Bristol Chess Times – May 1993

Originally a bi-monthly publication in the 80’s and 90’s the Bristol Chess Times delivered the latest league updates and news in a pre-Internet era (editors note – hard to imagine waiting so long for news of Downend and Fishpond’s losses).  Here is another BCT from May 1993 showcasing how the league has changed and remained the same in the last 25 years.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 07.49.40

Hot topics from 25 years ago included:

  • the introduction of the BCF game fee;
  • Clifton reaching the semi-finals of the National Club Championship by beating Kings Head of London (including fun match report);
  • Sun Life reaching the National Minor semi final;
  • The latest standings from all 6 divisions;
  • David Collier denying IM Chris Beaumont a hayrick of victories in the Bristol Congress

Here is the PDF to download – BCTMay93

Enjoy!


johnrichardsblog

John Richards

John has been playing for Horfield for longer than anyone else cares to remember (but was actually 1983). Never quite managing to get to a 180 grade, he is resigned to the fact that he probably never will. He set up the original Bristol League website and has been, at various times League General Secretary, Recruitment and Publicity, Chess Times Editor, Bristol 4NCL Manager and an ECF Arbiter.

 

 

You can’t calculate what you can’t see

I was playing online blitz early in the morning this week when my opponent fell into a well known mating trap on move 8.  The mating pattern is very pretty and always satisfying but it also occurred to me that it appeared to be one of those positions that everyone seems to fall into.  Bemused at why this would be the case I decided to look at some statistics and noticed that despite being a relatively rare line, every time I had had the position my opponent had walked into the trap.  I’ve talked about the difference between amateur and professional players before and this sequence is another lovely example.

The line in question stems from the Chigorin Defence of the Queens Gambit Declined.  After 7…Nxe5 it first appears that black is losing a knight.  However, it doesn’t take too much calculation to spot the checkmate threat on d1 should white decide to snaffle the knight on e5.

Indeed after white allows 7…Nxe5, black has equalised and discretion is the better part of valour for white with recommended moves such as Be2 or Nbd2.  However, in the four times I have had this position arise in my games, all four times I have delivered checkmate on d1 on move 8.  Now we can argue that these games are online and amongst amateur players but I do find it fascinating the confidence with which the black knight is snaffled on e5.  Sometimes the white player plays the mistake instantly, sometimes they think for a long while and still play the move. Why is this?

It is a common mantra amongst chess professionals and coaches that good players know when to start burning time in complex calculation.  Knowing when to invest time is a key skill. However, as well as knowing when to spend time calculating you also have to know what to calculate.  If you don’t see a threat or are blind to its existence then you will not calculate and obviously miss the risk resulting in losing to checkmate on move 8. The position in our line we are analysing, I believe, is a very good example of a position that the amateur mind struggles with.  There are a number of factors at play in the position, one or all of which could contribute to this very common mistake.  Lets list them out:

  • A queen less early middle game – Only two pieces are developed by either side and the queens have left the board.  Why would white necessarily be on the look out for mating threats against his own king?  Indeed, he or she has to calculate the knight capture doesn’t lose material (and it doesn’t) but an actual mate threat is not on whites radar;
  • The threat only arises from a vacated square – The checkmate is only possible by white releasing the power of the bishop onto d1 by vacating f3. Threats occurring by vacating squares are intrinsically harder to visualise when calculating;
  • The knight capture wins material – Whats not to like about winning material?! Greed is a powerful bias;
  • Its easy for white to believe black blundered – Until a move earlier the knight on f3 was pinned.  Following the exchange of queens this is no longer the case but it is easy to see how white would think black had miscalculated and blundered by grabbing the e5 pawn by telling themselves that black thought the f3 knight was pinned;
  • The capture on e5 creates nice threats on blacks king – As well as all of the above points, the white pieces start to build a lovely threat on f7 against blacks king.  Its easy to see how white could spend time calculating future threats and attacking options while simultaneously missing threats against his own king.

Having read the above list now lets look at the position side by side with the board flipped. Try looking at each board position and then running through the kind of thought process that white would be walking through.  I don’t know about you, but I actually think the threat is harder to see from the white side of the board because the position for white seems so appealing.

The same position from both white and blacks perspective.  Hard to believe that a mate in 1 threat exists and how the board can appear  so different from either side.

To be fair, I don’t know how many of the above factors contribute to the blunder 8. Nxe5 but it is highly likely some of them play a significant role (NB – Not a lot of people know that I am professionally trained in the analysis and evaluation of human error in complex environments.  A story for another time…).

Here we have a tempting position for white with many positive features such as material gain and kingside attacks combining with a very subtle, hard to see, totally unexpected terminal threat. A nasty combination for the amateur chess player to comprehend which seems to be the chess equivalent of all that glitters is not gold and bring me nicely to the title of this blog post.

You can’t calculate what you can’t see.

In our example, the amateur white player can calculate for as long as he or she likes but if they do not recognise the danger of checkmate then they will simply run analysis on the safety of their developed pieces and the opportunities for future attacks. Many stronger rated players could often laugh and scoff at such a blunder as 8.Nxe5 but I believe this would be unfair.  Human chess players (amateur and professional alike) are not computers. They do not calculate everything.  They only choose to calculate what stories they tell themselves.

“She’s just blundered that knight.  Surely she cannot take my pawn on e5?”

“If I take it then f7 looks weak”

“Queens are off.  There are no real threats at the moment.  I don’t see how he is gaining the piece back it must be a blunder”

“My f3 knight is no longer pinned!”

If your internal dialogue is spinning stories with a different narrative to the reality of the position on the board then the amateur player is in trouble.   In my games 100% of amateur players blundered and walked into checkmate on move 8.  Of the 9 Master Games in the database I looked at 0% of professionals did. Indeed the skill set  to remain completely objective when looking at any position is likely one of the key defining characteristics of weak vs. strong players.

I just loved this example as it seems to fall into that rare category of positions that really seems to befuddle the amateur mind.

Until next time…


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Review – Season’s end!

A smattering of matches remain but the champions are crowned! Let the summer transfer market begin..

Its been a cracking season for the Bristol league – new players, resurgent clubs, and a fighting season that we all like to see. Some players will hang up their boots for the summer while others battle through, either way we all have the frantic negotiations of club AGM’s to look forward to. There will be much to discuss, new teams – new league? – promotions and relegations and new goals for 2018-19.

Division 1

Horfield A have been threatening the title in recent years but have often been pipped – this year they boasted a regular side of nearly 190 average strength and were ready to claim the throne. They lost their first match of the season back in September and languished for a bit (back when Horfield B were top) but since then they have dropped just one match point – never really letting anyone get close. An incredible 33 points won them the league this year by a mile – with 3 players on 200+ performances and also an unbeaten 198 from Steve Dilleigh (who incidentally is unbeaten for 50 games with the White pieces in all competitions).

Major KO

Downend and Bath finished strong in the league to secure 2nd and 3rd places – but they know the real chess is all about the cup. The match report by Ian Pickup is very entertaining – and the scoreline was about as close as cup finals always are – 4.5-3.5 to Downend. Well done!

cupfinal
It all went down the last game of the cup (photo credit: Dave Tipper)

Division 2

This one was close – it was a three or four horse race for a while and even in the last month it was touch and go between Horfield C and Clevedon B. They both secured their promotion spots (whether they take them remains to be seen) and fought all-out for the trophy. Clevedon were not slipping up and Horfield, a point behind, had a must-win to keep the pressure on but succumbed and lost their final match. Clevedon mopped up their match later in the week with a fine 4-2 away win. Also finishing strong was North Bristol A, winning the last match to nab fourth.

Minor Cup

The only club to win two trophies this year were the medium-sized Clevedon. The cricket club will be well-adorned this summer – a great achievement from an inauspicious beginning. The final was a bloodbath in which all three juniors stomped home to victory whilst a gentleman’s draw on the top board sneaked Clevedon over the line.

Division 3

A two-horse race for a lot of the season, Keynsham and Yate had their inaugural struggle for the crown; there was nothing in it until the last few months when Keynsham raced away with it – including an impressive 14 wins this season from long-time Bristol player Duncan MacArthur. Will we see Keynsham threaten in Div 2 next year?

Division 4

One certified promotion is that of North Bristol B, who have earned the honour of winning a trophy by the highest margin – they are 10 points ahead of nearest rivals University C and wrapped up the league with many matches to spare. The club have enjoyed many spoils of late after they changed venue and gathered interest from many new players. Newcomer Chris Smith and youngster Chirag Hosdurga are on 180+ performances!

Division 5?!

The re-instating of a division 5 would be a great achievement for the league. With the World Champs being held in London this year surely there will be another chess resurgence in the UK (following the recent boost in online player numbers) soon enough. Let’s hope Bristol is ready for it!

In Summary:

  • Div 1 – Horfield
  • Div 2 – Clevedon
  • Div 3 – Keynsham
  • Div 4 – North Bristol
  • Major KO – Downend
  • Minor KO – Clevedon

Individual performances

We like to give an extra shout out to players performing well above their grade or for other miscellaneous stats!

Playing above their grade

  • Jonathon Long (University): +48
  • Max Walker (Clevedon): +37
  • Pete Marks (Horfield): +34
  • Kwame Benin (Harambee): +30
  • Alan Papier (Clifton): +28
  • Chirag Hosdurga (North Bristol): +27
  • Christian Brown (Bath): +27
  • Elmira Walker (Downend): +26

Fighting chess (no draws, at least 10 games and at least 1 win)

  • Christian Brown (Bath)
  • Mauro Farina (Bath)
  • David McGeeney (Cabot)
  • John Conway (Cabot)
  • Christian Ryan (Clifton)
  • Fedor Turetskiy (Downend)
  • Matias Candelario (Horfield)
  • Mohammed Hassan (North Bristol)

Most games played

Richard Palmer (Downend): 29

Highest Performance

IM Chris Beaumont (Clifton): 230

Club with most active players

Downend: 44

Tournament Round-up

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay kept the pieces moving and the local tournament calendar ticking on – you can read all about it in this lovely pictorial report; with Open and Major sections combined it sounded like a barnstorming event with many new match-ups and challengers.

minor section
Alex Vaughan very pleased with his win of the Minor Section (photo credit: Chris Lamming)

Coming up in the Summer is the Frome Congress and the Bristol Summer Congress – as well as many smaller tournaments and friendly get-togethers. Until then, enjoy the long awaited weather out there folks.

 


 

mikecircle

Mike is a regular player in the league and co-editor of Bristol Chess Times.

 

 

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay – 29th April 2018

Hungry for more chess as the season end draws near? Or looking to get into chess in a more relaxed setting?

Look no further than Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay this Sunday! Six rounds of rapidplay chess guaranteed and an opportunity to meet chess enthusiasts, play, spectate, and hone your skills.

1_autumn chess

Have a read of our review of the last event back in October for a flavour of the event. Chipping Sodbury has been somewhat resurrected as a biannual event and has been made ECF and FIDE rated for those of you who want to push your ratings. This time there is also a guarantee of £100 first prize in the Open section – and so far there are not many entries!

I have played this many times and have enjoyed the trip down to Chipping Sodbury. The venue is easy to find and is perfect for chess; if the weather is good the courtyard outside the playing halls makes for great blitz sessions at lunch and a chance to chat in the sun and regroup for the next three rounds. Homemade food is also on offer and is becoming a mainstay of the event.

It’s great to support events in smaller towns as most of the chess calendar takes place within large cities, so if your Sunday could use fresh challenge then why not come along? The entry form can be found here – or just email the organiser and show up!


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.

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.

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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.

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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?

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(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.

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! 


chriscircle

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.


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.