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!


Happy New Year!

The club will re-open tomorrow, on Thursday 5th 2023.

The 2023 Players Cup and Bill Laar Trophy tournaments will commence from 5th January.

This years competitions will be as follows:

One game played against each opponent.
Game time, 30 mins + 15

Nigel, Mark S, Gareth, Liam, John, Robin, Alex, Andrey, Rio
(and possibly Simon and Nalin. Yet to confirm, Yea or Nay).

The reduced games and increased participants are designed to make the competition more competitive and easier to fulfil ones games.

One game played against each opponent.
Game time, 45 minuets.

Andy, Jeff, Otto, Mark C, Pedro, Jonathan, Dylan, Allan, Steven, Isaac, Alf, James, Steve

The Club’s 2022 Trophy presentations will be held on Thursday 26th January.

Annual club member fees are now due for 2023.

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!

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!

9th Witney Weekend Congress

A message from our friends over at Witney Chess Club:

I’m delighted to be able to confirm that the Ninth Witney Congress will take place on 5th and 6th November 2022 at our usual venue Cokethorpe School, Witney OX29 7PU.

You can find all the details you need here:

and the entry form is here:

Sunday morning on the 2016 congress, Liam, Mark and Daniel can be seen in the top left while Gareth can be spotted below the fireplace

A New Term Begins …

Well it’s the start of a new season, the  (almost) final fixture list is out, and at least two of us (Gareth and I) have already played our first competitive game, for the county away at Buckinghamshire last weekend. And it’s reflected at the club which has been very busy since the return from the summer break; yesterday evening saw almost 20 people playing. In fact we were so busy Steve was pondering which second room we should commandeer, our usual venue being so packed.

It was a mixture of club tournament games and more casual ones. In the Player’s Cup, for members of the first team squad, Nigel played Liam and I (Ian) played Gareth. In both white won, though in both games it wasn’t easy. Against Nigel Liam established early on a queen side majority with pawns on a6, b5 and c4 against a2 and b2, but could never quite get them rolling and eventually succumbed to Nigel’s king side attack. My win was a much longer grind, I won a pawn in the middle game and simplified to an ending where we both had a rook and bishop, and I thought I had good winning chances, but had underestimated Gareth’s idea of swapping off rooks to leave a drawn opposite coloured bishop position. Anyway Nigel’s win all but guarantees him the Player’s Cup this year, he is mathematically catchable but even if one of us does on any sensible tiebreak he will win. Here is the top of the table which you can find on the ECF LMS web site:

The Bill Laar Trophy, locally known as the BLT, is for all other members of the club. Unlike the Player’s cup this year it is incredibly tight with maybe half a dozen players in with a chance of winning it, and Jeff beating Andrey, one of the 4 matches last night, has made it even closer. In fact it was a good night for the Bryant family with Otto getting his first win in the competition against Allan, a great result. In the other games Steven beat Pedro to go top, and the defending holder Robin beat Richard to go into a tie for second. Anyway the top of the table, again from the ECF LMS, now looks like

All incredibly close, I can’t call it!

But it wasn’t just cup matches, casual games were going on – and the game of the evening was between two promising new comers, Alex and Rio. Unfortunately I don’t have the score, but whenever I went over to have a look Alex was throwing the kitchen sink at Rio, who was calmly holding on and just grabbing the material Alex offered despite the attack looking very dangerous. I don’t even know the final result! I was tied down in time pressure in my game against Gareth. Anybody? In the comments maybe?

So busy and interesting times at the club with a lot of fun chess being played. All welcome!



New Season

The Fixture List for the 2022-23 has been released!

Cumnor 1 will again be playing in the First Division (being in the division since the 2019 season) and will start with an Away match against the newly promoted Oxford University 2 team on Thursday 27th October before playing the Oxford University 1 team Away on the following Monday.

Cumnor 2 will be playing in the Third Division (which is again the bottom division) and will start in two weeks with a Home match against Wantage 2 on Thursday the 13th October. The fixtures are very much subject to change so keep an eye out just in case.

All the information for all the clubs can be found on the Oxfordshire Chess League website which can be found here.

The fixtures can be found here.

Club Reopens

We’re up and running again from this Thursday (1st September).

Please take advantage of the few remaining weeks that we have left before the OCA 22/23 league commences at the end of September, early October. Once the season starts you will find there are fewer Thursdays available to play any outstanding in-house matches that you may have for the remainder of the year.

The last club night for matches to be played in The Players Cup and The Bill Laar Trophy, will be on Thursday 15th December.
The club will close for the last two weeks in December after this date.

Current positions:

The Frank Wood Shield, Players Cup and the Bill Laar Trophy
Players Cup
1. Nigel, 7 points
2. Mark, 4 points
3. Ian, 3 points

Bill Laar Trophy
1. Callum, 8 points
2. Robin, 7.5 points
3. Steven J, 7.5 points

In January we shall present trophies for the top three players in both tournaments.

I’ve asked Asif, (OCA fixtures composer/arranger), to make sure we have a free Thursday on either the 19th or 26th January for this to take place.

Match Report – Witney 1 v. Cumnor 1

On May 9th the first team had its last match of the season, away at Witney

This was actually a rearranged match, Witney were missing a few of their players for the original date, and as it was more or less a dead rubber we agreed to move it to the very last day of the season so we could face their full strength – maybe we are too nice …

So on a sunny early summer evening, far removed from the dark of the reverse fixture in the Old School with broken heating, we found ourselves to be out-rated on every board. Despite that there were a lot of interesting games, but I’ll keep things short so the main focus can be on Nigel’s extremely fine game on top board.

On board 6 Andrey faced a newcomer who does look fairly useful …  Darryl certainly knew how to play against the Chigorin defense to the Queen’s gambit, winning material in the late middle game and converting fairly easily. Witney 1 Cumnor 0.

On board 5 John faced Howard Searle, meeting the Modern Defence with an Austrian attack which looked promising for a while but ended in a fairly early draw. Witney  1 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2.

Liam was on board 4 against Adam Sieczkowski, a junior that I know to my own cost is very useful.  An extremely complicated game resulted, with Adam pressing on the Queen side, and in the end his better coordinated pieces pushed through. Witney 2 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2.

Mark’s game against Francis Parker was the first of a couple of games to feature heavy material sacrifices. It all started with a Two Knight’s Defence, Francis playing the Ulvestad variation , a line which Mark said after the game he had never seen before. Madness soon ensued, Mark going a rook down but with the black king in the centre and mating threats based on an advanced pawn on c6. I have to say whenever I saw it I never really believed Mark had enough, and while he won back some of his material the game went into an R+B v. R endgame that Mark couldn’t hold. Witney 3 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2.

On my board, 2, I face Mike Truran. As the one time we have played before we went into a Modern Benoni, Mike this time playing the Taimanov Variation, aka the Flick-Knife Attack . Once considered almost a refutation of the Benoni, Black is now considered OK, but it is certainly good to know the theory if you are going to go down this line. And indeed Mike and I followed book lines until move 15 when I deviated saccing a pawn to get a chance an the initiative. This proved to be just the warning tremors, two moves later I sacced a knight to open up Mike’s king and many round the table thought I had a winning attack. Unfortunately Mike found the only defence, a line I hadn’t deeply looked as it involved moving his king to a square where I could check and apparently gain tempo, and then I failed to follow up properly – repeated sacrifices followed but in the end I resigned because, as Liam put it, I “had run out of things to sacrifice”. And to add insult to injury even if I had found the correct follow up the semi-conducting monster shows that the initial knight sacrifice was unsound, though the refutation is not that easy to see. Oh well, such things never bothered Tal … the only difference being he tended to get away with it! Witney 4 1/2 – Cumnor 1/2

I would normally have filled out some of the details above, but pride of place must go to Nigel’s excellent win on top board against Dave Hackett – one which Matt Rose judged of such high quality as to win the Ray Starkie prize for the best game played in the OCA this year! The turning point of the game was a fine line closing combination which netted Nigel the exchange, a plan he must have seen some moves before actually playing it. Here it is, watch out for 21 d5!:

Nigel had now won material, but Dave has a definite initiative, and he proceeded to throw what he had at the White king – which Nigel calmly refuted with nerves of steel, just taking whatever gifts Dave offered until there was nothing left despite the alarming concentration of black pieces near his king. I was particularly impressed by 32. Ne2, I thought while watching 32. Nf3 was obvious, but as Nigel explained on f3 there is always the chance of Rxf3 opening up the white king’s position, and also from e2 the knight gives useful cover to g3. Anyway here’s the whole game:

In the final position b8=Q+ will defuse all Black’s remaining threats, and leave the win trivial. And so quite possibly the last game to finish in the whole of the OCA season wins the best game prize – Well played Nigel! Simon Terrington has published a YouTube video discussing the game.

So the final result in a match filled with exciting games was 4 1/2 – 1 1/2 to Witney

We finish the table second from bottom, but in reality part of the mid-table pack that represented how closely many of the matches have been fought this season, a result we can be proud of given the loss of some of our stronger players at vital points in the season.





End of Season Awards

After the conclusion of the season last week, the OCA May committe meeting took place last night and I am happy to report that Two Cumnor Players have received awards for their performances in the Oxfordshire League this season.

Nigel Moyse won the Ray Starkie award for the best OCA game this year for his win against Dave Hackett in the Witney match on the 9th May. A match report will be published  soon, and the game will be included in that, and all the games submitted for the prize can be found here . Simon Terrington has also published a YouTube video on the game.

Andy Hudson won the David Del Nevo Trophy for the player who scores the best game points percentage in Division Three, who has played more than 50% of the League Matches. Andy managed 7 points from 8 matches giving him a win rate of 87.5%! It should also be noted that Andrey managed 5 wins from 5 but sadly didn’t play enough matches be eligible for the Trophy.

1Cumnor 2Hudson, Andrew7887.50%
2Cowley 3Asquith, Ivon7.5983.33%
3City 3Rodriguez-Bachiller, Agustin6.51065.00%

Congratulations to both players! The League is now over for another season which is an achievement considering the situation, well done to every player who took part. Next season should start again around the first week of October.

Unlike some clubs we will remain open over the summer (but not during August) for players to get some Players Cup and Bill Laar Trophy matches played, information on the cups along with the current standings can be found here. It should be noted every year that the Summer Months are the best to get these matches done, I make it 10 weeks until August and once the league restarts players won’t necessarily be available to play. Get those matches played so you aren’t relying on others come December!


2021-22 Prizes
Now the season has been completed, the following prizes have been awarded:

Arthur Mushens Trophy for the best percentage score in division 1 – Filip Mihov

Bernard C Wyatt Trophy for the best percentage score in division 2 – Kenneth Hobson

David Del Nevo Trophy for the best percentage score in division 3 – Andrew Hudson

Lester Millan Trophy for the best percentage score by a junior in any single division – Kenneth Hobson

Ray Starkie Best Game Prize for the best game played in the ODCL or an Oxfordshire County Match – Nigel Moyse

All entries for the Ray Starkie Best Game Prize can be found in the lichess study below.
Congratulations go to all the winners.