Celebrating one year of the Bristol Chess Times

The 20th July is International Chess Day!  It is also dangerously close (a matter of days) to the first anniversary of the relaunched Bristol Chess Times.  Happy Birthday to us!  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the last year and everything we have achieved and learned as well as looking ahead to the future.

 

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A shot from the inaugural Bristol Chess Times Invitational Tournament held in May 2018

Setting up a chess blog 12 months ago, it was difficult to know how successful we would be.  Myself and my co-editor Mike Harris have talked long and hard about providing a blog that can be enjoyed by all chess players world wide whilst still covering the regional elements of chess in the South West of England.

Looking back on the last year we have published a remarkable 93 articles covering all manner of topics and local authors including:

  • Tournament reports across the South West
  • Game of the month and league reviews
  • Exciting game reports from the league
  • Quirky and dubious opening recommendations
  • A monthly problems column (thank you Christopher Jones!)
  • Historical pieces on past players, clubs and editions of the Bristol Chess Times (thank you John Richards)
  • Book reviews
  • Items for sale

Its fair to say that some topics are more popular than others but I wanted to extend a massive thank you for the feedback and encouragement we have received.  Looking ahead into year two it is clear where we can continue to improve to provide the chess players of the South West (and beyond) with an entertaining and engaging online magazine.

Helping the Bristol & District Chess League

One of the primary objectives of the Bristol Chess Times is to help the Bristol & District Chess League grow and encourage new members.  Lets look at some key statistics over the last 12 months:

  • 17,298 views on the Bristol Chess Times
  • 9,280 unique visitors
  • 93 articles
  • 12 different authors
  • 735 visits to the “Find a club” page

The final statistic for the “Find a club” page is key as we want more and more prospective players in Bristol to find chess clubs and get in touch.  On the “Find a club” page we have links (and phone numbers) to all 16 clubs in the league.  Of the 735 visits to this page i’ve broken out how many prospects clicked through to each individual club (please note that despite my protestations not every club in the Bristol & District chess league has a website in the year 2018…):

  • North Bristol – 60
  • Clifton – 55
  • Cabot – 51
  • Downend & Fishponds – 44
  • Horfield & Redland – 44
  • Hanham – 31
  • South Bristol – 28
  • Bristol University – 20
  • Bath University – 7

Whilst its difficult to tell how many of these prospects actually joined the clubs they contacted (please do get in touch if your club has had players join as a result of the Bristol Chess Times) its encouraging to see these kinds of numbers, especially as the online visibility of the Bristol Chess Times will only continue to grow and grow in the upcoming years.

Given that most chess clubs vary in size from 5 to 40 players, the kind of numbers seen above are really encouraging as the addition of only 5 new players to a club can make a real difference.

Which leads us to the next logical question…

Did the league grow in the 2017/18 season?

Working closely with Jerry Humphreys of Downend & Fishponds chess club we have identified a two key metrics that we will be tracking for the health of the league moving forward:

  • Total number of players in the league
  • Total number of players who played at least 5 games

I am in the process of working with Match Secretary Dave Tipper to identify these metrics from past years but the data is still a little patchy.  However we are able to compare the data from the year before the relaunched Bristol Chess Times and last season.

Total number of players in the league 

  • 2016/17 – 329 players
  • 2017/18 – 337 players

An increase of 2.4%.

Total number of players who played at least 5 games

  • 2016/17 – 254 players (77% of the league)
  • 2017/18 – 260 players (77% of the league)

An increase of 2.4%.

So lets not get too carried away but its fair to say the league stabilised in the last year. Its also difficult to attribute all of that effect to just the Bristol Chess Times as several other clubs (hats off to the noisy neighbours North Bristol Chess Club) have done sterling efforts in their own self promotion.

However, I also feel its really important to acknowledge how important slowing and stabilising the decline of over the board league chess is.  Historical data from 1998 to 2006 shows that the number of league players over that time declined from 467 to 320.  In the last 12 years the league size would appear to have remained relatively stable. Therefore any upward trend, no matter how small, can be seen as a positive step forward.

Looking ahead into the next 12 months, we can expect to see the online visibility of the Bristol Chess Times increase as articles are indexed correctly by major search engines and more and more chess players share our articles (hint hint).

ECF Website of the Year 2018 Nomination

One final highlight of our first 12 months in business is the recent nomination for ECF Website of the Year 2018.  Whilst we were unfortunate not to win due to not being “ordinary” enough (see the committee statement here) my thanks goes out to all those who recognised our efforts and nominated us.

Looking ahead with the Bristol Chess Times

So its been a hell of a year and one that has truly laid the foundations for success in the years to come.  At the risk of banging a tired drum, the clubs in the league who have supported and engaged in digital promotion have really benefitted.  North Bristol Chess Club have had a cracking season of growth whilst my own club, Horfield & Redland, have launched a new website and its members have been very active in the Bristol Chess Times. At the AGM last September we had a list of 23 members but by May 2018 we now have 33 players representing us.  A remarkable growth in membership of 43%!

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Thanks for everyones support!

League Chess in 2018 is alive and well in the South West of England and across the UK.  Too often I hear the cry and lament from players about the decline of league chess. But the efforts and ambitions of a small group of individuals and the statistics from the last 12 months indicate that by embracing modern digital tools we can not only halt the decline, but stand ready and primed for success in the future.

Until next time.


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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.

 

 

 

February 2018: League Review and Game of the Month

We are now approaching the business end of the league season with only two months to go and most teams having only five games remaining.  For many title contenders it was the month they turned the screw on their peers, remaining focused on the top prizes.

Division 1

Horfield A have led for the majority of the season as they chase a first league title in 17 years, but a large chasing pack of five teams has been keeping them nervous throughout.  However, February turned out to be the month when daylight finally appeared at the top.  Despite several close matches, Horfield A continued to grind out the victories whilst the chasing pack slipped up and dropped valuable points with draws and losses to teams lower down the division.  As the month of February closes Horfield A find themselves five points clear (with a very healthy Game Points score).  Its not over but the statisticians amongst our readers will point to a strong likelihood of a Horfield title.

At the bottom of the table both Clifton B and Clevedon picked up some points to close the gap on South Bristol A and maybe even Downend B.  With games in hand, we could be seeing an intriguing 3 or 4 way relegation battle pushing on to the very end of the season.

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Division 2

In division 2, South Bristol B continued to hold onto top spot throughout the month but its much closer with Horfield C one point behind.  The self styled “noisy neighbours” of the Bristol & District League, North Bristol, briefly applied some pressure at the top but it would appear the games played column will be their enemy this season.  With everyone around them having games in hand, it will be hard to stay in the top three.

At the bottom of the league Downend D are unfortunately adrift but Cabot A are still within touching distance of safety.

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Division 3

Yate A finally lost their 100% record, conceding top spot to Keynsham A.  The rest of the division are a long way behind although Clifton C have mysteriously only played 8 games giving them a whopping 3 games in hand. That makes the division slightly harder to call but its fair to say its likely to be a three horse race into the final stretch of the season.

At the bottom of the division, Hanham A, Downend E and Cabot B will be glad that there is no relegation from Division 3 as they have all struggled thus far.

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Division 4

North Bristol B have plenty to shout about in Division 4 as they are joint top with 20pts but with a healthy three games in hand which should be enough to see them claim top spot. In what is an incredibly tight run in its very hard to call who will finish where from third to 10th with still lots of games in the largest division in the Bristol & District Chess League.

There always has to be one team propping up the league and unfortunately at the moment that dubious honour goes to Harambee.

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League KO Cup and Minor League KO Cup

The semi finals for both cup competitions also took place in February.  This time out, it was Horfield’s turn to taste defeat in both cups, losing to Downend and Clevedon respectively.

The final match ups for the last pieces of silverware in the season is as follows:

Minor KO Cup Final: Downend vs. Clevedon

KO Cup Final: Downend vs. Bath / South Bristol (editors note – final semi result pending at time of writing)

Game of the Month

Our Game of the Month for February comes courtesy of Candidate Master Lynda Smith of Thornbury Chess Club. Lynda actually submitted two examples of lovely attacking chess but we have opted for her lovely attacking prowess on the Black side of a Sicilian from the East Devon Congress .  Lynda’s attack starts as early as move 8 with the h-pawn thrust.  Its fitting that the game is ultimately decided on the h-file 19 moves later, demonstrating the successful culmination of a long term plan.

Congratulations to Lynda and our other winners of previous Games of the Month.  We will be compiling all our winners together at the end of the season for a final Game of the Season as well as some prizes.  Until then, enjoy playing through Lynda’s game below.

Finally, regular readers will notice that we have made some edits to the Bristol Chess Times. Most notably we have added the ability to play through games on the site (as demonstrated in Lynda’s game above).  Please do let us know what you think as we are particularly pleased to be adding this really useful functionality to the website.  I will be writing an update soon on the coming changes to the site and how more members of the amateur chess community can get involved with the Bristol Chess Times.


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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 71st Bristol Chess Championships: March 2nd to 4th 2018

In the thriving Bristol chess scene we typically have four weekend congresses a year (in line with the four seasons). What a lot of people don’t realise is that the Spring congress is also the occurrence of the Bristol Championships when the highest placed Bristol & District League player can claim the crown of Bristol Champion.  The championships are 71 years old this year so the Bristol Chess Times decided to find out more.

 

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The perennial Congress question: “Do I take the Friday night bye?”. Perhaps the hardest task facing the 2018 Bristol Champion

On the weekend of March 2nd-4th the 71st Bristol Chess Championships takes place at the Sixth Form Centre at Bristol Grammar School in the heart of Bristol. Grandmaster Keith Arkell (2411) is already signed up as is Bristol based International Master Chris Beaumont (2259).  In addition, Downend’s Attila Reznak (2280) adds to a strong field in the Open.  The Open carries Prize money of £260 for first, £130 for second and £65 for third.

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CEO of UK startup Chessable, David Kramaley will also be in attendance.

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The university will also be contributing a number of strong contenders

However, the beauty of the Bristol Championships is that its not just about who wins the Open.  A Major section (U160 ECF) and Minor section (U120 ECF) also enable two further champions to be crowned (which also carries first place prise money of £180 and £140 respectively).

It should be pointed out that anyone can enter the Bristol Championships (and are encouraged to from other leagues, counties and cities!) but the titles of Bristol Champion in the Open, Major and Minor categories are only awarded to the highest placed Bristol & District league players.  This makes the Bristol Championships an excellent choice for any league players who want a cracking weekend of competition, with a shot at winning something but might be unnerved by the presence of all those titled players!

Here are the last five years of Bristol Champions:

Open

  • 2016/17 – Carl Bicknell
  • 2015/16 – Stephen Meek
  • 2014/15 – Richard Savory
  • 2013/14 – James Cobb
  • 2012/13 – David Buckley

Major

  • 2016/17 – Andrew Borkowski
  • 2015/16 – James Hennefeld
  • 2014/15 – Alan Papier
  • 2013/14 – Alex Rossiter
  • 2012/13 – Harvey Atkinson

Minor

  • 2016/17 – Grant Daly
  • 2015/16 – Jason Blaxill
  • 2014/15 – Kevin Langmaid
  • 2013/14 – Richard Porter
  • 2012/13 – Alastair Marsten

The Bristol Congress Website contains the full Hall of Fame of Bristol Champions going back to the inaugural competition in 1947/48! In a subsequent article I fully intend to explore the history of Chess in Bristol.

All three champions receive trophies but even if you can’t win one (because you are not a Bristol & District league player), the congress still promises to offer an excellent weekend of chess in the centre of one of the UK’s best cities just as Spring starts to break and the sun starts to shine (editors note – ok I’m bias, I know).  Whats not to like?!

Here is a PDF download to the entry form:

71stBristolChampionshipsCongress (PDF)

Alternatively, contact Igor Doklestic (Congress Secretary) on chessinbristol@gmail.com.

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Igor Doklestic, the Bristol & District Chess League Congress Secretary and all around top bloke!


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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.

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.

div1

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.

div2

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.

div3

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).

div4

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.

December 2017 Review – Cup Special!

The cup is here! Brutal knockouts and underdog dreams reign supreme over the chessboard whilst clubs salivate over the prospect of silverware in the new year.

This month’s review will be a little different – sadly no game of the month (don’t despair, there’s plenty of tournament and league action in January so we’ll have to make up for it then) and little to no movement in the league.

South Bristol A climbed up to mid-table in div 1, Horfield C have relinquished their clutches on div 2, whilst North Bristol B extend their lead in div 4, but other than that it’s all ticking along nicely.

So on to the bloodbath that is the KO cup!

The major saw just a single quarter-final, but packed with enough tension for four! Horfield were totally on the back foot but mounted a heroic (well…) comeback and again won by the smallest margin leaving Clifton wondering where the wins even came from.

Semi-final predictions

Horfield vs. Downend. We’re going with Horfield for this one (editors intervention – bias much Mike?!). They’ve been consistent in the league, have the home advantage, are on a lucky streak, and crucially yours truly is not available to put the team in peril.

Bath vs. South Bristol. Again going with the home odds, we’ll take Bath to give South Bristol an early bath… But that’s ages away in February, many things can change.

December was all about the minor cup action. Downend’s strength in depth overcame the re-branded North Bristol, and will now face South Bristol in the semi’s who made it through with a stonking 6-0 win against Hanham. For this reason we’ll have to pick South Bristol for the win in February.

Horfield proved too strong for Yate and will meet Clevedon in the semis; who upset Clifton in a tough battle. That means giants Clifton are absent from both semi-finals, so it’s wide open! Horfield have the home odds for the semi, but who doesn’t love a cup run from a small town?! Clevedon it is.

We’ll be back in January with maybe a bumper edition of Game of the Month, and check back in February with the results of the KO semi-finals and a final preview.


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.

Christmas Blitz at the Cross Hands Pub, 10th December

Fresh off the back of running the successful Bristol Winter Congress (full report to follow) at the weekend, Igor Doklestic is pleased to announce a fun evening of blitz chess at the Cross Hands pub in Fishponds (not far from Downend & Fishponds CC).

crosshands

The idea is to be an informal evening of festive chess and drinks that will be finished in a couple of hours but will include some small prizes.  Details below:

  • Five rounds of Blitz starting at 19:00
  • The time controls are 3 minutes + 2 seconds increment.
  • £3 entry fee and entrances are accepted from 18:30 onwards
  • Places are limited to 32 places so first come first serve.

It should be a lovely night of festive cheer and an opportunity to play with your league mates in a more informal manner.  I will also take this opportunity to highlight that if you enjoy a pint and a bit of Blitz then register yourself and two friend for the Bristol Pub Blitz Chess League. Our new initiative to help promote and grow the league.


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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.

Gambit night is back!

Its a well known fact that Gambit Night is one of the crazier nights in the Bristol chess calendar. This fun night from North Bristol Chess Club is rapidly becoming a summer tradition so the Bristol Chess Times endeavoured to find out some more.

Im ashamed to say that Gambit Night is the only Bristol Tournament I have never played in after 13yrs in the league.  Its not a deliberate thing, more a timing issue over the summer months as I’ve often been away or unavailable. So what is Gambit night?

Gambit Night is an evening of blitz with a twist.  At the start of every game the players choose a card with a random gambit written on it. The players are forced to set up the board from the position on the card and then the clocks are started (10 minutes)! Im told that much crazy crazy play follows and it is especially a great leveller between players of different skill. For a league that prides itself on a very high standard of serious chess, the North Bristol CC Gambit Night provides a well established tradition of tongue in cheek chess with a healthy dose of fun (and swearing).  To top it all off the North Bristol crew only charge a modest £3 charge for a full evening of gambit mayhem. Bargain!

To honour this upcoming crazy night in the Bristol chess calendar I decided to look at some dubious gambits with a Bristol twist.  Lets start with “The Clifton Gambit” which stems from a correspondence match between Clifton and Dublin chess clubs in the 19th century.  It took me a while to translate this gambit from the old style notation recorded on the Clifton website and to be honest was left a little cold with its lack of immediate craziness.

The Clifton Gambit

  1. e4 e5 2. f4 pxp 3. Be2?!

cliftongambit

Just what exactly is white gaining from this move?  A quick scan of the statistics shows white scores 51% whilst the computer shows  a score of -1.2 so quite frankly I’m unimpressed.  If you are going to gambit then atleast lets get some dynamic compensation going.  Maybe I’m missing something…

In my quest for a crazy dynamic gambit I was reminded of Horfield’s Mike Harris (Bristol Chess Times first correspondent who will be attending Gambit night and reporting back on his findings) love of the Latvian.  Mike will literally play anything in the Latvian so I’ve just chosen the best gambit I could find with the stupidest name.  Ladies and Gentlemen I give you The Lobster Gambit.

The Lobster Gambit

  1. e4 e5 2.nf3 f5 3. g4?!

lobstergambit

Lovely stuff! Now thats a gambit I can get behind! What a lovely claw shape! Heres hoping North Bristol CC are paying attention and add this crustacean to their deck of gambit cards in the next couple of days.

Ill be honest that my knowledge of Bristolian themed gambits is limited so I welcome any thoughts from longer serving league members than myself.  The final (tenuous) Bristolian connection I could find was the Wing Gambit of the Bishops opening, purely based on Bristol’s proud aeronautical heritage with Conchord. Like I said tenuous.

The Wing Gambit

  1. e4 e5 2. Bc4 Bc5 b4

winggambit

This remarkable move scores a nice healthy 60% with white (from 94 games) and only scores -0.52 with computer analysis.  Dare I say that in the context of a standard club player, then this might actually be sound?! Heres hoping for picking this card at Gambit Night!

So that ends our tour of Bristol themed gambits.  Im sure more knowledgable heads than me may have other crazy lines with a west country twist so feel free to leave a comment below!

Gambit Night is on the 3rd August this year at the Ratepayers Arms, Filton.  The first round starts at 19:45 and entries are accepted on the night. Any questions (and special thanks) can be directed to Steve Woolgar: knightskies@sky.com.

Lets go burn some pawns!


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.