A Draw, A Win and We’re Safe!

The last two A team fixtures were important, on the basis that a good showing would more or less guarantee our survival in the first division.  Of course, this was looking pretty likely anyway, as one relegation slot had been filled by Church Stretton’s demise and Newport B have been struggling this season, and look more than likely to occupy the other place at the bottom of the table.

First of all, we had the away fixture against Oswestry A.  Oswestry are a tough team; we had held the draw at the home fixture, although Oswestry had been missing Brian Whyte on that occasion and I suspected that this would be unlikely on their home turf.  Indeed, when we arrived, Oswestry appeared to be at maximum strength.  I had not been upstairs at the Oswestrian and the general consensus of the Shrewsbury team was that the bar had been preferable.  Maybe this was Oswestry’s secret weapon!

The match was close throughout the evening.  The first to finish was Ile v Charles Lowick Higgie.  I didn’t see much of the game, unfortunately, but it finished in a draw.  My game against Richard Bryant was a slow, manoeuvring position,  so wasn’t going to resolve anytime soon.  Shortly afterwards, Daniel won against David Bennion. Their game had been fairly sharp with Daniel creating mating threats against his opponent’s King, which ultimately proved impossible to parry.  Things were looking up!

However, on board 5, things appeared to be going pear-shaped for Mark Smith against Graham Ives, so I didn’t raise my expectations too high.  David’s game against Brian Whyte appeared to be going in the Oswestry player’s favour, so we were up against it.  Soon afterwards, Richard and I exchanged a number of pieces to simplify down to a Knight and Pawns v Bishop and Pawns ending.  Richard had a passed Pawn two squares from Queening but it was securely blockaded by my Knight.  The Pawn configuration was such that neither side could make progress and we agreed a draw shortly afterwards.

Having finished my game, I could observe the remaining two more easily.  Mark’s position now looked completely shot, although he seemed to be doing his best to throw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Graham’s position.  David was a Pawn down in a Rook and Pawn ending, although it looked is if it could be held.  Shortly afterwards, Mark bowed to the inevitable, while Brian was doing his best to convert the ending against David in Oswestry’s favour.  However, David defended accurately and soon the final game was agreed drawn.  This left the match at honours even and we departed feeling that was a reasonable result.  Subsequently, the computer indicated that David could have secured a significant advantage with a positional Queen sacrifice.  However, it’s a lot harder to spot these things over the board at the time!

Next up was Newport B.  Given the latter team’s experience this season, we might have felt justified in an optimistic outlook for this match.  I was not taking anything for granted, though, as the scoreline against Newport B masked a much better playing strength than was indicated by the results, so we fielded about the strongest team we could muster.  Before the match started, I saw David in deep conversation with Warren Lewis; apparently they had both been promising juniors on the Shropshire chess scene many years ago.  Warren has just come back to chess after a long break, which is always nice to see, and I am sure he will prove an asset to the Newport side.

The match started well for us with Mark scoring a fairly quick win against Chris Paul.  Chris defended with a Sicilian, Mark choosing his usual closed set up, including the fianchetto of his light-squared Bishop on g2.  The game was quite level until Chris allowed Mark a little too much scope to attack on the Kingside, with an open f-file and all of Mark’s pieces pointing towards Chris’s King.  In order to dissipate the attack, Chris exchanged Queens but this allowed Mark to fork his opponent’s King and Bishop.  Faced with a ruinous loss of material, Chris resigned: 1-0 to Shrewsbury.

Next to finish was Warren v Ile.  Warren opened with the flexible 1.Nf3, which transposed into a Queen Pawn opening, Ile adopting the Baltic Defence set up with 3…Bf5.  White maintained an edge and space advantage up to around move 15, when Warren allowed a tactic which dropped a Pawn and ended up with his King stuck in the centre.  A little later and Ile acquiesced to an exchange of Queens, which reduced much of his attacking potential.  Nevertheless, he still maintained an advantage, although Warren defended tenaciously.  By move 32 the position was more or less level, although Ile was still trying to make something of his passed Pawn on e3.  On move 33, Warren made a fatal mistake, allowing Ile’s Rook to penetrate into the White position on d2.  Shortly after, Ile added to White’s woes by pinning the former’s Rook against King; Warren resigned, leaving Shrewsbury 2-0 up.

A glance at the remaining games saw Peter with a Pawn advantage on board 5 against Malcolm Price.  I thought it looked won for Peter, although he was getting behind on the clock – as usual!  On top board, Simon Maydew adopted the Colle-Zukertort attack, with the game standing pretty even throughout.  At one point, Simon missed a tactical opportunity to win a Pawn but by move 24 the position was level and a draw was agreed.  In my own game, Danny Griffiths opened with 1…g6, although it quickly transposed to a Pirc Defence.  I maintained a space advantage in the centre and on the Queen-side; this was counterbalanced by Danny advancing his f-Pawn to f4, hoping to drive a wedge into my King’s position and initiate an attack.  Black was slightly behind in development and I judged that I needed to play actively and attempt to generate some initiative where I had the space advantage, trying to strike before Danny could launch his attack.

I managed to generate pressure against Black’s vulnerable, backward d-Pawn, which should have created a winning ending for me, although I didn’t follow it up quite correctly, which should have allowed Danny to fight back and limit my advantage.  However, Danny also failed to find the best defence, lost the exchange and soon the ending was hopeless for him in any case.  On move 34, Black resigned, leaving Shrewsbury ahead 3½-½ and the match in the bag.  However, Peter and Malcolm were still playing and, as we all know from previous relegation battles, every point counts.

As Peter’s clock ran down, I feared for the outcome, even though Peter was a solid, passed Pawn to the good and had the better minor piece in his Bishop against Malcolm’s Knight.  All credit to Malcolm for fighting to the bitter end.  He was forced to give up his Knight to eliminate Peter’s passed Pawn and then attempted to advance his own Pawns in a last-ditch effort to turn the game around.  Peter was up to the task, however, even as his clock ran down and Malcolm soon conceded defeat. Thus, Shrewsbury won 4½-½, an excellent result.

So, we’re arithmetically safe this season.  It’s not as exciting as last year’s relegation battles but, frankly, I think I could do without that level of excitement!

Next in line for us are Newport A and Telepost A, which are both likely to be somewhat sterner tests!

Francis Best, A Team Captain

So Close!

Shrewsbury B team had their work cut out against Telford A last Friday.  Although Telford were missing a couple of their stronger players in Mark Keady and Munroe Morrison, George Kolbusz was available, which he hadn’t been in the reverse fixture.  The evening began with some hilarity over whether or not Wellington A were already promoted or not.  Apparently not, strictly speaking, as they could in theory default points, or, as Dave Gostelow pointed out, there could be an earthquake!

Anyway onto the chess!  In light of my recent performances and trying to take a rational view of my play, I have come to the conclusion that I am spending too much time looking at the other games and, to improve my results, that I must concentrate on my own game for a greater proportion of the three hours than I have been, especially early in the game.  For this reason my impression of the other games early on is a bit sketchy!

Board 1 saw Dan with the black pieces against Dave Gostelow.  No prizes for guessing the opening!  Dave appeared to have a good position but I only glanced at it, really.  Board 2 saw Ile take on George Kolbusz with white.  Again no prizes for guessing the opening! The quickest of glances made me determined not to look more closely; it looked complicated.  On board 5, Ivor was black against Richard Thompson; no prizes for guessing the opening!  A superficial look suggested that Richard had some advantage.  On board 4, Peter had white against Stefan Tennant.  I didn’t see what the opening was but it looked lively.

On board 3, I was engaged in a tussle with Richard Szwajkun with black.  The opening was a Torre attack against my favourite g6 structure.  Richard surprised me on move 6 by playing c4, which effectively turned the opening into a Grüunfeld but with Richard’s knight on d2 rather than c3.

The result was a position with open c and d files; I got developed ok at the expense of exchanging my light squared bishop for a knight.  It felt about even.

Feeling I had at least survived the opening, I decided it was time to put my captain’s hat on for a couple of minutes and check out the other games. Board 1 was looking really difficult for Dan.  He was a pawn down and in danger of being overwhelmed; the one thing was that he’d used a lot less time than his opponent.  Board 2 was a different matter; a complex ending with rooks & knights had arisen.  It looked alright for Ile but he was well down on time.  Peter’s game on board 3 appeared still to be in the opening and very tense.  Meanwhile, Ivor’s position still looked dodgy to me; Richard was pressing but Ivor was scrapping hard. Back to my own game and I found a manoeuvre that led to exchanges and, by move 25, it was down to my queen and bishop against Richard’s queen and knight.  I felt I had a small advantage but that it wouldn’t be enough if the queens were exchanged.

As we approached 10 pm things began to happen.  Looking across to board 3, things had suddenly got wild; Peter appeared to be winning and so it turned out.  I saw very little of this game, as it finished before mine did but Peter reckoned he was a bit lucky and that Stefan missed a good chance.  Of course, Stefan has only just come back to the game after an absence of about a year so a little rustiness is understandable.  It’s not normally like Stefan to miss a tactical opportunity!

Meanwhile, my game was hastening towards its inevitable conclusion.  Possibly, I missed an opportunity on move 28.  Even so, we’re talking advantage, not won! The problem was that I was having to think about where to put the queen next just about every move; all Richard had to do was keep offering to exchange queens.  The result was that I was down to about 15 minutes to Richard’s 40.  Having another quick look at the match situation, which was starting to look more hopeful, I took the draw.

1½ – ½ then, as we approached the death.  On board 5, Ivor was putting up a terrific fight.  The position was very sharp and, ominously for Richard, perhaps, it reminded me strongly of the position he should have won against Ile a couple of weeks ago!

Ile, meanwhile, was down to his last couple of minutes.  His position was good,possibly even won at one point, but there was to be no repeat of Ile’s time trouble heroics of a fortnight ago.  The position when Ile’s flag fell wasn’t lost but, as Ile said to an apologetic George afterwards, “It’s all part of the game!”

Meanwhile, Dan was performing heroics of his own against Dave.  Dan told me afterwards that he decided to take a leaf out of David Everington’s book and throw some pawns at a difficult position.  In any case, it certainly worked and Dave had to agree to a draw.  Good stuff from Dan.

All square, with just board 5 to finish.  Sometime around here Richard’s pen ran out!  Fortunately for him, I noticed straight away and provided him with a replacement.  This game was extremely sharp.  One had the feeling that it ought to be a win for Richard, really, but a single slip would turn the game (and match) around completely!  In the end what told was the clock.  Ivor’s difficulties meant that he had to use more time and a fork that didn’t quite work led to his downfall.

So we came up just short this time and lost 3-2, pushing us back to third place in the league.  Next up, Newport Juniors.  I’m missing for that one, so Ivor will stand in as captain for the night.  Hopefully, we can field a strong team.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

B Team Edge Thriller

There was no shortage of incident and excitement in Telford last week as two division 2 games took place on the same evening.  It’s not my place to comment on Telford A vs Telepost C, other than to say that it ended all square.  Telford B vs Shrewsbury B was an interesting one, to say the least. It started with a bit of a panic as Ile had not arrived yet. His opponent on board 2, Richard Thompson, was quite sporting but at 7.45 I felt I had to instruct him to start Ile’s clock.  This done, I excused myself to my opponent on board 3, Roger Brown, and went out to look for Ile. Fortunately, he arrived a minute or two later and he sat down, having lost just 6 or 7 minutes.

None of this excuses my abysmal performance against Roger. It all started well enough. Roger employed the Scandinavian, which was a bit of a surprise, as I’d always thought Roger was an e5 man, and he did confirm afterwards that this is his normal first move. He took on d5, then retreated his Queen to d8, which I’ve always thought was a bit passive. I quickly built up an imposing position, won according to Fritz, then…I had an idea!  It wasn’t sound, but then Roger made a mistake and, had I played the correct follow-up, the position would have been more than satisfactory for me. However, I didn’t and got mated: 1-0 to Telford.  You always know you’ve done really badly when your opponent apologises!

The other games all looked pretty tight, though Matt and Ivor both looked in control to me.  At this point, Roger very kindly bought me a pint and we spent the next half hour or so having a good chat about all things chess.  When we returned (I did keep checking once in a while), time had moved on but things weren’t much clearer.  Matt now appeared to be winning against Stefan Tennant on board 1, as long as he avoided the sort of debacle I had fallen prey to.  Ivor, too, was now in total control against Steve Szwajkun, not to mention a couple of Pawns to the good.  Peter’s position against Windsor Peck was tight and tricky; very hard to call.  Ile’s game was another matter entirely; Richard had started with his favourite 1.c4 and, as usual with Ile’s games, things became complicated.  I have to be honest, at around 9.45, I didn’t like Ile’s chances at all.  His position looked a bit creaky but, worse, he had less than 15 minutes left to Richard’s 50!  By this stage, Matt had duly won his game against Stefan and he sought to reassure me; we all know that Ile plays really well under pressure.

Meanwhile, Ivor converted his advantage and won.  He’s been very solid all season: 2-1 to Shrewsbury, as we reached the climax.  Peter’s game continued to baffle and his and Windsor’s time were almost equal; less than a quarter of an hour each, with most of the material still on the board.  All seemed to hinge on an open file but it was very difficult.  One has to give Windsor his due; he keeps on battling and, if he does get tired, it doesn’t appear to affect his play.

All eyes were drawn to the other game remaining, however.  Having enquired about the match position, Ile offered Richard a draw.  Richard quite correctly declined; he probably needed to win for Telford to win the match.  Also, his position looked fine, although his time advantage was not as great as it had been, as he had reached his last 20 minutes. Ile had about 5 minutes left and the position was still extremely complicated.  With 2 minutes left, Ile tried a very bold manoeuvre.  Matt and I looked on trying to see the point.  We saw that Ile would swing his Rook across to e8 but then what?  If Richard went wrong, there was a mate, that’s what!  Richard did go wrong.  Then he saw what was happening.  He shook his head, then shook Ile’s hand.  Ile had just 37 seconds on his clock when this happened: sensational!  Ile said to me afterwards, “I should have lost and Richard should have won!”

Peter and Windsor were both below 10 minutes in a still very tense and difficult game.  In view of the fact that the result of the match was decided, however, they agreed a draw.

Final score Telford B 1 ½  Shrewsbury B 3 ½.   Next up, Telford A at home.  Will the B team captain drop himself for this one?  He hasn’t decided yet!


Mark Smith, B Team Captain

A Team Falls to Ludlow

Prior to this division 1 encounter, a number of club members had gathered for a presentation to Fred Harris, in recognition of his services to Shrewsbury Chess Club over the years.  Fred stood down as club President at the last AGM.  Formerly, he had been Secretary, as well as performing various services at County level.  Fred was presented with a painting by Tony Purser, appropriately chess-themed.

It would have been nice to have reported a match victory to round off the evening; alas, it was not to be.  The first piece of drama occurred when Shrewsbury appeared to be a player short, Ile having failed to show. It later transpired that Ile had been held up at work and his mobile phone was dead, so he was unable to contact us.  The immediate problem was to find a replacement.  Fortunately, Ivor Salter was able to step into the breach, and found himself facing Ludlow’s recent recruit, Kieran Lappin.  Ivor soon pressed out of the opening, having damaged his opponent’s Pawn structure, and went on to score a win, the first result of the evening.

Norman, on board 5 against Bob Woodley, defended with a Scandinavian, his opponent choosing the slightly dubious 3.c4, c6, 4.dxc6 continuation.  For a long time, Norman’s position looked promising, his position on the clock looking increasingly desperate, however.  Eventually, Norman succumbed and the scores were level.

On top board, I was Black against Lee Davis, who played his usual Catalan setup.  Out of the opening, White achieved a protected, passed Pawn on d5 and the rest of the game depended on whether Lee could capitalise this.  I managed to achieve a solid position, with my rook on d6 firmly blockading Lee’s passed d-Pawn, although Lee continued to press.

On board 2, David played a c3 Sicilian which progressed to a tense middle game.  After a sharp series of intermezzos and exchanges, however, the position simplified to a Rook and opposite Bishop ending, with neither side being able to press for an advantage.  A draw was agreed quickly afterwards.

On board 3, Matt Best was Black against Joe Watson, who played an exchange Queen’s gambit, Matt defending with a Slav set up. Out of the opening, Joe won the exchange, after a slight inaccuracy on Matt’s part. Joe progressed steadily towards converting the advantage and, despite commendable defensive efforts on Matt’s part, and a few slips on Joe’s, the outcome was never really in doubt.

This left me in the unenviable position of needing to win to try and draw the match.  The position didn’t really warrant a winning attempt, however, with Lee holding the only realistic winning chances and I therefore offered a draw.  Past experience has shown that every half game point is valuable, after all.  Understandably, Lee declined the offer, as he had slightly more time left on the clock than I did.  In the circumstances, I thought I might as well go for broke.  Advancing my King into the White position, I attempted to capture as many of the enemy Pawns as possible – but this involved losing my Bishop.  Ultimately, my reckless attempt was unsuccessful and I resigned soon after.

The final score was 1½-3½ and next up is Oswestry on 2nd February.

Francis Best, A Team Captain


Wellington A Too Strong for B Team

I’m afraid it’s my sad duty to report a defeat for our B team, the first one since the opening game of the season against the same opponents.

Wellington put out a strong team with board 3 graded 167, which would be a strong board 3 in division 1, let alone division 2. First, I have to report my shocker against Toby Neil. Toby surprised me slightly by playing one of the main lines in the Exchange Gruenfeld with 7.Bc4 and 8.Ne2. We were following theory till move 13 and by move 20, I was busted! I thought for a long time over my 15th move; the choice was an active move, which cost a pawn, or a passive move that didn’t. I very much wanted to play actively but chickened out. In a tough position, I failed to find the best continuation (which was still probably lost) and lost first my Queen then my King. Not good!

The other games were still in full swing, except for Peter’s game, which appeared still to be in the opening – a tense looking position. Dan appeared to be struggling a bit against Tiago Faustino. Going into a complex ending, he was a Pawn down but quite active and Tiago’s Knight looked very bad. All meat and drink to Tiago, though; he just kept making good, solid, positional moves, and quickly too. When Dan finally succumbed to the inevitable, he was down to his last 5 minutes, Tiago still had 50.

A different kind of drama was unfolding on board 1. Matt’s comments on his game (probably the most interesting game of the night) follow:

“My game against Colin started out with his usual English, before he surprised me by transposing into a harmless line of the exchange Slav, in which Black scores terrifically – over 60%, according to Chessbase. Colin remarked after the game that he loved my position out of the opening! However, once he got his M.O. of trading off a Bishop for a Knight and hopping his extra horse into gaps on my Queenside, it started to liven up as he built up pressure. I then overlooked a tactic that allowed him to win a Pawn, albeit at the expense of his very useful Knight, and I went into an ending with the initial aim of swapping off my light-squared Bishop for his Knight, getting into an opposite-coloured Bishops ending a Pawn down and holding the draw. This shouldn’t have been possible, but in my search for a drawn ending I managed to stumble into a won position, as Colin repaid my earlier generosity by giving back the Pawn. The trade of Bishops and play on both flanks meant that his Knight wasn’t able to defend both flanks at once and, after a bit of manoeuvring (and a few technical points subsequently pointed out by the computer that were too deep for both of us), I ended up with an extra Pawn. However, a positional error (18 months of studying endgames hasn’t sorted this all out) of picking the wrong moment to advance my Pawn, allowed some tactical defences with the Knight, which Colin consistently found and finished off with a neat Knight sacrifice to split the point.”

You can play through Matt’s game here.

Topsy turvy is probably a fair description of the action. Just to add to Matt’s comments, Colin Roberts appeared to have good winning chances as he was a Pawn up, then he made a mistake, which cost first his extra Pawn, then another one. The result was 2 Pawns plus Bishop vs 1 Pawn plus Knight. Perhaps Matt over-pushed at this point and Colin found an ingenious way to give up his Knight for the final Pawn: drawn but fascinating.

This left us needing full points from the final 2 games. Peter’s game was still in the early middle game and it looked quite hard for either side to accomplish anything; one of those games which we’ve all played but never get published, in which nothing really gets going. Norman’s game against Simon Rhodes was approaching the death. Norman had an extra pawn but it was the dreaded opposite coloured Bishops. Objectively, it was totally drawn but because of the match situation and his opponent’s inexperience (Simon only took up the game a year ago and, although he has made excellent progress, naturally, there are gaps in his knowledge), Norman continued playing. I thought Norman missed a chance to sacrifice his Bishop for the last two Pawns, which would have left 3 Pawns v Bishop. Probably still drawn but more opportunities for Simon to go wrong. As it was, Simon missed that he could give up his bishop for Norman’s final Pawn but it didn’t matter; the game was drawn.

This meant that the match was lost and Peter and his opponent Mark Podlesak agreed a draw, which was fair enough, though naturally there was potentially plenty more chess to be played. So, a setback, but not entirely unexpected; Wellington A are a very good team.

Next up Telford B

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

B Team Hold Their Own Despite Two Defaults

Shrewsbury B faced a tricky task against Newport Juniors as most of their players were unavailable for one reason or another.  Indeed, with just 3 players we were only just able to field a legal team.  I am indebted to Ivor Salter, both for acting as team captain and for providing the content that follows.

Ile played the Orang Utan on top board against Edinson Xu.  Xu made a bad mistake in the opening (we’ve all been there) and lost quickly.  Ivor drew in a tight battle with Simon Maydew, which left Tony needing to beat Lewis Clark for Shrewsbury B to salvage an unlikely point.  This he did, despite missing a chance to win a Rook at one point. Tony’s solidity on board 5 has been of great help to us this season.  Hopefully, his grading will go up and reflect his playing strength.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

A Team Shares Spoils with Newport A

Having beaten Newport’s B team at our last fixture, we knew that their A team would provide a sterner test on Friday 11th.  We had the services of Ed Goodwin on top board and Matt Best on board 4, so had a pretty reasonable team ourselves.  First of all, here are Matt’s comments about his game:

“I was facing Simon Maydew, against whom I always have interesting tussles (and in which Simon invariably runs his clock down to the wire!). He told me afterwards that he’d been told to prepare for 1.e4, so while initially surprised to see me playing, he thought “at least my preparation was useful”. Alas, I threw that out the window by opening with d4 (and in doing so broke the dominance of the French as the opening of choice on the night), and Simon essayed the enterprising Budapest gambit with the more respectable Ng4 line over the wild but unconvincing Ne4. A few moves in, and a move-order mix-up from Simon presented me with an opportunity to grab a Pawn. After spending a while making sure it was not a dangerous trap, I gobbled it up and then promptly retreated, with the intention of reaching an ending with the extra material. The middlegame was fairly uninteresting, really, as I pursued simplifications while Simon avoided them, and we both played pretty accurately according to the computer. However, as a mere club player mistakes inevitably happen and when looking to put on the squeeze and with Simon down to about three and a half minutes, I overlooked a bold Pawn thrust that left my Queen trapped in the middle of the board, at which point Simon offered a draw due to his time shortage. As I had around 20 minutes left, I waited for the development of the other games before deciding what to do. I was able to extract her Majesty by virtue of a Rook sacrifice, and the computer evaluation suggested a line where I grabbed a couple of Pawns for it in addition to positional compensation in the form of a frustrating pin on Black’s Knight and a very exposed King. In the end though, I followed my Captain’s advice and split the point.”

My own game against Ian Jamieson was a fairly steady draw, with most of the interest contained in lines we didn’t play.  In the meantime, Ed’s game against Nick Rutter had developed into a Knight and Pawn ending, which looked fairly balanced.  David had introduced complications, playing the French against Chris Lewis.  On board 5, Peter was looking shaky against Danny Griffiths and was getting short of time.  Given the match looked in the balance, Matt kept Simon’s draw offer open (see Matt’s comments above) while the other results clarified.

David was getting short of time but had a winning position against Chris.  David held his nerve and managed to force the win, putting us ahead.  Shortly after, despite pressing quite hard, Ed was forced to admit that he couldn’t make progress against Nick; a draw was still an excellent result, however.  With a win and two draws in the bag, Matt knew that accepting Simon’s draw offer would at least draw us the match.  Here is Peter’s description of his game:

“Without wishing to dwell too much on an off night, I was deservedly beaten by Danny Griffiths on bottom board. My first league defeat of the season, and although I almost rescued a draw while blitzing a rook and pawn ending I could have few complaints.

Our game was a French where I played 3…Nc6 (should have stuck to main lines…) in response to 3.Nc3 and Danny immediately took the game into an exchange variation by exd5.

The key moment came when Danny castled queenside and got his pawns rolling towards my king, while I decided to try stopping his play first. Bad call, never got any play going at all on the queenside.

I was positionally lost and about 25 minutes down on the clock by move 20. I’m pretty sure Danny could have won material in the complications I initiated in the centre to avoid getting squashed. I ended up a Pawn down in a Rook ending with about four minutes on my clock to his half an hour. I made him work for it, but he got over the line with just under four minutes left some point after move 60.”

So, the match was drawn, which we were pleased with.  Particular credit is due to Ed and David and their games will appear on the “Interesting Games” tab.

Francis Best, A Team Captain

In memoriam: Alan Bliss

Alan Bliss, a long standing member of Shrewsbury Chess Club, died recently.  At his funeral, Fred Harris gave the following address:

“We at Shrewsbury Chess Club would like to say a few words about Alan Bliss who for a few years was our President. I knew him over a period of about twenty five years. Not only was he a very good chess player but he was also committed to the club which he demonstrated by serving, both as Secretary and as President.

On a personal level, Alan had a quiet, thoughtful demeanour. I never saw him lose his composure. His actions always seemed reasonable and it was obvious to everyone that he was both astute and clever.

Away from the club, I knew little about him. He was born in Australia (I remember trying to place his accent when I first met him – Mark Smith). I met his wife once and on one occasion visited his home. He worked in power distribution as an electrical engineer.

I would also like to mention an attribute which Alan had, which I think we should all practice more: that is, the art of apology! Alan had this quality in abundance. A personal example: some years ago we had a mildly heated discussion and Alan accused me of not knowing what I was talking about:nothing new there!

Two days later I received a handwritten letter from Alan, apologising profusely for his outburst. This is a measure of the man: thoughtful and polite, as well as a lesson for us all. A good legacy for Alan to be remembered by.

May he rest in peace. Thank you.”

Fred Harris

Mark Smith, club Secretary, adds the following.  “Off my own bat and with my secretarial hat on, I would also like to give thanks for all Alan did for the club over the years. On a personal level he was terrifically kind to me when I first joined the club, more years ago than I care to remember. I shall also remember our many battles in the Caro Kann, Alan’s favourite opening. He would never give an inch!”


A Plus for B Team!

Shrewsbury B team enjoyed a memorable evening in Telford against their A team last Wednesday. Telford fielded a strong side, Richard Thompson being rested, without any detriment to their grading.

For a change there were no quick finishes and all of the games held some interest. On board 5, Tony Purser was making his first appearance of the season with white against Munroe Morrison. Opening with 1.Nf3, d6, the position went out of any book very quickly but Tony appeared to be doing quite well. Boards 3 and 4 saw a brace of Scandinavians. Peter Kitchen on board 3 had the white pieces against Richard Szwajkun and the game followed Richard’s favourite line. This led to a position that was solid enough for Richard but a little bit passive.

Far more interesting were the events on board 4, where Ivor Salter essayed the Scandinavian from the black side against Stuart Ross. Stuart played a rare line and a fascinating position arose in which Ivor had a queen but Stuart had a rook and two minor pieces, normally more than enough, but Stuart was severely underdeveloped and Ivor’s Queen was menacing. It was the sort of position one can spend hours looking at and still not be sure who had the advantage. My quick assessment was that I’d rather have Ivor’s position but that that would change if Stuart could somehow unravel his pieces.

Meanwhile, my own position on board 2 was scarcely less interesting. Playing black against Mark Keady, I decided to risk Alekhine’s defence (cue collective groan from the rest of the team!) Mark responded with the critical Four Pawns Attack and quickly built up what looked like an imposing position. However, he had not created any weaknesses in my setup and, as always the case with the Four Pawns attack, was in danger of overextending.

On board 1, Ile opened with what is becoming his trademark: 1.b4 against Dave Gostelow. Matters took a course that I’ve observed a few times lately; a quick b5 from Ile and a complex, non-standard game, in which Ile is familiar with the possibilities and his opponent is not.

At the end of the second hour of play, all games were still ongoing. Tony appeared to have a slight edge on board 5 but it didn’t look easy to make progress. Board 4 was starting to look dodgy now, as Stuart succeeded in consolidating his position and his material advantage began to tell. Peter’s position didn’t appear to change much; he remained much more active with Richard solid but passive. On board two, Mark had sacrificed his g-Pawn against me in order to get his attack going but it was unclear whether he had enough compensation. He certainly had some.

Meanwhile on board 1, Dave appeared to be coping well with Ile’s opening but at considerable cost to his clock. At one point, I noticed he had used up an hour; it was move 13!

At around 10 pm things started happening, and happening quickly!

On board 5 Tony offered Munroe a draw. After a quick glance at the other boards, Munroe accepted; a good draw for Tony, who was out-graded by about 40 points.

Matters suddenly came to a head on board 3 with Richard playing far too passively, allowing Peter a neat finish to maintain his perfect B team record.

Meanwhile, Ivor succumbed to the inevitable and lost. All square, with two games to be decided.

Ile’s game was still complex, though he had won the exchange for a pawn earlier, in a sequence where it appears Dave missed a good chance. There followed a period of manoeuvring play, which seems quite lengthy on the score sheet but I can assure you it was all happening rather quickly.

I had succeeded in keeping my pawn advantage into the ending, though converting to a win wasn’t easy, I had a ally, though: the clock. As Mark got to his last 5 minutes, I still had quarter of an hour left. I kept looking over to Ile’s game, wondering whether a draw would do, or whether I’d need to win. Ile, I believe, was thinking along the same lines.

Suddenly, it was all over on board 1. Dave blundered in his time pressure, allowing a tactic that had echoes from an earlier position in the game. You can play through this game here or access it on the Interesting Games tab.

Just half a point required from me, then. At this point, I contrived to give the rest of the team a heart attack by allowing my opponent’s King to fork Rook and Bishop. Fortunately, the position was still a win for me and Mark was down to his last minute when he left his rook en prise and had to resign.  You can play through this game here or access it on the Interesting Games tab.

Telford A 1½ – Shrewsbury B 3½.  Great result! Next up: Newport Juniors.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain