Saturday, 15 October 2011

League Chess Rebourne

After several weeks of hyperbolic prose, you're going to get some red hot chess action in this posting. Aren't you lucky?

No more politics!

You might have to wait a bit, mind.


Last summer at Canterbury, I had a very interesting discussion with Pete Wells about professionalism in league chess. I didn't do a very good job of putting my view across and was rightly bitchslapped across the debate. So, over a year late, here's what I think about evening league sides who pay to bring strong players into their sides. I think these are prerequisites for a successful professional model:

1. That such players integrate into the club ethic and socialise.

2. That such players do not prevent paid up members from playing. In other words, that the clubs enter sufficient teams for everyone to get a go. This may mean that the old 1st team Board 5 finds themselves on Board 2 for the 2nd team in a lower division. It should be their motivation to get that team promoted and thus get better chess on a higher board in the same division as they were in to begin with.

3. That the team captain ensures a contest is possible. There is little point for either set of players in overkill of the likes of this. Though that relies on the opposing captain too.

Wood Green's London League team is a case in point. The last two seasons I've played GM Jon Levitt on Board 9 and IM Richard Pert on Board 6, two of the strongest players I've ever faced in any form of chess. I drew both games. There's obviously pleasure and experience to be derived by playing such top people and analysing with them afterwards, whatever the result.

But yet I'm still very keen on the idea that an amateur club can keep up with the big boys, dragging itself along by a mixture of heightened team spirit and pluck. Drunken Knights nearly managed it last season. Professionals merely put themselves on a lofty pedestal and everyone wants to beat them that little bit more. This is the case in any sport - non-league football clubs like drawing Premiership sides in the FA Cup principally because of the 'what if...' involved. They know their chances of success are minimal but there's no pressure except to give it a damn good go.

And this is a good thing.

So on Wednesday I found myself at Bourne End playing for Sandhurst, one such club who engage the services of titled players dotted around the south of England. And you know what, they fulfil all of my criteria. The match itself was extremely close with only minor nuances separating the players on Boards 2, 4 and 5. Sam Walker in particular, who was my protégé before he became better than me, played extremely well against GingerGM™ before the clock became the decisive factor. 

My game against intellectual suavity personified, Steve James, was not altogether convincing.

Time control reached. The activity of the black king is a potential worry, but for now I have control of the e file and weaknesses on a3 and c5 to exploit. I was reasonably happy with my prospects here.

31. c4 dxc4  32. bxc4 Bd7  33. Nb3 Rb4  34. Bd3 Rb6  35. Nxc5

A free pawn, but it's unclear how significant it's really going to be. But a pawn's a pawn, and the game goes on.

35... Rc6  36. Nxd7 Nxd7  37. Re7?

By all accounts, pretty poor. 37. Re3 must be better, hunting down the a3 pawn like Prince does jockeys.

37... Rd6  38. Be4??

If my previous move was poor, this is an active atrocity. 38... Kf8  39. f6 Nxf6  40. Re5 Rd1+  41. Kh2 Ng4+ picks up the rook.

38... Kf6?

Phew - the rook can now escape via e8. The a pawn decided in the time scramble around move 70. Professional chess is tough.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Say It Loud

This thread and this thread reveal that it isn't so easy being an arbiter these days. 

Just the other week a shellsuited youth misjudged my cardigan and pointy shoes and suggested I was an arbiter. Not that it's anything to be ashamed of - indeed, a lot of my friends are arbiters - but I was shocked at the level of ignorance on display. Arbiters may have their own stereotypical fashions and an exaggerated gait, but they should of course be afforded the same rights as everyone else. The recent developments in arbiter marriage have been very pleasing.

Not an arbiter

Social acceptance has also meant that the arbiter cruising scene has emerged from the muddy moors of Hampstead Heath and Clapham Common to special licensed establishments. It's a pleasure to mix with luminaries like Belinfante, Hewitt and Holowczak in Soho of an evening. The other night, Ja Rule 10.2 played on Old Compton Street and they were loving it.

As we intimated in August, the next Arbiter Pride isn't until next summer, but they still need your support in the meantime. I implore everyone to flood the streets and wave your pairing cards in the air like you just don't care. Otherwise arbiter repression will continue unabated.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Heavy Knights

It's that time of the year again. On Monday, the London League season explodes into life with the first and second strings of Drunken Knights facing off. Last year, the same fixture produced a predictable 10-2 scoreline, which put an end to the Triple Seconds' 33-match unbeaten run.

DK - Not actually mugs

The fixture is due to be much stronger than last year's though. In all, fourteen titled players have been selected. Huge!

Play will start at The Plough at 7pm. All welcome.
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Release The Kraken by Philip Makepeace and Christopher Russell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.