compensates for the pawn minus; in endgames often activity is paramount.

The actual game continued

Just compare the white and black pieces! Black has a huge advantage all because of the superior position and activity of his knight and king. In fact in the final position Nigel managed to force resignation in two moves – so for our first tactical quiz in the position below what did he play?

A little later on Liam had a decision to make.

After a quiet start the game had exploded, and the resulting position is above.  There is clearly a perpetual for black if he wants to take it. The match is very close, I believe 2-2 at that point. Is a draw enough? Well being a good captain Liam looks at the other board in play, Simon on board 4, and calls it as a win for Cumnor so he takes the draw ensuring the match win, rather than risking a loss and so the match. In my opinion in a match very much the right decision, but in fact there is a win, so for tactical quiz 2 can you find it?

So what was going on on board 4 that caused Liam to take the draw? Well Simon was finishing off a wonderful King’s Indian game with a victory for Cumnor, and so a victory in the match! Simon has made a very nice video about this game, so rather than just poorly go over the ground he has covered so well I suggest you go to “Chess Game for Cumnor 1 Kings Indian Defence Classical” It’s well worth a watch! Here is the game, which is a great thematic example of the opening – keep your eyes on the white squared bishops, understand them and you understand this game:

So 2.5-3.5 to Cumnor 1!

which with other results left us equal on points with the top team (University 1), third on goal difference:

Cumnor 2 were playing Witney 3, and carrying on their good form from last season to win 5-1 without losing a game – a fine win for Mark Crittenden on board 6 is notable. The good shape of the club is shown by two relative newcomers on the top two boards, Jeff on board 2 and Alex on board 1.  This in fact was Alex’s debut and he won it very nicely, reading the tactics better than his experienced opponent, and then converting very methodically:

So the final result was

and Cumnor 2 are doing very nicely in Division 3 again:

So a great night out for the club with two excellent results! Many thanks to Witney for I’m sure being excellent hosts for the night [and the solutions to the tactical quizzes will go up when I have a little more energy]

Match Reports: University 2 v. Cumnor 1 and University 1 v. Cumnor 1

Well a new season is upon us, and Cumnor 1 kicked off with two visits to the University in very quick succession; we played the newly promoted University 2 on Thursday 27th Oct, and then University 1 on the following Monday, 31st Oct.

University 2 play their home games at University college on the High Street.

We fielded a pretty strong side. Nalin, our close season signing, turned out for his first match for the club, and we also had Simon returning and Eldar on top board; of our superstars we were only missing Nigel. And as such we turned out a very efficient win 4-2 against the new guys, not losing a single game, and having chances to make it a bigger score.

Nalin finished first. Out of a symmetrical English a symmetrical game resulted which ended in a symmetrical result. Next was Mark on the white side of an Alekhine. Here Mark had chances despite having a bishop and knight against his opponents two bishops, but it ended in a draw.

Next was Simon, scoring the first win for the season. In fact it was quite a tactical fest early on, Simon playing 1 e4!, which was a bit of a surprise, and then he eschewed his normally more positional style playing a very aggressive line against the Scandinavian:

The key period of the game is moves 16-19.

Black spots that Simon is trying to set up the Noah’s Ark trap, which would happen if he could get in a3 Ba5 b5 so winning the bishop. Hence c6 giving it an escape square, but black has missed Simon’s secondary plan, setting up a queen fork by opening the a2-g8 diagonal. It all looks very straightforward – in fact it’s quite a lot more complicated than it looks! It’s worth playing through the lines. But anyway Simon won a piece and that was enough for the game.

Next were two more draws, myself in a Pirc where I was better for much of the game but failed to convert, and Liam in a slightly strange Caro-Kann exchange variation which eventually became something like a Panov-Botvinnik attack. Liam’s game had many swings back and forth and ended in a fascinating Knight v. Bishop endgame which if I had more time and energy I would cover. But pride of place goes to the last to finish, Eldar who won very cleanly in nice classical style, exploiting his space advantage to slowly crush his opponent:

So a good solid win to kick off the season:

Just 4 days later we faced University 1 at Corpus Christi College.

Uni 1 have won everything for the last few years, but this season they have looked somewhat weaker, and indeed when we arrived while it was clear that it would be tough it would not be impossible.

When I say “we” the team had changed somewhat. On the plus side we did have Nigel, but had lost Eldar. And we had a disadvantage the students would be unlikely to have to deal with – It being Halloween Liam and Simon were unavailable due to having to run the local toddler protection racket, sorry I mean having to take their little ones out Trick or Treating. But in John and Andrey we had a couple of very capable substitutes.

And then the University team had a bit of bad luck – just after the match started their Captain was called away and had to resign his game. Not the nicest way to get a point, but that meant Andrey finished early with a win to his name.

After that it started to look like usual business for Uni 1. Nalin lost a piece and resigned, soon followed by John doing the same. 2-1 to the University, but not without hope, I was better on my board, as was Mark, and on top board Nigel was almost holding his own against the very useful Nicholas Clanchy.

Nigel’s game is a good example of never give up. Or maybe it is a good example of Nigel’s amazing ability to pull results out of nowhere. Let’s look at the crucial move:

Nigel has struggled hard against his appreciably higher rated opponent, but at move 41 the simple truth is he is lost; the pawns are just marching through. But then Black manages to lose a vital tempo allowing Nigel to get his own pawn through, and it’s a draw! I wouldn’t dwell on this if this was a one off, but Nigel has an incredibly ability to do this sort of thing, I wish he could teach it to the rest of us … As an exercise try and work out what Black’s best continuation is at move 41.

So it’s Uni 1 2 1/2 Cumnor 1 1 1/2. Mark finishes next, a win!

I’ve said before I really don’t understand the Dutch. To me black always seems to have no room and the pieces aren’t working, and then black crashes through on the king side. As supporting evidence the game above is exhibit 1, at least as far as I am concerned. I can sort of see Mark working his “bad” white squared bishop around to the king side to make it “good”, and his opponent does seem to help a bit by swapping off pieces which removes Black’s cramp a bit, but, but, but … well I just don’t get it! Well played Mark, maybe you can explain how all this works to me one day? Uni 1 2 1/2 Cumnor 1 2 1/2 !

So I am the last to finish. I’ve been better for much of the game, but while I am still better at the end the tide has been against me for a while and the honest truth is my brain just felt fried and I was seeing nothing. So I accepted my opponent’s draw offer – should I have gone for the win and risked the match result? Not sure, I took a Captain’s view at the time that we had expected nothing out of this match so even a draw was an excellent result, so let’s grab that. Here’s the game, you can draw your own conclusions.

So a 3-3 draw – on one hand somewhat lucky, but on the other we could have won, but maybe with the unfortunate loss for the University on board 6 that would not have been really fair. So, looking on the bright side a point we never expected, and an excellent result whatever view you take:

After all this we’re currently third in the table:

Next up Witney on the 14th!

Oxfordshire Needs You!


Nigel Moyse is urgently looking for players for the county team!

Oxfordshire play in the Chiltern League along with Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Hampshire. We thus have 6 games a year, 3 at home (played at Cumnor) and 3 away, which are played on Saturday afternoons with teams of 20 on each side, and a time control of 2 hours for all moves. If you are interested in playing please contact Nigel , and especially if you are free this Saturday (29th Oct 2022) as time is getting short and we still need players!

One Plays Chess In Cornwall

Over the weekend of 14th-16th October Cumnor players were busy in tournaments on opposite sides of the country. Nigel was playing in the open section at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, while I was in the Under 1975 “Major” section in Penzance. This was played at the Queens Hotel, right on the Cornish seafront

Not a bad view – and not far from how it actually was!

and to cut to the chase I managed  4 out of 5 which was good enough for a two way share of first place!

You can find all of my games here. I had to ride my luck at times, especially in the draws in round 3 (against my co-winner) where I was caught in a nasty line in the Alekhine by a well prepared opponent, and in round 4 where a draw by mutual exhaustion was agreed, but in the final position I am almost certainly losing were it not for the clock and mental state of the two players. But the groundwork for the result was in the first two rounds which allowed me to reach top board and stay there until the end of the competition, so let’s have a look at those.

I was white in Round 1, and as usual played the Smith-Morra Gambit against the Sicilian Defence.

6… Bb4 is a slightly unusual line which is by no means bad, but 7 … Bxc3 immediately swapping off looks unconvincing to me. 7 … Ne7 is better, and the game continuation shows why; after swapping off Black loses control of his black squares, and further opens up a3 to the white bishop which will make it difficult to castle. Things get worse as Black swaps off his developed pieces leaving white with a huge space and development advantage, and 14 f5! and 15 e5! open the lines into the Black position, with 20 Rf7! finishing things off nicely.

The Lichess analysis engine rates round 1 as my most accurate game. On the other hand I think round 2 is my best game, a thematic Pirc as Black played against the section’s top seed:

We’ve seen this line before when I played Graham Cole in the league match against Cowley last season. The games differ at move 7, Graham played Re1, William played a4. This is a logical move to stop black gaining space on the queen side with b5, but it does have a downside in that it weakens b4 as that square can no longer be attacked by the a pawn. In fact provoking 7 a4 to cause this weakness is part of the point of 6 … a6; black is expecting white to kick any knight on c6 with the pawn advance d5, and after white plays a4 the b4 square is a possible escape route for the knight, as opposed to the apparently more passive b8 as in the game against Graham. That’s not to say 7 Re1 is any better than 7 a4, they just have different pros and cons.

After 7 a4 the game developed in hypermodern fashion, with White trying to prove that the black knight on b4 is a liability due to the few squares it has to run to when attacked, due to the big white centre, while Black claims the knight is worth its weight through pressurizing a number of crucial squares in the white camp, namely c2, d3 and especially d5, occupied by the advanced white pawn. It was an interesting exchange of ideas on moves 8 to 14, both sides moving logically to support their plans. White attacks the knight first by stopping black playing a5 to support the knight (and provide an escape square on a6) by playing his own pawn to that square, and then attacks the knight directly with the rook lift 10 Ra4. Unfortunately for white black has just enough time to start pressurising the white centre, with e6 (better than c6 to avoid a weakness on b6), and he can then support the knight with c5.

At the end of this phase it is clear that Black has won the ideological battle, and after Bf5 is clearly better. White has to start playing some slightly unnatural moves to continue his plan, while Black has taken full control of the open e-file. This also acts as an indirect defense of the knight on b5 since white finds it difficult to play Ne2, a necessary part of his plan as he wants to play c3 to attack the black knight. However as the game shows this is tactically flawed and drops the d pawn precisely due to the pressure down the e-file.

William told me after the game that he had seen 15 … Nbxd5 but miscalculated the end; he thought he was getting has pawn back. But really it is a miscalculation in a difficult position caused by White choosing a slightly wrong plan, and I can’t deny I was pleased how well I exploited it! Maybe better for White is 11 dxc5 taking the position into something like a Sicilian Dragon, or 12 Nxd5 Nxd5 exd5 accepting that the black knight really was a strength and not a weakness, and taking us into Symmetric Benoni land (pawn structures rool!)

Anyway after the pawn is won it becomes easy for Black. My pieces were working, William’s were not, and despite a small tactical flourish at the end it was all wrapped up fairly quickly.

Game 5 was a French defence. I played the opening somewhat indifferently, but once we got into the game I started playing well, and tied my opponent up so much that he resigned in a bind while but a pawn down. In fact the game is a nice example of how I think about knights. Here is the position just before White’s 17th move:

So where does the knight want to be? What is “the promised land”? Well d6 or f6 would be wonderful squares – I think g6 in particular by my opponent was a very tired move in the last round of the tournament, it opens up those lovely dark squares for me to exploit. So how do I get to d6 or f6? Well the only route is via e4, which means the knight came from d2 or g5, which in turn means the knight came from f3. Hence 17. Nf3! To be honest in this case the plan has a flaw as black can always swap the knight off for his bishop when it reaches e4, but at least I get a bishop for a knight as the positional threat of an “octopus” on d6 or f6 is just too much. However as played I got an additional route via c4 which he could not stop, and once the knight was in d6 I just had to establish and maintain control of the open b file (note I do not take the free pawn on move 26), and then march my king over to eat the queen side pawns – despite the reduced material the knight and the rook just completely tie Black down. Presumably at the end he is trying to support his weak c pawn with Rook c7, but then Rb8+ Kg8 Ne8+ wins the black rook. I think Black has to try f6 at some point, but it is pretty miserable.

However it was not only my opponent who made tired moves in the last round – one of my worst moves in the tournament was 24 Qb6. So as a fairly easy tactical quiz what do I have in the position below that is a marked improvement?

So a good tournament full of interesting games, in a beautiful location. And I won!