Thursday 30 December 2021

Best of the Year: 2021

 It has been another year of greatly reduced gigs, for very obvious reasons.

Nevertheless, amid the cancellations some gigs still went ahead, including a number of live, online transmissions.

The online gigs (T-Rextasy, The Skids, Big Country, Gary Numan and Midge Ure) were very good, but nothing can match the real live experience.

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that a lot of people had forgotten how to behave in public after the lockdowns and several gigs were tainted by sheer doltery.

Some venues need to rapidly tighten up their policies on vaping, serving virtually endless amounts of drinks during the gigs and morons talking loudly and repeatedly over the shows.

The worst offenders this time could be found at the gigs featuring The Bluejays, The Wandering Hearts, Amy Macdonald and, worst of all, Paul Weller.

An extraordinary about of people appear to be exempt from wearing masks too. I don't believe it - but that's another story.

Here is a quick spin through the gigs I saw during 2021.

Calling Planet Earth
The Wandering Hearts
Amy Macdonald
Bootleg Blondie
The Bluejays
Bowie Experience
Holy Moly and the Crackers
Nine Below Zero
The Skids
Emma Stevens
Totally Tina
Jane Weaver
Paul Weller

The gig of the year was undoubtedly Soft Cell, who were fabulous from start to finish - and the audience was perfectly behaved too.

Soft Cell

What will 2022 bring, I wonder? I have tickets for shows which have been repeatedly pushed back for years now but hopefully they will eventually go ahead.

Friday 24 December 2021

Project 30 Tournament Update

Project 30 Tournament Update

KO Championship

Round One

Sean Cassidy 0-1 Richard Harris

Kevin Waterman 0-1 Stephen Ollis​

Round Two

Sean Marsh 1-0 John Garnett (the first game was drawn and we required a replay)

Dave Baillie 1-0 Peter Harker

Matt Jackman 1-0 Royce Parker

Richard Harris v Stephen Ollis

Rapidplay Championship

The top two players from each group will advance to the semi-finals (winner of group A vs. runner-up of group B and vice versa.)

The semi-finals will be four Rapidplay games and the final will be six games.

Group A

Sean Marsh

Matt Jackman

Richard Harris

Kevin Waterman

Sean Cassidy


Matt Jackman 2-0 Richard Harris

Matt Jackman 2-0 Sean Cassidy

Matt Jackman 0-2 Sean Marsh

Matt Jackman 1-1 Kevin Waterman

Sean Cassidy 0-2 Sean Marsh

Kevin Waterman 0-2 Sean Marsh

Richard Harris 0-2 Sean Marsh

Richard Harris 1.5-0.5 Sean Cassidy

Remaining Fixtures

Kevin Waterman - Richard Harris

Kevin Waterman - Sean Cassidy

Current Standings

Sean Marsh 8/8

Matt Jackman 5/8

Richard Harris 1.5/6

Kevin Waterman 1/4

Sean Cassidy 0.5/6

Group B

Dave Baillie

John Garnett

Royce Parker

Peter Harker

Stephen Ollis


​Da​ve Baillie 1.5-0.5 John Gar​nett

Dave Baillie 1.5-0.5 Stephen Ollis

John Garnett 2-0 Stephen Ollis

John Garnett 2-0 Peter Harker

Peter Harker 2-0 Stephen Ollis

Remaining Fixtures

Dave Baillie - Peter Harker

Dave Baillie - Royce Parker

Royce Parker - John Garnett

Royce Parker - Stephen Ollis

Royce Parker - Peter Harker

Current Standings

John Garnett 4.5/6

Dave Baillie 3/4

Peter Harker 2/4

Stephen Ollis 0.5/6

Royce Parker 0/0

Wednesday 22 December 2021

CHESS Interview

The new issue of CHESS Magazine has an interview with me.


Click here for the free sample, which has the interview, some of my book reviews and also a photograph from my recent CSC Stoke Training Day.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Project 30 Chessmas Quiz

Thank you to everyone who braved my annual Chessmas Quiz tonight.

Congratulations to the Piper Team, who followed up their London success with another victory!

Friday 26 November 2021

London Chess Classic 2021

Incidentally, there will be expert commentary on the World Chess Championship games as part of the London Chess Classic.

Head to the Classic website for full details of all of the events on offer this year:

World Chess Championship: Magnus Carlsen vs. Ian Nepomniachtchi

The World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi starts today.

Carlsen, the defending champion, starts as the favourite, but I believe the match will be extremely close.

Find out more on the official website.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

12th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament

12th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament saw a return to over-the-board chess after last year's temporary switch to the online world.

This time, five players contested a double round-robin tournament, with 10 minutes on each clock.

A selection of Mike's favourite openings was drawn at random, with one such opening featuring in every round. This time, we had the French Wing Gambit, the Sicilian Najdorf, Sicilian Wing Gambit, Sicilian Scheveningen and the Danish Gambit.

None of the above openings are specialities of any of this year's participants, but we did our best to play in the spirt of Mike.

Trying to work out alien strategies over the board led to time trouble for all concerned and most of the games could easily have gone either way. 

There was only one draw in the whole event and that came in the very last game to finish, when Jo's queen was able to force a perpetual check on my king, despite my advantage of an extra rook and knight - not to mention a threat of checkmate in one move.

Final Scores

9.5/10: Sean Marsh
8/10: Dave Baillie
5/10: Richard Harris
4.5/10: Jo Hutchinson
3/10: Royce Parker

Well played, everyone - and thank you very much for supporting the 12th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament.

Here is a gallery from the exciting evening.






Index of Tournament Reports

1st Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2010

2nd Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2011

3rd Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2012

4th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2013

5th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2014

6th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2015

7th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2016

8th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2017

9th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2018

10th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2019

11th Mike Closs Memorial Tournament, 2020

Monday 1 November 2021

The Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge 2022

It has been confirmed that the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge will return in 2022.

Sarah and Alex Longson worked wonders to keep the tournament going during the COVID lockdowns and, to the delight of children all across the UK, they even managed to switch the Megafinals and Gigafinals to the online world. The final round of the competition, the prestigious Terafinal, was played at Blenheim Palace in October.

Entries are now open for the initial, school-based phase of the competition. In fact, in an interesting break with tradition, all players can now enter the Megafinals, without having to achieve the formerly required 17 points in their own schools.

The school events can therefore be seen as excellent and essential tournament experience for children before they play in a Megafinal.

We are hoping to run a Megafinal on Teesside again, for the first time since 2019. The date is already pencilled in and further details will follow in due course.

Head here for further details on the the whole initiative, including plenty of free resources.

This is the page you need to enrol your school for the Delancey UK Schools' Chess Challenge 2022.

Saturday 23 October 2021

Mark Harrison: The Road to Liberty

The Road to Liberty
Mark Harrison

We have followed the progress of Mark Harrison's albums here at Marsh Towers for nearly a decade, from the trilogy of Crooked Smile (2012), The World Outside (2014) and Turpentine (2016) through to 2018's The Panoramic View.

There have been many changes to the world between then and now. For a songwriter, the changes provide inspiration, whether the subject matter represents a good or bad change. Indeed, The Road to Liberty is a double album, chock-full of catchy tunes and extremely thoughtful lyrics. All of the songs were written by Mark himself.

Do not let the catchy aspect of the songs trick you into thinking the songs lack depth; nothing could be further from the truth. Each song tells a story. Some are about people and others are about our own feelings, whether we are looking inward or pondering the effect our actions have on others.

The song titles act as fine teasers for the treats in store.

The genre is officially roots music but the blues and folk aspects shine through particularly strongly. Mark's style doesn't even need such labels, of course. He remains a true original, with a unique talent for storytelling.

In contrast to my reviews of Mark's earlier albums, I am going to let the man himself tell you all about the songs by means of this fine brace of YouTube videos.

I still live in hope that I will be able catch Mark and his band at a gig at some point. Meanwhile, I have 21 excellent new songs to explore in greater detail.

Find out more about Mark, his music and his tour dates over at his official website.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Unprecedented Times - A Cartoon Diary of Lockdown

My brilliant friend Bridie Jackson is, together with Clare Brown, releasing a book of her famous lockdown cartoons.

Here is a short summary of the project and its aims:

Hello, we are Bridie Jackson and Clare Brown and we are delighted to bring you Unprecedented Times, a cartoon diary chronicling the recent lockdowns of 2020/2021. This project came about because Bridie needed a distraction from the baffling realities of lockdown, so started drawing daily topical doodles and occasionally sharing these on social media. Some people found these amusing and were kind enough to suggest they were turned into a book, Clare came on board as a designer and here we are.

After costs, profits raised from book sales will be donated to two amazing charities; Arts Emergency and Rainbow Home. Arts Emergency is an award-winning mentoring charity that help young people from underrepresented backgrounds break into the arts and humanities, and Rainbow Home are a small locally based charity whose fundamental aim is to reduce the significant difficulties and hardship experienced by LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in the North East of England.

Rather strategically, we’re bringing the book out just in time for Christmas Shopping, and our promise to you is that everything will be delivered by the first week in December at the latest.

There’s several different offers and price points available, from digital downloads to signed copies and even the opportunity to buy an original cartoons, so hopefully there is something for everyone.

Thanks in advance for your support,

Bridie and Clare

I have known Bridie for a long time (type Bridie's name into the search box of this blog to find out more about her work) and I am happy to support her latest venture.

Head here to see the various available packages.

Saturday 2 October 2021

Project 30: 2021-22

Project 30 is back and here are the details of two new events.

KO Championship

Each of the rounds will feature one game played at the normal time limit (36 moves in 90 minutes followed by an extra 15 minutes on each clock to play to a finish). Colours will be decided immediately before the games in the usual fashion.

Drawn games will require a replay with colours reversed, which can be played at any time limit agreed by both opponents. If both players cannot reach agreement the aforementioned timings will be used.

Round One

Sean Cassidy v Richard Harris

Kevin Waterman v Stephen Ollis​

Round Two

Sean Marsh v John Garnett

Dave Baillie v Peter Harker

Matt Jackman v Royce Parker

Winner of Sean Cassidy v Richard Harris v Winner of Kevin Waterman v Stephen Ollis

First Target Date: Please try to complete the first two rounds before Christmas 2021.

Rapidplay Championship

For this year, I have changed the format slightly.

This is because I am very aware of the need for all of us to play more games as we try to return to over-the-board action and with this format everyone is guaranteed extra experience.

Therefore, we are starting with two groups of players.

During the group phase, we will play every player in our own group twice (with 30 minutes on each clock).

The top two players from each group will advance to the semi-finals (winner of group A vs. runner-up of group B and vice versa.)

The semi-finals will be four Rapidplay games and the final will be six games.

Group A

Sean Marsh

Matt Jackman

Richard Harris

Kevin Waterman

Sean Cassidy

Group B

Dave Baillie

John Garnett

Royce Parker

Peter Harker

Stephen Ollis

First Target Date:
Please try to complete at least three of your group fixtures by Christmas 2021.

Stop press - early results: Matt Jackman 2-0 Richard Harris; Sean Marsh 2-0 Sean Cassidy.

Sunday 29 August 2021

Project 30: Back in Action

The first physical meeting for Project 30 in a long time was a great success at Cafe Nero yesterday.

Indeed, the last time I played over-the-board chess was against Peter Parker in the final of the of the Project 30 Rapidplay Championship, on 22 March 2020 (one day before the first lockdown).

Yesterday, we finally played again with real people and real pieces!

The final scores of our Celebratory Tournament were:

Sean Marsh 10

Royce Parker and Peter Harker 6

Richard Harris 5

Sean Cassidy 2.5

It was wonderful to see everyone's individual styles shining through once more.

Naturally, we all made mistakes but the rust has certainly started to fall off and everyone played some excellent chess over the course of the day.

I have medals for those who couldn't make it yesterday (for our previous events) and I will distirbute them over the course of the season.

Plans for the next set of events will soon be made available.

Meanwhile, here is a gallery from yesterday's event.

Wednesday 16 June 2021

ChessFest 2021

CSC will be taking over Trafalgar Square on Day Three of our Summer Festival of Chess!

It sounds outrageous and, despite my predilection for believing six impossible things before breakfast, I assure you I am not lion.

Be there - or be (Trafalgar) Square!


Friday 4 June 2021


There I was, eating my favourite snack...


...when I was startled by a creature most evil.

Whilst pondering the best way to defend myself, I suddenly remembered...

. Bible!


Evil sorted, it was time to return to other important matters. The Bible even taught me how to use a fork correctly.


The part of me was played by me.


The photographer and behind-the-scenes maestro was Catherine Lloyd.



The Bible is now available for your perusal and salvation.


No Pot Noodles were consumed during the making of this blog post.

Wednesday 2 June 2021

Checkmate COVID: The Rematch


This is happening next weekend and all of the details can be found here.

You can play, donate or simply follow the action online.

I will be making my debut as a stream commentator, together with my friends Woman International Master Natasha Regan and Grandmaster Matthew Sadler, from 8.00 a.m. - 9.00 a.m on the morning of Sunday 6 June.

Be there - or be square!