Mental health and 5-aside chess – A small board with a big impact

The UK government recently appointed a Minister of Loneliness and Social Isolation but the problem has been known about and warned about for years and I know you’re all asking yourselves “So what is chess doing about it?” Well – a lot, and every day.

Last week I caught up with Ryan Child from Bristol-based charity 5-a-side chess – who use the game of chess to welcome all-comers and to start conversations about chess, life, mental health, the universe and everything… “Your first move is Hello, don’t you know.” [visit the 5 aside chess website]. ‘5 aside’ refers to 5 pieces (and 5 pawns) each to start with, played on a 5×6 board instead of the usual 8×8 – incidentally the same idea on a 5×5 board was a recommendation of mine for coaching.

1. 5aside chess

The delights of the game! A drop-in session of 5 a side chess is underway.

Here is the full interview:

BCT: Why chess?

Ryan: Chess is a game that represents so many of the core, mental attributes that seem to be slipping away in today’s ‘instant’ society. In one game of Chess you are required to show great discipline and really think through your actions. And there’s no doubt that with everything at our fingertips today, the need to think things through and plan is quickly falling away. For example, when people use twitter they are able to bash and criticise others without having to contemplate that person’s emotions or feelings. That emotional disconnect is really unhealthy, and I think Chess is a great counterbalance to that. Where every action is thought through and, subsequently, so is the effect it has on the person sat opposite you.

BCT: How did 5-a-side chess start?

Ryan: 5asideCHESS was started back in 2015 as a social project. The idea was to give out 1,000 chess boards to venues across the country. This was just before the curve of all the ‘board game’ cafes that have sprung up in the last few years. We wanted people to have more of a chance to connect. It worked to certain degree but we want people to be more engaged in the project now.

2. HELLO people

The initiative has cross-party MP support from David Warburton (Somerton and Frome), Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) and Darren Jones (Bristol).

We have also developed a big mental health side of the project, because it’s just so prevalent in society today, and I think we can make a real and tangible difference. Our Blog mostly focuses on this, with tips for dealing with issues, first-hand accounts and interviews with experts. We are also starting a podcast of the same nature this summer.

BCT: Can people join even if they don’t know the rules of chess?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. The whole idea is that anyone can get involved. The board is a smaller version of the traditional one, and you have fewer pieces. So the game is shortened, with the same rules, and so offers a quick way to learn the game because you move through the phases much quicker.

BCT: Can you describe a typical day/session of 5-a-side chess? How does it work?

Ryan: So we have a team of volunteers called HELLO PEOPLE in Bristol, Bath, Birmingham and soon London who go out and sit in cafes with our boards, teaching people to play and also just giving the general public the chance to connect. In May, everyone will have the chance to be a HELLO PERSON because the Chess Pack will be going on sale at www.regencychess.co.uk.

HELLO PEOPLE sit with a ‘Do Disturb’ sign in cafes, nursing homes, homeless drop-ins and other venues where people may want to connect. Anyone who wants to play can sit for a while and play with absolutely no judgement and just for the simple reason of playing Chess and having a chat. Games typically last around 10-15 minutes.

3.Do Disturb

A DO disturb sign.

BCT: What sort of impact can you see happening? And what feedback have you received?

Ryan: Probably the watershed moment for me was in December of last year. I was at a nursing home in Bristol playing a guy with Down’s Syndrome and Dementia. He was actually the son of a Brigadier. Anyway, after about 5 minutes of playing he started telling stories about his childhood, about how his aunty had taught him to play while his dad walked around the house with all these subordinates following him around. It was a great story. And, it’s worth saying that we weren’t really playing, more he was moving the pieces around. Anyway, he was taken back to his room and the main supervisor, a woman called Jenny, started telling me that they had never heard him talk about any of his childhood ever. He’d been in that nursing home for 5 years.  There are a lot of other stories like that, but it’s a pretty good one in terms of showing just how much impact chess in general, but particularly our small and accessible game can have in terms of connection.

BCT: Can you share any plans or aims for the future?

Ryan: Our new partnership with Regency Chess means that from May onwards the project can make itself sustainable, which is a huge development for us. The sale of our Chess Pack, which include a sign, a board and a HELLO PERSON membership, will mean the money can be spent on furthering our message of connecting and promoting good mental health through Chess. Essentially, we want our members to be ambassadors for the core message of connecting and fighting loneliness and social isolation. We have seen the benefits for elderly groups, homeless people, men and women in rehab and also students. In fact, our Chess and Music lunches at Bath University have been a big success and if anyone wants to come own and join us they are more than welcome.

4.-Music-and-chess.jpg

Music and Chess – two things that need great harmony – at Bath University.

BCT: Would it benefit you to connect with anyone else in the chess world? (E.g. Leagues, Event organisers, Ambassadors, Players?

Ryan: I think to have players endorse the program would obviously be beneficial. We are planning on running a 5aside world championship in Birmingham actually. To me the potential is limitless and I would certainly encourage anyone in the Chess community that may want to reach out to do just that.

~ end of interview ~

The Bristol Chess Times will post any developments on the world champs, or any other events, and we are inviting anyone with similar initiatives and stories about the game to write columns for us. Look out for Ryan at local (8×8) chess tournaments too – and challenge him to a game of 5-a-side! Many thanks to Ryan for the fascinating interview and best of luck for the project!


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.

 

March 2018: League Review and Game of the Month

Champions! Breaking in the business end of the league calendar, March saw the crowning of champions in the league and county championships – firstly huge congratulations to North Bristol B for winning Division 4, and to Horfield A for winning Division 1 – both fairly convincingly in the end!

March saw the Bristol congress cancelled due to venue issues but there was plenty of tournament action – Downend’s Toby and Jack became Gloucester county champions for their age groups – well done! With their clubmate Oli Stubbs currently leading the Bristol Grand Prix, the juniors are still leading the way in Bristol!

League Round-up

Divisions 2 and 3 are yet to be settled – and how close they are! It’s been another epic struggle between the div 3 giants Keynsham and Yate – the former are a mere point ahead with a few matches left. Our pick of Hanham for Dark Horses for the title at the start of the season didn’t go so well – but there’s always next year! Divison 2 is even closer – and it has many bearings on promotion/relegation discussions – will the South Bristol teams swap over? (The A team have been caught by Clevedon and Clifton B in div 1; and the B team currently top div 2). Same question for Clevedon – though they could complete a tremendous comeback in div 1 and stay up – and if Horfield C can finish well, could they really put 3 teams in div 1? Cabot are hovering above the relegation zone in divs 2 and 3 – can they clamber out of them in time? All that to be seen – and no doubt discussed at length in club AGMs!

Upcoming in April

As if the league wasn’t providing enough drama, we have the cup finals coming up! Downend strolled through the semi-finals and are in a position to ‘do the double’ – can they win the Major and Minor cups? Their opponents are Bath and Clevedon respectively. Since we did so well in our predictions for the semis (sarcasm: we got 1/4) we are going with a resounding NO! Bath and Clevedon are picked to triumph because of good late form.

Chipping Sodbury Rapidplay is on the 29th April (entry form is here) and there is also the National Clubs championships – The Forest of Dean have a team – best of luck to them.

Game of the Month

We’ve got a stonker of a game for you! March’s GotM comes from the University’s Ethan Luc. He faced the always enterprising Mike Meadows in an impressive win against Downend A .

 

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A lovely tactical game between both players wins this months Game of the Month

His own notes are embedded in the game, but we have tried to make sense of it as well: Meadows goes for a Morozevich-esque e5 break from a Chigorin transposition. He gets a decent position and accepts the gambited pawn, though White has good development and still that central advanced pawn.

Mike’s position naturally flows into attack mode and after a bishop swap he takes stock and hangs onto the extra pawn with f6. The move after that he advances again with e4 and e3 – a dangerous pawn. The cramping of White’s position forces the win of the exchange – though with the spare move Ethan threatened to win one back.

However he eschews this, eliminates the passed pawn and drives black’s attack back instead. He had seen that another crucial pawn would fall and this makes way for his own central pawns. His king had been driven to the centre though – so plenty of tactical ideas to dodge. What follows is a demonstration of trust in passed pawns – White’s d pawn basically goes through in every variation – whichever pieces got swapped off in the tactics, the rest were hapless in stopping the pawn – which simply strides through the warzone and promotes.

Ethan Luc (173) vs. Michael Meadows (175)

The league finishes next month! As well as keeping a watchful eye over that we are looking ahead to any summer happenings – there are usually a lot of fun quick-play tournaments and friendly games going on. Let us know about any we don’t advertise and good luck to everyone playing in April.


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.

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

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

 

playinghall

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

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

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

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The university will also be contributing a number of strong contenders

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

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

Here are the last five years of Bristol Champions:

Open

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

Major

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

Minor

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

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

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

Here is a PDF download to the entry form:

71stBristolChampionshipsCongress (PDF)

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

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


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.

January 2018 Review

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

Division 1

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

div1

Division 2

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

div2

Division 3

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

div3

Division 4

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

div4

Statistics

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

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

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

Game of the Month

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

Check and mate

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

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

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

waleed

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

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

WOOLGAR

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

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


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.