Chess Puzzle of the Week (30)


Last week I left you with this endgame study composed by the great Leonid Kubbel. White to play and draw.

We start by playing:

1. g4

Black has only two choices. 1… a2 loses to 2. Kg2 a1Q 3. Bg3#, so there’s no choice:

1… Kxh3

Now what? We have to play for stalemate:

2. Kh1 a2
3. Bg1

Black must promote, but what to choose? Promotion to a queen or rook is immediate stalemate. After 3… a1N 4. Bb6 leads to a draw, while after 3… a1B, White has 4. Bd4 Bxd4 with another stalemate.


This week, for a change, some strategy rather than tactics. Black to move.

A two part question:

a) which move did Black play here?

b) can you guess the identity of the conductor of the black pieces?

(No, it wasn’t me, nor was it anyone with any connection at all with either RTCC or RJCC.)

Harrow v Richmond TVKO 18-04-19

Having reached safety in the league we still had the TV Knock Out Cup to contend with. Our semi-final match paired us with second division outfit Harrow, who won the cup last season and can be dangerous at home over six boards.

We were evenly matched on the middle two boards but had a substantial grading advantage at the top and bottom. On paper we expected a fairly comfortable victory, but strange things can happen.

In the event there was nothing to worry about. After an hour and a quarter we were already two points up, with Mike and Max having no trouble demolishing their opponents. A quarter of an hour later Chris completed a clean sweep of our white boards.

Gavin soon provided the winning point, Julien drew an exciting game and Raghu’s opponent managed to hold on in a rook ending a pawn down.

All in all, a very smooth performance. Congratulations to all and thanks for making the difficult journey.

Harrow Richmond
1 Steven Coles 186 0:1 Gavin Wall 223
2 Asad Rahman 178 0:1 Mike Healey 212
3 Nevil Chan 173 ½:½ Julien Shepley 174
4 Pradeep Verma 173 0:1 Chris White 177
5 Jan Cobben 148 ½:½ Raghu Kamath 169
6 James Lyons 140 0:1 Max Wood-Robinson 176

It looks like the other semi-final is between Kingston and Hammersmith, but I haven’t seen a date yet. I’d guess our likely final opponents will be Hammersmith, but you never know. All we’ll need to win some silverware is for Gavin and Mike to score their usual wins, when a win or two draws lower down will be enough for a win on board count.


Chess Puzzle of the Week (29)


Last weekend I left you with this position. English GM Nigel Short had White here in the first round of the Bangkok Open against Ramesh Avinash (1834).

Nigel played 29. Rxe6, and Black, rather unsportingly, played Nb8 instead of either resigning or capturing the rook. White won a few moves later.

29… Kxe6 would have been met by 30. Qxd5+ Kxd5 31. Bc4#, a spectacular magnet combination.

The latest issue of The Problemist includes a fascinating article by RTCC London League star (and former RJCC member) Caspar Bates. The article, based on a lecture given to the British Chess Problem Society last November, looks at the idea of ‘the story’ in endgame studies.


Here’s one of the studies Caspar quotes in his article. As always there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you have an extra bishop: the bad news if that the black a-pawn is about to promote, and there’s nothing you can to do stop it.

It’s White to play and draw in this endgame study composed by the great Leonid Kubbel (Smena 1916). Caspar drops a few hints. It’s short and sweet, and especially witty. Everyone thinks they’ve solved it after White’s third move, but you’ll need the fourth move to score full marks.

Richmond B v Maidenhead A 11-04-19

Unfortunately our opponents were unable to raise a team and had to concede the match.

The default situation in Division 2 of the Thames Valley League has been unsatisfactory this season.

Harrow A have defaulted four of their six away matches: in their other two matches, against Hounslow A and Uxbridge, they fielded strong teams and won easily. This is extremely unfortunate for those two teams, but also unfortunate for the other teams who missed out on a match.

Now Maidenhead A have defaulted two away matches, against Kingston A and ourselves. They visited Surbiton B, Harrow A and Hounslow A, but lost all three matches. They have one more away match to come, against Uxbridge.

Both Richmond B and Kingston A have won two matches by default, so their players will only have had ten matches rather than the expected twelve.

As a match captain myself I’m well aware how hard it can be to get teams together, especially for more distant away matches when you need to arrange transport. You have to decide whether to field a weak and incomplete team or to concede the match. Wimbledon B had problems against our A team the other day, but chose to default three boards, while other teams in the same situation have preferred to cancel. I have every sympathy with Harrow and Maidenhead, but at the same time the league committee will have to consider what action, if any, to take.

Ealing A v Richmond A 08-04-19

We’d managed to assemble our strongest team of the season for this crucial match. A win would keep us in the top division, while a loss would still leave us at the mercy of other results and even a draw, putting us on at least 50%, wouldn’t make us 100% safe.

On exchanging teams we discovered that Ealing also had their best team of the season, with formidable players on the top five boards. We were stronger at the top and the bottom, but outgraded on the middle boards.

My opponent offered me a draw on move 15 as he was feeling unwell. As I’d misplayed the opening I was happy to accept. But elsewhere things weren’t going according to plan. Max had allowed his opponent a crushing rook sacrifice which won material. Julien and John scored solid draws, while Gavin reached a rook ending with an extra pawn, which he eventually managed to convert. Mike’s position was typically incomprehensible, but, after declining a draw, he also brought home the full point. Meanwhile, Chris had gone down in the ending, so everything rested on Raghu’s game. Fortunately for us he was able to win, giving us a narrow victory in an exciting match.

Congratulations, as usual, to Gavin and Mike, and especially to Raghu for scoring the point that kept us safe. Congratulations also to Julien and John for highly creditable draws and thanks to all who played. Thanks also to Ealing for their hospitality: we wish them well in their remaining matches.

Ealing A Richmond A
1 Phil Makepeace 199 0:1 Gavin Wall 223
2 Alan Perkins 198 0:1 Mike Healey 212
3 Patryk Stanisz 197 ½:½ Julien Shepley 174
4 John Quinn 190 ½:½ John Burke 181
5 Rajat Makkar 186 1:0 Chris White 177
6 Joao Santos 169 ½:½ Richard James 167
7 Simon Healeas 149 0:1 Raghu Kamath 169
8 Alastair Johnstone 137 1:0 Max Wood-Robinson 176

We’re now second in the league, ahead of Wimbledon A by the smallest of margins. We both have one more match, against Surbiton A, who have still only played half their matches.

5th and 6th places in the league will rest between Ealing A and Ealing Juniors. Ealing A had fielded weak teams in some of their previous matches, but if they can field a team like this there’s no way they should be anywhere other than Division 1. It would also be a travesty if Ealing Juniors, who have access to many of London’s top young players, were relegated.

Looking at Division 2, though, it’s clear that Surbiton B and Kingston A, last season’s two relegated teams, are much stronger than the other teams and ambitious to return to the top flight.

Traditionally, the higher divisions of the league have always had 8 teams: perhaps the league committee will choose to revert to 8 teams in Division 1 next season. This would raise a problem regarding the lower divisions. I’ll write more about this at the end of the season.

It’s certainly good to see the top division becoming more competitive, with Hammersmith and Ealing Juniors joining the more established stronger teams.



Chess Puzzle of the Week (28)


Last week I left you with this position. You might have been tempted to play 1. d5 Ne5 2. Bb4, apparently trapping the black queen.

But Black can reply with 2… Qf3, winning a pawn because of 3. gxf3 Nxf3+ 4. Kf1 Bh3#.

Instead, White should simply play O-O in the diagrammed position, with a slight but definite advantage.

This week, it’s the first round of an open Swiss and you have White against a much lower rated opponent.


How are you going to finish him off?

Richmond D v Surbiton C 05-04-19

Some excellent news to report: Richmond D scored a commanding win over Surbiton C to guarantee at least second place in Division 4. Two teams are usually promoted but it’s not clear yet what decision the league committee will take at the end of the season.

James, in his first appearance for Richmond, posted a draw on board 2, and Eamon also shared the point on top board, completing an excellent season for the team. Colin scored an outstanding win against a highly rated young opponent and there were also wins for Rob and Max. Omar’s game was unfinished on the night but he has now resigned.

It’s great to see three new, and younger, members playing in this team. The players are out there: if we promote social chess and advertise it online they’ll turn up.

Richmond D Surbiton C
1 Eamon Rashid-Farokhi 143 ½:½ David Cole 120
2 James Munns 120 ½:½ Mark Webley 119
3 Colin Dailley 103 1:0 Radha Ratnesan 123
4 Omar Anbargi 108 0:1 Oleksiy Podolyan 120
5 Rob Hunter – 1:0 Rohan McCauley 85
6 Max Brindley – 1:0 Paul McCauley 87

Richmond D have now completed their programme for the season, winning six matches, drawing one and losing three.

Wimbledon D are on 6½/9: if they win or draw their last match, against Ealing C on Monday, they will win the title. If they lose, we will take the trophy on tie break.

Update: Wimbledon D drew with Ealing C so take the Division 4 title. We’re just behind in second place.