Wednesday 22 December 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 35

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
*Column 35*
**December 2004**

Dear Readers,

Christmas time is upon us again. It is a time to reflect on the year that has just been and look forward to the one to come. It is a time of wonder, a time of joy. For example, when you see pictures of David Blunkett and his girlfriend you can’t help but wonder who is the blind one. One also has to wonder at the way the world is going and where man’s priorities really lie. Did you know that there is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra than on Alzheimer's research? This means that by 2020, there should be a large elderly population with fine looking bits and bobs and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them.

Romantics are forever wanting snow for Christmas but they are not the ones who face an away trip to Whitby. Older people refer to snow only as ‘that white stuff’ (thus confusing many students) as if the very mention of the dreaded name will bring it tumbling from the heavens.

Of course, in our cosy world of local chess we don’t really care about politics, science or special preparations. After all, we can’t all be Botvinnik.

So here’s a few chessy trinkets to provide you with a little escape from what is jokingly referred to as The Real World…

Three Problems

White To Play And NOT Mate In One Move!

White To Play – Checkmate In Three Moves

White To Play – Checkmate In Eight Moves

So what will 2005 bring for us chess players? We can’t all have our wishes granted because in chess, as in life, one’s happiness is often bought at the expense of another person’s unhappiness. So what does that leave me to wish you as my UNCUT! Xmas message? A year of self-improvement, of aiming for the personal best and of all-round change for the better.

*Best Wishes To All!*

Monday 22 November 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 34

The Sean Marsh Chess Column

Column 34
November 2004

England, Oh England!

Dear Readers,

Did any of you follow the England performance at the recent Chess Olympiad?

Way back at the first ever Olympiad, (London 1927) England took third place. Of course, the Olympiads were much smaller in those days and Russia-free but England continued to more or less hold their own even when other countries began to stockpile Grandmasters and we had to rely on talented amateurs.

Some of you may remember the thrilling chase for gold at the Dubai Olympiad back in 1986 when England lost out to Russia (headed by Kasparov and Karpov) by half a point. We all believed that it marked a big turning point and that England might even progress beyond their position as number two in the world. It should have been the start of something bigger. Instead, it was a peak England reached and never went beyond.

Well, this time it wasn’t an easy task following England’s progress after the first few rounds because the team was scoring so poorly that it vanished off the top pairings lists.

At first, I thought they might have just had trouble warming up because they followed up a nervy looking 2½-1½ against Turkey with 3-1 victories against both Croatia and Denmark in the next couple of rounds. Things didn’t ever get better than that; a substandard 2½-1½ against Canada was followed by defeats to Poland, the Netherlands and Hungary, with a solitary victory over Mexico in between. Despite being dumped very much into ‘the pack’ England were completely unable to lift their performance and the last six rounds brought a mixed of victories against Indonesia and Macedonia, draws with Iceland, Belarus and Australia and a catastrophic defeat to Vietnam.

The final standings told no lies. England’s tally of 31 points was only enough to hold 30th place (they started the event seeded 6th) – their lowest ever placing. Michael Adams played in 13 games and scored 10 points. So where did it all go wrong?

A couple of months or so ago, when it was announced that the England team had a new sponsor, hopes and expectations were higher than usual. Adams and Short were confirmed as team members and Luke McShane was on good form and would be expected to score heavily on board 3. Completing the squad were Jonathan Speelman, Peter Wells and Mark Hebden. It looked good.

The first wheel came off even before the first pawn was pushed. It soon became apparent that Short wouldn’t be able to join the squad until the last few rounds due to another tournament commitment.

Straight away we see a problem. A squad of six is deemed necessary to bring out the best in a team and the art of choosing who to play and when to rest is an essential part of potential success. By including a player in a squad when he can only make the last few rounds is a completely unbalanced way of thinking and it is assuming that such a player is going to score so heavily when he does arrive that is going to outweigh the advantage of having a full squad right from the start. Short’s ultimate score of 1½/4 was clearly a major disappointment but even if he’d won all of his games, would it have been worth it? It must go down as a serious error of judgement.

I’m not convinced that the chosen squad was the best one for the job. The team seems to lack a certain something; the hunger for victory, the ability to dominate the lesser teams rather than drop points to all and sundry. It cannot be that the majority of the team was off form.

We are missing Sadler who more or less gave up chess several years ago. We have never really replaced the likes of Nunn and Chandler who traditionally scored heavily for the team.

There are two full years to go before the next Olympiad. What can be done to improve matters before then? A good shake up is essential. There is still a clique element, which in my opinion prevents the best team being selected. There is far too much of the ‘cosy slipper’ mentality; team selections must be braver. Changes must be made to return a sense of dynamism to the England team, both on and off the board.

It shouldn’t take much to elevate our standing above 30th. It might take a great deal more to return us to the dizzy heights reached in 1986, or even 1927. Whatever happens, one thing is crystal clear: what we are doing now simply isn’t good enough.

Sean Marsh

November 2004

Wednesday 22 September 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 33

The Sean Marsh Chess Column

Column 33
September 2004

Dear Readers,

It’s a funny thing, communication. The brain is useful for filling in the gaps and discrepancies that occur between the message sent and the message received.
For instance, next time you’re out shopping, listen very carefully at what the newspaper vendor is actually shouting. He’s not really calling out the name of the local newspaper he is selling. Listen and it sounds more like he’s shouting ‘Boiled cabbage! Boyyyyyyled cabbage!’ Yet the brain repairs the information slip and without thinking we actually understand what it is that he is trying to advertise.

While you’re there on the high street, you might also care to ponder the mysteries of why people who sell the ‘Big Issue’ always dress like they are the middle of a particularly bad winter, even on the hottest, sunniest days. Are they remnants of all those one-hit-wonder grunge bands from a decade ago? I have it on good authority that the best way to avoid dealing with a former Spin Doctor is to reply to their cry of ‘Big Issue!’ with a prompt riposte of ‘Bless you!’ and speedy turn of heel.

And what can we make of the religious enthusiasts who, good book in hand, shout out loud biblical lessons, whether you want to hear them or not. The curious thing to notice here is that they never seem to arrive or leave. They are just there, in full flow. Never do we see one of them arrive, sort his corner out, open the book, clear the throat and slowly build to a crescendo. Never do we see him finish the lesson, close the book and wander casually off to buy a newspaper. It’s very odd.

What has this got to do with chess? Nothing at all, of course but as the excitement of the new season starts to build we always encounter a small trickle of information/disinformation regarding who will play for which team, which star players Peterlee may or may not have up their sleeves for the big encounters this year, which players have given up and, most importantly of all, have any really strong ones just moved into the area and turned up, quite by chance, on the door step of Middlesbrough Rooks.

Usually, of course, the communications feature a huge amount of rumours and things remain pretty much as they always were. In a couple of weeks most of the cards will be on the table. All the old enthusiasm returns, rivalries are dusted off and plots and plans are devised and dreamed of.

Chess, chess chess! That’s why we’re all here. We chess, therefore we are.

Champions’ Games

For some people, the season never really ended. As reported last time, several of our local players braved the rigours of the British Championship and we were delighted to welcome back two British Champions.

Here’s a couple of games and a few snippets from the 2004 joint British Senior Champions, with their own annotations….

David Smith – G. Ellison
British Senior Championship (5), 11.08.2004

1.d4 e6 2.Nf3 f5 3.g3 Nf6 4.Bg2 Be7 5.0–0 0–0 6.c4 d6 7.Nc3 Qe8 8.b3 I don't know a lot about the systems where White goes for e4 so just went for a modest system of development. 8...Nc6 9.Bb2 Bd7 10.a3 Checking later on a database I found that 10 d5 Nd8 11 dxe6 Nxe6 is a common continuation. 10...Qh5 11.b4 Rae8 12.e3 Bc8 A strange move. 12 ... Bd8 aiming for ... e5 seems reasonable. 13.d5 White now seems to get the advantage whatever Black does. 13...Nb8 14.Nb5 c6 15.Nc7 Rd8 16.Nxe6 Bxe6 17.dxe6 Na6

Black is likely to regain the lost pawn but by then White will have serious play on the Queenside. 18.Nd4 Nc7 19.Qxh5 Nxh5 20.b5 No need for the tempting Nxf5 Rxf5 21 g4. It's simpler to play against Black's Queenside pawns. 20...c5 21.Ne2 b6 22.a4 Bf6 I can't find any improvement, eg. if 22 ... Nf6 23 a5 Nxe6 then 26 axb6 axb6 27 Ra7 23.Bxf6 23 Bc3 is quite a tempting alternative. 23...Rxf6 24.a5 Rxe6 If 24 ... Nxe6 25 axb6 axb6 26 Nc3 and then if 26 ... Nc7 27 Ra7 Rf7 28 Nd5 keeps Black tied up. 25.axb6 axb6 26.Ra7

26...Re7 27.Rb7 Nf6 28.Rxb6 d5 If he does nothing White can strengthen his position with moves like Rc6, Nc3, Rd1 or Rb1 and choose his moment to play b6. 29.cxd5 Ncxd5 If 29 ... Nfxd5 then 30 Rb7 30.Rc6 Rc7 31.Rd1 Rdd7

On the face of it Black seems to be 'holding on' but there's a tactical possibility for White. 32.Rxd5 Nxd5 33.Bxd5+ Kf8 34.Rxc7 Rxc7 35.b6 Rc8 36.b7 Rb8 37.Nc3 Ke7 38.Kf1 Kd6 39.Ke2 g6 40.Kd3 Ke5 41.Kc4 1–0

G. James – David Smith
British Senior Championship (2), 08.2004
In Round 2 my opponent played the opening poorly as White and after 15 moves his position was critical. I continued... 15...g5 16 Bg3 ...and could now have played 16 ... e6 as 17 h3 is met by 17 ... exd5 18 hxg4 de and various piece sacrifices seem to be inadequate eg. 17 Ndb5 exd5 18 Nc7 Bxc3 19 Qxc3 Nxe4 20 Qf3 Nxg3 21 Qxg3 Rb8 22 Na6 bxa6 23 Qxb8 Qe7+ However I preferred the simple win of a pawn by... 16...Nxe4 17 Bxe4 Qxd4 Now 18 Rd1 might have set Black a few more problems but White preferred... 18 Qxd4 Bxd4 19 Nb5 and after... 19...Bxb2 20 Rb1 Be5 21 Bxe5 Nxe5 ...he hoped to force a draw by... 22 Nc7 Rb8 23 Na6

However I had prepared the surprising 23...Bf5 so that if 24 Nxb8 Bxe4 the Nb8 is doomed and if 24 Bxb7 then 24 ... Bxc2 is deadly. White had nothing better than... 24 Bxf5 bxa6 ...and Black had a 'won position'. However a combination of imprecise moves by Black and dogged play by White eventually resulted in a draw after 50 moves. ½–½

D. Levens – David Smith
British Senior Championship (4), 08.2004
I had plenty of good fortune in Round 4. After 19 moves Black was in serious trouble, due to neglecting development. 19 ...0–0–0 is probably best but I played 19...d5 20 Rxf5 Bb4 Hoping to exploit the position of the Nc3. White had prepared 21 Qe1 Ne7 22 Bd2 Now ...Kf8 might be best. I played 22...0–0 and hoped that White would go wrong. If he had played Rf6 I can see no satisfactory defence to Qe2 and Qxh5 but instead he played 23 Rxb4 Now 23 ... Qxb4 24 Nxd5 Qxd4+ is good for Black but 23 ...Qxb4 24 Ne4 Qxd4+ 25 Be3 is very unpleasant for me. 23...Nxf5

White could now have interposed 24 Rxb6 when 24 ... Nxd4 25 Qd1 Qxb6 26 Be3 is very tricky but 24 ... Qxb6 25 Bxf5 Qxd4+ 26 Be3 Qe5 is probably winning for Black. 24 Bxf5 Qxb4 25 Ne4 Qxd4+ 26 Be3 Qe5 White is probably winning after 26 ... Qxe4 27 Bxe4, as Qe2 and Qxh5 can follow. 27 Nf6+ Kh8 28 Qf2

White threatens 29 Bd4 or 29 Qf3. I played 28...Rfe8 so that 29 Bd4 can be met by ... Qxe1+. White should now have played 29 Nxe8 Qxe8 30 Bxd4+ Kg8 31 Kg2 (threatening 32 Qf3) with practical chances. Instead he played 29 Ng4

allowing 29...Qa1+ 30 Kg2 Rxe3 31 Nxe3 Nc4 and after 32 Nf1 the only way to avoid the Knight exchange 32...Qe5 Black went on to win. 0–1

Meanwhile, Norman was stepping up the pace with this great third round victory…

Norman Stephenson – N. Gill
British Senior Championship (3), 09.08.2004
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 c5 White can now take a Semi-Tarrasch by 7 Nf3 which is slightly better for him but he can now avoid the ....Bb4 simplification by 7 Rb1 or.... 7.a3 Be7 8.Nf3 0–0 9.Bd3 b6 10.Qe2 Bb7 11.0–0

11...cxd4 Better to go 11 ...Nc6 directly when 12 Bb2 is not so attractive as in the game. 12.cxd4 Nc6 13.Bb2 Rc8 White now has to organise his Rooks....maybe d1/e1 would be better but he saw the game continuation as far as move 21 and thought it a strong argument in favour of 14.Rac1 Na5 15.Ba6 I don't think Black had thought of this simple plan. 15...Rxc1 16.Rxc1 Qb8 17.Bxb7 Qxb7 18.Qc2 Bd6 19.e5 Bb8 20.Ng5 g6 21.Ne4 Kg7 22.Nf6 b5 Without this move, Black could have packed it in. 23.d5

23...Nc4 24.d6 Rc8 Found 'when he got there', this keeps Black in the game (he is going to get my lovely N+P for his lousy R). 25.d7 Rd8 25 ...N e3 26 fxe3 wins easily. 26.Qe2 Rxd7 27.Nxd7 Qxd7 28.Rd1 Qe7 29.a4 It would simplify White's winning process if he could set up the §b5 as a target. 29...a6 but - 29 ...Qb4 30 axb5 Qxb2 31 Qxc4 Qxd4 would be hard for White to win once ... Bb6 is played. 30.axb5 axb5 31.Bc3 Qc5 32.Bd4 Qc7 33.Qe4 h6 White cannot get his Q connected to the key squares for mounting an attack on the Black King.... 34.Rc1 ...and instead heads after the pb5 34...Ba7 35.Bxa7 Qxa7 36.Qf4 Qe7 37.Rb1 Nb6 38.Rxb5 Nd5 39.Qc1 Qa7 40.g3 Qd4

Now it's a matter of driving off the Black Q from the centre - without allowing any shots like 41 Qb1? Qd1+ 42 Kg2 Nf4+41.Qe1 Nc3 42.Rb3 Nd5 43.h3 h5 44.h4 Ne7 45.Rb4 Qd5 46.Qe4 Qxe4 Black dare not allow the White Q possible access to f6. 47.Rxe4 The winning plan will be to bring the K&R to bear on Black's one weakness - the pf7 - while avoiding giving the N any scope among the White pawns. 47...f6? This relieves the crampedness but the resulting weakended pawns and squares will make White's task mush easier. 48.exf6+ Kxf6 49.Kg2 e5 50.Ra4 g5 51.Ra6+ Kf5 52.Rh6 1–0

Here’s Norman’s last round marathon in which he induced a Knightmare for the opponent…

David Anderton – Norman Stephenson
British Senior Championship (7), 13.08.2004
1.d4 e6 2.c4 Bb4+ Last year's fifth round encounter had gone 2 ...f5 3 Nf3 Nf6 4 g3 Bb4+ 3.Bd2 Qe7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.a3 Bxd2+ 6.Nbxd2 d6 7.e4 e5 This was looking like a rather nice Bogo-Indian to me. 8.d5 Bg4 Gotta get rid of this other Bishop as well! 9.Be2 Bxf3 10.Bxf3

White's Bishop is a disgrace. 10...0–0 11.0–0 c5 12.b4 b6 13.Qb3 Rather superficial play by White - who was playing at a speed which reinforced my impression of the superficiality of his thinking. 13...Nbd7 14.Rfb1 I don't think he had even an inkling of my ideas in this position. 14...cxb4 15.axb4 a5 16.Qa4 Oops - he was lucky to have even this after he saw my last couple of moves. 16...Rfc8 17.Qb5 Qd8 18.Nb3 axb4 19.Qxb4 Qc7 20.Nd2

Compare the minor pieces if you want to assess White's opening play.20...Qc5 21.Qxc5 bxc5 22.Kf1 Kf8 23.Ke2 Rxa1 The Queenside has always been Black's playground since the 8th move. 24.Rxa1 Rb8 25.Kd3 Rb4 26.Bd1 Nb6 Ties up White's pieces and closes the 'a4' door on that pathetic Bishop....White still has not seen Black's ideas in this position. 27.Ra7 g6 28.g3 h5 After this, I heard him say 'Gosh' to himself, under his breath. Black's free Knight is about to commence a reign of terror of the Kingside. 29.h3 g5 30.f3 h4 31.g4 Ng8

Now, I was sure that I was going to win (and David was a pawn up on the next board). 32.Bb3 Ne7 33.Ra1 Ng6 34.Rh1 Nf4+ 35.Ke3 Nd7 36.Rh2 Ke7 37.Rh1 Kd8 38.Rh2 Kc7 39.Rh1 Kb6 40.Bc2 Kc7 Ok - he saw that one... 41.Bb3 Rb7 42.Rh2 Ra7 43.Nb1 Rb7 Ok - he saw that one, too. 44.Nd2 Nb6 45.Bd1 Ra7 46.Be2 Ra3+ 47.Kf2 Ra2 48.Ke1 Kb7 49.Bf1 Na4 50.Kd1 Nb2+ 51.Kc1 Nbd3+ 52.Kd1 Kb6 53.Bxd3 Nxd3 54.Ke2 Nf4+ 55.Ke3 Rb2 56.Rh1 Kb7 57.Rh2 Ka6 58.Rh1 Kb6 59.Ra1 Kb7 Ok - he saw that one as well. 60.Rh1 f6 61.Rh2 Rc2 62.Rh1 Kc7 63.Rh2 Rc1

But, did he see that one? 64.Kf2 Kb6 65.Nf1 Rc2+ 66.Ke3 Rxh2 67.Nxh2 Nxh3 68.Kd3 Ng1 69.Kc3 Ka5 70.Kb3 Ne2 71.Ka3 Nd4 0–1

...And with that classical Karpovian crush we shall say goodbye until next month!

Sean Marsh

September 2004

Sunday 22 August 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 32

The Sean Marsh Chess Column

Column 32
August 2004

At The British

The great thing about having the British Championships at Scarborough is that it gives us North Easterners a decent chance of getting there to either play or spectate. I was fortunate to be able to pop along and see some of the many games and I enjoyed seeing a good number of our locals in action.

The full story and results can be found on the B.C.F. website, but here’s a few highlights…

The big news from the championship itself is that when Gawain Jones agreed a short draw in the ninth round, he secured his third and final norm towards the title of International Master!

There will be those who remember when Gawain burst on to the local scene as a very young junior, winning the Elmwood U-9 championship when he was six and then taking the local junior U-18 sections by storm, as well as developing into a feared league competitor. He notched up scalps faster than a hyperactive apache warrior. Then he moved to Italy, much to the relief of many locals (especially those who were still nursing ‘plus scores’ against him). He is now living in Ireland, so our local open tournaments may no longer be as safe as they were. There will be more about Gawain in a future UNCUT!

Norman Stephenson went off to defend his British Senior title. This time he was joined by another local player, David Smith, who has been slowly returning to full chess activity following a few quiet years. David has remained a very strong player and was in the thick of the action form start to finish. After the seven rounds, David and Norman shared the title with 5.5/7, both unbeaten. What a fantastic result for local chess!

Norman and Major Open competitor David Wise

Two of our best juniors were also in action. Dominic Leigh was unbeaten in the Under-100 championship but just lost out on the title, finishing half a point off the lead.

Young Thomas Mavin was very close to picking up a title but was half a point off top spot in the Under-8s and a point off it in the Under-9s.

Elmwood’s Andrew Killick had a good tournament and shared first in the Harry Baines Week 1 event.

Durham’s chess killer twins, Thomas and David Eggleston, were also in the thick of the action.

David looked set to take the Under-16 title but missed his way on the critical last round game and ended up losing.

Thomas played in the FIDE World Major section and battled away on the top boards throughout the 11 rounds. He eventually shared third place, just a point off winning the event.

Expect some British games from our heroes in a forthcoming UNCUT!

Tuesday 22 June 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 31

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
Column 31

June 2004
Cup Finals End The Season
The final of the Tom Wise KO Cup took place at the very end of the local season and saw a crunch match between two of the strongest local teams. Elmwood, who dominated the A Division this season with a 100% winning streak, were a shade fortunate to reach the final after a very tough semi-final against The Rooks. Peterlee had beaten a more convincing path to the door of cup success and never looked like losing in any of the previous rounds.

Here’s a quick resume of what happened…

Peterlee won the toss and thus had White on boards 1, 3 and 5.

J. Simpson ½-½ S. Marsh
The first game to finish. In a fairly even position, Black forced the draw with a perpetual attack on the White Queen.

C. Walton ½-½ M. Closs
A fascinating encounter. Both sides were playing for the win for some time but with half of the board blocked, a breakthrough became increasingly unlikely.

S. Dauber ½-½ C. Smith
Steve seemed to be getting a positional edge in the late middlegame, and it looked to be shaping up for a classic good Knight v bad Bishop ending. However, Collin’s forceful play prevented this from happening and there were lively complications. Eventually, a draw was agreed at almost the same time as it was on board two.

J. Garnett 1–0 S. Carter
Steve, who has had the better of John this season, developed a strong-looking attack. However, at the critical moment he chose a line which just left him worse and John went on to quickly convert his advantage. This was the pivotal game of the match.

A. Killick 1–0 W. McGregor
From a position in which both sides had weak pawns, Bill seemed to be holding his own but a couple of unfortunate consecutive errors led to ruinous material loss.

Final Score: Elmwood 3½, Peterlee 1½

The Plate final was equally exciting. Elmwood Juniors have had a terrific season, winning the B Division title and winning the NCCU Minor Championship. In contrast, Synthonia A have struggled in the A Division and suffered relegation. It ended up a bit like the old football play-offs, where the bottom teams in one league faced the top teams of the next division down. The teams from the higher division usually triumphed, despite having an otherwise miserable season.

P. Mitcheson 0-1 M. Creaney
Mike gained an advantage early on and never looked likely to let the win slip. Drawing the teeth from one of Elmwood’s biggest hitters inspired the rest of the Synthonia team.

P. Frank ½-½ B. Myers
Brian looked to have the advantage deep into the endgame, but a draw was agreed when it became apparent that the match was effectively over.

P. Gorley ½-½ S. Roe
Rivals since junior days, these two played out a fairly balanced game to a draw.

N. Webb 0-1 B. Whitaker
A good game by Brian, although Nick possibly missed a chance to set up a blockade right at the end.

D. Leigh ½-½ D. Frank
Dominic pushed hard for the win but had to settle for the draw after some very fine battling moves late on.

Final Score: Synthonia A 3½, Elmwood Juniors 1½

Middlesbrough chess club very kindly hosted the matches and our thanks go to them. It is unusual for a Middlesbrough team not to appear in either of the finals and it was good to see that this didn’t stop them entering into the spirit of the competition.

Dominic Leigh continued his great form long after the season had officially ended. On consecutive weekends, he beat British Senior Co-Champion Norman Stephenson in a simultaneous display and followed that up with a convincing demonstration of power at the 1st Stockton-on-Tees U-18 Chess Championship.

Meanwhile, if you ever wanted to meet Garry Kasparov, now’s your chance. The great man will be at The London Chess Centre on Saturday 3rd July 2004. There will be a signing session followed by a Q&A session. For full details, don’t hesitate to head off over to:

Sean Marsh
June 2004

Saturday 1 May 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 30

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
Column 30
May 2004


Dear Readers,

Poor ‘Big’ Ron Atkinson. Caught out by the old ‘leave the microphone on’ trick, he dropped his guard and fell into the obvious trap. Of course he will be back but it may take some time; he will probably have to start on Sky 25, commentating on local school matches before working his way back up. Until then, we’ll have to do without his manifold words of wisdom and pithy comments, such as…

'Well, either side could win, or it could be a draw'

'He's really gambled all his eggs'

'I would not say that Ginola is the best left-winger in the Premiership, but there are none better'

Of course, such controversial matters are often a matter of perspective. It is always a mystery to me why ‘the man in the crowd’ can freely shout at someone ‘You lazy ******* ****!’ without any sense of the abuse he is causing, yet as soon as he adds any word with specific racial connotations, the same man can be arrested and subsequently hung, drawn and quartered.
Or, in the case of football commentators, muzzled. If he’d been insulted an Irishman and called him a lazy P***y, I doubt he’d have suffered the same fate. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Surely the two things are the same and should be treated as such. Or is my perception at fault here?

Ahhhhhh the delights of spam! It started life as an acronym for ‘Specially Pressed American Meats’ and one does still enjoy the occasional Spam Fritter from the local Barnacles. If you remember an old show called ‘Budgie’, starring the late, great Adam Faith, you may remember a character called ‘Laughing Spam Fritter’.
The famous Monty Python sketch, which enhanced the ubiquitous nature of spam, will also live on through history as a fun and novel entertainment. But spam has evolved into something apparently designed purely to annoy.
I mean, how many of us are actually going to be stupid enough to actually buy something from the copious amount of rubbish adverts we receive every day via e-mail? Dodgy software, male enhancement pills, alternative medicines…is it likely that we chess players are going to be remotely interested in any of those things?
Of course not. The people who generate the junk should try tailoring their adverts to suit their targets. For instance, if we received an e-mail promising to improve our performances against the Nimzo-Indian Defence, raise our standards in tough tournaments or enable us to keep our end up in the most testing of endgames we’d all be ordering things by the dozen.
It would seem to me that the people who dish these things out suffer from a complete lack of perspective. Or maybe they are right all along and their aim really is just to annoy us all and give us a mass case of repetitive stress injury caused by hitting 'delete’ a few thousand times.

And what has this got to do with chess? Well, nothing at all, except the theme this month is ‘perspective’ – something which could be said to have a big influence on the outcome of this season’s county championship...

The twists and turns of a tournament lasting the length of a domestic season can never be predicted. So much effort is required over seven months. Trying to keep it for that long is certainly no easy matter.

This year’s County Individual Championship produced enough surprises to last for several seasons and a final round that nobody would have believed possible.

My own chances of retaining the title it had taken me 20 years to win had taken a massive blow in the very first round when I took a tumble after a fascinating encounter with Ian Elcoate (see UNCUT! 26). For a long time it seemed as if the stalemate I could have forced towards the end of the game would be the missed half-point that I would be forced to regret for a long time.

However, the three leaders were content to draw with each other and nobody was able to establish a commanding dominance. Steve Dauber dropped a valuable half-point to Ian and Paul Gregory was quite fortunate to escape with a draw against John Garnett.
Meanwhile, former champion Mike Closs had played a very professional tournament. He had drawn with his three main rivals and beaten three of the pack, leaving him needing just one more victory to be assured of at least a play-off for the title. However, last rounds have rules of their own and one has to expect the unexpected….

Denise Mosse – Mike Closs
County Champs (7), 16.04.2004

(Notes by D.M. Mosse)

1.e4 The score before this game was very large - something like 10–0 to Mike .
1...d6 2.d4 Nd7 Capa tried this against d4 c4 and e4 d4.
3.Bc4 Ngf6 4.Qe2 e5 Don't think Capa ever transposed to Hanham Philidor's.
5.Nf3 h6 Bad - but methinks it's forced - or maybe play ...d5.
6.0–0 c6 7.a4 Be7 8.Rd1 Qc7 9.c3 0–0 10.Nbd2 Re8 Even though I didn't exploit this properly I don't like it. Plus, Mike will always be ten tons better than me.
11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Nf1 a5 Can't see why this is good.
13.Ng3 Bf8 Going into a Ruy Lopez type position but with White's Bishop on c4.
14.Be3 Nc5 With this move Black encourages me to gambit a pawn.
15.Nh4 Debatable.
15...Ncxe4 16.Nxe4 Nxe4 17.Bxh6 Nxc3 18.bxc3 gxh6 19.Qe4 Be6 20.Bd3 Destiny calling for this Bishop. 20...Bg7 Starting to think Mish was doing his usual against me.
21.Qh7+ Kf8 22.Bf5 Qe7 23.Bxe6 Qxh4 Maybe taking the Bishop was better.
24.Bd7 Red8 Sets himself up. When the chance comes I don't take it but Mish doesn't rectify and then I do spot it.
25.Rd3 Qf6 26.Rf3 Qe7 27.Rg3 Still thought I was struggling but watch the Exocets!.
27...f6 28.Bf5
Missed it! 28...Rd2 So did Mish. 29.Be6! Qxe6 30.Rxg7

This left Steve and I in a position to draw our last round game to share the title, which we duly did. Critics will jump in at this point and say we should have gone for blood. Well, blame me, I had the White pieces and after the trials of a lengthy and difficult tournament decided to ‘stick’ rather than ‘twist’.

This little cross table, showing the results between the top four graded players, tells its own story.

SM XX draw draw 1-0
SD draw XX draw draw
MC draw draw XX draw
PG 0-1 draw draw XX

The game which really gave me the chance to finally obtain an opportunity to battle for top honours was the penultimate round. I was amazed to still be in with a shout but only a win would do. The opening was interesting…

Paul Gregory – Sean Marsh
County Championship, Round 6

1 d4 d5 2 c4 e5
What can we say about the Albin Counter-Gambit? The public perspective is one of an unsound trinket, rightly buried amongst the treasure of ‘real’ openings.
In his famous tournament book, ‘St. Petersburg 1914’ Tarrasch explained why he played 3 e3 in this position against Alekhine,
‘On principal, I accept no gambit as the first player, for if I must defend myself as the second player and should also defend myself as the first player, when should I then really enjoy the pleasure of attack?'
That game was drawn. Maybe Tarrasch was also a little bit concerned about trying to hold the fiery young Alekhine in a tactical battle. Alekhine later repeated the Albin against the great Lasker but the old fox, who delighted in solving problems over the board, won after a complicated struggle.
In ‘My Fifty Years of Chess’ , in the game Marshall – Janowski, Havana 1913, Frank Marshall makes an interesting comment on the position after Black’s second move,
To play this counter-attack against a player of equal strength with the idea of gaining a point is ridiculous!’
Did Marshall forget that he had played the gambit himself on numerous occasions – even against Janowski!– or was this comment actually from the pen of ghost-writer Fred Reinfeld, rumoured to have written a large amount of the book in question?

3 dxe5 d4 4 Nf3 Nc6 5 Nbd2 Bf5 (This line hopes for a quick ..Nb4) 6 a3 Qd7 7 b4 (A standard plan in the Albin – aiming for a quick storming of the Queenside, where the Black King most often goes. However, it gives the possibility of the shot…) 7 … Bxb4 8 axb4 Nxb4 9 Qa4

(After lengthy thought…White looks to be in a bad way, but it is at this moment that he can force an advantage with the stunning 9 e6! fxe6 10 Ne5! Qd6 11 Nd3 and despite the mess White should consolidate. Needless to say I didn’t see 9 e6! at the time. As played, Black gained the advantage on the board and, psychologically, White was in an understandably bad way.) ….and Black converted the advantage without the need of a second session.


Norman Stephenson, the current Senior British Champion, will be giving a simultaneous display to approximately 25 local juniors as part of the ongoing Chess Links Project.

Sean Marsh

May 2004

Thursday 1 April 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 29

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
Column 29
April 2004

Dear Readers,

From time to time, it is a pleasure to hear from old friends doing well further afield from our cosy local chess environment. Recently I received two sets of games from tournaments outside of the Cleveland scene. One lot came from the Doncaster Open and were supplied by Jonathan ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins and the others came all the way from India.

So let’s jump straight into the action with…

A Postcard From India

From Julian Allinson

Julian was a fellow member of Guisborough Chess Club several lifetimes ago. Since helping Guisborough to their first A division title in 50 years (1988) he has travelled far and wide but always kept in touch. I have received games from him played in many different places. This time he has excelled himself. The following two games were played in a tournament in India, which just happened to coincide with a trip he’d already planned.

Allinson,J - Madhukiran,G
Delhi Tournament, 03.2004

My opponent in this game was one of the many juniors in the tournament who are cropping up in large numbers over India in the wake of the rise of Chess Academies. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 c6 4.Nbd2 f5 5.Ne5 Bd6 6.Nd3 Nf6 7.g3 0–0 8.Bg2 Ne4 9.Qc2 Nd7 10.0–0 Ndf6 11.Nf3 Qe7 12.Nfe5 Bxe5? Black should probably try ... c5 here to add a bit of lime pickle to his defensive popadum. 13.Nxe5 Nd7 14.Nd3 Nd6 15.b3 Nf7 16.Bb2 Nf6 17.f3 g5 18.e4 fxe4 19.fxe4 Nxe4 20.Bxe4 dxe4 21.Nf2 Bd7 22.Nxe4 Nd6?? 23.Ba3 Rxf1+ 24.Rxf1 Rf8 25.Rxf8+ Qxf8 26.Bxd6 Qf5 27.Qf2 1–0

Venkatesh,K - Allinson,J
Delhi Tournament, 03.2004

My opponent in this game was from Chennai (formerly Madras) and became a friend during the tournament. He plays a strange opening in all his games as White (with some notable successes), and when I was paired with him I knew I would be facing the Venkatesh Special. This has now been named the Chicken Madras Opening, but it may have a dubious future.

1.f4 d5 2.g3 g6 3.Nh3?! Bg7 4.Nf2 This is the Chicken Madras Opening. Venkatesh tends to put his Bishop on g2, and to develop, and in some lines breaks with a sacrificial g4 leading to positions resembling the Grob.

4...e5! 5.d3 exf4 6.gxf4 After the game Venkatesh proposed 6 Bxf4 Bxb2 7 Nbd2 Bxa1 8 Qxa1 f6, claiming compensation for the material; I disagreed with this assessment, but one must never underestimate the latent and delayed power of the Madras.

6...Qh4 7.e3 Nc6 8.Qf3 Nh6!? The little-known Vindaloo Gambit; if now 9 Qg3 then Black wins by exchanging Queens and playing ... Nf5. If 9 Qxd5 then the position is unclear, but with a development edge for Black that should provide a sustained initiative. Being from Madras, Venkatesh declines the potent offering.

9.c3 0–0 10.Na3 d4!! Phall!!!! 11.cxd4 Nxd4 12.Qg3 Qe7 13.Bh3 Nhf5 14.Bxf5 Nxf5 15.Qf3 Bxb2 16.Nc2 Bxa1 17.Nxa1 Qb4+ 18.Bd2 Qb1+ 19.Ke2 Qxa2 20.Ng4 Nd4+! It would have been the same after 20 Ne4. 21.exd4 Bxg4 22.Qxg4 Rfe8+ 0–1

If any old friends are reading this column and would like to send me a ‘Postcard From Wherever’ then why not drop me a line at

Drama At Doncaster

There is little doubt that one of the most improved local players over the last couple of seasons is Durham’s Jonathan Hawkins. He was always a good player, but the fairly recent ambitious leap into Open tournaments provided the extra experience needed for a rapid booster in strength.

The following games, from the strong Doncaster Open, show what he is now capable of…
First up, a fighting draw with former Hartlepool star Robert Shaw. The Hawk seems to get the better of the opening but the ensuing struggle peters out a Rook and pawn ending and the players agree to a draw.

Shaw,R (Grade: 199) - Hawkins,J
Doncaster Open (1), 02.2004

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.a4 e5 5.dxe5 Qxd1+ 6.Kxd1 Be6 7.e4 Na6 8.f4 0–0–0+ 9.Bd2 g6 10.Nf3 f6 11.Be2 Bg7 12.exf6 Nxf6 13.Ng5 Nc5 14.Nxe6 Nxe6 15.e5 Nd5 16.Nxd5 cxd5 17.Bg4 Rhe8 18.Bb4 Kd7 19.Kc2 Bf8 20.Kc3 Bxb4+ 21.Kxb4 Ke7 22.Rhf1 Nd4 23.Kc3 Nf5 24.Bxf5 gxf5 25.Rf3 h5 26.Rh3 Rh8 27.Rd1 Ke6 28.Kd4 Rdg8 29.Rd2 Rg4 30.Rf2 h4 31.b3 cxb3 32.Rxb3 Rc8 33.Rc3 Rxc3 34.Kxc3 Rg7 35.Kd3 Rg4 36.Kd4 Rg7 37.Kd3 Rg4 38.a5 Rg7 39.Rc2 Rg4 40.Ke3 Rg7 41.Kf3 d4 42.Rc8 Rd7 43.Ke2 Rg7 44.Kd3 Rxg2 45.Kxd4 Rd2+ 46.Ke3 Rxh2 47.Re8+ Kd7 48.Rh8 Ra2 49.Rxh4 Rxa5 50.Rh6 Ra3+ 51.Kf2 b5 52.Rf6 a5 53.Rxf5 b4 54.Rf6 Rc3 ½–½

Next, The Hawk appears on the other side of the Slav Defence and seizes the advantage against the trendy …a6 variation. Establishing a bind with the c5 and e5 pawns, Jonathan skilfully removes the obstacles to leave himself with a brace of passed pawns which are more than enough to secure a victory.

Hawkins,J - Hutchinson,P (Grade: 198)
Doncaster Open (2), 02.2004

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.e3 b5 6.b3 Bg4 7.Be2 e6 8.Bb2 Nbd7 9.0–0 Bd6 10.a4 bxc4 11.bxc4 Bxf3 12.Bxf3 Bxh2+ 13.Kxh2 Qb8+ 14.Kg1 Qxb2 15.Qd3 Qb4 16.Rfb1 Qa5 17.e4 0–0 18.e5 Ne8 19.c5 Ra7 20.Bd1 g6 21.Qe3 Ng7 22.Bc2 f6 23.f4 Qd8 24.a5 fxe5 25.fxe5 Qh4 26.Ne2 Nf5 27.Bxf5 Rxf5 28.g3 Qg4 29.Kg2 Nf8 30.Rf1 Rb7 31.Rab1 Rxf1 32.Rxb7 Ra1 33.Qf3 Qf5 34.Qxf5 exf5 35.Rb6 Ra2 36.Kf3 g5 37.Rxc6 Rxa5 38.Rd6 Ra3+ 39.Kf2 h5 40.c6 Ra2 41.e6 Ng6 42.c7 Rc2 43.Rd8+ Kg7 44.c8Q Rxc8 45.Rxc8 Kf6 46.Rc6 Ne7 47.Rxa6 f4 48.gxf4 g4 49.Nc3 h4 50.Rd6 1–0

Jon Nelson used to play regularly in our North East tournaments. I haven’t seen him for a number of years; I’ve never seen him crushed like this before….

Hawkins,J - Nelson,J (Grade: 200)
Doncaster Open (3), 02.2004

1.d4 d6 2.e4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3 c6 5.Qd2 Nbd7 6.Nf3 Qc7 7.a4 e5 8.Bc4 Bg7 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.0–0 0–0 11.Rfd1 Nb6 12.Bb3 Bg4 13.a5 Nbd7 14.Qe2 Kh8 15.h3 Bxf3 16.Qxf3 Nh5 17.g3 f5 18.exf5 Rxf5 19.Qg2 Re8 20.Ne4 Bf8 21.Rd2 Bb4 22.c3 Bxa5 23.Nd6 Ref8 24.Nxf5 gxf5 25.Rxd7 Qxd7 26.Rxa5 Qd3 27.Rxe5 Rd8 28.Bd4 Ng7 29.Re3 Qb1+ 30.Qf1 Qxb2 31.Qc4 Qb1+ 32.Kg2 f4 33.Bxg7+ 1–0

The Hawk tasted a rare defeat in round four (only his second loss in a season full of Open events!). However, his opponent is an IM and it was a close battle.

Ledger,A (Grade: 232) - Hawkins,J
Doncaster Open (4), 02.2004
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.h3 c6 6.Nf3 Bf5 7.0–0 e6 8.d3 Qc7 9.Re1 Bc5 10.Ne2 0–0 11.Bf4 Bd6 12.Bxd6 Qxd6 13.Ned4 c5 14.Nxf5 exf5 15.Ne5 Nc6 16.Nxc6 Qxc6 17.a4 a6 18.a5 Rfe8 19.Qd2 g6 20.Rxe8+ Rxe8 21.Re1 Rxe1+ 22.Qxe1 Qd6 23.Qe3 Kg7 24.f4 Qc7 25.c3 Qxa5 26.Qe7 Qb6 27.Bxf7 Qxb2 28.Bd5+ Kh6 29.Qf8+ Kh5 30.Bf3+ Ng4 31.hxg4+ fxg4 32.Qxc5+ Kh6 33.Qg5+ Kg7 34.Qe5+ Kh6 35.Bxg4 Qb1+ 36.Kh2 Qxd3 37.Qg5+ Kg7 38.Qe7+ 1–0

The last round saw another great fight, ending in a draw after nearly all the material had perished in a worthy battle.

Hawkins, J - Gourlay,I (Grade: 211)
Doncaster Open (5), 02.2004

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.f3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nc3 0–0 6.Nge2 c5 7.Be3 Nc6 8.d5 Ne5 9.Ng3 e6 10.Be2 exd5 11.cxd5 a6 12.a4 Bd7 13.0–0 b5 14.axb5 axb5 15.Rxa8 Qxa8 16.Bxb5 Bxb5 17.Nxb5 Qa6 18.Nc3 Rb8 19.Nge2 Nfd7 20.Qa1 Qb7 21.Qa4 Nb6 22.Qc2 Nbc4 23.Bf2 Bh6 24.Ra1 Ne3 25.Qa4 N3c4 26.f4 Nxb2 27.Qa6 Nec4 28.Qxb7 Rxb7 29.g3 f5 30.e5 dxe5 31.Bxc5 Nd3 32.Bf2 e4 33.Bd4 Bg7 34.Ra8+ Kf7 35.Bxg7 Kxg7 36.Nd4 Rb2 37.Ra2 Rxa2 38.Nxa2 Kf6 39.Nc3 Ke7 40.Kf1 Ne3+ 41.Ke2 Ng4 42.h3 Nf6 43.Ke3 Nb4 44.Nc6+ Nxc6 45.dxc6 Kd6 46.Kd4 Kxc6 47.g4 fxg4 48.hxg4 Nxg4 49.Kxe4 Nh6 50.Kf3 Kd6 51.Ne4+ Ke7 ½–½

Well done, Mr. Hawkins!

KO Cup 2003-4

There was high drama at the semi-finals of the Tom Wise KO Cup (held at the Touchdown, Hartlepool, earlier this month).

Peterlee were in a determined mood; having had a disappointing league season, which has seen them fall somewhat short of their of their title aspirations, they advanced to the final after a tough encounter with Middlesbrough Wasps. The Wasps have had a couple of changes in their line up since the start of the season, with their strength somewhat diluted by the absence of John Pallister and Ernie Lazenby. Nevertheless, any side featuring powerhouses David Smith and Joe Spayne must be considered a threat to anyone. However, Peterlee’s big guns, Jimmy Simpson and Colin Walton, were both on great form and two wins from the two boards virtually guaranteed a passage to the final.

Holders Elmwood had a tougher task against Middlesbrough Rooks in the other semi-final. I think it is fair to say that the balance of power in local chess has shifted over the last couple of seasons to the extent that Elmwood are now normally favourites to beat The Rooks. Add to this the facts that The Rooks were yet again under-strength, Elmwood at full strength and that Elmwood are traditionally much better than The Rooks in this tournament and you would think that the odds were stacked in favour of the holders. However, with just one game remaining The Rooks seemed sure of victory.

The scores were level (one win each and two draws from boards 1-4) but Steve Cole enjoyed every advantage going against Andrew Killick. Not only was he three pawns up in an ending, but Andrew’s clock time was critically low twice and every piece of Steve’s was more active than their counterparts. Strange things happen in cup matches and critical games bring a unique amount of nerves and tension. Somehow, Andrew managed to scramble into a position with Rook and pawn v Rook, with the last pawn set to drop off.

So the game was drawn, the match was drawn, but Elmwood progressed on the board count rule. This (frankly flawed) tie-break system works on the principle that Mike Closs’s victory on board two was more important than Ron’s win on board three. It is not really a satisfactory system but nobody ever fancies a replay. What come around, goes around – a few seasons ago, The Rooks had a semi-final victory over Elmwood in exactly the same circumstances.

So the big final is between Elmwood and Peterlee. That should be a very tough match. Maybe experience will tip the scales slightly in Elmwood’s favour; this is, after all, their sixth final in seven years and they have won no less than four of those finals.

In the semi-finals of the Plate competition (for teams KO’d in the first round of the main event), Synthonia were successful against fellow A division strugglers Stokesley. Both sides have had a hard time of it in the top flight this season but the dust settles they will all have improved as players thanks to the tough experience they have all gained. In the final they will face Elmwood Tyros, who beat Upper Eskdale. The Tyros are having a remarkable season. Not only do they top the B division table with two matches to go, they are also through to the final of NCCU Minor Club Championship. Philip Mitcheson is leading by example on board one and has won the vast majority of his games this season.

The Finals
Tom Wise KO CupTo be held @ Middlesbrough Chess Club
Friday 28th May

Elmwood v Peterlee

Plate Competition

Elmwood Juniors v Synthonia A

All Chess sets and clocks will be supplied by Middlesbrough Chess Club.

New Junior Tournament

The latest in our series of brand new events is the 1st Stockton-on-Tees Junior Chess Championships, to be held at the Education Centre (Norton) on Saturday 26th June. The tournament is being organised by the Chess Links Project in conjunction with the ‘Excellence in Cities’ branch of Stockton Borough Council. To qualify for entry, a player must either live, or go to school, in any part of Stockton-on-Tees. You can download an entry form from the Chess Links Project site. If you have any doubts about eligibility, or any other query, please e-mail me at:

Sean Marsh
April 2004

Monday 1 March 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 28

The Sean Marsh Chess Column
Column 28
March 2004

The Struggle

Dear Readers,

Chess is a difficult game. When the World Champion (well, one of them at least) can win a tournament having scored only two wins from 12 games, and the best player in the world can win only one game from 12 – and still come second in the same tournament - then it really brings home how tricky it can be to actually win a game of chess.

Opening knowledge is going deeper and deeper, analysis with super-strength computers is sharpening up the tactical vision of most players and endgames with few pieces can be solved perfectly at the click of a mouse.

Are we now close to the ‘draw-death’ predicted by a line of players going all the way back to the great Capablanca? I don’t know. Shuffle Chess, or Fischerandom Chess to give it the trendy name, which keeps the same basic rules of chess but with random starting positions for the back line pieces, has not caught on and doesn’t seem likely to. The only chance it would have is if Bobby Fischer himself would actually play some public matches of this form of chess but then Fischer would always attract publicity no matter what he did.

So despite the lack of blood in the games of the leading players, we still log on in our thousands to watch them play but are more often than disappointed to see a 20 move draw in a peculiar variation of a Sicilian Defence, in which the players pretend to battle for the key d5 square for an hour or so.

Fortunately, club chess is still a million miles away from top-level GM chess, despite us all having potential access to the same software, databases and the like. We can see French Winawers, Sicilian Dragons, 150 Attacks and even Budapest Defences! We can hustle our opponents in mutual time trouble and maybe even win the most drawish of endgames! We can even set little middlegame traps ending in the most elementary of traps, and fall for just the same amount of traps in return! We can spend ages analyzing a particularly sharp and critical opening variation, only to face a rare sideline on the night and lose hopelessly due to lack of basic knowledge!

All of this fun to be had…and still club chess goes on declining sharply. In 10 years time, will the average chess fan really be happy with a weekly ‘fix’ of a quick draw between two world champions or will he pine for the old days when he could go to his local chess club once a week and worry and fret over which team will beat which other team, how many points will be needed in the final run-in of the season, will we get a board six to play next week etc etc.

Still we battle on. We play in venues colder than can possibly be healthy, venues that are completely lacking in any sort of creature comforts, we come home smelling of smoke, we play in tiny huts and endure local yobs throwing bricks at the walls. We put up with opponents who have never once turned up on time, we put up with discos next door.

We must all really enjoy the struggle.

The Tom Wise K.O. Cup 2004

With all due respect to the other teams, I do believe that the semi-finals of this season’s cup feature the four most dangerous teams in the A division.

Champions Elmwood take on Middlesbrough Rooks. Elmwood’s cup pedigree is second to none but the Rooks, having now all but conceded the title race (Elmwood need just a win and draw from their last four matches to clinch it), will be eager to salvage something from a disappointing season. The Rooks struggle to get their full side out in the early stages of the cup and often come undone, but I’m sure they will be at full strength for this big clash.

The other semi-final should be extremely interesting. Peterlee, so often a major threat for the A division title but never quite living up to their promise, will be up against Middlesbrough Wasps.
The Wasps had a disappointing start to the season but have improved of late. Just a couple of matches ago they crushed (an under-strength) Peterlee in the league.

Last season, Peterlee and The Wasps both reached the semis but were knocked out by Elmwood and Athenaeum respectively. If both sides are at full strength it will be a very tough battle.

The Plate tournament is also intriguing. Stokesley and Synthonia will both be hoping that this season’s A division experience will give them the edge but it will be very close.

B division leaders Elmwood Juniors will play Upper Eskdale and should go into the match as clear favourites, but you can never tell with the cup.

All of these cup battles will be played at The Touchdown (Hartlepool) on Monday 19th April. Should be a very good night of chess.

Junior Chess Championships

When an eight year old wins the county U-18 title, you can rest assured that he has talent.
For the full story of the recent County Junior Championships, please visit the Chess Links Project section of this site:

(Relevant link here when ready)

Sean Marsh
March 2004

Sunday 1 February 2004

Archive: UNCUT! 27

The Sean Marsh Chess Column

Column 27
February 2004

Dear Readers,

It’s that time of year again, that oh-so special time when the first snow falls and the whole country staggers to a halt. Back in the days when Britannia ruled the waves and the majority of the globe, and we beat the rest of the world to inventions and led the way with exploration, the idea of not being able to just get on with things would have been totally abhorrent. If the Great Britons were alive today, they would surely turn in their graves.

We’re not helped by the compulsive liars in the world, who spread panic and confusion with lunacy about temperatures ‘set to reach – 15’…the last time that happened, woolly mammoths roamed the earth and brass monkeys jammed the ‘phone lines to B&Q with requests for welding equipment.

As I sat and watched the first flakes falling on a cold and still evening, as I saw them collect around my feet and cover everything with their clean, clinical frosty presence, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, ‘I must get that hole in the roof fixed.’

What has this got to do with chess? Nothing at all, of course. I’m just practicing for the time when I retire from the competitive scene and take up writing novels.

You want chess? Okay, here’s some great chess…….

IM Slayer

There are special moments in the lives of all chess players. Occasionally, each and every one of us will play a game that will stick in the memory for the rest of eternity.

Here is a great game by Elmwood man John Garnett, played at the recent Hastings Challengers’ tournament.

John Garnett v IM Petr Marusenko (Notes by John)

1 c4 f5 2 g3 Nf6 3 Bg2 g6 4 Nc3 Bg7 5 d3 0-0 6 e3 c5 7 Nge2 Nc6 8 0-0 d6 9 b3 e5 10 Bb2 g5 11 f4

This is an important move in this type of position to prevent Black from playing ...f4 himself.

11...gxf4 12 exf4 h5 13 Nd5 Ng4 14 Qd2 h4 15 Ne3

When I played this I missed that Black could play 15...Nxe3 16 Qxe3 exf4 when the queen and bishop are both en prise. Fortunately for me, Black runs into problems if he does this.

15...Nxe3 16 Qxe3

Now if Black plays 16...exf4, White has 17 Bd5+ Kh7 (17...Rf7 may be better) 18 Rxf4 Bxb2 19 Rxh4 Qxh4 20 gxh4 Bxa1 and Black's king is still very exposed. Black was sufficiently worried by the bishop check to play...

16...Be6 17 fxe5 dxe5

After 17...Nxe5 I would have played 18 Nf4. After the move played I can capture on c5, but there is a more advantageous way to win a pawn.

18 Bxc6 bxc6 19 Bxe5 Bxe5 20 Qxe5 Qf6

My opponent played this move quickly. The ending after the queen exchange appears good for White. However, I was worried that as my opponent seemed happy to allow this, the ending might be more tricky than it looks at first. So I instead played...

21 Qxc5 hxg3 22 hxg3 Rae8 23 Nf4 Bd7 24 Rae1

Taking on a7 looks risky, as I don't want to encourage something like Re8-e7-h7 and 24 …Qh6.

24...Qc3 25 Rxe8 Rxe8 26 Qd6 Bc8

I don't think there is any very good way to defend the bishop.

27 Qxc6 Qd4+ 28 Kg2 Bd7 29 Qd5+

I'm not worried about going into an endgame now.

29...Qxd5 30 Nxd5 Bc6 31 Rxf5 1-0

Junior Tournament Imminent

Also over at the CLP site, you’ll find details and a downloadable entry form for the 1st Cleveland Junior Chess Championships, to held at Teesside High School on Saturday 28th February. You know what they say; ‘Be There – Or Be Square!’