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

B Team Faces Stern Test

Shrewsbury B faced a daunting challenge in their season’s opener: Wellington A away!  With the exception of Norman on board 5, everybody was out-graded by some margin.

Two of the games were done and dusted quite quickly. On board 3, Peter Kitchen disposed of Toby Neal in swashbuckling style in the space of half an hour!  (see “Interesting Games tab, play through it here). In a Marshall gambit Ruy Lopez, Toby played the old 11…Nf6 instead of the modern 11..c6. Indeed, up until Toby’s 13th move, they were following the original Marshall, Capablanca vs Marshall New York 1918! It wasn’t looking good for Toby anyway (Marshall himself came to the conclusion that …Nf6 wasn’t very good), when a further error led to a Queen sacrifice and back rank mate. Cracking stuff and a great result for Peter! 1-0 to Shrewsbury B.

Rather less inspiring was my lacklustre effort against Tiago Faustino on board 2. Tiago opened with Bird’s opening (1.f4). Immediately, I felt I could have done better, because I knew that I was playing black against either Toby or Tiago and, although I’d never played Tiago before, the one thing I knew about him was that he likes to play 1.f4.  So I could have prepared a bit! As it was I was playing blind, trying to remember how the Dutch went!

It didn’t go well. Tiago moved quickly, moving with the assurance of a player who knows what he’s trying to do. It seemed to me at the time that he quickly built up an imposing position, then I made a mistake and lost quickly. Looking through the game afterwards, however, and the terrible truth emerged. My position from the opening was actually perfectly OK and I should have been able to hold it. Indeed, for one move it was winning for me (a very easy tactical trick which we both overlooked). Anyway I played poorly and lost. One each!

The remaining 3 games were tense. Norman’s game on board 5 saw an early removal of queens and a difficult manoeuvring game where it looked to me and Peter hard for either side to make progress. Norman reckons he was winning, though, and he may well be right; he knows far more about those sort of positions than I do.

Ile played the Orang Utan (1.b4) against Colin Roberts and a tense situation developed, eventually getting into a difficult ending, where Ile was a pawn down but Colin’s extra pawn was doubled and it was hard to see how he could create the passed pawn he’d need in order to secure the win. Both Ile and Norman had the same problem: time!

Meanwhile Ivor was playing really well against Craig Murray, easily holding the position and slightly ahead on the clock. All three games were entering the final phase and things started to go awry! Ile’s time was becoming a big problem as Colin managed to swap off the rooks to reach a winning bishop ending. Norman’s position started to deteriorate as his clock ran down. Ivor lost a pawn but was now noticeably ahead on the clock. It became obvious that both Ile and Norman were going to lose on time and so Ivor (with my permission ) accepted Craig’s draw offer. A very creditable draw for Ivor as his opponent has nearly 40 grading points over him, the biggest disparity over the five boards. Meanwhile, both Ile and Norman succumbed to the inevitable. Norman’s final position still looked tenable to me. Ile’s wasn’t but, with more time, I’m sure he could have defended while the rooks were still on. Final score: Wellington A  3 ½ Shrewsbury B 1 ½.  Disappointing, but we can hold our heads up.

Next up Telford B at home.

Mark Smith, B Team Captain

 

Pre-Season Friendly Ends in Honours Even

Shrewsbury chess club got off to its usual unofficial launch to the season with our traditional (after a break of a couple of years) friendly versus Telepost.

As is usual, there were a couple of free transfers to even up the numbers with Peter Crean and Martin Ayres honorary Shrewsbury members for the evening.  As there was an odd number of players, Keith Tabner stood aside, which was very nice of him, as he’d organised the whole thing.  Scores were as follows in board order:

Nigel Ferrington 1-0 Francis Best

Matthew Clark   ½-½ Mark Smith

Steve Kempsell  0-1 Peter Crean

John Westhead ½-½ Ivor Salter

Quentin Mills.   ½-½ N O’Connor

Alan Cliff             0-1 Tony Purser

John Casewell    1-0 Martin Ayres

3 ½-3½

Honours even!  Ringers winning one (Peter) and losing the other (Martin).  Of the games involving Shrewsbury players there were 3 rather uneventful draws.  Saw hardly any of Ivor’s game but it looked a drawn ending from quite early on.  My own game wasn’t terribly exciting, except it appears that I missed a move that would have won the exchange just out of the opening.  Thereafter the game fizzled out to a dull draw.  Norman appeared to have some initiative against the improving Quentin Mills but, with no pawns on the Queenside, making anything of it looked difficult and a draw was agreed when they reached a rook ending.  I did catch the end of Tony’s game, a very sharp position in which Tony had the upper hand.  He rode his luck as a mistake in move order saw the balance change from a big advantage to probably lost to totally won as Alan missed his chance, all in the space of one move!  The final position with Tony about to mate was rather attractive but not for Alan’s King!

The most interesting game of the evening was Francis’s against Nigel.  A casual glance at the position would have told you that Francis was totally lost, as he had just two Knights for a Queen. Looking for a bit longer, though, and all was not so simple.  The Knights were well placed and the construction of a fortress looked a real possibility.  Hopes of Francis obtaining the draw that would give Shrewsbury victory were dashed, however, as Nigel really showed his class by giving back some of his material so that he was now a mere exchange up but in a much simpler position that was clearly won.  All in all, an enjoyable evening, which will have blown off a few cobwebs.  I think we should look to host it next year at Shrewsbury.

Mark Smith