Match report: Clifton A – University A

Date: 25/04/2017
Clifton A 4.5-1.5 Bath A
James Cobb 1-0 Bogdan Manghiuc
John Curtis 1-0 Philipp Prasse
David Collier 0.5-0.5 Morris Stranger
Gareth Morris 0.5-0.5 Denis Fradkin
Igor Doklestic 0.5-0.5 Ravi Sharma
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The last match of the season, with us looking for a good win to try to sneak into second place, but mostly just looking forward to getting the season over with. The University only had five players, and Dunc decided to have the evening off.

Igor was first to finish. Playing black in a Sicilian, the game briefly threatened to get interesting with opposite castling, but Ravi forced the queens off, and there wasn’t much going on after that.

Since there was nothing riding on the match I decided to have a few beers and just attack. It was probably all nonsense, but at least had the advantage of making Philipp think. We ended up in a position with just the heavy pieces left, and I managed to get a kingside bind which was hard to escape. The unstoppable advance of my h pawn sealed the game.

Bogdan essayed the Scotch gambit against James. This sort of thing is never a bad idea against good players, indeed I vaguely remember James doing the same thing against Mickey Adams in the 4NCL many years ago. The trouble with these openings is that black can usually just give the pawn back, and James did that, leaving an endgame that I thought was a bit better for James, while he thought it was much better for him. Whatever, James knows what to do in these positions, and despite Bogdan’s stubborn defence he brought home the point.

David played the Kings Indian against Morris’ London system, and while he gained a nice centre there didn’t seem much that either of them could do. Fair play to them, they shuffled bits late into the session, then agreed a draw just before time trouble randomised it.

Finally, Gareth was making stuff up against Denis’ Lundin defence (look it up). It seemed Gareth was getting behind in development early on, but he held it together and had much the better of the middlegame. He got into an endgame a pawn up, but as many times before this season had spent too long getting there, and his clock fell. Luckily, again, Denis had no bits left by then, so a draw.

So, the end of another season. We didn’t manage a repeat of our unexpected success of last year; there were some good games, and good matches, but overall we were much too inconsistent to challenge for top spot.

John

Match report: Clifton A – Bath A

Date: 18/04/2017
Clifton A 2.5-3.5 Bath A
James Cobb 1-0 David Buckley
Gareth Morris 0-1 Aitor Garcia-Ruiz
John Curtis 0.5-0.5 Horia Bogdan
Duncan Grossett 0-1 Adam Musson
David Collier 0.5-0.5 Clive Walley
Igor Doklestic 0.5-0.5 Christian Brown

Another match, another mix of good play and bad play, which has been the story of our season. At least the beer was good.

David was first to finish, again. He looked, to my inexpert eyes, to have done everything right in a Najdorf, but apparently he was more worried than me about Clive’s attacking chances, and readily agreed a draw.

Dunc also finished quickly, but rather less successfully. In a kind of delayed exchange Spanish he got his pieces stranded on the queenside, and Adam was eyeing up his king. A quick bishop sac, a rook lift and that was that.

My game was another interesting one. I was probably a bit worse through the opening, but it felt like my kind of position, and when I managed to exchange a couple of bits and break in the centre it all felt good. It was still only equal, and with both Horia & me trying to win it could have gone either way. A few tactics, a few bits flying about, and it all fizzled out into a dead drawn endgame. Such is life.

Meanwhile, Igor was looking to attack on the white side of a closed Sicilian. It all looked a bit slow, and in response Christian was motoring down the centre and queenside. When I next had a peek it had all gone horribly wrong for Igor, with way too many black pieces wedged in his position, and I mentally chalked it up as a loss. Igor fought though, and a draw was agreed in a strange ending that looked easier to lose than win, for both sides.

James continued his good form with a nice game against David. He played a Nimzo and focussed on initiative and activity rather than structure and material. That in itself means I probably didn’t really know what was going on. It looked good though.

Last to finish, Gareth had a long, complex game against Aitor. Gareth looked fine to me, with an advanced pawn and good squares against Aitor’s two bishops. Something must have gone wrong though, since when I next looked he was the exchange down with some, but not enough compensation. Aitor wrapped it up cleanly.

Finally, congratulations must given to Downend A on winning the league. They’ve been much the best team this year and thoroughly deserved their victory.

John

Match report: South Bristol A – Clifton A

Date: 16/03/2017
South Bristol A 1.5-4.5 Clifton A
Paul Helbig 0-1 James Cobb
Patryk Krzyzanowski 0-1 John Curtis
Shane Roberts 0.5-0.5 Gareth Morris
Richard Garrett 0.5-0.5 David Collier
Tony Harvey 0-1 Duncan Grossett
David Neagle 0.5-0.5 Igor Doklestic

Despite the comfortable-looking scoreline this was a tough match with hard-fought games. The exception to that was on board 4, where it didn’t seem like Richard and David were in the mood. A dull opening led to a quick handshake, and presumably a beer or two.

On top board James had played Bg5 then Bc1 by move 4, which I guess you can get away with without looking silly when you’re an IM. An unbalanced position arose which it looked like James played extremely well, causing Paul to have to cope with some crafty tactics. Paul lost or gave up his queen for rook and knight, and James converted smoothly. He’s played some really good stuff recently.

Dunc found himself in a slightly passive position against Tony, but at least he hadn’t blundered a pawn on move four like in the previous match. Tony was pressing, confidently advancing his g pawn and gaining more space, but while I was otherwise engaged things turned around, and next time I looked Dunc was a pawn up with a nice protected central passed pawn. Tony battled hard, but Dunc won through in the end.

Meanwhile Igor was embroiled in a fairly unexciting looking closed Sicilian. It was quite blocked, and pieces were slowly coning off. Igor tried to make something happen in the endgame, but it always looked like a draw.

My goal for the last couple of years has been to play more interesting games, and this was a fun one. We quickly reached a novel and very unbalanced position: I had a good structure but Patryk had two bishops and the initiative. Gradually I managed to gain space in the centre and nice squares for my knights, while Patryk was trying to aim at my king, who was feeling a bit breezy after castling long. Fortunately for me my central pressure was quicker than his attack, and when Patryk tried to hide his king on the kingside it got chopped down by a sneaky rook lift.

Meanwhile, Gareth had been lunging away as white in a Pirc, but his pawn advances only seemed to give Shane lots of nice squares, plus a rather scary bishop. In truth it looked horrible for Gareth, and he was holding on for dear life. Chess is tricky though, and Shane went wrong, leaving Gareth with a winning ending. He spent too much time however, and there followed a (rather comical to watch) period of mutual bashing out of moves. Gareth’s flag eventually fell, but by that time Shane was down to a bare king, so the point was split.

After this result we’re still in the hunt for second place (or first if all the Downend players decide to give up chess). South Bristol however have a real struggle on their hands to avoid the drop.

John

Match report: Horfield B – Clifton A

Date: 27/02/2017
Horfield B 2.5-3.5 Clifton A
Phil Nendick 0-1 James Cobb
John Richards 0.5-0.5 John Curtis
Peter Kirby 0-1 Gareth Morris
Michael Harris 1-0 Duncan Grossett
Mike Levine 0.5-0.5 Igor Doklestic
Jon Fisher 0.5-0.5 David Collier

There’s winning ugly, and then there’s this. I struggle to remember a match where we less deserved to win.

I excuse James from this: he soon established a dominating position, and despite Phil’s stubborn defence the game reached its logical conclusion.

My game was something else entirely. As black I found myself in a Giuoco Piano, an opening I haven’t played since I was about 8. I had a nice position, but then dropped a piece. It was worse than a blunder, I pretty much forced John to win it. I nearly resigned, but decided to hang in there and see if anything happened. It did eventually, John allowing me to complicate things, although it was still completely lost. One mistake from John and it turned around, leaving me a winning endgame, which I went on to play abysmally and drew. I’m perfectly happy with that though, the draw was undeserved and a win would have been outrageous. Neither John nor I will be including this effort in our best game collections.

Meanwhile, David looked to have a nice opening against Jon. He went for the win of a pawn, but in hindsight maybe that wasn’t the best idea. It looked to me like Jon could become seriously better, but fortunately it all liquidated into a drawn ending.

Igor was playing some Bird’s opening nonsense against Mike. I didn’t like Igor’s position much, but it all got a bit stodged up, and it was no surprise when they agreed a draw.

Dunc had me bamboozled. He had given up a pawn and exchanged queens by move 5, and he was probably already objectively lost. There were still lots of bits on the board, but Michael kept it all under control well, slowly moving forward. I missed the middle bit of the game, where apparently Dunc had conjured up good drawing chances from somewhere, but by the end Michael’s pieces had infiltrated and it was soon all over.

All sorts of stuff was going on on board 3, where Gareth and Peter were battling in a Samisch KI. It looked fairly normal to start with, but got rather odd in the ending. Both sides had passed pawns close to queening, and there were exposed kings too. I watched the last dozen moves or so, and it looked like both Gareth and Peter were trying their best to lose. Gareth seemed to be winning, then losing, then winning again, then losing again, and finally won with a nice tactic. He only had a couple of seconds left at the end, and the game could easily have gone either way. It was a lot of fun to watch.

So, we scraped a narrow win, but could have had no complaints if we’d lost heavily. Horfield B are not completely safe from relegation, and I hope this mishap doesn’t come back to haunt them.

John

Match report: Downend A – Clifton A

Date: 14/02/2017
Downend A 2.0-4.0 Clifton A
Henry Duncanson 0-1 James Cobb
Richard Savory 0-1 John Curtis
Chris Russell 1-0 Gareth Morris
Nigel Hosken 0-1 David Collier
Jerry Humphreys 0.5-0.5 Duncan Grossett
Michael Brigden 0.5-0.5 Igor Doklestic

Could there possibly be a more romantic way to spend Valentine’s Day than a chess match at Downend? David’s email to the team reminding us of this match had the subject ‘St Valentine’s Day massacre?’ and it nearly was a massacre too, but not in the way we were expecting given the relative fortunes of our teams this year.

David led the way with the first win, playing an excellent game against Nigel. A normalish closed Catalan looked to offer equal chances, but Nigel seemed to overextend, which may have been asking too much of his position. David manoeuvred well, and picked up a queenside pawn. The ending looked tricky to me at first, but David brought home the point very smoothly.

Meanwhile Duncan had tried an early b3 in a Sicilian, an idea I’ve never understood. Jerry wasn’t seemingly concerned, and they both got their bits out sensibly. As he is wont to do, Dunc spiced things up a bit by castling queenside, although getting real attacking chances looked optimistic. He tried though, but Jerry kept things together, and eventually got into an ending that was quite a bit better for him. Dunc was certainly worried, but maybe Jerry went wrong sometime after that, because the next I knew they’d halved out. If I were writing the Downend report I’d no doubt insert a comment here about Jerry and draws, but I’m not, so I won’t.

My game was fun to play, albeit quite confusing. Richard played down the same line I’d had a couple of weeks ago, but deviated with what looked like an improvement. Some odd things happened, leading to Richard having a huge looking pawn chain (g4, f5, e6), but a nice sequence at least gave me all the black squares as compensation. It was probably around equal, but then a tactical oversight let me take his big e6 pawn for nothing, which was nice. Richard told me afterwards that he’d seen the refutation of his move, but had forgotten and played it anyway. I know the feeling. It took me quite a while to secure the win, probably making heavy weather of it, but it was really just a matter of time, particularly since Richard had very little time left.

James won soon after me. All his games with white against Henry look much the same to me: a Catalan, some subtle shuffling of bits, queenside pressure being applied, switch to kingside attack. Maybe it’s just me. In any case it worked this time, and looked impressive to me, much like Henry’s win against James earlier in the season.

While all this was going on Igor and Michael were happily chugging along in a QI. Michael looked to have a small edge early on, but it was nothing major. Next time I looked the position had changed somewhat: Igor’s kingside pawn structure was compromised, but his remaining minor pieces were very active. I missed everything after that, but apparently Igor missed a win somewhere along the line.

Finally, Gareth and Chris were battling it out in a Classical Dutch. Chris transformed it into a Stonewall in response to Gareth’s queenside lunges, but it still looked good for white to me. Suddenly a nice tactic appeared, and Gareth managed to nab a couple of bits for a rook, which was the cue for him to go and buy a pint. White must have been much better, but Chris is a very good, tricky player, and he also had a very active queen. Gareth decided to go for an attack, giving back his material advantage. Unfortunately for him he didn’t get it quite right, and Chris got into a winning endgame.

So, a few ups and downs but overall a successful evening. It almost certainly won’t have much effect on the final standings, but it’s good to remind people that we can, on occasion, still play chess.

John

Match report: Clifton A – Clifton B

Date: 07/02/2017
Clifton A 3.5-2.5 Clifton B
James Cobb 0.5-0.5 Chris Beaumont
John Curtis 0-1 Dominic Bennett
Gareth Morris 0-1 Manuel Jiminez
Duncan Grossett 1-0 Anton Muller
David Collier 1-0 Abshir Ahmed
Igor Doklestic 1-0 Stefano Gallini

Our matches against the B team have been anything but straightforward over the years, and this one was no exception. I always find them a bit strange, playing your mates and pretending it’s important. I didn’t pay that much attention to the games this time, so the report may be even less factual than normal.

The games on the bottom two boards finished first. David got a level position out of the opening, and it looked pretty dull to be honest. After a while it started getting a bit spicy, and David won the tactical battles and cleaned up nicely. Igor won soon afterwards, gradually outplaying his opponent, whose king was wandering around the board, somewhat like me trying to get home after a heavy Friday night.

On board four Dunc and Anton were involved in an open Sicilian, just like real chess players. After a while Dunc got the upper hand, winning a pawn. The game still looked complex though, so I was surprised that when I next looked it had simplified to an ending where Dunc had two bits for a rook, which he duly converted.

3-0 at half way looks good, but then things started too go wrong. Against me Dom had essayed a slightly odd version of the Stonewall Dutch. After a bit of a ponder, I decided to make it interesting and castled queenside. I was a bit better all the way through, and we ended up in a position where I was a pawn up, albeit with some king issues. A pawn soon turned into an exchange, and I thought it was all under control. It might well have been too, but in the space of about four good moves from Dom (combined with a few bad moves from me) I was getting mated. Never mind, it was a fun game.

Meanwhile, Gareth had played a Czech Benoni, one of my old favourites. It was all fairly thematic, with Gareth exchanging his bad pieces to offset the space disadvantage. It didn’t really seem to be going anywhere though, and an ending ensued that looked very even. I don’t know what happened next, but the next three times I looked Gareth was a pawn down, then the exchange down, and finally a rook down. Manuel gave mate with about 10 seconds left on his clock.

That left the two IMs battling it out on top board. Watching while sat next to the game, I will admit to being baffled. Playing black, James got out of mainstream theory on move two, gave away all the central space, for ages only moved his knights and just for good measure pushed his h pawn up the board. I don’t feel qualified to say whether it was madness or genius. What it did leave was an interesting position, one that I won’t pretend to understand. I’m sure lots of interesting stuff happened next, but all I really remember is that it finished in perpetual check.

So, we won by a whisker. The B team’s loss will help the other teams near the foot of the table more than the win will help us near the top. As I say, these matches are strange.

John

Match report: Clifton A – Downend B

Date: 31/01/2017
Clifton A 2.0-4.0 Downend B
James Cobb 0.5-0.5 Lewis Martin
Gareth Morris 0-1 Stephen Meek
John Curtis 0.5-0.5 Javier Ruano Marco
Duncan Grossett 0.5-0.5 Michael Meadows
David Collier 0-1 Michael Brigden
Igor Doklestic 0.5-0.5 Dominique Conterno

Firstly, apologies for the lack of reports recently. I haven’t played a match for a long time because of reasons, and I don’t seem to have a back-up reporter yet. I’ll work on that.

The team has done very well in my absence, so maybe I should have stayed away. The match, as I saw it went something like this (in order of the games finishing, more or less):

I finished first for a change. I played an old line, which unsurprisingly Javier didn’t seem to know. At one point I was the best part of an hour up on the clock, which you might think means I knew what I was doing, but in fact I was just playing moves that looked pretty much forced. At about move 15 I had to start thinking, and couldn’t find anything better than exchanging into a slightly worse endgame. That doesn’t worry me though, I reckon I’ve drawn more slightly worse endgames than anyone else in the League (and won a few too). Winning this one was never on the agenda though, and the inevitable draw was inevitable.

Meanwhile, Gareth had gone for more excitement in his opening, playing Bc4 and Qf3 by move 4, just like we’re taught not to do as kids. There was nothing at all wrong with it though, and Stephen was looking a bit confused by it, as no doubt was I. As is often the case the early aggression just led to an early queen exchange, leaving Gareth with a minuscule edge in an endgame. It closely resembled an exf6 Caro-Kann, which I used to play several centuries ago, and which are always drawn, except if you push too hard to win and miss tactics. That happened, and Stephen mopped up very well.

Next to me Dunc and Michael were trading gentle blows in a closed Catalan. Dunc was a little better, but not a lot seemed to be happening. Of course it’s very possible that I just don’t understand those types of positions. Either way the eventual draw didn’t seem to surprise anyone.

On board 5 David had played the Slav, and the line Michael played led to a position that I did understand. David didn’t seem to know the theory, and Michael looked better to me early on. When I looked again later it had changed, and David had solved his problems entirely, with an easy game. Then, once again, tactics happened and Michael ended up two pawns up in a rook endgame. It wasn’t quite as trivial as it first appeared, but despite David’s best efforts Michael carefully nursed his advantage to victory. That left us needing to win the last two games to draw the match, which at that point didn’t seem impossible…

On top board James played a QI against Lewis, which transformed into a kind of Benoni, but it seemed to me that James had all the disadvantages of a Benoni with none of the advantages. Rather than having counterplay it was a case of bracing for the inevitable central thrust. It looked pretty grim to my (possibly naive) eyes, but James isn’t an IM for nothing and he started skilfully finding counterchances as the pawns advanced. It was all looking pretty random as time trouble loomed, when unfortunately there was some kind of clock malfunction. While the clock was being reset (possibly with a hammer) a draw was agreed, which was a fair result, as perpetual check was probably on the cards.

That meant that board six wouldn’t have an effect on the match result, but Igor was trying hard to win. He’d done well after missing a pawn fork sac in the opening, and had gradually built up a good position and won a pawn. Dominique was making it tricky though, and no doubt was hoping that the adage ‘all rook endgames are drawn’ would hold up. The extra pawn was eventually lost, but Igor’s king was very active and I was expecting the fight to continue, but instead they decided to call it a day. It was losable for both sides in a time scramble, so that may have been sensible.

All in all not one of our best performances. All credit to the Downend players though, they played well and deserved the win. It doesn’t look like anyone can catch Downend A this year, so we’ll join their B team and others in the battle for second place.

John Curtis

Bristol Winter Congress 2016

The Bristol Winter Congress was held at Bristol Grammar School Nov 25-27th.

There were 82 players in the 3 section. Graham Mill Wilson was arbiter. Rosie from Hereford provided the catering.

FIDE RATED OPEN

The Open was won by local player and second seed Daniel Malkiel with 4/5. He has been playing for Horfield chess club since arriving from America 12 months ago. After losing to Daniel, top seed Chris Beaumont IM said, “I can’t get out of the opening against this guy.”

There were 4 local players on equal second. M Payne (Bath), Bicknell (S Bristol), Dilleigh (Horfield) and C Beaumont (Clifton). The grading prize went to Manuel Jiminez with 3/5. Before the congress, he said he would be happy with 2/5- so well done, Manuel. The British Qualifying place is yet to be determined.

MAJOR

The Major was surprisingly won by Tim Jones and Alice Lampard on 4/5, both graded under 140 in the U155 section. (£125 each) Second prize was shared by the 2 top seeds, N Towers and R Ashworth. (£40 each ) The Ashworth family had a player in every section.The grading prize was won by local junior chess coach, Chris Strong.

MINOR

The Minor was won by Downend player, Grant Daly who was outgraded by 20 points by the top seed in second place Edward Ko. Third place was shared by 4 players, including Behzad Parnian who made the trip from Grimsby.

For more details on the results and prices please check the Bristol Chess Congress website.

Match report: Clifton A – Horfield A

Date: 15/11/2016
Clifton A 1.0-5.0 Horfield A
John Curtis 0-1 Dan Malkiel
Gareth Morris 0-1 Aaron Guthrie
Duncan Grossett 0-1 Michael Harris
David Collier 0.5-0.5 Alex Easton
Igor Doklestic 0-1 Steve Dilleigh
Dominic Bennett 0.5-0.5 Peter Kirby

Well, where to start with this one? We were missing James, but even so this was not a good performance. I could easily express that sentiment more strongly, as indeed I did in the pub afterwards. Never mind, it’s nearly Christmas.

On top board I had an interesting opening with Dan, but I couldn’t remember the lines at all. Instead of playing safe I went for a tactical solution that failed, leaving me with a horrid position. While waiting for the inevitable, I amused myself working out the various ways Dan could win, and he eventually went for the simplest (if not the prettiest) solution. Fair dos, Dan played well.

Gareth was on the white side of a QGA, but to my eyes it didn’t look like a good version for him. He accepted an isolated passed pawn, but it was well blocked and black was very active. Aaron gradually surrounded it, and the tactics that Gareth went for didn’t work. Tactics not working seems to be somewhat of a theme for the team this year.

Dunc and Michael played a complex looking game from a Hippo. I couldn’t really work out who was better for most of the game. Dunc was a pawn up, then the exchange up, but I’m not sure how relevant that was. In the end Michael had two connected passed pawns, the Dunc could do nothing to stop them.

On board four David and Alex were locked in one of their manoeuvring battles. They reached an endgame where Alex had the two bishops but a worse pawn structure. Watching them probing around was rather like watching Carlsen v Karjakin, but I’m not sure which was which. Unsurprisingly it ended peacefully.

From early in their game Steve had a stranglehold on Igor’s position. Igor had a big hole on d5, which at one point was occupied by a knight, and defended by five other pieces. Nimzowitsch would be proud. Despite that, it wasn’t clear how to break through, so when a tactic appeared Steve happily took an exchange. The downside of this was that Igor got a pawn on c6 to cover his hole, and his game freed up. It looked pretty level to me, but as is often the case a blunder decided the game.

There is a dispute about board six, so I won’t say anything about that. It obviously won’t affect the match result, and I’d like to congratulate Horfield on their play: they duffed us up good and proper.

On another note, apologies for the lack of a match report for the Clifton A v B match, clearly none of my team mates thought to write one. I was busy playing in the Guernsey tournament, which was great fun. I’d recommend it to anyone, and if you’re lucky you may get to play (and lose to) two GMs, which was what happened to me. I did win a few other games though, and also ate a lot of prawns.

UPDATE: The dispute on board six was amicably resolved, and has been agreed a draw. The final result is 5-1 to Horfield. We will lick our wounds and return to fight another day.