Sunday, 15 November 2020

Project 30 November Zoom Quiz

The third edition of the Project 30 Zoom Quiz was the biggest and best to date.

The quiz has now gone international, thanks to the involvement of Kineke Mulder of Chess Unlimited.

Jo Hutchinson and Adrian Thomas (one of the kings of British Rythm and Blues - check out the Voodoo Sheiks) were among those also making their debuts in this strictly-by-invitation series of events.

David Hardy is the champion, with John Garnett runner-up and Sean Cassidy third.

Thank you, everyone, for a fabulous, fun evening.

Incidentally, some of the answers I received for the lyrics question were not only incorrect, but also anatomically impossible.

Project 30 Match Update

The big Project 30 match has been decided, with Team Two crossing the finishing line as victors, thanks to excellent wins from Peter Parker.

One fixture remains, but it cannot change the standings.

Remaining Fixture

Paul Weightman - Kevin Waterman


Mike Pointon 1-1 Matt Jackman
Mike Pointon 1-1 Sean Marsh
Mike Pointon 0-2 Peter Harker
Mike Pointon 2-0 Graham Edwards
Mike Pointon 1-1 Royce Parker
Mike Pointon 1-1 Kevin Waterman

John Garnett 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
John Garnett 0-2 Sean Marsh
John Garnett 2-0 Peter Harker
John Garnett 2-0 Royce Parker
John Garnett 2-0 Graham Edwards
John Garnett 1.5-0.5 Kevin Waterman

David Baillie 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
David Baillie 1-1 Sean Marsh
David Baillie 1.5-0.5 Royce Parker
David Baillie 2-0 Kevin Waterman
David Baillie 2-0 Peter Harker
David Baillie 1.5-0.5 Graham Edwards

Richard Harris 0-2 Matt Jackman
Richard Harris 2-0 Peter Harker
Richard Harris 1-1 Royce Parker
Richard Harris 1.5-0.5 Kevin Waterman
Richard Harris 0-2 Sean Marsh
Richard Harris 1-1 Graham Edwards

Paul Weightman 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
Paul Weightman 2-0 Graham Edwards
Paul Weightman 0-2 Sean Marsh
Paul Weightman 0.5-1.5 Royce Parker
Paul Weightman 0-2 Peter Harker

Sean Cassidy 0-2 Sean Marsh
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Matt Jackman
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Royce Parker
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Kevin Waterman
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Graham Edwards
Sean Cassidy 1-1 Peter Harker

Team One 32, Team Two 38

Players who have completed their fixtures are given with their final scores.

Team One
John Garnett 8/12
David Baillie 8.5/12
Richard Harris 5.5/12
Mike Pointon 6/12
Sean Cassidy 1/12
Paul Weightman

Team Two
Sean Marsh 10/12
Matt Jackman 9.5/12
Graham Edwards 3.5/12
Royce Parker 6/12
Peter Harker 5/12
Kevin Waterman

Friday, 6 November 2020

Project 30: Match Update

Here is an update on our big Project 30 match, which is now coming to its conclusion.

Team Two have extended their lead by a point.

6 points are still available.

Team One needs five and a half points to win the match.

Team Two needs one and a half points to win the match.

A score of 5-1 to Team One from the remaining fixtures will tie the match.

Remaining Fixtures

Paul Weightman - Peter Harker
Paul Weightman - Kevin Waterman

Sean Cassidy - Peter Harker


Mike Pointon 1-1 Matt Jackman
Mike Pointon 1-1 Sean Marsh
Mike Pointon 0-2 Peter Harker
Mike Pointon 2-0 Graham Edwards
Mike Pointon 1-1 Royce Parker
Mike Pointon 1-1 Kevin Waterman

John Garnett 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
John Garnett 0-2 Sean Marsh
John Garnett 2-0 Peter Harker
John Garnett 2-0 Royce Parker
John Garnett 2-0 Graham Edwards
John Garnett 1.5-0.5 Kevin Waterman

David Baillie 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
David Baillie 1-1 Sean Marsh
David Baillie 1.5-0.5 Royce Parker
David Baillie 2-0 Kevin Waterman
David Baillie 2-0 Peter Harker
David Baillie 1.5-0.5 Graham Edwards

Richard Harris 0-2 Matt Jackman
Richard Harris 2-0 Peter Harker
Richard Harris 1-1 Royce Parker
Richard Harris 1.5-0.5 Kevin Waterman
Richard Harris 0-2 Sean Marsh
Richard Harris 1-1 Graham Edwards

Paul Weightman 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
Paul Weightman 2-0 Graham Edwards
Paul Weightman 0-2 Sean Marsh
Paul Weightman 0.5-1.5 Royce Parker

Sean Cassidy 0-2 Sean Marsh
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Matt Jackman
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Royce Parker
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Kevin Waterman
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Graham Edwards

Team One 31, Team Two 35

Players who have completed their fixtures are given with their final scores.

Team One
John Garnett 8/12
David Baillie 8.5/12
Richard Harris 5.5/12
Mike Pointon 6/12
Sean Cassidy
Paul Weightman

Team Two

Sean Marsh 10/12
Matt Jackman 9.5/12
Graham Edwards 3.5/12
Royce Parker 6/12
Peter Harker
Kevin Waterman

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Excellent New Magazine: Chess Tales

We have excellent news for everyone involved with junior chess.

Chess Tales

Chess Tales is an English translation of the German Rochade Kids chess magazine.

Teesside helped to test the content of the magazine and there is another link too; Royce Parker, my good friend and teammate, is the translator.

The material is excellent and fully engaging.

You don't need to take my word for it, as you can see the contents of the first issue here.

Additionally, UK schools can claim one free copy of the magazine by clicking here.

Approximately 25,000 children use the magazine in Germany. I believe it to be a very valuable set of resources, which will work in the classroom scenario and also in one-to-one lessons.

International Master Tobias Hirneise is the editor of Chess Tales and he is offering a discount of 50% to schools ordering 10 or more copies of the first issue.

Head to the Chess Tales website for further information.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Acorn Chess

Acorn Chess

Mini-games are a valuable part of a chess tutor's resources.

They are ideal for teaching chess methodically, as they use a small number of pieces each time to build up knowledge and skill.

They are used extensively by Chess in Schools and Communities in over 300 UK schools.

One problem - particularly now online teaching has become a necessity - is that most computer programmes cannot be used to set up the mini-games, as they class them as illegal positions (because there are no kings on the board.)

Acorn Chess is a brand new venture, which allows mini-games to be set up easily and offers various levels of engine strength to test a player's skill.

Mini-game in Action

I have tested Acorn Chess and I believe it offers an excellent set of resources for chess tutors to use in group or individual settings.

There are lots of other games and features and the project is developing all of the time. Head to the Acorn Chess website to investigate the new resources and follow Acorn Chess on Twitter to keep up to date with all of the new developments.

Monday, 2 November 2020

An Interview with Samantha Durnan

My recent post, Create or Destroy, included an offer:

'If creative people out there would like to be interviewed for my blog then just let me know.

We can talk about the positive aspects of your life and work. We can get your message across.

This offer is small fry, in the grand scheme of things - but nevertheless it is a positive action.'

We are starting our new series in great style, as we proudly present an interview with Samantha Durnan

Samantha Durnan

Samantha, a singer/songwriter based in North East England, has already appeared on this blog, both under her own name, when supporting Heather Peace at Arc, and also as part of The Hootones, who rocked The Georgian Theatre with Gypsy in 2019 and SHE easier this year.

We discussed Samantha's life in music from her early days to the forthcoming new album, scheduled for 2021.

Who introduced you to music, and are any members of your family active, musically? 

I come from a musical background. My Dad plays the guitar and my Nana used to be a singer. I was eight years old when I learnt my first couple of chords and it was then I knew I wanted to be a musician.

Not long after that I started guitar lessons with our lead guitarist in the show (James Henderson) and he encouraged me to record my own material.

How old were you when you realised music was going to be a major part of your life? 

I was 8 years old when I discovered that I had a passion for music and I knew that nothing else would come close to the buzz I felt while playing an instrument.

How would you describe your musical style? 

Alternative/Pop. I'm influenced by all types of genres from Pop to Metal from Classical to Rock. I try to include a little bit of something for everyone in my music.

Can you tell me something about your creative process? Are you writing songs more or less all of the time, or do you have to take time out from other aspects of your life in order to fully focus? 

I often get a random urge to write and as soon as I get that feeling, I grab my guitar. I don't plan to write, it just happens. Very quickly. Then I stop and think, where did that come from?! 

I'm currently writing an album and I'm on such a creativity high. I never know where the music will end up taking me and that is what I find so exciting about the process.

Do you write better on your own, or with the help of others? 

100% on my own. I'm not ashamed to say I'm a complete control freak when it comes to writing, haha! Once I hear an idea in my head, I'm set in stone.

What usually comes first – the music or the words? 

Music. Always the music. I like my words to work rhythmically with the music. I tend to create a melody by humming and then the words will flow.

How do you balance your musical career and aspirations with the ‘real world'?

I wear lots of different hats to succeed as a full time musician in the 'real world'. It would be a dream to write songs for a living but it doesn't pay my bills...yet, haha! 

I set up a Music Agency a few years ago called 'Pluck' and we specialise in Weddings & Corporate Events. Having the Agency allows me to afford to live and invest time and money back into my writing. 

At the end of the day as long as my career involves music, I'm happy.

You play your own, original songs but also have a full repertoire of cover songs with The Hootones. Is the former body of work easier to remember and play than the latter? 

I feel there is more pressure to remember the cover songs as people often sing along to the classics. Not as many people know the words to my original material so it wouldn’t a miss if made up a lyric or two, haha!

The Hootones in Action

Are there any internal battles within The Hootones when it comes to choosing the set lists? Are there any songs that you really wanted to include, but didn’t? 

It all depends on the Event. For Weddings we know we need to get the guests up on to the dance floor so we will decide as a band which upbeat songs will work best. Obviously some members prefer some songs to others but we always go with what we think the audience would prefer. With our show SHE we have a different approach as we perform our favourite songs by some of our most inspirational female artists.

Which artists do you admire?

I have so many! But the artist that stands that stands out for me is Stevie Nicks. I love everything about her from her voice, image to her sheer determination. To still be touring the world and moving around the stage like she does is admirable!

Which albums would make it onto your desert island list? (As many as you want!)

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

Michael Jackson - Thriller/Bad

Ludovico Einaudi - Island

The Staves - Dead Born & Grown

Haim - Days Are Gone

KT Tunstall - Eye to the telescope

Florence & The Machine – Lungs 

Which song do you wish you had written?

Beat It by Michael Jackson.

The Internet has impacted greatly on the music industry. What are the good and bad points from your point of view? 

I have been able to reach audiences from around the world via the Internet and I am hugely grateful for the platform. However it is sad to see artists getting paid so little due to illegal downloading and streaming services paying out a small percentage.

For your dream gig, with whom would you love to perform?

Stevie Nicks. I think I’d break down on stage but after a few drinks and tissues, I’d be fine.

Think back to the two fabulous evenings (Gypsy and SHE) at the Georgian Theatre. Were you nervous before the gigs?

Yes! Only because I’d organised the Evening and I wanted to make sure everything ran smoothly and everyone had a great night.

You have just left the stage at the end of the shows. You have connected with – and entertained – every person in the hall; a success by anyone’s standards. How does it feel? How long does it take you to wind down afterwards? 

It is one of the best feelings! When musicians and audience members connect, the energy in the room is on another level. I’m completely wired for a few days after a gig like that.

What projects do you have lined up, either for The Hootones or for your own work?

Due to the current live music circumstances The Hootones aren’t able to perform. Once live music restrictions are lifted we are hoping to put on another show and have a huge party! Aside from the band I’m currently in the middle of recording an album which I will be releasing next year.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the world of music?

Listen, learn, be true to yourself and enjoy the journey!

The entertainment industry has been very badly hit by the pandemic. How long do you think it will be before the emergency clears? 

Honestly, I have no idea. I am still in complete disbelief that we are currently living through a pandemic.

Do you think most things will recover (in time) or do you take a more pessimistic view?

I like to hope that most things will recover although it is extremely difficult to feel and see any positivity throughout this heartbreaking pandemic. But I have faith in the industry and I believe we creative folk will get through this horrendous period in time.

Thank you very much, Samantha Durnan!

This is a taster of Samantha's work. Head here for more information and bookings.

Stay tuned for the next interview in our series, which is coming soon...

Monday, 12 October 2020

Create or Destroy

I try to refrain from political comment but sometimes I have to relent.

The picture of the ballerina, released today as part of an ill-advised campaign to enforce retraining, is an absolute disgrace.

Blame the dancer; the artiste; the artist; the singer; the actor; the writer.

Blame the creative people.

In fact, why not crush creativity altogether.

Who needs theatres? Who needs cinemas? Who needs books? Who need music? Who needs opera? Who needs ballet? Who needs chess?

I have spent 33 years working with young people. I have talked to them and listened to them.

I have spent a considerable amount of time encouraging people to follow their dreams and not to feel constrained by the thoughts and opinions of others; to think for themselves and to make up their own minds.

Many years ago, I chose a creative - yet highly controversial - path for myself. I didn't care then what other people thought of my plans and I certainly don't care now.

Nor should anybody else. 

I lost count of the number of people who told me I ‘should go back to college’ and all of the other pieces of unsolicited ‘advice’ I ignored.

Making a living as a writer, actor, musician or dancer is not easy. It takes many years of determination, perseverance, sweat and tears. There will be numerous setbacks. Nobody is going to make it easy for you.

The arts are being systematically destroyed. I have numerous friends who have had no paid work since March of this year.

Everything is closing down and very few things will ever return to how they were before the emergency occurred.

Now is not the time to rely on childish memes or a cascade of bad language.

Now is the time to give people a lesson in resilience and resolve.

If creative people out there would like to be interviewed for my blog then just let me know.

We can talk about the positive aspects of your life and work. We can get your message across.

This offer is small fry, in the grand scheme of things - but nevertheless it is a positive action.

If we give in to the negativity ‘from above’ it will muddy the waters and bring everyone down to the same level.

In life, it is always the same: some people create; others destroy.

Choose your corner.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge: New Activity Booklets

It is always good to hear from Sarah and Alex Longson of the Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge.

Sarah and Alex had to change all of their plans for the 2020 Chess Challenge due to the current emergency and they did very well to create so many online events and to get them up and running in plenty of time for children all across the United Kingdom to able to join in the fun.

This week, they contacted me to let me know of another exciting new development: the launch of the brand new Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge Activity Booklet.

I have seen the first booklet and I enjoyed solving all of the different puzzles and problems.

The content is arranged in order of difficulty, which will give children (and their parents) a sense of achievement as they move through the levels.


I have carefully selected sample pages which do not reveal any of the puzzles as I don't want to spoil your enjoyment of this excellent new resource.

All you have to do is click here to sign up and you will receive a weekly set of puzzles and problems.

You can also find out more about Sarah's Tournament Ready Chessable course, which is mentioned in the activity book, by clicking here.

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Project 30 Team Tournament Update

Our Project 30 Team Match, which is the follow-up to the initial trial matches, is going well and we are on schedule to complete the fixtures by the end of November.

John Garnett - winning lots of games, as usual

Remaining Fixtures

John Garnett - Kevin Waterman
John Garnett - Royce Parker
John Garnett - Graham Edwards

David Baillie - Peter Harker
David Baillie - Graham Edwards

Richard Harris - Sean Marsh
Richard Harris - Graham Edwards
Richard Harris - Kevin Waterman

Paul Weightman - Royce Parker
Paul Weightman - Peter Harker
Paul Weightman - Kevin Waterman

Sean Cassidy - Kevin Waterman
Sean Cassidy - Peter Harker
Sean Cassidy - Graham Edwards


Mike Pointon 1-1 Matt Jackman
Mike Pointon 1-1 Sean Marsh
Mike Pointon 0-2 Peter Harker
Mike Pointon 2-0 Graham Edwards

Mike Pointon 1-1 Royce Parker
Mike Pointon 1-1 Kevin Waterman

John Garnett 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
John Garnett 0-2 Sean Marsh
John Garnett 2-0 Peter Harker

David Baillie 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
David Baillie 1-1 Sean Marsh
David Baillie 1.5-0.5 Royce Parker
David Baillie 2-0 Kevin Waterman

Richard Harris 0-2 Matt Jackman
Richard Harris 2-0 Peter Harker
Richard Harris 1-1 Royce Parker

Paul Weightman 0.5-1.5 Matt Jackman
Paul Weightman 2-0 Graham Edwards
Paul Weightman 0-2 Sean Marsh

Sean Cassidy 0-2 Sean Marsh
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Matt Jackman
Sean Cassidy 0-2 Royce Parker

Team One 19, Team Two 25

Players who have completed their fixtures are given with their final scores.

Team One
John Garnett
David Baillie
Richard Harris
Sean Cassidy
Mike Pointon 6/12
Paul Weightman

Team Two
Sean Marsh
Matt Jackman 9.5/12
Peter Harker
Kevin Waterman
Royce Parker
Graham Edwards

Monday, 5 October 2020

The Return of the Project 30 Zoom Quiz

The first Project 30 Zoom Quiz was a great success and it has now become a new series of events.

The second quiz brought several new faces and a new champion - Jovanka Houska.

It was a very enjoyable evening and it was especially good to see everyone relaxing and having fun.

We will have another Project 30 Zoom Quiz in November and we are hoping to see the first champion, David Hardy, back in action too.




Wednesday, 30 September 2020

English Chess Federation BOOK of the YEAR 2020

English Chess Federation 

BOOK of the YEAR 2020 

This years Short List contained four books of considerable merit. One however stood out for its original subject matter which was treated in a serious manner, but with good writing and a considerable sense of humour.

GM David Smerdon 
New in Chess 
Paperback pp359 £21.95

The subtitle explains the aim of the book: “How to save points from lost positions”.

It is the fate of all chess players to sometimes wind up in lost positions, but Smerdon argues that does not mean a player should give up trying to save the game.

There are many ways to resist and this book is a manual of weapons, strategic, tactical and psychological that the reader could use. Saving a lost game can sometimes be as rewarding as winning one!

Smerdon starts by looking at the psychology surrounding swindles. A swindler has to know both his own mind (Tal being the perfect example of optimistic resourcefulness) and that of his opponent
(are they anxious, want to get the game over quickly for whatever reason, or prefer a simple technical win to complicated but quicker victory)?

He then goes onto consider the various approaches a swindler may use such as a “Trojan Horse” and the “Decoy Trap” and many others.

But the above does not work unless a player knows various ways that enable a potential swindler to escape his fate such as stalemate or perpetual check. The book contains many examples of the various positions and techniques that can be used.

Smerdon concludes with 110 exercises to develop the reader’s swindling skills of various degrees of difficulty.

What lifts the book above the ordinary is Smerdon’s quality of writing and his enthusiasm for chess, its players and the chess world. As an academic in behavioural economics he has a sharp eye for
human nature and enlivens the text with many quotes and pointed foot notes.

Of course the book’s subject provides much amusement - who does not enjoy, (unless you are the victim) a good swindle?

An outstanding Book of the Year 2020 which combines insightful discussion of a previously unexplored subject, with good writing and great entertainment throughout.

Ideal for these difficult times.

Ray Edwards and Sean Marsh 
29 September 2020

In Memoriam

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Project 30: Online Rematch

Project 30 returned to action last night with a rematch featuring the same teams as last week.

The same team won again only this time by a much more convincing margin.

Richard Harris and Royce Parker were the captains again and Paul Weightman was in charge of the IT aspects of the match.

Now the early experiments have concluded I will put together a plan for the main Project 30 events of the forthcoming season. It looks very likely we will have to remain online for now.

Well done to both teams on providing another fine evening of entertainment.

We conclude with a gallery showing our chess stars in action.

Captain Royce, playing his favourite Nimzo-Larsen Opening.

Captain Richard, having too much to think.

Mike Pointon is ready to add to his impressive tally of points.

Paul Weightman likes his position.

Boom! He likes it even more now!

That's how much he enjoyed the checkmate!

Monday, 24 August 2020

New Chess Event: The 56th Northumberland Chess Congress


Following on from the announcement from Mick Riding on the North vs. South chess match comes news of an actual over-the-board chess event - the 56th Northumberland Chess Congress.

The Congress will be on the weekend of Friday 25 September - Sunday 27 September 2020 at:

The Parks
Leisure Centre
Howdon Road
Royal Quays
North Shields
North Tyneside
NE29 6TL

Mick and his team have worked very hard to ensure the tournament is as secure as possible regarding the Covid-19 situation.

Head here to see the entry form and also to read about the Covid-19 measure that will be in place.

Well done, Mick!

New Chess Events: North vs. South


My friend Mick Riding is working very hard to create new chess events.

This message is from the man himself...


On September 5 (match starts half 6) we have the opportunity to take part in a historic rematch between North and South, the first since 1894.

To join just click on

For the background stuff go to

The occasion is about participating. Of course it's nice if you're a 200+ ECF player, but us lesser mortals need not worry. The match will look to pair people up as closely as possible to their playing strength - so there's room for all.

On the back of our stand out efforts in the County, Pool and U100 matches this would be a big fat cherry on the cake. And The North has never won this challenge. Time to put that right yes? 🙂

The only prerequisite is ECF membership. Be aware most expire end August. So if you haven't renewed please do - or at least sign up as a Supporter (£10) which can later be upgraded to membership - and your £10 will counts towards membership.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Project 30: Online Match

Following on from the successful Zoom quiz, Project 30 broke new ground again last night with its first-ever online match.

The Project 30 players were split into too well-balanced teams and Paul Weightman set up the match on

The players practiced social distancing by staying in their own homes.

Captains Richard Harris and Royce Parker sorted out the board orders and we played two rounds of Rapidplay chess.

Richard's team took a big lead from the first leg and even though Royce's team fought back valiantly in the second leg it wasn't quite enough to hold the match.

Captain Royce

Richard's team won, 6-5!

Man of the Match!

Mike Pointon won both of his games, clinching the match win for his team.

The match was a success and a rematch will happen soon.

Then we will look towards setting up some new events for Project 30 if the emergency continues to keep us away from our chess clubs.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

English Chess Federation Book of the Year 2020 Short List

English Chess Federation

BOOK of the Year 2020

Short List

The Short List this year features remarkably different books on two of the greatest World Champions; the first is an inside story of the coaching that helped make and then kept Kasparov as world champion, the second covers Emanuel Lasker before and after he lost his title but also looks at his numerous other activities. In contrast, two well written books by professional academics; one covering his short but lively chess career, the other is a delight to read whilst obtaining serious instruction.

Coaching Kasparov Volumes 1&2 Alexander Nikitin Elk and Ruby Publishing House paperback pp463 £18.85(1 VOL)

These two volumes written by Kasparov’s coach from his early junior days to the Karpov matches, give detailed insight into the problems of coaching an outstanding talent (vol 1) and then the
different issues arising from working with a world champion (vol 2).

Essential reading for any coach, but also much to interest the general reader. Both volumes include previously unpublished Kasparov games as well as some known ones, annotated from the coach’s point of view.

Emanuel Lasker second volume Forster, Negele, Tischbierek editors Exzelsior Verlag hardback pp 452 £54.95

The second volume of a trilogy, looks not only at chess issues but also at Lasker’s personality and wider life away from chess. All world chess champions concentrated on chess. Not so Lasker whose
wide ranging mind was always exploring subjects that interested him: games (Go, Bridge), mathematics, writing books on diverse subjects as well as chess, plus various business interests.

Despite all these distractions, Lasker remained a mighty chess player, heading Capablanca in all three tournaments they played together, and demonstrated by a fine selection of games.

The Best I Saw in Chess Stuart Rachels New in Chess paperback pp416 £26.95

Rachels was a talented junior playing chess at all levels. His biggest achievement was winning the 1989 USA championship at the age of 20, retiring from chess playing three years later.

This lively and fresh book is the story of experiences during his short career and covers a wide range of subjects some deep and profound, others humorous and entertaining. Rachels gives a vivid picture of the chess world before computers. An engaging book to dip into and enjoy its varied content.

The Complete Chess Swindler David Smerdon New in Chess paperback pp 359 £21.95

The title might suggest that Smerdon’s book is just a collection of mishaps and disasters, but the underlying theme is more serious: how players may give themselves chances in the most difficult positions.

He covers various chess ideas, but also the importance of understanding the opponent’s state of mind to obtain the appropriate conditions for setting a snare. Smerdon writes exceedingly well, but best of all there are many delicious positions to savour. What entertainment!

Ray Edwards Sean Marsh 12 August 2020

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Summary of Activity

Here is the latest summary of activity on the chess front.

Clearly, the current emergency is far from over and we have no idea when things will start to return to anything resembling normality.

Meanwhile, we are doing our best to keep people connected. We are also maintaining a steady stream of top quality chess material, accessible to all, so please feel very free to share as appropriate to your pupils, teachers, parents, chess clubs, libraries and whoever else you think may find the content of interest.

A reminder to all schools that the UK Chess Challenge is now an online Summer Festival of Chess and the time to enter is NOW.

Lessons 14 and 15 are now available at the CSC website. All of the other lessons are there too, making it easy to catch up with any you may have missed or would like to revise.

My two latest CSC lockdown blog posts - which are aimed at novices and parents - cover 'Pins and Skewers' and 'The Fork'. They can be found here.

A reminder to all of our schools that you were sent information and links to sign up every pupil for ChessKid accounts and there is still time to join in.

My personal view on the current emergency can be found here.

My latest Chessable blog posts are here:

The London System

The Art of Attack

Steinitz Memorial, Day Three

Steinitz Memorial, Day Two

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Carrying the Shame

I carry the shame of my generation.

We have sleepwalked our way into a time of extreme problems.

Prior to this, the most recent case of sleepwalking into a nightmare world occurred in the 1930s.

The current problems are largely self-evident.

Just two weeks ago I wrote:

‘The finishing post is NOT in sight.

Schools should NOT return to action unless it is absolutely safe to do so.

I hope schools are able to make a stand against the latest plan.

Everyone is much too valuable to be used as an experiment.’

A lot has happened since then.

A lot hasn’t happened since then.

Substantial pressure is being placed on schools to return to action. The campaign to name teaching staff as heroes dovetails so neatly into the ethos of the weekly act of clapping that it will act as a badge of shame for those who do not think it is safe to return.

The pressure is intensified; who would want to let the side down? Who isn’t capable of being a hero?

The nation needs its share of the ‘feel good’ factor.

The simplest example of such an artifice occurred during the 1939-45 war, when households were asked to donate points and pans and the railings from parks and gardens were removed, ‘to help the war effort.’

Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister for Aircraft Production, ‘We will turn your pots and pans into Spitfires and Hurricanes, Blenheims and Wellingtons.’

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that the metal was either dumped into the sea or merely left in scrap heaps, which rather dilutes the intended ‘do your bit’ feel good message.

You don't need to give away your pots and pans.

You don’t need an appointed time to clap for your heroes.

It will already have faded from memory that many people wanted to clap again for the ‘hero of the nation’, who recklessly subjected himself to the virus by shaking hands with infected sufferers.

Presumably someone told him Princess Diana once did something similar, during the height of a different virus. The finer detail of how the respective viruses were allowed to spread was either ignored or not present.

On the day some schools will open their doors to more than just key workers' children, the lockdown will be eased in other ways.

This will ensure there will be confusion when the second spike appears; the trail won’t lead clearly to the school environment.

I need schools to return to normal for the sake of my own business - but I don’t want them to return as I know it is not going to be safe.

There is no point in comparing the situation in the United Kingdom to that of other countries. It fails the test of comparing like with like.

One aspect that isn’t being talked about is just how will people - of all ages - react to a return to school after so many weeks away.

Any teacher will tell you how difficult it is to go back to teaching after the Summer break.

They now have to return after an unprecedented time away from their children, friends and colleagues. Any attempt to make that sound like an easy transition is pure bravado.

The spike in the spread of the virus won’t be the only one. The explosion of mental health issues will be unprecedented.

Nobody, anywhere, can successfully claim to be immune to such problems when their whole world is turned upside down.

Time and again I have said I believe in the next generation to make a much better job of everything once they have the opportunity to do so and I am deeply ashamed of the the state of the world they will inherit.

To the young, I apologise.

I carry the shame of my generation.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

UK Chess Challenge 2020 – Online!

Many people have asked me about the future of the UK Chess Challenge since the start of the lockdown.

Our own Teesside Megafinal had to be cancelled, as did every other Megafinal. Unfortunately, there was no alternative.

I am now delighted to convey the big news of the solution devised by Sarah and Longson.

UK Chess Challenge 2020 – Online!

For the first time the UK Chess Challenge will be being held online. Throughout the summer there will be a festival of chess with all the regular events (Megafinals, Gigafinals and Terafinal) and a host of other championships including chess 960, chess variants and a Blitz championship. We will also be holding regular simultaneous displays with masters and past champions.

Unlike previous years once you have entered the competition you have a ticket to the full event – no requirement to pay extra for Gigafinals or the Terafinal if you get that far.

There are three options.

i) “Competition Pass” which gets you access to all of the competitions

ii) “Season Ticket” which includes everything in “Competition Pass” PLUS 1 x bootcamp (targeted training session with master coach) and access to special events such as the simultaneous displays versus masters and past champions

iii) “VIP Pass” which has everything in “Season Ticket” PLUS 2 x training sessions (in small groups) with past UKCC champions such as Sarah Longson and David Howell and a tailored report on your performance with tips on how to improve.

The events take place on – the best place to play chess online and completely free registration. All participants will have access to full training on how to use the platform and all the safety features (though most will be able to just “pick up and play” as it is very easy to use).

All participants get:

Access to all tournament competitions (though qualification required for some events)

Digital certificate of participation

Access to video library – “How to learn and play chess online”

Access to the live stream – daily tournament commentary, lessons and more.

Further details are available here.

Incidentally, Sarah and Alex have been very proactive during the current emergency and have been producing lots of new material, details of which can be found on the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge Facebook page and Twitter account.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Infested Waters

I am in the fortunate position of being able to decide when I go back to schools. That is, of course, if I decide to go back at all.

Most of the UK schools’ workforce of over 1.4 million teachers and teaching assistants will not be able to choose for themselves. They have to rely on the judgement and planning of others.

The latest talk is of schools returning to action at the start of June.

This is an absurd plan which should be immediately stopped.

Imagine if people have to stop swimming in the sea because it is infested with highly dangerous sharks.

Then imagine people in authority make a lot of promises about testing the waters before they will people to return.

One person in authority boasts of visiting the sharks, metaphorically shakes hands with them, is badly bitten and then portrayed as a hero in some quarters.

Not only are the tests not carried out, but the amount of sharks is allowed to grow considerably.

Older people are forced back into the sea - and their friends are dragged in too. The number of fatalities is horrendous, but kept hidden.

Nothing has changed regarding the danger of the situation, but suddenly everyone is told they can return to the water too - as long as they stay alert.

Such actions are tantamount to manslaughter.

Would anyone be happy with such a situation?

Back to the real world - and the virus has not gone away. It will not go away in the near future. It thrives on situations of close social contact. We have over 67 million people in the UK.

Anyone who has worked in schools will know how ridiculous it is to suggest social distancing will work. Is everyone going to walk to and from school, two metres apart? Is it possible to stay two metres from anyone else in a classroom, a corridor or a school hall? It is completely unreasonable to expect young children to understand the situation and be compliant to any restrictions.

Some schools have remained open as hubs for the children of key workers. Fortunately, the numbers involved have been smaller than originally anticipated but that has not meant it has been a comfortable experience for anyone directly involved.

Specialist training and Personal Protective Equipment would be required for all staff to even begin to tackle the task. Is any of that in place?

Do you still think schools should return to action at the start of June?

Nobody seems able or willing to agree on a figure, but statisticians claim there have been 50,000 deaths, up to the start of May, over and above the rate we should expect for this time of year.

50,000 grieving families.

The hidden number of elderly victims is unlikely to be revealed in full. They were sacrificed, with infected patients being sent back to care homes in order to free up hospital beds. It should not have been a surprise that care homes were then so badly hit by the spread of the virus. They had no chance whatsoever. They were sacrificed following a particularly despicable piece of action.

School staff and children are to be the centrepiece of the next big experiment. Schools are the most social of all settings. Someone, somewhere will be crossing their fingers and analysing the figures.

I care about the children in my schools. I care about my friends and colleagues. I don’t want to see them used in this fashion.

The phrase ‘collateral damage’ is being used, which is not correct, for that relies on the key definition point of being ‘unintended.’

Just before the schools were forced to close, I witnessed, at first hand, the effect the situation had on the staff in my schools. Some were openly crying at the enormity of the challenges ahead. They are not weak people. They understood life was going to change and, in many ways, it would change beyond recognition. That is quite something for young people to have to accept.

People we know are going to die. The finishing post is NOT in sight.

Schools should NOT return to action unless it is absolutely safe to do so.

I hope schools are able to make a stand against the latest plan. Everyone is much too valuable to be used as an experiment.

Some people care, some people don’t.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Lockdown Blog: Parts Four and Five

What is the connection between The Kiss of Death and the annual CSC Head Office party?
To find out, head here for the latest episodes of the CSC lockdown blog.

Interview For Chess Unlimited

Kineke Mulder of Chess Unlimited is one of the most positive of all chess personalities and I was delighted to be interviewed for her series on chess people.

English and German versions are available!

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Lockdown Blog Part Three

A new edition of my lockdown blog is now available for your perusal.

Click here.

Monday, 27 April 2020

CSC Chess at Home: Lesson 10

Today brings a brand new chess lesson to the CSC Chess at Home page.

If you would like to know about the best ways of starting a game then please head for Lesson 10, which comes in the form of a worksheet, Kahoot! quiz and my latest YouTube video:

Chess at Home

If you have missed any lessons or simply need a refresher then the first nine lessons are on the same page.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

'Who Wants To Be...'

'Who wants to be...' in a million?

Please write the answer on the back of a £20 note and send it to me at the usual address.

When you have done that, please click here to read the second post in my new CSC blog.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Brand New Lessons: YouTube, Worksheets and Kahoot! Quizzes

Chess in Schools and Communities are producing new material to help families cope with the lockdown.

Please head here for the latest details.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

CSC Teesside in The Sunday Times

Click to enlarge

Please head here for further details.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Chess For Life Interview

Today I was interviewed by Natasha Regan and Matthew Sadler for their Chess For Life video series.

To see the interview, please click here. Don't forget to subscribe to the channel.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

New Blog

A new blog has been launched over at the Chess in  Schools and Communities website, to start the ball rolling on a wealth of new projects.

The first post can be found here.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Project 30: What Did I Miss? (5)

We now present the concluding part of the current series on missed opportunities.

This is the position we saw yesterday.

White to play
I played 35 Qe6?? but my hopes of a fine finish turned to dust after 35 ...Qxe6 36 Rf8+ Qg8! which is considerably different to the line I was hoping for (as posted yesterday).

I had completely missed that the black queen could drop back immediately. This was due to three factors.

1) The clock situation. We were both down to our last few minutes.

2) Matt's incredible resourcefulness. He just never gives up looking for ways to turn the trend of a game, which makes him very hard to put away - regardless of the size of the advantage.

3) The desire to finish off the game quickly and in style. My intended checkmate pattern was a pretty one and it clouded my judgement.

Going back to the position before 35 Qe6?? we can find several superior paths. These include: 35 Rf8+ Rxf8 36 e8=Q; 35 Rd1; 35 Rf7 and, best of all, 35 Qe5! which forces a checkmate which can only be delayed slightly by 35 ...Qf6.

It is never easy to accept it when excellent positions slip away into unexpected defeats. One of the major differences between masters and the rest of us is the way in which the former can keep control of their positions to ensure winning positions don't evaporate as often.

This brings our current series to a close but more new content will follow soon.

Thank you to everyone who supported the third year of Project 30. I learned a lot from my own games against Dave Baillie, John Garnett (in both events), Richard Harris, Sean Cassidy, Matt Jackman and Peter Harker - all of whom caused me lots of problems over the chess board but remained - of course! - fabulous friends at all times.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Project 30: What Did I Miss? (4)

John Garnett - SM
Black to move
Yesterday I left you with this position. Black has just sacrificed a bishop. What is best continuation from here?

24 ...Bh4! would have given Black a decisive advantage. This denies White the important defensive resource of Qf2 (as played at a key moment in the game). The threat is 22 ...Rxf3 23 Rxf3 Qxf3 and the white king will be checkmated very soon. A sample line would end with 24 ...Bg3+ 25 Kg1 Bf2+ 26 Kf1 Rg1 checkmate. It is the introduction of the bishop into the dark squares that makes all the difference.

Our final example of missed opportunities comes from the Rapidplay semi-final.

SM - Matt Jackman
White to play
This had been a wild game and now that a large advantage had been established I was looking for the most efficient way to conclude matters - especially as we were both down to the last two or three minutes on the clock. There were various ways to win - including moving the a1-rook to anywhere sensible - but I believe in the power of passed pawns and played 33 e6. After the subsequent moves 33 ...Nxa1 34 e7 Qd6 all is still going well and there are several 'finishers' available.

White to play
The one I chose was well intentioned, but not fit for purpose. I played 35 Qe6, hoping to deflect the Black queen from the defence of the back rank. The specific line I had in mind was 35 ...Qxe6 36 Rf8+ Rxf8 37 exf8=Q+ Qg8 38 Bxg7 checkmate.

However, this did not happen because Matt threw a considerable spanner in the works.

What did I miss after 35 Qe6?

Tune in tomorrow for the final part of our series.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Project 30: What Did I Miss? (3)

In the second game against Dave Baillie, I had this position, as posted yesterday.

Sean Marsh - Dave Baillie
I played 20 Nxd7 but missed the stronger 20 Nxe6!, deflecting the bishop from the defence of c6. After 20 ...Bxe6 21 Rxc6 White would be a sound pawn up and the rest of Black's central pawn structure would have been severely compromised.

The next missed opportunity came against John Garnett in the first round of the Rapidplay event. We ended up playing six games during a very long, tiring and memorable evening: two Rapidplay games in the club championship, two in the Project 30 event and then two five-minute games for the Project 30 tie-breaker.

This position occurred in the first of the Project 30 Rapidplay games.

John Garnett - SM
Black to play
Black is a pawn up and has high expectations of a successful attack on the enemy king. With queen, two rooks and two bishops all pointing the right way, I felt it was time for a sacrifice and I played 23 ...Bxh3! This tears away part of the king's defence and should have opened up the position for a decisive infiltration.

John captured the bishop with 24 gxh3 but I followed up with the incorrect 24 ...Rxf3? after which John repulsed the attack with careful moves: 25 Rxf3 Qxf3 26 Qf2! Qh5 27 Rf1 and even though Black isn't doing badly in terms of material, with three pawns for a piece, I couldn't ever shake John's knight from the weak d5-square and he went on to convert his advantage in fine style.

At the time I felt I must have missed a better attacking option. My intuition told me the sacrifice should be good, but the resulting position clearly lacked a certain something.

Black to play
It turns out I went wrong very quickly after the sacrifice. This is the key position. What did I miss?

Tune in tomorrow for the answer.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Project 30: What Did I Miss? (2)

David Baillie - Sean Marsh
Yesterday I gave this position. White looks to be in trouble, but Dave found the superb move 34 Rf5!

Black to play
I had missed this completely. The rook attacks the queen and the knight. If the queen captures the rook it is no longer defending the rook on e8 and White would checkmate the black king with 35 Qxe8.

It is fortunate that I was able to check White's king with my queen, which solved one of the problems. 35 ...Qa1+ If White were to now hide the king away with 36 Kh2 then I could play 36 ...Nhf6, keeping the advantage, but Dave played 36 Rf1, attacking my queen again. The queen has to defend the rook on e8 again, to prevent checkmate, which meant I was forced to play 36 ...Qe5, after which the game was drawn by repetition of position (37 Rf5! Qa1+ 38 Rf1 etc). A brilliant tactical 'save' from Dave.

Incidentally, this was our first draw in a full-length game since we shared the point in our very first encounter, back in 1984 (although we did draw a blitz game in the 8th Mike Closs Memorial event).

We started a replay almost immediately, this time with 30 minutes on each clock. It was another uncompromising encounter.

SM - Dave Baillie
White to play
Black's bishop on d7 could be classed as 'bad' as it is locked in behind the pawns. However, it is holding some key white squares together. We were both angling for our ideal circumstances to trade. I was waiting for ...b7-b6, prompting the knight, when after Nxd7 Qxd7 Bb5! the pin on the black knight would be highly unpleasant. Meanwhile, Dave was waiting for me to block my bishop's diagonal before committing himself to ...b7-b6.

Sure enough, after 19 Ne1-d3 Dave immediately replied with 18 ...b6 and I matched his pace with 20 Nxd7. It was as if our thoughts were connected by a single dialogue on how this particular episode should be resolved.

After those moves, White obtained an edge, Dave played very actively and eventually held the endgame of Rook and Knight v Rook with excellent defensive technique. We then played a third game, with just five minutes on each clock, which was wild and could have gone either way before Dave eventually lost on time.

However, rewind a little, to this position.

White to play
Instead of going down the intended route with 20 Nxd7, I had the opportunity to play a much stronger move, which would have given me a significantly more substantial advantage than the one gained in the game. What did I miss?

The answer will be given tomorrow.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Project 30: What Did I Miss? (1)

The third year of our Project 30 events drew to a close last week. Some events had to be postponed due to the current emergency but they will be rescheduled when the smoke clears.

I enjoyed my games in the Rapidplay Championship and the KO event even though every round brought hard work against tough opponents (I have junior chess stars Jessica and Evie to thank for the round-by-round pairings).

The highly competitive nature of the games brought out many good moves and ideas but the occasional blunder or missed opportunity was always waiting in the wings, ready for an instant appearance at the most inopportune of moments.

Here are a few of the opportunities I missed in this year's Project 30 games.

The first example is from round one of the KO tournament.

David Baillie - SM
Black to play

Black is the exchange up (rook for knight) and has the safer of the two kings. Dave's last move, 32 Rf1-f3, was to defend the weak pawn on e3. White's position is about to collapse under the pressure. 32 ...Nhf6 looks to be Black's best move now, just improving the position of the knight before resuming the attack on White's weak points.

However, I thought it would be a good time to simplify the position, to reduce the potential for any tactical counterblows and to head for a steady endgame win.

32 ...Rxe5 33 dxe5 Qxe5

White to play
If Black can bring the knight from h5 back to f6 his advantage will be obvious. There is an extra pawn and all of White's pawns are isolated and potentially very weak. His king is also a real cause for concern due to the lack of defensive cover. Dave was also very short of time on the clock...but he played his next move instantly, which changed the course of the game. What had I missed?

The answer will be given tomorrow.

CSC War Cabinet

Good afternoon, chess players.

I hope you are all being sensible and keeping safe during the current emergency.

You would be forgiven for thinking chess has taken a rest while the ongoing situation prevents our school visits.

However, in reality, the CSC War Cabinet is working very hard on a whole range of new and very exciting plans which we will unveil in due course.

I don't think anyone who likes chess will be disappointed in what we are going to offer in the near future.

We are missing our schools and pupils but please stay tuned, stay indoors and await further announcements. I know you will recognise these as good moves in the struggle against this new and dangerous opponent. 

We will win this battle if we all keep playing as best we can.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Project 30, Year 3: Results Update

Following on from the update at the start of March, we now present the final scores of the Rapidplay tournament.


Matt Jackman 1-4 Sean Marsh (1, 0, 1, 1, 1 from my point of view)

This was the third time I had to play Matt in Project 30 Rapidplay matches. We also met in the first two Project 30 KO events, at the 1st Celebratory Tournament and in this year's club championship for The Buffs (1-1). That's a lot of games (22) against the same opponent.

Our latest match was tough and tense. I will return to some of the key moments in a future post. The score should have been closer; Matt turned down a draw in the fifth game, knowing he needed a win.


Sean Marsh 4-0 Peter Harker

For obvious reasons, we reduced the number of games from eight to six. The games were combative, with a steady stream of interesting ideas and unusual moves from both players. When we reached 4-0 we spent the rest of the session playing a number of every interesting Blitz games.

Peter had played marvellously this year to reach advanced stages of both events and I am sure the experience gained will help him make a significant jump forward when chess activity resumes.

It was a real pleasure for me to face two of my former juniors in the last tow rounds of this year's event.

Thus ends the third Project 30 Rapidplay event.

Due to the current emergency, the final of the KO Championship between Matt and myself will not be played. We are calling it a tied place, to mark this strangest of years with something a little different and to enable us to resume Project 30 - when the time comes - with a clean slate.

All other Project 30 events for this season have been postponed and that includes some of the most anticipated of all, including the Third Celebratory Tournament, the return of GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan and a sequel to the 1st Teesside International Women's Invitational Tournament.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the Project 30 events over the first three years. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.