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

Shrewsbury Wins Battle of the B’s

Shrewsbury B faced their first home challenge of the season against Telford B on Friday (7 October).

ECF gradings would have made Shrewsbury favourites before play began and the early exchanges seemed to confirm this.

On board 1, Ile was engaged in a sharp struggle with Richard Szwajkun, both sides moving quickly. On board 2, Dan obtained a nice edge with the White side of an exchange Lopez. On board 4, Peter put his Nf3 to good use and built up a powerful initiative, while on board 5, Tim Skidmore appeared to get the white side of a Scandinavian horribly wrong to Ivor’s benefit. Best of all, Windsor Peck, after an indifferent opening, blundered a piece against me for no apparent compensation whatsoever!

The next piece of news was good; hand to hand fighting on board 1 left Ile with a Pawn that was bound to Queen. Shrewsbury 1-0 up with less than an hour played!

Elsewhere all was not so simple. I was a piece up, true, but the position was totally blocked and I had a few defensive tasks to perform. Peter’s position looked less imposing than it had, Andrew Jones digging in, as he does. Dan and Ivor’s games rapidly approached the critical point.

At this point Telford really dug their heels in. Ivor seemed to lose his way somewhat. An overwhelming middlegame position translating to an ending that was surely won but time-consuming and much harder work than had seemed necessary earlier. Dan continued to dominate but, again, Roger Brown hung on grimly.

I finally appeared to be getting on top but, in all honesty, the annoyance of being a piece up and obviously winning, without being able to finish my opponent off, was beginning to tell on me as I went down to my last 20 minutes, Windsor having about 15 minutes in hand. Then came a stoke of luck: Andrew Jones ‘self mated’ his queen against Peter, just as he appeared to be equalising. 2-0 to Shrewsbury.

Approaching the death and finally Dan succeeded in beating Roger in what looked the best played game of the night. Just as well, from my point of view. I just couldn’t put Windsor away. I missed a big chance on move 40 which may have forced him to resign, though I doubt it. Then I missed a tactic, though even then my position was still winning, but mentally I was shot and Windsor swindled (in the true sporting sense of the word) a win. Meanwhile, Ivor looked to have a tough task to convert to a win when Tim blundered and the final score was 4-1.  All in all, a good result with my aberration not costing the team. Next up, Telford A away.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

A Team off the Blocks

Friday 30th September saw the A team’s second clash occur at home against Oswestry A.  Oswestry were missing their usual board 1, Brian Whyte, but Shrewsbury were also missing our usual board 1, Jamie Hopkins.  Both teams were on zero match points prior to this clash; Shrewsbury because we had lost to Ludlow and Oswestry because, although they had narrowly prevailed against Church Stretton, the latter team has recently had to withdraw from the league, having lost a number of players, and so any results including them have been scratched from the table.  Both teams were therefore keen to get something from the match.

On top board, I was facing Richard Bryant, whom I have played quite a few times in recent seasons; we usually have pretty interesting games, whatever the result.  The game started as a Scandinavian, transposing into a Panov-Botvinnik attack against the Caro-Kann.  Richard, as White played an early c5, looking to advance his Queenside Pawns, while I was looking for piece play against White’s weakened d-Pawn.  I then decided to take a look at the other games going on.

David, on board 2, was facing Charles Lowick-Higgie’s Grünfeld defence and appeared to have a good position.  Meanwhile, Daniel on board 3 against David Bennion had essayed his usual Pirc defence but something seemed to have gone horribly wrong and Daniel was going to have to lose at least the exchange.  Ile, on board 4, had opened with 1.b4, the Sokolsky or, if you prefer, the Orang Utan opening, against Graham Ives.  Well, Ile likes his wild openings!  Mark had played a Sicilian against Peter Brown, a newcomer for the Oswestry side; things looked about even.

I returned to my game and spotted an opportunity to gain a bit of initiative.  This worked but I followed it up a bit hastily, Richard advance his backward c-Pawn and, to avoid problems, I had to plant my Queen on b2.  However, Richard also couldn’t afford to leave my Queen untouched, and attacked it with his Rook.  I moved the Queen to a2, after which neither side could afford not to repeat the position with White’s Rook and Black’s Queen performing an elegant, perpetual two-step between the a- and b- files.  First result for the match was therefore a draw.

Meanwhile, on board 4, Ile had suddenly whipped up a vicious attack and, shortly afterwards, Graham was forced to resign.  You can play through their game here or you can find it on the “Interesting Games” tab.  Our elation was short-lived, however, when Daniel was also forced to resign.  1½ apiece.

While this drama was going on, David’s position against Charles had deteriorated, with the Oswestry player winning a Pawn and apparently holding the key positional trumps.  David had to sacrifice a Knight for Charles’s dangerous passed Pawn and was forced to resign shortly afterwards. 2½-1½ to Oswestry.

So all eyes were on board 5.  Mark had something of advantage as Peter’s Pawn structure, including doubled d-Pawns was the weaker.  However, Mark managed to get his Rook stuck on b4 and, in a double Rook ending, tactical possibilities can often cause a swift reversal of fortunes.  However, the Oswestry player was getting short of time and, despite one or two inaccuracies on Mark’s part, the latter managed to hold his nerve and score that vital match-drawing point in the last few minutes of the session.  Match drawn 2½-2½.

Francis Best, A Team Captain

 

A Team’s Start of the Season Disappointment

Our first fixture of the season was against Ludlow A, newly promoted from Division 2, and we had no illusion that they were a team to be reckoned with.  With the news that the A49 was going to be closed from 8pm, I also knew that we would be looking at a late night, whatever the result.  At least it was early in the season, before the weather had become too bad.

Anyway, to the chess.  Things started pretty well as Daniel Lockett progressed quickly against Ray Woodley and reached an ending with two Bishops against two Knights. Admittedly, Bobby Fischer managed to hold such an ending with two Knights against Boris Spassky’s two Bishops in game 18 of the 1972 World Championship in Reykjavik but….well he was Fischer, wasn’t he? Fairly quickly, Daniel managed to convert his advantage, leaving Shrewsbury 1-0 up.

On board three, David was facing Richard Croot’s Modern Benoni and played the Mikenas variation.  It was an incredibly sharp position, although I was slightly nervous that David had ONLY sacrificed ONE Pawn.  As every schoolboy knows, David usually needs to sacrifice at least three Pawns to feel comfortable with his position.  In the meantime, Norman’s position was looking promising against Paul Munday and Jamie, having opened with his habitual English, looked roughly level against Perry Walker.  I was playing Joe Watson, who had opened with a Catalan.  I managed to reach a cramped position, with my light-squared Bishop apparently irrevocably entombed behind my Pawn chain for the foreseeable future.

Next to finish was David, who demonstrated that he, indeed, had failed to sacrifice enough Pawns and came off second-best in the ricochet of tactics flying round the board.  At this stage, Norman’s position looked even more promising.  Jamie was progressing towards his habitual time pressure, although his position looked sound enough.  At this point, I felt I had to make a break for it and started advancing some Queen’s side Pawns.  I still felt that my opponent had an advantage but I had to create some counterplay, one way or another.

As it happened, my game seemed to progress quite quickly.  My expansion on the Queen’s side seemed quite effective and Joe started taking a bit longer over his moves.  “At least I’ve got him thinking,” I thought.  Joe advanced his d-Pawn, which looked potentially dangerous for me but also gave me opportunities to continue my counter-attack.  I was blockading White’s d-Pawn with a Rook and also managed to create a passed c-Pawn of my own.  There were some tactics, too, and Joe, probably feeling the tide had turned, offered me a draw, which I accepted: 1½ apiece.

I looked at the remaining games and considered that Jamie’s was probably drawn, Norman’s won.  The only slight concern at this stage was Jamie’s rapidly depleting time, although I should be used to that by now!  Suddenly, on Norman’s board, things started to get interesting, as Norman spotted an opportunity to sacrifice an exchange, taking advantage of his opponent’s slightly exposed King.  “It’s in the bag!” I thought.  Then things started to go wrong.  Norman and Paul both started moving quite quickly and Norman appeared to play a combination in the wrong order, which Paul pounced straight away; Norman had dropped a piece.  However, all was not lost, as he had a dangerous looking passed Pawn and his opponent’s King was still struggling to find a safe haven.  Alas (for us), Paul managed to defend successfully to achieve the main upset of the evening. Ludlow 2½, Shrewsbury 1½.

By this stage, Jamie was VERY short of time.  Very soon afterwards, he made a slight inaccuracy, giving Perry the chance to gain an advantage.  Jamie offered a draw which, given that it gave Ludlow the match, Perry accepted.  Ludlow 3, Shrewsbury 2.

We console ourselves with the thought that last season, the game points were important in avoiding relegation; every point counts!

Francis Best, A Team Captain