Essex miss their chances as Sussex pull clear

Peter Walker 2002

Board Colour Home Team Grade Score Away Team Grade Score
1 B Tim Hebbes 173 0 Richard Almond 174 1
2 W Larry Marden 173 1 Michael Stott 171 0
3 B Paul Williamson 172 0 Stephen Hawes 168 1
4 W Julian Winkworth 170 ½ Brian Donnelly 167 ½
5 B Howard Grist 168 0 James Mansson 161 1
6 W Ian Reynolds 166 0 Paul Batchelor 160 1
7 B John White 160 ½ Rasa Norinkeviciute 157 ½
8 W Mark Weighell 160 1 Stephen Blewitt 153 0
9 B Colin Ramage 160 ½ Michael Reddie 150 ½
10 W Neville Twitchell 160 ½ Adrian Pickersgill 152 ½
11 B Roy Heppinstall 160 0 Tim Spanton 152 1
12 W David Millward 159 ½ Alan Palmer 146 ½
13 B Sid Kalinsky 158 ½ Brian Izzard 137 ½
14 W Steve Williams 157 0 L John Cannon 136 1
15 B Ian Hunnable 156 1 Timothy Woods 128 0
16 W Ray Purse 150 ½ R Daniel Hirsch 135 ½
TOTAL - Home TOTAL - Away
Essex v Sussex, u175

Essex v Sussex, the early stages. Boards 3 to 6 are on the right, 7 to 10 on the left. The two Captains are in the background.

When it happened, it was not with a whimper, it was spectacular. The Essex under 175 team, which has dominated the Southern Counties' Championship for years, suffered the heaviest, and probably the least expected, SCCU defeat in John Philpott's period in charge.

Both teams had suffered the loss of a few players to the 4NCL, but Sussex had surely lost more, and stronger, players than Essex. Daniel Hirsch, the Sussex Captain, remarked shortly before the start of the match that he regarded Wanstead House as his team's graveyard, and when the team lists were exchanged the grades certainly made the Essex team the favourites: in some cases the players had more than 20 points separating them. Only on board 1 did Sussex outgrade Essex and then by a single point.

The early stages of the match gave few clues of what was to come, although a couple of Essex players appeared to have difficult positions. Steve Williams was definitely suffering more than most as his opponent, playing with the Black pieces, had exchanged queens, had won two pawns and had a rook most aggressively placed on the second rank, keeping Steve's king hemmed in and simultaneously threatening to skewer one rook if the other ventured out into the board. To make matters worse, Steve's knight was stranded on h4 and it was a remarkable feat of resistance that White managed to keep this game alive almost to the end of the match.

It was Paul Williamson who suffered the first defeat. Paul was playing black against S.O.N. Hawes (right foreground in photo), a veteran of many County seasons. Paul grabbed what he thought was a safe pawn but then found that White blew his king-side apart with a piece sacrifice. David Millward and Colin Ramage were the next two to finish, each agreeing draws. In Colin's case, his opponent was able to force a repetition, but earlier on the position had not looked too promising as White had won a pawn. John White and Neville Twitchell also shared the point in their respective games, so Sussex maintained their lead of a solitary point.

The board 14 game had marginally improved for Essex and at one time, when the rooks came off, Steve did manage to reduce the number of pawns on the board and he was getting close to realising his plan of swapping off all the king-side pawns and then giving up his knight for Black's b- and d-pawns. This would have left the Sussex player with a light-squared bishop and an a-pawn, a drawn position because Black is unable to evict the white king from the dark-squared corner. However, Black kept control of the position and prevented this counter-chance.

The one game which Essex were definitely winning was the board 8 encounter in which Mark Weighell sacrificed early, telling his Captain "I lost a piece on move 9 in a match during the week: today I have lost a piece on move 7!" Mark's rook and bishop occupied the open lines hitting g7 and when he delivered a knight check from e7, Black might well have resigned. However, he played on a piece down for a few more moves until Mark had convinced him that it was a lost cause.

Larry Marden, on board 2, had won the exchange and when the queens came off it appeared to be a matter of technique and time. So it proved and this was one of the last games to finish, black capitulating when Larry's king and both rooks had the black king at their mercy, his own forces otherwise occupied in an irrelevant part of the board.

The biggest upset occurred on board 5. Howard Grist had played impressively, invading White's position with a well-co-ordinated piece attack. White's king-side pawns disappeared and it was simply a matter of selecting one of the various means of winning material that Howard had at his disposal and then exchanging into an ending. Howard had seen that a bishop check diverted White's knight from a key square (d3) and that after his own knight delivered check, he would be able to capture the white queen. The Sussex player was desperately short of time and observers expected a resignation when the queen disappeared. However, the knight which had been a defensive rock on d3 had gone to e5 and from there it could deliver a lethal check to the Black king, leading to mate in 3 and leaving Black's queen a helpless onlooker amid the debris. This was the sort of defeat which can haunt a player for years, particularly when one considers that Black could have maintained an overwhleming position with 37...Qxe1+ 38.Kh2 Qxe5.

Howard's was a key game if there was to be any fight-back and with it went the match. Just for good measure, Roy Heppinstall mis-played what had been a reasonably promising position for him and found that White's rooks and queen were all hitting g7 from differeng directions. Roy's king, on f6, was unable to escpape from the queen's check from a1 so he was forced to interpose a rook. As soon as White attacked it a second time there was no rescue party and Roy went a rook down.

There was more misfortune to follow as Tim Hebbes, playing black on board 1, was in a time scramble which involved both players. Neither side was keeping score so when Tim's flag fell, they had to reconstruct so that their score-sheets could be completed. This proved that Tim was one move short. Ian Hunnable, on board 15, had been under attack for the entire match as his opponent, outgraded by nearly 30 points, played some enterprising chess. He sacrificed a piece and Ian's king was under siege. However, when the end came it was sudden as White allowed too many exchanges and Black was able to simplify into a winning position, which in any case Ian thought was now better for him. Ray Purse, who had been keeping a blocked position alive for a long time, was now given permission by John Philpott to accept the draw offered to him by the Sussex Captain, and it merely remained for Julian Winkworth to be convinced that his pawn advantage was going to be insufficient for victory as Black's rook and king were too aggressively placed. Sussex deserved their 9½ - 6½ victory: they took their chances and Essex didn't.

This result gives Sussex a tremendous boost. They had already beaten Middlesex convincingly, and Essex had beaten Surrey but rather less so, in the first round of matches in October. The match away to Middlesex on 7th December now carries with it an even greater significance: Essex have won six consecutive SCCU Championships in this division, which is every year since John took over as Captain, and that superb record is now under threat. With four matches remaining, and only one of those at home, it will be a real test of character to see if Essex can overhaul Sussex now.

Weighell,M - Blewitt,S [C28]
Essex v Sussex, 9/11/02

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 h6 5.f4 Bc5 6.Bxf7+ Kxf7 7.fxe5 Nxe5 8.d4 Bxd4 9.Qxd4 d6 10.Nf3 Nc6 11.Qf2 Rf8 12.b3 Kg8 13.Bb2 Ng4 14.Qe2 Nce5 15.0-0-0 Bd7 16.Kb1 a5 17.a4 Qe8 18.Nd5 Rc8 19.h3 Nxf3 20.gxf3 Ne5 21.f4 Ng6 22.Rhg1 Bf5 [22...Kh7 hangs on for longer, but Black is still in a bad way] 23.Rde1 Qxe4 24.Ne7+ Kh7 25.Nxg6 Rfe8 26.Qf2 Qc6 27.Ne7 Rxe7 28.Rxe7 1-0

Mansson,J - Grist,H [A87]
SCCU, Essex v Sussex, 2002

1.Nf3 f5 2.c4 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.0-0 0-0 6.d4 d6 7.Nc3 Qe8 8.d5 e5 9.dxe6 Qxe6 10.Qd3 Na6 11.Nd4 Qd7 12.Nb3 Rb8 13.Be3 b6 14.Rfd1 Nb4 15.Qd2 Nc6 16.Rac1 Ne5 17.Nb5 a6 18.Na3 Kh8 19.Qc2 Qe7 20.Nd4 Bb7 21.Bxb7 Rxb7 22.Bf4 Ne4 23.Nb1 g5 24.Be3 [24.Nxf5 Ng4 25.Nc3] 24...Ng4 25.Nc6 Qe8 26.Nb4 Qh5 27.h4 gxh4 28.Kg2 h3+ 29.Kh1 Nxe3 30.fxe3 Nxg3+ 31.Kh2 Nxe2 [31...Be5 32.Nd5 Qg4 33.Rg1 Ne4+ 34.Nf4 Bxf4+ 35.exf4 Qxf4+ 36.Kxh3 Nf2+ 37.Kg2 Rg8+ 38.Kf1 Nd3#] 32.Nd3 Qf3 33.Rg1 Qxe3 34.Rce1 Be5+ 35.Nxe5 Qf2+ 36.Kh1 Ng3+ 37.Rxg3 Qxc2?? [37...Qxe1+ 38.Kh2 Qxe5] 38.Nf7+ 1-0

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Woodbridge go to Dublin

That bunch of intermittent itinerants and inveterate bon viveurs, Woodbridge Chess Club, continued their slow but inexorable exploration of the Chess Clubs of Western Europe with a trip to Dublin. Arriving early on a Friday morning at Stansted, they were surprised to be greeted by the sight of that most vertically contrasting pair, Jonathan Speelman and Stewart Reuben, at the concourse, en route for Slovakia.

A weekend's sightseeing and sampling the delights of Dublin's Fair City were interrupted by a couple of chess matches as the Woodbridge Six (seven if you include Colin Chambers, the Bar Steward) lost narrowly to an impressive array of rating points provided by the Irish opposition.

During the interval between the two halves of the match, Charlie Harding presented an engraved chess clock to the Dublin Club, and each member of the Woodbridge team was presented with a copy of the History of the Dublin Chess Club, a slim but interesting volume published on the occasion of the Club's centenary in 1967. The extracts shown below are a Club Photograph from 1967 and the two games published on the final page of the booklet.

Dublin Chess Club Games from Dublin
Bd Woodbridge Rd1   Dublin Rating Rd2   Woodbridge
1 Colin Ramage 0 1 John O'Connor 2133 1 0 Charlie Harding
2 Charlie Harding 0 1 Colum Egan 1735 1 0 Michael Bird
3 Michael Bird ½ ½ Pat Loughrey 1515 0 1 Richard Manning
4 Richard Manning 1 0 Michael Keating 1506 0 1 Roderick Johnson
5 Roderick Johnson 1 0 Denis Dempsey 1456 ½ ½ Bryan Gaze
6 Bryan Gaze 0 1 Jack Killane 2178 1 0 Colin Ramage

Final Score: Dublin 7 Woodbridge 5

Forsyth: 8/K1P4R/8/k7/8/8/2r4p/8 White to play and win.

Forsyth: 5k2/8/5p2/8/3K1P2/24

Last week's solution: 1 f5! (anything else allows Black to occupy f5 with his pawn and then, after the white king takes on f5, Black plays Kf7, keeps the opposition and draws the game) 1... Ke7 2 Kc5 (diagonal opposition) Kd7 3 Kd5 (direct opposition) Ke7 4 Kc6. Now that White's king is on the 6th rank, Black is unable to hang on to his pawn as White can attack it from the 6th & 7th ranks, but Black can only defend it from the 7th. The position with White's king on the 6th and his pawn on the 5th when they are both in the same file is always a win in the b- to g-files.

Peter Walker 2002

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