2021-2022 Frank Wood Shield

The first round of the Frank Woods Shield has now been completed and I am happy to report both Cumnor teams are into the next round, which is the Quarter Finals!

Cumnor 1 (which for this tournament have been called Cumnor Six Horsemen of the Apocalypse) had a bye in the first round and would play either Banbury Misfits or Wantage Alfredians in the Quarter Finals. Wantage in a small shock beat Banbury in the FWS last night (03/02/22), so they are the Horsemen’s next opponents in an AWAY match that is to be played by 1st March. They managed to beat their higher rated opponents by four points to two and didn’t even need to rely on the handicap system.

Cumnor 2 (who are called Cumnor Six Donkeys of the Acropolis) had a match in the first round against Cowley Conundrums however Cowley could not get a team out for the match and had to forfit. Steve said at the time “We were looking forward to the match very much. Thanks (for Cowley) for letting me know in good time.”. The Donkeys will play the Witney Weavers in a home match before 1st March.

A quick glance at the draw shows us that Cumnor have a quarter of the teams (2 from 8) left in the competition (admittedly due to some luck), and that both teams are in the top half of the draw (to use a Tennis explanation). This means they could meet in the semi’s if they both get through these tricky ties, this is the first time Cumnor 1 would play Cumnor 2 in any over the board competition. The draw also kept us away from the University Alpha (University 1 team) until the final, if either team makes it that far. Cumnor have had a good relationship with the Frank Woods Shield over the years, winning it in the 2017-18 season, more information about our record can be found at the bottom of our Team’s page.

More information about this season’s Shield can be found here.

Match Report: Cumnor 1 v. Witney 1

Another Thursday, another match at the Old School! Starting the season with 4 home matches is a little unusual, but so it is and as such last night we welcomed Witney 1. Like City 1 in the before times Witney 1 were an extremely strong team, one of the three team “league within a league” that with University 1 regularly fought for the Division 1 title. But, as I’ve said before, we live in strange times and we wondered who would turn up to face us.

In the end it was a set of familiar faces but lacking one or two of the superstars that Witney can turn out – with all due respect to Mike Truran not seeing Marcus Harvey FM on top board was a bit of a relief! In fact the two teams were incredibly evenly matched, with just a few points difference in the average rating:

So while we were a little out-rated on the top boards, we were just favourites on the bottom 3 – but on all boards both players could be expected to have real chances.

So at 7.30 pm we kicked off with 1 d4? played on all 6 boards (“O tempora! O mores!” to quote the philosopher Cicero) and perhaps, given the similarity of strengths, unsurprisingly it was over 2 hours before a game finished – and thankfully the electric heaters more or less filled in for the broken central heating in the hall. In fact I was the first to finish. Danny played a quiet line against my Modern Benoni, quickly swapping down to a late middlegame where both players had R+R+N+N+7 pawns, and offered a draw. I declined, thinking myself marginally better, and we played on. And then I over pushed. I saw a forcing line that I thought won me a pawn, but to my horror realised half way through I had missed a knight fork on f6 at the end. I managed to limit the material damage to a pawn, but what a pawn, a passed one on d5, soon to reach d6. Luckily for me Danny missed a couple of opportunities at this point and I managed to exchange down to a double rook endgame just a pawn down with crucially a bit more activity for me – which was soon drawn after I managed to establish both rooks on his second rank. Cumnor 0.5 Witney 0.5

Next to finish were Mike and Stuart on top board in a very classical looking Queens Gambit. Mike lined has pieces up against Stuart’s king side and while I had little time to think about it at certain points it looked like a sac on g6 might open up the black king, but nothing quite worked and Stuart held it all together very nicely. I particularly liked

where Stuart coolly played h4 which keeps lines nicely closed; though it looks simple you have to carefully work through white’s attacking options before playing it. Anyway as the game progressed Stuart repulsed the attack and started to have his own opportunities, but with no obvious way through a draw was agreed. Cumnor 1 Witney 1

Gareth against Alan was another game where Witney seemed to have some pressure, but the Cumnor player managed to repulse the attack, and in this case push through to win very nicely. Gareth’s method was plenty good enough, but can you spot the short cut he missed in the position below?

White to play and win

The whole game was

Played Gareth! Cumnor 2 Witney 1

Gareth and I then discussed the remaining boards in the club room – as Gareth put it 3 draws to win the match but it was far from clear to me, Eldar needed to hold a difficult ending, Mark looked worse to me against Howard, but on other hand I thought Tony had a few winning chances. But when we went back in it was all over!

I don’t actually know the order in which the games finished, so let’s look at Eldar’s first. As white he had misplayed the opening slightly against Dave Hackett, losing a number of tempi. Now there are openings where this doesn’t matter, but unfortunately this was the Taimanov variation of the Modern Benoni, a.k.a. the Flick-knife attack i.e. the sharpest line of one of the most sharp openings. Losing a tempo, even as white, is not good news here! What happened was that Eldar played a5 to stop Black’s queen side expansion, but unfortunately that failed to make room for his bishop when it was forced to retreat next move and it had to go to e2, which just got in the way of everything. As a result Dave gained a lot of time and early on Benoni-geddon seemed to be going on, the kind of position I dream of as black – look at the position after move 20:

The Q side pawns are marching, the black rooks are doubled on the half open e file, black pieces are working, while white’s are not, scattered more or less randomly across the back few rows. Further Black was very much up on the clock. But somehow Eldar held it all together, and with  21 … Nd3? the pressure started to lessen. Eventually it simplified into a still difficult R+N v. R+B endgame – even now his pieces were not working that well and were a bit awkwardly placed. But held it Eldar did, a tremendous defensive display – and bloody knackering I bet as well! The game is below, and this made it Cumnor 2.5 Witney 1.5

Tony’s game allows another episode in the occasional series “Ian Bush witters on about Pawn Structures.” Tony played 1 d4 for about the first time in 3 years – The English is his usual poison, but knowing that that’s Derek’s favoured opening he decided to avoid it, and ended up playing a very unusual variation of the Benko which transmogrified into something like a Kings Indian where black has used c5 as the primary pawn break. Anyway at his move 14 Derek started to change the pawn structure with 14 … e6:

When the pawn structure changes it’s always a good idea to stop and think. Here there are 3 main possibilities

  1. Play 15 dxe6
  2. Let black play exd5 and take back with the e pawn creating a Symmetric Benoni structure
  3. Let black play exd5 and take back with the c pawn creating an Asymmetric Benoni structure

I think we can dismiss 3) as clearly inferior. Black gets the hope of counter play with his passed c pawn and maybe pressure down the e file, and further I well know that in Asymmetric Benoni structures the white squared bishop can just get in the way, so White having the two bishops is not a big issue. But which out of 1) and 2)?

Well 1) is definitely a good option. Black is going to get a glaring weakness on d6, and white can get at it through a knight on b5 and down the d-file. Black can’t really stop the former by a6 due to the weaknesses it creates on the Q side, and stopping the latter by blocking with a minor piece on d4 is not possible, white will just swap it off. So Black has to play for d6-d5 which will either lead to an opening of the position where white has the two bishops, and more space, and a weakened K side and c pawn to aim at, or, after e5, white establishing a monstrous knight on d6. I know who I prefer. Picking a sample line using Stockfish’s preferred moves gives something like

It’s clear white has the easier game – and note d5 doesn’t work in much of this due to the e5 and Nd6 idea.

What about plan 2), the symmetric Benoni structure? Well we know all about this from Liam’s game against City 1. White wants to

  1. Keep minor pieces on to maximise his space advantage
  2. Keep control of e4
  3. Then advance on the k side and win

This is in fact what Tony did, but didn’t quite find the best execution

Black has managed to get rid of a second minor piece, and should now play Bxb2 and he is fine – in fact Stockfish thinks slightly better. In the actual game Derek played 17 … Qd7 which is not so good blocking the knight re-routing to the king side, and Tony soon got an overwhelming position based on a quick f5 and opening the f file. And then … well I’ll spare Tony’s blushes.

White really wants to play 16 exd5 in the above, but can’t because of Ng4, planning an invasion on e3 and possibly a nasty check with the bishop from d4. So white is forced to swap off knights first. But this does suggest the right way to play the symmetric Benoni plan, 15 h3! to stop the knight coming into g4, and also giving a useful bit of luft after Bd4+. Following this leads to something like

where white has a nice attack, but arguably black has more counter-chances than in plan 1) above. Note also how the white queen bishop goes to d2 to avoid swapping pieces.

Which of the plans is better. Mr Stockfish puts them about the same – ultimately it’s a matter of taste, and I can see attractions in both. Anyway an interesting game, and as indicated above Tony got an excellent position but missed the win, Derek finding his equalising chance. So Cumnor 3 Witney 2.

That leaves Mark’s game. Howard played a London system. Mark used a Kings Indian type set up against it, but seemed to be under a little pressure most of the game, with Howard pressing against some weak pawns on the Queen side. Going into injury time it looked as though Howard was about to win his pawn and, well, I don’t have the score but the below gets the essence of position, what did Mark (Black) play at the end which resulted in Howard’s immediate resignation? Anyway final score Cumnor 4 Witney 2

So all in all a very tough match, which maybe we were a little lucky to win – certainly I feel I got away with murder and on another day other games could also have gone against us. But to quote the contemporary philosopher Dr. G. Lineker (Leicester) “They all count the same!” (https://twitter.com/garylineker/status/1261190324115910657)

Still top of the table, but I suspect when University 1 visits Didcot on Monday that will be end of that – so let’s enjoy it while we can!

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).

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!

Mike Duck Online Tournament: Round 1

The season started with a bang last night as Cumnor 1 won against Witney 2 in the first round of the Mike Duck Online Tournament.

Home Cumnor 1 Witney 2 Away
1 (B) MacQueen, Stuart ½ – ½ Moss, Patrick
2 (W) Alizada, Eldar 1 – 0 Gilders, Ian
3 (B) Burrows, Nick 1 – 0 Kilbride-Newman, Robert (Bob)
4 (W) Terrington, Simon 1 – 0 Turner, Roger
5 (B) Glenn, Liam 1 – 0 Manning, Charlie
6 (W) Stevens, Gareth 1 – 0 Tomkys, Tony
5½ – ½

The five wins and the single draw puts Cunmor 1 at the top (joint along with City 1) of the early season table. Cumnor 2 had a bye in the first round and therefore sit in the top half. However, Cumnor 2 have been “rewarded” with a match against City 1 in the second round draw with the match scheduled for Monday evening. Cumnor 1 will play against Oxford University 2 who overcame Witney 1 in their first match, on Thursday.

If you would like to take a look at the tournament, see the results and fixtures along with the table it can be found here.

It looks like both teams will have a tougher week next than last!

Witney Online Congress

Please see a message from Mike Truran of Witney Chess Club

“Many thanks to everyone who played in last weekend’s Witney Online Rapidplay. We were very encouraged by the support, and to see so many old friends playing.

As many of you will know, the current pandemic forced us to cancel this year’s OTB Witney Congress. However, the success of the Witney Online Rapidplay has given us the confidence to organise a Witney Online Congress – five rounds of standardplay chess with a 45 mins/15 sec increment time limit over the weekend of 7-8 November. The congress is closely modelled on the successful 4NCL Online weekend congresses, and we thank the 4NCL for allowing us to crib unashamedly off their work.

You can find full details about the Witney Online Congress here: http://www.witneychess.co.uk/online/congress20_info.htm.

2020-21 Season

We need to come together to put in place how the League will work this coming season.

The season traditionally starts in October so if you have ideas, queries or concerns please let Ian or Roger know.

“The 20-21 season is rapidly approaching. Due to the current pandemic it will be very different from any in recent history. Concrete proposals to address this will be made at the AGM in September, and will be available in full later this month. However we thought it best to provide as early as possible an outline of the ways that we might play chess next season in order to obtain feedback, and to this end the document linked to below discusses how the league might be run next season. Comments on the proposals contained therein would be much appreciated. If you have any please either contact your club representative, or send an email to the League Secretary, Roger Thetford”

Ian Bush OCA Chairman

Frank Woods Shield

Since the Frank Woods Shield was revamped a couple of seasons ago we have had some good results in the competition, winning the inaugural year and reaching the semis last season.

This year we have decided to two enter two teams.

The Frank Wood Shield, Players Cup and the Bill Laar Trophy

Our first team is:
The Six Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Our second team is:
The Six Donkeys of the Acropolis

The draw for this season’s Frank Wood Shield will take place on the Saturday of the upcoming Witney Congress, on the 2nd November.

Five Cumnor players are down to take part; Nigel, Nick and Simon in the open, Ian in the U170 and Gareth in the U145.

There is still time to The 7th Witney Congress at http://www.witneychess.co.uk/.

Good luck to the Cumnor Players who will take part.