January 2018 Review

Yes, January has been and gone and for the South West it meant club derby’s, new grades, individual runs coming to an end, and a bumper edition of game of the month!

Division 1

All three club derby’s took place this month – with 6 fighting draws at the cricket club (Downend), Clifton B overcoming their A team, and Horfield A restoring the balance in the universe with a last-minute win. It was a big win for Clifton B who separate themselves further from Clevedon in the relegation zone – the Uni are just above them so we’ll have to see if the students can repeat last year’s late winning streak.

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Division 2

Horfield C and North Bristol A split their matchpoints for the title race, so South Bristol B have taken a bit of control at the top for now; in the mid-table Thornbury scored a crucial 4-pointer against Downend C, whilst the latter’s D team struggle in last place.

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Division 3

Surely its another two-horse race between Yate and Keynsham this year; both close to 100% – their own crunch match is postponed till April. Bath B continue their winning streak with 2 for 2 in January, whilst Hanham A have climbed out of last place, leaving Downend E in their wake.

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Division 4

Its all about the resurgent North Bristol – they lie 1st and 3rd; the B team with a commanding lead at the top, whilst one of our games of the month comes from a crucial C-team encounter. The division has started to separate – still very close in the middle but with a few teams in the promotion and relegation zone (assuming there’s Division 5 on the way in 2018-19?! There have been a fair number of default points across all divisions this season but membership in general is growing).

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Statistics

The long harsh month of January also saw some individual runs come to an end, so we thought we would give some shout-outs. Jerry ‘unstoppable force’ Humphries was on 10/10 which is a remarkable feat in division 1 – but on his 11th game faced Andrew ‘immovable object’ Cooper – who stopped Jerry by continuing his 100% drawing record. In the same match Andrew Munn finally had to split a point peacefully – ending his run of zero draws from 13 games. A combative style is what we like to see!

Finally, the out-performers – players who are on a plus performance score compared with their grade. Congratulations to the following who are a whopping 30 points or more above their grade:

  • Elmira Walker (Downend, +30),
  • Yuvraj Kumar (Downend, +31)
  • Christian Brown (Bath, +35, also no draws),
  • Kwame Benin (Harambee, +35),
  • Pete Marks (Horfield, +38),
  • Max Walker (Clevedon, +39, also no draws),
  • Jonathon Long (University, +44)
  • Oleksii Novakov (Clifton, +45).

Game of the Month

We have several games to showcase this month all following a theme of defensive wins with Black. At the excellent Somerset congress in Clevedon there was two such games. Coincidentally a win with Black was exactly what I needed in the major section, but instead I got a little bit crushed by tournament specialist Chris Timmins. In the intermediate and minor however, players rose to the challenge and managed to resist White’s attack before clearing up the debris:

Check and mate

Rich Wiltshir forced resignation from his opponent with this very pretty finish.

Both wins allowed the victors to win (or jointly win) the congress – well done!

In the league Waleed Khan’s game was instrumental in North Bristol C’s rise to the top; with a calm response to an attacking battery and then some swift pressure on a bishop pinned on c2 and it was all over.

waleed

In his first season in the league, Waleed Khan posted a statement of intent with this strong victory in Division 4.  The bishop on c2 is hopelessly lost

But our game of the month come from the 4NCL (4 Nations Chess League) where Bristol regular Steve Woolgar played a blinding Najdorf and dismantled his opponent in 25 moves (editors note – did anyone win with white in January?!).

WOOLGAR

MVL would be proud indeed!  Congratulations to Steve Woolgar for the Bristol Chess Times  Game of the Month

What’s in store for February? Well its a startling lack of title race crunch matches, but that means plenty of room for upsets! More importantly its the KO cup semi-finals, watch this space..


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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.

“Larsen’s Beach”: A fun sideline in the Nimzo-Larsen Attack

I’ve made no secret of my love of 1.b3 and the fun entertaining games that can arise from this quirky (but theoretically sound!) opening.  Here at the Bristol Chess Times, several of us have been playing with a spiky variation of the opening this season.  However, recently our opponents have been counter attacking (how unsporting of them!) leading to messy unbalanced positions.  In honour of the Somerset New Year Congress based in the seaside town of Clevedon where we recently played this line, we have affectionately nicknamed the variation “Larsen’s Beach”. Lets take a deeper look…

The starting position of the variation begins with Black adopting a conservative formation with his white squared bishop, f6 knight and a small centre. Here is the opening moves:

1. b3 d5

2. Bb2 Bf5

3. e3 Nf6

4. Be2 e6

5. g4?!

LB1

Hence my reference to a spiky variation.  This is not a new or unique position having been played four times according to ChessBase. Until recently all my opponents in this line were retreating to g6 and then a swift h4 led to a strong attack for white.  However, twice this season the Bristol Chess Times have experienced the following counter attack:

5. g4 Be4

6. f3 Nxg4?!

LB2

This is the starting position of what we are calling “Larsen’s Beach“. There are two lines we have explored.  Line #1 was explored by yours truly last weekend whilst the superior Line #2 was played by Mike Harris at the October Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay

Line #1: 7. h4

In both my game and the only game I could find in ChessBase, Black attempted Bd6 leading to the following:

7. h4 Bd6

8. pxe4 Bg3+

9. Kf1 Nf2

10. Qc1 Nxh1

11.Kg2?! dxe

12. Nh3 Qxh4

13. Qxh1

LB3

A ridiculous position has been reached by move 13 and I’m sure most White players are unhappy with what has been achieved.  My point is that it is actually fine for white and if you know “Larsen’s Beach” you are likely to have a large lead on the clock in these unbalanced positions.  It should be noted that the computer now evaluates this position as roughly even at 0.29.

I actually didn’t make this position in my game, instead trying the unsound 12. Bg4 and ultimately the loss of material (and the game).  As an alternative to h4, Mike Harris ventured the interesting 7. Kf1.

Line #2: Kf1

In my opinion a more sensible plan, avoiding the incoming checks and giving a better square for whites queen.

7. Kf1 Qh4

8. Qe1 Nxh2+

9. RxN QxR

10. pxe4 pxe4

LB4

Again not exactly a position that most white players aspire for from the opening but still a fun and unbalanced game lies ahead with white having bishop and knight vs. rook and three pawns.  The computer gives white as 0.49 in this position.

In our analysis here at the Bristol Chess Times there are two things to note in this position.

  1. Although it is roughly equal, is it one of those positions that is easier for one side to play than another?  For example, computers might be happy with White but how do humans feel about this?
  2. We chose the name “Larsen’s Beach” in honour of both Clevedon but also the wave of black pawns that are about to start crashing down on the kingside.

Conclusion

So there we are!  Personally I love to play chess like this but I appreciate it is not for everyone.  The key for us is that despite how aggressive this black counter attack looks, we believe that white is fine in “Larsen’s Beach“, particularly in the 7. Kf1 lines.

Could this also be the first variation named in honour of Clevedon, UK?  We hope so!

For all you aspiring Nimzo Larsen Attack players out there we hope you find this line both interesting and fun!


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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.