Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Club is now closed for the Christmas period. It has on the whole been an exciting time since reopening in September. Cumnor 1 currently sit in second place in the first division while Cumnor 2 sit forth in the 3rd division.

The Club will be closed on the 23rd and the 30th of December and will reopen again on Thursday the 6th (unless we get told otherwise). But the club will be open for a Lichess Cumnor Clash on both Thursdays, kick off at 7 to remember the good old days of last winter(?!). The Cowley Blitz will also be online again this year, for more information follow this link.

Hopefully I will see some of you online at either Cumnor Clash or at the Cowley Blitz but if I don’t Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

“Merry Christmas
May your every New Year dreams (of mating with a Bishop and Knight) come true!”

Cowley Christmas Blitz 2021

Due to the blindingly obvious Cowley is holding their Christmas Blitz competition on line again – Thanks to Dave Robson for organizing this, details are below (taken from https://www.oxfordfusion.com/oca/GetNews.cfm?Year=2021&Org=1)

This year’s Cowley Christmas Blitz will be played online on Lichess on Monday 20th December at 7:30 p.m.

It will consist of as many blitz games as you want to play between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

To play, you must have a Lichess account. You must also be a member of the Cowley Blitz Lichess team. If you aren’t already a member, you can visit https://lichess.org/team/cowley-blitz and click the “Join” meeting. When the admins notice, they can then admit you.

Please also email CowleyBlitz@gmail.com and tell us the name of your Lichess account, and also your real name, so we know who is playing. Also if you would like to be considered for an age or gender related prize, please send us the details.

As there is no admission fees, the awards are for the prestige only.

Finally, if you are signed up, all you have to do is to visit the tournament link on the night at lichess.org/tournament/ovGKuSGa

Match Report: Cumnor 1 v. Cowley 1

I’m not a great fan of memorizing the names of mating positions. I don’t see what it gains you. It’s the experience needed to recognize the possibility of reaching the setup which is important, not the label it has been given. So when Jon d’Souza-Eva told me earlier in the week “It’s only taken me 30+ years to land a Canal’s Mate” I really couldn’t have told you what that position was, or that¬† the position Jon had reached is in fact “Boden’s mate”. But … some things stick in your mind, and the name “Arabian mate” is one of them

It’s so called because it’s one of the few checkmating positions that is valid in both the older Arabian version of the game, and the modern form; around 1500 the Bishop and Queen’s moves changed from the older, slower form to the long range terrors we know and love today, but the Knight and Rook stayed the same. A related bit of trivia is that the oldest known piece of endgame theory still considered (mostly) correct dates back to 1257 and is a study by an Arabian player of a K+R v. K+N endgame. The game has been around a while!

Anyway enough trivia, though the relevance will become apparent later. On Thursday we welcomed Cowley 1 to a nice and toasty Old School (yes, the heating has been fixed!). It was great to see so many familiar faces, but also a bit of a relief that Cowley weren’t quite as strong as they could be. In fact the two teams were pretty evenly balanced:

All to play for! As usual I’ll report in the games in roughly the order they finished.

Liam, after last week at Banbury, caught up for lost time by dropping a pawn fairly early on. The compensation was fairly nebulous, really only Bob’s queen being a little short of squares. I’ll spare Bob’s blushes for what happened next, let’s just say partially because of that Bob managed to walk into a nasty tactical sequence which ended up dropping a whole rook – tricksy pieces knights! Cumnor 1 Cowley 0.

Mark was next to finish, playing Will Burt. After starting 1 e4! it entered a Two Knights Defence, a line where White gains a pawn but gives Black the initiative; it’s a very sound gambit. Now I myself don’t go down this line, it somehow seems wrong to me to be on the defensive as White out of the opening, and I would be especially nervous about this against such an imaginative attacking player as Will! Early on I strongly suspected a Burt miniature was about to occur, but Mark held it all together very nicely, and after 16 … fxe4 ( Rxd4 is better ) he took the advantage and won in some style. The complete game is

Well played Mark! Cumnor 2 Cowley 0.

Nigel was next. I’m not quite sure what happened here, out of a Grunfeld it all looked very even to me last time I looked, and then it was all over. Mike tried to explain it to me at the end but my head was still full of my own game so I couldn’t quite take it in – I think the essence is in a forcing line Mike found a move order that Nigel didn’t anticipate that forced win of material. Cumnor 2 Cowley 1

At that stage it all looked pretty tense to me. On board 3 I thought I was better, but Gareth seemed to be in a mess on board 6 and was dropping pawns, and I didn’t really believe Tony’s sac of a piece for two pawns (soon to become 3), gut feeling was that Rich’s pieces were better. So I had to play for the win! As black!

Mine was a fun game. Graham and I have played any number of times, most of them very interesting. We know each other’s repertoires inside out and in fact all the rated games have ended as draws, showing how close the competition is. As is my want I played the Pirc against Graham’s 1 e4!, and the first surprise was Graham played 4 Nf3 instead of his usual more aggressive line, and went into the so called Classical Variation:

The Pirc is a flexible hypermodern system, the character of the game often being determined by white’s fourth move; 4 Nf3 or 4 g3 usually, but not always, lead to more positional lines, any other fourth move and Black should suspect more neanderthal tendencies in their opponent. This is both a strength and a weakness. White being able to determine the nature of the battle is not to everybody’s taste, and indeed no lesser a authority than Gary Kasparov has said the Pirc is “hardly worth using in the tournaments of the highest category”, as it gives White “too many opportunities for anybody’s liking” (though by example Kramnik, for instance, differs). So if you want a system rather than an opening the Pirc is not for you. However if you like to play in a wide variety of positions, and enjoy the challenge of using your flexible position to best to exploit how white has set out his board, well the Pirc may be what you are looking for.

So how to go about working out what to do against the myriad of White’s choices? Well, you guessed it, it’s time for another edition of “Ian Bush witters on about Pawn Structures.” Black plans to challenge white’s centre with (typically) at least one of e5 or c5 causing tension, and how that tension is resolved will lead to pawn structures characteristic of other openings. So one gets things like the “Benoni Pirc”, the “Dragon Pirc”, the “Ruy Lopez Pirc”, the “Philidor Pirc” and the “Kings Indian Pirc”, and it is the last one which occurred in the game. And given those pawn structures you can follow the plans characteristic of those openings.

That a Kings Indian type game is possible is not too surprising from the above position, for if the next moves could be 5 … 0-0 6 c4 [illegal] it would be a bona fide Kings Indian.

In that opening typically black will play e5, white will resolve the tension in the centre with d5, so grabbing space, and the game usually then involves black attacking on the king side (after f5) and white on the queens side; white’s attack is usually quicker, but black’s is against the white king – a very intense and exciting game normally result.

The big difference in the Pirc is white’s c pawn is not on c4 but on c2, and it will take a move or two to get it to c4 as white will have to find a way to move the c3 knight out of the way. Given speed is of the essence all other things being equal I genuinely think black is better in this type of position – certainly I am rarely unhappy when white chooses this structure and have a good record against it.

But are all other things equal? Let’s see how we got to the position just before Black is planning f5. Suspecting Graham had something prepared (in fact we both guessed correctly our opponents, he deviated first …) I went slightly off piste and played in a slightly provocative style:

So all things are not quite equal. Graham is a bit better developed than I would like, and my knight is on d7 rather than e7, blocking my white squared bishop – for those who don’t know the Kings Indian that is already developed on its best square, c8, and often proves crucial to the attack. That said I still think if Graham attacks on the Queen side he will be too slow, so, correctly I think, he played g4 to stop my f5 plan. Well in chess sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, and I had to play f5 anyway, totally unable to calculate all the complications that would result – but if I don’t play it where else am I getting counter play? Here’s the complete game:

As you can see it got very complicated, and I was quite pleased to find the temporary pawn sac with 15 … Ndf6, Rxf5 just tempts Bd3 in the near future. Anyway I muddled through into better position, but then agreed a draw! Why? Well the real reason is that about move 22 I saw Gareth get up, asked the result, and found out somehow he had won! So just a half point was enough for the match –¬† and up about 5 minutes on the clock and up (as I thought) in the position I took a Captain’s decision and decided to cash in, which after a little thought Graham (down to his last couple of minutes of normal time) agreed. Cumnor 3.5 Cowley 1.5, match won!

However as Bob Waugh pointed out afterward my last move, Nf5 to stop Rg3, is a blunder. So for this weeks quiz

  1. After 26 … Nf5 what should white play to simplify to an essentially equal ending?
  2. What should black play instead to keep his advantage? This is a real game so there are a couple of options.

So what had happened on Gareth’s board? Well the last time I saw it the position was something like

Two pawns down and facing the two bishops on a fairly open board you might understand why I was not too hopeful … But Gareth has beaten GMs, and that doesn’t happen without reason, so sorry David – but here’s what most of what happened:

So second quiz of the week – White to play and mate in 3.

Last to finish was Tony’s game. I didn’t really see the finish, but as I said he had sacced a piece for two pawns, and in fact got a third one back. However I never really quite believed it, and in the end Rich pushed through for the win. Cumnor 3.5 Cowley 2.5

Answer to the quizzes: Firstly Bob Waugh’s simplifying line which gives Graham a drawn endgame

When black is marginally better but white should hold.

Next what I should have played – there are a couple of possibilities, the mainline is best, but the second line is almost as good and simpler:

And Gareth’s mate in 3, which should look familiar!

So a win, but a bit by luck rather than judgement, if I were Cowley I would feel myself a little unlucky:

Back up to second, if you had told me that at the start of the season I would never have believed you, despite being a Leicester City fan!

So now we take a break for Christmas – can we continue this for the second half of the season!?

Busy Nights at the Club Coming Up

The over the board Chess season is now up and running. For the next two weeks, 21st and 28th October, both teams will be playing League Matches. The Club will be open for social Chess but there numbers will be down as 12 players will be involved in the matches two weeks running.

Cumnor One will be playing against Oxford University 1 on the 21st and Witney 1 on the 28th, both matches will be at home. Cumnor One currently sit top of division one with two wins from two but these two matches will provide some tough games for the first team. Oxford University 1 will be playing their first match of the season as the University teams as they need fit their matches around the academic year.

Cumnor Two will be playing their first matches of the season after two false starts. They will be playing Cowley 3 on the the 21st and then Oxford University 3 on the 28th both of the matches will be away from home. Originally Cumnor two’s season should have started against Abingdon School on the 4th October but it was postponed due to Abingdon’s Michaelmas fair. Then the Oxford University 3 fixture was also rearranged after they had some issues with the fixture pile up.

Fixtures are out

Please spread the news far and wide: The fixtures for 2021-22 have been released!

Cumnor 1 will be playing in the first division with 6 other teams: Didcot 1, City 1, Oxford Univ 1, Witney 1, Banbury 1 and Cowley 1. This should provide some tough games but with Covid we will have to wait to see the strength of some of these teams.

Thu 30-Sep-21 Cumnor 1 v Didcot 1
Thu 07-Oct-21 Cumnor 1 v City 1
Thu 21-Oct-21 Cumnor 1 v Oxford Univ 1
Thu 28-Oct-21 Cumnor 1 v Witney 1
Thu 18-Nov-21 Banbury 1 v Cumnor 1
Thu 25-Nov-21 Cumnor 1 v Cowley 1
Mon 24-Jan-22 Didcot 1 v Cumnor 1
Thu 10-Feb-22 Cowley 1 v Cumnor 1
Mon 21-Mar-22 City 1 v Cumnor 1
Thu 31-Mar-22 Cumnor 1 v Banbury 1
Mon 11-Apr-22 Witney 1 v Cumnor 1
Thu 28-Apr-22 Oxford Univ 1 v Cumnor 1

Cumnor 2 will be playing in the third division (so I guess we should celebrate a promotion at some point) with 6 other teams: Abingdon 1, Oxford Univ 3, Cowley 3, Wantage 2, City 3 and Witney 3.

Mon 04-Oct-21 Abingdon 1 v Cumnor 2
Thu 14-Oct-21 University 3 v Cumnor 2
Thu 21-Oct-21 Cowley 3 v Cumnor 2
Thu 04-Nov-21 Cumnor 2 v Wantage 2
Mon 22-Nov-21 City 3 v Cumnor 2
Mon 06-Dec-21 Witney 3 v Cumnor 2
Thu 03-Feb-22 Cumnor 2 v Cowley 3
Thu 17-Feb-22 Cumnor 2 v City 3
Tue 22-Feb-22 Wantage 2 v Cumnor 2
Thu 03-Mar-22 Cumnor 2 v University 3
Thu 17-Mar-22 Cumnor 2 v Abingdon 1
Thu 21-Apr-22 Cumnor 2 v Witney 3

I am looking for our first competitive over the board game in over 18 months! If you would like to get involved in the best Chess Club in the whole wide world check out our New Members page, (the “best Chess Club in the whole wide world” claim was taken by a small sample of Cumnor players who were asked the question).

OCA Blitz @ Cowley – Thursday 8th April

Following what seemed to be an enjoyable night of Chess in Feb we shall be rerunning the OCA Blitz @ Cowley event, this time on Thursday 8th April. Again Dave Robson of the Cowley club has very kindly allowed us to reuse what he set up. As for the Cowley Blitz there will be no admission fee, and there will be no prizes. However, we will recognize, and announce the names of those players who in different circumstances would have won the usual prizes for finishing first, second, third, or as best female player, best slow starter, etc., etc.

The blitz will start at 7:30 p.m. and finish at 9:30 p.m. Any games running after that time can be completed, but they will not contribute towards the final standings. To provide a bit of variety, this time we shall be using the slightly longer time control of 5 minutes for the game, plus an extra three seconds for every move you take.

If you didn’t play in the earlier events, you will need to join the Cowley Blitz Team on Lichess (note if you did play this step is unnecessary). To do this:
First get a Lichess account from Lichess. They’re free
Then Send an email to CowleyBlitz@gmail.com stating:
a) Your real name
b) Your Lichess username
c) Your age (if you want to be in contention for recognition as a best junior player)
d) If you are female (if you want to be in contention for recognition as a best female player)
Finally visit the Cowley Blitz Page and click on the “Join Team” button, There will be a delay until the administrators approve your request.

Once you are a member of the Cowley Blitz team you enter as as follows: On the night of the tournament five or ten minutes before the tournament starts, click on the tournament link and then click on the green “Join” button which you can find just above the list of players who have already entered. At 7:30, the Lichess site will then pair you with your opponent, and the game will begin.

A few gotchas …

If you need to resign or to offer a draw, you must hit the relevant button twice. You can disable this behaviour in your Lichess profile.

At the end of your game, you will need to hit the labelled button to return to the tournament. Lichess will then pair you up with your next opponent.

The tournament is of an “arena” format, so there isn’t a fixed number of rounds. You can get more information at Arena Help. You can start the tournament late, or leave early, but the more games you play, the better the odds of you winning! Note that we have disabled “beserking” and extra points for winning streaks.

Have fun! For any questions, please email CowleyBlitz@gmail.com

OCA Blitz @ Cowley – Monday 15th Feb

There will be no round of the Mike Duck Tournament in the week starting Monday 15th Feb. Instead during the “half term break” we will be holding the “OCA Blitz @ Cowley” tournament on the 15th Feb along the lines of the Cowley Blitz held just before Christmas. To make things especially easy to organise Dave Robson of the Cowley club has very kindly allowed us to reuse what he set up. As for the Cowley Blitz there will be no admission fee, and there will be no prizes. However, we will recognize, and announce the names of those players who in different circumstances would have won the usual prizes for finishing first, second, third, or as best female player, best slow starter, etc., etc.

The blitz will start at 7:30 p.m. and finish at 9:30 p.m. Any games running after that time can be completed, but they will not contribute towards the final standings. The time limit will be three minutes for the game, plus an extra two seconds for every move you make.

If you didn’t play in the Cowley Blitz before Christmas, you will needto join the Cowley Blitz Team on Lichess (note if you did play this step is unnecessary). To do this:
First get a Lichess account from Lichess. They’re free
Then Send an email to CowleyBlitz@gmail.com stating:
a) Your real name
b) Your Lichess username
c) Your age (if you want to be in contention for recognition as a best junior player)
d) If you are female (if you want to be in contention for recognition as a best female player)
Finally visit the Cowley Blitz Page and click on the “Join Team” button, There will be a delay until the administrators approve your request.

Once you are a member of the Cowley Blitz team you enter as as follows: On the night of the tournament five or ten minutes before the tournament starts, click on the tournament link and then click on the green “Join” button which you can find just above the list of players who have already entered. At 7:30, the Lichess site will then pair you with your opponent, and the game will begin.

A few gotchas …

If you need to resign or to offer a draw, you must hit the relevant button twice. You can disable this behaviour in your Lichess profile.

At the end of your game, you will need to hit the labelled button to return to the tournament. Lichess will then pair you up with your next opponent.

The tournament is of an “arena” format, so there isn’t a fixed number of rounds. You can get more information at Arena Help. You can start the tournament late, or leave early, but the more games you play, the better the odds of you winning! Note that we have disabled “beserking” and extra points for winning streaks.

Have fun! For any questions, please email CowleyBlitz@gmail.com

Link: https://lichess.org/tournament/l1jWEzXI

Mike Duck Online Tournament: The Final Rounds

Sorry this is a bit delayed I have been pretty busy over the last few weeks.

Cumnor 2 definitely blew hot and cold this tournament, with a bye in the first round they had the unfortunate task of playing Oxford 1 and Oxford University 2 in second and third rounds, both of these matches ended 6-0. In the forth round the result was another 6-0 but this time to Cumnor 2, beating Cowley 2. The fifth round saw the closest match against Cowley 1, with Cowley defaulting one game Cumnor ran into a 2- (negative) 1 lead. However, Cowley 1 had to fight for the remaining games and maybe on a different day Cumnor 2 might held out but it wasn’t meant to be. This would have been the shock of the tournament if it had happened.

The final round had Cumnor 2 pitted against Oxford City 2 and this time the result was back in our favour with a 4.5-1.5 win. Overall Cumnor 2 did very well, beating the other “2” teams they played against and finished respectably in mid-table above such powerhouses as Witney 1 and Banbury 1!

After the first three rounds of the Mike Duck Online Tournament Cumnor 1 was sat in a healthy position near the top of the table with 2 wins and a loss. The problem with this is that you end up playing some tough teams! Our forth round match was against Witney 1, in the furloughed 2019-20 season Witney 1 was one of only 3 teams who finished above Cumnor 1, so was this the chance we needed to show what we could have done if we had played the final few matches? The answer is yes, a good 4.5-1.5 win.

However, in our fifth round match we were up against the second strongest team in the tournament, a match against Oxford City 1 (this means we have played all the teams who finished above us in the league). In what was probably the best match of the competition Cumnor 1 pulled the rabbit out of the hat and got the win. Nick agreed a draw with 4 games still to go after looking at the remaining matches and prophesying that we would eventually win, Nick got any numbers for the lottery this weekend?

Mark’s match is a particularly nice win with a galavanting King and a couple of pawns which the whole game revolved around, Ian has put together all the games and they can be found here if you chance a watch.

Going into the final round first place was still within our grasp, well it would take an amazing set of results but we still had a chance. A Cumnor win and an Oxford Uni loss of 5-1 or more would mean we would win the tournament, a win would guaranty second place while a lost or draw would drop us down the table. Cowley 1 had all the big guns out and sadly we fell at the final hurdle losing 3.5-2.5. Oxford Uni won against Banbury so they won the First Mike Duck Tournament and deservedly so. Cumnor 1’s final position was third a very good achievement. The final table can be found here.

The Second Mike Duck Tournament starts on the 18th January 2021 with 4 player a teams so there might be (for the first time ever) a Cumnor 3! We are still planning to have online chess on a Thursday night over Christmas (again for the first time), if you aren’t up to much on Christmas eve or New Years eve… and lets be honest their isn’t much going on so you might as well.

So please have a Merry and Safe Christmas and New Year and hopefully next year we will get back to playing over the board chess. We will have a mighty celebration once we do!

Cowley Christmas Blitz 2020

The Cowley Blitz will take place this year on Lichess, its good to see the traditional tournament take place in these difficult times. Please join in if you can and enjoy a good evenings fun with our friends over in Cowley.

David Robson

This year’s Cowley Christmas Blitz will be held on Monday 14th December. It will be run on the lichess.org web site. This year, there will be no admission fee, and there will be no prizes. However, we will recognize, and announce the names of those players who in different circumstances would have won one of our usual prizes for finishing first, second, third, or as best female player, best slow starter, etc., etc.

The blitz will start at 7:30 p.m. and finish at 9:30 p.m. Any games running after that time can be completed, but they will not contribute towards the final standings. As in previous years, the time limit will be three minutes for the game, plus an extra two seconds for every move you make.

To sign up, you will need to:

Get a Lichess account from https://lichess.org/signup . They’re free
Send an email to CowleyBlitz@gmail.com stating:
a) Your real name
b) Your Lichess username
c) Your age (if you want to be in contention for recognition as a best junior player)
d) If you are female (if you want to be in contention for recognition as a best female player)
Visit the Cowley Blitz Page at https://lichess.org/team/cowley-blitz and click on the “Join Team” button, There will be a delay until the administrators approve your request.

Five or ten minutes before the tournament starts, click on the tournament link (https://lichess.org/tournament/8UVhoQXQ ) At 7:30, the Lichess site will then pair you with your opponent, and the game will begin.
A couple of gotchas …

If you need to resign or to offer a draw, you must hit the relevant button twice. You can disable this behaviour in your Lichess profile.

At the end of your game, you will need to hit the labelled button to return to the tournament. Lichess will then pair you up with your next opponent.

The tournament is of an “arena” format, so there isn’t a fixed number of rounds. You can get more information at https://lichess.org/tournament/help?system=arena.. You can start the tournament late, or leave early, but the more games you play, the better the odds of you winning! Note that we have disabled “beserking” and extra points for winning streaks.

Have fun! For any questions, please email CowleyBlitz@gmail.com

Online National Club Championships

During the pandemic a lot more chess has been played online (including our Thursday night Clashes) so the English Chess Federation has implemented an Online National Club Championship.

Obviously we jumped at the chance of playing in the competition so Ian set up a team and The Six Horses of the Apocalypse rode again!

We were placed in the Intermediate section with 12 other teams from across the country from Hackey to Leeds.

The first match was on Friday evening and it saw us up against Wimbledon (I know some teams chose the name of their clubs…. but where is the fun in that), sadly we lost 2.5 – 3.5 to the eventual winners.

Player results

On Saturday there where 2 rounds, the first at 10am against Downend & Fishponds (Birstol) which we won 3.5 – 2.5. Our second against Trelawney’s Army (Cornwall County) which we won 5 – 1!

This put us up to third by Saturday evening, in a position where we could win something.

On Sunday morning we faced Horsham and we needed a win to keep the pressure up on the leaders, Wimbledon and Leeds Uni who were set to play each other. We eventual won that match 4.5 – 1.5!

With Leeds Uni winning, the pressure was now on us.. .all or nothing…. winner takes all… in our clash against Lewisham, the tie brake at the top of the tournament was pretty complicated head to head but we eventually concluded a win would mean glory a shot at the trophy (depending on other results ) or at worse rating prize.

After a tense match we came up just a bit short losing 3.5 – 2.5. It means our final position was 5th but I think I can say on behalf of the players it was very enjoyable.

A thanks to Ian for organising and all the tournament organisers from the English Chess Federation.

Until the The Six Horses of the Apocalypse ride again………