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.

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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.

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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.

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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!


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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.

 

 

 

Razzle Dazzle

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

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

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

Analogue Chess in a Digital World

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

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

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

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


Chris Russell

Chris Russell

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

How can British chess clubs benefit from the 2018 world championship?

The 2018 candidates tournament is over and what a thrill it was.  The chess world is unanimous in its praise of all eight players approach to the tournament that decided who would face the world champion Magnus Carlsen, in November. Fabiano Caruana has emerged as the challenger and there is sure to be an increased interest in chess in the United States as a result.  With America braced to experience a chess boom, the Bristol Chess Times asks how British clubs could benefit from the world championship match being held in London?

fabi

Fabiano Caruana photographed moments after he sealed his place as the World Championship Challenger (editors note – I cannot find the image credit for the photographer, if anyone knows please contact me)

It is fair to say that the Carlsen – Caruana match of 2018 is likely to be one of the most highly anticipated chess clashes in recent memory. This is down to their respective abilities and styles but also due to the various stories the western media can spin on it. For example, “First American to compete for world crown since Bobby Fischer” the headlines have been crying since Caruana sealed his final victory on Tuesday (poor old Gata Kamsky…) . So with the world media eagerly casting its gaze upon London in November, how can British chess clubs capitalise?

Its been eighteen years since the chess world championship match was last held in the UK and 25 years since a British born candidate battled for the crown.  Last year I wrote several impassioned pieces to the Bristol chess community (and wider UK chess scene) about embracing digital technology to help promote and grow chess clubs.  As part of my call to arms I pointed out that the Bristol & District Chess League experienced a massive boom in membership in 1993, the year of the Kasparov vs. Short match.  League membership over 1993 / 94 was an astonishing 635 league members (from 450ish in 1992) and indeed the numbers remained above 500 until 1998 (today it hovers around the 300 mark). Admittedly, the league did not see an equivalent boom for the London held Kramnik vs. Kasparov so perhaps the lack of home grown talent didn’t pull in local interest?

But its fair to say that in 2018 and in an age of ubiquitous connectivity the amount of online searches and general public interest in our ancient game is likely to increase again in the run up to and during the championship.  Those clubs that are prepared to ride this wave of renewed interest will reap the rewards in terms of membership so lets look at some ideas for British clubs cashing in on world championship fever.

World Championship Fan Parks & Events

If football can have fan parks I fail to see why chess players can’t hire a room in a pub and stream the delights of Jan Gustafsson and Peter Svidler (editors note – other streaming services are available).

jan

The double act of Jan and Peter would make a great Chess Fan park when pumped through speakers on a large screen in the back of pub!

I constantly hear British players bemoan the lack of Chess on the TV and sometimes wonder if they have ever heard of the internet? The quality of streamed chess from major providers such as chess.com and chess24 really is very high (lets not talk about the official world chess coverage) and I love the idea of opening up the club house or hiring a room with some boards where the club members of all strengths and abilities can get together and watch the highlight of the chess calendar together.  Imagine running some fun blitz events around the sides where passing members of the public could stop and ask questions about chess and how they can get involved.

 

Social Media and mobile friendly websites

At the risk of banging a very worn down drum, if your club hasn’t updated its website with clear contact details and at the very least set up a Facebook and Twitter account then now is the time to get on it.  You have 8 months before the world championship begins and all that lovely juicy online search traffic starts Googling “chess club in my local area“. If you don’t believe me that this has an effect then talk to either Horfield chess club or North Bristol chess club in the Bristol league who have both seen growth in excess of 25% this season since starting online promotions.

Hold open nights for beginners

How many times are you sat blitzing in a pub with a mate when someone walking past, stops and wistful looks down at the board?  You all know the type of person I mean.  They pause for what they think is a few seconds and are still stood gazing minutes later.  They often depart by saying “I used to love chess at school” or something similar.  Its these people who, come the world championship, suddenly spark up the courage of their convictions again to contact a club.  Lets make it easy for them shall we?

Why not start publicising events and welcome evenings in conjunction with the world championship games?  “In celebration of the Chess World Championship we welcome all beginners free of charge to a our club on Tuesday” etc etc. Perhaps the games are again screened in the background and some stronger players are on hand to welcome and provide some light coaching.

Conclusion

Above are just three ideas that a proactive chess club could embrace to help make the most of the world championship match.  Carlsen vs. Caruana promises to be one to remember and will certainly help alter the public perception of chess with two young players, raised in the age of powerful chess computers and the internet, battling it out for the ultimate prize. Its not often that such a clash occurs on our shores and I feel it would be a real shame if British chess clubs did not grab this golden opportunity to (re)invigorate themselves.

Finally, if you like any of the ideas above or are planning any other activities with your local club then i’d love to hear about it.  As a community if we share ideas then we can ensure that clubs across the country benefit and help one another when the World Championship rolls around.

We have 8 months.  The work starts now.


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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.

Three times Carlsen took down the Berlin Defence in the World Chess Championship

The World Championship Candidates 2018 starts today in Berlin.  The winner travels to London to face Magnus Carlsen in the World Chess Championship 2018.  I am sure the British chess community must be very excited to have the world crown decided on our fair isles and I am sure lots of South West based players will be traveling to watch the match in November. To celebrate the start of the candidates, The Bristol Chess Times decided to take a look at the dreaded Berlin defence in an attempt to offer some hope to amateur players with the white pieces!

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A strong field of Super-GMs will compete in the Candidates in Berlin but who will make it all the way to London?

The Berlin Defence wouldn’t have the nickname the “Berlin Wall” if it wasn’t rock solid.  Whilst it has been thoroughly examined at the highest circles of chess what is a budding club player to do with the white pieces against such a solid road block? Don’t get me wrong.  Despite being an ambitious amateur, I am not arrogant enough to believe that I can crack the Berlin wall myself!

Instead, and to honour the build up to the world championship in London, I decided to showcase three examples of white victories in the Berlin from the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen, in his last two world championship finals.

My hope is that by looking at these games this post will inspire our readership to both remember to get a ticket for the finals in London but also have faith that the Berlin wall can fall (even if you have to be Magnus Carlson to do it!).

Enjoy!

World Championship 2014: Game 2

Carlsen drew blood as early as Game 2 in Sochi by adopting a quiet closed approach to the Berlin with an early d3.  He started a kingside attack but it was his control of the e file and battery of heavy pieces that eventually allowed him to crash through.

World Championship 2014: Game 11

Alternatively in the game that sealed Carlsen’s defence of his title, he chose well known lines of the open variation where the queens come off early and white (apparently) has a slight edge with superior pawns. Carlsen won the exchange and a pawn but Anand had dangerous united and passed a and b pawns on the 6th rank.  However, the white king was in time and Carlsen prevailed against the Berlin in a crucial game.

World Championship 2016: Game 10

A marathon game that I believe (editors note – source needed) holds the record for the second longest game in the history of the World Chess Championships (after game 5 of Korchnoi vs. Karpov, 1978).  Carlsen needed to win to level the match and was rapidly running out of whites.  Another quiet and closed choice vs. the Berlin led to a long endgame struggle but Carlsen’s incredible technique eventually ground down Karjakin’s defence.  If this is what it takes to defeat the Berlin then no wonder amateur players struggle!

 


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.

Interactive games, updates and next steps for Bristol Chess Times

Its been 8 months and 54 articles since we relaunched Bristol Chess Times in July 2017.  The engagement so far has been great and in previous articles I have spoken about the various statistics that are helping push forward the growth of both the league and our wider chess community.  Today I wanted to talk about some recent changes I am making to help take Bristol Chess Times to the next level.

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Interactive Game Analysis

The biggest change that I have introduced this weekend is the ability to play through games and perform analysis on diagrams within the site.  I gave a hint at this functionality yesterday on our Game of the Month article but today I wanted to showcase the wider functionality we have added.  When we talk about interesting games and positions in the Bristol Chess Times we can now:

  • Play through the whole game, including highlighting of last moves with arrows;
  • Include interesting variations within the body of the game analysis
  • Provide built in diagrams next to comments with target squares highlighted and also threats indicated with the use of arrows.
  • Indicate which colour to play by a small circle on the right hand side of the board.

All in all, we hope you can see that this change takes the Bristol Chess Times games analysis to the next level.  To demonstrate the new functionality I have used a lovely game from Waleed Khan (of North Bristol Chess Club) that was submitted for Game of the Month in February.

Waleed’s home analysis below showcases all the new functionality we can now provide and I hope gets players excited about submitting their games for future articles.

About Page

I have also updated the About page on the Bristol Chess Times to give credit to all the contributors and columnists who have made it a success thus far.  Each person who has contributed, no matter how many times, is now listed and I hope over time this will grow to show the range and depth of our chess community. Only by going out and seeking fresh opinions, games and insights will we continue to keep Bristol Chess Times blossoming.

My thanks to every contribution thus far but also a call out to anyone who wants to provide a voice to their opinion in the amateur chess scene. Get involved!

Next Steps

Hopefully you can see the positive changes occurring on the Bristol Chess Times and I hope that you continue to read and enjoy our efforts!  Moving forward we really want to get a more diverse range of contributors involved from all clubs and backgrounds.

Thus far we have only had contributions from four of the 16 clubs in the Bristol & District Chess League so it would be great to receive some thoughts from some of the smaller clubs especially.

But looking ahead, we also recognise that we want to receive thoughts from the wider chess community across the UK.  British League Chess is a wonderful creature and the life of the amateur club player so sorely under represented in most chess media.  If you are a reader and fan of the Bristol Chess Times but do not live in the South West of England then thats ok! Tell us what you want to read about.  What you are looking for and we will do our best to provide informative engaging content for all!

Finally, If you have made it this far in the article then it just leaves me to say a final thank you for your support.  Even if you do not want to write for us then you can still support the Bristol Chess Times by sharing, liking or retweeting as many of our articles as you can. Every small piece of promotion really does make a difference.

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.

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.


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.

The Beast from the East Opening

So the “Beast from the East” arctic blast has struck the UK and in typical British fashion everything has ground to a halt, including the 71st Bristol Chess Championship Congress this weekend (we will reschedule).  With a lot of chess players in the South West (and across the country) suddenly finding themselves with some spare time I thought I would write an article trying to find an opening worthy of the name “The Beast from the East”.  An opening that slows everything down, is boring and generally leaves you feeling cold.  But then I thought I have written enough articles about the London System lately (ba-dum tush!) so lets actually try to find something new!

A quick search online reveals a number of openings with suitable frosty titles such as “The Baltic Defence” (1.d4 d5 2. c4 Bf5), “The Finnish Variation of the Caro Kann” (1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 h6), The Icelandic Gambit (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.c4 e6!?), multiple Moscow variations and my personal favourite the so called “Siberian Trap” in the Smith Morra Gambit” (1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Bc4 Qc7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Qe2 Ng4! 9.h3?? (or 9.Bb3??) Nd4!)

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The Siberian Trap variation of the Smith Morra Gambit is just plain nasty!

Finally after digging a little deeper I did actually find the “Arctic Defence” to the Reti which starts with the dubious 1. Nf3 f6?!

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The Arctic Defence does indeed leave me feeling cold towards Black’s chances.

I found one humorous game in the chess.com forums (thank you for posting ZBicyclist in 2010) between two amateur players that highlights some flaws with this approach and ends with Black being checkmated with a pawn on move 11, hmmm.

oopps

The Arctic was quickly conquered in this game. Ouch!

Unimpressed with the “Arctic Defence” what can we do to find an opening suitable for the title The Beast from the East?  I started to think that it would have the following characteristics:

  • It would ruin everyones plans.
  • It would be very slow.
  • It would land and then just sit there.

With my criteria set, I started looking for something remotely playable that adhered to the above rules and had some reasonable statistics with it.  Ladies and Gentlemen! I give you my candidate for “The Beast from the East” Opening:

1.d4 a6 2. e4 d6 3. Nf3 h6 (frosty!) 4. Nc3 Nd7 5. Bc4 e6 6. 0-0

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The Beast from the East Opening

‘The Beast from the East” creeps in with little opportunity for fast travel but white must be careful not to skid on the Black Ice (see what i did there?!) of the incoming 6…b5 and 7…c5 as the cold Queenside front pushes forward.

Is this opening as good as its powerful name suggests?  Or is it just a minor inconvenience that will be forgotten by the end of the weekend?  I leave it up to you to decide.

In the mean time.  Wrap up warm, chuck another log on the fire and lets get the boards up.


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.

Chessplayers of the world unite

You do not have to scale the mountain alone.

You sit at the board, you shake hands and you move the pieces. From the moment a game begins you alone must take full responsibility for its outcome. Chess could hardly be a more individual pursuit. Despite this there is undoubtedly a chess community. Why?

Camaraderie can be observed as soon as competitive play concludes. Players exhume the game and examine what might have been. Recent adversaries lay down their arms and teach each other new tricks. The post-mortem is definitely one of my favourite chess quirks. As a junior I failed to recognise the value of this ritual and would decline to analyse when I had lost. Judging from recent tournaments I was not alone in this defective thinking!

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In 1978 and again in 1981 the chess world saw battles between two wildly conflicting characters. Victor Korchnoi, child of the siege of Leningrad, defector from communist Russia, fighter against the system, playing Anatoly Karpov, poster boy of the Russian regime, communist ideologue, a beneficiary of all that communism had to offer and a star chess player. The two could hardly bear to shake hands with each other. Yet after play they spent time together in animated discussion over the game. When asked why, Korchnoi famously replied, “he is the only other person in the world who understands chess the way I do”.

This is why a chess community exists. From the perspective of individual success it makes little sense to share information with your potential opponents. Poker players do not do this. If chess were simply about winning we would instead carefully guard every scrap of information. There would be no books, training videos or coaches. In this world the perfect chess player would be a selfish lone wolf.

Now think about who you know in chess. In any cohort of chessplayers almost all the people you spend your time with will be within about 25 ECF of your grade (or maybe 187.5 Elo). Sure, you will know a few stronger or weaker players, but you probably find you spend little time discussing the game with them. Plenty of strong or weak players are friendly enough to approach but in reality you hardly speak to them at all.

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Strong players recognise instinctively the importance of stratified community. They have built their own training networks comprising of similarly motivated players and coaches, selected consciously or unconsciously, to give a support network of exactly the right strength. Next time you play a game, and indeed every time you play a game, take a good look at your opponent and think about the network. Remember his face and speak to him next time you meet. Some will fit in, others won’t. But those who do will end up being your valuable allies.

Chess is the way we have all chosen to engage with the world and the presence of others helps to give meaning to our journey. I have long ago stopped trying to explain why I spend time on chess to those who don’t. I used to be met with creative variations of “what’s the point?” and never really had a satisfactory answer. Nowadays, I think it is a broader question of networking, support, interest and motivation. Chessplayers have a value system that underpins chess which goes way beyond boosting rating.

Although we each have to develop our own system, we do not have to do it on our own.

Many thanks to Jerry Humphreys for supplying the Korchnoi anecdote and his extensive notes.

(editors note – This article originally published on 19th February 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.

Bristol’s Forgotten World Chess Champion

She was “the leading lady player of the world” (1) and “known throughout the length and breadth of the land” (2) in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The pinnacle of her career was winning the first international women’s chess tournament in 1897, but she lived a life of genteel poverty and died almost forgotten.

 

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Mary Rudge

Mary Rudge was born in Leominster on the 6th February 1842 to Henry and Eliza Rudge (3). Henry was a surgeon and “very fond of chess and played a fairly strong game, though he never took part in public chess. He taught the moves to his elder daughters, and they in turn taught Miss Mary”(4). Leominster was a small town and could not have provided much in the way of serious competition, so it is unsurprising that the first record of Mary playing chess is in a correspondence tournament in 1872 (5). The first mention of over the board competition is in August 1874 when Mary played in Class II at the Meeting of the Counties’ Chess Association, at Birmingham (6).

Two months later Dr Rudge died, leaving Mary, 32, and her sister, Caroline, 41, to fend for themselves. Both women were unmarried and they went to live with their brother Henry in Bristol. Henry was 37, also unmarried, and had been a curate at St John Evangelist, Whiteladies Road, Clifton since 1870 (7).

Mary started playing chess seriously and, for her, the move to Bristol was particularly fortuitous. Bristol had a long chess history; the Bristol Chess Club was formed in 1829 or 1830 and is thought to be the first English club outside London. More importantly for this story, in 1872, the new Bristol and Clifton Chess Club Association voted to admit women:

“During the year the vice-president proposed that ladies should be admitted to the Club as associates, at an annual subscription of 5s.,which was agreed to. We believe that no members of the softer sex were admitted as subscribers, by any chess club in this country, prior to this date.” (8).

Although Burt’s claim is very doubtful – there are examples going back to the eighteenth century (9) – Mary had ended up in a place that was going to give her the opportunity to play competitive chess.

The first mention of Mary in Bristol is in 1875 when she played Blackburne – who gave a blindfold simultaneous display against ten opponents. The following year she played in another blindfold simultaneous display given by Zukertort (10). At this stage Mary had not made much of an impact on the chess world. When John Burt wrote his history of the Bristol Chess Club in 1883, Mary was considered worth just two very brief mentions. If she had been recognized as a leading woman player at this time then Burt would surely have recorded it.

The arrival of Henry’s sisters must have caused a major upheaval in his life and, in particular, a need for new accommodation. Before 1876, Henry does not appear in the residents’ lists. In 1876-77, he was living at Walmer Villa, 48 Wellington Park, Clifton. This house may have been owned by St John’s, because when he moved to become curate of another church, St Thomas, Bristol, in 1878, he also moved house to 8 Burlington Buildings (now Burlington Road) Clifton. Perhaps Henry’s new post at St Thomas still did not bring in enough money because the Rudges had a new plan. The following year they took over the new Luccombe House Preparatory School on Redland Green; Henry became the schoolmaster and we can assume his sisters helped with the teaching (11). The school was described as providing “’high class education for boys, 7-11. Efficient masters providing a thorough grounding for public schools.” (12). The venture may have started successfully because Henry gave up his curate’s post in 1881, but by 1885 things were going wrong. In January, the school was advertising for pupils (13), but by August it seems the school closed and the Rudges left (14).

Henry moved to become curate at North Meols (15), near Southport, but Mary stayed in Bristol. What happened immediately after the school closure is not clear – Mary did not appear in two matches that autumn that she would normally have played in (16). But she eventually reappeared on the chess scene and this time she quickly began to make a real impact. This is all the more remarkable as she was already 45 years old. On 12th March 1887 she played on board six for Bristol against Bath at the Imperial Hotel, Bristol, and she got a draw against a Mr W E Hill. At the beginning of 1888, Rudge played and won on board six for Bristol & Clifton against City Chess & Draughts Club (17), and then drew with Blackburne in a simultaneous display on 1st March (18). The following year Mary must have really made the men sit up and take notice as she won the challenge cup of Bristol & Clifton Chess Club (19). However, the very same month (June 1889), Mary was in dire financial straits.

‘Our readers will be sorry to hear that Miss M. Rudge, of Clifton, is at present in very depressed pecuniary circumstances; so much so that she has felt obliged (though most reluctantly) to give her consent to an appeal being made on her behalf. We are sure English chessplayers will not allow one of their best lady players to remain in actual, though it is to be hoped only temporary, want, and contributions for its relief, however small, will be thankfully received by the Rev. C.E. Ranken, St Ronan’s, Malvern, and acknowledged by him privately to the donors.’ (20)

Perhaps the school venture had wiped out any funds or legacy that had once existed. Mary was reduced to relying on a form of charity, as she became a companion to various ladies. The most important of these ladies was Mrs FF Rowland, who lived at Clontarf, near Dublin, and also Kingstown. Frideswide Rowland was a significant figure in late nineteenth-century chess, both as a problemist and, with her husband, Thomas B Rowland, as a chess journalist and writer of chess books. And so Mary started alternating between living in Bristol and Ireland.

By September 1889, Mary was living in Clontarf where, possibly inspired by Mrs Rowland, she composed and published a chess problem (in the Clontarf Parochial Magazine) (21). She also gave a simultaneous display – she won all six games (22) – and it is possible that she was the first woman in the world to perform a ‘simul’. By November Mary was being hailed as “the leading lady player in the world”(23).

Meanwhile, brother Henry was still in Lancashire. By 1889 he had moved a short distance to Church Town, Southport (24). The same year he succeeded in getting a new post, as Curate and then Rector of St Mary, Newent, Gloucestershire (25). It appears that Mary decided not, or was not invited, to move to Newent. In any case, Henry was destined not to enjoy his new post for long; he died in September 1891.

Over the next few years, Mary took part in various competitions, playing for Bristol & Clifton, (26) and for Gloucestershire, (27) and also moving to Dublin for several months at a time. She won the Ladies’ Challenge Cup in Cambridge in 1890 and was third in Class II. By now, the British Chess Magazine could describe Mary as “known throughout the length and breadth of the land” (28).

In 1896, Mary won Class II at the Southern Counties’ tournament, at the Imperial Hotel. Mr Stevenson tied for first place, with a score of 61⁄2. The latter beat Mary in their game, then waived his right to play off, giving Mary the first prize of £5 (29).

The following year, 1897, the first international women’s chess tournament was held at the Ladies’ Club in London. Twenty players entered. Two rounds per day were played, with a time limit of twenty moves in one hour. Some expressed concern that the event would be too taxing for the ladies.

It is likely that Mary was urged to enter and her supporters may have raised money to enable her to stay for a couple of weeks in London. If so, it was worthwhile as Mary sailed through the event undefeated with eighteen wins and one draw.

“Miss Mary Rudge, of Clifton, won her games in the eighteenth and final rounds of the International Chess Tournament, played in London, at the Ladies’ Chess Club, on Saturday. Miss Rudge came out as first prize winner of £60, her full score being 181⁄2 points.”(30) 

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The first women International Tournament, London 1897.  Mary is top centre

The British Chess Magazine commented her play was marked by a lack of risk taking and published only highlights of her games, but they did confirm the status of the event:

“Rudge in capital form, … displayed those qualities of steadiness and tenacity for which she is renowned. … Her play was marked throughout by care, exactitude and patience. Someone said of her, ‘She doesn’t seem to care so much to win a game as to make her opponent lose it.’ She risked nothing, she never indulged in fireworks for the purpose of startling the gallery; if she got a Pawn she kept it and won, if she got a piece she kept it and won, if she got a “grip” she kept it and won, if she got a winning position she kept it and won. Not that she always outplayed her opponents in the openings, or even in the mid-games, for the reverse was sometimes the case; but risking nothing she always managed to hold her game together, and then in the end her experience as a tournament player and her skill in end positions came in with powerful effect.’”

“Miss Mary Rudge has for long enjoyed the reputation of being the strongest lady chessplayer in the world, and the fact that she has carried off the first prize in the present tournament, thereby becoming entitled to style herself lady chess champion of the world, is very satisfactory to her many friends.”(31)

At the age of 55, Mary had reached the pinnacle of her career. It is certain that the £60 prize money was also very welcome. Afterwards it was back to the more mundane life of playing in Bristol and Dublin.

In 1898 Mary played against the men’s world champion, Emanuel Lasker, in a simultaneous display at the Imperial Hotel. Lasker was unable to finish all the games in the time available (32) and Mary’s was one of those unfinished. Mrs Rowland described how Lasker had been winning but made a mistake. He graciously conceded defeat in this game when it was unfinished at the call of time because he would be lost with best play (33). She continued to play for Bristol and for Gloucestershire.(34) The following year, Mary was playing in Dublin “with great success”(35).

Mary’s health deteriorated sometime in the next few years. Her sister Caroline died in 1900 leaving her on her own. In 1912, there was a new appeal for funds. The Cork Weekly News published the following announcement by Mrs F.F. Rowland:

‘Miss Mary Rudge is the daughter of the late Dr Rudge, and after his death she resided with her brother, who kept a school, but since his decease she is quite unprovided for, her sisters are also dead, and she is without any income of any kind. She lived as companion with various ladies, and was for some years resident with Mrs Rowland, both at Clontarf and Kingstown. Whilst at Clontarf, she played in the Clontarf team in the Armstrong Cup matches, and proved a tough opponent, drawing with J. Howard Parnell and winning many a fine game. She was also engaged at the DBC to teach and play in the afternoons. At the Ladies’ International Congress, London, she took first prize (£60), making the fine score of 191⁄2 in 20, the maximum [181⁄2 from 19, in fact]. Miss Rudge held the Champion Cup of the Bristol Chess Club, prior to Messrs H.J. Cole and F.U. Beamish. Miss Rudge is now quite helpless from rheumatism and is seeking admission into a home or (if possible) the Dublin Hospital for Incurables. A fund is being collected for present expenses, pending her admission, and chessplayers are asked to help – either by influence or money. Donations may be sent to Mrs Rowland, 3 Loretto Terrace, Bray, Co. Wicklow, or to Mrs Talboys, 20 Southfield Park, Cotham, Bristol.’(36)

The next few years must have been very difficult indeed. In 1918, Mary attempted to solve her financial problems when a cousin, James Barrett, died intestate. Mary claimed to be sole next of kin, but another Barrett claimed to be the grandson of the deceased’s uncle and hence sole heir (37). Mary’s claim appears to have failed (38).

Mary moved, at some point, to Truro and then to the British Home for Incurables, Streatham. She died in Guys Hospital, London, on 22 November 1919. The British Chess Magazine accorded her just three lines:

“As we go to press we learn with great sorrow of the death, at Streatham last month, of Miss Mary Rudge, winner of the International Ladies’ Tournament in 1897.” (39)

So how good a player was Mary Rudge? Although she was considered the best woman player in the world it is doubtful that she was all that strong. A reasonable indicator of her strength is that she played around boards 4 to 8 for both Bristol & Clifton and for Gloucestershire, and that she played in the second strongest section (Class II) of tournaments at regional and national level. So, relative to her male contemporaries, she was not as strong as a top female player of today, but this is not to belittle her achievements. She played chess at a time when women were not encouraged to play, in fact often positively discouraged. She also started at a late age for a chess player and had her greatest success at 55. In contrast, when the first official women’s world championship tournament was held, it was a 21 year old, Vera Menchik, who was victorious. By coincidence, the tournament was also in London, almost exactly thirty years after Mary’s triumph, and Vera won by a similar score: ten wins, one draw, no losses.

Mary deserves to be better recognised and remembered as a pioneer of women’s chess. A blue plaque in Bristol would be a good start, but we need to find a building to place it on. Her only definite address in Bristol, Luccombe House, no longer exists (40). Perhaps a good alternative would be the Imperial Hotel where she played on many occasions, and the venue for her near-win against Lasker. The Hotel is now named Canynge Hall and it is the home of the University of Bristol’s Department of Social Medicine.

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Imperial Hotel – now Canynge Hall 

References

  • 1 Colombia Chess Chronicle, 1 November 1889, pp 92-93, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281
  • 2 British Chess Magazine (BCM), 1890, p264.
  • 3 General Register Office, reference March 1842 Leominster XXVI/194. The date of birth is often given, erroneously, as 1845.
  • 4 BCM, 1897, p289.
  • 5 Personal e-mail from C.P.Ravilious, saying Tim Harding has record of Mary playing in the first correspondence tournament of The Amateur Chess Magazine (Ed James T.C.Chatto) which began in the summer of 1872.
  • 6 Burt J, The Bristol Chess Club, 1883.
  • 7 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1889. 
  • 8 Burt, J, op cit.
  • 9 BCM, 2004, p666.
  • 10 ibid.
  • 11 1881 Census, RG11, 2504 / 23, 39.
  • 12 Web site: bristolinformation.co.uk/schools/
  • 13 Clifton Chronicle & Directory (CCD),
  • 14 January 1885. 14 CCD, Rev H Rudge is listed at Luccombe House up to 12 August 1885, but no one is listed at that address for the rest of the year.
  • 15 Clergy List for 1886.
  • 16 CCD, 18 November 1885. The two matches were an internal club match over twelve boards and an 8-board match against Oxford University.
  • 17 CCD, 18 January 1888.
  • 18 BCM, 1888, pp186-7. 
  • 19 CCD, 5 June 1889.
  • 20 BCM, 1889, p231.
  • 21 CCD, 11 September 1889.
  • 22 CCD, 30 October 1889.
  • 23 Colombia Chess Chronicle, op cit.
  • 24 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1889.
  • 25 Crockford’s Clergy List, 1890.
  • 26 BCM, 1894, p48; BCM, 1895, pp 17, 68, 511.
  • 27 BCM 1895, p220.
  • 28 BCM, 1890, p264. 
  • 29 BCM, 1896, p389.
  • 30 CCD, 7 July 1897. 
  • 31 BCM, 1897, p285-296.
  • 32 CCD, 30 November 1898, gives the story of Lasker not finishing but does not mention Mary by name.
  • 33 Weekly Irish Times, 14 January 1899.
  • 34 BCM, 1898, p200.
  • 35 BCM, 1899, p454. 
  • 36 Source: American Chess Bulletin, May 1912, page 112, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281.
  • 37 London Gazette, 2 August 1918.
  • 38 London Gazette, 8 November 1918.
  • 39 British Chess Magazine, 1920, p13, quoted in Winter, E, Chess Note 3281.
  • 40 Personal e-mail from G Nichols, 17 January 2004.

 


johnrichardsblogJohn Richards

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