Match Report: Cumnor 1 v. Oxford University 1

Last night we welcomed University 1 to the Old School – possibly the first time this has ever occurred given our recent promotion to the top tier. Of course we expected this to be a tough match, University 1 have been winning everything for a number of years now, but when the first of their players arrived it turned out we may have a glimmer of a chance – a number of their strongest players were busy over the weekend so could not play. That said when the rest of the team arrived while it was true that it was not as strong as we feared we were still somewhat outrated, especially on the top boards. This was not going to be easy!

I say “when the rest of the team arrived” that in itself was a bit of an story. I won’t name names but a couple of their players missed the Cumnor bus stop and ended up at the Greyhound in Wooton. A rescue car was sent out and they started their games about 20 minutes late. We didn’t even start their clocks – maybe we’re too nice …

Partially because I don’t have a long train journey today, partially because I didn’t see too much of the other games this week (I was trying to dig myself out of the mess I made of the opening) this weeks report will be much shorter than last time, and so apologies for the lack of deep, laser like analysis of the intricacies of all the games :)

Nigel was first to finish, losing to Filip Mihov. No shame there, Filip’s record in OCA competitions is remarkable, 24/26 in the now 3 seasons he has been playing. It was a Kings Indian but Nigel’s king side play just didn’t seem to kick off, while in next to no time Filip had lots of open lines on the queen side. Cumnor 0 University 1.

Gareth was next. Gareth grabbed his opponents Queen Knights pawn. It was poisoned, a nice line closing combo won a piece for his opponent and it was always going to be difficult from then on. Cumnor 0 University 2

Mark was next, but for reasons I’ll explain below yet again I didn’t see the important part of his game. Mark was on the white side of an advance French, and while very early on Chris seemed to be doing nicely against Mark’s centre as the game progressed Mark’s position seemed to get better and I was very hopeful. Then the next thing I know is Mark had lost – apparently dropping a piece in a winning position. Bad luck Mark, we’ve all been there. Cumnor 0 University 3

The next few games all finished fairly quickly. The first was mine against Max, about 10 minutes after Mark’s finished, and the time scramble was why I missed much of his and the other games from this point. I’d misplayed the opening dropping a pawn, but had managed to make enough of a mess that I was back in the game. Both of us made mistakes in ever increasing time pressure, until right at then end we repeated moves. In a position where I had a winning combination … I’ve put the position below, try to solve it in less than 15 seconds with a clock ticking against you. But that was the match gone, Cumnor 0.5 University 3.5

White to play and win

I missed the majority of the last two boards. All I’ll say is both our unbeaten guest star Tony and Liam looked pretty comfortable in their games, Liam in particular having nice pressure against his opponents weakened pawn structure. Anyway the important bits happened while I was scrambling against Max, and both in our favour.

So the final score was Cumnor 1 2.5- University 1 3.5.

Rather than looking on the missed chances I think we can be pretty pleased – we expected nothing from this match, and somewhat out gunned we gave them a real run for their money.

Still top of the table!

Witney 1 is next week, a top 2 clash, another tough match.

Match Report: Cumnor 1 v. City 1

Well for our second match in two weeks we welcomed City 1 to the Old School. With all due respect to Didcot, our previous week’s opponents, we expected it to be a much tougher match, partially because a few of our stronger players were not available, but mainly because City 1 in the before times were an extremely strong team, challenging University 1 for the title, while we are but newcomers to the top table. But we live in strange times, so while City had two very strong players on the top boards in Jon Manley and Phil Hayward, lower down there were a lot of new faces – great for the OCA, great for chess, but this also meant the match was going to be much tighter than we expected.

As in the previous report I’ll go through the boards in (roughly) the order they finished. Mark finished first, and to be honest I missed the vital phase. At one point it all looked fairly equal, a moderately complex queen-less middle game, at the next Mark had powerful rooks on the semi-open b and c files blasting away at the queen side castled white king, supported by his white squared bishop on f5. It looked to me that white was in all sorts of trouble, especially on the white squares, and so it proved – the next time I looked Mark was a rook up. 1-0 to Cumnor.

For the second time in two weeks I was second to finish. William played the Grand Prix Attack against my Pirc/Modern, but I managed to force the exchange of his white squared bishop – I had learnt after a few bloody noses from Joe in the Cumnor Clash that this makes white’s attack a lot less powerful. Anyway it sort of transposed into a strange Sicilian Dragon, and when William tried to attack he over-pressed and dropped a pawn. And then in trying to win back the pawn he ran into a nasty pin that bagged me a knight. After that it was a little bit one way traffic, and after struggling for a bit William resigned. Cumnor 2 City 0.

Tony and Liam finished more or less at the same time. Tony handled Tamal’s attack from a Stonewall structure very nicely – while the pressure down the g file looked nasty and sacrifices were very much in the air Tony realised that he could just calmly run his king to the centre, leaving the attack dissipated and White in a better position. And a pawn up, which became a piece as Tamal struggled to stop that extra pawn queening. And again there was a bit of a struggle after that, but soon Tony recorded his debut win for Cumnor, well played! Cumnor 3-0 and couldn’t lose the match.

Liam’s was like mine a Grand Prix Attack, but against a Sicilian rather than the Pirc, and Liam was white. And interestingly, at least for me, it resulted in a “Symmetric Benoni” structure:

The reason I mention this is I am currently studying “Chess Structures – A Grandmaster Guide” by GM Mauricio Flores Rios,

and the next chapter I’m going to read is on the “Symmetric Benoni”, so let’s see how it applies to Liam’s game. The position at move 21 is

Now GM Rios says in his book “… White usually retains a small spatial advantage. This a advantage increases if White manages to expand on the kingside, restricting Black’s pieces substantially. Black’s play can be rather difficult, and great precision is required to avoid being asphyxiated. A main theme in this variation is whether Black manages to trade off some minor pieces to decrease his space problem. In addition, the control of the e4-square is often an important factor to determine whether Black can equalize or not”. So how is Joseph doing currently? Not bad must be the assessment, he’s swapped off a couple of minor pieces, and he’s got some control of e4, and while White has started to expand on the King side nothing too much has been achieved yet, though g4 looks as though it is coming soon. And Mr Stockfish puts it about equal, maybe a small advantage to black but it is minuscule. “But, but, but what about that knight on d4? Doesn’t black have to deal with that now?” we all cry. NO! 21 cxd4 Qxd4+ drops at least one pawn, so black does have time to ignore this “threat”. Thus, given what is said above, 21 … h5! is the move. It holds blacks position together by stopping g4, so keeping pressure on e4, and incidentally threatening the somewhat embarrassing Bg4. Instead Joseph played 21 … Bxd3?!, arguably the losing move as it loses control of e4 and g4, and so white can be expected to expand on the king side. See how Liam takes it from that point:

Yup, squeezed to death. These GM’s know what they are on about … 4-0 Cumnor.

This left the top two boards. Phil had played the Dutch as is his want against Gareth’s 1 d4?. I don’t understand the Dutch. It always seems to me that black has no space and the pieces aren’t working, and then black wins by crashing through on the kings side. To me it looked like Gareth was a bit better early on having a bit more space and better pieces, but Phil is a good player, and slowly worked his way into the game, and guess what – eventually his attack crashed through on the king side. 4-1 Cumnor.

I don’t understand the Dutch. But I do understand the Pirc, and the last game to finish, the top board clash between Jon and Nigel, showed a fascinating example of what can occur. It’s also very much an example of what *not* to show the kids, at least when it comes to teaching them about development and the opening in chess … Here’s the game:


So what’s happening? Black seems to make weaknesses preparing Bg7, then never plays it and instead makes lots of pawn moves – look at the position at move 10. How can this be sound? This isn’t what we were taught! The point is after 5 Qd2 Black knows white’s plan – Bh6, swap, 0-0-0, h4 h5, sac, sac, mate. So if this is the plan why castle king side into the attack? In fact why even play Bg7 if white is just going to swap the bishop off? You can play Bxh6 just as well from f8 as g7. So the idea in not playing Bg7 and 0-0 is to save a move or two to further plans elsewhere, in particular on the queen side. If Black can make enough noise over there white might chicken out of queen side castling, and if white does that the sac, sac, mate plan doesn’t work.

So this is the point – Nigel’s queen side demonstration eventually makes Jon decide to castle king side, at which point the hack attack down the h file is no longer on and now Nigel can decide how to place his king in safety, which, complete with a nice sidestep, he achieves by marching it to the queen side. At which point Black has his own king side chances, but he has to keep an eye on white’s sacrificial ideas like Nxd6 or Nxc5.

So a nicely complex game between two very good players, ending in an honourable draw when both were running a bit short on time. So in the end Cumnor 4 1/2 – City 1 1/2:

Top of the table a while yet!

Match report: Cumnor 1 v. Didcot 1

So last night chess returned to Cumnor Old School for the first time in over 18 months!

It was so nice to welcome Didcot 1 for one of the opening matches of the 21-22 season, and just great both to see so many familiar faces after all this time and to welcome a new one or two into the fold. COVID of course meant we had to be careful about a few things like keeping socially distanced where possible and having the Old School’s windows open in late September, but all in all it didn’t intrude too much into an enjoyable evening.

As for the games Stuart was first to finish. He dropped a pawn to Andy early in the opening, only for Andy to return the compliment with interest, losing a knight to a queen fork. It was over soon after that once Stuart activated his pieces, 1-0 Cumnor.

I (Ian) was next. I had a bit of an advantage out of the opening – more space; a bit of an initiative; a little bit of pressure down the d file; more active pieces. Basically while I had no game winning threats white’s position was easier to play than black’s. Florian worked hard to activate his pieces, but as is typical in such position he got a bit too optimistic, which lead to dropping a knight, and soon after the game. 2-0 Cumnor.

Eldar was playing a fascinating game on board 1 against Nick Gough, a heavyweight clash indeed! Eldar on the black side of an Advance French had grabbed white’s pawn on d4 with his queen, so while a pawn up his queen had very few squares and it would have been so easy to let it get trapped. One position I remember distinctly. On first glance Be3 won the queen, but on looking harder back rank threats saved it – all very complicated! Anyway Eldar navigated all the problems, and as is his way won with the extra pawn. In fact Eldar has previous here, winning a very high quality game in the same line against Dave Hackett in 17-18 4NCL, see below for the game.

So Cumnor were 3-0 up, and couldn’t lose. but the other 3 boards were far from foregone conclusions. Simon’s game on board 5 against Gary Reynolds was interesting. Gary as white had mangled his pawn structure with doubled, isolated h pawns to gain pressure down the open g file against a backward pawn on g7. On going through some of the game afterwards Simon and I demonstrated our different chess philosophies, I very much liked White because of the pressure, Simon preferred black because of the long term structural advantage. As is often the semi-conducting monster told us the truth was somewhere in between … Let’s say dynamic equality. After various excursions Simon lost in the endgame – I suspect as much because he was much lower on time as anything else. 3-1 to Cumnor.

I didn’t see the end of the other two games as I was going through Simon’s with him. On board 6 I thought Mark looked good early on, but his opponent managed to unravel his position and established a strong knight on e5 which Mark couldn’t kick away with a pawn. It went down to a Q+B endgame, which Tony won – 3-2 to Cumnor.

So it came down to board 3. The last time I saw Nigel’s game he was 2 pawns down in a N+P endgame. But, as is his way, he managed to swindle a win. Nigel, how do you keep doing this? A few lessons would be much appreciated. 4-2 to Cumnor!

So a tough and exciting match – I think we just deserved to win it, but then again I’m biased. And with Cowley drawing at Banbury it leaves us top of the table!

Cumnor 1 v Bicester 1 [Match Report]

Cumnor 1 kicked off the season with a draw against Bicester 1 on Thursday night.


On board 6, Chris was playing his first game for Cumnor, even though he lost the game he did say he enjoyed it.

Move 24 Rd3! Black now can't stop 25 Rh3#

My game (white) against Richard Beckett (black) move 24 Rd3! Black now can’t stop 25 Rh3#

I was the next to finish and the final position found been seen right after a Bishop sac on h6. Daniel and Mark finished shortly after, both picking up wins giving Cumnor 1 a 3-1 lead.

Andrew went a piece down after some good play from Tony and Gareth was forced to carry on playing as a Bicester win would draw the match while any other result would lead to a Cumnor victory.

Mike after the match admitted that he would have accepted a draw if the result had already be confirmed.

Unfortunately, Gareth missed a Knight fork and went an exchange down which gave Mike enough material and time to win the game.

The early table can be found here on the Oxfordshire chess website. Our next game is on Monday against Cowley 3 which should be another exciting match. This weekend is the Forth Witney Congress at Cokethorpe School more information can be found here, currently 4 Cumnor Players are amongst the other 65 players.

MCS/B1 v Cumnor 1 and Cumnor 1 v Cowley 3 [Match Report]

After the spectacular start to the season with a 6-0 win against Wantage 1, Cumnor 1 landed with a bump when we took on Magdalen School College (MCS) on Wednesday, the 21st.

Similarly to the Wantage match, many of the games where closer than the score suggests.

#MCS/B1vsCumnor 1
1.D'Souza-Eva, Jon (184)1-0Varney, Zoe (171)
2.Moyse, Nigel (172)1-0Glenn, Liam (157)
3.Cole, James (168)1-0Varney, Daniel (151)
4.Harskin, Robin (159)1-0Sayers, Mark (143)
5.Cole, Graham (156)1-0Cluley, Graham (116)
6.Ward, Eric (135)1-0Bennett, Steve (105)

A word of congratulations to the MSC team for wining the match, the rest of the division will be shaking in their boots.

We are looking forward to getting some revenge on 28th January when we welcome MSC to Cumnor for the return match.

Our following game was against Cowley 3 at home a week later on the 29th.

CCC1 v Cowley 3

Cowley put at a strong team, maybe they had heard about our 6-0 win against Wantage 1 earlier in the month. But as you can see the result was a draw in a very close match.


Gareth is in a puzzling endgame against Richard with the seconds ticking away. Gareth’s clock eventually fell while on the verge of victory.

So after three games we have one win, one draw and one loss and sit mid-table in division two. Check the table out here.

Out next game is in a couple of weeks away to Banbury.

Cowley 3 v Cumnor 1 [Match Report]

Cowley Chess ClubCumnor 1 played the last match of the season on Monday, away to Cowley 3. Both teams were comfortably mid-table of Division Two, with only third place up for grabs for the winners. But the match was still a competitive contest on all six boards.

The first to finish was Steve who got a draw on the bottom board. Steve has gained quite a reputation in the club for drawing – maybe we should implement the FIDE “no more draws” rule which was announced on April 1st? :)

In my game, I had a poor position coming out of the opening which I never really recovered from and eventually lost the game.

Mark looked to be doing well on board 4. Going into the endgame he had three extra pawns – but Queen and Pawn endgames are notoriously difficult to win, and he had to draw out.

Andrew meanwhile had a challenging game against Oscar – a draw was offered by Andrew but rejected by Oscar, and Oscar eventually went on to win.

Simon played a junior on the top board called Arvin Hu. I knew Arvin was going to be a hard player to beat as he slipped his strawberry milk.

Impressively, Arvin managed to win against Simon, which shows he could have a great future ahead of him (Arvin that is, not Simon) and I don’t think anyone will fancy playing him in the coming years.

Graham had a game which he was winning right up until he entered the endgame. A time scramble commenced and Graham’s position started to look a little shaky.

Cluley vs Stanley

Graham takes up the commentary:

“A little shaky? It was downright precarious. Black had two very advanced pawns which I really should have nobbled when I had the chance earlier in the game, but I was distracted by my own plans. Despite winning Black’s Queen I failed to halt the promotion of one of the pawns, and before I knew it… I was on the ropes, with only seconds remaining on the clock.”

“By now I had no time to find good moves. I was just looking for legal moves.”

“Black was seconds away from mating me – with no chance of me rescuing things. But it was obviously my lucky day. Black’s clock ran out, with mine only having 20 seconds remaining…”

“It felt a little grubby and embarrassing to claim a victory in such a situation, but hey…”

“I dedicate my game to Simon Terrington, who cajoled me into playing d4 for the first time ever in a competitive game.”

All those hours at the Bear and Ragged Staff playing Blitz must be paying off.

Cowley 3 v Cumnor 1

In the end we lost 4-2 which means Cowley 3 take third and we finish in forth. However, everything being considered we have had a good season and I will do a little write up once all the leagues have finished.

Check out the final table here.

Cumnor 1 v Didcot 2 [Match Report]

With the only two games left a few things in division two of the Oxfordshire Chess League needs to be finalized.

TrophyBicester 1 are heading back into division 1 after a two year absence, with Cumnor 1 being the only team to win against them this season. At the bottom, Didcot 2 look like they are heading for the drop but they would stay up if they win their last two remaining games. One game against Cumnor 1 and a relegation decider against City 2.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves Didcot 2 needed to beat us to have any chance heading into the City 2 game. The return fixture earlier in the season saw Didcot 2 win against Cumnor 1 but Didcot would need a monumental effort to get the wins they need to reach safety.

Daniel’s game was interesting for two reasons, the first being it only lasted 13 moves and less than 30 minutes, while most of us have barely sat down Daniel was getting up with a victory. This isn’t too unusual, Daniel is known to play quickly and is often the first to finish but I think this could be a new record! Secondly, the win takes his percentage score to 93.75% (with 7 wins and a draw from his 8 games) which is not only the highest in the club but the highest in the league! The Bernard C Wyatt Memorial trophy is awarded to the player who scores the highest percentage in the league who has played more than half the games and it looks like it has Daniels name on it this season.

Gareth was the next to finish, with a victory on board 4. I was playing on board one against Roger Thetford, our game was close, I did have some play against his Kingside and a past pawn however Roger closed it off and I had to accept a draw.

Andrew had an exciting game with many tactics yet had to settle for a draw. This meant Didcot’s faint hopes on staying up where ended. Mark picked up a win on board 6 and Zoe completed the rout with a clinical triumph in a Rook endgame.

Cumnor 1 v Didcot 2

The result means Cumnor 1 have reached 13 points which is a record for us in the second division and we still have a game in hand which is away to Cowley on Monday. Cumnor 1 will finish 3rd in the table (again a record) unless Cowley beat us 4-2 or better on Monday evening.

Check out the table here.

Cumnor 2 v Witney 5 and City 4 (Abingdon Sch)

Junior Chess is well supported in Oxfordshire. Clubs with a strong Junior section include Cowley, Witney and ourselves along with the two School teams, Magdalen College School and Abingdon School.

Whenever we have a match in Division Four between Cowley or Witney, we give the juniors a chance to pit themselves against each other.

Thursday night presented one of these opportunities when we welcomed Witney 5 to Cumnor. The teams contained nine juniors out of the 12 players.

It was an unsuccessful evening for the Cumnor team, however it was a closer match than the 0.5-5.5 scoreline suggested.

Cumnor 2 v Witney 5

Monday evening saw Cumnor 2 head to Abingdon School who are currently in pole position at the top of the table. Cumnor 2 suffered a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Abingdon Boys, with Mark’s win on Board 1 the sole highlight of an otherwise disappointing evening.

Cumnor 2 v City 4

Old-Abingdonian Richard was particularly disappointed with his loss playing for Cumnor on board six. Not only was he playing Black for the 12th (!) match in a row, but he also found himself taken down an unfamiliar variation of the Alekhine defence which saw him sent to an early bath.

Cumnor 2 play their final game of the season at home to Cowley 4 in April – a game that the boys from Abingdon would probably like us to win, as it will help them make the jump to Division 3.

Cumnor 1 v Oxford City 1 FWS [Match Report]

The draw for the 2014/15 Frank Wood Shield (FWS) was not particularly kind for Cumnor 1. Our first game was against Witney 1, currently the Champions of the Oxfordshire Leagues and winners of the Sheild twice in the last 3 years. However, we took them on and won! Well, technically it was a draw but the FWS is a handicap competition and we only needed to “lose” 2.5-3.5 to get into the next round. It was a spectacular result and for the match report please click here.

Simon. Zoe and Liam playing on the top three boards while Daniel and Mark look on.

Simon. Zoe and Liam playing on the top three boards while Daniel and Mark look on.

At least it couldn’t get any harder we said, how wrong we could be. The next round was against Oxford City 1, they are second in the top division with an arguably stronger set of players than Witney 1 to call from! The best analogy I have, is getting Chelsea in the first round of the FA cup beating them only to be “rewarded” in the next round by playing Manchester City and sadly we don’t get the TV money.

Nevertheless the team was in a confident mood for the match which took place at Cumnor on Thursday evening. Again like the first round, we only needed to “lose” 2.5-3.5 to get through or another way of putting it was we only need a draw and 2 wins out of the 6 boards (or better).

The first game to finish was Daniel’s game. An early kingside attack by Sean Terry put Daniel’s King under some pressure and he had to resign. Gareth went an exchange down but his Knight was well placed when entering the endgame meaning Philip Hayward did not have enough to win and the draw was agreed. Phillip even said he thought Gareth was better!

Mark pulled off the first shock of the night as he set up astonishing Queen sac which Lief Dixon missed. Mark never got to sac the Queen as Leif resigned once he spotted it. The pressure was all of a sudden on Cumnor, 1 more point from the remaining 3 games would take us over the finish line and into the next round.

Could you win this position with only 24 seconds left?

Could you win this position with only 24 seconds left?

My (Liams) opponent spent a large chunk of his time in the early midgame, the result was by move 25, with much more of the game remaining than had past and just as Marks game finished, Christian only had 5 minutes left while I had 45 minutes. The seconds lapsed by and I had to decide whether I could play well enough to make him slip up in time trouble or keep him at bay until his clock fell. As the seconds ticked by he opened the game, promoted his Pawns into Queens and checkmated me with only 7 seconds left. It was something like out of a James Bond film!

I will be honest I was concentrating on my game so much I did not see much of Simon’s and Zoe’s but both made their opponents work exceptionally hard so beat them.

CCC1 v City 1

The tie finished 1.5-4.5, a commendable result against such a strong team but sadly not enough to get us into the next round. Congratulations to City 1 as they are head into the next round with a game against Cowley 2 and I would not be surprised if the Sheild has City 1’s name on it come May.

As Simon summed it up best “Ahh well, that’s what makes sport great – there is no script. An interesting night and I learned a lot.”

A thanks goes to Sean Terry who took the pictures.