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County Matches 2013/14

Played at Victory Hall, Exminster
on 8th March 2014
1 187 J. F. S. Menadue 1 - 0 D. Lambourne 182
2 181 M. I. Hassall ½ - ½ J. Jenkins 179
3 176 D. A. J. Saqui ½ - ½ J. Waterefield 179
4 174 S. Bartlett 0 - 1 M. Ashworth 176
5 173 T. L. Slade 1 - 0 P. Kirby 167
6 169 R. F. G. Kneebone ½ - ½ P. J. Meade 162
7 165 G. Healey 1 - 0 P. Denison 158
8 UG M. Csuri ½ - ½ B. Whitelaw 154
9 UG J. Hooker ½ - ½ P. Dodwell 152
10 158 G. Trudeau ½ - ½ A. Walker 148
11 157 C. Sellwood 1 - 0 P. Baker 146
12 154 J. J. Nicholas 0 - 1 G. P. Taylor 145
13 150 J. Wilman ½ - ½ R. Ashworth 139
14 139 R. A. L. Smith ½ - ½ A. Richards 136
15 135 M. Hill 1 - 0 J. Caterer 130
16 120 D. R. Jenkins ½ - ½ P. Bending 124
Cornwall had white on the odd boards.

Match Captain's Report

Our final match of the season was played at the Victory Hall, Exminster, on 8 March and the venue lived up to its name with Cornwall winning fairly comfortably by 9.5 points to 6.5. The full results are shown above. As captain I have been well supported throughout the season by our senior players, with those returning to county chess after absence, notably Grant Healey and David Saqui, being particularly important in turning our results around. We have also benefited from 'new blood' with the junior international Theo Slade on a dramatic upward trajectory and by the arrival of Mate Csuri, son of a Hungarian international chess trainer, now residing in Newquay.

There were no less than nine draws, and I agree with Jeremy that most of them were solid efforts, many going down to the wire in what was altogether a steadier performance by the Cornish players compared with our narrow loss to Gloucestershire last season. Nevertheless, as Tolstoy might have put it, chess wins are all alike but every chess draw is drawish in its own way. Mark Hassall's game was equal when he agreed his draw with John Jenkins, although he had early pressure against a doubled pawn in exchange for two bishops in what resembled a Nimzo-Indian type position. Taking the pawn would have opened up the position creating pressure and Mark decided against it, but in retrospect feels that objectively he should have taken the risk.

David Saqui fought long and valiantly to turn a slight but clear advantage into a win, but the position petered out into a symmetrical King and Pawn ending that was a dead draw, to his commendably gracious disappointment, even though by then the match had been won. Robin Kneebone's opponent was the ultra defensive Philip Meade, who played a drawish line with the white pieces. Although Robin felt that with best play the structures tended to favor black, he found himself biting on granite and the game eventually subsided into a draw that resembled a standoff between two cowboys in a spaghetti western. There were no tactics worth mentioning, and the guns remained in their holsters. The fortunes in Mate Csuri's game oscillated to the extent that it was difficult to determine which one of them had 'rescued' the draw from the jaws of victory/defeat. James Hooker and his opponent Phil Dodwell agreed a draw that seemed a fair result after an interesting game in which they both had chances. Gary Trudeau survived misplaying a Morra gambit declined (playing he said 'like a tyro' which I took to mean 'novice' rather than the nature-loving one lusted after by Poseidon). He soon went a piece to two pawns down, but managed to conjure up some optical threats as his opponent drifted into mild time trouble. It was at this point that the player of the white pieces Adrian Walker took up his option to claim a draw by repetition to Gary's relief. 'I weaseled a draw in a prosaic game', was the Trudeau verdict. John Wilman's game was against the very promising junior player Robert Ashworth. The opening was an exchange Slav and John quickly established a blockade against Robert's isolated d-pawn, which he won on move 30, obtaining a nice ending a pawn up. But instead of playing for a simple technical win, he pursued a delusory sacrificial mating net and paid the price. At this point he thought he was losing, so was happy to accept Robert's draw offer. A missed opportunity for both sides! Richard Smith secured a stately untroubled draw on Board 14. David Jenkins' draw was the result of playing the black pieces in a Semi-Slav and exchanging down to a king and pawn ending that at the immediately preceding Queen swap (forced because of Peter Bending's back row problem) he had calculated as a win. But when he reached the critical pawn advance he realised that Peter had an option he had not considered, to avoid the swap and sac a pawn instead with a check. With 5 minutes and a number of moves before the time control David chickened out of the calculations and offered a draw, which was instantly accepted. Subsequent analysis suggested he should have played on, although as captain he has been peddling the excuse that the draw secured the match.

The match was, as ever, won on the basis of the wins, all admirable and hard fought except for Mick Hill on Board 15 whose opponent after a complex strategic and tactical struggle unexpectedly offered a grateful Mick the late Christmas present of an overlooked mate in one. Colin Sellwood once again (how does he manage it?) steered the game toward the kind of tactical complexity he revels in and came out a convincing winner. Grant Healey, playing quickly but with considerable aplomb, exploited his opponent's self-inflicted King side weakness to launch an early mating attack, while Theo Slade continues to impress with a combination of sound strategy, imaginative tactics, mature use of time and subtle positional play. He is inexorably moving up the Cornwall chess pecking order and is already a safe bet to be a future number one. The most bizarre win of all was that of our Board 1 Jeremy Menadue, playing the highly rated Dan Lambourne. The game lasted no fewer than 108 moves, but the last fifty were only played, according to Jeremy, because there was a 'slight chance' of his time running out. Slight? That wasn't how it appeared to the spectators who crowded around the board at the end. What other that Jeremy's trembling flag over the last ten moves would have induced Dan to continue playing on with a lone King against a King, Knight and Rook? To add to the tension, Jeremy gave every impression of calculating his moves, whereas even the patzers among us would have played the ending with instant moves on automatic pilot. 'I am not that good at King and Rook endings' explained Jeremy unconvincingly. All a tease for the spectators, I reckon.

One of the outcomes of the season is that Cornwall would have qualified by results (two wins, a draw and a loss) for a further match in the national minor counties section, but because we did not signal our intention at the start of the season it may be that the WECU will not be able to nominate us. We hope some way will be found for us to compete but that matter at this point of writing is uncertain.

I occasionally use this column to introduce some wider chess-related topic in a hopefully witty way, and I was amused in the car returning from the match by a slightly unguarded remark by John Wilman. We had been talking about the relative seniority of the chess playing fraternity and how pleasing it was to see players like Theo Slade and Robert Ashworth (John's match opponent) playing well at county level. 'These days', pronounced John, 'You often find yourself playing either kids or old buffers, but the trick is not to make any assumptions but simply play the board'. It did make me wonder about the psych-opps of chess and whether one is ever truly free from inferences that can be drawn, either legitimately or fancifully, from the visible person across the board. As an old buffer myself, and one with a prostate problem, I have often wondered how my mid-match toilet breaks are perceived, and whether opponents suspect an age-related deterioration in my calculating ability and play accordingly. When as an 11 year old I played as Board 2 for a Welsh Grammar School I could actually feel the nervousness of the lordly sixth formers I played against in inter-school matches at the prospect of losing to a short-trousered shockhead. Theo must have experienced the same psychological advantage faced with opponents unable to operationalize the Wilman principle, and indeed in a recent match was advised by his schoolmasterly opponent to 'sit still'.

I must also confess the relief I feel when I see 'old buffer' opponents keeping score in the old notation, as I take it as an index of unfamiliarity with the literature. Even though the general use of computer chess programmes should have weakened the inference, I find myself still making it.

Another further detail one notices in Cornish chess is the deployment of stylised aggression or its opposite to embellish the action. At the one extreme Grant Healey is Tal-like in presenting an air of ludic menace, while Richard Smith, for all his claims to be 'lionhearted', oozes apology whenever he produces a good move or wins a game. Mick Hill at the chessboard cultivates an air of indifference that treats good and bad fortune alike, while Gary Trudeau's level of anxiety is exactly choreographed by the extent to which his lips are pursed in thought. Meanwhile Jeremy Menadue has perfected a minor piece of chess theatre in that when he captures an opponent's piece he humiliates the captive soldier by pressing it into service as a little hammer with which to press his clock. Sub iugum missi sunt, as the classicists would say. Careful Jeremy, it may not be legal and there could be an arbiter around!

David Jenkins

Played at Ashtorre Rock Community Centre, Saltash
on 18th January 2014
1 182 M. I. Hassall 0 - 1 D. Mackle 205
2 180 J. F. S. Menadue ½ - ½ A. K. Boyne 197
3 180 R. F. G. Kneebone ½ - ½ J. K. F. Stephens 189
4 174 S. Bartlett 0 - 1 T. Paulden 186
5 171 D. A. J. Saqui 0 - 1 P. D. Sivrev 185
6 167 L. Retallick 0 - 1 D. Regis 176
7 162 G. Healey 0 - 1 A. W. Brusey 181
8 162 T. L. Slade 1 - 0 J. Fraser 167
9 159 C. Sellwood 1 - 0 J. Underwood 172
10 158 G. Trudeau 1 - 0 M. Shaw 173
11 UG J. Hooker 0 - 1 B. W. R. Hewson 165
12 152 J. J. Nicholas ½ - ½ T. F. Thynne 165
13 148 J. Wilman 0 - 1 P. Brooks 167
14 134 M. Hill 0 - 1 W. H. Ingham 160
15 121 B. R. Parkin 0 - 1 N. Rahimili 162
16 119 D. R. Jenkins 0 - 1 M. H. Stinton-Brownbridge 158
Devon had white on the odd boards.

Match Captain's Report

This match represented a reality check following recent hubris, which as all chess-playing classicists know is punishable by the gods. As displayed in the submitted result sheet above, the final score was 11 and a half to 4 and a half in Devon's favour, even 'worse' mathematically than one might expect given the unremitting grade gradient. Nevertheless several of the lessons we can glean are positive. In the spirit of the term 'reality check' I want to spurn the poor example of our political masters who play the 'spin doctor' on every by-election result, seeking to persuade us that the figures, properly interpreted, are favorable to their party. So I will try to take a balanced view and add some negative conclusions to the positive.

On looking at the individual games (thanks to Jeremy and Robin for developing and sharing the database) I was stuck by the range of chess styles on view. This might not too whimsically be expressed through architectural metaphors. Let me offer a few. Mark's suggested inspiration is the vast Library at Alexandria, where all the (chess) world's knowledge was held and many pilgrims crossed the desert to reach. Jeremy is clearly the contemplative pillar saint Simon Stylites atop his (clock?) tower, but suffers from vertigo and is prone to offer the Devil a draw. Robin's milieu is the open plan progressive primary school, all steel and glass, where proactive inter-disciplinary learning meets systematic instruction in the basics. Simon's architectural analogy is more the blue-ribbon ocean-going liner, very classy with modern radar, and capable (usually) of heeding the occasional iceberg. David (Saqui) comes across as a master of the baroque, with an insatiable taste for non-functional decorative elaboration that in the similarly addicted Colin descends into rococo. Grant has metaphorical shares in an out-of-town drag-car race track, where he runs his chess on a sophisticated high octane fuel that your car only dreams of. Theo is the most ambitious of all, constructing a whole modern city out of rock and roll. John is a true disciple of William Lethaby and the Arts and Crafts movement, and a fan of Hoy's Melsetter House. Mick sees the array of pieces on the chess board as an opportunity to build a dark and brooding military installation, a fortress no less, with narrow slits between the pawns through which he can suspiciously view the camped enemy whilst awaiting the siege. Brian's architectural analogy is the tennis court, as he is always expecting his doubles partner to make alternative moves on his side of the net. On the outskirts of these admirable edifices temporally resides the present writer, in one of the rough thrown-together shacks of an informal settlement.

Helpfully, several of our players offered your reporter a cryptic or amusing comment on their games. Jeremy saw his game as a continuation of a 'theoretical discussion' that he had some time back with Andrew Boyne, with the same result (a draw). Robin (mild expletive deleted) felt he had missed a win just after the time control against John Stevens, a formidable opponent who had done well in the British Championships (perhaps this could be turned into a puzzle on the Chess Cornwall website). Lloyd ruefully described his assaying the previously unknown 'Retallick Gambit', which surrenders a pawn without compensation, and is unlikely to survive as a theoretical novelty. He fought back to a draw-ish position, only to lose under time pressure. Gary's account in the aftermath of his splendid win was understandably self-congratulatory in tone. He saw the labyrinthine tactics involving a desperado knight as 'too complex for humans to play' (although perfectly understandable for those from the planet Zog!). John 'mislaid' a pawn in the opening (it was back in the box, John) and did not recover. Both Mick and David (Jenkins) held approximate equality for most of long games before succumbing in tricky endgames.

We should be pleased:

  1. Because there is now competition for places in the county chess team.
  2. Because the three middle board games we won were all the result of splendid strategic and tactical chess, not least Theo's King chase in a Queen-less middle game.
  3. Because even the losing games were more hard fought than previously and showed a spirit of determination.
  4. Because more of us analyzing our games subsequently using Fritz etc., this can only lead to further improvement.
  5. Because team spirit is good and there is a strong desire by the strong players to support further improvement.
  6. Because sterling efforts to develop junior chess in the county will eventually pay off.
  7. Because we have reached an agreement in principle to play a friendly match against Dorset this season in the 16 board under 160 format. This will facilitate players, including juniors, currently on the fringe of county representation.

We should be worried:

  1. Because we have an unacceptable tail leading to underachieving results on the lower boards, in this match 4 nil to Devon on the bottom four. A reasonable short-term aspiration would be to aim for 140 as entry level to WECU Division 1 and to see grades below that as more appropriate to Division 2. I can state this the more boldly as it is my own category.
  2. Because we are not currently getting out our best team. There are obviously reasons for this but it needs to be identified as a factor. Any problem-solving situation involves a recognition of which bits are fixed and which are mobile. Do we have any degrees of freedom here? Would we have a better chance if we moved county matches to a Sunday?
  3. Because we may be missing opportunities for self-improvement. Several games indicated that there seems to be a relative weakness in endgame play. Should the county team be offering training sessions?

David Jenkins 22/1/2014

Played at Victory Hall, Exminster
on 30th November 2013
1 182 M. I. Hassall 0 - 1 J. Rudd 219
2 180 J. F. S. Menadue ½ - ½ P. M. Chaplin 190
3 UG M. Csuri 0 - 1 D.P. Littlejohns 186
4 174 S. Bartlett ½ - ½ M. Richardt 181
5 171 D. A. J. Saqui 1 - 0 B. Morris 178
6 167 L. Retallick ½ - ½ C. Purry 177
7 162 G. Healey 1 - 0 A. F. Footner 176
8 162 T. L. Slade 1 - 0 D. Painter-Kooiman 166
9 159 C. Sellwood 0 - 1 J. E. Fewkes 163
10 158 G. Trudeau 1 - 0 G. J. Jepps 156
11 152 J. J. Nicholas ½ - ½ A. W. Champion 156
12 148 J. Wilman 1 - 0 M. Baker 152
13 139 R. A. L. Smith 0 - 1 D. Freeman 152
14 136 D. J. Jenkins ½ - ½ N. Senior 149
15 122 M. A. Richards 0 - 1 R. Knight 148
16 119 D. R. Jenkins ½ - ½ C. Strong 144
Somerset had white on the odd boards

Match Captain's Report

Once More Into The Breach

"You can't always get what you want
But if you try, sometimes
You get what you need"
[Rolling Stones]

Following the hubris of my plagiarizing the famous Agincourt speech from Henry V, Cornwall's band of brothers faced the obvious potential embarrassment of being toast on St Crispin's Day. In the event, however, we emerged from the field with an honourable draw against a strong Somerset team that has won the Harold Meek Trophy for the last three years (see the full result above). This was particularly satisfactory given that we lost James Hooker and Edward Webb on the eve of the match. Although individual fortunes varied, the overall team result was highly commendable considering we were out-graded on every board but one, often substantially.

We suffered only five losses. An off-form Mate Csuri was not able to recover from placing his pieces awkwardly coming out of the opening, while neither Richard Smith nor Maurice Richards, both playing black, made describable headway in the teeth of a grading deficit, although Maurice had the earlier bath. Colin Sellwood was perhaps particularly unfortunate that his typical steering of matters into positions of double-edged complexity eventually unraveled in his opponent's favour. Mark Hassall deserves particular credit for fighting valiantly against an in-form Jack Rudd (graded 219 no less) but after what looked like an equal opening was gradually worn down in the middle game before succumbing to a double rook sacrifice.

There were no less that six draws, all hard fought. Jeremy Menadue tangled with the equally formidable Peter Chaplin on Board 2 and agreed a draw following a series of accurate moves that evaporated the tension from the position, while Simon Bartlett reached a rock-solid technically drawn endgame against Mike Richardt. In similar fashion Jeff Nicholas shared the honours in a measured positional game and might even have won, with two rooks against a queen, were it not for time pressure and the threat of continuous if not perpetual check. Lloyd Retallick, on the other hand, rescued his draw from being the exchange down. David J Jenkins (dare I avoid initials and call him David Jenkins junior?) fought long for a splendid draw that was anything but offered him on a plate, and indeed if anything close to winning, while my own DJ game in spite of opening with a grand prix attack later subsided into a draw by repetition as neither side was willing to risk not playing the best move.

We must, of course, salute our five victories, in games as diverse as the personalities of the players. John Wilman, as is his wont, found an opening variation in which it is fair to infer that he was more familiar than his opponent, while Gary Trudeau following some scheming skirmishes (at one point there was an amazing position with all four knights dancing on the quadrille c4, d5, e4 and f5) forced his opponent into a disadvantageous exchange. Both emerged fairly comfortable winners. It deserves your captain's comment that two of the 'returners' to county chess, David Saqui and Grant Healey, have now won both their games, although Grant's victories have been by far the more nerve-wracking to the spectators. David again played smooth textbook chess of positional and tactical sophistication while Grant got involved in a ragged and fretful time scramble.

The Grant Healey game was the last to finish and ended in an atmosphere reminiscent of a bear pit with both players moving pieces in the approximate direction of squares at lightning speed whilst banging the juddering clock. It was almost certainly a technical draw but Grant artfully avoided repetition of moves by varying the square to which he was deploying his mobile bishop, and eventually his opponent made a simple error, allowing Grant to queen a pawn, but his flag then fell before Grant could mate.

"I said baby, baby, baby, you're out of time"
[Chris Farlow]

I have left the most impressive result until last. Theo Slade's victory in a rook and pawn ending not only disproved Tarrasch's dictum ("all rook and pawn endings are draws") but gave a text book lesson in nurturing the advantage of a protected past pawn. It was all done with great maturity and aplomb after a long game in which both players had become short of time in positions requiring precise analysis, and Theo's management of his remaining time and general coolness under pressure in advancing his pawn phalanx in masterly fashion were a joy to watch. I was reminded of the Latin inscription on the plinth of Donatello's bronze David in Florence's Bargello Palace:

"Frangit Immanis Deus hostis iras.
En puer grandem domuit tiramnum.
Vincite cives!!"

Victory to the people, indeed!

P.S. I gratefully acknowledge help from Jeremy Menadue and John Wilman in putting this report together

David Jenkins 1/12/2013

The Match Captain addresses his team before the battle

O that we now had here
But five hundred and a dozen feudal chess men
As pawns, knights, bishops, castles, queens and kings
And working clocks! O that we had a stronger team!
Some Cornish clubmen graded high declined to play
And push no pawns today.

What's he that wishes so?
What lapse of nerve is this? No my Welsh cousin
The fewer men the greater share of honour.
God's will I pray thee, wish not one man more.
It grieves me not if lusty singers in a Truro choir
Prefer their bishops made of flesh and blood.
Such dross, the Gospels tell, no kingdom can inherit.
But if it be a sin to covert honour
I am the most offending soul alive.
Let he depart who has no stomach for this fight.
This sacred day is called the feast of Andrew
He that outlives this day and comes safe home
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Andrew.
He that shall live this day and see old age
Will yearly on the vigil feast his club mates
And say: "Tomorrow is St Andrew's Day".
Then will he fetch his board, set out the bits
And say: "This set secured my famous win
Against a cider drinker with a higher grade".
I sacked and mated him, his flag about to fall.
What feats we did that day! Our names will be
Familiar in the mouth as household words
Bartlett, Csuri, Hassall, Healey and Hooker.
Jenkins, Menadue, Nicholas and Retallick.
Saqui, Selwood, Slade, Smith and Trudeau.
And lasting glory too for Webb and Wilman:
All in the flowing cups freshly remembered.
Their games shall Fritz and masters analyse
Reshaping standard theory of the middle game
St. Andrew's festive day shall ne'er go by
From this day to the ending of the world
Without the Victory Hall brought back to mind.
He that plays gambit lines for me, or forks and pins
Or takes a crowbar to Berlin's defensive wall
Shall be my brother. Be he ne'er so patzer
This day will energise his chess and make him expert
In the Semi-Slav or else whatever opening played.
Chorister Kneebone, singing beneath a vaulted roof
Shall think himself accursed he was not here
And hold his manhood cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Andrew's Day.

David Jenkins (with apologies to William Shakespeare's Henry V)

Played at Gittisham Community Centre
on 19th October 2013
1 182 M. I. Hassall NR D. Tunks 196
2 180 J. F. S. Menadue 1 - 0 T. Davis 170
3 180 R. F. G. Kneebone 0 - 1 D. Fowler 167
4 174 S. Bartlett ½ - ½ G. Jones 163
5 171 D. A. J. Saqui 1 - 0 C. Priest 152
6 167 L. Retallick ½ - ½ A. Manning 149
7 162 T. L. Slade ½ - ½ G. A. Moore 148
8 162 G. Healey 1 - 0 B. Kocan 148
9 159 C. Sellwood ½ - ½ S. Le Fevre 140
10 158 G. Trudeau 0 - 1 J. Young 138
11 152 J. J. Nicholas 1 - 0 R. Ashmore 132
12 139 R. A. L. Smith 1 - 0 J. Barnett 124
13 133 D. G. Lucas 0 - 1 S. Murphy 107
Hampshire had white on the odd boards.

Match Captain's Report

The delay in publishing the result arises from two unfortunate circumstances. The Cornwall team due to the captain’s illness and a regrettable misunderstanding arrived without clocks, although a number were speedily resourced locally. Most of the Hampshire team turned up at the venue at times that, had clocks been running, most of their players would have had very little time before the time control. The match was sportingly ‘rescued’ by agreement and played over 13 boards. Unfortunately the clock on Board 1 failed during the game. Dominic Tunks and Mark Hassall therefore abandoned their game by mutual consent. In effect this reduced the match to a contest over 12 Boards.

Cornwall were able to field a strong team largely by persuading old hands to return to the fray, particularly David Saqui and ex Cornwall champion James Hooker (although sadly James was unable to play a match game because of the clock shortage) and the continued steady improvement of our international junior Theo Slade. The 7-5 win for Cornwall in a well-fought contest was a welcome sign that we can no longer be considered canon-fodder for the traditionally stronger teams.

Simon Bartlett, Lloyd Retallick, Theo Slade and Colin Sellwood all achieved draws, the latter two involving some element of rescue from tense positions. It was Cornwall’s five victories that sealed the result, particularly as Robin Kneebone and Gary Trudeau played below their current form. Jeremy Menadue was, as ever, both subtle and stately in his win, and it was good to see David Saqui’s tactical acumen had not rusted in his absence from county chess. Interesting, too, was Grant Healey’s recovery from a ‘lost’ position, a case of the corpse lashing out.

David Jenkins

Last updated 14/3/2014