Saturday, 8 December 2018

Alan is through to the quarter-finals (just!)

Those watching the live games today must have experienced a nervous time if they were viewing Alan Merry's games against GM John Nunn.   The games swung wildly in favour of both players and ended with a crazy Armageddon game.   I'm hoping that Alan, or someone better then me, will be able to provide a better summary, but for the time going, here goes...

In the first standard-play game, Alan (Black) was a little fortunate to draw.   Nunn made a couple of weak queen moves and Alan was able to finish the game through perpetual check.

In the second standard-play game, it was John Nunn who was lucky.   Although Nunn's attack looked dangerous, it was an illusion.   Alan missed 28. Re1, which would have given him a winning advantage and after a grand exchange of pieces, the game petered out to a draw with opposite coloured bishops.

So after two draws, the match progressed to two Blitz games (10 minutes + 5 seconds increment).   Alan won the first after Nunn blundered in a drawn endgame.   In the second game Alan missed a number of saving moves and, deep in time trouble, was mated.

So the match went to the dreaded Armageddon, where White has five minutes and Black has four minutes.   There are no increments unless the game exceeds 60 moves.   But White must win, since a draw counts as a win for Black.   Alan had the Black pieces.   This is where the fun starts!   Nunn was in a winning position after 24 moves, but then inexplicably spent nearly 90 seconds on his 30th move and continued to move rather slowly for a few more moves.   When Alan tried to force home his a-pawn, Nunn, with only 9 seconds remaining, spent a further five seconds on move 34 and was unable to complete his 35th move, giving Alan the win.   At that point in the game, Stockfish gives White a forced mate in 12, an impossibility anyway in five seconds, as there were no increments.   Perhaps, at the end, age did tell.

Alan will now face third seed GM Gawain Jones in the quarter-finals tomorrow (Sunday), with the first of two standard-play games commencing at 10.00.

Friday, 7 December 2018

British Knockout Championships

Suffolk's Alan Merry has again been invited to take part in the British Knockout Championships, starting tomorrow (Saturday 8 December) in London.   England No. 1 Mickey Adams heads a stellar lineup, with 12 of the UK’s top players battling for a total prize fund of £50,000 over four rounds, finishing on 17 December.

The format is similar to last year, when Alan was unfortunate to be knocked out in the preliminary round by GM Nigel Short.   Alan held a great position in the first of two standard-play games, but missed the winning move 32... b4.   He was slightly better in game 2, but unfortunately blundered his bishop.

This year, he faces seasoned GM John Nunn in the preliminary round.   The top four players, Adams, David Howell, Gawain Jones and Luke McShane are seeded through to the Quarter-Finals, but the other eight players are paired to find the four who will join the top seeds.   Nunn is now 63 years old, a full ten years older than Nigel Short.

The final four will play standard-play, rapidplay and blitz games in the semi-final, with the two winners playing the same series of games in the Final.   The semis take place at Google's London HQ, whilst the Final is being held alongside the London Chess Classic, at Olympia.

The winner of the Championships will receive £15,000.   Other prizes include: £10,000 for the losing finalist, £5,000 each for the semi-finalists, £2,500 each for the quarter-finalists, and £1,250 for the players knocked out in the preliminary round.   So Alan is guaranteed a nice pay-packet, even if he gets knocked out in the first round.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Annotated game from Justin Tan (GM)

This might not be news to some readers, but former Suffolk junior, Justin Tan, recently achieved the highest title of them all: International Grandmaster. In July this year Justin participated in the Paracin Open in Serbia where he not only achieved his final Grandmaster norm, but also played the tournament of his chess life so far by winning the event outright, unbeaten on 7½/9. The final standings can be viewed on the Chess Results website.

Justin has kindly annotated a very interesting game (below). After the game Justin was slightly sad to have not gone for a beautiful finish involving a cluster of pawns lumbering towards the end of the board, reminiscent of a space invader approaching the end of the computer screen. However, from a practical perspective, he probably made the right decision.

Justin officially became a GM in October, only three years after he was awarded his International Master title. To make a leap from IM to GM in such a short space of time is very impressive. Justin's current FIDE rating is 2508, which at the time of writing puts him at 719 in the world rankings.

Justin decided to study Law at Edinburgh University after completing his A-Levels in Suffolk, but is currently based in Utrecht to study Dutch Law for one year as part of the degree program. Whilst in The Netherlands, he's managed to play in the Dutch Chess League where each side fields an eight board team, but the board order is pseudo-random, meaning that any player on one team could play any player on another team!

Monday, 19 November 2018

Three Iceni teams at the 4NCL

Whilst Anglian Avengers have decided to concentrate their energies on fielding just one team in Division 2, fellow East Anglians Iceni have increased to three teams this season following their double promotion at the end of last season.   Both Iceni 1 and Iceni 2 were promoted to Division 3, leaving the option of fielding a third team in Division 4, an opportunity that was grabbed by team captain John Feavyour, who now has the unenviable task of finding 18 players for each 4NCL weekend.

So, on Saturday and Sunday, two Iceni teams lined up in Division 3, with the new Iceni 3 team in Division 4.   Unfortunately, one member of the latter team was taken ill on his way to the venue and had to return home.   This meant that his team suffered a default, which in the 4NCL equals 'minus 1' on the score.

Results were:
Iceni 1 - lost 2-4 and drew 3-3
Iceni 2 - won 5-1 and 3½-2½
Iceni 3 - lost -1-6 and won 3-2

Iceni 2 now head their section with four match points and 8½ game points.

Individually, captain John Feavyour coped remarkably well with the problems associated with the loss of one player and the worries about filling three teams, by winning both his games, including one against a 195 graded opponent.

Other Suffolk players' scores (out of two):
Steve Ruthen    1½
Paul Botham    ½
Malcolm Lightfoot    1
Bob Jones    1
Adam John    1
Sarah Rowles    0
Amy John    1

It was good to see Somton Ukken and his daughter Anita Somton playing for Iceni again, following their move to the Midlands three years ago.   Somton won both games and Anita scored 1½.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Annotated game with cute tactic: Andy Lewis v John Pitcher

Andy Lewis (FM) has kindly annotated his win (below) against John Pitcher for the Suffolk Chess Website. Andy managed to gain an advantage out of the opening, but wasn't clearly winning until Black played 31...Rd8?, missing a nice tactic.

If any Suffolk players would like to share an interesting game or position with readers of this blog, please send a message via the Contact page.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Anglian Avengers go top and local tournaments in December

Anglian Avengers managed to win both 4NCL matches last weekend in Division 2a leaving them top of the league.

The East Anglian team consisted of four players based in Suffolk: Edmund Player (1/2), Graham Moore (1/2), Silas Peck (½/2) and Alex Sheerin (1½/2). Manningtree's Andy Lewis (1½/2) who regularly plays chess in the Suffolk League was the Avenger's top-rated player on board 1. The second match against the ADs looked like it was heading towards a draw, but in the last game to finish Silas managed to dig deep with only two pawns as compensation for a minor piece against a very experienced WGM to secure a 4½-3½ victory. Alex also recorded a solid draw on board 8 against Marcus Walsh, whose FIDE rating is 2191.

On Monday Captain Paul Talsma wrote:
"The team got on really well (good team spirit, good curry ...), we had three juniors playing which is good, and we got very good results, winning both our matches!
We beat Warwickshire Select 5-3 on the Saturday which actually could have been more since at some stage we had four wins in the pocket. Their average grading is 2165 making them one of the stronger teams in the pool (2A), so very good result!
When I left on the Sunday there was still one game ongoing against the ADs: Silas'. Before that Daniel had an excellent win managing to beat his opponent in a 4 vs 3 pawns rook ending. The score at the time was 4-3 in our favor. But I assumed with certainty that Silas was going to lose. He had refused a draw offer and then lost a piece so was a piece down against Jana Bellin. But only this morning I found out he managed to draw his game, making the final score a 4.5-3.5 win for us! Well done Silas!
Thanks everyone for a very nice weekend and good results."
Two of Suffolk's Masters played for other teams in Division 1b: Dagnė Čiukšytė (IM) (1/2 for Guildford 2) and Adam Hunt (IM) (½/2 for Blackthorne Russia).

The Iceni teams begin their campaigns this weekend.


Dagnė is organising more tournaments in Martlesham, the first of which is due to take place on Sunday 16th December 2018:
There's also a Woodbridge Junior Tournament on Sunday 2nd December, which Adam is organising:
More information about up-and-coming tournaments based in Suffolk will be published soon.

Friday, 9 November 2018

World Championship this afternoon and 4NCL begins

The World Championship between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana kicks off today at 3pm. The match will be broadcast live on the World Chess website for a fee. Also, will be providing 'live' commentary (with a slight delay). The press conference can be viewed on YouTube.

This weekend also sees the start of the 2018/2019 Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) season. Two local local teams are competing in this year's event:
  • Anglian Avengers who has one team in Division 2.
  • Iceni who has two teams in Division 3 South and one team in Division 4.

Anglian Avengers
This year Anglian Avengers (formerly Suffolk Punches) has decided to focus their attention on their first team who play in Division 2. For many of the past seasons, Suffolk's Ian Wallis has done a grand job at organising various squads. This year he's handed this duty over to Paul Talsma. If you have an Anglian connection and are interested in playing Division 2 chess in the 4NCL, please contact

To quote the advert from the 4NCL website by Iceni captain John Feavyour:
The Iceni squad has three teams. Iceni 1 and Iceni 2 have just been promoted to Division 3 South, and wish to stay there next season. Iceni 3 are improving. Iceni would welcome a few new strong players. The Iceni players are friendly, sociable, and love their chess. If you are interested in joining us and playing for Iceni, please contact

Friday, 2 November 2018

Grischuk v Alan

The Isle of Man Masters finished last Sunday. This year Suffolk's Alan Merry (IM) took part to compete in what's considered to be the strongest open tournament in the world. The event comprised many stars from the past and present, including Vladimir Kramnik (GM), Vishwanathan Anand (GM), Alexei Shirov (GM), Nigel Short (GM), Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa (GM) and Vincent Kaymer (IM); the list goes on and on.  Alan didn't perform as well as he did in some of the previous events held at the prestigious Villa Marina venue in the island's capital of Douglas, however this time he did end up with some amazing pairings, most notably in round 1 against three times World Blitz Champion, Alexander Grischuk (GM) from Russia, and in round 3 where he got another bite at the cherry against England number 1, Michael Adams (GM).

Raunak Sadhwani v Vishy Anand, Alexander Grischuk v Alan Merry Isle of Man Chess International, Round 1, 20 October. Photo by John Saunders
Alexander Grischuk v Alan Merry - Isle of Man Masters - Round 1, 20th October 2018 1
Unfortunately both games ended up in losses for Alan, who was perhaps slightly unlucky to end up being drawn Black against all of his higher rated opponents. Alan's final total was 4 points from 9 games. The eventual joint winners were Poland's Radoslaw Wojtaszek (GM) and Azerbaijan's Arkadij Naiditsch (GM), who scored 7½/9, with both players taking half point byes during the middle of the tournament, presumably to save energy! The final standings are available from the Chess Results website.

The position below is from Alan's round 4 game, playing White against Bjarke Sahl (IM). White is on the verge of winning anyway, but here Black made a fatal blunder by playing 53...Rxb7?? - can you spot how Alan then forced Black to resign?

There is a shed load of videos featuring interviews and analysis of some of the top Isle of Man Masters games available for free on YouTube. For example, Sicilian Najdorf fans might be particularly interested in GM Maxime Vachier Lagrave's very smooth game in round 2.

1Photo by John Saunders: 

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Under 160 results

Suffolk started off their bid to retain the EACU Under 160 shield with comprehensive victories today against Hertfordshire and Norfolk.

In the morning, Hertfordshire were only able to field 12 boards, so Suffolk were 4 -0 ahead before we even started!   The match finished 12 - 4 in our favour, so even on the boards Herts did fill, Suffolk won 8 - 4.   The other morning match finished with Cambridgeshire narrowly beating Norfolk 9 - 7.

Photo (right) shows St Mary's Church, next door to the Turner Hall where the matches were played.

In the afternoon, Suffolk faced Norfolk.   James Pack on Board 9 finished his game in less than five minutes, forcing resignation in just eight moves (it was mate in one) - see below for the game.   He, Phil Hutchings and Bob Stephens won both their games.   Results went mainly Suffolk's way and we ran out winners by 10½ points to 5½.   In the other match Herts, with only 13 players, managed to beat Cambridgeshire!

So after this first round of matches, Suffolk have four points, Herts and Cambs have two points each, and Norfolk are on zero.

James' game went:
1. e4   d6
2. f4   e5
3. fxe5   Qh4+
4. Ke2   Qxe4+
5. Kf2   dxe5
6. d3   Bc5+
7. Kg3  Qg6+
8. Kh4   Be7+
And White resigned with mate next move.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Results from the Bury St Edmunds Chess Congress

Last weekend 156 chess players visited the Apex to play in the 36th Bury St Edmunds Chess Congress; one of the top weekend chess congresses, if not the best weekend congress, in the country.

Organisers and helpers setting up the tournament hall early on Saturday morning.

The five round tournament consists of four sections: Open, Challengers, Inter and Minor. Anybody can enter the Open event which regularly attracts some of the country's top players, including GM Matthew Sadler in recent years. This year four International Masters competed: Richard Pert, Adam Hunt, Dagne Čiukšytė and Neil Bradbury, who recently made a come back from a number of years out of the game.

Below is the list of winners from each section, which included four Suffolk players highlighted in bold. The full list of results is available from the Bury St Edmunds Chess Congress website.

OpenIM Richard Pert (Brentwood) and IM Adam Hunt (Woodbridge School) - 4/5.

Challengers: Peter Finn (Wycombe & Hazlemere) - 4½/5.

InterAndrew Donnelly (Bury St Edmunds & Sudbury) and Jerzy Cholewinski (Ipswich) scored 4½/5.

MinorNina Pert (Brentwood) and Chris Shepherd-Rose (Bury St Edmunds) scored 4½/5.

Congratulations to Adam, Andrew, Jerzy and Chris!

The congress also gave out a number of other prizes such as vouchers for subscriptions and the Bob Jones Trophy (awarded to the highest-scoring junior playing in the Bury League or Suffolk League from the highest section in which a score of 3 points is achieved), which this year was won by Julia Volovich (Cambridge).

There were a number of other fantastic performances from Suffolk players, including Jon CollinsMark Le Vine and Bob Jones, but probably the most outstanding performance went to James Pack. With an ECF grade of 136, James managed to scored 3½ points with an ECF grading performance of 180!

Steve Lovell, Congress Secretary, would like to thank all those who helped make the event what it was. There are too many to name without risking accidental omission (and making for rather dull reading). Suffice to say, we really appreciated everyone’s input! We had a great weekend, and are already looking forward to next year’s event. I hope you are too. You can put it in the diary now: it’ll be 26th and 27th October 2019.