Monday, 28 December 2009

If it's December, it must be Hastings

For all its faults, I do actually like the British public transport network. Which is not to say I like everything about it. Yesterday's journey, in which I made my way from Bideford to Coulsdon and then from Coulsdon to Hastings, is a case in point. It had all the normal joys of a post-Christmas journey, coupled with Sunday scheduling. Thus:

Bus from Bideford to Barnstaple.
Train from Barnstaple to Exeter - fortunately, they had decided to run four carriages instead of two; they needed them.
Get to Exeter St Davids. Can take a packed Paddington train or wait an hour for a slow train to Clapham Junction. Choose Paddington train, do not get a seat until Reading.
Go through the London Underground system to Victoria via Oxford Circus, hauling huge suitcase in my wake. Hauling huge suitcases through the Underground is always spectacularly fun for everyone.
Get fast train from Victoria to Purley, and then one from Purley to Coulsdon South.

Complete stuff that needs to be done at Coulsdon pretty quickly, with time to kill before the next train.
Go from Coulsdon to Gatwick Airport station. Just miss connection with Hastings train. Wait an hour at Gatwick Airport for another train. Note that there is nothing to do at Gatwick Airport station unless I go into the airport itself, which is confusing and likely to cause me to find myself lost in short order.
Get on Eastbourne and Ore train. Find out as I'm approaching Eastbourne that I'm in the wrong half of the train; hastily move through Southern train with narrow aisles with the aforementioned huge suitcase. More spectacular fun for everyone.
Eventually end up in Hastings.

It's a good job I like this tournament so much. Today, I'm taking on GM Romain Edouard of France, and you should be able to follow my progress here.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Miss Easy Tactics!

Regular readers of the Streatham and Brixton blog will be familiar with their Miss Easy Tactics! series. Today I managed a worthy contribution to this genre. Here we go with Frank Kane v Jack Rudd from the CCF Challengers International:

From the diagram position, with black to play, the game concluded 15...Nd4 16.Bxd4 Qxc1 17.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 18.Kg2 exd4 19.Qd2 Rfc8 20.Nc3 dxc3 21.Qxc1 Nxd5 22.exd5 c2 0-1.

But in that sequence, what did both players miss?

Saturday, 5 December 2009

How Good Is Your Chess Judgement - answer

My last post was about this position, asking the reader to evaluate 7...Bxc3+ by black here.

Two people attempted to answer this, and both came up with what I believe is the right answer for the right reasons. I don't think the move is good, because:

1) Even if it were the right idea in this position,why play it immediately? The knight is pinned and not going anywhere. I suppose white can guarantee capturing on c3 with a piece rather than a pawn should black let him get Qb3 in, but...

2) The idea is the wrong one, anyway. In a stroke, the move makes things much easier for white. The dark-squared bishop gets a lovely diagonal to power down unopposed, the potentially weak d4-pawn gets a pawn on c3 to support it (the c3 pawn is not nearly as weak as the d4 pawn, because it's much harder to get black pieces to defend it) and perhaps worst, black is left with a load of minor pieces with nothing to do.

My opponent decided to play 7...Bxc3+ in the hope of getting a good knight versus bad bishop position. Somehow, I don't think the relative quality of the minor pieces went quite the way he'd thought:

Monday, 30 November 2009

How Good Is Your Chess Judgement?

This position arose after the moves 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Ne2 Nd7 5.Nf4 e6 6.c4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3.

Your task, ladies and gentlemen, is to evaluate the move 7...Bxc3+. Is it good or bad, and why?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Opening Concepts: The Two Knights Defence

"The Two Knights Defence just loses a pawn." - Nigel Short

The Two Knights Defence is one of those openings that is seen very commonly in the amateur game, particularly in junior events, but somewhat less so in professional events. Nevertheless, I've seen games with it be crucial in such events on at least two occasions: in the final round of the 2006 EU Championship in Liverpool, Nigel Short won on the white side of it against Mark Hebden to win the tournament by half a point (the game from which the above quote is taken), and in the penultimate round of the 2009 British Championship in Torquay, David Howell beat Stuart Conquest on the black side of it, leaving himself needing only a draw in his last round to clinch the title.

So what is special about this opening? Well, as Short's quote pointed out, black must be prepared to gambit a pawn if he's playing this opening. After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5, there are only two moves that come into serious consideration. One is the razor-sharp Wilkes-Barre variation, 4...Bc5!?, which may or may not be fully playable, but the player who keeps his head better in the tactics will probably win. This game by the current Hampshire champion is typical of the line.

The rather more sober main line is 4...d5, after which play usually continues 5.exd5 Na5 (not 5...Nxd5? 6.d4 exd4 7.O-O, after which black is struggling to not get completely massacred early on) 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc6 bxc6, which leads to the first major fork in the road. White has to do something about the threat to his bishop, and 8.Ba4? is certainly not the answer: 8...h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Qd4 11.Bxc6+ Nxc6 12.Nxc6 Qd5 and white has lost a piece.

The options for white here fall into two categories. The more modern lines, 8.Bd3 (as played by Conquest) and 8.Qf3 (as played by Short), are happy to leave the white bishop on an awkward square with the intention of preventing a central advance by the black pawns. (The latter is often followed by the sequence 8...Rb8 9.Bd3 h6 10.Ne4 Nd5, and it's obvious that the idea of ...f5 and ...e4 will have a big bearing on the sides' subsequent strategies.)

The more traditional line is 8.Be2. Black does not want to allow white to calmly solidify his central position with 9.d3, so in true gambit style, he tends to open up the position here: 8...h6 9.Nf3 e4 10.Ne5 Bd6 pretty much forces white to allow an en passant capture. While 11.f4 is perfectly playable - indeed, David Spence once beat me with it -, the main line is 11.d4 exd3 12.Nxd3, after which black's compensation for the pawn is clear. He'll be able to gain a tempo with ...Qc7, and castle, develop the bishop somewhere, and put the rooks on d8 and e8.

This is exactly what happened on Monday night in the game Nash-Sandon at Barnstaple, which continued 12...O-O 13.O-O Qc7 14.h3 Bb7 (I don't like this move much, as it happens; I'd probably have put the bishop on f5, with ...Bxh3 ideas potentially in the air) 15.Bf3 Rad8 16.Nc3, reaching the position above. There's certainly plenty of play for black in this position, despite his pawn minus. His knight may be able to come back in via c4 and e5, he may be able to activate his bishop with ...Ba6 or ...Bc8 to put pressure on d3 or h3, he may even have a well-timed ...c5 and ...c4 in the air.

The clue to what actually happened in the game is the "well-timed" in that last sentence. Peter Sandon tried an immediate 16...c5?, which immediately handed the advantage to white after 17.Nb5. After that, he got outplayed in the pawn-down position. That's the risk you take with gambit play; if your timing is out, you can end up, as Nigel Short said, having just lost a pawn.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Opening Concepts: The O'Kelly Sicilian

There are a number of moves that can be played after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3; the three commonest are 2...d6, 2...e6 and 2...Nc6, but there are also a number of rarer moves that occasionally crop up. One of these is 2...a6, the O'Kelly variation.

This move is not as popular as the other three moves because black is showing his hand first; he's committing himself to a move which may not be useful against the set-ups adopted by the white player. It's no co-incidence that one of white's commonest responses here is 3.c3, attempting to show that the two interposed moves are in white's favour. Other moves along the same line of thought are the King's Indian Attack, 3.d3, and the gambit 3.b4!? with which I once beat FM Michael Franklin. Another popular option for white is to play 3.c4, aiming for an Open Sicilian with a Maroczy Bind, and this is likely to transpose into some line of the Kan.

All of these, except possibly my gambit line, are good ideas, and have their points in favour. What is not a good idea is to carry on on Open Sicilian auto-pilot and play 3.d4?!, as many players do when faced with this variation for the first time. The reason soon becomes clear: after 3...cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 (diagram), black has got his ideal Najdorf set-up without the concessions made by having to play ...d6: his bishop can freely roam to c5 or b4, and his pawn can come straight to d5 in one go (as it would, for example, if white were to play 6.Nf5 here). (Note the contrast with the Lowenthal and Sveshnikov variations: in both of those, an early ...e5 can be met by Nb5, and white's attack on the d6 square makes it that much harder for black to get a good position out of the opening.)

Both these themes came into effect quickly in the game Hale-Owens from this season's 4NCL; from the diagram position, the game continued 6.Nb3 Bb4 7.Bd2 O-O 8.Bd3 Re8 9.O-O d5, reaching our third diagram. White could probably have equalized by swapping off a pair of pieces here with 10.Nxd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 Bxd2 12.Nxd2 (not 12.Qxd2?? e4) Qxd5; the interesting question here is whether 13.Qh5 can cause black enough hassle to make up for the slight positional advantage the pawn structure gives her.

As it happens, white played 10.Re1, to which black replied 10...d4, and from then on, it was clear that the advantage was with black. It's said of the Sicilian that black is usually doing well if ...d5 can be got in with no ill-consequences, and this certainly proved to be the case here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

4NCL Weekend One Preview

It's that time of year; the Four Nations Chess League is rolling around again. There are four Westcountry-based squads in the League this season: Bristol, Gloucestershire Gambits, Wessex (a team mainly composed of players from Dorset or Hampshire) and Brown Jack (a team from Swindon, named after the pub in which they play their local league matches).

This weekend, the fixtures for the relevant teams are as follows:

Division Two Pool A, Sunningdale

Round 1: Wessex 1 v Brown Jack
Round 2: Kings Head v Wessex 1, Brown Jack v Anglian Avengers

Division Two Pool B, Sunningdale

Round 1: Poisoned Pawns 2 v Bristol 1
Round 2: Bristol 1 v Cheddleton

Division Three, Daventry

Round 1: Wessex 2 v Bristol 2, Guernsey Mates v Gloucestershire Gambits, Bristol 3 v Iceni
Round 2: AMCA Rhinos v Wessex 2, Gloucestershire Gambits v Oxford 2, Nottinghamshire 1 v Bristol 3, Bristol 2 v KJCA Knights

I will be producing reports for Division Two throughout the season; I can also recommend Mike Yeo's match reports for the Wessex teams. Anyone who plays an interesting game in Division Two this season and would like to annotate it for my match reports, feel free to email me with your annotations. CBH or PGN files are preferred, although I will decipher text files if you send them.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Somerset- Hampshire report

Somerset- Hampshire match report.

I thought that after stepping down as match captain last season, I could enjoy some nice relaxing chess with none of the stress. Not yet at least. I was stand-in captain for the day.

This was the first match of the season, with Somerset defending the South West County Championship that they won last season, and hoping to build on our pre-season success in the WECU Jamboree. Roger Morgan is our new captain for this season. Sadly he was unavailable for the match, but nevertheless deserves a lot of credit for agreeing to captain and organise the teams. Not an easy job, but very much an essential one for Somerset chess.

When we arrived there was a slight problem. Namely Somerset hadn’t brought their 8 boards and sets. Hmm… not the best of starts to a season. As it turned out we were fortunate that Jim Fewkes could drive back to Yeovil, which was only about 30 minutes at most away, and for 8 of our players the match started about an hour later then anticipated.

Apologies to the people who were left waiting, and equally so to Hampshire chess.

When the match started it was difficult to tell exactly how close the match was, and there were no Hampshire grades written down, but from the few Hampshire players whose grades I could remember, it looked like a close match. I think Hampshire probably had slightly the stronger players towards the bottom, but at the same time any match where we have someone of Jack Rudd’s strength not on top board is always a good sign.

The match started fairly badly for us. Chris Strong won a couple of pawns but in return his opponent gained a strong attack, and finished with a flourish. The next game to finish was mine. Playing as black 12… Kg6 wasn’t exactly part of the plan, but it held together okay. We reached a position with R+ opposite coloured bishops where there was very little in the position, and I got offered a draw. I have to admit at this point when I looked around at the other games I was more then a little worried, but ultimately I decided I lacked the Arkell-esque grinding skills (for anyone unaware, Keith Arkell is an English GM who’s ground out more dull positions then the result of the planet combined) necessary to get anything from the position and agreed the draw. The next game to finish was Jack Rudd’s. The way Jack plays the positions after 1.e4 e5 2.d4 would probably cause me to switch openings if we ever played, and he scored another impressive victory. As Jack’s opponent put it after the match “I thought I’d avoid playing you on board 2”.

There was a fairly long delay before the next few results came in, before a flurry of results shortly after the time control. Chris McKinley’s piece sacrifice for 2 pawns looked visually very attractive, but ultimately it turned out that looking good was all that Chris’ extra 2 pawns did, and after the extra bishop gobbled them up, it was goodnight Vienna in short order. John Kilmister, Michael Cooper, Kells Stanton, and Kevin Paine all put up decent fights against higher grade opposition, but ultimately succumbed. On the plus side Chris Dorrington managed to beat a very strong opponent with black, Geoff Berryman ground out a tough endgame, and Jonathan Latham, David- Painter Kooiman, and Colin Stanton all got excellent wins as well, whilst Jim Fewkes held a slightly worse position to get a draw.

In case you wonder why having described the first few matches in so much detail, I’ve then summarised most of the remainder of the matches in barely a couple of sentences, I kind’ve decided to play 5 minute games rather then pay any attention to the match for a fair while after my game finished. Moving swiftly on…

When I went back to the playing hall it was dead level at 7 all, with 2 games remaining. I thought Gerry Jepps was winning; I can’t remember if it was an exchange up or a full piece, but he was material up at least. His opponent tried a rook sacrifice. It was either a moment of inspiration or desperation, and fortunately for us it turned out to be the latter. Gerry brought home the win shortly afterwards.

This left us with board 14- Stan Hill against John Wiseman. After blundering a pawn in the opening, Stan had put up impressive resistance, but a pawn is as they say a pawn, and John won out in a Knight and pawn ending.

So Somerset’s season begins with a hard fought draw. I’ve included my game below which you’re willing to use any which way you see fit. It’s not as interesting as I made it sound, but it’s short at least, so you won’t get too bored playing through it. Anyone else who wants to send me a copy of their game, I’m happy to annotate it, and add it to this report.

Board 3, Somerset- Hampshire

White: A. McDougall Black: B. Edgell

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nc6
3. Bb5 Nf6

Yup, the Berlin defence. It’s an invitation to be bored really. The main line goes 4. 0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 and then a few coma- inducingly dull hours of endgame fun.

4. Nc3

One of the many ways of avoiding the coma. This transposes into the 4 knights opening.

4... Bb4
5. 0-0 Bxc3?!

I guess not strictly an error, but having shown I’m quite content to spend an afternoon playing a dull position, why change strategy?
5… 0-0 6.d3 d6 7. Bg5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Qe7 followed by Nd8- e6 is the main line.

6. bxc3 Nxe4

Sad to say I was already on my own at this point. I play 1…e5 in reply to 1.e4, have done so for a while, but don’t know the theory to one of the more common white openings beyond move 6. Wee bit embarrassing.

7. Qe2

Already the position’s a bit difficult for black. I probably should’ve opted for 7…Nf6, when both 8. Nxe5 and 8 Bxc6 look pretty good for white, but I can at least hope to get away with castling and then worry about how to deal with those 2 pesky bishops. My choice was, to put it bluntly, a bit thick.


Okay. I had seen that after Qxe5+ Kf8 was forced, and it all looked rather ugly indeed, yet I played it anyway. I guess I was hoping to drag my opponent down to my level of familiarity with the position rather then a position he’d seen countless times previously. Which is much more of an excuse then a rational reason.

8. Bxc6 dxc6
9. Qxe5+

Hitting g7, so my reply’s forced.


All looks rather horrible doesn’t it? I’m down on development by a long way, the king on f8 looks weak and blocks in the rook on h8, whilst white’s bishop can come to a3, the knight to e5 or g5 and the Rook to e1 in swift order.

10. Re1 f6

Not a move I particularly want to make. It does seem to invite the knight into e6 via g5 or d4, but I have to get the rook across to the e-file fairly quickly.

11. Qf4 Kf7

This encourages white to carry on the idea of bringing the knight into the attack, but it’s the only way of bringing the rook on h8 into the game.

12. Ng5+?!

I think white may have missed, or possibly missed the strength of, my next move. 12. Ne5+ looks like a better option. 12. Ne5+ Kg8 13. Nc4 Here Fritz recommends 13… g5, which I think you’d have to be made of metal to even consider. I was planning to grovel with 13…b5 and then after 14. Nxd6 cxd6 15.Ba3 Kf7 16.Bxd6 Be6 we’re in opposite coloured bishop territory. White’s extra pawn certainly gives him an edge, but I think it’s going to be very difficult to win it all the same.


Probably not deserving of 2 exclamation marks in terms of pure strength, but I think the visual impression of the move makes it worth the praise. As surprising at it may seem, the king is fairly safe on g6.

13. Ne4

Of course d4 just loses the knight on g5, as the queen is protecting the pawn, so the knight has to move. 13. Ne6 Bxe6 Rxe6 Kf7 is fine for black. White could play 13. Nf3, admitting Ng5 wasn’t the wisest move. Not sure I have much better then Kf7 repeating, when white could play Ne5+.

13… Nxe4
14. Rxe4 Qd6

I’ve only got the queen and the king off the back rank, and yet my king’s safe as houses. It’s a funny old game.

15. Qe3?!

Not the best square for the queen after my reply. Either h4 or f3 were better squares.


The clever little point here is that after 16. Re7 Qxe7! 17. Qxe7 Rhe8 the back rank threat means white has to give up the queen as well as the c2 pawn afterwards.

16. Rd4 Qe5

16…Rae8 is an idea when 17. Rxd6 Rxe3 18. Rxf6+ gxf6 19. dxe3 Bxc2 leaves us in another opposite bishops position, where ironically my active king gives me the slightest of edges.

17. Qxe5 fxe5
18. Rb4 b6
19. d3

Here I was offered a draw and spent a while thinking about it, more based on how I thought the match was going then the position. I can play on here and barring anything horrific shouldn’t lose, but at the same time I couldn’t think of a decent plan to make any head-way.


Monday, 19 October 2009

The frosty side of chess

League and congress chess here in the South-West tends to be a good-natured affair all round. It's not all that often that you see people get agitated about events in such environments, but Bill Frost's latest editorial is an exception to this.

He's commented on three issues. The first relates to the game Michael White v Richard Almond from Paignton this year; I will not comment on this one myself, but have invited Michael to be a contributor to this blog, so that he may put his side of the story.

The second and third involve teams I play for, so I will comment on them.

The Paignton Congress was followed by the WECU annual jamboree held at the very acceptable venue of the Tacchi-Morris Arts Centre in Taunton. This event has recently experienced a revival in popularity and on this occasion, a record number of entries was recorded. But, a rather sour note was introduced by the fact that Somerset entered two teams in the Graded Tournament and none in the County competition, despite the fact that the sum total grades of the first six players in the graded sections equalled the total grades of another side that entered the County competition.

OK, let's deal with that. The first point I shall note here that neither of Somerset's choices is individually unusual - Dorset have been entering a Graded team and no Open team for years, and Devon have been entering more than one Graded team for years also. The second is that that the rules of the competition mean you can't cheat by doing this. The Graded section has a maximum average grade for teams, so any team selection we made would have to fit under that.

And the third, and perhaps most vital, point here is Somerset's entry selection was chosen with reference to who was available - I was arbiting at Uxbridge, Ben Edgell was helping with the Trafalgar Square event, and a few more of our top players were also unavailable. We might still have been competitive with some of the other teams - but we didn't know that at the time. Not wanting a repeat of the 10-2 mauling at the hands of Devon a few years ago, we decided to put entries where we could ensure they would be competitive.

On to Bill's third issue:

Lamentably this example pales into insignificance when compared with another rather suspect practice which has appeared in team competitions in all the Devon leagues. All these events - the DCCA leagues, Torbay league and the Exeter and District league - are designed to provide genuine competition between the membership of the respective affiliated clubs. This is a laudable aspiration which we now find is being flaunted by the inclusion in some teams of players that have little or no connection with the club they are representing. In most cases the only games played by these "members" are in team events and they do not participate in internal club competitions. The rules of these events provide for participants to be "bone fide" members of the clubs they represent. This is a very airy term that needs to be tightened up by decisive and unambiguous definition. On one occasion when I asked a competition secretary the meaning of "bone fide" I was told that this was left to the discretion of the pertinent team captain! Wow!!

I don't know what situations have arisen so far this season that have caused this comment to be made, but I'll elaborate on the one that arose with reference to my club, Barnstaple. The Chess Devon website posted a message advertising the DCCA Team Rapidplay. I thought this looked fun, so tried to organize a team from Barnstaple to play in it. I got positive responses from Jon Munsey and Rick Dooley, but negative ones from Peter Marriott, Steve Clarke, Rob Oughton, Roger Neat, Richard Smith, Peter Sandon, Richard Nash, Theresa Garrett and Doug Macfarlane.

With only three players and nobody left in the club to contact, I had two options. Either I could withdraw the team, or I could invite somebody from outside the club to be our fourth player. I chose the latter option, posted an ad on Facebook, intending to say yes to the first player who answered the ad. As it happened, this was Ben Edgell. His 6 out of 6 score helped us to an easy second place, half a point off first; that's the way things go sometimes. The first response could just as easily have come from a much weaker player, and we'd probably then have finished somewhere mid-table.

Bill had his own solution to the problem of mala fide members, so let's have a look at it.

Like MP's who state that their claims for expenses are "in accordance with the rules", some clubs hide behind the definition of "bone fide members". Amongst many remedies that could be applied I would suggest that the rule be amended so that no person is permitted to play league matches unless the club can clearly demonstrate to the competition secretary that such member fully participated in internal tournaments during the previous season.

This, I think, belongs to the "cure is worse than the disease" category. Suppose I'm captaining a team from a sixth-form college. People come in, they are at the college - and therefore the club - for two years, and they leave. According to this proposal, I'd have to pick a team consisting exclusively of second-years. This is a particular case of a more general flaw with this proposal: it means players cannot move into an area and immediately start playing league chess. Does this sound like a policy that encourages people to join their local clubs?

And even for people who are settled in an area, the proposal has its flaws: it's perfectly possible to be a bona fide member of a club and not participate in its internal competitions. The club may have no internal competitions, and exist purely as a vehicle for playing league chess - I've come across a few. Or the player may have to restrict the number of times a year he goes to the club, either for health reasons, or because he has other commitments that take precedence.

There may be good ways to ensure teams are more representative of the clubs they draw from, but the proposal on the table isn't one of them.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Chess In Trafalgar Square

Sometimes, it seems, chess does get good publicity. Having just finished getting my final FIDE Arbiter norm at the Uxbridge Open, I decided to head down to Trafalgar Square on Monday to see the giant chess set that had been publicised on the English Chess Forum.

I ended up actually playing a game, as somebody had not shown up. The process was not entirely unlike that involved in playing a blind player: I made my move on the normal-sized board in front of me, and announced it at the same time. The piece in question was then moved on the giant board for the crowd to see.

My opponents were two young women who had recently learned the game, assisted by Ben Edgell. It wasn't the most challenging of games I've ever played, but it was interesting enough, and the commentary given by FM Michael White and CM Stewart Reuben while it was going on was excellent.

I had a great time, and we got an impressive number of spectators. Let's hope we can carry on attracting the public's attention with events of this nature.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Ben Edgell - ECF Publicity Officer

Those of you who are active in Westcountry chess may know the name of Ben Edgell of Sedgemoor, one of the leading lights of Somerset chess. A quick recap: he was Somerset Under-18 and Under-16 champion in 2003, has been a regular in the Somerset first team since our second match in the 2002-03 season, and went on to captain the county team from 2006-2009; this team won the WECU title in his third and final year in charge.

Well, today I got news of Ben's latest achievement: he has been appointed to the post of ECF Publicity Officer, a role tasked with bringing chess to the attention of the wider world. I wish him all the best in the role; it will not be easy, but it will no doubt be a challenge he will relish the task of rising to.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The value of negative publicity

There is an old saying that any publicity is good publicity. Whether this is true, I don't know, but it certainly gets tested semi-regularly by chess players. The latest such publicity-causing person is GM Vladislav Tkachiev, who got his name in the newspapers by turning up drunk to a game in the Kolkata Open, falling asleep, and eventually losing on time.

This has, like so many other notable chess stories, been picked up on by the good folk at the English Chess Forum, and there has subsequently been a lively debate on the subject.

What's quite clear is that Tkachiev's own personal reputation has not exactly been enhanced by this episode, and he's probably going to find it harder to get conditions to play in tournaments in the future. (Unless, that is, some organizer decides that a GM who may concede stupid points by falling asleep might be a good person to invite in the hope that he'll do this against a norm-seeker. It's possible.)

What's less clear is the effect on chess in general. Does the association of our game with alcohol help it or hurt it? Is it better for us to be the subject of no news stories, or ones that show our players in bad lights?

I don't know the answers to these questions. Perhaps you may.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


Welcome to my Westcountry Chess Blog, which will hopefully function as a successor to my long-since abandoned North Devon Chess Blog.

This blog will focus on chess in the entire WECU area; this consists of the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Anyone who has things to say about chess in any of those counties, feel free to contact me - I may include what you have to say, or even add you in as a contributor.