Ratings – possible issues with monthly grading

Quick league update – congratulations to North Bristol CC for the div 2 title! Now for something completely different – some thoughts about grading:

I read with interest Bob Radford’s and the BCT’s comments on the ECF’s proposals for using FIDE ratings. It’s handy to have a quick conversion check list and it’s interesting to see the BCT’s questions about the conversion process. To quote them: “Here at the BCT we are quite confused about all this K-factor and RO and algorithms going on”

But I see from the link to the ECF proposals that these are headed “Monthly grading proposal” and the change from ECF to ELO is a secondary detail to facilitate the introduction of monthly grading. The change to monthly grading seems to be a done deal, while the switch from ECF to ELO is a supplementary matter which is explained (or not, depending on your point of view!) in great detail. So, really, there are two separate issues: monthly grading and the switch to ELO.

I suspect that the introduction of monthly grading has rather gone under the radar and in fact opens an enormous can of worms. There is a major issue concerning how monthly league results would be communicated to the ECF. At present the results are sent twice-yearly and the increase in administrative hassle to do it monthly must be a major concern. I don’t want our league’s administrators to be caught up with feeding monthly data to the ECF if this will in any way affect the excellent reporting of results that we currently enjoy. Chessit reporting is actually quite sophisticated in the way that it handles not only match scores and updating of tables but also detailed club statistics including grading thresholds and play ups and downs. We are extremely lucky to have all this.

It is all very well for the ECF to lay down that results must be sent in monthly but I seriously wonder whether they have really thought it through properly and understand the problems they may be causing bigger leagues like ours. They state in their proposal that “At least in the early stages, there should be tolerance of delayed reporting, particularly for leagues and internal club results.” I wonder if this could be the thin end of the wedge.

As regards how monthly grading will affect the individual player, I suspect that anyone who is desperate to know how his/her grade is progressing from game to game is able to do this quite easily on the back of an envelope or, if they are so inclined, on a simple computer spreadsheet. And indeed they probably already do! How many will feel the necessity to log on to an ECF file to see their monthly grade? Nice to have, maybe, but hardly essential for most players. We have around 320 players in the league, of whom typically 60-ish play in weekend congresses which means that over 70% only ever play league chess for grading purposes. They can already see their grade not monthly, but weekly, on Chessit, so the ECF’s publishing of monthly updates will add nothing of great value for them.  And, after all, “they”, the silent majority, are the League.

I am fairly sure that we all play league chess for the enjoyment, fun and competitive spirit that the league gives us. And I suggest we look out for the results and league tables on Chessit in much the same way that we check the football results in the Sunday paper or on the internet. I would not want that to be put at risk because of issues to do with sending results to the ECF.

Perhaps it will be argued that monthly grading can be implemented with no adverse effect on Chessit. However, until I see convincing proof of that, I shall remain very cautious about the potential administrative problems. If push came to shove and the ECF were to try to force the League to send monthly results against our better judgement, I would hope we would have the determination to stand up to them. Incidentally, these are all purely my personal views.

And my personal view on changing from ECF to ELO is that I suppose it is “progress” and I can’t get too excited about it one way or the other. Of greater concern seems to me to be how the webmasters will cope with it.

BCT: If anyone else has any thoughts about current proposals, or proposals of their own around grading, please comment and share them with the league. Many thanks to Ian for his.


Author:  Ian Pickup is a regular Bristol League player in division 1

Defensive sacrifices – the queen falls on her sword

Sacrifices are often associated with attack – but they can be equally effective as defence. We take a look at a queen ‘sack’ from the Bristol league.

This is the position from Stubbs vs. Helbig in a recent Division One match:

game1
Rb1 has just been played by White – attacking the queen on b8. What would you do?

White is beginning to take some control, utilising extra space and time; and is threatening to really tighten the screw and maybe land a piece on b6, supported by pawn c4-c5. This is just one possible plan, but it would also free the bad bishop on d3. However, Paul wanted that bishop to stay bad, and so played the deep queen sacrifice:

…Bxc5!

He gives up the queen for a rook and bishop after Rxb8 Rxb8 Black has three relatively active pieces which stand a good chance of stopping the queen rampaging – and the potential of co-ordinating to pressurise the king or get a pawn moving down the board.

Would you have thought of this move? It’s important to at least consider them. After a good 4-5 seconds thought, Stockfish comes to the same conclusion as Paul and gives up the queen also! Here are the lines:

Comp
Stockfish recommendations. Qe8 also draws but presumably it thinks this is a longer (and probably more painful) defence, so it puts Bxc5 at the top.

In the game there followed Qc3 Bd4 Qxa5 c5:

game2
After …c5 from Black

Without the a-pawn White would have no real way to make progress, and still has the weak bishop on d3 -which Black goes for now. Surprisingly, White simply gives the bishop up straight away rather than try to wriggle to worse and worse squares, and gets the pawn moving: Qa7 Rb3, a5! Rxd3, a6 White had worked out that the Black rook would have to sacrifice itself too for the pawn, but hadn’t counted on the bishops being so strong afterwards! Bxc4, Qb8+ Kg7, a7 and Black must give up the rook:

game3
Black is forced to play Ra3, planning to take the new queen

After a8=Q Rxa8, Qxa8 the bishops and the extra pawn provide Black with enough stability and potential counterplay to distract the queen from doing any damage. White tried the best plan to disrupt the pawns and open more lines for the queen, but had to settle for a perpetual check and a draw was agreed.

That’s some defence!

The rest of the game went Bd3, g4 g5, Qd8 h6, h4 gxh4, g5 hxg5, Qxg5+ Kf8, Qd8+ Kg7, Qg5+ Kf8, Qd8+ etc.

Always consider the defensive sacrifice – it may just be the best way forward.


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of the Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

Game of the Month – October 2018

We check in on the league and get started for a brand new season of Game of the Month.

The league is in full swing!

Division One proving as tough as ever and a little surprising; Downend B are on top thanks to a youthful and in-form team. Bath A are lurking with a match in hand and look very strong, for example only losing 2.5 points to all 3 Horfield teams put together!

Conversely to division 1, the ‘A’ teams are in charge of the other three divisions: North Bristol, Cabot, and Harambee with a much improved start compared to last season in division 4 (they have a game in hand over Clevedon C, level on points).

Game of the Month

Rob Attar vs. Max Walker

Horfield B vs Clevedon A (division 1)

I was playing in this match, and would have shown my own loss on board 1, succumbing to some nice tactics from my opponent, but there was a sharper game on board 4 from Max:

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 b6 4. e3 Nc6 5. Bd3 Be7 6. O-O Nb4

pos1
With Nb4, Max removes the ‘London Bishop’

7. c4 Nxd3 8. Qxd3 Bb7 9. Nbd2 O-O 10. e4 d5 11. cxd5 exd5 12. e5 Ne4 13. Rac1 c5 14. b3

pos2
Here Max goes for cramping the other bishop with g5!

14… g5 15. Bg3 g4 16. Ne1 cxd4 17. Qxd4 Bc5 18. Qd3 Ba6

pos3
Ba6! A nice tactical idea with the plan of Nxd2, trapping the rook on f1.

The engines prefer Qg5, which is always hanging in the air – but perhaps this is more a computer favourite because it shuts out a few perpetual possibilities for White. But if one thing is certain, Rob wasn’t looking for chances to bail out! With the g-pawn gone, this is still a very double-edged position.

Rob accepts the exchange loss and sets about creating counter-chances against the open king, but Max finds a cool defence:

19. Qxa6 Nxd2 20. Qe2 Nxf1 21. Qxg4+ Kh8 22. Kxf1 Rg8 23. Qf3 Qd7 24. Bh4 Be7

pos4
Be7(!) defends f6 but leaves a tempting Qxf7

And Rob takes the bait with Qxf7! This is a piece sacrifice, with the idea being that after Black escapes the pin with Qb5+ and then Bxh4, White has the nasty Rc7! Threatening h7 mate with no obvious escape.

But Max had seen one:

25. Qxf7 Qb5+ 26. Kg1 Bxh4 27. Rc7

pos5
Black has one defence to Qxf7…

27… Bxf2+! And Black either drags the king to an unfortunate square (If Kh1, Qf1 mate; and if Kxf2, Rf8 pins and wins) or distracts the White queen away from mate so that Black can bring in the reinforcements in time. Phew!

28. Qxf2 Raf8 29. Nf3 Qd3 30. Ne1 Rxf2 31. Nxd3 Rgxg2+ 32. Kh1 Rxh2+ 33.
Kg1 Rxa2 34. e6 Rhd2 35. Ne1 Rd1 36. Kf1 Raa1 37. Kf2 Rxe1 38. e7 Kg8
0-1 (Full game below)

Well played to Max and to Clevedon A who won that match and are definitely in the running for division 1. See you next time and remember to keep sending in those games!


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of The Bristol Chess Times and plays regular league and tournament chess

The November Problem with GM Jones

I think that chess problem solving tournaments can be quite fun, although it must be admitted that I say this from the perspective of someone who is usually involved in helping to run them, not actually competing!

Part of the skill in running such a competition is in selecting problems of the right level of difficulty. On August 26th I ran the problem solving event at the MindSports Olympiad in London. Only five competitors turned up, but they all took the event seriously, and as lively discussions broke out at the end of each round about problems they’d solved correctly and problems they hadn’t I think they found it a stimulating experience. All five were more familiar with chess-playing events, though some had at least a passing interest in problems. The event took the form of two one-hour ‘papers’, each comprising six problems, nearly all of them orthodox, and as the scores, out of 60, ranged from 47.5 to 14.5 I was pleased that no competitor found the problems either too easy or hopelessly difficult.

Of the problems, my own favourite, which was solved I think by two of the five competitors, was one that I managed to solve when looking for problems to set:

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 14.59.58

It’s mate in 4. Composed by one Walter I. Kennard, it was published in American Chess Bulletin in 1915.

Solution Below

In this case, Black has only two legal moves, so the obvious approach to solving is to see what happens if White ‘passes’ and Black plays either of these moves. Well, White isn’t worried about 1…c5. This move, losing control over d5, allows 2.Rd1 b5 3.Rd5 and 4.Rxc5#. But as matters stand White doesn’t have a mate after 1…b5; the only way then in which you might hope to mate within the 4-move time-frame is 2.c5, but then after 2…b4 what happens? If 3.cxb4+ Kb5 and there is no mate.

But of course it is White to play in the initial position, and can we finagle it so that in that line there is a mate after 3…Kb5? If so, the mate would have to be 4.c4. So the Rook must guard c4. The natural way to do this is to play 1.Rf4 – but the drawback then is that 1…c5 now defends successfully! (If 2.Rd4 then of course 2…cxd4.) So the ‘lightbulb moment’ is when one sees that the key has to be 1.Rc1! It is very attractive that this move, which of all the moves on the board seems to give the Rook the least influence, does have the well-concealed potential to guard the c2P when it administers mate on move 4. And of course the Rook at c1 can still play the mating line, beginning 2.Rd1, if Black plays 1…c5.

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 15.04.02

Mate in four after: 1.Rc1 b5 2.c5 b4 3. cxb4 + kb5 4. c4# (editors note – Lovely stuff!)

Although you may feel under pressure in a solving event if you’re competitively minded it’s still possible to enjoy ‘lightbulb moments’ when you spot a nice paradoxical key move like this. And even if, competitive-minded, you find a solving tourney as stressful as a game in the Bristol League, it’s like a League game in which you’re guaranteed that you’re going to have the opportunity to play a brilliant winning move!

If you’re interested in solving events don’t hesitate to contact me.


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).

Checkmate with two knights in the endgame (YouTube)

In this short episode we look at a lovely checkmate involving two knights in a time pressured endgame.  With only five minutes left the black player bravely ignores an advancing white pawn to deliver an impressive mate.  

An excellent example of subtleties in the endgame massively turning the outcome of a game.

Checkmate with two knights in the endgame (8 minutes)

As always if you enjoy this episode, please subscribe to YouTube and share with all your chess friends.  We are always happy to take submissions of suggested amateur league or tournament games to look at.

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.

White punishes Black’s slow development in the French defence (YouTube)

In our latest episode we look at a 19 move demolition of Black in a rare sideline of the French advance variation.  The game comes from the North Bristol Chess Club Championship held over the summer and is an excellent example of the impact of losing too much time in the opening.

White launches a lovely attack (after getting their king safe) and is quickly rewarded by jumping on blacks underdevelopment.  One things for sure, Black will be going back to the drawing board after this one…

White punishes Black’s slow development in the French Defence (17 minutes)

As always please do share with your chess friends and subscribe to the YouTube channel.  If you would like one of your games featured on The Bristol Chess Times then please send them in to bristolchesstimes@gmail.com.

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.

Five ideas for league chess in Britain

Every now and then a group of like minded individuals find themselves in the right place at the right time. Just such an event occurred on Friday afternoon on the medium of Twitter.  A relatively innocuous tweet from Kings Head Chess Club about the length of evening chess league games started a very enjoyable (and long) online discussion on the state of British League Chess.  Whilst I will not do justice to all of the conversation spread across dozens of threads and tweets, I thought it best to try to capture  some of the lovely ideas that emerged.  Be warned!  Not everyone will agree with every suggestion but thats the point. If nothing else I feel that this blog post is here simply to act as a celebration of the range of proactive and passionate clubs and individuals working to improve British league chess in 2018.

prelim

The British evening league chess scene is a unique institution! Lets talk about it!

Rather than list the entire conversation verbatim I have decided to pull out the core themes and ideas that sprung from the minds of the various actors involved.  Who were they I hear you ask?

  • The Bristol Chess Times (@brizchesstimes) – Loud bloke shouting about modernising the UK chess scene;
  • Richard James (@chesstutor) – Very well established chess tutor from Richmond and Twickenham Chess Club who has run junior training for decades;
  • Kings Head Chess Club (@kingsheadchess) – A big London club who asked a simple question and received about 300 tweets as a response (editors note – Sorry!)
  • Andrew Rimmer (@AndrewRimmer) – .net developer working on creating a new wordpress template for chess clubs to utilise after becoming appalled at the state of most British chess club websites.
  • Hammersmith Chess Club (@hammer_chess) – A phoenix of a chess club who have turned the corner of decline by embracing positive change.

So without further ado here are five ideas or discussions for chess clubs to consider both now and in the future.

There is potentially an appetite for 2hr evening league games

The original discussion started by asking if three hours on a weeknight is too large a commitment for some people and might be putting some players off?  For example, many other activities in modern 21st century life tend to only take an hour (e.g. the gym / play 5 aside football or another sport) still leaving some time of the evening to achieve other things.  Currently 3hr games are basically asking players to give up an entire evening away from home.  Obviously some people may not mind this but it cannot be argued that a full evenings commitment is harder at different stages of life.  For example, young parents, people in full time employment can all struggle to commit to 3hrs compared to say people with older children or retirees.

I know that many people will argue that evening league chess has always run this way and many club players I know would complain if time controls were to get any shorter. Some would say that basically commit or don’t commit its your choice.  However the debate does raise interesting societal impacts that may be hampering the growth of new recruits in modern 21st century Britain.

For example, (I totally acknowledge my bias here) as a father of two young children, 19:30 KO times for league matches means that on a Tuesday evening I miss bedtime. Having finished work at 17:30 – 18:00 I barely have time to get home, eat and then make it to whichever respective chess club I need to be at.

But what if matches started at 20:30?

Young mothers and fathers with an interest in chess could finish work, tuck the kids into bed, eat and still play league chess.  And no, before anyone says anything I’m not proposing leaving the kids home alone!  My point is that it is far more common in 21st century Britain for both parents to take active roles in children’s meal and bed times compared to say 50-60 years ago.  Would we see more young mothers and fathers (i.e. people in their 20’s and 30s) at chess clubs if weeknight league chess started at 20:30?

Interestingly, Richard James countered that a 2hr league game starting earlier in the evening would be far more supportive of junior participation.  Certainly an interesting viewpoint that again may well help boost league participation. For example, if games ran between 18:30 and 20:30. However I would be interested to hear readers thoughts on this as such an early start would directly conflict with the workers / parents discussion raised above.

In the end, I don’t suspect any of us involved in the conversation expect league chess to embrace 2hr game lengths (we also discussed 1hr games of Rapidplay with two games a night! – heresy!) but my point here is to get people asking the question that perhaps we might be hindering league growth by asking too big a commitment from some people in modern 21st century Britain.

Weekday Evenings vs. Weekend Leagues

An alternative to the shorter weeknight games was suggested by Richard James in terms of running localised weekend leagues. Much like the 4NCL but at a local level rather than clubs being forced to travel halfway across the country to play a match.

Again a really interesting idea that I would love to get readers feedback on.  Again the benefits of running weekend leagues would enable longer games but also maximise the opportunity for juniors to participate at more amenable hours of the day. Three key questions were raised with the “local weekend league” idea:

  • Would players be able to commit their personal time to weekends easier than weeknights (editors note – I couldn’t?)  Would such a league not steal potential attendees at congresses and the 4NCL?
  • Where would these weekend leagues be hosted?  Battersea Chess Club generously volunteered their current venue for example but I think most readers would ask how to obtain and hold onto venues for such leagues over time?
  • How many fixtures are reasonable in weekend leagues? Would these be shorter divisions and fixed numbers of games?

WordPress should be the goto place for a chess club website

The group unanimously agreed that the digital skill of most British chess clubs was woeful and the poor presentation of most clubs to the outside world was directly affecting recruitment.  Digital literacy is something that I have spoken about before and all those involved seemed to settle on the choice of WordPress for setting up and running club websites.  I loved the following quote:

If you can create a decent looking document in Microsoft Word you can create a decent looking website in WordPress – Hammersmith Chess Club

Andrew Rimmer is currently in the process of producing a generic wordpress theme for chess clubs to use and roll out and The Bristol Chess Times have agreed to help road test and provide feedback.  Watch this space for more updates as and when this potentially beneficial tool for the chess club community will be ready.  Thanks Andrew!

Losing juniors at secondary school level means adult leagues don’t benefit in terms of recruitment

There is a large range of beneficial investments and schemes in Primary school children’s chess across the UK. These are all great wonderful initiatives!

However, the statistics show that a lot of children drop away from chess when they reach secondary school age and don’t come back. When we are talking about the weeknight British League Chess scene most of the discussion identified that a large increase in primary school children playing chess has not resulted in any noticeable increase in people in their 20’s joining adult clubs.  There are many reasons for this and its a complex subject. I myself stopped playing chess between the ages 14 and 20 for the usual adolescent reasons.

However, it does make me ask the question about what are clubs doing to attract young adult beginners?  As I have said on many an occasion, online chess is exploding with tens of millions of people playing around the globe.  The interest in chess is there across all age ranges and yet in the UK club scene we seem to struggle to attract people in their 20’s and 30’s?

Certainly some of the issues we have already discussed in this article may be contributing and I don’t pretend to have the answers (yet) but I feel it is an interesting behaviour to call out and think about.  How many of the 40,000 school children playing chess in the UK today will go on to play at adult clubs?

Proactive clubs producing content and social spaces are thriving

6

Local Bristol legend Dave Tipper demonstrating a nice smothered mate! Dave has been an active contributor to the Bristol & District League online for almost 15 years. 

Finally, the message from the group discussing the British League Chess scene was one of optimism.  Where clubs were actively engaging in digital skills, creating social spaces and promoting themselves they are seeing huge benefits.

Horfield chess club had 23 registered players when I was appointed webmaster 18 months a go and at the start of the 2018/19 season is now looking at circa 35 players playing league chess and a further 4-5 regulars turning up each week for friendly chess.  In the Bristol & District Chess League, both North Bristol and Downend & Fishponds have also been very active in their promotion and have reported impressive growth levels.

Perhaps the poster child for chess club reform is Hammersmith chess club. The following quote from Twitter sums up their proactive approach:

“…in less than three years we have gone from 28 members and the very brink of extinction (£600 deficit that year), to 72 last year & able to refresh almost our entire range of equipment thanks to positive cash flow” – Hammersmith Chess Club

It should be noted that none of the clubs I’ve mentioned have achieved this success with just one individual.  All the clubs agreed that having multiple club members step up to create, publish content, run training nights, greet newcomers is the key to success.  Perhaps the old club approach of saying one person is responsible for the website is the reason why so many clubs are in the state they are in?  In each of the successful clubs mentioned, a small group of individuals is making a real difference to the benefit of all!

jon
Thanks for everyones support!

Conclusion

So there we are!  Five interesting ideas identified in the British League Chess scene in 2018.  I appreciate not every idea or discussion here will be to everyones tastes and thats ok.  If nothing else I hope this article helps readers ask questions about their own clubs and leagues and if there is anything they could be doing differently.

I can’t help feel that perhaps we are witnessing the evolution of a new type of chess club within the UK.  Those that create engaging social learning spaces by leveraging the power of digital.  There are hundreds of chess clubs across the UK and it is highly unlikely that all will make the transition required to survive but I believe all should be encouraged by the examples discussed here and the individuals fighting to make it happen.

Finally I want to extend my sincere thanks to all those who engaged in the conversation on Twitter yesterday afternoon.

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.

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (YouTube)

Two Bristol League Players recently competed in the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.  On the latest episode we showcase two games from Lewis Martin who was competing for the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD). Lewis scored a remarkable 72% across 11 games of stiff competition and rumour has it has qualified for the FM title.  Lets take a look.

The first game is a lovely Sicilian Najdorf where both players decide to ignore the concept of defence.  The second game is a tricky “Black to play and win” in a tactical finale.

Introducing the Philidor constellation at the Batumi Olympiad (20 minutes)

Please remember to subscribe to the YouTube channel to receive regular updates and share with all your chess friends!

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.

A knight on the rim is…great?! (YouTube)

In the latest episode we look at a Division 1 game between Horfield and Downend chess clubs.  Black places a knight on the edge of the board and it turns out to be the best piece in a series of tactical exchanges!  Rules are there to be broken!

We also look at a nice checkmate at the Batumi 2018 Olympiad where Bristol league player Peter Kirby is representing Guernsey.

A knight on the rim is…great?! (19 minutes)

If you are enjoying the YouTube channel then there a number of key actions you can take:

  • Please like and share the videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whichever social media takes your fancy;
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  • Send any exciting games from your local league to bristolchesstimes@gmail.com and we will do our best to get them on the channel.

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.

A refined anti-London system for club players (YouTube)

In the last year we have published several articles on an anti-London system based on an early queenside development by black. In our latest YouTube episode we look at how this has been evolving given most London system club players refusal to play 3.c4 and an adherence to the “classic” London structure. One things for sure, it ain’t going to be a draw!

 

An anti-London system for club players (16 minutes)

Leave us comments, suggestions and refutations below!  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.