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Never resign early …

Off to The Ladybrook on a dreich winter’s evening to play Stockport B. My opponent was Dave Toole, who I haven’t played before, and we both produced a game to remember – error-strewn, but fascinating in the way it shows the complexity of chess, and the way a game can swing from one side to the other.

If you would like to see the game, give yourself some time to do so, in order to appreciate the swings, the roundabouts and the might-have-beens! It’s here.

What’s involved in competitive chess?

The first match of the season for Holmes Chapel Chess Club was in Division 1 of the Stoke League against Newcastle, at home . The Club exists mainly for competition against other clubs rather than for social chess between members, and competitive chess looks like this:


The electronic box is a chess clock, which contains two timers. You make your move, then hit the lever on your side of the clock, which stops your timer and starts your opponent’s timer. When he makes his move, he hits the lever on his side of the clock, so that his timer stops and yours starts. The clock measures the time that each player spends thinking about his moves.

In blitz chess, each player has five minutes thinking time, and the player whose time runs out first is the loser. The game cannot last longer than ten minutes and the pace is fast and furious, particularly in the last few seconds. It’s actually good to watch and is frequently hilarious.

In the Stoke league,  all the moves have to be played in 90 minutes, so the game cannot last longer than three hours. This is suitable for league chess on a weekday evening when time is limited by the venue – usually a social club or an upstairs room in a pub. However, this time control is still a bit quick. Tournaments played on weekends usually have a slower playing speed, allowing for games to take up to five hours.

Also on the table are score sheets and pens. Both players must record their moves, so that any dispute about the game can be resolved by playing through the score. It also enables the players to use a computer to study their game later.

Most of the Holmes Chapel team will not be happy when they play through their game – they lost to Newcastle by 4.5 – 0.5, John Turner (left) gaining a draw, and everyone else losing.l8995

New members would be very welcome – our venue is the Vic Club in Holmes Chapel, and our club evening is Thursday.

First Weekend at 4NCL

So we’re off to the wild badlands of the northeast, at Redworth Hall near Darlington, and we are involved in a triangular match. What is a triangular match, I hear you say? It happens when there is an odd number of teams, and you don’t want any team to have a bye. It’s a match against two other teams, and on the Saturday you play three boards against one team and three boards against the other. On the Sunday, you play three boards against the other team and three boards against the one team, so at the end of the weekend, you have a result against both of the opposition.

So I look up triangular matches on the 4NCL website, where it gives a table showing the pairings for the weekend, and informs captains that they should not move players who have played on an even board on Saturday to an odd board on Sunday and vice versa. No problem, I think, and enter our board order with a swap between boards 1 and 3 for the two matches ( we like to keep the opposition guessing as to which of us they will be playing) and send out the email to inform our team.

Thursday evening, I get a plaintive email from Chris, telling me that he has looked at the triangular match fixture table, and he seems to have Black for both matches. Now, I have a good look at the fixture table, and see that Chris is right. Being of a sunny disposition, believing that the world is a basically simple and pleasant place where problems are generally caused by man’s perversity, I fire off an email, complaining about the mistake in the fixtures table. After second, third and fourth thoughts about the table, I realise that you can swap boards 2 and 3, or 4 and 5, and everybody has one Black and one White for the weekend, and I send a second email to 4NCL acknowledging the complexity of triangular matches. Little did I know that I had understood less than half of this complexity!

On Friday evening, I have a look at the ECF Forum, and find that there is a long thread discussing this complexity, most of which I didn’t understand, and didn’t have the time to get my head around.

Anyway, off we go to Darlington, and settle down for Round 1 in a rather nicer room than we usually have at Redworth Hall:


We had two losses, one win (by John, a long tussle with David Robertson of Atticus B), and three draws, so we were reasonably cheerful at the pub Saturday evening. As captain, I felt that I should be saying motivational things and giving useful advice, so I simply pointed out that all we had to do on the morrow was to win all our games. We always enjoy our meal of a Saturday evening, with much hilarity in evidence.

On Sunday morning, while relaxing in my room after breakfast, I get an anxious phone call from Chris – “You’d better come down – I’m playing the same bloke as yesterday, and Atticus are complaining!” Triangular matches – arghh! I go down, change our board order to the same as yesterday, and all is well.

And the chess went well as well – Charles, Malcolm and Chris all took note of my exhortation last night and won, giving us victory by 4 -2. However, it was just too much to work out what this meant for both matches, and it wasn’t until later that evening at home that I looked up the results on the 4NCL website to find that the distribution of results was ideal for us, and we had beaten Spirit of Atticus B and drawn with Jorvik. This means a tough second weekend in January, as we will be up against the big boys in the top half af the table.

We welcomed a new member of our team, BenScattergood, this weekend:


Ben had no luck in his two games, but he put up a good fight despite playing opponents who outgraded him considerably. In fact, he was badly served by the dreaded triangular match fixture table, as, despite playing on Board 4, he was drawn against Jorvik’s Board 3 – something I should have spotted.


2014 season starts slowly

Not a lot of fixtures to start with, but here’s a couple of games. The first is my game in our Stoke league match against Cheddleton A – a match we managed to draw, so perhaps we can expect a better performance in that league than we managed last season!

Bennett v Grzybowski

The second game is from our Charnley Cup match against Chorlton, which we managed to win by the skin of our teeth. Ben Scattergood produced a very pretty finish against Alan Beresford:

Beresford v Scattergood

The Game of the Season Trophy

Malcolm has come up with a suitable trophy for this competition:


To be able to show off this trophy on your sideboard (or trophy cabinet!), you need to send me your games – not necessarily the best chess, but games containing something special. Maybe an outrageous swindle, a glorious fightback, a subtle or unusual combination, or an important result in the team context – or maybe just a good game of chess.

Click on the “Game of the Season” link to see all the entries at the moment. Please play through them, and decide what your choice would be – I hope to enable you to vote for your choice via this blog.


Marple – the new One To Beat

L4932Meeting at the Vic club to travel to Marple

Marple is not the ideal away fixture, being located at the back end of beyond. In recent seasons, the chess-playing strength that Marple can call on has been another reason why it is not an ideal fixture, as attested by the result of our cup match against them last month, when we were thrashed 6-0.

L4941Bob Clark going down to Andrew Horton with John Turner looking on.

We had lost our away league match by 5-1 back in October, so we knew we were up against it when they arrived (having travelled to their own “back end of beyond”, no doubt) for the return match last week. With just Ian’s game against Nigel Livesey to go, we were 3-2 down, and it looked as though the last game would clinch the matter for Marple. However, Ian’s h pawn performed miracles, and the victorious conclusion of the game resulted in a drawn match – the first match point that Marple has dropped this season.

Ian’s game is well worth seeing here. I think that, while the game is far from faultless, it has qualities which should make it a contender for “Game of the Season” – see the link at the top of the page.

Stockport at home

On January 24th, we entertained Stockport at the Vic club. They arrived with a typically strong team, including a blast from the past, Phil Siddall, who hasn’t played for them for a number of years. However, their board six turned out to be very weak – a certain Mr D. Fault – so we got off to a good start, one that got even better when Andy Raeburn concluded a nice attack with a pretty and unusual mate, which can be seen here.


Stuart had a typically interesting game against Andy Reeve. Soon after the position in the above photo, he relieved the pressure against his position by sacrificing his queen for a bishop and knight. Andy did not adapt to the new situation optimally, and Stuart developed a nice initiative. As usual, his game was the last to finish, and the result of the match depended upon it!


The game approached its climax with the position finely balanced and Stuart ahead of Andy on time. As so often, however, the complexity of the game and the shortage of time forced both players to agree to a draw. And with that result, the match was also drawn.


Denton in the Stockport League

And the most exciting match of the season yet! With the score tied at 2-2, the match depended on the results from the top two boards, where our Stuart Clarke took on Ali Janooby, and John Turner played Mitchell Burke.
Turner v Burke
On Board 2, John was pressing for a win, but the clock shows that he has 10 minutes left to Mitchell’s 34 minutes. Not a good ratio for a far from simple endgame. Meanwhile, on Board 1, a similar scenario developed – Stuart was way behind Ali on time, but it was not clear who had the advantage in a very complicated position, with both kings feeling uneasy.

Matters developed on both boards, anxiously watched by both teams. John managed to develop a clear win, but was left with excruciating time trouble, while Stuart gained the upper hand, but also looked likely to lose on time.

Matters came to a head on Board 2 first. With a clear win on the board but seconds left on his clock, John headed towards checkmating his opponent, but under overwhelming pressure, put his queen on the wrong square and allowed a stalemate.

Janooby v Clarke

The match now depended on Stuart’s result. He had a winning position, but did not have the time to win it. However, he did have the time to repeat a position three times, achieving the draw which concluded the match 3-3. You can see this excellent game here.

Leek 2012

Getting to be a traditional start to the season for me. With the Blackburns in Turkey at the Olympiad, George Scattergood and I were the only competitors from Holmes Chapel, but amongst the opposition in the Open, I met an old friend who used to play for us – Ray Pearson. He now lives in the North of God’s Own Country and so plays for Bob Clark’s team, Penyffordd. I met him in Round 4 – the game can be seen here.