Sunday, 21 December 2008

Lies, damned lies, and gradings

The other day I found myself messing around with grading calculations for my games from the last few years. You can massage the figures to draw pretty much whatever conclusion you like - especially if, like me, you don't play all that many games. When the law of large numbers hasn't had a chance to assert itself, it's just a question of picking out whatever randomness appeals to you.

For instance, since taking up chess again (after about ten years out) my grades have gone: 139, 153, 160. (And, albeit after very few games, my performance this season is a touch over 170). What a marvellous story of continuous improvement - at this rate I should be giving young Carlsen one hell of a beating by 2020 or so. Well maybe, but I notice that if rather than considering the grading season you instead start the year at January 1st then you get a completely different story. Then my annual performances have gone: 125, 170, 155, 165. Perhaps Magnus shouldn't be too worried after all.

(For what it's worth, I think that the second view is probably truer: it took me a while to get back in the swing of things and since then I've been playing at more or less the same standard as ever, which is to say 160ish. However, I also think that that's just me imposing my narrative on a set of figures that don't really provide much evidence at all.)

This week's game - though actually I'm still working through November's backlog - was played against an opponent rated about 20 points lower than me. 20 points is a horrible gap: you feel as though only a win would be acceptable, though in fact you should only be due to score 70% and therefore probably only expecting to win about 5 or 6 out of 10. So you're going to be disappointed almost half the time; and even when you win you'll likely feel more relieved than anything else.

Happy to report, this was one of the wins. Black was clearly doing well when white played 15. Rc1, but miscalculated somewhere in the complications. I guess he probably missed 20. Nc5 after which, perhaps struggling to adjust to the sudden change of momentum, he gave up more material than necessary and promptly resigned.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

You don't know what you're doing...

... but, with any luck, neither does your opponent. And that can be a lot of fun!

So it proved in this game, where I stumbled my way into some typically wild Najdorf theory and blundered around like the amateur that I am.

At the end of the evening the strong players in the room gathered round and convinced us that black probably should have lost several times over. In this position, they all wanted to play 11. Nd5

and things do indeed get rather hairy here. But on checking the database afterwards, it seems that a few brave grandmasters are still occasionally willing to enter into this line; so it should surely be playable at my level.

After that there were rather a lot of errors. 15. ... Kf8 is a clear mistake, and white misses a nice shot at move 19:

Here 19. Bg6! seems to win on the spot: after 19. ... fxg6 20. Qxg6 black can't cover both e6 and g7 and goes down quickly; while either 19 ... Raf8 or 19. ... Rhf8 loses to 20. Qh4+.

After that the computers consider roughly every other move in this game to be a serious mistake, but we somehow managed to get to the time control with the position approximately level. And here, with the match tied at 2-2 and only this game remaining, we adjourned.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Four out of four

Continuing through my backlog of un-blogged games, we reach November and Hemel Hempstead. I'm afraid that it was probably this game that triggered five weeks of silence - I've noticed that I'm often rather slower to post my losses than my wins; and this one really didn't go well.

The critical moment comes at move 15:

Can I retrieve that far-flung knight? I decided that 15. Bf4? was the only way to do it, but after 15. ... cxb2 black's pawn becomes deeply unpleasant. I was nowhere near seeing the computer's 15. Kg2! Bc5 16. b4!, after which the game remains in the balance.

I finished the game off with a blunder, but things were almost certainly too far gone by then anyway. All in all, not one of my better efforts.

Happily for Barnet, the rest of the team did rather better, and we scored a fourth win. As a Hull City fan I know better than to get overexcited by a promising start - but you can't really argue with four out of four.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

We're still here

I seem to have become a bit lazy about putting up my games recently and now have a small backlog to clear. I'm not expecting to play again before January, though, so probably I should be able to catch up with myself by then...

Let's start with the adjourned game of my last post. I'd previously written that, two up and two to play, I didn't expect to be offered a draw. Turns out I was wrong: the draw was both offered and accepted. I felt a bit guilty taking it - I probably ought to show more fighting spirit or ruthlessness or something, and at least make Opponent work for his half point. But I felt that a draw was the right outcome, and after all it did clinch the match.

Opponent suggested afterwards that the game was unlikely to make my Best Games anthology. He's right that we both made some rather serious mistakes (34. ... Qh5? 35. Rf1? Nxf3? to reach the time control was particularly unimpressive), but then any collection of my games that excludes the ones with serious mistakes is going to be slim indeed.

In the final position I'd sealed 39. ... Bd6. After that, my analysis kept leading to an ending where White is surely worse - but the computer, at least, always seems able to hold on. This sort of thing: 40. Rxf7+ Rxf7 41. Qxf7+ Kh6 42. Qf2 Qxe4+ 43. Qg2 Qxg2+ 44. Kxg2 d2 45. Kf3 Kg5 46. Rd1 Bb4 47. Ke2:

Losable, but probably not lost.

So anyway, this took our first team to three wins out of three in the Hertfordshire first division. Three games is only three games, but we're very happy to keep winning!

Monday, 20 October 2008


Readers with long memories will recall that I'm no great fan of adjournments, and might even remember a particularly dull occasion on which I was brought back to play three moves and agree a draw.

Tonight's game is also adjourned; but for once I almost approve. The game has been splendidly messy - Opponent misplayed a dangerous attack (or just possibly I defended marvellously; I haven't figured out which) to leave me completely won, only for me to make some errors of my own as we approached the time control - and has now reached an intriguing balance. The computers still like me (I've plenty of pawns for an exchange) but, in the cursory analysis that I've so far made, keep failing to find a way to win the endgame. It looks as though, if I can find the time and motivation, there should be plenty of worthwhile work to do in this adjournment. Probably I shouldn't say too much more just yet; the game is, after all, still in progress.

So, on adjourning, once more... I've some sympathy with the idea that the two of us shouldn't now be obliged to spoil the game, by playing even worse in a rapidplay finish than we have done so far. But at least that would be one-one-one, Blogger versus Opponent - and on the whole, I still think that's a lesser evil than having us get our computers and friends show us what we're supposed to do. Still, it is an interesting position. Hence, I almost approve of this adjournment.

Ironically, this interesting adjournment is against the same Opponent as was the dull one mentioned above.

Meanwhile in the match, Barnet are leading Watford I by 2.5-0.5, with this game and one other still to complete. If nothing else, I guess that means that Opponent is unlikely to offer me a draw...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The London System, again

Very attentive followers of this blog might recall this game, where I expressed surprise that an Opponent who outrated me fairly substantially should choose nothing more ambitious with the white pieces than the London System.

I still consider this the principled position, but it would be a dull world if we all thought the same way - and when I met the same Opponent again this week, he was sticking to his guns.

Not for the first time, my view of the game was very different while playing it than it is with the benefit of hindsight. At the time it felt as though White was building up a rather frightening attack. Now, however, and especially with our silicon friend calmly refuting all tries, it looks as if there really wasn't much to fear.

Two key moments in the game both involved me blundering, only to be followed by Opponent blundering worse. (Chess is an ugly game at my level). First, at move 21:

Here I hastily played 21. ... Bxh4 (21. ... Rxf5 seems to be fine) which should simply lose a pawn after 22. Nxh4 exf5 23. Nxf5. Perhaps Opponent was spooked by 23. ... Bc8 (though he has no problems after 24. Bxe4 dxe4 25. Qh5) because instead he went with 23. Rxf5, losing material to 23. ... Nf2+.

By move 30, then, I'm doing well:

Here I played 30. ... Qe7. It's the right idea but significantly less accurate than 30. ... Qd8, which would have prevented 31. Ne4. Opponent missed the threat and obligingly played 31. e6. Readers who don't see the problem are referred to the game.

This game was played at Hertford where, as kingscrusher has already reported, we won the match 3.5-1.5. As regular relegation candidates in the Hertfordshire first division, it's very pleasing to start the season with two match wins.

Thursday, 16 October 2008 Instructive game: Powerful exchange sac!

Barnet 1 beats Hertford 1 away - 3.5 to 1.5, in what must be a historically rare match victory!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Known knowns, and unknown unknowns

Some players make a point of asking their opponent for their grade before a game. I take the opposite approach, preferring not to know. My theory is that one should aim to be objective on the board, and that any information outside of the game itself is not just extraneous, but distracting.

It's a theory that has all sorts of problems. For a start, chess is a small world; and chess in North London even smaller. So after two or three years with Barnet, it's pretty much impossible for me not to have some idea of how strong most of my opponents are: I know either the opponent or his teammates.

That's a practical objection, but even intellectually I don't think I'm consistent. I believe that if my opponent is 'too strong' then I'll find myself intimidated and fail to play as I should. I also believe that if my opponent is 'too weak' then I'll not give him the respect that he deserves, and again not play as well as I should. Presumably I'm therefore obliged to believe that there's some optimal opponent somewhere in the middle against whom I am most likely to play my best chess... but that doesn't sound right at all. Certainly I wouldn't like to say who this perfect opponent is.

So anyway, I don't ask; instead I look it up when I get home. How disconcerting, then, to find that Opponent appears to unrated... where has he come from? Should I be pleased with my draw, or disappointed? Am I - horror - going to have to analyse the game itself to decide how well I played?

Here's my game, against an unrated opponent, from last night's 3-2 win at St. Albans (not 2.5-1.5 as kingscrusher reported - I wonder whether he forgot that I was there). The opening seemed satisfactory enough, but I carefully uncoordinated all of my pieces and then made a more serious error with 20. ... h6. Things continued to get worse and by about move 30 the computer is convinced that white's advantage should be decisive. No doubt it's right; but fortunately for me we humans will make errors, especially in a quickplay finish, and I managed to scrap my way to a draw. : Play on both sides of the board!

Barnet wins against St Albans 2.5 to 1.5 in Hertfordshire league first match !

Friday, 29 August 2008

Hack Attack

An amusing quickplay game that I played last night against Wood Green.

After the game, Opponent and I believed that 17 ... bxc3? was just losing. The computer, though, is reluctant to confirm this - not, as I'd initially thought, because it is too stupid to understand the white attack but rather because it sees some black resources that had completely escaped us. The win is, at the very least, harder than we'd realised. Over-keen readers might want to try and figure out what is really going on.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008 Chess Party Invitation!

All Barnet chess club members are invited, and viewers of the website!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Playing away

Over at the Streatham & Brixton blog, Tom has been running a series of How To Improve type posts. I'm a bit slow off the mark, but a couple of them caught my eye, for differing reasons.

The first was his recommendation to practise with a real board, setting up conditions to be as similar to tournament play as you can manage. I expect it's good advice; if nothing else it sounds like awfully hard work and I've a nasty feeling that this is the main thing that's required if you're serious about improving. What it reminded me of, though, was a match a year or two ago over at Wanstead (I think). I was playing a board or two below fellow-blogger kingscrusher, who had presumably been spending rather too much time playing online. Half an hour or so in he takes me to one side and says something like: "Dave, this over the board stuff, I'm finding it a bit unfamiliar. The thing is, it's very... it's very realistic isn't it?". Well, it made me laugh.

The other was his more recent discussion of statistics. Now, I'm not sure that I set all that much store in a statistical analysis of my own results, principally because I've only played 44 games in the last two years and I very much doubt that this is enough to provide a statistically significant result for any interesting question. Still, if you like that sort of thing (and I do) then it's a fun game to play.

So, having sliced and diced the numbers as many ways as I could think of, I've so far only found one conspicuous discrepancy - which is that for both of the last two seasons my results have been 20-25 ECF points better in away matches than in home matches.

In a way, I'd love to believe that this was meaningful. I could come up with all sorts of ways to improve my performance on the back of this information - perhaps I should try to kid myself that I was at an away match by always travelling to Barnet via Watford, or maybe I ought to refuse point blank to help with setting up the tables and boards when we are at home. Wouldn't it be marvellous if I could really gain those 20 points, just like that?

Sadly, though, I'm pretty sure that this is just a statistical oddity; so I'm stuck with having to work harder if I want to get better. Shucks.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Barnet players do well at Golders Green rapidplay held on Saturday 12th July!

Hi all

Top Barnet rated player John Pigott won the last Golders Green rapidply with 5/6. I obtained a respectable 4/6. Here was my entertaining game against Robin Haldane:

Saturday, 28 June 2008

A Cup Double

As kingscrusher has previously reported, Barnet won the Lawrance Cup a few weeks ago. Well, now we have the Finchley Cup too! The final was a tight affair, with Barnet edging Barking out by a score of 4.5-3.5.

The Lawrance Cup is played between teams in the North Circular Chess League's A division, while the Finchley Cup is for teams in the B division, so Barnet's first and second teams respectively have done a nice double here.

In both cup competitions, two games are played at a time control of thirty minutes for all moves. I've so far avoided posting any rapid games, largely on the grounds that the quality of play really isn't worthy of a wider audience. Mind you, I've shared some pretty horrible games played at a full time control, so perhaps that's not a convincing argument. Certainly these two games from the final won't stand much scrutiny; but I've played worse - and after all, it's not every day that you win the cup...

(Opponent is the same Opponent who gave me this beating a couple of months back. The games are reconstructed from memory, so may contain errors of move order.)

Saturday, 21 June 2008


A bit of an odd one this. I'm playing on board one for our second team, away to Southgate. When we turn up they have a team list showing players for board two downwards, but have left the top board blank. There seems to be some doubt about whether their man will turn up. As we take our seats I am facing an empty chair.

Meanwhile, a couple of new members (both teenagers, I'd guess) are hanging around hoping for someone to take charge and arrange a game for them. One of them spots the gap opposite me. "Shall I play that guy?" he asks. He seems to be unaware that we're playing a team match. Presumably he is likely to struggle on the higher boards. Supposedly, we're still hoping that Southgate's usual top board will arrive. Nevertheless, their captain waves him on; and I have an Opponent.

For the first couple of moves I worry that perhaps Opponent will prove to be unexpectedly strong, and that I will be humiliated by the first kid who walked in from the street. But it soon becomes clear that this is not the case, and at move twelve Opponent drops his first piece.

Alas, someone seems to have advised him never to resign (which would perhaps be good advice against players of his own strength). Alas again, someone has apparently advised him to use all of his time. It takes two tedious hours to deliver checkmate. The evening is thoroughly unsatisfactory.

I should make clear that I do not blame Opponent for my disgruntlement in any way. We all start somewhere. However, I do think it was a mistake to allow him to play this game. It's a particularly peculiar decision if there was really any expectation that the usual top board was on his way (he never did turn up). Better, surely, to hold out for the regular player; and ask me to play some quick games against the new guy when my opponent didn't show? Or, to shuffle the players who were available up a board and put the newcomer at the bottom?

Here's the game, for what it's worth.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Wrapping up

The season proper came to an end some time ago, and I notice that I have a couple of games left over that I've not yet posted. Here's the first of them; the other will probably follow fairly shortly, so that I don't have to leave a loss at the top of the blog...

Crushing though this defeat was, for some reason I didn't mind it too much. I think it's that I'd much prefer to lose by completely misunderstanding the position and coming up with a disastrous plan, than by blundering away some material (which is more often my way). 14. Nd2 was the start of a bad idea, mistakenly playing for 16. f4. A couple of moves later and it's clear that White has only improved of all of Black's pieces, and that it will be just a matter of time before the final blow is delivered. Full credit to Opponent, though, who finished off nicely from there.

As I say though, I'd prefer to lose by executing a bad plan in a relatively unfamiliar type of position. It seems like this sort of loss ought to be a general lesson that I can remember for future games. In contrast, the repeated appearance of decisive blunders in my play suggests that "don't give your pieces away" is a moral that neither I nor my opponents can really grasp.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008 presents Lawrence Cup Final

2nd match game on Board 3, T.Gavriel vs A.Kikiyo. Barnet won the match overall 6-2 thus winning the Lawrence Cup 30 minute inter-club tournament ! presents Lawrence Cup Final

Barnet wins the Lawrence Cup! Barnet beats Wood Green 6-2 in the final round! Here is the action on board 3 - A.Kikiyo vs. T.Gavriel, 1st 30 minute chess match game

Sunday, 11 May 2008 presents puzzle: Back row mate theme

A brilliant tactical finish to keep people sharp tactically over the Summer :)

Sunday, 20 April 2008

If I followed this blog more closely...

... I'd have been better prepared for this Opponent, as one of my fellow bloggers reported his game against him earlier in the season.

In my last post, I complained that my games were too often spoiled by blunders. This game certainly wasn't error-free (I doubt I've ever played a game where I would be happy to repeat every single move, much less one that was objectively without error), but both players avoided anything too grotesque - and I'm beginning to think that that's half the battle.

As Black, I mixed up my opening lines and was probably rather worse for a while - White's two bishops had me worried. The curious 21. Kf1, though, allowed me to exchange some pieces, after which I was presumably better due to the weakness on c3. (Sadly the game was late to finish and I didn't get a chance to ask Opponent for his thoughts. 21. Kf1 looks to me like the sort of move you play when you're not sure what to do, but maybe he had something concrete in mind).

White possibly should have made the endgame a bit tougher, but was beginning to run short of time. At 37... Nc3+ it took me far too long to convince myself that I would have time to queen before White did the same... I felt sure I must be OK, but we've all seen endings where miracle saves are pulled off by a single tempo; and I really didn't want to be a victim of one of those.

Friday, 18 April 2008


I played the following game recently against George Monk

MNJones - G M Monk NCL B Barking v Old Elizabethans played 10.04.2008 at Barking

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.e3 c5 4.c3 cxd4 5.exd4 d5 6.Bd3 Bg7 7.Qc2 Nc6 8.0-0 0-0 9.Ne5 Nxe5 10.dxe5 Ng4 11.f4 Qb6+ 12.Kh1 Ne3 13.Bxe3 Qxe3 14.Qe2 Qb6 15.Qf2 Qxf2 16.Rxf2 f6 17.exf6 Rxf6 18.Nd2 e5 19.g3 e4 20.Nxe4 dxe4 21.Bxe4 Rb8 22.Rd2 Be6 23.a3 Kf7 24.Kg2 Ke7 25.Re1 b5 26.Bc6 Kf7 27.Bd7 Rb6 28.Red1 Bb3 29.Re1 Rbd6 30.Be8+ Kf8 31.Rxd6 Rxd6 32.Bxb5 Rd2+ 33.Re2 Rxe2+ 34.Bxe2 Ke7 35.Bd3 Kd6 36.Kf3 Kc5 37.g4 Bd5+ 38.Ke3 a5 39.Kf2 1/2-1/2


Too anxious to attack I played 9 Ne5

Too anxious to develop I played 18 Nd2 when King G1 was much better

I had overlooked e5 and the consequences

However after my knight sacrifice on move 20 I had two extra pawns and

I think a postional advantage

Winning a further pawn on move 32 I settled for a draw

but I wonder whether I should have pursed a win ?

Thursday, 17 April 2008 presents P.Kemp vs M.Jones

This was a major Scalp for Barnet chess club's Team Captain Mike Jones ECF 115 against Hertfordshire League's No.1 team - Royston Chess club

Mike played against a player more than 50 ECF points higher - Paul Kemp, rated about ECF 175.

All this playing Black and with a near 20 minute time odds!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Chess Party on Saturday! :)

This invitation extends to members of Barnet chess club or Blog readers of our site who happen to be in London on Satuday, and fancy a few games of blitz chess:

Chessworld London Social April 2008

Hi All

Message from Ockendon, the London social event organiser follows:

When is the London Social?

On Saturday, 19th April, from 11.30 a.m. to 5.45 p.m.

A restaurant has also been booked for 6.00 p.m., for those members who wish to go on to a meal after the social (see below).

(For anyone who can’t make this one - and for those who can! - there will be another London Social on Saturday, 30th August. Details of this will be posted at a later date.)

Where is the social?

This year we are trying a new venue, the Walgrave Arms, 40-42 Brendon Street, Marylebone W1H 5HE. Click here for details:

Wargrave Arms pub details

This pub is already used regularly by the Kings Head Chess Club, and Kingscrusher has checked it out; click here for his pictures:

Venue pictures

The Walgrave Arms is within easy reach of Edgeware Road, Marble Arch and Paddington stations.

Who can attend?

The social is open to all members (whether full or guest members) and to their families and friends.

Please let us know if you are planning to attend, by adding your name here:

Event Calendar entry

If you are planning to bring more than 3 friends/family members it’s essential that you check first with me (ockendon) to check that we can accommodate you.

Also, please message me if you have any additional needs, such as mobility or sensory needs, so that we can do our best to ensure that everything goes smoothly for you. We want to make everyone feel equally welcome.

People of all ages are welcome to attend; however, anyone under 18 must be accompanied at all times by a responsible adult.

What does it cost?

There is no charge for coming along to the social. Those attending are, of course, responsible for purchasing their own food and drink.

So, what actually happens at a social?

Chessworld socials are friendly, informal events. Some people come mainly to play chess, others prefer to socialise and play the occasional game. Some non-playing friends or relatives like to spend the time visiting the sights or doing a bit of shopping.

You can drop in whenever you like, and stay for as long or as short a time as you want to.

What about the chess?

There is plenty of that! Most games are informal, just ask someone if they’d like a game. It doesn’t matter if they’re much stronger or much weaker than you! Some people like to use clocks, but most games have no time limits. There is no competition, and games played at the social will not, of course, have any effect on your chessworld rating.

If you are new to socials, I will personally greet you, and will also find your first opponent for you if you wish.

Do I need to bring anything?

Yourself! Plus a chess set if you have one that you can carry easily. But if you don’t, please do still come; there will be quite a few spare sets around that anyone can use.

What was that about a meal?

The social at the Walgrave Arms is of course the main event of the day. However, some people like to stay on a bit longer and have a bite to eat. It’s also a chessworld tradition to play a communal game of chess during the meal!

We have booked tables for 20 people at a nearby Italian restaurant, Bizzarro, at 18 Craven Road W2 3PX.

Places will be allocated strictly on a first come, first served basis. Please message me directly as soon as possible if you do wish to come to the meal. For the sake of fairness, we will not be able to accommodate more than one guest per member at the meal.

Here is the restaurant’s website:

( )

Many thanks to Cuppablanca for finding this restaurant for us.

I’m coming from a long way off. Where can I stay?

There is, of course, plenty of accommodation in London. We are not able to recommend a particular place, but try typing “London hotels”, “cheap accommodation in London”, etc. etc. into Google for some ideas.

I have another question

Excellent! Please message me directly with any questions, I’ll be more than happy to answer.

If you’ve never been to a social before, please do consider coming along. I was pretty nervous at my first social a few years ago, but I was quickly made to feel welcome, and by the end of the day I already felt at home!

Reply to Ockendon
London Social Organiser

Thursday, 10 April 2008

J.Hodgson vs T.Gavriel

Match against Ilford chess club. Had a good position until Bxc3?? which was very antipositional.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Another week, another game

Approaching the end of the season, I'm beginning to look for patterns and conclusions. Maybe there aren't really any to be found, but it's fun to try. We've still a few games left, so I'll be thinking more about this when we're done; meanwhile this game exemplifies a couple of repeated themes:
  • My games include a lot of blunders (not all of them mine)

  • Very few games are completely, or even mostly, satisfying

The two are related, of course. Losing feels rubbish; and even winning isn't that great if the game wasn't good.

Put like that, it almost sounds as though I'm not enjoying my chess. That's not the case at all. Probably I should set myself a second end-season task of trying to figure out what I like about the game, and write something about that too.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

N.Syed vs T.Gavriel

This was board 3 for the match against Wanstead chess club.

It was played on Monday 31st March - we managed to beat Wanstead by a whopping 5.5 to 0.5!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Barnet chess club players do well at Southend Open Congress at Easter

I am happy to report that Alex Ethelontis and myself did well at the Southend Open Easter congress.

I came 2nd with 5.5/7 and may be offered a qualifying place for the British Chess Championship to be held in Liverpool. Alex came 4th equal with 5/7. Paul Georghiou, also did well by most standards, but he felt he underperformed with a 185+ performance. He is rated ECF 199 though, so probably had much higher expectations than both myself and Alex, who are rated at ECF 185 and 186 respectively.

Here are some youtube videos of three of my key wins from the tournament:

Round 7 win vs FM Dave Ledger

Round 4 win vs Peter Vas

Round 2 win vs Salimbeni

All in all a great tournament to play in!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Not relegated

I believe that winning this match secured our place in Division 1 of the Hertfordshire league, which had previously been in some doubt.

My own contribution was the rather poor win given below. White must be better after 11. ... Bxh4, but with 20. Qf3 and 21. Kb1, he gives it all away.

20. Qf3 is understandable: Opponent simply missed that I could force the exchange of queens. 21. Kb1, though, is harder to explain - it just goes into the same ending with one pawn less than he could have had. Alas, it's hardly the first time this season that one of Opponent or Blogger has played a bad move.

Opponent took the best part of half an hour to resign in the final position, clear-cut though it is. (He had barely taken that long over whole of the rest of the game). Though we got on just fine in a fun post-mortem, I couldn't quite bring myself to ask what he'd been thinking about. Lots of players do seem to be reluctant to admit that it really is all over, and no doubt this buys them the occasional half point. My habit is to resign rather quickly; I usually believe that if an Opponent can reach a definitely winning position then he can also win it, so once I'm convinced that I'm lost I'd rather stop the pain.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Still blundering

Another game, another blunder. This one is oddly similar to a previous disaster - maybe I have a blind spot for pins on the g-file.

If I was shocked when Opponent took my rook, I almost fell off my chair when he offered a draw at the same time. I'm not sure what prompted this generosity - with the match still in the balance and rating points at stake, I'm afraid that I wouldn't be giving up half points so easily. I guess some people are nicer than others, but to me this is too much. If I make a stupid move, then I should lose a stupid game; that's just how chess is.

On the other hand... well, the match was still in the balance - but actually, the result probably won't make any significant difference to final league positions, so it doesn't mean a lot. And rating points - well, they don't really matter either, do they? Next season, my grade will be a couple of points higher than it might have been (and Opponent's will be a couple of points lower), and so what? If you're playing chess for the pleasure of the game and, perhaps, to socialize a bit (and isn't that why we play?) - well, then Opponent's draw offer is a perfectly rational one.

I couldn't have made it myself, though.

Friday, 14 March 2008 presents Gavriel vs Wittmann

Barnet lost 5-1 to Wood Green last night unfortunately. Congratulations though to Wood Green chess club for winning the North Circular Chess league. This was the game on board 2 I played against a dangerous opponent named J.Wittmann ECF 183.

Thursday, 13 March 2008 presents P.Bonafont vs. T.Gavriel

This was my best game from the Barnet chess congress, in Round 2 in the top section.

Unfortunately in Round 3, just as I was looking forward to being on 3/3, after reaching a winning position, and the opponent very short of time, I received a text message on my Iphone. And the opponent claimed the game. I thought I had turned it off from before. Anyway from now on, no more chess with an Iphone in my pocket!.

However on the Saturday, at least I could take away this victory from the earlier Round 2.

Monday, 10 March 2008

A loose end

Don't get too excited, but I've just completed this adjournment. We left the game here:

Play continued 36. ... a6 37. a4 Be7 38. Ke3 Bd8 39. Ke2 Be7 draw agreed. Thrilling stuff.

The explanation lies off the board. As I mentioned last time, Barnet were one up in the match with this and one other game to complete. That other game was taking place at the same time as this one and was (to my surprise) lost in the time it took us to play these moves. Back in my game Black can still try to mix things up (getting his knight to f5 looks like the first step) but it seems as though any winning chances that he can create carry just as many losing chances. Once the match was level, Opponent clearly felt that he couldn't take any risks.

Well, this is all fair enough. Alas, it doesn't make for a very interesting Monday evening, or blog post...

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Chess publisher downtime and alternative

When posting earlier today, I noticed that none of the games were showing up on the blog. Apparently is suffering some sort of downtime. I guess this was always a risk for a blog relying on a third party to host its games.

This prompted me to start looking into alternative methods for getting chess games onto the blog. I fairly quickly found the free LT PGN viewer - and fairly quickly realised that ChessPublisher appeared to be based on that work. (I can't remember whether ChessPublisher gave appropriate credit for this or not; and can't check while the site remains down).

Then I figured out that I could use Google's servers (explicitly, Google pages) to host something more or less equivalent to ChessPublisher.

So, after some fiddling, I'm proud to present Barnet Elizabethans' Chess Club's very own PGN publisher, here. Much as in ChessPublisher, you enter your PGN and are given an HTML snippet to put into your blog.

In a sense, of course, this is no step forward. Bloggers are still relying on a third-party host to take care of displaying their games. Indeed, if you have your own server space then you probably should be using that. However, if you must go elsewhere, my guess is that (except, perhaps, when Pakistan intervenes) the Google servers should be more reliable than most.

I've edited this post to use our version of the PGN viewer, so you can see what the results looks like.

What's in a name?

When we played Barking a few weeks back, I looked the club up on the ECF's online grading database. I was surprised to see that they had Howard Staunton on their books. He didn't play against us.

Any other famous names out there?

Thursday, 28 February 2008

A swindle

This week's game was drifting towards a likely loss, when a trick appeared:

Why can't white play 26. Ra5? The solution, luckily for me, is in the game.

Moments like this require some self-control. Clearly you don't want to let the opponent know that you have set a trap. Ideally, you should somehow give the impression that the blunder which you're hoping for is a perfectly normal move, possibly even your main line, and certainly that you're a bit worried by it. That's an awful lot of impression to give.

Further restraint is needed when the trap is sprung - it would be unspeakably rude to sit there grinning inanely. Actually, I'm not sure that it's altogether classy to blog about it later. Probably I've posted enough of my own blunders to allow this, though.

What more to say? It's not the way that I'd want to win a game; but it sure beats losing...

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Boring System revisited

Back in October, I faced a London System and complained that it led to a dull game that noone could possibly enjoy, and I couldn't beat it, and wouldn't someone please suggest some way to spice things up?

Last week, however, I met it again and was quite happy to play the same tedious lines all over again. The difference? In the earlier game I held a rating advantage of about 15 ECF points (about 120 Elo, for any non-English readers); but in this second game I was outrated by 20 points (say 150 Elo).

Actually, I think this is quite rational. As black, against a stronger opponent, I should be happy to hold a draw. Certainly I don't think that it should be up to me to create complications. I've no idea, though, why white would choose to play this way. I'm pretty sure that he wasn't playing for a draw, but he never really looked like getting anything more. If anything, black was developing a slight edge before dropping a pawn and shutting up shop.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Adjourned again

I've posted before about my dislike of adjournments in club chess, so won't labour the point again. Suffice to say that I would have preferred to finish this game on the night.

It's not a very exciting game, this one. Probably white ought to try and open things up earlier on (8. c4, perhaps); and then probably he should be trying to maintain the tension for a bit longer (17. a4, or something) rather than acquiescing to an endgame in which he is slightly worse.

The computer tells me that the adjourned position is just about as dull as it looks - but Barnet are one up in the match, with this game and another adjourned. That being so, I guess I can understand that Opponent feels he has to play on and hope that he can persuade me to blunder (and of course this might yet happen). Ironically, I can't help thinking that his chances of success would be higher if he'd agreed to a quickplay finish in the first place.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

A bad game

I played this game three or four weeks ago now, and should have blogged it sooner. But I was so disgusted with my play that I've been putting it off.

Why did this loss annoy me more than any of the others that I've posted? I think because the bad moves came through sheer laziness, leaving a strong feeling that I'd let myself down. Sometimes you miscalculate, or misevaluate a position, or choose a bad plan; but at least you are calculating, evaluating, and planning. This game, though, was lost simply by not investigating the position at all.

Explicitly, after 11. ... c6 my thought process went something like this:

"Obviously he wants to play ... d5. I don't really believe in that; start those pawns rolling and I'll just crush him on the kingside. Excellent".

And that's about it. I considered my opponent's intended move to a depth of fully zero ply. As soon as it hit the board, of course, I saw that I was losing material. Really, when you see what your opponent is going to do, you should give it a little attention.

I probably ought now to be writing that, well, at least it's a lesson learned and I surely won't be making that mistake again. Alas, I doubt that's true. Bad habits formed over many years aren't so easily given up.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 presents S.Swanson vs T.Gavriel

I played an interesting game last night against Steve Swanson of Hertford chess club:

S.Swanson Ecf 204 vs T.Gavriel 185
Hertford 1 vs Barnet 1

[[1. e4 e6 2. d3 d5 3. Nd2 Nf6 4. g3 dxe4 5. dxe4 e5
6. Bg2 Bg4 7. Ngf3 Nc6 8. h3 Be6 9. O-O h6 10. c3 Qd3 11. Re1 O-O-O 12. Bf1 Qd7
13. Bb5 Qd6 (13... Bd6 14. Nc4 (14. Qa4 a6 15. Bxc6 Qxc6 16. Qxc6 bxc6 17. Kg2)
14... Bxc4 15. Bxc4 Qxh3) (13... Bd6) 14. Qa4 Nb8 (14... Bd7 15. Bxc6 Bxc6 16.
Qxa7 Qe6 17. a4 Qxh3 18. Nxe5) 15. Bf1 (15. Nc4 Bxc4 16. Bxc4) 15... Nfd7 16.
Nc4 (16. Qxa7 Nb6 17. Qa5 Nc6 18. Qb5) 16... Qc6 17. Qxc6 Nxc6 18. a4 (18. b4
f6 19. Rd1 Nb6) 18... a5 19. Be3 f6 20. Nfd2 b6 21. Kg2 Bc5 22. Nb3 Bxe3 23.
Rxe3 h5 24. Ree1 h4 25. g4 Nf8 26. Rad1 Ng6 27. Nc1 Nf4+ 28. Kh2 Kb7 29. Ne3
Rxd1 30. Rxd1 Rd8 Draw agreed 1/2-1/2 ]]

Thursday, 14 February 2008 presents T.Gavriel vs I.Khandaker

Barnet I played Watford II on Tuesday night. I had a win against Khandaker Ecf 168:

T.Gavriel 185 vs I.Khandaker 168
Barnet I vs Watford II

[[1. c4 {0} Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. e4 Bb4 (3... e5) 4. e5
Ng8 5. Qg4 Bf8 6. d4 d6 7. Bg5 Ne7 8. O-O-O h6 9. Bh4 g5 10. Ne4 Bg7 11. f4 d5
12. Nc3 Nf5 13. Bf2 c6 14. Nf3 a6 15. h4 gxf4 16. Qxf4 h5 17. Bd3 Nh6 18. Ng5
Qe7 19. Be2 Nf5 20. g4 hxg4 21. Bxg4 Nh6 22. cxd5 (22. Bh3 Nd7 23. Rhg1 Nb6 24.
c5 Nd7 25. Rde1) 22... cxd5 23. Bh3 (23. Nxd5 exd5 24. Bxc8 Qc7+) 23... Bd7 24.
Rhg1 Rg8 (24... Nc6 25. Nge4 dxe4 26. Rxg7 O-O-O 27. Nxe4) 25. Nh7 Nc6 26. Rxg7
Rxg7 27. Nf6+ Kd8 28. Qxh6 Rg6 29. Qh8+ Be8 30. h5 Rg5 31. Bh4 1-0]]

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Adjudication against Andrew Stone

Hi all

I have the following position which I think I should claim a draw on, despite Black being better. It is black to play and move:

I have done quite a lot of analysis on it, and here is some of it:

I think Black's best move is Bg5

1... Bg5 2. Rf3 Kf8 3. Kh1 (3. Rxf5 gxf5) 3... Rxf3
4. Qxf3 Bf4 5. Bc3 (5. Kg1 Qc5+ (5... Qf6 6. Ba3+ Kg7 7. Qd3) 6. Kh1 b5) (5.
Rg4 Qb4 6. Bc3 (6. Rg2 Qe1+ 7. Rg1 Qh4) 6... Qa3 7. Qd3 (7. Rxf4 Qc1+ 8. Qf1
Qxf4 9. Qxf4 exf4 10. Kh2 Ke7 11. Bd4 b5) 7... Qc1+ (7... f5 8. Rxf4 exf4 9.
Qd2 Rxh3+ 10. Kg2 Rg3+ 11. Kh1 Rxc3 12. Qxc3 Kf7 13. Qe5) 8. Rg1 Qc2 9. Qxc2
Rxh3+ 10. Kg2 Rh2+ 11. Kf3 (11. Kf1) 11... Rxc2) (5. Rg1 Ke8 6. Bc3 (6. Qg4 Kd8
7. Bc1 Bxc1 8. Rxc1 e4 9. Qg2 f5 10. Rc3 {0} g5 (10... Kc7 {0}) (10... Qf6 {0}
11. Re3 {0} g5 12. Kg1 {0} Kc7 {0} (12... g4) (12... g4)) 11. Kg1 Qe5 12. Re3
g4) 6... Qa3 7. Ra1 Kf8 8. Qg4 f5 9. Qg2 g5 10. Be1 Kf7 11. Rd1 Qd6) 5... Qa3
6. Rc2 Qc5 {0} 7. Bd2 (7. Be1 {1}) (7. Be1 Qd4 8. Bf2 Qa1+ 9. Bg1 Qb1 10. Rg2
Rh6) 7... Rf5 8. Bxf4 (8. Qg2 Qd4 9. Bxf4 exf4 10. Qf3 Re5 11. Rf2 g5 12. Rg2
f6 13. Kh2 Re3 14. Qg4) 8... Rxf4 9. Qg2 (9. Qg3 Qd4 10. Kh2 Rf1 (10... b5) 11.
Re2 e4 12. Qe3 Qe5+ 13. Kg2 Rf3 14. Qh6+ Ke8 15. Qh4 f5 16. Qg5 (16. Rf2 Qd4 (
16... Rxf2+ 17. Kxf2 f4 18. Qg4 Qb2+ (18... Kf8 19. Qxg6 Qd4+ 20. Kg2 f3+ 21.
Kh2 Qb2+ 22. Kh1 Qa1+ 23. Kh2 Qxa2+ 24. Kg1 Qa1+ 25. Kh2 Qb2+ 26. Kh1 Qc1+ 27.
Qg1 Qd2 28. Qg3 Qd1+ 29. Kh2 Qc2+ 30. Kg1 Qb1+ {0} 31. Kf2 {0} Qb2+ 32. Kg1
Qd4+ 33. Kh2 Qf6) 19. Ke1 Qc1+ 20. Kf2 Qe3+ 21. Kf1 Kf8 22. Qh4 Qd3+ 23. Ke1
Qb1+ 24. Kd2 Qb2+ 25. Kd1) 17. Kf1 (17. Rf1 Qd2+ 18. Kg1 Rxf1+ 19. Kxf1 e3)
17... b5 18. Rxf3 Qd1+ 19. Kf2 Qxf3+ 20. Kg1 Qd1+ (20... e3 21. d6 Qd1+ 22. Kg2
Qxd6) 21. Kh2) 16... Kf7 17. Qh4 Kg7 (17... Rd3 18. Qh7+ Qg7 19. Qxg7+ (19. Qh4
g5 20. Qf2 Qe5) 19... Kxg7 20. h4 Kf6 21. Kg1 Ke5) 18. Qg5 b5 19. Rf2 bxc4 20.
bxc4 Rxf2+ 21. Kxf2 Qb2+ 22. Ke1 Qb1+ 23. Kf2 Qc2+ 24. Kg3 Qc3+) 9... b5 10.
Qg1 Rd4 11. Qc1 Kg7 12. Kg2 (12. Rd2 Rh4 13. Qe1 Rxh3+ 14. Rh2 Qe3 15. Qxe3
Rxe3 16. Rd2 Kf8 17. d6 Ke8 18. cxb5 axb5 19. Rd5 Kd7 20. Rxb5 f5 21. Kg2 e4
22. Kf2 f4 23. Rg5 Rc3 24. Rg4 Rc2+ 25. Ke1 g5 26. Rxg5 Rxa2 27. Re5 Ra1+ 28.
Ke2 f3+ 29. Kf2 Ra2+ 30. Kf1 Re2 31. Rd5 Rh2 32. Re5 Rh4 33. Kf2 Kxd6 34. Rf5
Ke6 35. Rf8 Rh2+ 36. Kg3 Rg2+ 37. Kh3 Kd5) 12... f5 13. Rd2 Rxd2+ 14. Qxd2 bxc4
15. bxc4 Qxc4 16. d6 Qc6+ 17. Kf2 Qd7 18. h4 (18. a4 Kf6 19. h4 f4) 18... f4 (
18... Kf7 19. Qd5+ (19. h5 gxh5 20. Qh6 Ke8 (20... Qd8 21. Qxh5+ Ke6 22. Kg2 e4
23. Qg6+ Qf6 24. Qg3)) 19... Kf6 20. a4 (20. Qd2 Qa7+ 21. Ke2 Qg1 22. Qd3 Qg2+
23. Ke1 Qxa2 24. d7 Qa5+ 25. Ke2 Ke7 26. h5 gxh5 27. Qxf5 Qb5+ 28. Kf2 Qb2+ 29.
Kg3 Qd4 30. d8=Q+ Qxd8 (30... Kxd8 31. Qf6+ Kd7 32. Qxa6 Qg4+ 33. Kf2 Ke7 34.
Qc6 Qf5+ 35. Kg3 Kf7)) 20... Qa7+ 21. Ke2 Qd4 22. Qc6 Qe4+ 23. Qxe4 fxe4 24. a5
Ke6 25. d7 Kxd7 26. Ke3 Kd6 27. Kxe4 Ke6 28. Ke3) (18... Kf7) 19. Qd3 a5 20. a4

In the main line of the above, I think it is a little too much if White can play for an endgame. I don't think Black is justified trying to claim a win via adjudication instead of offering to play on.

Anyway, Mike Jones may have to send this position off now to claim a draw.

Feedback welcome from all

Sunday, 20 January 2008

A short win

So I just tuned in to see what's going on at Corus, and was somewhat surprised to see that the game Short-Cheparinov went 1. e4 c5 1-0. Yes, that's the entire game.

Apparently Cheparinov refused to shake Short's hand and so, per the recent rule change, forfeited the game. At this point I've no idea how the incident played out, but I can't see it reflecting favourably on either player. Cheparinov is clearly an idiot for refusing to shake Short's hand; I'm willing to presume that Short is probably an idiot for insisting on the rule being enforced.

As various people pointed out at the time, losing a game in such circumstances is really rather extraordinary. I suppose it was inevitable that, once the rule existed, two idiots would eventually get together and cause it to be applied. Shaking hands is nice, of course, but it's hard to see how this sort of thing is good for the game.

Sticking with the programme

I was going to post this game yesterday - but it seemed a little perverse to write a chess blog the day after Bobby Fischer's death, and say nothing about it. Still, nothing is exactly what I do want to say about him: there's more than enough Fischer material out there already, and much of it is far better than anything I'd be likely to contribute. So I'll stay with what I know.

Actually, I don't have much to say about this week's game either. I'm afraid it was all too straightforward. Mind you, last time I played this Opponent I found myself resigning after making only ten moves. (I wasn't blogging at the time, or that one might have tested my resolve to publish every game.) So I guess this effort represents some sort of improvement...

White missed opportunities for advantage from the opening (in particular the computer's amusing suggestion 13. Nd5), after which the game was about equal, briefly. 16. ... b4 looks dubious; after that I probably should have been trying to bail out into a bad endgame. 23. ... Qc6 is obviously a blunder in a bad position.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Endgame tactics (part two)

In this post I pointed out an error in van Perlo's Endgame Tactics. Shortly afterwards I sent an email to New In Chess, figuring that telling the publishers about the mistake was probably more useful than just shouting into the great void of the internet.

I'm happy to say that I got a perfectly polite reply, which I see no reason not to report:

"Thank you very much for your contribution. You are absolutely right, of course. It's very strange that we haven't noticed this with our checks!

Unfortunately, by the time you sent us this mail, the third edition was already at the printer's. So your correction will have to wait until a possible 4th edition."

Maybe one day the book will be considered an all time classic, and I'll be able to tell the grandchildren about the time I helped to fix it up...

(In the unlikely event that anyone at New In Chess does feel that I've broken a confidence here, let me know and I'll happily delete this post).

Saturday, 12 January 2008 presents Ramage vs Gavriel

A rather dull french defence game with some missed opportunities to spice things up. At least Barnet crushed Barking overall in the match though - with 4.5 - 1.5 score.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Barnet chess congress in February 2008

Hi all

The Barnet chess congress approaches in February 2008!

February 23rd and February 24th, Barnet Chess Congress

There is a nice canteen area for socialising between rounds. The venue is spacious at the Queen Elizabeth Boy's School in Barnet:

The details as noted on the ECF calendar website are:

23-24 Feb - 24th Barnet Congress, Queen Elizabeth's Boys' School, Queens Rd, Barnet, Herts.
Malcolm Harding, 30 Grasmere Close, Brownsover, Rugby, Warks CV21 1LW (Tel: 01788 561474, Email: )

But you can get the full entry form from the following PDF document:

Click for PDF of entry form

You can telephone your entry to Malcolm Harding on 01788 561474 or by Email to

You can get some flavour of the tournament from the 2003 report. But please note entry fees have altered since that page was written, the location remains at the spacious QE School venue. This year 2008 has record prize fees for the Premier section.

Hope to see you all there!

Best wishes

Thursday, 10 January 2008

A limited repertoire

We played Barking on Thursday night. Whenever we play Barking I seem to play the same opponent (not always on the same board), and I always have white. Three times we have met in the last couple of years or so, and three times we have played the same line of the Two Knights Defence.

In the first game I should have won after being given a pawn, but only drew. In the second game it was my turn to give away a pawn, and though I probably ought to have held the opposite-coloured bishop endgame that followed, I failed to do so. In the third game no pawns were given away, and we played a fairly dull draw.

So when I found that I had white against the same player once again, I naturally felt that it might be nice to vary the opening. But as each move came, I realized that I just don't have a backup repertoire. The thought process goes something like this:

"Well, I've only ever played e4 so, of course:"
1.e4 e5

"I don't know anything at all about the King's Gambit, and there aren't really any other serious moves here, so:"
2. Nf3 Nc6

"Well, I'd kind of like to take up the Spanish... but to play my first ever game with it now, in a serious match against a strong opponent? I don't think so."
3. Bc4

... and given the opportunity I imagine that I would have gone on like this, quite possibly talking myself into completely repeating one of the earlier games!

My opponent was braver than I am and varied at this point with 3. ... Bc4. Braver but perhaps wronger, as he was out of his book almost immediately and played a thoroughly dubious line. The rest of the game went splendidly from my point of view, turning into a winning attack on his unfortunately placed king. (The only disappointment was that when I chose to cash in the material, I missed a mating line. No difference to the result, of course, but it's always nice to deliver mate. I'll leave this as a not very difficult exercise for the reader.)

Should I be worried about my limited repertoire? (If I were a strong player, I could call myself a specialist!) I can't think of any game I've played where I could attribute a lost point or half-point to not having an alternative opening available, which suggests that it's not all that important. It would probably be good for me to be exposed to more types of positions, and to that end a few more strings to my bow would be desirable. But this is very long-term thinking: would effort spent learning a new system really be more valuable than the same effort spent studying endgames, or tactics? How many different opening lines do you play?

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Endgame Tactics

I'm currently reading (and enjoying) Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics. Recently I reached position 341

The game continuation was 1... e3 2. Rd6+ Kc3 3. Re6 Kd4 4. Rd6+ Ke5 5. Rd8 e2 6. Re8+ Kf4 7. Rf8+ Ke3 8. Re8+ Kf2 9. a7 Rh1+ 10. Kg5 Ra1 11. Rf8+ Kg3 12. Re8 Ra5+ 13. Kg6 Kf3 14. g5, at which point van Perlo says "Checks no longer help as after 14. Rf8+ Ke4 15. Re8+ the rook can be interposed".

This is, of course, a disastrous suggestion: after 15. Re8+ we reach this position:

when there can hardly be enough question marks for 15. ... Re5, allowing 16. a8=Q+. (Black does in fact win after 14. Rf8+ by 14. ... Kxg4, so the game at least is not spoiled.)

I wonder how this error slipped through? I'm reading the book's second edition, so it has presumably survived unnoticed (by the publishers at least) for quite some time. The preface talks at length about how the positions have been computer checked; but apparently not completely thoroughly. My guess would be that the fatal mistake was leaving "the rook can be interposed" in words, rather than entering the move 15. ... Re5. The computer isn't ready to analyze chess in a natural language just yet.

I'm not sure what more to say about this, except that I found it rather an unnerving experience to see such an error in black and white, right there in front of me. A blunder like this shakes one's confidence in a book more than a little.