Thursday, 29 December 2022

Project 50 Results Update

Two more fixtures have now been completed in the Project 50 events.

Here are the results to date (new ones in green).

Rapidplay Tournament 

David Baillie 0-2 Matt Jackman

David Baillie 2-0 Royce Parker

David Baillie 1.5-0.5 Peter Harker

Peter Harker 1.5-0.5 Matt Jackman

Blitz Event

David Baillie 10-0 Royce Parker

Kevin Waterman 6-4 Richard Harris

Thursday, 22 December 2022

Project 50 Christmas Quiz 2022

We had a lot of fun during the Project 50 Zoom Quiz last night.

Dave Baillie is the new champion, with a fabulous score of 62 points from a possible 65.

The team of Matt, Florence and Clementine Piper finished in second place, with 56 points. Peter Harker and Stephen Ollis shared third place with 53 points.


Monday, 19 December 2022

Project 50: Results Update

Some fixtures have now been completed in the Project 50 events.

Here are the results to date.

Rapidplay Tournament 

David Baillie 2-0 Royce Parker

David Baillie 1.5-0.5 Peter Harker

Peter Harker 1.5-0.5 Matt Jackman

Blitz Event

David Baillie 10-0 Royce Parker

13th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament

The latest in our series of tournaments to honour the memory of my friend Mike Closs took place yesterday.

This time, four players contested a double round-robin event with ten minutes on each clock and every game featured one of Mike's favourite openings - the Sicilian Dragon.

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 d6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nf6
5. Nc3 g6

Mike loved to play both sides of this sharp opening and it certainly suited his tactical style. However, the four invited guests had no prior history with the Dragon from either side of the board, so they were definitely out of their comfort zone.

As it happened, Royce Parker, who was invited, was beaten by car trouble and a calendar clash. I had only intended to watch this year, but stepped in at the last moment. I have played both sides of the Dragon, but not since the mid-1980s.

We saw only one example of the famous Levenfish trap (which, incidentally, caught out Mike Closs in his first-ever game with the Dragon - and almost put him off it completely, until I convinced him to stick with it), when Dave uncorked it against the unfortunate Richard.

All of the games were extremely tactical, with opposite-side castling the norm and unsafe kings tottering around all over the place. The second of my two draws with Matt, for example, had to be seen to be believed - and a draw was the least likely result by some considerable margin.

Elsewhere, Richard's crushing kingside attack against Matt, using the Yugoslav Attack, was probably the best game from the White side of the board and the final game of the day, which saw Dave blunder a piece in the opening against Matt but then proceed to gain unlikely counterplay in an endgame featuring rooks' pawns charging down both sides of the board to somehow earn a draw was another fabulously entertaining encounter.

Final Scores

5/6: Sean Marsh
3.5/6: Matt Jackman
2.5/6: Dave Baillie
1/6: Richard Harris

Dragon Tally

White wins: Five
Black wins: Four
Draws: Three

I am sure Mike would have enjoyed such exciting games and maybe - just maybe - at least one of the competitors will be tempted to take up the Dragon properly in the New Year...!?

We enjoyed our lunch at Cena afterwards. The staff were friendly and quickly found a way to accommodate a party of people who had not booked a table.

It was a very enjoyable day, topped off by an exciting World Cup Final immediately afterwards.

Here is a gallery from the day.





Thursday, 27 October 2022

Project 50

Project 30 recently concluded and has now been replaced by Project 50, which promises to shine even more brightly.

Project 30, which was created as a celebration of my first 30 years of teaching chess in schools, brought five years of hugely enjoyable chess events, featuring players from novice juniors to Grandmasters. We even switched to online events during the lockdown years.

The mathematicians amongst us may have expected Project 30 to be replaced by Project 35.

In fact, the new project name marks 50 years since I received my first chess set. This was on Christmas morning, 1972. Shops had plenty of chess sets back then, as they riding on the wave of publicity created by the big World Chess Championship match between the reigning champion, Boris Spassky, and his challenger, Bobby Fischer.

Fischer's eccentricities, indulged by most of the world who just wanted to see him play, together with the context of USSR versus the USA, guaranteed big chess headlines throughout 1972.

I still consider Bobby Fischer to be the greatest of all chess players (so far), despite 50 years having flown by since he finally achieved his goal of becoming World Chess Champion.

There will be many events over the course of the year. Indeed, we have already had the inaugural Women's Invitation Tournament, which was a great success.

We have three main events which will run throughout the year and the 10 players have been confirmed.

David Baillie

Sean Cassidy

John Garnett

Peter Harker

Richard Harris

Matt Jackman

Sean Marsh

Stephen Ollis

Royce Parker

Kevin Waterman
(Blitz and Rapidplay; not Classical)

Here are basics.

Rapidplay Tournament (All-play-all; two games against each opponent with 30 minutes on each clock. A 1-1 result does not require a tiebreaker. The champion will be the player with the most points.)

Blitz Event (All-play-all; 10 games against each opponent with five minutes on each clock. NO increments. Three points per match win; two points each if 5-5; one point per match defeat. All 10 games do not need to be played in a single sitting. The champion will be the player with the most match points, with 'goal difference' used as the tiebreaker - so please play all 10 games, even if the match has already been decided before then.)

Full-length games (36 moves in 90 minutes and then 15 extra minutes each for the remainder of the game. All-play-all; random draw for colours immediately prior to the game. Drawn games do not require a replay. The champion will be the player with the most points.)

All games will be unrated, so we can focus on the games themselves and enjoy chess without inhibitions.

Please arrange your games with each opponent (I won't do a formal round-by-round draw). Start as soon as you like.

The venue can be anywhere you like. Face-to-face chess is the default setting, but online encounters are OK if both players agree.

All three tournaments have a deadline of the end of May 2023.

Results Update

Rapidplay Tournament 

David Baillie 2-0 Royce Parker

Blitz Event

David Baillie 10-0 Royce Parker

Wednesday, 31 August 2022

English Chess Federation BOOK of the YEAR 2022 Short List

English Chess Federation

BOOK of the YEAR 2022

Short List

Many of the high quality books received this year concentrated on chess training. Perhaps reflecting current anxieties the emphasis was not only on chess positions, but also on how the chess mind
works in actual play. Three have been selected. The exception was the final volume in a trilogy on one of the greatest players who ever lived.

Analyzing the Chess Mind Gulko and Sneed Quality Chess pp 224 £26.99

Gulko is an extremely strong grandmaster who uniquely has won both the Soviet and US championships, while Sneed is a Professor of Psychology. Together they are very well placed to consider chess mind issues in a well – chosen selection of games and positions. Two sample subjects: Losing winning positions and Problems in self- confidence. This book is both instructive and very readable.

Emanuel Lasker Volume Three 
Forster, Negele, Tischbierek editors Exzelsior Verlag pp 468 £54.95

Subtitled, Labours and Legacy Chess, Philosophy and Psychology this third volume which covers Lasker’s life from 1914 to his death in New York in 1942. Lasker was a complex man with a myriad of interests and occupations outside chess. It has needed three large volumes to adequately cover all aspects of Lasker’s life. This volume, with the two previous volumes, (both of which featured in earlier Short Lists), are the work of many experts over more than a decade. They and the books do full justice to a world champion of 27 years. An outstanding trilogy in every way.

Improve Your Chess Calculation 
Ramesh New in Chess pp332 £26.95

This is the book for anyone who wishes to improve their calculation abilities and work their way through this substantial volume. But it is much more than that as many other aspects of chess improvement are touched upon throughout the text. Ramesh is a very gifted coach and writer. He was coach to the Indian “B” team consisting of young players, most of whom are his pupils, to a bronze medal at the recent Olympiad, ahead of the Indian “A” team. No wonder that this book is already a best seller.

Think Like a Super-GM 
Adams and Hurtado Quality Chess pp464 £29.50

Adams, a super-GM himself, and Hurtado who has an engineering scientific, statistical background, have teamed up to produce a most interesting book which works on several levels. Players of varying abilities from amateur to GM were asked to examine 40 selected positions, find the best and follow up moves, whilst their time taken and thoughts were recorded, which were then analysed and compared. Readers can test themselves and calculate their performance. Adams provides analysis and after each puzzle “Adams Insight”. Both authors provide interesting essays on aspects of what makes (or does not) a super-GM. Quality Chess deserve credit for investing in the work behind the book and it is produced to their usual high standards.

Ray Edwards Jovanka Houska Sean Marsh 31 August 2022

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

On the Brink of Year 35

I am ready to start my 35th consecutive year of teaching chess in schools.

Every year, I have the same thoughts and questions, including:

'Can I still teach as well as I did last year?'

'What new obstacles will I find in my way this time?'

'How much can I achieve with all of my schools and pupils?'

'Will this year be the last?'

Over the course of the first 34 years, there has been much I have enjoyed. Many people have done their best to help me and some have remained extraordinarily loyal for a very long time. One day, I will write all about my favourite people.

There has also been much I have had to endure, with some people trying their hardest to stand in the way of progress. I try not to suffer fools at all, let alone gladly; something I have been working on in recent times - and very successfully, too.

Also, what passes for normal behaviour in the classroom has changed dramatically and alarmingly for the worse. One day, I will reveal all of the extremes, but most of it will be unbelievable to anyone who does not work in schools.

I don't need to prove anything about the benefits of chess. They should be too obvious. The important detail is that the skills we encourage to develop are definitely transferable.

Strong chess players can make very poor tutors. Great teachers can be novice chess players. Which is the better combination of the two? The one with the great teacher - every time. Great teachers can teach virtually anything. Strong chess players can really struggle to find the most suitable level to be able teach chess successfully.

What does teaching chess in schools entail? A plethora of skills one wouldn't normally suspect were required. Lifting and rearranging furniture - and making sure it is all back in the correct place afterwards. Making sure children are collected by their parents at the end of an after-school session. Not really the chess tutor's job, but who else is going to do it?

Taking the register if the teacher is late into class. Maintaining classroom discipline. Not upsetting teachers from neighbouring classrooms with the unmistakable sounds of children having fun. Finding another room to make way for someone else. In the distant past I fell for the 'one where we use the school hall and get booted out shortly after starting because it's nearly lunchtime.' 

One learns to avoid the more obvious traps, over time.


Working in schools is a proven way to build up resilience and moral fibre.

The largest class I've ever had? Over 65 - in a Secondary School. They had messed up the internal timings and sent three groups at once (send three groups at once in 2022 and the number of children could well exceed 100).


The most members of staff I have had talking loudly in classroom during a chess session? Six, ten years ago. 

The smallest room I've ever been expected to use? A broom cupboard - and I still had to share with the brooms and buckets.

The journey continues. The remarkably good people still outnumber the remarkably bad ones; an important yardstick. Although the winds of change continue to blow. David Hardy and Richard Harding, two of my closest friends, retired from frontline chess teaching this year and my own world will be a poorer place now that I will no longer be able to work alongside them.

Will this year be the last? All manner of futures are possible, from this moment on.

In recent times, there has been an unexpected pandemic through which to navigate. It could have destroyed most of what it took so many years to build up and maintain, yet by retraining to accommodate the option of online delivery enough continuity was retained to keep on going and to pick up the fragments afterwards.

We continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. Will schools still be able to fund 'luxury items' now that their power bills are quadrupling? Indeed - will any of us manage to keep on going and still be able to pay the bills? Serious consequences will have to be endured as we are forced to pick up the tab for the extreme profiteering of others.

It would be good to complete at least four full decades but, having started in 1988, I do have a foothold in five different ones.

Yes; let's keep the journey going for a while longer. I still have new plans and projects in mind and it will be interesting to see how much more can be achieved.