The third of Lichfield’s internal tournaments, a five round 10 second a move lightning event, produced a surprise winner.

Kevin Gallagher, who had had a disappointing season in the leagues, won with a maximum score, beating Tony Green into second place. Ian Kingston was placed third, beating three other players on countback.

The event, held at the end of May  for the first time after the regular season had ended, was a successful experiment, with 26 competitors who included two guests from Rugeley Chess Club.

Maurice tops 200

Lichfield’s leading player, Maurice Staples enjoyed a great season in the Wolverhampton League.

Graded 187, Maurice played seven matches in the Wolverhampton first division at a grade of 208. His July grading will be watched with keen interest.

Yuriy Slobodyuk was another who found Wolverhampton opponents to his liking. Yuriy’s grade is 130 but his Wolverhampton performances produced an excellent grading of 154.

Winning run ended

Lichfield have dominated the Staffordshire League’s Jackson Cup competition in the last 20 years, but this year the team lost 2.5- 1.5 to Cheddleton despite having an edge in gradings over the four boards,

Mike Maher and Yuriy Slobodyuk lost on the top two boards and it was left to Board 3 David Fone with a draw and Kevin Gallagher on Board 4 with a win to gain Lichfield’s points.

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.

Relegation and promotion battles.

It’s promotion to Division 1 of the Birmingham League for Lichfield’s second team after an amazing season which even confounded  team members.

Promotion for the second team came courtesy of Solihull’s draw with Shirley and Wythall which means that South Birmingham A and Lichfield take the two promotion spots. South Birmingham clinched the title s expected with a win over Shirley and Wythall.

Tributes to second team skipper Mike Maher’s careful fixture planning to make the most of very limited resources have come from team members Alan Giles and Graham Lamb.

Graham Lamb sent his thanks for Mike’s organisation. “At the start of the season I thought we would do very well to avoid relegation” he said, whilst Alan Giles who has travelled a huge number of miles to play as many matches as possible, said Mike had done a great job.

Whenever the team’s resources were stretched to the limit reserves came into the team and pulled off some excellent results.

A blessing in disguise?

Lichfield’s first team lost 4-2 at Warley Quinborne and the last chance of staving off relegation disappeared as Warley followed up with a win over fourth placed Olton to go a point clear of Lichfield.

Fortunately, the second team’s heroics in Division Two means that Lichfield will still have a team in Division 1.

The club’s very limited pool of higher graded players means that just having one team in the top flight is  probably the best outcome for next season.

Battle for a title

It’s been an outstanding season for W1, captained by Mike Hoare, a player whose grade of 127 only put him in the Division 4 squad in the Birmingham League. Mike struggled to raise teams at times, but his side has still managed to share top place with Walsall Kipping on 13pts, with one game each remaining,

That means Lichfield could still be champions although Walsall Kipping have the easier final game. Lichfield play fifth placed Telford away on 24th April, a match re-arranged at Telford’s request. Lichfield are assured of at least gaining the runners-up spot.

In the Derby League, Lichfield Division 4 C Team, captained often in his absence by Kevin Gallagher, are in second spot, level with Amber Valley who have a match in hand. Clay Cross and Rolls Royce could both finish ahead in a very tight finish to the season,

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.