Chess Tournament Innovation – The BCT Invitational, 14th May 2018

Here at the Bristol Chess Times we have been talking about chess tournament innovation for a while. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the existing scene of weekend Swiss congresses or single day Rapidplays per se, we do feel that there is space for some fresh thinking on the tournament front. Particularly when it comes to our major goal of promoting ‘over the board’ chess in Bristol. With that in mind, the Bristol Chess Times is proud to launch the inaugural BCT Invitational Tournament on the 14th May 2018. A tournament with a twist.

The BCT Invitational Tournament is an experimental type of tournament designed to achieve a number of key aims:

  • To offer a more casual tournament that can be started and completed in a single evening in a local pub where the general public can observe;
  • To offer a team based tournament that is designed to span the wide range of abilities in club chess and create a sense of camaraderie and team spirit as well as heightened excitement and tension to all players as the tournament progresses;
  • To offer all players a suitable standard of play for their ability and multiple games in one evening, without relying on a blitz format (which we acknowledge some players dislike).
  • Avoids complex pairing systems, waiting between rounds or byes and also the need to perform complex tie break calculations.

Sounds good right?! It might not work. It might be amazing. The key point here is to have some fun, promote OTB chess in Bristol and see if we can create an innovative new type of tournament format that satisfies all of our goals listed above. Let me explain the rules.

The Rules

The BCT Invitational is a team based competition. At this stage we are looking for 12 players from the Bristol & District Chess League to take part. I feel this is a reasonable number for the first iteration of this tournament without overly committing ourselves. Obviously if interest soars then I can look to expanding the competition but for now lets aim for 12 players for this initial trial.

Teams

  • A team consists of 3 players (Nearer the time we will determine if we expand this team size to 4 or 5 players per team deterimined by interest level).
  • The average grade of the team cannot exceed 150 ECF (1825 ELO) using classical ratings. Therefore teams must include a spread of abilities from their respective club.
  • Ungraded players count as having a grade of 140 for the competition.
  • Once selected, teams are classified from highest to lowest grade in board order i.e. the highest graded player is that teams Board 1 etc.
  • Team members can bring headphones and listen to music or whatever they should wish as it will be held in a pub!

Format

There are four teams in the tournament who play in a KO Format across the evening. The format is as follows:

Round 1
Team A vs. Team B
Team C vs. Team D

Round 2
Gold Medal Match (“Winner of A vs. B” plays “Winner of C vs. D”)
Bronze Medal Match (“Loser of A vs. B” plays “Winner of C vs. D”)

Rules for each match are as follows:

  • A match between two teams involves each player playing their respective opposite (i.e. Board 1 plays Board 1, Board 2 plays Board 2, Board 3 plays Board 3 etc) with both the white and the black pieces. Therefore, each player gets two games a match and there are 6 games in a match
  • Each game is 15 minutes + 3 second increment.  Longer than you would think!
  • Teams are awarded 3pts for a win and 1 pt for a draw in a game. Therefore, the maximum points per match is 18.
  • If a team cannot field a player for whatever reason then they either a) nominate a substitute b) default that players games.
  • In the event of a draw, the team with the best performance on the lowest board is counted backwards i.e. best board 3 performance, best board 2 performance. If the teams are still tied then a single 5 minute blitz game (coin toss for colours) will be played to determine progression to the the next stage!

Thus at the end of the evening each team will have played two matches, each player will have played 4 games and the four teams can be placed from 1st to 4th.

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 20.57.25

A four team single elimination, KO format will be used over the course of the evening (with a 3rd place finish for those knocked out in round 1)

When and where?

The BCT Invitational will be held at the Windmill Hill Pub, near Victoria Park, Bedminster on Monday 14th May.

Games will start from 19:30 so please arrive from 19:00 onwards, grab a pint and get ready!

The landlord Ross has generously agreed to let us have the playing space for free and if the evening goes well then we have the option of playing multiple times over the summer.

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 21.00.36

The actual space is capable of holding 30 people sitting so if people really are interested in this format then we have room to expand.

I think this is a wonderful opportunity to try something different in the Bristol & District Chess League and also get us some visibility for no cost. As a result the BCT Invitational will be FREE to enter.

How to enter

If you would like to enter a team then simply email bristolchesstimes@gmail.com with your team name, members and their grades (ensuring you do not exceed the 150 ECF average across the three members).

I have called the tournament the BCT Invitational because I want to ensure we get teams entering! It is not a solo or individual entry tournament and sign up to events can be sporadic at best. Therefore, I have already invited both Horfield and Downend chess clubs to enter teams if they so wish. I sincerely hope that atleast two other clubs in the Bristol & District League will enter teams and if we become over subscribed then I will remain flexible in the coming weeks if people really want to try this format with 4 or even 5 person teams.

Team Strategy

What I think makes this tournament exciting is the team element combined with the average grading rule and 3pts for a win.  Teams will have to think carefully in the selection of their teams as they will need to think about where their valuable wins are coming from across ALL boards.  To get you thinking i’ve outlined four possible types of team that could theoretically be entered:

“Top Heavy” Team

They go big on top but risk sacrificing valuable points at the bottom.

  • Board 1: 175
  • Board 2: 175
  • Board 3: 100

“Standard” Team

A clear spread of abilities giving each board a fair chance.

  • Board 1: 175
  • Board 2: 150
  • Board 3: 125

“Balanced” Team

Three equal team members means they struggle on top but maximise on the bottom.  A difficult team selection to call.

  • Board 1: 150
  • Board 2: 150
  • Board 3: 150

The “Opportunist” Team

They go big on top board and sign some rookies with giant killing potential.  The gamblers choice of team selection.

  • Board 1: 200
  • Board 2: 125
  • Board 3: 125

Im sure there are other combinations of boards but I wanted to call it out so people can think carefully and realise that this tournaments format is deliberately designed to maximise the team element. No one individual will win the BCT Invitational.  Chose wisely!

Conclusion

In summary, it promises to be a fun night with each person taking part guaranteed:

  • Four games of chess each lasting approximately 30-40 minutes;
  • A suitable standard opponent for their particular grading;
  • An important role in the final tournament standings all the way through the competition irrespective of their previous results;
  • A fun team based atmosphere, rivalry and banter and most importantly careful team strategy and selection;
  • Free entry!
  • Plenty of quality beer and other drinks close by!

I hope everyone gets behind this idea and helps the Bristol Chess Times across the summer explore different ways of trying out exciting new tournament formats. My thanks again to Ross at the Windmill Pub for giving us this opportunity. As the Summer arrives, it really does offer the potential for some high quality chess competition in a relaxed atmosphere whilst helping us promote over the board chess.

Please don’t be scared to enter a team.  At the time of writing I’ve limited entries to 12 people but if this really does grab interest then I can be flexible.

Finally, for those readers who are not in Bristol, I fully intend to report back to the wider British Chess Scene on our tournament experiments we will be running over the summer, so stay tuned!

Lets do this!


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

 

 

 

Mental health and 5-aside chess – A small board with a big impact

The UK government recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness and Social Isolation but the problem has been known about and warned about for years and I know you’re all asking yourselves “So what is chess doing about it?” Well – a lot, and every day.

Last week I caught up with Ryan Child from Bristol-based social enterprise 5-a-side chess – who use the game of chess to welcome all-comers and to start conversations about chess, life, mental health, the universe and everything… “Your first move is Hello, don’t you know.” [visit the 5 aside chess website]. ‘5 aside’ refers to 5 pieces (and 5 pawns) each to start with, played on a 5×6 board instead of the usual 8×8 – incidentally the same idea on a 5×5 board was a recommendation of mine for coaching.

1. 5aside chess

The delights of the game! A drop-in session of 5 a side chess is underway.

Here is the full interview:

BCT: Why chess?

Ryan: Chess is a game that represents so many of the core, mental attributes that seem to be slipping away in today’s ‘instant’ society. In one game of Chess you are required to show great discipline and really think through your actions. And there’s no doubt that with everything at our fingertips today, the need to think things through and plan is quickly falling away. For example, when people use twitter they are able to bash and criticise others without having to contemplate that person’s emotions or feelings. That emotional disconnect is really unhealthy, and I think Chess is a great counterbalance to that. Where every action is thought through and, subsequently, so is the effect it has on the person sat opposite you.

BCT: How did 5-a-side chess start?

Ryan: 5asideCHESS was started back in 2015 as a social project. The idea was to give out 1,000 chess boards to venues across the country. This was just before the curve of all the ‘board game’ cafes that have sprung up in the last few years. We wanted people to have more of a chance to connect. It worked to certain degree but we want people to be more engaged in the project now.

2. HELLO people

The initiative has cross-party MP support from David Warburton (Somerton and Frome), Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) and Darren Jones (Bristol).

We have also developed a big mental health side of the project, because it’s just so prevalent in society today, and I think we can make a real and tangible difference. Our Blog mostly focuses on this, with tips for dealing with issues, first-hand accounts and interviews with experts. We are also starting a podcast of the same nature this summer.

BCT: Can people join even if they don’t know the rules of chess?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. The whole idea is that anyone can get involved. The board is a smaller version of the traditional one, and you have fewer pieces. So the game is shortened, with the same rules, and so offers a quick way to learn the game because you move through the phases much quicker.

BCT: Can you describe a typical day/session of 5-a-side chess? How does it work?

Ryan: So we have a team of volunteers called HELLO PEOPLE in Bristol, Bath, Birmingham and soon London who go out and sit in cafes with our boards, teaching people to play and also just giving the general public the chance to connect. In May, everyone will have the chance to be a HELLO PERSON because the Chess Pack will be going on sale at www.regencychess.co.uk.

HELLO PEOPLE sit with a ‘Do Disturb’ sign in cafes, nursing homes, homeless drop-ins and other venues where people may want to connect. Anyone who wants to play can sit for a while and play with absolutely no judgement and just for the simple reason of playing Chess and having a chat. Games typically last around 10-15 minutes.

3.Do Disturb

A DO disturb sign.

BCT: What sort of impact can you see happening? And what feedback have you received?

Ryan: Probably the watershed moment for me was in December of last year. I was at a nursing home in Bristol playing a guy with Down’s Syndrome and Dementia. He was actually the son of a Brigadier. Anyway, after about 5 minutes of playing he started telling stories about his childhood, about how his aunty had taught him to play while his dad walked around the house with all these subordinates following him around. It was a great story. And, it’s worth saying that we weren’t really playing, more he was moving the pieces around. Anyway, he was taken back to his room and the main supervisor, a woman called Jenny, started telling me that they had never heard him talk about any of his childhood ever. He’d been in that nursing home for 5 years.  There are a lot of other stories like that, but it’s a pretty good one in terms of showing just how much impact chess in general, but particularly our small and accessible game can have in terms of connection.

BCT: Can you share any plans or aims for the future?

Ryan: Our new partnership with Regency Chess means that from May onwards the project can make itself sustainable, which is a huge development for us. The sale of our Chess Pack, which include a sign, a board and a HELLO PERSON membership, will mean the money can be spent on furthering our message of connecting and promoting good mental health through Chess. Essentially, we want our members to be ambassadors for the core message of connecting and fighting loneliness and social isolation. We have seen the benefits for elderly groups, homeless people, men and women in rehab and also students. In fact, our Chess and Music lunches at Bath University have been a big success and if anyone wants to come own and join us they are more than welcome.

4.-Music-and-chess.jpg

Music and Chess – two things that need great harmony – at Bath University.

BCT: Would it benefit you to connect with anyone else in the chess world? (E.g. Leagues, Event organisers, Ambassadors, Players?

Ryan: I think to have players endorse the program would obviously be beneficial. We are planning on running a 5aside world championship in Birmingham actually. To me the potential is limitless and I would certainly encourage anyone in the Chess community that may want to reach out to do just that.

~ end of interview ~

The Bristol Chess Times will post any developments on the world champs, or any other events, and we are inviting anyone with similar initiatives and stories about the game to write columns for us. Look out for Ryan at local (8×8) chess tournaments too – and challenge him to a game of 5-a-side! Many thanks to Ryan for the fascinating interview and best of luck for the project!


mikecircle

Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

 

Beating the boredom in the French Exchange

Several years ago I was an avid French Defence player.  For several seasons in the league and congresses my default move against the kings pawn was to push 1…e6.  Its a great opening with dozens of fascinating variations and different plans and systems.  In the world of amateur chess thou there was just one problem.  No one would let me play these lines.  Instead, anyone below 2000 would make me play the exchange variation, my dreams of exciting double edged positions that I was familiar with dashed by move three.  If only there was a way to avoid the symmetry, avoid the exchanges, avoid the tedium of the exchange positions at amateur level.  Lets give it a go…

The propensity of amateur players to default to the French Exchange variation basically killed my love of (what actually is) a great opening.  Sadly I would estimate easily 50% of my games in the French were exchange variations. Now before any readers jump on me and say “hey Jon, the french exchange is a great opening you just don’t play it like Anatoly Karpov“, I know that.  Thats my point.

Unless you plan on playing like a Super GM then the French Exchange variation is boring at amateur levels as piece after piece is removed from the board and hands are quickly shaken.

Well my experience in the French has always rankled me and having written a piece several weeks ago on avoiding symmetry in another bane of the amateur chess scene, I got round to asking myself why I should simply accept the symmetry in the French Exchange.  Having dabbled with the the nf6 Scandinavian recently I initially toyed with the idea of ignoring the capture 3. exe5 and playing Icelandic Gambit style with 3. Nf6.

Note to self:  The French Exchange is not the Icelandic Gambit!

I quickly came to the conclusion that this move is rubbish! The best that can be said is that it gives white a pawn.  Lets move on.

The Scandi-French Exchange?!

However, contemplating the Scandinavian did make me ask the question why not simply capture with the queen on move 3 instead of the e pawn?

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5?!

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 22.11.40

“Why does everyone recapture with the e-pawn?” he says…

In theory it shouldn’t be terrible as its a bit like a Scandinavian defence and if John Bartholomew says its ok to retreat a queen to d8 then who am I to argue?!

A quick look at the statistics in the database shows I’m not completely insane:

  • Played 911 times
  • White scores 54%

The numbers are encouraging and straight away could we be looking at a way to mix up the position and avoid the symmetry and exchanges so associated with the French Exchange?

The obvious follow up for White is 4. Nc3 (as played in 614 games). Instead of retreating the Queen though we do have an interesting resource of 4…Bb4 (as played in 719 games – I suspect we are in transposition territory here but thats encouraging as it means we are moving further away from the French Exchange right?!).

From this position there are a range of moves available but two in particular stand out and cause me concerns for the player of the black pieces:

#1 – 5. Nf3: Played in 465 games and scoring 61%

Or

#2 – 5. Qg4: Played in 56 games and scoring 67%

#1 – 5.Nf3

For the sake of this article I am not going to explore the myriad of move options available to white in the nf3 lines.  As I am sure you can appreciate, if the white player so wishes they can just start to play normal developing moves such as Bd3, 0 – 0 whilst there appears to be some favourable statistics for Black if they fianchetto their Queen’s bishop with an early b6.  I have included one line that demonstrates a potential route that hopefully highlights how far removed from the “traditional” symmetry of a French Exchange this position is:

1.e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5?! 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 b6 7. 0-0-0 Bxc3 8. bxc3 Bb7

A different kind of position to the usual French Exchange and both players have plans ahead.

#2 – 5. Qg4

But what we really need to look at in detail is 4. Qg4.  With this move scoring an impressive 67% is our early queen manoeuvre already busted?  I’ve faced early Qg4’s in the past against other lines in the French and its never that fun.  White’s threat is the g7 square, whilst preventing development of the g8 knight.  Hmmm. There is however a remarkable, hard to see, unintuitive move (in my opinion) that suddenly holds this position together for Black.

5…nc6!

5…Nc6 miraculous defends the h8 rook by threatening the d4 pawn!  

Defend the kingside by developing on the queenside obviously!  Now if White takes on g7 then the d4 pawn drops and the rook on h8 is also defended.  All for the added benefit of developing a new piece.  As you can tell, I like this move.

White spends a tempo defending d4 with 6.Nf3 followed by 6…Ne7.  In the database I found 10 games in this position and the computer evaluation is unbelievably close to 0.00.

White has tried:

  • 7.Bd2 – 6 games (-0.20 evaluation)
  • 7.Qxg7 – 4 games (0.00 evaluation)
  • 7. a3 – 0 games (but seems reasonable to me – 0.00 evaluation)

As with the 4.Nf3 lines, I am not going to explore every variation in this article but again it seems to me that Black finds themselves in an equal position, lots of play on the board and with some opportunities to complicate by giving up the g7 pawn.  It certainly feels like we are a long way from the French Exchange that the player of the White pieces wanted to take us into.

Conclusion

There is obviously a lot more detailed analysis to be conducted on this “Scandi-French Exchange” but on first glance I like what I see, particularly for the amateur player.  A quick Google revealed that none other than Hikaru Nakamura has been known to try it in blitz. To be fair he is one of the best blitz players on the planet so he could probably play anything but hey, I take it as an endorcement.

I’m sure there must be some weakness to this treatment of the French Exchange but initial review suggests its likely to be that White is not really threatened and follows simple, easy  development and both players get a playable game.  The move 5…nc6 seems to remove the sting from whites most trying response of 4. Qg4, which is a relief.

In terms of our objectives of avoiding symmetry and exchanges:

  • The e file remains closed (a common problem in the French Exchange)
  • The position is unsymmetrical with different plans available to both players
  • Amateur (sub-2000) players will be out of their (very small) French Exchange book

Finally I will leave you with an entertaining 18 move game that I found in this line (admittedly through transposition) from the Pardubice Czech Open in 2007 which shows some of the bite in this line for black.

Lovely stuff!


mecircle

Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

 

 

 

 

Razzle Dazzle

Tournament reports make me sad. They follow the same old tired format and frankly I’ve had enough. This one comes without a single annotated game or pre-match photo. Your mileage may vary.

The Southend Easter Congress promised to be a seaside special and we were duly greeted by torrential rain. I’d journeyed with Muswell Hill teammate Simon ‘The Increment’ Wilks. We also had the pleasure [sic] of Jerry’s company and, on occasion, his support. Although whether he was there to watch the chess unfold or to marvel at the longest pier in the world was in some doubt.

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 16.33.48

For the serious player a congress provides an unrivalled opportunity to get lost in the game. The format (and weather) didn’t leave us much option with two 90 min + 30s/move games per day. This allowed for deep prep before the morning round and next to no prep each afternoon. It was a pleasant cross between posh 4NCL chess and local pub league fare. I took home several new opening ideas plus a mixed bag of results.

Analogue Chess in a Digital World

Tournament logistics aren’t as well suited to those with a more casual interest. At Southend the congress office displayed a live feed from the top 3 boards. As far as I’m aware, a new initiative for this year which seemed to attract a steady audience. But here we run into a fundamental problem: the real action is not on show because it’s happening inside the players’ heads. There is scope to present a spectacle for the layman without descending into being crass, however it requires exceptional commentators and tools to appeal to casual and serious chess enthusiasts alike.

The potential chess fan has the internet. With it comes an enticing array of alternatives to visiting local tournaments. You could follow the world’s elite from home with Chess24 or the ChessBrahs’ entertaining, astute commentary from the recent Candidates tournament. Or watch chess.com lead the way into the e-Sports market. Their Pro Chess League finals were held in San Francisco last weekend and streamed to over 23k peak viewers. Sadly, the UK blitz scene wasn’t represented with our London teams finishing 6th and 8th in their pool. It’s tough for analogue chess to compete with all that.

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 16.37.49

To remain relevant in the face of digital chess, weekend congresses have to adapt. To be clear, it’s not my intention to single Southend out. The live feed addition alone puts it streets ahead of the competition. But we feel that the face-to-face chess world needs heaps more active promotion. A dash of razzle dazzle will help move away from its same old tired format. Ready to step up?

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 16.38.04

(editors note – This article originally published on 14th April 2018 on Makepeace with Chess. Republished with kind permission from the author)


Chris Russell

Chris Russell

Chris is a part-time member of Downend and Fishponds and formerly played for Bristol University. He is now based in London where he co-founded Makepeace With Chess.

The unlikeliest move part 3 – the minor pieces

Last time we covered Queens, Rooks and Kings – and the unlikeliest possible move for each of them. We saw the superfluous three-queens position of “Qa1b2#”, the beautiful discovery of “Rbb2#” and the kingly “Kxa1#”. Three very possible checkmates, the first two of which have probably never been played in the billions of chess games in history.

Now it’s the turn of the lowly Pawns, Knights and Bishops. Strap yourself in, this is a long read.

Pawns

“Pawns are the soul of chess” said the original chess professional Philidor. In this particular puzzle, they are a headache. They can move in so many more ways than pieces; firstly their captures are different to their normal moves (!?), even more strangely they can transform into any other piece (known as promotion), and finally due to a tweaking of the rules of chess around 500 years ago, the outrageous en passant had to be invented to stop pawns leaping past each other (note: I say outrageous as, when I taught somebody chess, forgot to mention en passant and then played it against them, they fell off their chair laughing at me for just making up rules on the spot). So we have many things to consider here – and in fact they all tie in together in a sort of logical conundrum – hence the headache.

Let’s start with capturing – and to increase unlikeliness, we may as well throw in a checkmate: dxe6#. Good start. One note here – writing “dxe6” means you captured a piece. If you write “de” then you have captured a pawn. Because you write “d” to denote a d-pawn means that you specify the pawn – or do you? What about doubled pawns? If you had, say a pawn on d5 and d2, both able to capture pawns on the c-file, what would you write? “d2c” seems a logical way to do it (see later discussion).

Okay, so how about promotion? Well if we go for this, we lose the ability to include multiple pawns –something like either “a8=B#” or with a capture “exd1=N#” can only ever be delivered by one pawn. Nevertheless, these are still very unlikely – and I’d suggest the unlikeliest would be:

“bxa1=B#”

1.pawnspromote

Under-promotion with mate! (editors note – A1 being the top right square)

The rest of this section is more an argument about chess notation itself – so skip to Knights if you’re not a pedant like me!

Although I can find no official rules about this – it seems that whenever there is any ambiguity over which pawn has moved, you specify more about the square it ends up on, rather than its starting square. If this is true, then any multiple pawn implications are ruined. If not, then there is much more to pawns that we thought.

Consider “c2d#”. A c-pawn on the 2nd rank captures a d-pawn with checkmate. This implies another pawn on the c-file could have captured a d-file pawn with mate (else you would just write “cd#”).

2.pawnscapture

One position where “c2d#” is possible (editors note – A1 is the bottom left corner)

Now – how about en passant? There is no specific notation for it – you just simply write the capture, for example “dc”. There could be multiple ways to take it though – for example you have pawns on d4 and d5, and your opponent plays c5 (starting from c7). What now? You have to specify which capture – so if it is en passant, it may simply be “dxc6”, and if it is the standard capture, “dxc5”. But now we reach a real nuance (as if this whole series wasn’t already!); would you actually write “dc6”, rather than “dxc6”? I can’t find anywhere which clarifies this; but all the chess programs opt for including the ‘x’. This not only makes this a dead end for our puzzle (as “dxc6” could also easily be a capture of a piece, and therefore doesn’t imply multiple pawns anymore) – but it is also fairly illogical. And we know how much this angers chess players. To me, it seems as though you should write “dc6#” for a pawn capture where another pawn could also capture from d-to-c-file with mate, which is possible like this:

3.pawnsenpassant

One position where “dc6#” is possible (editors note – a8 is the top left corner)

Knights

The ‘Teaser’ in part 1 of this article used the ‘tricky beasts’ as its subject. “Nfxh8#” was the move, which implies a lot about the position. However, there is a slightly different option for knights – as with the ‘three-queens’ position, you can imply three knights as well (and they all have to be able to give checkmate) with: “Na3xc4#”

4.knights

All three knights can give mate here with the same move (editors note – A1 is the bottom left  corner)

Fairly clearly, this means three knights on the board – which means at least one under-promotion. The debate over the unlikeliness of this is messy; in a serious game under-promotion is rarely better than queen-promotion, but in a casual game players may do this to be showy. We could get into a debate about whether you would ever reach a checkmate opportunity or whether players would resign beforehand, or whether notation would be used in casual games at all – but I don’t think that would help my headache…

I’ll leave it open to comment, but I am resisting the aesthetic pleasure of the discovered mates on h8, and choosing the more pragmatic “Na3xc4#”.

Bishops

We have already discussed moves that imply promotions in Queens and Knights – but with Bishops it is surely more unlikely to have multiple bishops of the same colour square? By now you’ll be used to the themes, so I’ll get straight to the two options: Three bishops able to capture something with mate, or two bishops able to move to a square with (discovered) mate. Three cannot deliver discovered mate (believe me I tried).

In a recent local derby, my opponent and long-time Bristol player and coach Jerry came bounding up to me with the solution of three bishops. And indeed, this is a good contender. After some discussion we arrived at the particular: “Bc6xb7#”

5.bishopscapture

Three bishops!? A strange game indeed (editors note – a8 is the top left corner)

The other option is two bishops from the same file able to give discovered mate: “B2xh3#”

6.bishopsdiscover

This one requires discovered mate – also a very strange game (editors note – h1 is the bottom right corner)

Note – this should be more unlikely than something like “Bgh3#” because the bishops can be on more possible squares. With our solution, they must be on g2 and g4 – otherwise you would specify the file, not the rank.

Let’s recap on what this implies: Bishops on g2 and g4, the enemy king on g3, an enemy piece on h3 and rooks/queens able to deliver mate by discovery.

Candidate moves – recap

Curiously, it is queens and rooks that do not involve a capture – but for different reasons (with rooks we can imply discovered checks, whilst queens would have implied less specific squares for the king). All checkmates though – because why not?

“Kxa1#”, “Qa1b2#”, “Rbb2#”, “B2xh3#”, “Na3xc4#”, “bxa1=B#”.

Phew.

The winner

Well – my winner anyway. I’m sure you have your own. After a long think, I went for “B2xh3#” as the unlikeliest move possible. Reasons below:

  • It implies an earlier under-promotion to a bishop (and – the difference in unlikeliness between 2 bishops on the same colour and 3 is much less than the difference between 1 and 2, I would argue)
  • It implies two possible discovered checkmates. It is not possible for the bishops themselves to deliver mate – because their move to h3 would not threaten any new squares than they were before.
  • The enemy king must be on exactly g3
  • An enemy piece must be on h3
  • There are still 5 squares around the king to cover (f2, f3, f4, h2 and h4).

The problem of unlikeliness

As mentioned – calculating the likelihood of having to notate each of the moves in this article series is both mind-boggling and also unprovable. The snag is that the question itself has human elements to it. You would have to weigh up questions of whether two players would ‘collude’ to play a strange game with under-promotions, or with mazy king-runs, eschewing easier checkmates to go for the fanciful finish. Maybe I can be satisfied with an unknowable problem – one which proves neither humans nor machines are not omniscient – rather than beating the machines outright. In any case, I will be happier knowing I can stop thinking about unlikely moves, recover from my headache and reboot for our last match of the season – where some fairly standard moves are likely to win the day (editors note – amen to that!).


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Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

Problems in April with GM Jones

Even if you don’t generally have any time for helpmates you may like to look at this remarkable position, a helpmate in 7 which appeared in the Hungarian magazine Magyar Sakkelet in 1961, by Arpad Molnar.

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A help mate on black in 7 moves.  Black to play. Try not to mate white in the process!

Solution Below

The thing that immediately strikes one is that, given that in helpmates Black is doing all he can to collaborate in being mated, it is remarkable that there is only one way in which mate can be achieved in 7 moves. Upon further inspection we realize that the difficulty is that Black is going to find it very difficult to avoid mating White! In a helpmate Black generally plays first and he has only one non-mating move – 1.f4. (In helpmates, confusingly, Black’s moves are written ‘1.f4’ and White’s moves ‘1…h8N’ – the other way round from in the score of a game.) In playing 1…h8N White avoids 1…h8Q+, forcing 2.Nc8 mate! He is preparing to give Black something else to do instead of inflicting mate; 2.f3 Ng6 3.fxg6… and as 3…g8Q+ fails as before we have 3…g8B!. Play then proceeds 4.g5 Be6 5.dxe6 d7 6.Kc7 b8R 9.e5 d8Q mate!

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Final Position!

Amazingly, White has made all 4 types of promotion (problemists refer to this by the German term ‘Allumwandlung’, or ‘AUW’ for short). It’s always quite an achievement to set up an AUW in any type of problem; in helpmates, while there are a reasonable number of examples showing black AUW, it’s virtually unheard-of to show white AUW. Bear in mind that the composer not only has to create a scenario in which each promotion has to be that specific piece, but that he has to avoid ‘cooks’ (unintended extra ways of solving the problem), the perennial bane of a helpmate composer’s life.

For some reason, Hungarians (such as Molnar) have often been the most inspired helpmate composers. So I’d like to round this column off by showing you a helpmate by another great Hungarian composer, Gabor Cseh. This problem was one of Molnar’s favourites. It also features some truly remarkable promotions. It’s a helpmate in 8, published in Thema Danicum in 1997.

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A help mate on black in 8 moves. Black to play. Try not to mate white in the process!

Solution Below

Again it looks as though White is on the verge of mating Black in very short order. And again the big obstacle is that Black will find it difficult not to move his Knight so as to give checkmate. After 1.b4 (again, the only non-mating move), White mustn’t go in for 1…e8Q+ 2.Ne3 mate! Instead we have a series of promotions to Bishop. In the case of the first such promotion it’s fairly clear why it has to be a Bishop, but in the case of the second promotion (3…f8B!!) it isn’t at all clear, as 3…f8Q wouldn’t be check. You may like examining why 3…f8Q fails. Even when you see why the intended solution doesn’t work with a Q at f8, you have to admire the great technical skill of the composer in ensuring that there are no cooks in which the f8Q would get through to mate in some other way. The full solution: 1.b4 e8B 2.b3 Bb5 3.axb5 f8B!! 4.b4 Bc5 5.f2+ Bxf2 6.Kf3 f7 7.Re8 fxe8B 8.Ke2 Bh5 mate.

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Final Position! 


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Christopher Jones

Christopher holds the Grandmaster title for Chess Problem Composition and uses his skills to write a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times. He is also a longterm Horfield Chess Club player (where he is acting secretary).

March 2018: League Review and Game of the Month

Champions! Breaking in the business end of the league calendar, March saw the crowning of champions in the league and county championships – firstly huge congratulations to North Bristol B for winning Division 4, and to Horfield A for winning Division 1 – both fairly convincingly in the end!

March saw the Bristol congress cancelled due to venue issues but there was plenty of tournament action – Downend’s Toby and Jack became Gloucester county champions for their age groups – well done! With their clubmate Oli Stubbs currently leading the Bristol Grand Prix, the juniors are still leading the way in Bristol!

League Round-up

Divisions 2 and 3 are yet to be settled – and how close they are! It’s been another epic struggle between the div 3 giants Keynsham and Yate – the former are a mere point ahead with a few matches left. Our pick of Hanham for Dark Horses for the title at the start of the season didn’t go so well – but there’s always next year! Divison 2 is even closer – and it has many bearings on promotion/relegation discussions – will the South Bristol teams swap over? (The A team have been caught by Clevedon and Clifton B in div 1; and the B team currently top div 2). Same question for Clevedon – though they could complete a tremendous comeback in div 1 and stay up – and if Horfield C can finish well, could they really put 3 teams in div 1? Cabot are hovering above the relegation zone in divs 2 and 3 – can they clamber out of them in time? All that to be seen – and no doubt discussed at length in club AGMs!

Upcoming in April

As if the league wasn’t providing enough drama, we have the cup finals coming up! Downend strolled through the semi-finals and are in a position to ‘do the double’ – can they win the Major and Minor cups? Their opponents are Bath and Clevedon respectively. Since we did so well in our predictions for the semis (sarcasm: we got 1/4) we are going with a resounding NO! Bath and Clevedon are picked to triumph because of good late form.

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay is on the 29th April (entry form is here) and there is also the National Clubs championships – The Forest of Dean have a team – best of luck to them.

Game of the Month

We’ve got a stonker of a game for you! March’s GotM comes from the University’s Ethan Luc. He faced the always enterprising Mike Meadows in an impressive win against Downend A .

 

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A lovely tactical game between both players wins this months Game of the Month

His own notes are embedded in the game, but we have tried to make sense of it as well: Meadows goes for a Morozevich-esque e5 break from a Chigorin transposition. He gets a decent position and accepts the gambited pawn, though White has good development and still that central advanced pawn.

Mike’s position naturally flows into attack mode and after a bishop swap he takes stock and hangs onto the extra pawn with f6. The move after that he advances again with e4 and e3 – a dangerous pawn. The cramping of White’s position forces the win of the exchange – though with the spare move Ethan threatened to win one back.

However he eschews this, eliminates the passed pawn and drives black’s attack back instead. He had seen that another crucial pawn would fall and this makes way for his own central pawns. His king had been driven to the centre though – so plenty of tactical ideas to dodge. What follows is a demonstration of trust in passed pawns – White’s d pawn basically goes through in every variation – whichever pieces got swapped off in the tactics, the rest were hapless in stopping the pawn – which simply strides through the warzone and promotes.

Ethan Luc (173) vs. Michael Meadows (175)

The league finishes next month! As well as keeping a watchful eye over that we are looking ahead to any summer happenings – there are usually a lot of fun quick-play tournaments and friendly games going on. Let us know about any we don’t advertise and good luck to everyone playing in April.


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Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.

Patience when attacking a d4 opening system

Its well known that your average club player has little time to study chess.  What time is available is often recommended to be spent on tactics training or endgames, especially for those players below 2000 ELO. As a result, amateur chess is often littered with “system-like” openings or rare sidelines from more mainstream cannon fodder. I faced one such system style opening this week in Division 1 of the Bristol & District Chess League.  The game was fun in terms of its various phases but also instructional in-terms of how players evaluate their positions.

Neither me or my opponent are certain of the exact name of the opening but it revolved around a d4, e3, c3, Bd3, Nf3 structure with white’s black squared bishop remaining inside the pawn chain.  It might be a Zukertort but we are uncertain. Answers on a postcard!

As with most system style openings, my black repertoire was quickly sidelined (da-dum tsshh – here all week!) and I found myself playing a series of non committal developing moves that resulted in my opponent starting to build pressure against my castled king position.

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 16.39.38

Whilst I knew that it takes time for the sting in most d4 systems to come to fruition, I couldn’t help but sit facing my opponent and feel that they had had the better play in the opening 10 moves or so. My position felt like it was only two weak moves away from collapse with a pawn storm coming and plenty of risk for a shattered queen side.

Whilst I was telling myself horror stories at the board, it turns out that post game analysis shows black is better with an evaluation of -0.63. If you had asked me at the time, I would have predicted +1.50 to white such was the nature of my next few shuffling moves to untie myself.

The game continued.

Believing myself to be close to trouble I adopted a strategy of unpinning my queen and breaking in the centre.  The strategy worked and my opponent abandoned their queenside attack plans and chose (in my opinion) a weaker defensive plan that allowed me to expand and launch some threats of my own on the kingside.

In a complete reversal of my perception from several moves earlier, I felt like I was winning big here.

Feeling good I had launched g5?! My opponent had been forced backwards and their kingside was looking loose.  I felt like my plan of a kingside attack was obvious and clearly winning.  Again, if a commentry team had interrupted the game and asked my opinion I would have comfortably stated -2.50 to black. The reality of the post-game analysis is only a small advantage to black of -0.23 (a whole factor of 10 out in my evaluation!).

Whilst it looks impressive this position is one of the reasons why I decided to write about this game.  Throughout the game both mine and my opponents evaluations are sharply at odds with the computer analysis.  Both me and my opponent felt that black is comfortably winning here but the reality of this situation is that white is absolutely fine to win the pawn on offer after 19. fxg5 hxg5 20. Nxg5 Rg8 21. f4 Bh6 22. h4 they stand at a comfortable +0.62 edge.

If white had accepted the pawn then it was holdable despite all the kingside pawns being advanced, how does black continue the attack?

The game continued to the next phase which is best summed up by the slow realisation that my attack is not as good as I thought and that white has found a way to simplify and exchange down the position. Black has emerged a pawn up but white threatens a nasty build up of pressure on c7.

I turned down a draw offer, mostly due to the match situation at the time which necessitated a win by me. At this point if you had asked me my opinion of the position I would have been a mixture of nerves and dejection that somehow I had let a promising attack (that was never really there in the first place!) slip.

But if at first you don’t succeed then try try try again.  Sure my attack had gone but I had sealed a small material advantage as well as an extra 10 minutes on the clock. It was then that I realised I had some tempo to my favour by moving the queen to b6, thus creating a threat on the d4 rook and the h2 – b8 diagonal was looking juicy.  With a plan in place, the game continued.

Fast forward and the planned strike on the h2 square has been a success, tearing apart the kingside at the expense of all my centre pawns.

The position below is the stuff attacking dreams are made of.  The kind of position that makes you sit there and think “there has to be a win here, I just need to find it“. In the end, the culmination of my plan involved a very pretty tactical series that resulted in the win.

33…Rxd2 34.Rxd2 Qxe3+ 35.Kg2 Qxd2+ 36.Qxd2 Rh2+ 0 – 1

 

A nice way to finish an enjoyable game that seemed to have several key stages. What I find most telling is the stories that amateur chess players often tell themselves in positions (its one of the reasons I enjoy watching Grandmasters online talk through their games).

A key lesson for me was my personal evaluations of the game swung from “losing big time” to “winning big time” to “probably drawn you fool“.  The reality is that the game was actually much much closer all the way through until the culmination of my second plan to attack the h2 square sealed the win.

The game also contained a second valuable lesson in terms of learning to accept that an opportunity may have gone but you can still regroup and go again.  I had been convinced victory was not far away when I played 18. g5 and yet ultimately my opponent defended and I was forced to rethink and rebuild an entirely new attack.

In the amateur chess world we all like to imagine ourselves as the “Bristolian Tal” (ok just me then…) and when these fantasies are dashed against the rocks of our opponents position it can be easy to become dispirited into a draw or even a loss.  The ability to pause and say “no, it has not all been for nought, there is still a way forward” was a key step in helping seal this important win for the team.

A valuable lesson indeed.


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

 

 

How can British chess clubs benefit from the 2018 world championship?

The 2018 candidates tournament is over and what a thrill it was.  The chess world is unanimous in its praise of all eight players approach to the tournament that decided who would face the world champion Magnus Carlsen, in November. Fabiano Caruana has emerged as the challenger and there is sure to be an increased interest in chess in the United States as a result.  With America braced to experience a chess boom, the Bristol Chess Times asks how British clubs could benefit from the world championship match being held in London?

fabi

Fabiano Caruana photographed moments after he sealed his place as the World Championship Challenger (editors note – I cannot find the image credit for the photographer, if anyone knows please contact me)

It is fair to say that the Carlsen – Caruana match of 2018 is likely to be one of the most highly anticipated chess clashes in recent memory. This is down to their respective abilities and styles but also due to the various stories the western media can spin on it. For example, “First American to compete for world crown since Bobby Fischer” the headlines have been crying since Caruana sealed his final victory on Tuesday (poor old Gata Kamsky…) . So with the world media eagerly casting its gaze upon London in November, how can British chess clubs capitalise?

Its been eighteen years since the chess world championship match was last held in the UK and 25 years since a British born candidate battled for the crown.  Last year I wrote several impassioned pieces to the Bristol chess community (and wider UK chess scene) about embracing digital technology to help promote and grow chess clubs.  As part of my call to arms I pointed out that the Bristol & District Chess League experienced a massive boom in membership in 1993, the year of the Kasparov vs. Short match.  League membership over 1993 / 94 was an astonishing 635 league members (from 450ish in 1992) and indeed the numbers remained above 500 until 1998 (today it hovers around the 300 mark). Admittedly, the league did not see an equivalent boom for the London held Kramnik vs. Kasparov so perhaps the lack of home grown talent didn’t pull in local interest?

But its fair to say that in 2018 and in an age of ubiquitous connectivity the amount of online searches and general public interest in our ancient game is likely to increase again in the run up to and during the championship.  Those clubs that are prepared to ride this wave of renewed interest will reap the rewards in terms of membership so lets look at some ideas for British clubs cashing in on world championship fever.

World Championship Fan Parks & Events

If football can have fan parks I fail to see why chess players can’t hire a room in a pub and stream the delights of Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler (editors note – other streaming services are available).

jan

The double act of Jan and Peter would make a great Chess Fan park when pumped through speakers on a large screen in the back of pub!

I constantly hear British players bemoan the lack of Chess on the TV and sometimes wonder if they have ever heard of the internet? The quality of streamed chess from major providers such as chess.com and chess24 really is very high (lets not talk about the official world chess coverage) and I love the idea of opening up the club house or hiring a room with some boards where the club members of all strengths and abilities can get together and watch the highlight of the chess calendar together.  Imagine running some fun blitz events around the sides where passing members of the public could stop and ask questions about chess and how they can get involved.

 

Social Media and mobile friendly websites

At the risk of banging a very worn down drum, if your club hasn’t updated its website with clear contact details and at the very least set up a Facebook and Twitter account then now is the time to get on it.  You have 8 months before the world championship begins and all that lovely juicy online search traffic starts Googling “chess club in my local area“. If you don’t believe me that this has an effect then talk to either Horfield chess club or North Bristol chess club in the Bristol league who have both seen growth in excess of 25% this season since starting online promotions.

Hold open nights for beginners

How many times are you sat blitzing in a pub with a mate when someone walking past, stops and wistful looks down at the board?  You all know the type of person I mean.  They pause for what they think is a few seconds and are still stood gazing minutes later.  They often depart by saying “I used to love chess at school” or something similar.  Its these people who, come the world championship, suddenly spark up the courage of their convictions again to contact a club.  Lets make it easy for them shall we?

Why not start publicising events and welcome evenings in conjunction with the world championship games?  “In celebration of the Chess World Championship we welcome all beginners free of charge to a our club on Tuesday” etc etc. Perhaps the games are again screened in the background and some stronger players are on hand to welcome and provide some light coaching.

Conclusion

Above are just three ideas that a proactive chess club could embrace to help make the most of the world championship match.  Carlsen vs. Caruana promises to be one to remember and will certainly help alter the public perception of chess with two young players, raised in the age of powerful chess computers and the internet, battling it out for the ultimate prize. Its not often that such a clash occurs on our shores and I feel it would be a real shame if British chess clubs did not grab this golden opportunity to (re)invigorate themselves.

Finally, if you like any of the ideas above or are planning any other activities with your local club then i’d love to hear about it.  As a community if we share ideas then we can ensure that clubs across the country benefit and help one another when the World Championship rolls around.

We have 8 months.  The work starts now.


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Jon Fisher

Jon is the Editor of The Bristol Chess Times and Publicity and Recruitment Officer for The Bristol & District Chess League. He plays for Horfield Chess Club and has been known to play 1. b3 on occasion.

The unlikeliest chess move part 2 – the heavyweights

Let’s dive straight into Queens, Rooks and Kings – in our search for the most unlikely move possible. The short version of this puzzle is that it requires you to come up with a notated move – so what you actually write on the scoresheet – that implies an unlikely position on the board.

Here’s part 1 if you missed the preamble.

Queens

Each piece on the chessboard has its own magical qualities – but let’s start with the most powerful. The Queen can do most manoeuvres available (knight moves, castling, promoting and ‘en passant’ they have some trouble with). But there is one other thing they can’t do – and that’s be the discoverer in a discovered check! (Try it out, they really can’t). Going back to our themes we are left with ‘Checkmate’, ‘Captures’, and ‘More than one of the same piece able to move to the same square’. My proposal nearly offered all three – until I realised that a capture actually makes the positions of the queens and kings less precise.

“Qa1b2#”

So its Queen b2 mate – but the ‘a1’ implies there must be another queen on the a-file, and a third on the 1st rank and both able to reach b2 – although a2 and b1 together is actually impossible as moving to b2 wouldn’t then attack any new squares).

Unlikely-queens

Qa1b2# needs three queens on almost exact squares

The very close runner-up was the same but with the capture “Qa1xb2#” – it still implies 3 queens, but the other two could now be on a2 and b1, and the enemy king can now also be on the diagonal as well as the b-file or 2nd rank. On the flip side there must be a piece on b2 to capture.

Rooks

Before we begin – and this may be contentious I don’t know – but despite its name ‘castling’ is actually a king move; you move the king first and the rook leaps over to the other side. So we’ll leave it to the kings. My proposed rook move is this:

“Rbb2#”

Doesn’t sound so bad, right? A rook moves to b2 and delivers mate, and another one could also have done so. But here’s the catch; let’s say the rooks are on b1 and b3 – writing Rbb2# doesn’t clear anything up – you would write R1b2#, or R3b2#. So let’s think again – what if the rooks were on different files, say a2 and c2? Well then it becomes Rab2# – or Rcb2#… So what’s going on? The rooks have to be on a different file and rank – but then how do you deliver mate by moving a rook, when another rook already threatened all the new squares you threaten?? Okay you guessed it – discovered checks.

Unlikely-rooks

Rbb2# surprisingly implies a discovered check and mate.

Kings

I mentioned castling queenside (“0-0-0#”) to deliver mate in part 1, but is that the most unlikely? Although I have a hunch that castling kingside with mate is even less likely, I have not gone for either of these moves. The reason is only the practical one – if a player sees a chance to mate by castling, they are very likely to try to engineer it for the sheer aesthetic pleasure (or sadistic whim, depending on your outlook on chess). So I am going for the more prosaic:

“Kxa1#”

Unlikely-kings

The king can only discover a checkmate – taking a piece in the corner

Sadly there is no fun to be had with multiple kings, and there is no notation for stalemate. So the best for the king is a discovered checkmate on an unlikely square. But never fear, this is not the overall winner. The fun is reserved for the lightweight pieces – who are in action in part 3!


mikecircle

Mike Harris

Mike is a regular pretender in Bristol’s top division and can also be seen propping up local tournament ladders. He writes a regular column for the Bristol Chess Times and plays a solid 20 openings a season.