Birmingham chess leagues officials have still not given up hope of completing the aborted 2019-2020 season. The League’s Finance and General Purposes Committee is hopeful that the season can be completed by mid-May which would allow the administration of the 2021- 2022 season to start on schedule.
The committee acknowledges that this date may not be achievable but believes there is some room for manoeuvre with the dates and the new season could start roughly on time even if the interupted season didn’t conclude until the end of June.
As we said in a previous blog, attempts to complete last season is almost certain to run into problems because of the number of players who are likely to be nervous of playing over the board matches or because restrictions on the use of premises may still apply well into Spring.
This week’s upsurge in covid cases across the country is suggesting that things may well get much worse before they get better.
Much better to have drawn a line under last season and awarded trophies on a percentage win basis as Wolverhampton have done.
The Covid pandemic has provided a wonderful opportunity to bring in big changes. How about four player teams,(making travel arrangements easier), how about reducing time limits to ensure matches finish at 10pm and how about having zonal leagues with the top team or teams, playing off to decide trophy winners.
Promotion and relegation would need to go because it would wreck any zonal structure, but in the longer term it could lead to more teams, not less..
Take Lichfield for example. There are at least seven clubs within easy travelling distance. Tamworth, Rugeley, Sutton Coldfield, Coleshill, Norton Canes, Rushall, and Boldmere.
David Fone, secretary of the Wolverhampton Chess League, is one person who has thought about the possibilities of radical changes, anticipating that when league chess resumes, cirumstances will mitigate against the chances of maintaining the old formats and rules.
Posted 11th December.
Four Lichfield members have taken part in the club’s first over the board chess since early March.
A pub venue was found by Stephen Smithson and a successful evening of comeptiive and friendly matches was held..
Two more members have now joined the ‘over the board’ band and a further evening of chess has been arranged. Anyone else wishing to join them should contact Stephen Smithson.
Posted 4th October 2020
First on-line victory
Posted 17th Sept 2020
Lichfield has won its first on-line West Midlands League on-line match at the second attempt.
It was a crushing victory 7-1 against Solihull. Ben Nevett, Tony Green and Peter Willett played their opponents with both the black and white pieces and they won the lot. The seventh point was earned by skipper Sam Skinner.
Lichfield followed up this win by beating Worcester 6-0 in a re-arranged fixture. Once again, Ben, Tony and Peter scored with both black and white, but this time Sam was on the losing side. The club drew its first match so is still unbeaten.
Chairman returns to the board
Club chairman Peter Collins made a welcome return to chess after nearly four months absence as Lichfield were hosts to Derby 1 top team Breadsall, the visitors clinching the league title with a 2.5-1.5 victory. Peter eventually lost his game but it was plucky effort after a long convalescence from major surgery.
Adam Routledge had a good win and Tony Green earned a draw on top board, but David Hulme was beaten. Lichfield now need to win two of their last three games to avoid relegation but they will be buoyed by the fact top player Maurice Staples should be available for all three games.
Clear and present danger
Lichfield’s first team in the Birmingham League has already been relegated and now the first team in the Derby League is in danger of slipping out of the first division. An unexpected retirement from chess and a serious illness to another key player has been a major factor in the team’s decling fortunes.
The latest defeat in the away game at Chesterfield leaves Lichfield just two points clear of the bottom two places. Tony Green and David Hulme secured draws on the top two boards, but defeats for Adam Routledge and Mike Hoare led to a 3-1 defeat
Home defeat seals Lichfield A’s fate
For the first time in many years Lichfield will not have a team in the first division of the Birmingham League. A crushing 5-1 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Warley Quinborne sealed Lichfield’s fate.
The score did not tell the whole story. Lichfield battled hard and the defeats all came in the last few minutes of remaining time. The club’s first team was actually relegated last year but the second team secured promotion to ensure Lichfield had a place at the top table.
……But third team secure lifeline victory
Lichfield’s B3 team moved out of the bottom two places with a stunning 5-1 victory over fellow stragglers, Shirley and Wythall. They are now on 6pts, level with Wolverhampton who will be their opponents in the final game of the season.
As Shirley and Wythall now have two tough matches to come against the league’s third and fourth placed teams, a further win, or perhaps even a draw, may be enough for survival.
Although the top four boards were very evenly matched Lichfield gained 3.5 points from them, with a draw on Board 1 from Graham Lamb and wins from Mike Hoare, Kevin Gallagher,and Gary Monks, who was playing his game since early season. It was a tremendous com eback as well with both players staging strong attacks in the closing minutes. Gary’s advanced pawn created havoc and a forced exchange left him a rook to the good. Welcome back Gary, you have been sorely missed.
Lichfield’s players on boards five and six, John Fryer and Fred Biles were both conceding 20 pts or so in grading, but still came up with draws, John Fryer actually had a strong looking position but with a team victory vital, he elected not to try what might might have been a match winning sacrifice.
The result was a complete reversal of B3′ previous match at Solihull which ended in a 4.5-1.5 loss and thrust Lichfield deep into the relegation mire. Mike Hoare got the first of three wins in quick succession, whilst Graham Lamb drew on Board 1.
It was the Sawyer family, Ray and Josh to the rescue against Rugeley in a Cannock League match Ray won a top board and Josh drew on three, Stuart Smitton took the other half point to secure the draw. Ray pulled off a fine draw against a player graded 143 in a Woverhampton 2 match at Stourbridge which Lichfield lost 5-1. John Keaveney got the other draw.
First match in pub next door
Because of refurbishment of Lichfield’s Guildhall, and the availability of only one room, Lichfield’s Division 4 match against Derby D had to be held in the backroom of the adjacent George 1V pub and it was quite noisy at times.
John Leay had an opportunity to obtain one of his best results but he misjudged his winning chances in an end game and refused a draw against a 121 graded opponenent. Josh Sawyer again played soundly to draw his game, Sam Stringer won on the bottom board, but Arthur Hall’s defeat meant the visitors won 2.5-1.5.
Mea nwhile, in a committee room in the Guuildhall, Lichfield B lost a Birmingham Division 2 match 3.5-2.5. Adam Routledge returned to form and was Lichfield’s only winner, Alan Giles , Ben Nevett and Ray Sawyer all drawing.
Into the semi-finals
Lichfield advanced into the semi-finals of the Staffordshire Withnall Cup competieetion with a narrow win at Meir.
The score was 2.5 -1.5 but it was only achieved after an exciting draw on Board 1 by Mike Page. It was the last game to finish and a win for Meir would have given them the match victory on board count as Lichfield’s only win, gained by Josh Sawyer, was on Board 4, a result which would have been discounted under the tie break system.
Mike and his opponent had their Kings virtually unguarded and theatened in turn by Queens, both Rooks and Bishops. One move from mate, Mike found an answer, won the Bishop and a draw was agreed. John Fryer and David Short gained the other draws in fairly uneventful games. Lichfield will now play Walsall Kipping away.
Defeat for below strength league leaders
Lichfield’s Wolverhampton Division 2 team fielded a weakened team but even so the margin of their defeat at Kidderminster was a surprise.
The team, current league leaders , went down 5-1 to a team which has been in the lower reaches of the league for most of the season. John Keaveney drew on top board and the only other draw came from Ray Sawyer who overcame a 30 point plus grading deficit.
Not sure how it all started but Lichfield’s Derby 3 regards fixtures with Amber Valley as a bit of a grudge match. These days neither team visits the home premises of the other and matches at neutral venues in Derby reduce the amount of travelling between the League’s most widely spread clubs.
Lichfield skipper Fred Biles was keen to play strong players on the top two boards, but Ray Sawyer, with 14 wins under his belt this season, and ever reliable John Fryer were both beaten. It was left to Fred himself and Ray’s son, Josh, to level things up at 2-2.
This Time It’s Friendly Rivalry
With Norton Canes fielding three players who are also members of Lichfield there was certainly no antagonism in the Cannock 3 match. This time Norton Canes took the honours with a 2.5- 1.5 win. Not for the first time Brian Homewood and Brian Homewood had a close game on Board 1. It ended in a draw while on Board 2, Tom Travena of Norton Canes defeated Arthur Hall.
It was honours even on the bottom two boards. Connor Whetnall lost to Brian Jones and on the bottom board Stuart Smitton defeated Barry Hanford.
Lichfield’s W2 team blitzed Brewood 6-0. Peter Willett, Adam Routledge, Mike Hoare and Yuriy Slobodyuk established early supremacy and then, as the clock became an extra enemy for Brewood, Ben Nevett and John Keaveney rammed home the advantage.
The result takes Lichfield up to second place but it is a false position in that they have played more games than anyone else. Ben and Ada, with 10 wins each in their first season , are chasing Fred Biles on 11 wins, to top the club’s Leader Board.
In the Derby 1 match at Belper, a win from Yuriy Slobodyuk helped Lichfield to a 2-2 draw. Tony Green and Adam Routledge added draws.
Lichfield W4 also drew 2-2, young Josh Sawyer underlining his rapid improvement with a win, whilst his father Ray, and Fred Biles added draws.
The Derby B3 team defeated Spondon 2.5-1.5 led by wins from Brian Homewood and Stephen Smith and a draw from David Short.
Mid January and once again matches are coming without respite. Lichfield’s W4 team went down 2.5- 1.5 away to Warley Quinborne but the result could easily have gone the other way as Stuart Andrews gained a good advantage with Queen and Rook against two Rooks ,but then made a fatal error.
Brian Jones usually comes up against Pauline Woodward and their personal duel now stands at 2-2 after a good win for the Lichfield captain. Fred Biles got a draw but as with Stuart Andrews, Ray Sawyer let a game slip away from an endgame in which he had six pawns against four, albeit two of them doubled.
Lichfield’s W1 team was also at Warley Quinborne and produced a fine 3.5- 2-5 victory. Lichfield had the advantage on the top three boards with Maurice Staples and David Hulme victorious. Adam Routledge had a rare defeat but Ben Nevett, the other member of the deadly duo, was a winner which takes him above Adam in the club’s Ladder Tournament and into second place. The friendly rivalry continues.
Although Tony Green was beaten on board two Brian Homewood gained an important draw on bottom board.
Lichfield go top
With an excellent 4-2 win over Kidderminster, Lichfield’s second team in the Wolverhampton League move to top of the table. Ben Nevett, John Fryer and Ray Sawyer all recorded wins and Yuriy Slobodyuk and David Fone drew their games. Graham Lamb, who has missed most of the season through other commitments, has still to hit his normal form and lost his game.
Two more defeats for Lichfield A
Playing weakened teams due to illness and unavailability, Lichfield A went down to two defeats in the space of a few days. The losing margin against South Birmingham was 5.5-0.5, but was hardly surprising as South Birmingham had grading advantages of 34, 16, 39, 34 and 21 on the top five boards. John Keaveney battled to Lichfield’s only draw on Board 4.
John Keavney also managed a draw in the other first team match against Shirley and Withnall. The match was closely fought and the losing margin 3.5-2.5. There were other draws from Maurice Staples and Mike Hoare, whilst Adam Routledge maintained his fine form and was the the only winner.
In Derby 4th Division, Lichfield D lost 2.5-1.5 to Rolls Royce D and one of those points came from a defaulted board. Fred Biles was Lichfield’s only scorer with a draw.
In Division Three, Lichfiekld drew 2-2 with Spondon B. David Fone had a good win against a stronger opponent and teenager John Leay despatched a weaker one.
Another win for Josh
Rapidly improving Josh Sawyer picked another January victory as Lichfield’s C3 team defeated Coileshill 2.5-1.5. The other team members, Ray Sawyer, Arthur all and Stuart Smitton all drew.
Outgraded on every board, Lichfield A pulled off a fine 3-1 victory over Chesterfield B in Derby Division 1. Tony Green (169) gained an excellent draw against 191 graded Peter Ackley and Gary Haime’s stubborn resistance turned a potential defeat into a draw. Ben Nevett was a good winner on Board 4.
David Hulme was involved in an exciting match. In the middle game he gave up two Knights for a Rook and Pawn, but swung the game in his favour by picking up two isolated pawns.
In Cannock Division 2 Lichfield drew 2-2 with Rugeley away. Mike Page, who plays for both clubs, was a winner for Rugeley against Stuart Andrews.Brian Homewood was Lichfield’s winner and Mike Hoare and David Fone secured draws.
In Derby Division 3 Lichfield lost 2.5- 1.5 at Belper. Ray Sawyer won on Board two and Mike Hoare got the half point on Board 1
Significantly outgraded on every board, Lichfield’s 3B team still managed to complie a very creditable 2pts against Rushall. Mike Hoare was outgraded by 31pts on top board, Brian Homewood by 18 pts on board 2, David Fone by 29pts and Arthur Hall by 30pts, and all four lost.
Against similar odds, Kevin Gallagher won against an opponent rated 22pts higher and Fred Biles overcame a 17 pt deficit.
Treated like a god
Everyone knows that India is fanatical about cricket. But chess? Surely not! Yet Nigel Short, son of the Lichfield secretary, David Short, says he was treated like a god on a recent visit to India with 20 to 30 journalists and photographers attending one of a number of press conferences.
His visit, 26 years after he reached the height of his fame by challenging Gary Kasparov for his world title, even made the front page of The Times of India.
Nigel visited most of the country’s leading cities and he says he was welcomed by up to 20 people at airports. He talked about chess almost all the time but if he mentioned his love of cricket that was the angle frequently seized on. No wonder when one of his responses to the question “Was Bobby Fischer mad” was “Is Virat Kohli mad”
For the non cricket follower, Kohli is one of the greatest batsmen of the 21st century and has been described as having a firecracker personaility.
Nigel is now semi-retired from competitive chess, but is thoroughly enjoying his role as vice president of the world chess governing body, FIDE. His tour of the leading cities of India was to promote a new chess organisation incorporating all the cricket playing countries of the sub continent, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan.
These days Nigel says he much prefers being heavily involved in the politics of chess.
Rules dispute decision pending
Lichfield are disputing the result of the Birmingham Division 2 fixture at Solihull, alleging two breaches of the league rules which will be discussed by the Rules Committee on December 17th
As the situation stands the result is 3-3, Lichfield’s score being assisted by a default on Board 4. The rules committee will meet on December 17th to decide the matter.
Lichfield’s contention is that Solihull should have made the default on the bottom board, which would have had the effect of the home players on boards four and five having to play a board higher. The player nominated for the default by Solihull was actually in the room, playing a match in the Coventry League.
The implication therefore was that Solihull must have known before the match started that Board 4 was not going to be available.. It would appear to be a clear breach of the default rules.
The other objection is is about board order. One player was graded 17 points higher than another, but playing below that player. This exceeds the normal acceptance that a 10 point grading difference is the generally accepted limit for switching players.
Alan Giles and Peter Willett scored Lichfield’s points.
First team humbled
Lichfield’s first team playing in Division 1 of the Wolverhampton League had a humbling experience against a very strong Telford team, losing 5.5 -0.5. Tony Green prevented a whitewash with a draw in a match which finished well within the scheduled playing time.
Telford, never an easy team to beat, have been strengthened by new recruits from Shirley and Withnall.
The club’s B5 team stay in second place with four wins out of five as the result of a 4-2 over Bushbury, made easier by the away team’s top board being defaulted. John Fryer and Ray Sawyer gained draws on the middle boards and Fred Biles and David Short won on the bottom two boards.
The third home fixture of the evening pitted two Lichfield teams against each other in the third division of the Derby League.
Anything can happen in these clashes with both captains giving opportunites to juniors and members with lower grades. The C team deafeated the B team 2.5- 1.5 with wins from Brian Jones and Josh Sawyer over Benedict Smithson and Maurizio Baravalle. Stuart Andrews and Stephen Smithson drew their game and Barry Hanford gained the B team’s only win against Sam Skinner.
Earlier in the week Lichfield’s Wolverhampton 4 team lost 2.5- 1.5 at Rushall. Fred Biles was the only winner. Ray Sawyer maintained his fine record this season. He has been facing tougher opponents and even if he doesn’t win, he usually manages a draw as he did on this occasion.
Lichfield continued their unexpected title challenge in the third division of the Derby League, beating Clay Cross 3-1. Adam Routledge continued his outstanding form this season with a draw on top board and Mike Hoare, equally matched on Board 2, scored a fine win.
A draw from John Fryer and a win on bottom board from Fred Biles-his third in successive games- clinched victory to keep Lichfield in top spot.
With two teams in Division 4 of the Derby League, Rolls Royce C are all out for promotion and after being surprised by Lichfield D and held to a draw in a home game, responded by easily outgrading Lichfield in the return match. Despite strong resistance and fine draws from John Fryer, Arthur Hall and Stephen Smithson, Rolls Royce won 2.5-1.5. The match was decided on Board 3 where David Short again flipped a piece in the opening and although it was quickly won back it was at the cost a pawn which ultimately decided the match in a rooks and pawns ending.
It was speed chess all the way at Halesowen where Lichfield’s W4 team won 3-1. Skipper Brian Jones set the tone in 16 moves without losing any material. Father and son combination Ray and Josh Sawyer also won, following up their success earlier in the week with 2-2 draw against Rugeley in a Cannock 3 match. In this match Ray won and Josh drew. Back on form, Arthur Hall won well on the top board.
Cliff hanging finish
A default by Birmingham University on the bottom board cost the visitors dearly against Lichfield B. The last game was a cliff hanging race against the clock with the result of the match at stake. Ben Nevett didn’t appear to have the better position but his nerve held and he won the game to give Lichfield a 3.5-2-5 win.
Mike Maher was the other winner and Adam Routledge chipped in with a draw.
Lichfield A team lost 3-1 to Belper A in another fixture. There were draws from Maurice Staples and Tony Green on the top two boards but it was not enough.
Deadly duo win again
Newcomers Adam Routledge and Ben Nevett-Farman have become Lichfield’s deadly duo. Graded 146 and 144 respectively they lock horns in friendly games at nearly every club night. In league games they have been winning regularly and their dual victories continued into November, helping Lichfield’s W2 team to a 3.5-2.5 away win at Warley Quinborne, a 5-1 Wolverhampton 1 win over Oscott and the B2 team to a 3-3 draw against West Bromwich. That’s an amzing triple dual strike in a week.
Against Warley Quinborne both games went to the wire with Adam, Ben and their opponents all under intense time pressure. Skipper David Fone said he was more nervous watching than if he had been playing. Adam, who previously captained a team in Yorkshire is enjoying his chess at Lichfield where he gets the opportunity to play in many more matches and his chess is no doubt improving because of it.
Mike Maher was the only player to enjoy a grading advantage and he made the most of it to score Lichfield’s third victory of the night. David Fone got the all important draw in a match in which, with one exception all the players were almost identically matched grading-wise.
Next up it was Oscott and this time it was an easy 5-1 win. John Keaveney and Ian Kingston added to the duo’s victories and there were draws from mauice staples and Peter Collins,
The following night the Deadly Duo were at it again, both winning against evenly matched opponents in a home Birmingham 2 match against West Bromwich. Star role in this match went to Alan Giles, however, who set the tone with a draw against a 182 rated opponent, a deficit of 28 points. Peter Willett chipped in with another draw.
The winning sequence finally ended, in part, when the duo made their first appearance in a first team match against South Birmingham B.
Ben won his game but Adam lost despite putting in another good performance. Lichfield were outgraded on every board as South Birmingham fielded a team with gradings from 181 to 173. Tony Green stumbled into a mate during a desperate time struggle in which instantaneous moves were needed and draws from Maurice Staples, David Hulme and Peter Collins left Lichfield just short and in a bottom place with zero points from three games.
Adam Routledge is now jousting with Ray Sawyer to top the Club’s Ladder. Operating at a lower level in the club’s heirarchy but equally effectively when it comes to winning, Ray won against Walsall in a Wolverhampton 4 match which went Lichfield’s way by 2.5-1.5. Keven Gallagher got the other win.
Lichfield B5 team’s winning run ended at Redditch where John Fryer and Ray Sawyer defeated higher graded opponents on boards one and two, but the rest of the team foundered. Brian Jones’ match on bottom board was equal all the way with Brian unable to turn a pawn advantage into a win. The match was drawn as time started to become a factor.
The great escape
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.
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.
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.
OTHER WEEK THREE MATCHES
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.