In chess terms it was one of the greatest escapes since, well, The Great Escape. Sam Stringer competing in a Cannock League match against Rugeley, played his Queen to the A file. Checkmate his opponent thought and promptly resigned, overlooking Bishop takes Queen on a long diagonal.

With John Moughtin-Leay winning his fourth match of the season to move top of Lichfield’s Ladder Board, and a draw from Yuriy Sloodyuk, the double blunder was enough to give Lichfield a win by 2.5 points to 1.5.

It was a bad night for Lichfield A team, playing their first match in Birmingham One in  a season already two months old. Despite having their best team out, Lichfield lost 4-2, heavily outgraded by Olton. John Keaveney battled hard to score Lichfield’s only win, while Tony Green and Peter Collins salvaged draws.

It was even worse for Lichfield’s Division 3 team against Warley Quinborne. They lost 5.5-0.5 with their ony point coming from a draw from David Fone.

Secretarial error

An end game blunder by Lichfield secretary David Short cost the club’s Wolverhampton 4 team a revenge win over Bushbury. It was a case of opening blunder, strong recovery and then a winning position which was squandered  into a draw. Skipper Brian Jones won and Arthur Hall secured a draw to tie the match 2-2.

A win from teenager John Moughton-Leay and draws from Ray Sawyer and Stephen Smithson gavc Lichfield Derby Div 4 team a 2-2  draw against Rolls Royce C.  The Division 3 match against Belper produced a 2.5-1.5 win. Yuriy Slodyuk and David Fone were the winners and Kevin Gallagher gained a draw.

Best yet for Ray

Rapidly improving Ray Sawyer had his best performance yet as he overcame a 30 point grading deficit to gain an exciting draw against Norton Canes captain Mike Hoare in a Cannock 3 match. With time a factor and pawns threatening to queen at both sides of the board an agreed draw brought the game to its conclusion.

Ray’s son Josh won his first league match against an eight years old Norton Canes opponent and with David Short beating Brian Jones and Stuart Smitton drawing with Barry Hanford, Lichfield won the match 3-1.

Teenager John Moughtin Leay was a winner in Lichfield D’s Derby 3 match against Rolls Royce. With draws from  Ray Sawyer and Stephen Smithson the match ended 2-2, so the D team has its first point following a 3.5-1.5 loss a week earlier against Derby D, in which Ray Sawyer gained Lichfield’s only point.

Chess nightmares

Lichfield’s Birmingham 2 skipper Mike Maher must be having nightmares about chess clocks. Three times this season he has had the black pieces, secured a favourable position and then lost on time. Mike is rueful that his misfortunates have cost his team dear and there will now be a fight to avoid the relegation zone. It was a point that got away” said Mike.

In the latest B2 against Shirtley and Wythal in week four of the season, Alan Giles, Charles van der Westhuizen and Yuriy Slododyuk came through tight games to wins that secured a 3-3 draw.

Two days earlier in another away game at Olton the match slipped to a draw. Adam Routledge  and John Keaveney won their games and there were draws from Yuriy Slobodyuk and Alan Giles.

It was not a good night for two other Lichfield teams either. Cannock 2 division saw Lichfield take an early lead against Oscott but late evening victories for for,mer Lichfield players Sandy Wilson and Arthur Kent over Brian Homewood and Peter Dickinson saw Oscott win 2.5-1.5. Arthur Hall was Lichfield’s winner and Ray Sawyer drew.

The Derby League Division 1 match saw Derby A comfortable 3.5-05 winners over Lichfield A. Tony Green battled to a draw for Lichfield, but there was no joy for skipper Ian Kingston, David Hulme and Peter Collins.

The third match of the evening produced a Lichfield winner, the Cannock 3b team won 4-0 but it was at the expense of the Lichfield 3a team. Fred Biles, John Moughtin Leay, Stephen Smithson and Stuart Andrews were the winners.

Dinasaurs still alive and well

An enthralling Birmingham 3 match against Olton ended in uncertaintity as the visitors used their pre season adjournment option in the next to last game to finish. Lichfield’s Mike Page faced a seven day wait to discover whether his  tense checkmate win in the last few minutes of the final game will give his team both points. It didn’t and the match finished 3-3.

Kevin Gallagher thought he had an edge in an adjourned bishop and knight end game,but it ended in a draw. Perhaps unwisely Kevin opted not to use a computer on the adjourned position.

Only three of the 27 clubs in the Birmingham League are now in favour of adjournments. Only a handful of chess dinosaurs stick to this arcaic rule for which there is no place in modern chess at any level above club chess.  Finding a date for an adjournment  in crowded fixture lists is often a problem and it can mean a player becoming unavailble for his team’s next match. Time for a change Birmingham.

Mike Page was one three reserves in an outgraded Lichfield team and the other two, Ray Sawyer and Arthur Hall both secured draws.


Lichfield’s Derby 1 team started with a 2-2 draw against Rolls Royce, thanks to a fine win from Tony Green and draws from Maurice Staples and Peter Collins.  Wolverhampton 4 continues to be a testing league and Lichfield, forced to play stronger players on the top boards than the club would have wished, still lost 4-0.

A testing induction

Three newcomers turned up for the start of Lichfield Chess Club’s new season and a little unfairly found themselves pitched into tournament play straight away.

The occasion was the annual Quickplay Tournament which was time handicapped on ability to give everyone a sporting chance of  victory. All three enjoyed the experience and are expected to return. One of them, Ben Nevett, who played for Imperial College, London last season and has a grade of 144, was immediately lined up to play in a Birmingham League second division match.

Youngest ever winner


13-year-old John Moughtin-Leay, youngest winner of the Lichfield Chess Club Championship, received his trophy from club chairman Peter Collins at the annual meeting on 25 April.

Rare checkmates blow 

Two rare checkmates have cost a Lichfield team a trophy and kept the first team in the Birmingham League Division 1 relegation zone.

The first rare checkmate came in the Division 1 match at Solihull and cost a draw which could have saved relegation worries. Ian Kingston’s opponent entered a critical stage of the endgame with knight, bishop and pawn against Ian’s king and bishop. His opponent had to give up the attempt to promote the pawn (which actually created some stalemate defences for Ian!), instead winning Ian’s bishop and entering the notoriously difficult endgame of king, bishop and knight against king, eventually succeeding in administering checkmate.

Skipper Peter Collins has played thousands of chess games without ever witnessing the game’s most difficult chess manoeuvre.

Both Peter and Ian were of course aware of the general principles. Perhaps the most significant aspect (in the wider context) was that Black had to deliver mate with just the 10 seconds per move increment on his clock – at one point his time dropped to just 3 seconds – showing the value of using increments to reach a natural conclusion. Under other time controls the game would almost certainly have been drawn despite Black having a won position.

The following night Lichfield had an opportunity to win the Cannock League Division 1 title but hopes were dashed when the ever reliable Mike Hoare, playing with white, lost to a smothered checkmate in only nine moves, much to Mike’s embarrassment and the bemusement of members,

Table toppers

Lichfield are in prime position to win the first division of the Wolverhampton League after a surprise win against a considerably stronger Wolverhampton team. With one game to play at Telford on 24th April, Lichfield head the table.

Walsall Kipping, in second place have a match in hand and will probably need to win both games to deprive Lichfield of the title.

Conceding grading differences of 20 to 30 pts plus on every board, Lichfield shocked the home team with wins from Tony Green, Gary Haime and Board 6 Brian Homewood, who pulled off the win the day against an opponent graded more than 30 point more, Resolute defence from David Hulme gained the decisive half point.

Lichfield chase Derby League title

Lichfield are closing in on promotion and a championship title in the Derby League second division.

Lichfield A lead Long Eaton by two points with just two games to play.

In Division 4 Lichfield C have reached the highest placing since the club entered teams in Division 4, just two points behind Amber Valley with two games to

AGM date brought forward

The date of Lichfield’s agm has been changed for the second time and will now be on Thursday, 25th April.

The meeting will be streamlined as much as possible with officer’s reports circulated by email in advance of the meeting  and with no obvious contentious issues to discuss this year it is expected there will be ample time for a few games of social chess afterwards.

The AGM will now be held in the Guild Room and not the Ashmole as originally planned.

Victories for father and son

Lichfield now has two father and sons playing occasional league matches and for the first time one pairing has enjoyed double success.

Mathew and Ben Bradley both won as Lichfield drew 2-2 with Bloxwich in the third division of the Cannock League.

Gradings standstill

The new January chess gradings didn’t bring much joy for Lichfield members. More members slipped back than moved forward. Middle ranking players Peter Willett and Yuriy Slobodyuk made the most progress, Peter advancing from 138 to 146 and Yuriy from 130 to 138,

David Hulme broke the 150 barrier, moving up six points to 152 and Ian Kingston just reached the 180’s with a small improvement.

The big surprise was that despite a raft of wins which have taken him high up on the club’s ladder board Ray Sawyer could not break into the 100’s.

No arguing with this man!

As chessdavid is not a fan of social media he had to be told that a photograph of his grandmaster son, Nigel Short playing chess, had appeared on Facebook.

Nothing remarkable about that but the lone spectator taking a close look at the board was non other than US president Donald Trump, a picture taken about 20 years ago.

The caustic caption read “Do we need to improve our adjudicators?”.

Nigel, incidentally, is still regularly the answer to crosswords and quiz questions, quite remarkable 26 years after his failed attempt to win the world chess championship in London. Players who have easily surpassed his gradings have never made the same impact on public consciousness.

Hero worship

I am so frequently asked how son Nigel is doing that I know some readers will be interested in the following snippet. Nigel, in his role as FIDE vice president is currently in the Caribbean trying to persuade more countries to join FIDE which already has more than 190 members.

In Kenya recently he came across a young  Kenyan boy who was named Nigel Short Mukaba by his chess mad father. Nigel is the father’s favourite player.

Lightning rescheduled

In a bid to create more interest in club sessions during spring and summer, Lichfield Chess Club is rearranging the popular Lightning Tournament from the end of April until Thursday May 30th.

The programme for the other two summer club nights on the last Thursday in June and July will be arranged at the next club committee meeting which is normally held in March or April.

Switching the Lightning Tournament will free up a club night at the end of April for either the annual general meeting or for clearing up any postponed matches which could be casued by bad weather,

How remarkable was this?

On the face of it a 13 years old winning a chess club’s championship is not a particularly remarkable achievement.

After all, there have been junior winners of the national men’s championship and throughout the Midlands there are clubs with juniors who have gained the respect-and fear- of older players.

So how good was the performance of John Moughtin Leay in becoming the youngest ever winner of the Lichfield Club Championship. Well, for a start, John scored a maximum of six wins in six games and three of his opponents had gradings of more than twice his own speed chess grading of 75.

Making the most of his time advantage of 25 minutes against the strongest players, John despatched two redoubtable speed chess players in Ian Kingston and John Smith. Ian is graded 177 and John 154.

John has shown glimpses of his talent over a number of years but so far has not shown the paitience or stamina to reproduce his skills consistently in league chess. He did however give warning of his ability in quick-play when he finished second in the club championship two years ago.  Thirty members of the club took part in this years championship which was held either side of the Christmas break.

A Prediction

Your web site editor predicts changes to the format of the next world championship following the 12 dreary draws in December. No draws before the 30th move and fewer rest days?

The long established practice of some international tournament hosts of denying entries to players from countries they don’t like also appears to be over.

The new team running FIDE is continuing the bright start made at the Congress in the autumn.