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County Matches 2014/15

Match captain's Report on the 2014/15 season

I think it is possible to claim, without excessive immodesty, that Cornwall Chess has had a good season. As presented in the match captain’s reports above, in the WECU inter-county matches the first team lost to Somerset by 5 to 11 but beat Gloucestershire by 9.5 to 6.5, Devon by 8.5 to 7.5, and Hampshire by 11 to 5. The Devon result was particularly pleasing as a major upset, and featured one of the most dramatic chess finishes I have witnessed in the knife edge conclusion of the Grant Healey game (see the match report below). In consequence of these results, we reached the national stages preliminary round (minor counties) where we lost to a strong Bedfordshire team by 5 to 11.

Our decision to run a Cornwall second team on a developmental ticket is bearing fruit, as there has been no difficulty in recruiting players, including county stalwarts playing representatively for the first time and promising juniors. Both categories performed above expectations. We lost both our 12 board matches, heavily against Somerset by 3 to 9 but the loss to Devon by 5 to 7 shows we are getting closer.

There are a number of comments I would like to make in presenting this annual report for the season, most of which have already been presented orally at the Cornwall Chess AGM.

The role of the captain and the need for support

At the Cornwall Chess AGM I accepted the position of county captain for the 2015/2016 season although it would be wrong to suppose I will go on for ever, and perhaps the time is approaching for me to give way gracefully to an older man! The role of the captain, apart from tossing a coin for colours, is in essence a pleasure as well as an honour, with very considerable welcome discretion over team selection, venue negotiation and financial matters. The captain also gets to write match reports and I have enjoyed this excursion into amateur chess journalism, hopefully adding an amusing human touch from time to time, although most of the more profound chess insights have come from Jeremy Menadue.

But it would also be dishonest of me not to admit that the role entails very considerable potential for frustration, particularly over transport arrangements and the occasional tardy responses to my invitations to participate. One issue that has concerned me, given my less robust health, is the matter of carting around the chess sets and clocks which are difficult for me to manage unless parking is available immediately outside the venue. I have almost always had help in checking and clearing up the equipment afterwards, usually from the same few, but it is a burden I would like to be relieved of. The time has perhaps come to appoint an able bodied vice-captain who is also a driver! There is also an unanswerable case for having a captain whose place in the county first team is more secure than my own.

I am pleased to report that there is now genuine competition to play in the county chess teams and that willingness to play and team spirit are at satisfactory levels. With regard to team selection, naming the first team has been largely a matter of taking from the grading list the highest graded team possible from those available, but management of our frankly developmental second team has been much more a matter of judgement, and has involved encouraging juniors irrespective of grading as well as rewarding longstanding club players who have made a significant contribution to Cornwall Chess, several of whom played ‘out of their skins’ when given the opportunity, notably Terry Dengler, Barry Childs and Andrew Slade, all producing fine games in the teeth of serious grading deficits. I have also tried to widen the base of players having had experience at county level, as this feeds back into club chess. This coming season I am hoping legitimately to abandon the view that the results for the second team are not of primary importance.

Request to club captains

For next season there has been a seismic shift in the organisation of club chess in Cornwall with several new clubs forming, others experiencing a diaspora, and the old certainties with respect to who is playing in which league dissolving. For example Liskeard, despite having several county first team members, is opting out of the Shield for the Roberts Cup. From time to time, also, promising students turn up at one or other of our clubs or juniors being coached locally experience a spurt in chess playing ability. All of these factors will make it difficult for me as county captain to have an up-to-date picture of who might be eligible for selection.

It is therefore imperative that each club appoints one of its team captains to liaise with me in constructing and keeping up-to-date a list of eligible players with a grading or estimated strength that make them eligible for county selection. This list should include grade or estimated grade, home address (as a basis for working out transport arrangements) email address and telephone contact number, ECF affiliation details, and comments if appropriate. Last season lack of some of this basic information caused difficulties, and I am hoping for a complete captain’s file for the coming season. I trust that this matter can be agreed at the forthcoming Cornwall Chess Secretaries Meeting.

David Jenkins

Played at Weston-Super-Mare Conservative Club
on 25th April 2015
1 229 Andrew Greet 1 - 0 Chris Ross 201
2 190 Jeremy Menadue ½ - ½ Stephen Ledger 195
3 178 Theo Slade ½ - ½ Gary Kenworthy 190
4 173 Mark Hassall 0 - 1 Adrian Elwin 184
5 176 Grant Healey 0 - 1 Paul Habershon 182
6 170 David Saqui 0 - 1 Graham Borrowdale 181
7 173 Robin Kneebone 0 - 1 Richard Freeman 178
8 168 Simon Bartlett 0 - 1 Kevin Williamson 177
9 167 Lloyd Retallick 1 - 0 Michael Botteley 176
10 153 Colin Sellwood 0 - 1 Steve Pike 176
11 157 Gary Trudeau 1 - 0 Brian Valentine 166
12 150 John Wilman 0 - 1 Nick Collacott 165
13 150 Jeff Nicholas ½ - ½ Adrian Matthews 160
14 147 Richard Smith ½ - ½ Timothy Lawson 154
15 127 David R Jenkins 0 - 1 Colin Sollaway 140
16 UG Richard Stephens 0 - 1 Ben Pike 92
Cornwall had black on the odd boards.

Back row: John Wilman (12), David Saqui (6), David Jenkins (15), Grant Healey (5), IM Andrew Greet (1), Jeremy Menadue (2), Colin Sellwood (10)
Front row: Andrew Slade, Richard Stephens (16), Simon Bartlett (8), Theo Slade (3), Richard Smith (14), Robin Kneebone (7), Jeff Nicholas (13)
Absent: Mark Hassall (3), Lloyd Retallick (9), Gary Trudeau (11)

We are grateful to Martin Slade for his kind permission to use this photograph.

Match Captain's Report

Following what was generally regarded as the best result for Cornwall Chess in the WECU this century, with three wins out of four matches, the county team entered the national stages and was drawn to play against Norfolk in the preliminary round. But following the withdrawal of the East Anglia team due to a clash of dates with the Cambridge Congress, we found ourselves pitted against a strong Bedfordshire team. A neutral venue was found exactly mid distance between Truro and Bedford, and the match arranged at the Weston-Super-Mare Conservative Club, which provided excellent playing conditions despite the noisy seagulls and parking problems. Had the playing area braved a portrait of Lord Archer (of WSM) we had resolved to turn it to the wall, but this proved an unnecessary footling gesture.

Although Cornwall lost the match decisively by 5 to 11, there was not excessive disappointment as it was recognised that all good things must come to an end. Yet there was also a strong sense that Cornwall had laid down a marker for next season, although repeating our historic win against Devon must count as a paradigm example of a non-trivial task. A retrospective look at the individual games in the Bedfordshire match offered the minor consolation that many were closely fought with fluctuating fortunes throughout so that arguably the result could easily have been closer. The experience of competing at this level alone will doubtless boost our sense of being real contenders in WECU and not the traditional whipping boys.

The team travelled by coach to the venue, adding a feeling of ‘works outing’ which contributed to group solidarity and a sense of occasion. We were particularly grateful for the generous sponsorship of accountants and business advisers, Walker Moyle, and Seasons Holidays PLC that kept individual expenses to an absolute minimum and also to IM Andrew Greet who came down from Scotland to support the county of his birth. Andrew has been an inspiration to Cornish chess this season, also offering his services in a Christmas simul against local club players held in his old Truro school.

With regard to the chess, we managed only three outright victories in this 16 board encounter, all of which have appeared on the Cornwall Chess website, an innovation that is feeding the development of chess locally by publishing analysed games of theoretical, strategic or tactical importance involving Cornish players. The three wins, by Andrew Greet, Lloyd Retallick and Gary Trudeau, were in widely contrasting styles. Andrew’s game, which he analysed in depth for the website, was an object lesson in turning a miniscule endgame advantage into a win, while both Lloyd and Gary displayed tactical sharpness in asymmetrical positions, Lloyd deploying endgame subtlety and finesse in contrast to Gary’s middle game Viking-like marauding and pillage. At the top end of the order both Jeremy Menadue and Theo Slade drew against strong players, an achievement replicated in the middle orders by Jeff Nicholas and Richard Smith. One painful loss was that of promising junior Richard Stephens who gifted his opponent a virtual helpmate from a winning position. But Richard has had such a stellar season, winning the Falmouth Cup as well as being the only player to defeat Andrew Greet in the Christmas Simul, that his progress will surely continue unabated.

David Jenkins

Played at Honiton Community College
on 7th March 2015
1 190 Jeremy Menadue ½ - ½ Dominic Tunks 196
2 178 Theo Slade 0 - 1 Godfrey Pafura 192
3 173 Mark Hassall 1 - 0 Roger Marsh 176
4 176 Grant Healey ½ - ½ Andrew Cooper 175
5 175 Mate Csuri 0 - 1 David Fowler 174
6 170 David Saqui 0 - 1 Timothy Davis 167
7 173 Robin Kneebone 1 - 0 Christopher Priest 147
8 171 James Hooker 1 - 0 Stephen LeFevre 146
9 168 Simon Bartlett ½ - ½ Gillian Moore 144
10 156 Colin Sellwood 1 - 0 David Culliford 137
11 155 Gary Trudeau 1 - 0 Jonathan Young 129
12 133 David J Jenkins ½ - ½ Ray Hartley 126
13   Default 1 - 0 Default  
14   Default 1 - 0 Default  
15   Default 1 - 0 Default  
16   Default 1 - 0 Default  
Cornwall had white on the odd boards.

Match Captain's Report

There have been a number of examples of rock climbers conquering a difficult pitch only to stumble disastrously on the ‘easy’ way down the mountain, and I was anxious lest the same fate should befall us against Hampshire. Having beat Devon for the first time in something like a quarter of a century, I did not want the prize of a run at national level snatched away from us. The task was made more manageable by Hampshire defaulting the bottom four boards, in relation to which I played hardball (against some local advice) by claiming all four points. This, whilst all-but securing the win, had the predictable effect of putting psychological pressure on the de facto twelve board match, which as recorded in the result sheet above was a win to Cornwall by 7 points to Hampshire’s 5. This was much closer than the official match score of 11 points to 5.

This report comments in detail on some of the games played, and the consequences of the overall result. As I mentioned in a previous report, Cornwall has traditionally struggled a little on the lower boards, yet we are surely now beginning to show strength in depth. The top six boards resulted in a Cornwall deficit of 4 points to 2 with Mark Hassall’s win, gifted by his old friend Roger Marsh, the only outright victory, although Jeremy Menadue, marginally out-graded by the strong Dominic Tunks, had a clear initiative in an open game when he settled for his draw exactly at the point it secured the match result. On the other hand it was unclear, at least to this spectator, as to how the attack might yield a more favourable result that the forced repetition on offer. Theo Slade impressed despite losing against Godfrey Pafura, his material advantage not quite compensating for a loose King side in a closely fought game. Grant Healey decided that after the excitement of his clinching game against Devon it was time to turn down the wick and settle for a solid draw.

Significantly, the bottom six boards did not feature a single loss and in a six board contest would have resulted in a score of 5 points to 1 in Cornwall’s favour. It was also strangely reassuring to see as strong a player as Gary Trudeau occupying what visually looked like the bottom-but-one board in the 12 board de facto contest.

On this occasion, the need to adjust the team at the last moment to accommodate the Hampshire defaults was not problem free, and my last minute changes raised issues of what principles captains should apply in situations like this, particularly as several players had already made transport arrangements. Although the problem was not insoluble it left me vulnerable to ‘losing the dressing room’ as they say in football, although the only player in the Cornwall team who might plausibly have a dressing room is my namesake David J Jenkins who occasionally turns up to matches in a collar and tie. I will be proposing to WECU that in future team sheets should be exchanged at a specified date a week or so in advance of the match.

One problem in being both captain and a relative patzer at county level is that any success I manage as captain in getting the troops out tends to threaten my own place in the team, uncomfortably invoking Groucho Marx’ comment that he would not care to join a club willing to have him as a member. Even before the defaults against Hampshire I had dropped myself from the team, so in Honiton I was reduced to the role of the interested spectator. This has its compensating merits, but is ultimately as unconvincing as the aging Wordsworth’s claim that humanistic philosophy is an adequate substitute for raw romantic feeling. Nevertheless I gained a strong sense of which games might be of particular interest to analyse in this report.

So on this occasion I decided to hand over a section of the Captain’s Report to our favourite guest analyst Jeremy Menadue. This is in part to encourage our team routinely to analyse games, including county games, retrospectively, although I have found that in my own case it is a task I sometimes shirk. I asked Jeremy to concentrate on the three games I found particularly interesting, his own against Dominic Tunks, Colin Sellwood against David Culliford and Gary Trudeau against Jonathan Young. At least two of these games have been posted on the Chess Cornwall website, but they are certainly worth revisiting with Jeremy. The over-arching theme is that we are currently playing exciting imaginative chess.

Since qualifying for the national stages via a preliminary round, there have been several slightly contorted developments. Although, unhelpfully, The ECF feels unable to confirm the national stage fixture list until 1 April (coincidentally April Fools’ Day) on the grounds that any county withdrawing (theoretically possible up to the end of March) puts the whole draw back into the melting pot, we had been paired provisionally with distant Norfolk and had settled for Swindon as a midpoint venue. Unfortunately, Norfolk chose to pull out since the fixture clashed with their annual Congress while the rules for a preliminary stage do not permit postponement beyond the third weekend in April and Cornwall could not make the earlier weekend. The upshot is that we have now been informed that the preliminary round will now take place with Bedfordshire as the replacement opponents. I am in touch with their captain to make provisional arrangements which hopefully will be confirmed on 1 April.

It does not take an organisational genius to discern that the administrative arrangements leave room for improvement and no doubt we will be making suggestions. One unresolved issue that divides opinion in the desirability of online matches where counties are geographically remote from each other. At the moment we collectively lack both experience and an infrastructure for such matches and in any case I belong to the tendency that prefers face-to-face wherever conceivable. Nevertheless the possibility needs to be seriously debated, although it seems to have attracted little systematic analysis of the pros and cons on either side to date.

David Jenkins

Played at Plymouth Bridge Club
on 7th February 2015
1 190 Jeremy Menadue 0 - 1 Dominic Mackle 209
2 178 Theo Slade 1 - 0 John Stephens 196
3 173 Mark Hassall 1 - 0 Stephen Homer 184
4 176 Grant Healey 1 - 0 Plamen Sivrev 175
5 175 Mate Csuri 0 - 1 John Wheeler 184
6 170 David Saqui 0 - 1 John Fraser 177
7 173 Robin Kneebone 0 - 1 Jonathan Underwood 180
8 171 James Hooker 1 - 0 Dave Regis 181
9 168 Simon Bartlett ½ - ½ Alan Brusey 181
10 157 Lloyd Retallick ½ - ½ Brian Hewson 176
11 150 John Wilman 1 - 0 Meyrick Shaw 175
12 157 Gary Trudeau 1 - 0 Giles Body 171
13 150 Jeff Nicholas ½ - ½ Bill Ingham 168
14 147 Richard Smith ½ - ½ Trefor Thynne 168
15 133 Mick Hill ½ - ½ Michael Stinton-Brownbridge 168
16 UG Richard Stephens 0 - 1 Ivor Annetts 157
Cornwall had black on the odd boards.
1 127 David R Jenkins ½ - ½ Keith Atkins 160
2 140 Neil Robinson 1 - 0 Chris Scott 154
3   Default 0 - 1 Default  
4 122 Anton Barkhuysen ½ - ½ Paul Brooks 152
5 125 David Lucas ½ - ½ Jon Duckham 154
6 UG David Hutchinson 0 - 1 Oliver Wensley 151
7 117 Martin Jones 0 - 1 Andrew Kinder 147
8 120 Ian Renshaw 1 - 0 Wifred Taylor 142
9 100 Jan Rodrigo 0 - 1 Vignesh Ramesh 138
10 114 Richard Pascoe 0 - 1 Nicholas Hodge 127
11 104 Barry Childs 1 - 0 Robert Wilby 142
12 86 Andrew Slade ½ - ½ Nicholas Bacon 121
Cornwall had white on the odd boards.

Match Captain's Report

Today’s class is a lesson in Art History

Once upon a time in the West…

It was at Jeremy Menadue’s suggestion that I have invoked Sergio Leone’s exquisite spaghetti western “Once Upon a Time in the West” (although being a true Cornishman Jeremy suggested retitling it “in the East”) to summarise our bloody encounter with the mighty Devon chess team at Plymouth Bridge Club on 7 February 2015, and featuring Grant Healey as the harmonica-playing gunman.

Cornwall’s victory was said by local chess historians to be the first for twenty five years in this annual contest and must count as a boost to our confidence as we eye the prospect of progressing beyond WECU to the national stages of inter-county competition. Certainly the match result must count as one of the best performances by Cornwall chess for several decades and hopefully confirms our arrival on the scene as contenders rather than traditional whipping boys. The final match result (see above) was a win for Cornwall by 8.5 to Devon’s 7.5 over the 16 boards of the First Division match, and a win for Devon by 7 to 5 in the 12 board Second Division match (capped at 160 grading points or under). Since had we won on the board we defaulted (for which we were duly but embarrassingly fined) the Second Division match would have been drawn, it seemed a little inexplicable that the Chess Devon website described this as a “comfortable win” for Devon.

Several still young-looking Cornish stalwarts saw the result as “historic”. Indeed many present recalled the victory of 1985/6 with Michael Adams winning on Board 1. Jeremy Menadue, David Saqui, Jeff Nicholas and Anton Barkhuysen, there on Saturday, all graced the earlier occasion, as did Devon’s Brian Hewson.


Giant killing is partially a matter of languid self-confidence (see Donatello’s bronze David in Florence’s Bargello), but also a willingness to “have a go”, and indeed the omens had been declared favourable following the encouraging example of the Pirates win over Bristol. Since we were out-graded on virtually every board, I had hoped to be able to give a statistically significant figure for the chess mountain we climbed, using the null hypothesis and chi squared to calculate the likelihood that the result could be attributed to chance alone. It was pointed out, however, by no less an expert than IM Jack Rudd, that the ECF grading data base is not designed in a way that would support such a calculation. Andrew Slade had asked Jack if he could help calculate the probability of Cornwall defeating Devon and this was his reply: “The ECF grading system does not have enough information in it to work that out properly, for example while it will tell you that Theo’s expected [average] score against his opponent was 0.32 that does not give probabilities for the three [possible] results, so all it will tell you is how many points Cornwall were expected to score over the match as a whole”. One can see the logic; draws are not just the product of grading comparisons but are style-specific (copyright Mick Hill).

The results nevertheless show that our erstwhile vulnerable “tail” is getting battle hardened. The top eight boards, counted alone, would have resulted in a drawn match, but the lower orders not only secured a sectional win by a single point but did so with five gritty draws backing the two outstanding victories by John Wilman and Gary Trudeau.

The Four Horsemen of the Devon Apocalypse

In times like this one is tempted to have recourse to eschatological imagery, so I make no apology for this section of my report borrowing from the famous woodcut by Albrecht Durer

We can fancifully identify the four horsemen of the Devon apocalypse as Theo Slade, Mark Hassall, Grant Healey and John Wilman. Theo and Grant were to some extent metaphorical horsemen, “going out conquering and to conquer” as the Book of the Revelation of St John puts it, but in the case both of Mark and John equine chess pieces played a significant role in their victories.

On Board 2, Theo Slade laid to waste a formidable opponent with a superior grading in a game of great maturity. The opening was a Prinz variation of the Sicilian Defence (Venice attack) with Theo sacrificing a pawn on move 8 and swapping bishops to force Black’s queen into a premature sortie as well as creating long term pressure down the open c file. He managed his clock and played a difficult end game with his usual accuracy and aplomb. Mark Hassall, playing Black, opted for the Sicilian Kan and after some interesting skirmishes managed on move 22 to take White’s bishop on d3 with his knight, establishing a formidable outpost and threatening the e pawn. This was only possible, according to Mark, because his opponent thought he could win an exchange by moving his knight to h7. He had not seen that his knight “would have difficulty in getting out: a strange mistake for a good player”. Two pawns up, the game was by then moving in Mark’s favour, and Cornwall were heading towards another success on the long winding road to victory.

Grant Healey’s game went right to the wire and turned out to be the decider. To put the point mildly, it was not without incident and at least one spectator had to leave the vicinity for fear of chess induced apoplexy. This excitement seemed unlikely after cautious initial manoeuvring by both sides that resembled a transposed version of the Torre Attack in a Queen Pawn opening, with Grant, playing White, offering a truce on move 15, perhaps as a ploy, since rejecting a draw can have subtle psychological impact on further play.

Grant gradually built up a significant advantage, although White missed at least one clear chance of creating equalising counter-play. The heart-stopping drama came right at the end, as the game reached a tactically non-trivial endgame with Grant not only in what ought to be a technically winning position but also having something like ten minutes on his clock to his opponent’s one.

Being Grant, a rider “permitted to take peace from the earth”, our hero reasoned that he should deprive Black of any opportunity to think in his (Grant’s) time, and started moving virtually instantaneously himself. His opponent was clearly disconcerted but did not panic, and still took (slightly!) longer for his more difficult moves. Grant, of course, is formidable at this lightning stuff and won a rook for a knight by a neat tactic on move 58. According to the Chess Devon website this is where the game ended (Black was no longer keeping score) but as the Cornwall spectators remember all too clearly, the game lurched on with Grant unaccountably blundering a rook. His response was similar to that of F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen when a car blew its engine immediately in front of him covering the track in impenetrable smoke. Raikkonen did not even lift, but drove flat out in zero visibility. Grant allowed himself only a brief sardonic sneer at his own folly and started immediately to push his pawns. When it became clear that he could force a pawn to the queening square his opponent resigned. What a way to win a match! It’s all tuneful rock and roll to our harmonica playing gunman, but the name of the pale horse is still Death. The issue here is an interesting one, worthy of debate. What style of play optimises a time advantage in a situation like the one described?

The most interesting piece of apocalyptic equestrianism has already appeared on the Chess Cornwall website. Playing black against a King’s Indian, John Wilman not only mated his opponent in 22 moves but twice offered a queen sacrifice, (moves 17 and 21) although in both cases taking the Queen would have led to immediate mate by the black knight supported by a Bishop on the long diagonal. The latent fierce energies of the position achieved a delicate and profound balance, like a warhorse at dressage.

Meyrick Shaw v John Wilman. Position after 17...Qh3!!.

“And behold I saw a black horse and its rider had a balance in his hand”

The actual checkmate was overlooked rather than forced, but the game was already won and it would have been difficult not to be overawed by the temerity and ingenuity of John’s play (“The force was with me” asserted John modestly, “these combinations play themselves”.) Comments on other individual games.

Again I am grateful to those individual players who submitted comments on their games and those of others, often more perceptive than my own would have been. With some of our strongest players losing, it was good to see that Cornwall chess is beginning to exhibit strength in depth, with your captain fighting for his place in the First Division team and yielding this time out to the up-and-coming Richard Stephens, who came very close to holding his game following an early advantage, as testified by John Wilman who was able to watch other games after his early bath. As indicated above, the last eight boards of the first team more than held station, and the second team also put in a commendable performance against the grading gradient we faced.

Richard Smith, again according to John, “bluffed his way to a draw from a lost position”, while both James Hooker and Gary Trudeau earned convincing wins, the latter demonstrating the superiority of Bishops over Knights in a Queen-less middle game, following a Queen’s Gambit declined, which he converted into a winning endgame.

Also worth mentioning is Lloyd Retallick’s fine draw in a Caro-Kann against Brian Hewson in a difficult rook and pawn endgame which was reduced to a single pawn each on opposite wings before a rook swap settled the draw with both sides queening without securing an advantage.

Jeff Nicholas modestly summarised his game as “unexciting”, but I regard it as a supremely sensible response to the state of the match. It was a Queen’s Pawn opening which turned into a Slav Defence, with Jeff concentrating on accurate defence as White seemed to have more of the initiative. With the match by then on a knife edge, Jeff exchanged queens in order to go into a bishop of opposite colours endgame, which secured the draw. It proved a good decision, with Jeff gleaning additional satisfaction from his opponent’s comment that he played the ending like Petrosian. Not Tal, of course, but still something to settle for.

The Cornwall Second Team

Our second team is still in a developmental state and was certainly not outclassed by a strong Devon contingent. We have self-consciously been encouraging youngsters and blooding new players to extend the base of the triangle for county selection and this match saw debut games by David Hutchinson, Jan Rodrigo, Richard Pascoe, and Andrew Slade, who was drafted at the last minute following a withdrawal. David, returning to competitive chess after a long break, was unable to recapture his old elan and unwisely surrendered a piece for a purely optical threat of his own. Jan, under strict orders from his captain to slow down, played soundly before yielding to a tactic. Richard just failed to get the better of a series of tactical skirmishes which left him with a losing endgame. On bottom board Andrew, seriously out-graded, declined a Queen’s Gambit and relentlessly pursued a policy of swapping pieces to retain equality. Eventually his opponent, faced with the choice of swapping Queen’s into a drawish endgame or having to repeat moves to defend a knight, settled for a draw by agreement. A fine result for Andrew who has loyally supported the team as Theo’s driver. “What a day!” wrote Andrew, “I was proud to be there to see history being made”.

It seemed to me particularly encouraging, given the competitive spirit abroad in Cornwall chess, that all three wins were achieved with the black pieces. Neil Robinson faced the uncommon (dubious?) Bird’s Opening, which at least has a surprise value. He emerged with more than equality and some room for taking the initiative. Aided by a double question mark move by his opponent on move 28 (Rc1), Neil progressed towards a comfortable endgame in which his menacing extra pawn, lusting to expand, was heading inexorably for the queening square, With Queens still on the board his opponent tried a series of checks hoping for a draw by repetition, but his flag fell mid attempt. Ian Renshaw played a steady game accumulating a number of advantages until reaching an endgame with two knights and a passed pawn against a knight and a pawn, which he had no difficulty converting into a solid win. Barry Childs played energetically for his win as black against a player graded 38 points higher, but the game was a bit on the wild side with both players having chances and could have gone either way right up to the end.

David R Jenkins drew on Board 1 for the Second Team against a player graded 160. The game began as if heading for a closed Sicilian but quickly morphed into a potential Grand Prix Attack as David got in his customary early f4. Before assaying the less tactical 5…Bb5 rather than Bc4. David probably made a weak choice on move 28, where his g3? had the laudable intention of cutting out counter-play and preserving the initiative, but as Jeremy Menadue pointed out, 28 Qh6+ Rh7 29 exf5 would have been a nice trick. The draw was agreed on move 39 although if anything David had a slight remaining advantage.

David R Jenkins v Keith Atkins. Position after 28.g3?

I was impressed by the way our team handled a number of difficult endgames. Anton Barkhuysen drew a rook and pawn endgame a pawn down by dint of a superior pawn structure. A similar endgame saw David Lucas hold rook and pawn endgame also a pawn down (K+R+4 pawns v. K+R+3 pawns), but this time facing a protected passed pawn, by very accurate rook play under mutual time pressure.

A tale of two flags

There were in the match two unusual happenings concerning flags. The first was an unusual incident involving the clock. Jeremy takes up the story: “Something strange occurred on Board 6 Saqui v Fraser. Black lost on time on move 40, but then White made a 41st move and stopped the clocks, without restarting Black’s clock. Then they put the clocks back and Black won on time in a lost position”. A greater diligence in clock-watching duties on David Saqui’s part would have spared us the excitement of Healey v Sivrev.

The other flag was a St. Piran’s Cornish flag that was energetically waved by Richard Smith as the match neared its dramatic conclusion. Richard’s daughter Phoebe had brought it along to the match following a family visit to Plymouth and Richard has subsequently apologised for his “vitriolic waving” that Devonians still playing might have found disconcerting. All due, of course, to the excitement of the day, although Devon were too generous to complain.

Ke-nedhel unnweyth arta!

David Jenkins

Played at Topsham
on 29th November 2014
1 189 Jeremy Menadue ½ - ½ Philip Meade 182
2 179 Theo Slade 0 - 1 Nigel Hosken 181
3 178 Mark Hassall 0 - 1 Michael Ashworth 179
4 174 Mate Csuri 1 - 0 John Jenkins 176
5 173 David Saqui ½ - ½ Peter Kirby 173
6 169 Simon Bartlett 0 - 1 Paul Masters 166
7 157 Lloyd Retallick 1 - 0 Phil Dodwell 163
8 156 Colin Sellwood 1 - 0 Barry Whitelaw 159
9 155 Gary Trudeau 1 - 0 Robert Ashworth 151
10 154 John Wilman 0 - 1 Chris Haynes 146
11 151 Jeff Nicholas 1 - 0 Alun Richards 136
12 149 Richard Smith 1 - 0 Kevin Bendall 131
13 133 Mick Hill 1 - 0 Jim Caterer 128
14 132 David R Jenkins 0 - 1 Tim Chinnick 128
15 121 Martin Jones ½ - ½ Ainsley Killey 122
16 120 David Lucas 1 - 0 John Harris 115
Cornwall had black on the odd boards.

Match Captain's Report

As will be clear from the result sheet, Cornwall ran out winners by 9.5 to 6.5 but the score line, which showed our team exceeding the calculated result that the grading aggregates of the two teams predicted, fails to reflect the excitement of the event. Cornwall stormed into an early 8 – 3 lead, but Gloucestershire staged a comeback, winning several games to claw back much of the advantage. It also became clear at that point that the many of the remaining games were close, and that the final result was unpredictable. Eventually we held on, and face our final matches against Devon and Hampshire with the possibility of reaching the national stages intact. In compiling this report I am again grateful for comments on individual games submitted by several of our players and to Jeremy Menadue for comments based on his wandering role after finishing uncharacteristically early.

Individual games

Jeremy Menadue’s game against Philip Meade ended in a draw and was the first game to finish. Jeremy had loyally turned up with a throat infection that would have kept many at home and decided that, even armed with cough syrup, his concentration span was about one hour, and he duly delivered the result with only a minute or so to spare. Both Theo Slade, playing Board 2 for the first time, lost narrowly to a player who marginally out-graded him. Mate Csuri, energised from studying with his international chess trainer father in Hungary, played a solid and imaginative game, keeping calm in a difficult position, a penchant that was evident more recently in his endgame against Andrew Greet in the Truro School Simul. His was the win that took Cornwall over the winning line. A pity he is not from Prague, as that would have given him the handle ‘Czech Mate’

David Saqui continued his good form for the county, securing an entertaining draw from a game in which both sides were looking for blood rather than a Christmas truce playing footsy on the battlefield. Interestingly, this was one of only three draws in the entire 16 boards match. Although having the initiative in chess is almost invariably a good idea (there are often a variety of plausible attacking moves but only one defence to most of them), Lloyd Retallick secured an impressive win by a wonderfully cold-blooded defence against an h file attack. On the other hand, both Colin Sellwood and Richard (‘lionhearted’) Smith sealed their wins by launching brutal attacks. Richard reports ‘a pretty standard Caro-Kan, exploiting the open c file’. Black eventually castled Queenside but fell to active knights and rooks. One board below, Gary Trudeau was cashing in his favourable biorhythms in his usual controlled fashion, lips pursed in thought (for explanation of this comment, see below).

John Wilman lost through a blunder made worse by it occurring soon after he had declined a draw, an eventuality he reports as making him feel seriously suicidal, although thankfully he found and wandered into a welcoming tavern before he could reach the river. Jeff Nicolas reports a winning game ‘void of excitement’ in which he won a pawn on move 14, then swapped off doggedly to consolidate his advantage until he was able to create a winning passed pawn. His opponent resigned on move 36. Mick Hill cashed in a winning endgame with great aplomb, although your disgruntled captain David R Jenkins joined John Wilman on the naughty step following a blunder of his own, a matter of neglecting the move order in a standard opening that forced the loss of a piece for two pawns without compensation following a well-known but overlooked tactic. On the last two boards Martin Jones played out a solid draw while David Lucas secured his second splendid county win in a row. David opened d4 hoping that black would allow his favourite Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, but his opponent opted out before succumbed to Plan B, a steady centre initiative, followed by an attack on the castled King. The game also confirmed the two edgedness of the f4 pawn advance, which allowed David to prize open the g and h pawns, leading to a mate on f7 on move 33. On one occasion when David took a break from the game, he returned to find a cat occupying his seat. Despite UKIP’s habitual suspicion of asylum seekers and benefit tourism, it proved a lucky omen.

The avoidance of blunders

The avoidance of gross blunders should be an essential feature of chess at this level, particularly given the generous time controls, and this perhaps requires some sober reflection before the next county game. My own view is that avoidable blunders, as opposed to falling foul of a brilliant disguised tactic, frequently come from a partial and incomplete grasp of the objective chess situation, often while playing ‘on automatic pilot’ to an outdated gestalt. Why did I, without proper thought, vary the move order in a standard opening by castling one move early and thereby allowing a piece-winning double pawn advance? I wish I knew. It was hardly a captain’s good example.

The fault dear Brutus…

John Wilman reports an interesting conversation in the car going back to Cornwall that bears on the paragraph above. Gary Trudeau, ever an entertaining source of off-the-wall theories, sought to let John off the blunderers’ naughty seat by suggesting that the fault lay with his biorhythms. This caused some hilarity, which subsided a little when Gary was able to use date-of-birth data to ‘prove’ his point, albeit on the small sample that the car passengers represented. The web has much to say on biorhythms (see e.g. Meet Your Alternative Self, which pairs biorhythms and horoscopes as equally credible sources of prediction), mainly in uncritical support of the notion of three unremittingly metronomic cycles that commence at birth (physical cycle 23 days; emotional cycle 28 days; and intellectual cycle 33 days). The father of predictive biorhythm theory George Thomman wrote Is This Your Day? In 1964 and it is still the canonical text, interestingly using performance at chess as one of his examples.

John refused to be let off the hook (‘although it gave us a good laugh’) and preferred Shakespeare’s insight from Julius Caesar:

The fault dear Brutus is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings

Getting the troops out

The military chess analogy is deliberate. Getting out a strong team is exactly analogous to what schoolchildren learning chess are taught: get all your pieces out if you hope to win. Although against Gloucestershire our bottom six boards came on top by 4.5 to 1.5, our tail at county level has traditionally been relatively weak. We can be pretty sure that Devon will field a team strong in depth, so it is essential that we field as strong a team as possible. I will be sending out invitations soon and trust that our selected players will make every effort to make the match. Details of the match date and venue are on this website.

County chess venues

Finally I have elected to use this match report to indicate a condition I have decided to place on my remaining as match captain of the Cornwall chess team, should I be invited to continue. Now we are fielding county teams in both divisions, and involving more juniors, the transport arrangements have become a logistic nightmare. Moreover, they cannot sensibly be detached from the captaincy as last minute adjustments to the teams are often necessary. I am therefore making my continued tenure as captain dependant on WECU venues being easily accessible by rail, and intend this as formal notice to that effect.

A happy new year to all my readers!

David Jenkins
29th December 2014

Played at Victory Hall, Exminster
on 18th October 2014
1 189 Jeremy Menadue 1 - 0 Jack Rudd 224
2 178 Mark Hassall ½ - ½ Ben P Edgell 198
3 173 David Saqui 1 - 0 Andrew F Footner 187
4 170 James Hooker 0 - 1 Matthew J Payne 186
5 169 Simon Bartlett 0 - 1 Mike Richardt 184
6 157 Lloyd Retallick ½ - ½ Rob Hearne 181
7 156 Colin Sellwood 0 - 1 David P Littlejohns 178
8 155 Gary Trudeau 0 - 1 Barry Morris 175
9 154 John Wilman 0 - 1 David Peters 164
10 149 Richard Smith 0 - 1 Gerry N Jepps 163
11 UG Emir Gurlek 0 - 1 Fernando Felício UG
12 132 David R Jenkins 0 - 1 Matthew Staniforth 159
13 129 Neil Robinson ½ - ½ Andrew M Gregory 158
14 125 Kenton Richings ½ - ½ Andy Bellingham 154
15 125 Martin Jones 0 - 1 Roger D Knight 152
16   Default 1 - 0 Default  
Somerset had white on the odd boards
1 120 David Lucas 1 - 0 Jim Fewkes 150
2 119 Ian Renshaw 0 - 1 Chris Fewtrell 149
3 119 Richard Clark 0 - 1 Chris M Strong 148
4 108 Bill Pope 0 - 1 Mark R Baker 147
5 107 Barry Childs 0 - 1 Tim A Wallis 143
6 102 Hugh Brown 0 - 1 Rob McClatchey 123
7 99 Terry Dengler 1 - 0 Nigel Mills 117
8 83 Richard Stephens ½ - ½ Roger G Waters 112
9 83 Harvey Richings ½ - ½ Michael E Cooper 111
10 86 William Dash 0 - 1 Ivan M Stringer 110
11 83 Matthew Jilbert 0 - 1 Geoff T Berryman 108
Cornwall had white on the odd boards

Match Captain's Report

The Somerset match was played on Saturday 18 October at the Victory Hall, Exminster, and (unsurprisingly) the hosts, who out-graded us on every board, ran out the comfortable winners. The First Division match the score was Somerset 11 to Cornwall’s 5 while our Second Division team lost by 8 to 3. The full board-by-board result for both matches is linked to the brief report on the home page.

Although the result was close to what a mathematical prediction based on the grading disparity between the two teams might suggest, several games drifted away from near equality as the endgame approached, and many of our losing players could legitimately go home happy, feeling they had given a good account of themselves. We were also weakened by key withdrawals of senior players, including Mate Csuri (still in Hungary), Grant Healey, Mick Hill, David J Jenkins, Robin Kneebone, Jeff Nicholas, Maurice Richardson, Theo Slade (representing England in the Georgia international) and Edward Webb. Nevertheless it is important not to spin false reassurance from a slightly disappointing final result and it is hoped that those of us who fell at some late hurdle will study our games and learn from the experience.

Cornwall has also acquired some talented new chess blood, including Neil Robinson and Emir Gurlek, a product of Falmouth Chess Club’s promising new relationship with the University Chess Club.

As in previous reports, I have requested brief post-match observations from our players and I am grateful to Barry Childs, David Lucas, Jeremy Menadue, Richard Smith, Gary Trudeau and John Wilman for their comments on their own and other games. There were several positive First Team performances worth mentioning. Jeremy secured a win over fast-moving IM Jack Rudd, taking advantage of an unaccustomed error (‘Jack took the wrong pawn and allowed a simple tactic’) and thereby had an unusual amount of time to follow games in progress, Well into the session he felt that after some solid openings and balanced middle game play Cornwall might hold the result at the narrow loss of one match point. But it wasn’t to be. Mark Hassall was certainly no worse off against the formidable Ben Edgell but settled for a commendable draw as time pressure kicked in. David Saqui continued his fine form with a quick win over Andrew Footner, despite conceding an early pawn weakness. James Hooker played with verve and imagination in a complex game, or at least did so before making his losing error! Lloyd Retallick, armed with his new opening repertoire, achieved a solid draw. Gary Trudeau just lost out on a complex double edged endgame, whilst Simon Bartlett succumbed to an unusually violent attack from Mike Richardt. John Wilman, playing black, cheekily threatened a smother mate in one after 3... Nd4?! hoping to meet 4 Nxd4 cxd4; 5 c3 with 5...d5! =. But his opponent found the adequate 4 Bg2 (4 f4 may be stronger) and won in a further 40 moves after a complicated struggle. David R Jenkins, despite promising himself a quiet closed game, yielded to temptation and found himself in a hair-raising Falkbeer Counter Gambit that followed a relatively obscure book line. He then foolishly swopped rooks in an even position and went into a lost king and pawn endgame. Neil Robinson and Kenton Richings both secured impressive draws against higher graded opponents while Marek Wasalski completed a book ends symmetry of results with Jeremy by winning by default on the bottom board.

The Somerset match was the first occasion in some years for Cornwall to field a second county team in the WECU Wayling Cup. It was also an auspicious moment in the development of Cornwall chess due to our determination to treat the expansion developmentally, fielding no less than four promising junior players. We also gave an opportunity to one or two loyal stalwarts of Cornish chess, whose grades have been depressed by inconsistency but who have shown themselves capable of fine play, to demonstrate their abilities at this level. Again there were some fine individual results, but I was particularly pleased with our four juniors. I will return to this aspect of the fixture below, and indeed I intend reserving the bulk of this report to junior chess. But first some brief comments on one or two of the other games.

Board 1 David Lucas won an entertaining short game by assaying the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, which can be (and was!) very dangerous if black is unfamiliar with the theoretical lines. One mistake and the position opens like a tin can. David is a commendable exponent of the principle that catching an opponent on unfamiliar territory is worth a slightly inferior position. Ian Renshaw played well, almost holding his game, whilst Barry Childs endured the pain of one of the longest games trying to recover from a minor error on move 17 (‘I was an idiot’, he writes engagingly). One of the most pleasing results was the splendid win by Terry Dengler, a consistent supporter of Cornwall chess and playing as a veteran debutant. Terry played for the initiative from the start (d4, e6: c4 Nf6: Bg5…) demonstrating the adage that in chess attack is the best form of defence. The game lasted 30 moves.

I now turn with pride to the performance of our juniors. All four played well despite being seriously out-graded and adapted well to the pressures at this level of chess and the longer time controls. Although both William Dash and Matthew Jilbert were unable to hold their games, they both showed considerable promise, and I had made it clear to them the developmental nature of their selection and that they were not being placed under unreasonable expectations.

However, despite our modest intentions, both Richard Stephens and Harvey Richings managed to play imaginative chess and secure solid draws. Harvey played a simple tight positional plan, avoiding any tactical complications. He exchanged black's white squared bishop to gain control of e4 and put pressure on the c-file. Hard to tell from the moves he's only ten, usually players his age try to do too much. Jeremy talked with him about the game and agreed if he had his opponent's position he would play on. Part of being a strong player is holding a slight minus and pushing with a small advantage. Richard had some control early in the game with black then let white build up pressure. He correctly exchanged down to Q+B v Q+N and had a very slight edge based on a better pawn structure when they drew, also used his time very sensibly as did all four of our juniors.

Observations on Junior Chess

WECU Jamboree played at Taunton
on 14th September 2014
1 189 Jeremy Menadue (W) ½ - ½ Philip Meade (G) 182
2 179 Theo Slade (B) ½ - ½ David Buckley (S) 207
3 178 Mark Hassall (W) 1 - 0 Kevin Hurst (D) 191
4 178 Grant Healey (B) 0 - 1 Stephen Homer (D) 188
5 173 David Saqui (W) 0 - 1 Patryk Krzyzanowski (S) 182
6 170 James Hooker (B) 1 - 0 Barry Whitelaw (G) 159
7 169 Simon Bartlett (W) 1 - 0 Alun Richards (G) 136
8 155 Gary Trudeau (B) 0 - 1 James Byrne (S) 165
9 154 John Wilman (W) 0 - 1 Alan Brusey (D) 176
10 149 Richard Smith (B) 0 - 1 Bill Ingham (D) 176
11 121 Martin Jones (W) 0 - 1 Darren Freeman (S) 158
12 107 Barry Childs (B) ½ - ½ John Harris (G) 115

Last updated 26/6/2015