Wednesday 26 February 2020

International Chess Challenge: Into the Middlegame

This latest moves in the International Chess Challenge brought the contest into the middlegame.

Last week's moves resulted in this position being reached.

Hutt International Boys' School (New Zealand) v The Links (England)

Hutt now played 9 Nf3, developing the knight into the best place, where it can influence matters in the centre of the board.

The Links now considered many moves, before 9 ...Bg4 won the vote. (9 ...Qd6 was a close second). The bishop is pinning the knight against the rook.

We now have this very complicated position.

Hutt International Boys' School (New Zealand) v The Links (England)

Lots of exchanges could now happen, but which side will emerge with the better position? Alternatively, the tension could be maintained for quite a while. It is time to test the middle game skills of both teams.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

CSC Training Day Tour 2019-20: Newcastle

The latest leg of the CSC Training Day Tour was a little closer to home than my three January tour dates (Hull, Isle of Man and Dartmoor) although the sudden blast of snow on Monday had the (short-lived) potential to disrupt my trip North (as it did in 2017).

Fortunately, Tuesday brought an altogether brighter day, without even a trace of fog on the Tyne, ensuring the expedition to the City Library was as smooth as it had been in 2019.

The delegates worked hard and very enthusiastically all day long.

Tim Wall, CSC's Tyneside Regional Organiser, was on hand to entertain and instruct everyone too.

Seven more tour dates can be found on the CSC website. Why not enrol on one of them to see what they are all about?

Here are a few captured moments from yesterday's event.

Thank you, everyone!

Photograph © Catherine Lloyd

Photograph © Catherine Lloyd

Tim and I have known each other for nearly 40 years!

Thursday 13 February 2020

International Chess Challenge: Castling On Opposite Sides

This week's action in the International Chess Challenge saw two very good developing moves.

As reported last time, the game had opened with these moves.

1 e4 e5
2 Qh5 Nc6
3 d3 Nf6
4 Qh4 g6
5 Bg5 Bg7
6 Bh6 0-0
7 Nc3 d5

Hutt now decided to castle their king into safety with 8 0-0-0.

The Links countered by developing there last of their minor pieces with 8 ...Be6, which gives this position. Plenty of other moves were considered this point, namely: 8 ....Nd4, 8 ....Qd6, 8 ...dxe4, 8 ...Nb4, 8 ...Bxh6, 8 ...Qe8, 8 ...Re8 and 8 ...Rb8 but 8 ...Be6 received more votes from the class than any of the others.

Hutt International Boys' School (New Zealand) v The Links (England)
Traditionally, when players castle on opposite sides of the board, they unleash attacks on the other king - the faster the better. 

We can see White's queen and bishop are already looking at the Black king and danger could be lurking on the kingside of the board. 

On the other hand, Black is ahead in development (White still needs to develop the bishop and the knight on the kingside) so the chances would appear to be balanced at the moment.

There is a lot of tension in the centre of the board too. Will there now be some central exchanges, or will the tension continue to build? 

Stay tuned for further developments.

2020 Durham County Chess Congress

The Durham County Chess Congress will be held on the weekend of 1-3 May 2020 at the Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel.

Organiser Mick Riding and his team have worked very hard to bring their plan for the congress to fruition and everyone is hoping it will attract the support it deserves.

Here is a summary from Mick.

'Three tournaments each with a prizes of £500, £250, £125 + two x £50 grading. All guaranteed.

NCCU support with their three main individual awards up from grabs plus a British Championship qualifying place

A wonderful playing venue in a very accessible location (Darlington centre) by road or train.

Discounted accommodation at the playing venue (Kings Mercure, Darlington) and alternative accommodations starting from £50 for one person, two nights

A full spectrum of town centre amenities including parking.

Chess Direct bookstall.'

The full details and an entry form can be found over at the excellent website.

I have known Mick since the early 1980s (since I first played in the Durham County Chess Congress, in fact) and I know he has put so much work into this project.

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed the congress is on the same weekend as the Fourth Teesside Megafinal but I honestly don't care in which of the two events the juniors of Teesside would prefer to play. Just get out there and play chess!

Tuesday 11 February 2020

Teesside Megafinal 2020

I am very pleased to announce the details of the Fourth Teesside Megafinal.

Event: 2020 Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge Teesside Megafinal. This for anyone who has qualified for a Megafinal through their own school or club. Over-11s (children at Secondary/Senior schools) do not need to qualify; they can just enter at this stage.

Venue: Yarm Senior School, specifically the Princess Alexandra Auditorium.  This is one of the North East's premier concert venues and we are delighted to be back here. Parking is available on site.

Date: Sunday 3 May 2020

Timings: Please arrive for 9.30 a.m. Play will start at 10.00 a.m. The prize giving will be at approximately 5.00 p.m. but we are hoping to pull the timings forward if we have the opportunity to do so on the day.

Closing Date for Entries: Monday 27 April 2020

The online entry form and other information can be found on the UKCC website.

Format: All players will play six rounds, on the Swiss system. We will combine some of the sections but the champions of each one will receive the trophies and titles. Tied places will be resolved by the Sum of Progressive Scores tiebreaker.

Arbiter: Sean Marsh

Gigafinal Qualification: All players require three and a half or more points out of six to qualify for the Manchester Gigafinal.

The full Gigafinal dates have now been confirmed:

London Gigafinal – Orleans Park School, Twickenham, TW1 3BB 18-19 July 2020

Midlands Gigafinal – Grace Academy, Solihull, B37 5JS 1-2 August 2020

Northern Gigafinal – Wright Robinson College, Manchester, M18 8RL 4-5 July 2020

Southern Gigafinal – Sandown Park Racecourse, Esher, KT10 9AJ 11-12t July 2020

Scotland Gigafinal (new for 2020 one day only) – Broughton High School, 29 East Fettes Avenue, EH4 1EG 7 June 2020
The tournament is not just about qualifying for the Gigafinal. It should be seen primarily as an excellent experience for all competitors who will be able to learn a lot by playing against new opponents from a large number of different schools.

If you have not qualified for a Megafinal and would like to try to do so, please consider the Last Chance Saloons.

General Information:

The Megafinal has a set number of places. Once these have been booked the online entry system will not allow any more.

We cannot accept any more entries once the Megafinal is full and we will definitely not be able to take extra entries on the day.

If you miss out on a place on Teesside, please try another Megafinal. They are listed here.

We cannot offer full supervision anywhere outside of the playing rooms. Parents/guardians must supervise their children at all times other than when the children are in the playing rooms.

Parents, guardians, teachers and chess coaches will not be allowed in the playing rooms during the rounds.

Problems arising during the games will be solved by the tournament Arbiter. Children must alert the Arbiter to any problems by raising their hand. It is very difficult to solve problems retrospectively.

The venue's cafe will be open and basic refreshments will be on sale throughout the day. However, we advise you to bring a packed lunch too.

We will be working very hard on the day trying to ensure everyone has a great time. As usual with our events, we want to keep the pressure on the children to an absolute minimum. To help protect this ethos, we want the children to relax between the rounds and to temporarily forget about their chess battles. It would be greatly appreciated if all parents, guardians, teachers, chess coaches et al supported this ethos too and helped all of the children to enjoy the day without applying any pressure between the rounds.

Full reports will appear across our range of social media platforms. Please let me know on the day if you have any concerns regarding the use of photographs.

The Arbiter's decision in all matters relating to the tournament is final.

A full list of Megafinal rules can be found on the UKCC website.

Wednesday 5 February 2020

International Chess Challenge: Further Developments

The International Chess Challenge between Hutt International Boys' School (New Zealand) v The Links (England) has now resumed after Hutt's school holiday.

As reported last time, the moves to date are the following.

1 e4 e5
2 Qh5 Nc6
3 d3 Nf6
4 Qh4 g6
5 Bg5 Bg7

6 Bh6 0-0

Hutt now developed their queen's knight with 

7 Nc3

The Links players looked at several moves here, including 7 ...Bxh6, 7 ...Nh5 and 7 ...Nd4, before the group chose 7 ...d5.

Hutt International Boys' School (New Zealand) v The Links (England)
The game is now opening up and it will be interesting to see if Hutt start a series of captures in the centre. Their queen is still hovering around the black king, so The Links must keep a careful eye on that too.

Sunday 2 February 2020

CSC Training Day Tour 2019-20: Dartmoor

The CSC Training Tour continues to impact upon new areas and our latest leap was all the way down to Dartmoor. This acted as a sequel of sorts; almost a year ago we visited Truro for the first time and now it was time to add Devon to our schedule.

We had already delivered training days in Hull and on the Isle of Man and the Dartmoor date made it a record-breaking three areas in a single month. 

The tour has become so notorious that the trains are now painted with D-Day style invasion stripes.

This was a slow invasion, though; it took seven hours and forty minutes from my front door to the accommodation in Exeter. It was a relief to finally see the relevant station sign.

I like to explore the local area when I am on the tour and I encountered many places of historical interest along the way.

'Site of South Gate. King Henry VI here entered the city 16 July 1452.'
He did well; I didn't get there until just before 16.00 hours.

'Site of West Gate. Successfully defended against the Rebel attacks in 1549.
William Prince of Orange with his army entered the city in 1688 through
 this gate which was removed in 1815.'

I met with Chris Fegan on the evening for a meeting prior to the training day.
Chris wasn't too keen on some of the eateries of Exeter, for some reason.

John Stanier, who had enjoyed the Truro day, was instrumental in setting up this leg of the tour and he had found a very worthy venue.

It was exciting, as always, to meet and work with the eight delegates, all of whom applied themselves very well.

Chris making the opening remarks.
The magnificent delegates were soon hard at work. Harry, a veteran from a
Hammersmith Training Day, had recently relocated and was back for a refresher course. 

Expressions can say a lot in a game of chess.
The venue was adjacent to a farm; another 'first' for us. Chris suggested asking the
locals if they knew any good 'mooooves.' You know what he is like for his jokes.
Fiona, who looked after us brilliantly on the day, unveiled a magnificent buffet of unparallelled quality.

The training days fly by for me. Before we knew it, the day had drawn to its natural conclusion and it was time to say goodbye.

We waited for the taxi beside a babbling brook, enjoying the serene moments before embarking on more long journeys.

The taxi driver told me of the time, back in 2002, when Michael Jackson showed support for Exeter City, alongside his friend Uri Geller. Most of one hotel had been booked for the entourage. For me, it was a single room in a Premier Inn but hopefully the impact made in our little world of chess will be longer-lasting than that made by the erstwhile 'King of Pop'; Exeter suffered relegation to the Conference League the year after his extraordinary antics. 

There was a last look at the local sights as I headed off the train station. Everywhere seemed to be an intriguing mixture of old and new.

Goodbye, Exeter! I hope to return one day.
I am not sure people believe me when I say I feel genuine sadness at the end of such a working day, but I do. 32 years in, I still love visiting new places, meeting new people and then seeing what we can achieve together. In fact, I love it more now than ever before.

Thank you to everyone who helped to make the day such a great success.

The forthcoming tour dates can be found here.