Blind faith versus objectivity

I am indebted to Peter for bringing Chris Ross’s new book ‘Blind Faith’ to my attention.  It may be purchased at https://steelcitypress.co.uk/product/blind-faith-ebook/

In particular, I would like to draw your attention to game 40.  In this game, Chris demonstrates improvements that Dmitry Andrekhin could have made against Sergey Karjakin in the 2014 candidates.  He plays almost blemish-less chess, “secures a huge advantage” as early as move 19, shows “superior piece positioning” throughout,  and “exploited his positional understanding”.  He justifiably awards himself four exclamations marks in the first 31 moves.

By contrast, his opponent puts his pieces on “unattractive” squares, makes “ugly moves”, is lured into creating “easy weaknesses”, does not “consider the consequences of his pawn structure”, played with “desperation”, was “bemused” and by move 19,  although it was “too harsh to begin questioning all of White’s moves, … had now obtained a very poor position”.  He was “verging on the stage of being positionally lost” at move 19, “indeed, positionally lost” by move 21, “should resign, as there is nothing salvageable” at move 43 and as for his draw offer, there is “no good reason to accept the draw, especially so when Black had played so well”!  A level of restraint is shown by only awarding his opponent’s first 18 moves with three question marks.

Ironically, I considered this one of my better games against Chris.  When I blundered in time trouble in a dead drawn rook and pawns ending I took some solace from the fact that I had executed an opening novelty well and (Fritz assured me) had kept the game more or less  level for the first 47 moves. 

I guess it’s always nice to be published!?

Game of the season competition open for business

As another season draws to a close, its worth remembering the annual “Game of the Season” competition. For the uninitiated, this is where you get to air your brilliant or ridiculous or funny or chaotic or important or whatever-you-might-think-might-entertain-others games that you’ve played competitively during the season. Just send me something and a bit later we’ll vote and there might even be a trophy if anyone can remember where it is!

To give you an example that incorporates a number of the categories, here is a game Marc sent me recently. It’s unclear to me why he doesn’t give up on move 9 but I guess you never win anything by resigning!

Clean sweep for Bedford in County Championship

The final two rounds of the Beds. Championship were played on May 14th at the Open University. Bedford members Steve Ledger, Toby Cox and Paul Habershon emerged as joint winners with 4.5 points out of 6. The original entry of 20 was somewhat reduced by withdrawals and byes but in the last game to finish Marc Obi held Steve Ledger to a draw, thus denying Steve an outright championship win.

I (PaulH) had a lucky day, typical of the inaccurate but exciting nature of amateur chess. In the morning Round 5 I was outplayed by Qais Karimi (White) who reached this position with plenty of time on his clock. 

Now 40 d6! Is an easy win, but he played 40 Ke4? Then after 40…Kg7 41 d6  exd6 42 e7

would run  into the crucial check 42…f5+! So Qais played 41 b5 and the game was eventually drawn with bishops of opposite colour.

Here is my continued good fortune in the last round.

Paul Habershon

Nothing to lose leads to great D team win

 Leighton Buzzard B   Bedford D 
BoardNameGradeScoreScoreNameGrade
1Kevin J Williamson195301Evan Lewis1746
2Adrian Matthews18780.50.5Andy Evans1585
3Peter Taylor18250.50.5Theo Jenkins1576
4Dominic Watson1882e01Ramsey Dairi1500e
5Lee Davies1791e01George Griffiths1383
   14  
Played: 03/05/22      

(not only can Evan beat Kevin, he can write this report and submit a game!!)

If Bedford D were vulnerable at any time, it was during last night’s match. When we turned up to our away game against Leighton Buzzard B, the team was in disarray:

We’d lost to this team 4-1, exactly 3 months prior. Our unbeaten board 1, was not playing. Our board 4 was in a sling! 

If matters could get worse, our board 5 was unable to find the venue! No chess had started and yet already it seemed the match was psychologically lost.

However, once George arrived, play began swiftly. Perhaps due to the team’s starting instability, it seemed as if every position quickly developed into a vicious battle. George was on the white side of a Scandinavian and was able to build a big center. After an unfortunate counting problem from his opponent, he was up a knight before move 10. I’d love to say black put up a fight but George was relentless. An incredibly clean conversion led to a resignation. 1-0

My own game (below) was a Chigorin Queen’s Gambit. Kevin and I entered theory, but his sharp theoretical knight sacrifice was known to me. Having prepared this line beforehand, I saw many games where a selfish white loses [Praggnandha-Dale (2017)]. So instead I gave the piece back for a long-lasting initiative. It proved too much for my opponent to handle and with 2 different threats of promotion, Kevin threw in the towel and Bedford D were up two games. 2-0

Theo’s game was next to finish and also reached a variation named after Chigorin! In a Closed Ruy Lopez, play deviated from theory with Theo’s 12.Bg5 and soon he’d established a stronghold on f5. Otherwise condemned to passivity, black was forced to trade bishop for knight. A queen bishop vs queen knight endgame ensued and the bishop seemed superior. Unfortunately for Theo, even with an extra passed pawn, there was no way to make progress and a draw was agreed. 2½-½

Andy and Ramsey were playing against the Alapin Sicilian on boards 2 and 4, respectively. Ramsey opted for the mainline with …2.d5 and achieved rapid development. A pleasant but precise position. It appears his left arm is just as good at chess as his right because regardless of the sling, he equalised and kept pressuring. In a rook and pawn ending, his opponent fell asleep at the wheel but Ramsey kept his foot on the gas. Finding a quiet winning move, to activate his rook, Ramsey wins another for Bedford D. 3½-½  

Andy attempted the force the issue with an immediate …2.e5!?, controlling d4 but creating a weakness on d5. As pieces developed, Andy had to concede some space and doubled h pawns but had the bishop pair against the knight pair. Rather than opening up the board for counter-play, he responsibly decided to trade all the minor pieces and defend a heavy piece endgame. When I left the venue, they were still playing and it seemed a gruelling and depressing task, reaching far past time control. As always with Andy’s solid defensive play, he made no further concessions and his opponent was unable to convert the remaining space advantage. A draw was agreed. 4-1

Impressive stuff from the team and a nice way to finish the division, especially considering we were on the back foot going into the match. We finish this year with 5 wins and 3 losses. Thank you to Andy, Evan, George, Lucian, David, Ramsey, Steve and Theo for playing for us and of course we have to congratulate Leighton Buzzard B for winning the league.

Good luck to a strong-looking Bedford D for next year.

Evan Lewis, May 4th 2022

May the fourth be with you

 Leighton Buzzard A   Bedford B 
BoardNameGradeScoreScoreNameGrade
1Gary Kenworthy22830.50.5Okwose Marc Obi1938
2Stephen Law20580.50.5Alex Taylor2050
3Peter Hunt20650.50.5Richard T Bodily1968
4Brian J Valentine192410Qais Karimi1949
5John R Sharp19450.50.5Robert S Walker1758
   32  
Played: 03/05/22      

The B Team completed their season with a trip to Leighton Buzzard A knowing that they would finish fourth regardless of the result.

Marc kindly stood up to the challenge of facing Gary on board 1.  Playing a Morra gambit he built up a really good position, but it was quite hard to see how to turn the advantage into a clear winning one.  In the end, he opted for safety first and a draw (see attached game).

My game against Steve on Board 2 was a tight affair.   From the opening, Steve had an isolated pawn on d4 and I managed to get a knight planted on d5.  Steve countered by getting knights on c5 and e5 which threatened to strangle my position.  After exchanges, it boiled down to a rook and knight ending and a draw.

Peter and Richard’s game on Board 3 never really sparked into life.  Both players fianchettoed their kingside bishops out of a Sicilian opening and Peter managed to created some pressure down the c file, but once this had been neutralised the game rather fizzled out.

Qais played Brian on Board 4 and had one of those games we have all experienced.  A miscalculation early in the game lead to the loss of a piece with little compensation.  Although Qais tried to generate some counterplay, Brian calmly exchanged off pieces to simplify the ending and win the game.

Our super-sub Robert played John on Board 5 and the game turned out to be an interesting one.  After a relatively quiet French opening, Robert played a temporary sacrifice which netted him a couple of pawns and a strong initiative against the black king.  After queens came off, it looked like Robert’s passed e-pawn and rooks on the d file would be decisive.  John flung his passed a pawn down the board, and this point things started to change as perhaps Robert made the wrong choice in how to stop it.  In the end after exchanges, the game petered out into a draw.

A narrow 3-2 loss to end a trickier season than the B Team have experienced recently.  However, the team had a couple of good wins and came close in other games.  Many thanks to all who played this season.

Alex, 4th May 2022

C team season ends, not with a bang but a whimper

 Bedford C   Milton Keynes C 
BoardNameGradeScoreScoreNameGrade
1Robert S Walker17580.50.5George Ward1759e
2Richard McMorran165301Michael Page1600e
3Callum T Shields16600.50.5Colin Solloway1593
4Giuseppe Valerio17280.50.5John McKeon1585
5Peter S Gill172810Sumit Bhalla1250e
   2.52.5  
Played: 28/04/22      

Having comfortably won the away fixture against Milton Keynes C we might have been forgiven for expecting an easy evening last Thursday but it was anything but! It didn’t begin well when we struggled to find enough chairs (several had been taken downstairs for a recent event) and only just managed to find enough sets for the two matches against Milton Keynes B and C as well as half a dozen or so Club Tournament games. To make matters worse the Social Club juke box was going strong, much to the annoyance of at least one MK player – I had to tell him there was nothing we could do about it.

But the biggest problem did not become apparent until we approached the end of the evening, when Joe on Board 4 realised that his clock was not adding the required 10 second increment after each move. Given that Joe was (really!) very short of time this was not an easy problem to address. The resulting discussions made it difficult or impossible for his neighbours to concentrate. I was unable to watch what was happening in the other games so cannot comment on the chess itself.

On Boards 1, 3 and 4 draws were agreed. I believe Robert’s game on Board 1 was probably heading for a draw anyway – but I think Callum and Joe’s draws were more a recognition of the unsatisfactory circumstances. 

On Board 2 Richard who had been on the verge of victory went from better to worse during and because of the kerfuffle and resigned. If he had stopped playing rather than resigning a draw might have been a fair outcome.

I was fortunate on Board 5 since my opponent had lost a piece for a pawn in the opening and when it all kicked off I was already on the verge of a forced mate.  

We end the season with 4 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws. Bedford D play Leighton Buzzard B on Tuesday and if they win they will catch us on 10 points in 2nd place in Division 2. (Leighton Buzzard B cannot be caught). Thank you to all the players named above who were so reliable and to Oscar who stood in very ably when Joe or I had a night off.  

I will spend Thursday night tidying up our equipment, and checking the clock settings. Any help will be very welcome.

The A team seal the deal.

Milton Keynes A  Bedford A 
BoardNameGradeScoreScoreNameGrade
1Richard CP Freeman211801Ravi Arulnandhy2073
2Francesca Matta196001James Gardner2080
3Phillip Ekhaesomi194501Toby Cox2066
4Robert Whiteside18930.50.5Okwose Marc Obi1938
5Thomas Evans168310Theo Jenkins1576
   1.53.5  

The A team aimed to secure the title against Milton Keynes, but we were missing two of our core squad members, including our top board.

Marc seemed quite cramped out of the opening but managed to gain some activity when pieces were exchanged, and he secured a draw with the black pieces.

I was looking for revenge against Phillip, who I had lost to earlier in the season. I had a bit of a shaky start, and had to go down a pawn to keep activity, but after a some pressing I was able to find some tactics, and win a rook.

Ravi got a very comfortable position out of the opening, and never let his grip on control slip. He converted after a few exchanges allowed him to double up a queen and rook on the eighth rank. This put the team in the position of just needing a draw from two games to win the league.

Theo was making his debut for the A team. He seemed to have an active position, but placed his queen too deep into contested territory. It unfortunately got trapped, and despite setting a few traps, Theo lost.

James was defending early on, but having a solid position he was able to expand after the threats died down. He seemed to smoothly outplay his opponent. By the time he knew the team just needed a draw, he was already winning and about to go a piece up. He converted with ease.

Which puts the A Team three points ahead at the top of the table, meaning we have the league with a game to spare. Good Stuff!

Toby Cox, 27th April 2022

Bedford C v OU

After two successive defeats the C Team returned to winning ways with a comprehensive victory over the Open University. It looks like a battle for second place in Division 2 between our C and D Teams.

After a series of exchanges Oscar quickly and efficiently engineered an endgame a pawn up with Rook and Bishop against Rook and Knight. The Bishop was better than the Knight and with Oscar bound to add a Queen, the OU Captain resigned.
Callum charged his pawns up the board in front of his uncastled King but lost his Queen’s Rook, still on its home square, for Bishop. Also a pawn down he looked likely to lose his 100% winning record for the season. However his Queen, despite spending most of the game on a1, having captured the Bishop, was joined by her own white squared Bishop, gained total domination of the long white diagonal and crashed through, making it 7 wins out of 7 for Callum.
NeIther Richard nor Dave Wells could get an advantage and with only Rooks and 6 Pawns each they agreed a draw.
Meanwhile Robert had won the exchange for a pawn but his King got stuck in the centre and he had to tread very carefully until it was clear that neither side could make any progress.
As I predicted Joe returned to winning ways. He opened lines on the Queenside and after both Knights gobbled up major pieces the dust settled and Joe came out on top. I was so excited I can’t remember exactly how but Joe still wasn’t happy!

Robert Walker 0.5 – 0.5 Luke Singleton
Ricard McMorran 0.5 – 0.5 Dave Wells
Callum Shields 1   –  0 Dave Webber
Jo Valerio 1   –  0 Dave Phillips
Oscar Tucker 1   –  0 Steven Wayne
4  –  1

Peter Gill, 15th April 2022

Bedford C edged out

The old codgers of Bedford C headed for Leighton Buzzard on Tuesday needing to win to keep our hopes of finishing top of Division 2 alive. 
I faced the Scandinavian defence on Board 5 – something I don’t believe I’ve met for over a hundred serious games. I wasted a lot of time before deciding to accept a gambit pawn. It took 20 moves for my opponent, Lee Davies, to regain the pawn at which point, having overlooking a winning resource, I meekly agreed a draw.  
Meanwhile Joe was struggling with his Modern defence in what looked to me like a very cramped position. He also missed a winning move, before going on to lose. Joe has had a bad run for a player of his pedigree but “after every valley there is a hill” – hopefully in Joe’s case on Thursday when we play at home against the OU.  
Robert on Board 1 had the unenviable task of playing Brian Valentine, a regular for Leighton Buzzard A. He got off to a promising start in a Run Lopez, managing to double his rooks on the d file, but Brian interjected his Bishop and was able to to establish a passed pawn on the Queen side which proved decisive.
That left Richard doggedly hanging on a pawn down – and a passed pawn on the 7th rank at that. To me it looked inevitable that Adrian Matthews would promote but Richard kept finding saving moves and as exchanges took place the pawn fell and a draw was agreed.  
Callum, obviously not an old codger, travelled independently and after struggling to find somewhere to park, finally sat down to play Peter Taylor on Board 3 with only about 30 minutes left on his clock. Very sportingly Leighton Buzzard captain Adrian Matthews and Peter himself agreed to waive their entitlement to a forfeit. They may well have regretted that. I didn’t see how how he managed it but Callum engineered two connected pawns opposed by Peter’s solitary one and a Bishop each. It looked pretty drawish to me but Callum, turning down Peter’s draw offer, was able to promote to a Queen with seconds left on his clock. He has now won all 6 of his games for the C Team this season!
Realistically however finishing top is now likely to be beyond us.

Robert Walker        0    – 1        Brian Valentine 
Richard McMorran    0.5 – 0.5        Adrian Matthews
Callum Shields    I     –  0        Peter Taylor
Joe Valerio        0    –   1        Dominic Watson
Peter Gill            0.5 –      0.5        Lee Davies 

Like London buses …

The B Team headed to Milton Keynes to play their penultimate match of the season, hoping build on their first win of the season last time round.

Richard was up against Graham Smith on board 3, looking to improve on his less than impressive record against him.  The opening was a Sveshnikov Sicilian and changes were pretty even throughout the game.  Once queens came off the position remained level with Richard perhaps having a little edge.  In the final position, Richard had the chance of winning a pawn on the queenside, but worrying about Graham pushing his kingside pawns agreed a draw.

My game against Dominic was a cagey affair.  There was plenty of manoeuvring of pieces, but with no pawns off the board the cramped position did not make it easy for either of us to make progress.  I did finally manage to open the e file and get control of it, but there was not really anything in it and a draw was agreed.

Paul was up against Adrian on board 2 and was in control for pretty much all of the game.  After 11 moves Adrian had a very long think and drifted into severe time trouble – leaving about a minute plus increments for about 17 moves!  Paul was able to capitalise on this an calmy started to pick up pawns to leave a winning position.

Marc always seemed to have a solid position against Alan.  After queens came off he was able to establish a strong bind down the a file against the a7 pawn and also had the advantage of a good knight against a very bad bishop which ended up stuck on d8 with not many squares to play with.  Having activated his king Marc won a pawn and simplified the position and was poised to create a decisive passed pawn on the kingside.

With the match won, attention turned to Qais’s game against Peter on board 4.  The position always looked better for Qais – with doubled rooks controlling the a file and Peter’s pieces uncoordinated.  As the game headed to the endgame Qais had a clear advantage as he had tied Peter’s king into the corner and his bishop on h2 with almost nowhere to go.  It was then a case of attacking and winning the weak queenside pawns and then creating passed pawns.  By the end it was a question of which of Qais’s four pawns were going to queen first – the honour falling to the g pawn and with it the game.

Overall an impressive 4-1 score line made it back to back victories (having waited so long for a first win) and lift us of the bottom of the table.

Alex Taylor, 11th April 2022