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.


  1. Mmm. Personally, I like you, appreciate the opportunity to play strong, titled players (well, not that I'm actually playing at the moment, but when I am playing). Thing is, a lot of amateurs bascially play club chess because they want a good game of OTB chess with somebody of roughly their own strength: not because they want to be blown off the bloard by somebody a dozen classes better than them. And what actual club players want from their club night is quite important.

    I only say this because in my experience, professionals find this quite a hard point to grasp, let alone agree with. They're not always very good at seeing beyond the fact that somebody is going to pay them to play. Fair enough, it's their living, but what they want isn't always the priority here.

  2. The trip to Bourne End was one of the final outings, as Sandhurst A have withdrawn from both the Berks and Surrey Border leagues.



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Release The Kraken by Philip Makepeace and Christopher Russell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.