Sunday, 3 June 2018

Project 30: 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament - Report and Results

The 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament took place yesterday at Marsh Towers.

The games were wild and very tactical, thanks to the themed openings we used in each round.

The tournament preparation is complete
The players had to turn over a card to reveal their tournament number (which determined the order of play) but before doing so they had to name the people in the photographs and say what their respective connections to chess actually were.

Who are they - and what is their connection to chess?
We made a random draw before each round to determine which of the 12 nominated openings we would have to use. All were used by Mike many times.

The openings we used were...

Round 1

The Modern Benoni
Round 2

The Nimzo-Indian

Round 3

The French Wing Gambit
Round 4

The Milner-Barry Gambit

Round 5

The Sicilian Wing Gambit
The games were great!
Uniquely for this annual event, the players were all from the same club and essentially made up the double-winning Redcar A team (only Julian Allinson was unavailable).

Matthew Jackman

Andrew Smith

Dave Edmunds

David Baillie

Matthew and Andrew were making their Mike Closs Memorial debuts and former champion David Baillie maintained his 100% attendance record for this event.

The games were great fun and given the unfamiliar territory (none of the five players have had much experience using Mike's favourite openings) there were plenty of blunders but lots of brilliant moves and fabulous games too, as everyone fully entered into the spirit of the occasion.

After a full afternoon of dangerous play, the final scores were:

9.5/10: Sean Marsh

6/10: Dave Edmunds

5.5/10: Matthew Jackman, Andrew Smith

3.5/10: David Baillie

Once the intense chess had ceased, we visited Cena in Yarm for our traditional post-tournament meal - and very enjoyable it was too.

Thank you Andrew, Dave, David and Matthew for supporting the event. I am sure Mike would have approved of the sharp openings and fighting chess.

The 10th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament will take place in 2019.

Reports on previous editions of this event can be found here:

1st Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2010

2nd Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2011

3rd Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2012

4th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2013

5th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2014

6th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2015

7th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2016

8th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2017

Friday, 1 June 2018

Project 30: 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament - Final Preview

Today we bring our week of tournament previews to a close as we look forward to tomorrow's memorial event.

Photo © Stuart Morgan/Steve Henderson
This classic photograph depicts Mike teaching three members of Guisborough Chess Club back in 1995. From left to right we see Mike, Gawain Jones (now a brilliant Grandmaster, of course), Chris Bond and the late Mike Welch.

Earlier this season I was delighted to be able to play, for the first time, on the Mike Closs Memorial Board, which is the property of Thornaby Chess Club.

Now, onwards, to the tournament...

Project 30: 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament - Photographic Memories

We are now just two days away from the 9th Mike Closs Memorial tournament.

It has been quite a week of reflection, thinking back over our times, tournaments and triumphs together, all the way from our first meetings (on board one for our respective school teams, Warsett and Westfields) up to to our final mutual team successes for Elwmood (finishing with another league and cup double, over a decade ago).

Here are  a few images from over the years.
A simultaneous display at Billingham Synthonia chess club, back in 2006. We played four boards each.

Photo © Steve Henderson
Mike taking a keen interest in my game against David Spence. This was the crunch league game for Elmwood against Middlesbrough Rooks. We won a very tough match to take the title.

Photo © Steve Henderson
Side by side at the 2003 Tom Wise KO Cup final against Athenaeum. We both won to secure another double for Elmwood.

Photo © Steve Henderson
 Lots of trophies for Elmwood during the golden years.
Photo © Steve Henderson
Another cup final. Such intensity as we defended our title against Peterlee.

Well, we cannot bring back those days but we certainly made the most of our time together. I think he would have approved of the tournament we have lined up for him this weekend.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Project 30: 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament Openings (3)

Here are the final four openings which could be seen in action during the 9th Mike Closs Memorial tournament.

Modern Defence: 1 e4 g6 2 d4 Bg7 3 Nc3 d6

Mike's latter-day favourite as Black. He sometimes liked to continue with a system based on the moves ...c6, ...Nd7, ...f6, ...Nh6 and ...Nf7.

French Defence Wing Gambit: 1 e4 e6 2 Nf3 d5 3 e5 c5 4 b4

He occasionally liked this gambit, which is similar to the Sicilian Wing Gambit in some respects. If Black accepts the gift with 4 ...cxb4 then White's centre will be strong and stable after 5 d4.

French Defence Milner-Barry Gambit: 1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 e5 c5 4 c3 Nc6 5 Nf3 Qb6 6 Bd3

Mike had many ways of playing against the French (partly because I kept playing it against him and he wanted to keep me guessing). We had battles in many variations of the Tarrasch (3 Nd2), Rubinstein, Winawer and Classical (all reached after 3 Nc3) and regular Advance (3 e5 without the gambit) over the course of three decades. He saved the Milner-Barry Gambit for special occasions, perhaps thinking it wouldn't work too well against a well-booked opponent. Black can win a pawn (but not immediately, as 6 ...cxd4 7 cxd4 Nxd4 8 Nxd4 Qxd4 9 Bb5+ would win the queen) but does White enjoy enough space and attacking chances to make it a worthwhile sacrifice? Perhaps we will find out on Sunday.

Spanish Game: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5

This was Mike's main 1 e4 opening (when he wasn't in the mood for a Danish Gambit). Both sides can play gambits from this moment on - or keep things very solid. I suspect the players at the memorial tournament will prefer the former approach in honour of the Mighty Mish.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Project 30: 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament Openings (2)

Today we reveal four more of the openings which will be in the draw for the 9th Mike Closs memorial tournament.

I have selected 12 in all but only some will be used in the tournament, as determined by a random draw.

The Danish Gambit: 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 c3 dxc3 4 Bc4

This was Mike's big favourite as White. Black can keep on capturing pawns but at the risk of granting White such superior development that a quick attack could finish the game.

King's Indian Defence: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 Bg7

Mike usually - and typically - aimed for dynamic play against d-pawn openings and the King's Indian Defence certainly suited his style.

Modern Benoni: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 c5 4 d5 exd5 5 cxd5 g6

Mike enjoyed the Modern Benoni too. It was never easy keeping the lid on his tactical tricks.

Nimzo-Indian Defence: 1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 e6 3 Nc3 Bb4

One of the more positional parts of his repertoire. Mike tried this a few times early on his chess battles (mid to late 1980s) before it was replaced by the King's Indian and Benoni.

The invited players should have plenty of fun on both sides of the board if these openings are utilised in the tournament.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Project 30: 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament Openings (1)

The 9th Mike Closs Memorial tournament will feature set openings in all of the rounds, for the first time since the inaugural event back in 2010.

We did utilise the themed openings aspect once more, in the 7th tournament, but that was just for half of the event and for the rest of it the players were free to choose their own favourites.

I have selected 12 opening lines that formed part of Mike's sharp repertoire and we will take a quick look at each one over the course of this week.

Not every opening will be used in the tournament. One of the 12 will be randomly selected before the start of each round, just to keep the participants guessing.

The Sicilian Defence (1 e4 c5) featured heavily on both sides of Mike's repertoire with the following variations being particular favourites.

Sicilian Defence Dragon: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6

Sicilian Defence Accelerated Fianchetto: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 g6

Sicilian Defence Najdorf: 1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cxd4 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 a6

Sicilian Defence Wing Gambit: 1 e4 c5 2 b4

Once the diagrammed positions have been reached the players are free to branch off into any lines the choose.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Project 30: 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament

Project 30 continues with another important event scheduled for the weekend.

The 9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament will continue the successful series of events created in memory of my great friend and chess colleague who tragically passed away in 2010.

We will be posting several blogs this week as we head towards this year's tournament.

Happier times; on our way to a meal out in Saltburn, 2009.
The first tournament, back in 2010, was played at the now-defunct La Fez in Marske, where we were very well looked after by Sebastian.

Sebastian in La Fez, 2010
In a remarkable coincidence, Sebastian was also behind the wheel of the taxi I had to take because of a cancelled train (due to 'lack of staff'!?) last Friday (I couldn't risk being late for my date with Evita).

Sebastian, in the taxi, 2018
This curious piece of synchronicity is a good place to start our coverage of the 9th Memorial Tournament.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Project 30: Rapidplay Match Championship Complete

The Project 30: Rapidplay Match Championship has now concluded.

The six game final was contested between Matt Jackman and myself.

I seem to have spent most of the last couple of months playing Matt at chess. We met in the semi-final of the KO Championship and also in the decisive game of the Celebratory Tournament.

Our Rapidplay Final was played at the rate of two games per session. Every game was very tough and featured uncompromising chess from start to finish.

Session One

Game 1: I won the exchange but at the cost of letting Matt's knights run rampant over my position. In mutual time trouble Matt won my queen - and the game.

Game 2: An early win of a pawn gave me the advantage which I carried to the endgame, giving me a victory to equalise the match.

Session Two

Game 3: A tactic netted me a pawn and another followed, leading to a winning endgame.

Game 4: Early aggression from Matt didn't have the desired effect and I managed to go 3-1 ahead.

Session Three

Game 5: Matt fell under pressure in a heavy piece ending. I swapped my queen for his two rooks and this eventually secured the victory.

Game 6: Matt smashed me up with a fine attack.

Final Score SM 4, MJ 2

I felt the power of Matts plans and moves throughout the match (and in the other two tournament games we played). I stand by my earlier prediction that he will become Teesside's No. 1 player if he keeps working hard and improving.

Meanwhile, the index of reports for the Project 30: Chess for Life event can be found here.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Project 30: Chess for Life

Project 30 has given me a whole year of highlights but yesterday's event, which brought GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan to Yarm School, will be hard to top.

There were lectures, practical exercises, a massive 32-board tandem simul and a book signing for the duo's famous Chess for Life (winner of the ECF Book of the Year in 2016).

Matthew Jackman had great chances to win his game before an ambitious sacrifice allowed his illustrious opponents to turn the tables.

In fact the stars went on to win all of their games - a fine achievement in any simultaneous display!

What a day! Many thanks to Natasha and Matthew for travelling all the way to Teesside to put on such an inspirational show and to everyone who supported the event. Special thanks to Mike Pointon of Yarm School, who helped me on every step of the way.

There is another report and more photos here, with more to follow over the next couple of days.