Friday, 8 February 2019

White to play

I had this position, as White, last evening, with me to play.   In the cold light of day, it's not difficult to find the best move.   But I was down to a couple of minutes and played it safe by 26.Bxa8.   There's a much better move which wins very quickly.   I'm sure you will all see it.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

County First Team report

(From team captain Steve Ruthen)

The first of three Sunday double headers saw Suffolk paired against Cambridgeshire, then Bedfordshire.

The morning match v Cambs was expected to be hard fought, and so it was.   Although we held a notional four grading point advantage it was only at the end that we pulled ahead.   Wins from the immensely experienced Gregory, Wallis, Feavyour, Sanders and Ruthen led to a 9-7 victory, with eight draws.

We were expecting an easier match v Beds, given the 14-2 score line last time we played, but the match proved to be even tighter than the morning match.   Only a delicate endgame squeeze by Ted Mathewson (accept doubled pawns at your peril v Ted) saw us home by 8½-7½.   Ted's was the last game to finish and when down to less than five minutes Ted forgot to press his clock after moving.   He must have “heard” the 15 silent screaming voices because he realised in good time, advised his opponent that although he (the opponent) was thinking, it was Ted’s clock that was running(!) and delivered the critical win.   I suspect his opponent knew VERY well that Ted’s clock was ticking towards oblivion.

Thanks to Hopkins, Gregory, Lewis and Quader for the other wins.

Steve Gregory leads the “no prize at all” competition for most points scored, with two wins.

It was also good to have Dave Spence available, and also Luke Hill for the first time.   Both of these players gave great solidity at the top end of the team.

WE lead the table as the only team with two wins.   We now face Norfolk and Cambs on 3rd February.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

New ECF grades published

The January 2019 ECF grades were published last week.   They can be viewed in full here.

Several Suffolk players have enjoyed substantial improvements in their grade.   The greatest increase (+19) is by James Pack (Bury St Edmunds), who has risen from 136 to 155.   He had been hoping for 160+, but he only played 25 games (+18, =3, -4) in the half-year up to the end of December 2018, so five ‘legacy’ games (at an average of 136) would have dragged him down.

Four other players have improved by more than 10 points:
Mario Saenz de Villaverde (Bury St Eds) +16 (to 96)
Angus Irving (Ipswich) +14 (to 127)
Mike Usher (Saxmundham) +13 (to 161)
Mark Le-Vine (Bury St Eds) +11 (to 198)

There is a new Junior at the top of the Under 18 list.   Long-time leader Alex Sheerin (177) has been pipped by Jaden Jermy (178).   Jaden is at #9 in the national list of Under 14s.   Maintaining third place is 12-year old Adam John (149), with a further four juniors graded 100 or higher.

The top girls are 10-year old Amy John (98) and Jenni Rochford (79).   Jenni squeezes in at #98 in the top 100 Under 16 girls.   As usual, there are few women in the list, with only former Suffolk Ladies’ Champion Vicky Allen graded over 100, as well as Saxmundham’s new member Sarah Rowles.

There are nine Suffolk-based players graded over 200.   They are:
Alan Merry (242), Adam Hunt (229), Adam Taylor (226), Mike Harris (219), Graham Moore and Andy Lewis (both 216), Ed Player (211), Dagne Ciuksyte (210) and David Spence (203). That would be some team in they were all willing to play for Suffolk in the County Championships!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Two Queen Sacrifices

Until two days ago, Stephen Lewis, a member of Stowmarket Chess Club and Bury St Edmunds Chess Club, had never had the opportunity to execute a Queen sacrifice in a competitive game, but was very pleasantly surprised to be presented with two opportunities in two days this week.

Puzzle 1: Can you spot how White forces checkmate in 16 moves after hoovering up most of Black's pieces?

Puzzle 2: White to play.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Suffolk players at Hastings Chess Congress

Hastings and chess have a long history going all the way back to the famous Hastings 1895 chess tournament. The 2018/2019 Hastings Chess Congress featured Ipswich's Graham Moore and Manningtree's Adam Taylor, who both played in the 10 round Masters section. The final standings (extract below) are available from the chess results website.

Hastings Masters Final Crosstable

Graham (scoring 5½/10) and Adam (scoring 6½/10) performed excellently, both gaining ELO points which should help improve their national rankings in the next FIDE rating list. In fact Graham really scored 5½/9 as like many other participants he opted for a zero point bye in the final round. Adam managed to get himself up to board 2 in the final round where a win would have seen him end up in joint first place. Still, a draw with Black against former British Champion, Jonathan Hawkins, isn't bad going! The eventual six winners represented six different countries: Spain, Lithuania, England, Bulgaria, Russia and Ireland.

Also, on New Year's Day Adam won the Hastings FIDE-rated Blitz. Congratulations Adam!

Games from the Masters tournament are available from the website.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Dementia watch

The following article and photo was published in yesterday's Bury Free Press:

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.