Attack against e4 – The Latvian Gambit 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5!

This aggressive opening with Black could be your next surprise weapon – highly recommended for a must win game.

The Latvian is one of the most aggressive sound openings out there, but it is underused and largely unknown. If you’ve ever considered it before – you may have run it past an engine. They give it roughly a +1 after 3.Nxe5 (my engine lands on 1.17, meaning that it thinks White is even more than a pawn up, for nothing).

This alone may put you off reading any further – and if it does please do stop now. This opening is not for the faint-hearted. 2…f5 is basically an unmistakable statement that you intend to sack a lot of pieces for checkmate. If its stats you want, I’ve played this in Bristol league and tournament games about once a season for the last 4 years and I’ve won all 4 games – admittedly three against slightly lower rated opponents but one of them against a top coach.

It’s not played at the top level but there are a few masters and even world champions who dabble – even the great Bobby Fischer lost to it. Okay so Fischer was 11 at the time – but this game does show important attacking themes. Black benefits from the f-file being open quickly, and the bishop on d6 (staring at h2) is very typical for Latvian attacks. Because Black played f5 so early, White had no chance to calmly claim or block the centre, which means those nice diagonals are open for bishops.

Let’s see how the bishops can quickly triumph if White is greedy:

Aside: What’s a pawn worth?

Is an extra pawn going to win you the game? For Grandmasters maybe yes. It also may be the case in simple positions – one open file, obvious squares to contest, the player a pawn up can comfortably force trades and win with a pawn breakthrough. Again, simple positions. But if you are a long way off an endgame, forget about the material. It’s never just about the material, and in the Latvian gambit material is pretty much out the window.

move2

Back to move 2 – why f5?

First of all we must see the method behind the madness of f5. You should have a reason for every move you make, and it turns out f5 has many.
With e4 and Nf3 White is saying: “I’m going to castle kingside as soon as possible, distract you with defending e5, and have a comfortable life”
So what do we say in return? “Don’t get too comfy. Take my e-pawn, by all means; I’ll take yours. Or take my f-pawn and I’ll attack your only developed piece (with pawn e4 to e5). Castle kingside if you like, but I’ll quickly get a rook on the open f-file”

More strategically – you are opening the f-file for your own rook and threaten quick development by castling kingside. White can’t just let you do this, they must find something else to call an advantage.

After 2…f5!? we have several continuations. I’m not going to go into huge detail – I want to make you aware of the types of positions you get, and if you like what you see you can learn more about it on thechesswebsite.com, buy the book by Tony Kosten, or get a board out and try it yourself.

The main thing I want to tell you is that the engines have this one wrong. Well not totally wrong, but despite the evaluations a human playing White will have some major difficulty against the Latvian – unless of course they know it in great depth, which I would suggest is unlikely.

More to the point – the natural 3.Nxe5 is nothing to be scared of. The move to be mildly concerned about is 3.d4. But I will recommend a solid way to play in that case. Most of the time players will not play 3.d4 – and I’m talking about everyone below say 1900.

Why is this not played a lot?

There are some very simple answers here. It is sharp, a little bit wacky, difficult to play for both sides, and computers don’t think much of it. But the main reason I think is more psychological: Amateur players shy away from openings where they could lose quickly. Maybe it is fear of embarrassment, maybe it is the sunk cost of travelling to a venue to play a game of chess. But I’m here to convince you that is exactly the reason why you should consider these sorts of openings; because your opponent will have those same tendencies, and often will choose the safer (worse) option.

Let’s get down to some moves; so Black has two pawns en-prise – but the problem for White is they only have one move, not two. Either capture is okay for Black:

3. exf5

exf5

3…e4 4.Qe2 Qe7 5.Nd4 Nc6

and if they take our knight we take with the d-pawn, so that we recapture the f-pawn eventually and the other bishop settles on d6. They may try to hang on to the pawn but it’s not worth it.

6. Qh5+ Kd8

messy

and you can easily attack that pawn with d5, Qf6, Ne7 etc. G4 will lead to interesting games but Black should be better with the big centre and chances to make White’s queen look foolish.

3. Nxe5

Nxe5

3…Qf6
An alternative – for the real gambiteers, which I play on occasion – is 3…Nc6! 4.Qh5+ g6 5.Nxg6 Nf6! 6.Qh4 Rg8 7.Nxf8 Rg4! The engine still doesn’t love it but just look at the position below. Is White going to be loving life if they haven’t seen this before? We have rook takes e4 check coming (how many openings can say that?) with some awkward defence in store for White.

g6 line

Incidentally, Paul Keres dealt with 5.Nxc6 beautifully in this miniature.

After the main line 3..Qf6 we have 4. d4 d6 5.Nc4 and we recapture the pawn with fxe4; White stops us playing d5 with Nc3, but here’s one key move you’ll have to get comfortable with: Qg6. It seems strange to move the queen again, but we are okay – the knight comes to f6, we renew the threat of d5, and we can develop with Bd6, Bf5 or Bg4, castle and if needed tuck the queen back again with Qf7 and we are sitting pretty.

So after 6..Qg6 it is the start of the ‘main line proper’ – which is way too much to go into now, but Tony Kosten covers pretty much all the possible 7th moves for White:

mainline

Instead of capturing, White can of course ignore both pawns and develop:

3. Bc4

fxe4! 4.Nxe5 and either d5 or Qg5. Again things are going to get messy here. D5 is the most natural – but we do have to be comfortable with this line: 5. Qh5+ g6 6. Nxg6 Nf6! 7. Qe5+ Be7 8. Nxh8 dxc4 – and we are an exchange down but the knight is looking trapped – if White isn’t active then we can even walk the king over and take it.

Nxh8line

I don’t actually see Bc4 very often – but I’ll give a line that tempts White even more: 4..Nf6! Let these two games from Joseph Blackburne sway you. It’s the same opponent, who first tries to land a knight on f7, and then tries with the bishop – and gets pretty well crushed both times!

As I say, Bc4 is not too common. Among players who are unfamiliar with the Latvian, I believe the most common response will be:

3. d3

And this is just a different game. White tries to ignore the gambit and decides to save the light-squared bishop for defence. As Black we just continue with normal moves (Nf6, d6, Be7, 0-0) and plan on meeting exf5 with Bxf5.

The real test for you is when White decides to fight fire with fire, and opens up an attack on your e-pawn, with:

3. d4!

It’s a fairly decent move for White – but you’ll be okay if you memorise a few things:

  • Take the pawn that you threatened: 3..fxe4.
  • If they play Nxe5 and Bg5 then you’ll have to hold tight with Nf6 and Be7
  • Play either d5 or if you can’t then play d6 and kick the knight.
  • Remember the Latvian bishop – Bd6. For example in this game from Keres he plays d5 in response to Bc4, and his own bishop lands on d6. You don’t mind the knight staying on e5 – but you may have to get creative like Keres’ Kf8 and Kg7 to avoid tricks.

Conclusion

So – if you’ve read this far you hopefully view this opening as being worth a shot. With a bit of study, this is an awesome surprise weapon in your arsenal against 1.e4 and is a lot of fun to play.

Round 5 of a congress against the tournament leader who is half a point ahead of you? My advice is f5, Bd6, sack a rook and win the tournament in a blaze of glory.

I’ll leave you with none other than Boris Spassky employing the main line with great effect:


 

mikecircle

Mike is co-editor of The Bristol Chess Times and is a regular league and tournament player

Attacking chess then and now – Mike Wood commemorated

Mike Wood will be remembered as someone who always preferred risky and exciting lines of play. The Evans Gambit and the Milner-Barry were among his favourites as White and here are some examples of his style of play.

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“An Evans crushing” administered by Mike Wood in 1961

Robert Wildig was probably Bristol’s best chess prodigy (after David Wells) in the early 1960s. He played for Horfield in those days and in this game he succumbed to a crushing in the Evans.

W.A. Oddy (was it Bill?) was in the middle of the Bath top three between Bob Northage and Ron Gregory for many years. Here Mike throws the kitchen sink at him.

And here is a game annotated by Tyson Mordue for the D&F magazine “Versus” back in 1985. “Who needs Tal?” indeed!

Mike generously left money to both the Bristol League and Downend and Fishponds and the D&F committee have been pondering how best to commemorate this. Part of it is being used to provide a trophy for the best attacking play in games on our website and this year there were 23 from which to choose. Committee members and team captains were asked to rank the three games which best reflected Mike’s style of play.

In third place is this wild game between two of our club members in the Pentyrch match. Neil and Richard certainly entered into the spirit of this always friendly occasion.

Second is a fine example of attacking play by Henry Duncanson, soon, sadly, to be lost to Bristol chess.

And first place goes to Aron Saunders for a game that is notable especially for the maturity of an eleven year old’s play. He was the clear winner, nominated by five of the ten voters and with three first choices. It should also come as no surprise that this game featured as the first Game of the Month on the re-vitalized BCT last September.

Incidentally, fourth, fifth and sixth places were filled by Toby Kan, Jack Tye and Oli Stubbs, showing that the senior players had all better watch out next year


ianpickup

Ian Pickup

After leaving school Ian trained as an accountant, therefore missing his true vocation, to take over from John Arlott as the BBC cricket correspondent.

Reviewing my opening repertoire: “Is the Scandinavian holding me back?”

Its June and chess is in lazy season. The cut and thrust of the league has finished and we have to rely on weekend congresses and one-day rapid plays to see us through the long sunny months of Summer.  Traditionally I take this opportunity to review my chess with a full 360 degree review.  Following in the advice of the excellent book Chess for Tigers by Simon Webb, every few years I review my opening repertoire to see if I am falling down anywhere. Whilst on holiday this week I started by poking around some of my opening statistics with some interesting findings.

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Despite the surprise of many friends, this actually is a sound opening for black! (Photo courtesy of Chris Lamming)

At the start of last season I set myself the goal of reaching a personal best of 160 ECF / 1900 ELO.  The grades don’t come out until July in England but I suspect I have come dangerously close but not close enough.  My current estimates put me at around 158 ECF / 1885 ELO. Close but no cigar!  Whilst I appreciate there are bound to be multiple areas of my game to improve (for example, spotting one move mate threats which cost me two games this year), lets break down where those pesky few points could be being dropped in my openings.

White

This analysis is relatively straight forward as I only play the one opening with white…

Nimzo-Larsen Attack

27 games / 54% / 158 ECF or 1885 ELO average opponent

Everyone knows I enjoy a good 1. b3.  Lets face it I’m not going to change this up until it starts doing me a serious disservice.  Over the last two seasons I have scored a respectable 54% with it against strong opposition in the top two divisions of the Bristol & District Chess League.  A score of 54% seems to be about average with what a player with the white pieces should be scoring but it did lead me to question if I could be doing better with white by switching to something more conventional?

That may be the case but I think its fair to say I’m not under performing with white and seeing as a really enjoy these types of games why fix what isn’t broken?

Black

I’ve broken down this analysis into two groups – 1.e4 and 1.d4.  Only a small handful of games started with anything else and many of those that did, transposed back into mainline e4 or d4 openings anyway (I’m looking at you 1. nf3 players…).  I have not included the “other” openings category as they are two small and varied in number.

Scandinavian Defence- 1.e4

17 games / 41% / 151 ECF or 1833 ELO average opponent

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The numbers suggest I may have already gone wrong in this position

“I’m really enjoying and playing well with the Scandinavian”

“It really suits my style of play and the 2.nf6 lines give me plenty of room to play for a win”

Um. Well yes.  Thats what psychology can do to you!  I have been confidently trotting out the 2. nf6 Scandinavian for almost two seasons now believing that its treating me well.  The fact of the matter is I have barely scraped in with a performance of 41%.  To make matters even worse it turns out I’ve only won 3 of those 17 games (18%. Ouch!).  So why do I so passionately defend and even recommend this opening to friends and club mates?

Well it turns out that I draw with it a lot.  8 times out of 17 to be exact. For a player desperately questing to both improve their grade and perform in the top local leagues, draws with the black pieces against strong opposition go a long way to cementing a perception of an opening.

I did actually double check the figures but the numbers don’t lie.  My record with the Scandinavian reads:

  • Played: 17
  • Won: 3
  • Drawn: 8
  • Lost: 6

In addition, the average grade of my opponents is 151, slightly worse than my current predicted grade.  Although the sample of 17 games is relatively small, my predicted grade would seem to indicate I should be scoring atleast 50% with the Scandinavian against this level of opposition.

I checked the numbers in the database and black is scoring 46% at pro levels.  Overall my numbers would seem to suggest I am underperforming with the Scandinavian and this important defence to the kings pawn may need to be looked at over the summer.

Queens Gambit Declined and assorted 1. d4 defences

11 games / 59% / 146 ECF or 1795 ELO average opponent

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Blissfully unaware of how well I’ve been playing these positions

“I’ve always hated facing the queens pawn”.  

“Never do well against it.  Can’t stand it when they shove the d pawn forward, urggg”

Again my bias and psychology has been playing to the fore when the numbers actually tell a different story.  In stark contrast to my performance against 1.e4 I have actually been scoring remarkably well against the 1.d4 openings.

A cracking 59% with the black pieces which actually rises to 71% (7 games) when you factor in I changed the way I play against 1. d4 at the start of this season.  Again I double checked the numbers and was stunned to see that I have been comfortably handling the d-pawn all season long.  So solid has my performance been that it made me wonder if it had not been a contributory factor to my victory at the recent Frome congress.  At the time I had bemoaned getting three blacks over the weekend but actually my worst result came in a drawn Scandinavian whilst two cracking victories against 1.d4 had brought home the metaphorical bacon!

As a ringing endorsement for those people who recommend not losing too much sleep over opening study, I have been generally playing “good instinctive moves” against 1.d4, pretty much because I assumed I have a terrible record against it.  Freed from the burdens of opening theory I have also hit upon playing in a way that befits my personal style.  I should definitely review my 1.d4 games further to see what it is about those pawn structures and style that appeals to my play.

My average opponent strength in these d4 games is the lowest out of all the openings (approximately 10 ECF or 75 ELO) but the scores I am achieving reflect this, indicating my d4 openings are yielding what one would expect.

Perhaps the most pressing concern is how can I have such a large swing in performance between my responses to e4 and d4? Since my transition to the “Care-free Defence” (editors note – patent pending) there is a stark difference of 30% in performance!

Conclusion: “Is the Scandinavian holding me back?

So there we have it.

Twelve months on from when I set myself the goal of achieving 160 ECF / 1900 ELO I believe (July ratings pending) I have fallen short by a handful of rating points.  If you had stopped me in the local club and asked me where I thought it was going wrong, prior to this I would not have stated the Scandinavian Defence as a potential problem.

Perhaps 41% is not the worst ever score with black against 1.e4 but its clear that I am able to perform well with black as highlighted by my 1.d4 performances.  I think the thing that bothers me is the win column.  An 18% return of victories just isn’t good enough in my opinion (especially when one of those was against a much weaker opponent).  I’ve been painting a false picture about my performance with the Scandinavian due to holding multiple strong players to a draw with it.  In hindsight, there are very few games where I have been pushing my opponents for the full point.

In addition, my analysis of opponent strength seems to indicate that my White and d4 defences are scoring as expected if not better against my opposition.  However, my results with the Scandinavian are a good 10% below where you would expect them to be over a large number of games.

The Scandinavian is very popular at club level and has an excellent reputation.  To be clear, I’m not saying its a bad opening. But the important question to ask is is it right for me?  As I strive to creep ever closer to competing against the top players in the local leagues is it the right kind of opening to give me wining chances?  Perhaps an alternative defence to the kings pawn might have netted me those scarce few points I needed to hit my  personal goal?

Overall, a very useful exercise that yields some interesting questions.  I thoroughly recommend all amateur cub players perform this kind of analysis atleast once every two years as I have done.  Its amazing the stories we like to tell ourselves and how we can be actively missing out on areas of improvement we didn’t realise existed.


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.

From the Frontline: Frome Congress 18th – 20th May 2018

It was one of the sunniest weekends of the year but that didn’t stop almost 200 “wood pushers” descending on the small Somerset enclave of Frome (or Froooome as some online chess streamers call it) for the 29th edition of what turned out to be a cracking congress. It was my first time of entering and had heard many good things from my friends in the Bristol & District Chess league.  Rather than give you a staid, high level summary of events I thought I would report on a more personal level my journey through the weekend.

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Despite the surprise of many friends, this actually is a sound opening for black! (Photo courtesy of Chris Lamming)

I took a half day from work and a very leisurely train journey south (through places I had never heard of) which brought me to Frome at about 15:30pm.  The first round wasn’t starting until 18:45 so I checked into the George Hotel and contemplated life (AKA watched YouTube videos) until wandering along for round 1.  I was entered into the Major (u165 or u1950 for our non-British readers) and with a rating of 154 found myself as 17th seed in a field of 44 players.  A healthy sized tournament hall and a wonderful book stall from Chess Direct added to the feeling that this was a step up in both congress standards and size.

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OOOO…a big one!
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A great spread from Chess Direct was on offer all weekend. Take my money!

Round 1 – Outplayed and left begging for a half point

The perennial question of weekend congress players, should I take a Friday night bye?  Nay!  Thou shalt battle hard to take an early lead over the lazy people (and those travelling from very far away) to stamp your claim on the tournament from day 1.

Alternatively, you could be comprehensively outplayed in the opening by a player of the black pieces who knows your surprise white opening off by heart because they themselves play it.  What are the chances?!

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Grovelling for the half point my Friday night heroics had got me nowhere fast…

After two hours,  I was left in a queen endgame with shattered pawns.  Fortunately, the best that either one of us could hope for was a perpetual so we shook hands at around 21:00 and I left with a half point.

The same score as if i’d ticked the bye box on the entry form and sat in the pub instead.

Still I consoled myself by saying I had warmed up the chess brain cells.  To be fair, my opponent had played well and indeed left me grovelling for the half point.  Some players might have tried to force the situation given I was graded almost 20pts (150 ELO) above my opponent but it was a classic example of respecting the board position and the way my opponent had played rather than worrying about grades.

Round 2 – Dodging a bullet, riding your luck

Saturday morning arrived and after a very enjoyable Egg’s Royale in the hotel bar, I plotted my game plan for the day on the 20 minute walk to the venue. I decided my plan would be to win.  Both games.  A devilishly complex approach which demonstrated my strategic genius (sigh).

I found myself paired with the black pieces against an opponent whom I had never met but talked to regularly online.  I knew he was a reader of The Bristol Chess Times so it quickly dawned on me that he probably knew all my opening repertoire.

This is a serious problem as most amateur players will tell you.  We don’t tend to have back up repertoires.  Damn.

The game started well before a serious lack of middle game planning meant I drifted into an inferior, defensive position.  Trying to unclamp myself I played probably my worst move of the weekend which simply dropped a centre pawn, gave my opponent an open e-file and pretty much the game in the long term.  Miraculously, the error was missed and my opponent continued with his queenside stack that had been brewing for the last 5 or so moves.  I quickly rectified my mistake and counter punched against my opponents king leading to the game opening up for both sides.

After move 30 the game had really opened up and I presented my opponent with an opportunity to trade queen for two rooks with very interesting play.

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An interesting decision for White was declined. Should White exchange Queen for two rooks. Especially when a quick Bh3 also looms? Hmmmm

Again the opportunity was turned down and I went on to grind out a better end game with a passed d-pawn.  A win is a win as they say, although I certainly felt like I had gone unpunished throughout this game.

Round 3 – Grinding

The field had packed together after two rounds with only one person in our 44 strong section being on 2/2. I was one of about 15 players squished together on 1.5.  Clearly my grand plan of “win all games” would pay dividends in this situation.

Suffice to say it did.  In rounds 1 and 2 I felt inferior middle game planning had got me in hot water and I had been lucky to score what I had.  However, Round 3 was a classic example of Karpovian (admittedly with an amateur slant to it) grinding of small advantages.  Queens came off early, pawn structures were fixed and minor pieces shuffled for dominance.  My opponent erred with a rook manoeuvre to the congested middle of the board where my knight was actually stronger and he was forced to give up several pawns.  The material difference was enough I converted the win after a long 3.5hr slog.

The first game I felt I deserved.

So the master strategy was working well.  I returned to the George Hotel ordered some faggots and peas with an IPA and wondered when I became middle aged.

Round 4 – “Why aren’t I winning and how is he still in this?”

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The top boards battling it out on Sunday morning. Horfield’s Bob Radford pegged back David Marshall with a draw to give me a shot at the title (Photo courtesy of Chris Lamming)

Come Sunday morning, I found myself on the second from top board being one of three people on 2.5 /3.  One sole individual was still on 3/3 whilst the chasing pack of 2/3 was very large and one mistake away from catching up.

This game was my favourite from the weekend for many reasons.  In what became a running theme for the weekend, it required enourmous amounts of patience in a slightly better position.  Having won the exchange relatively early on I spent the next 30 moves wondering why it wasn’t enough to win as my opponent seamlessly held his position together with the power of the two bishops. Even when I felt I had broken through and was going to win even more material he seemed to find all the right moves (in all the right order) to keep the game alive.

As we entered the fifth hour of play with an open board and advancing passed pawns for both sides we entered “squeaky bum time” as Sir Alex Ferguson would call it.  My opponent had a dangerous looking passed c-pawn that I was using both my remaining pieces to keep an eye on.  I include the key position below for your analysis. Black to play and win.

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Black to play and win. Solution below.

This is the move that I was most proud of and also surprised my opponent.

51. Rxc7

My opponent thought for several minutes before offering me the draw after 51. Bxc7.  I believe that he thought we would be entering an opposite coloured bishop ending with me a pawn up.  I refused straight away as I’d noticed a rather surprising move.

52…e2!

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The rook sacrifice works when despite having an open board and two bishops, White is lost. A pleasing visual end to the game

Unbelievably with an open board and my opponent with two bishops, the pawn cannot be stopped.  My incredulous looking opponent thought for a few minutes before trying the only move that carried any hope to save the day but I was wise to the trick: 53.Ba4+ Ke7 (not Kf8?? when Bc7+ gets the black squared bishop back in time) 0 – 1.

I must pass on my thanks to my opponent for a cracking game that he hung to til the very end. Its fair to say I had nothing left in the tank at this stage and with only an hour before round 5 was due to start I went and lay on the grass in the sun.

Round 5 – Surely I’ve earned the GM draw?!

There isn’t much to say about Round 5.  Two of us found ourselves on 3.5 / 4.  I was mentally exhausted and faced playing with the black pieces for a third time.  It was sunny outside.

The game was drawn in 10 moves.

In al seriousness, both me and my opponent had fought through some very tough games (almost 14hrs of chess up until that point) and I felt an early handshake was a prudent move to ensure a share of the spoils.  Our early finish did enable two others to catch us on 4 /5 resulting in a four way split for first place but I have no hard feelings about that.  Its very very hard, in my opinion, to come clear first in a five round Swiss with a field as large as 44 players.

Thoughts on the Frome Congress

Well on a personal level, I obviously enjoyed it with one of my best performances in tournament chess.  Being unbeaten all weekend gave me a grading performance of 172 (1990 ELO) and was a just reward for not topping up my suntan like the rest of the UK.

But moving beyond my personal tournament, I feel my mindset and approach to the weekend was greatly helped by the friendliness of the congress staff and all Somerset competitors, many of whom I was meeting for the first time. I genuinely enjoyed my time and all the people I met.

The prize money was generous and four sections (Open, Major, Intermediate and Minor) meant that it really is a tournament for players of any ability.

I would heartily recommend this congress to anyone, especially if you embrace the weekend and take your time getting to and exploring this small Somerset gem of a town.  Good pubs, good accommodation and sunshine all round! They also give you real money when you win! Whats not to like?

I will definitely be returning next year.

Thank you Frome Congress!

P.S. Some excellent photos of the event by Chris Lamming can be found here.


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.

Bristol juniors march on in UK Chess Challenge

The Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge is the biggest junior chess tournament in the world. Over the last two weekends 10 Bristol League Juniors took part in the 2nd stage regional Megafinals. They all qualified! Congratulations to all the Young guns.

This year there were over 40,000 children, from over 1,000 schools and chess clubs participating across the UK in The Delancey Chess Challenge.

The stages of the UK Chess Challenge

From the initial school/club stage the best players go through to the regional Megafinals. These are held during April and May, and each Megafinal is divided into different age groups for both boys and girls, from under 7 to under 18. This year there were over 40 regional Megafinals taking place across the UK. This stage is a six round rapidplay, with a qualification score of 3.5/6.

Those that qualify from these Megafinals move onto the Gigafinal stage, when we are down to the best 1000 Players. There are three Gigafinal events; Manchester, Birmingham and London, all held in July.

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The coveted invitation to the Gigafinals

The Gigafinals are extremely competitive, with most top juniors across the UK playing (some graded over 200 ECF). Only the first couple of players from each age group will qualify from each Gigafinal, to the final Terafinal stage.

In the Terafinal there are no age group divisions, all players enter one big section. This is held in Daventry over the weekend of 15th/16th September. There will be approximately 150 players though to this final, standard play event (played over 6 rounds). There will be live boards in operation, GM’s in the commentary room, and various other activities.

To reach the Terafinal is a definite milestone in a youngster’s chess career. It highlights that they are one of the best (top 20 ish) players in their age group across the UK. The first prize of £2,000 is awarded for the final title of Strat champion.

Some of you adults out there will have previously played in the Terafinal. Don’t be shy of letting your club members know exactly who you are!

Results

The Bristol Megafinal, BGS – Saturday 5th May

There were six Bristol League Juniors (BLJ’s) playing in this Megafinal (6 round rapidplay event) and all of them qualified for the Gigafinal ! (to qualify for the Gigafinal you need to score 3.5/6).

Under 16 Supremo – Oliver Stubbs (Downend & Fishponds) 4.5/6

Under 14 Supremo – Max Walker (Clevedon) 5.5/6 !

Under 13 Supremo – Chirag Hosdurga (North Bristol) 4.5/6

Under 13 Suprema – Maria Eze (South Bristol) 3.5/6

Under 10 Suprema – Kandara Acharya (North Bristol) 5.5/6 !

Under 10 Qualifier – Jonathan Zeng (Horfield & Redland) 4.5/6

(Supremo/Suprema means 1st place in your age section)

A special mention has to go to Kandara’s sister Dwiti (not playing league chess yet) who won the combined under 8 section (both boys and girls) with an amazing 100% score of 6/6 !!

Also a special mention goes to Max Walker who came overall 1st in the combined under 12-16 age group. Max did this with an unbeaten score of 5.5/6

 

The Gloucestershire Megafinal, The King’s School Gloucester – Saturday 12th May

There were 3 BLJ’s playing, and all of them qualified for the Gigafinal!

Under 14 Supremo – Jack Tye (Downend & Fishponds) 6/6 !

Under 12 Supremo – Toby Kan ( Downend & Fishponds) 6/6 !

Under 12 Qualifier – Aron Saunders (Downend & Fishponds) 4.5/6

Fantastic full house scores from Jack and Toby, very impressive!

image1
Aron, Jack and Toby with their prizes and medals!

 

The Somerset Megafinal, Millfield school – Sunday May 13th

Only one BLJ playing in this Megafinal, but another qualification!

Under 12 Supremo – Samir Khan (Bath) 4/6

Fantastic result Samir.

 

Fixtures

Next, the Gigafinals:

Southern Gigafinal – June 30th

Midland Gigafinal – July 7th

Northern Gigafinal – July 14th

 

Last year we managed to have 4 qualify for the final Terafinal stage… This was a most impressive achievement.

Will any of our juniors qualify for the Terafinal this year? Watch this space!


 

john

John is a member of Downend & Fishponds Chess Club and the organiser of Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay and Junior Chess events

BCT Invitational – Clevedon haul another trophy!

Our first casual chess tournament in a pub – many thanks to the Windmill for having us and thanks to everyone who played! Here’s what happened…

The first Bristol Chess Times tournament went down a storm, 12 wood-pushers seamlessly blended into the usual pub antics – nodding along to the Spanish guitar playing or debating answers from the pub quiz whilst playing some intense rapid games. It was 4 teams of 3 – North Bristol, South Bristol, Clevedon and a rag tag bunch we named the Mercenaries. We didn’t have enough players until the night before so we played a bit of wait-and-see, but it all worked out in the end – making organiser/arbiter Jon very happy:

jon

Some eager beavers arrived to help set up, have a drink, or in Chris and Waleed’s case have a game of blindfold chess to warm up. Believe it or not, they are on about move 10 of a real game here and are deep in concentration..

blindfold2

Preliminaries

The first match-ups were drawn at random and saw the Mercenaries draw South Bristol and Clevedon face North Bristol. Each player faced off against their counterpart once with White and once with Black. Ben Edgell (Mercenaries) was a cut above the rest for the night as he proved why he is comfortably above 200 even when not playing regular chess. He scored 2/2 and his teammates gladly polished it off to march ahead to the final beating South Bristol 5-1. Meanwhile the other match had more evenly split teams and a much more even score of 3-3. This tournament favoured the bottom board for all tie-break situations, so as rising Clevedon star Max had won 2/2 on board 3 – Clevedon went through on board count.

Results:

  • Mercenaries 5 – 1 South Bristol
  • North Bristol 3 – 3 Clevedon.

prelim

Final

Due to the grading restrictions (team average had to be below 150) there were bound to be interesting matches where a few players had the pressure to make their grades count, while others acted as the underdogs – aiming to snatch points and prove their team’s grading strategy as correct. The mercenaries were the most skewed team – largely due to Ben who won 2/2 again, despite a tenacious Andrew at the helm for Clevedon. So Chris and Max had to win at least 3/4 to stand a chance. They both won their first round which helped – but in the second Chris looked in a lot of danger. He had lived up to his surname (strong) and had sacked a piece for an attack against up-and-coming Horfieldian Sam; who repelled the attack and was consolidating – though he had used some time getting there:

samchris2

Max was under some pressure from a classic pawn-storm from Waleed, but had his own play on the other side. They both played quickly and the dust settled even quicker – Max was a piece up and just had to mop up the resulting danger. He did so and completed another 2/2 – counterbalancing Ben’s whitewash on board 1. We were all checking the maths and had just about confirmed that Clevedon would win on board count when Chris somehow hung on to the draw (the only one of the night) and sealed Clevedon’s third trophy of the season by a clear margin.

clevedon

The bronze medal match was soon billed as an all-out rivalry between North and South – perhaps taking advantage of being on home turf the South of the River won this time convincingly 5-1.

Results:

  • Final: Clevedon 3.5-2.5 Mercenaries
  • Bronze medal match: North Bristol 1 – 5 South Bristol

Champions: Clevedon (total count: W6 D1 L5)

2nd: Mercenaries (total count: W7 D1 L4)

3rd: South Bristol (total count: W6 D0 L6)

4th: North Bristol (total count: W4 D0 L8)

A more casual game

Chess isn’t often categorised in the same bracket as checkers, cribbage or dominoes, but it is clearly adaptable enough to be a played as a pure pub game. This event was billed as such – and played as such, and everyone got into the spirit of “casual competitiveness”. More importantly, it gave the game and the league that little bit more visibility to casual players – during the night two friends enquired about the event, challenged me to a game and played alongside the tournament. Many other pub-quizzers and diners observed and walked on through, glancing at the games for a quick evaluation of the game – or in utter bemusement, we’ll never know. Whether casual players join the league or not – the game is being promoted and those who wish they’d kept up the game or wish they’s been taught before can get involved and have fun.

test

The invitational was a great success – but as always feedback is welcome and we may hold another one soon, perhaps even more teams and even shorter games!


 

mikecircle

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

 

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.

 

 

 

Razzle Dazzle

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 16.33.48

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

Analogue Chess in a Digital World

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 16.37.49

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

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 16.38.04

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


Chris Russell

Chris Russell

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