Steve Berry RIP

Many Richmond players, especially those in the first teams, will be greatly saddened to hear that Wimbledon stalwart Steve Berry passed away on 4 January at the age of 67 after a short illness.

Steve was the reigning Surrey champion, having won the title for the first time in 1990, and then 11 times (one shared) between 2002 and 2018. He shared first place in the British 65+ Championship with Wimbledon teammate Roger Emerson in 2017 and was a regular tournament competitor both in the UK and across Europe. He played on a high board in many Wimbledon v Richmond matches, and, at the time of his death, had an unfinished game against Julien Shepley from the most recent Wimbledon v Richmond match.

Steve will be much missed by his many friends in the chess community. I’m sure everyone at Richmond will join me in sending condolences to Wimbledon Chess Club on their sad loss.

Here‘s a game against our club Chairman John Bass, played at Paignton (one of Steve’s favourite tournaments) in 2011.

Chess Puzzle of the Week (14)

It’s time to improve your tactical skills for the New Year.

White to play: what move would you suggest?


Last week I left you with a rather pretty Christmas Tree.


How can White mate in two moves? It looks impossible at first sight, but if you do some retroanalysis you can find the answer.

It’s easy to mate in two if you can make an en passant capture, but can you prove that this is legal?

Black’s last move couldn’t have been with the king: if he came from d8 or f8 he’d have been in an illegal double check, and he can’t have moved from d7 or f7 because there’s no way the white pawn on e6 could have reached there the previous move.

So Black has just moved a pawn. The pawns on b7 and h7 clearly haven’t moved, and the pawn on e4 could not have moved there last move.

Now we know that Black’s last move must have been either d5 or f5. If either pawn had moved one square White would have been in check with Black to play, so Black’s last move must have been either d7-d5 or f7-f5. White can now capture en passant and mate next move.

White has made 10 pawn captures (count them!) to reach this position. Black has six units on the board, so all the missing black units were captured by white pawns. Finally, we understand that Black’s last move couldn’t have been d7-d5 because Black’s light-squared bishop didn’t die at home, but was captured by a white pawn. Therefore we can demonstrate that Black’s last move could only have been f7-f5 so White can play g5xf6 (en passant) followed by f6-f7#.

Elementary, my dear Watson, or should I say Dawson?

Yes, this problem was composed by the great Thomas Rayner Dawson (see herehere and here).





Chess Puzzle of the Week (13)


I like defensive puzzles, which tend to be ignored in most tactics books. Last week I asked you how Black could best meet White’s threats..

The answer is the improbable Qc1. Everything else should lose, but this leads to an equal position. Qa1 or Qb1 would allow Qxe5, when White comes out a piece ahead, but now Qxe5 will be met by Qxh6.

Congratulations to anyone who managed to solve this.

As it’s Christmas, here’s a Christmas Tree for you.


Your computer will probably tell you White can mate in 4 moves. But in fact you can mate in 2 moves here. You’ll need a bit of lateral thinking to work out how. Just the thing to get your brain active after the turkey and Christmas pudding.


We Were the Champions (6)

On this day in 1975 we played our last LL1 match of the year, against Lewisham. A disappointing defeat, not helped by the unwelcome appearance of DE Fault on board 7, meant that we didn’t have a very merry Christmas. You’d be correct in guessing from the series title that we would, however, have a Happy New Year.

19 December 1975 University of London Union
Richmond & Twickenham 1 Lewisham 1
1 AP Law 225 ½:½ ML Fuller 216
2 DSC Goodman 200 ½:½ KJ Wicker 206
3 GH James 211 0:1 PV Byway 203
4 MJ Franklin 192 0:1 JG Nicholson 203
5 KI Norman 191 ½:½ LM Pickett 178
6 MJ Lightfoot 183 0:1 S Macdonald-Ross 179
7 Default 0:1 NR Oliver 187
8 DM Andrew 182 ½:½ MR Major 178
9 P Gillham 184 1:0 MJ Pitt 170
10 CD Carr 178 1:0 MM Robertson 166
11 HO Herbst 171 ½:½ G Botley –
12 R James 174 ½:½ TP Baldwin 146

Lewisham’s board 10, Mark Robertson, still plays for the same club in the London League: in the past 43 years his grade has improved by 21 points, to 187.

These days, league chess shuts down for three weeks or so over Christmas. Back in 1975 there was no such respite. We played Thames Valley League matches on the 22nd and 23rd December (our A team travelled to Maidenhead, where I lost to Nigel Dennis), there were two matches on 29th December, including another A team match, this time against Chertsey, and our C team had little time to recover from their New Year celebrations before visiting Acton on 2 January (a Friday) where our opponents had a certain Nevil Chan on top board.

Ealing Juniors v Richmond A 17-12-18

Our last match of 2018 was another vital match for the A team, facing a team comprising some of London’s top young players.

With Gavin rushing back from Germany, we were able to field a team good enough to win 5-3. Congratulations to Gavin, Mike, Chris and Raghu on their wins and many thanks to all who played in this match, and have supported the team so far this season.

Ealing Juniors Richmond A
1 Jacob Yoon 189 0:1 Gavin Wall 222
2 Michael Ifalore 177 0:1 Mike Healey 205
3 Christopher Tombolis 177 0:1 Chris White 167
4 Luke Remus Elliot 171 1:0 Richard James 170
5 Haotian Wu 171 ½:½ Max Wood-Robinson –
6 Tim Foster 170 ½:½ Bertie Barlow 161
7 Teddy Onslow 147 0:1 Raghu Kamath 168
8 Xavier Cowan 146 1:0 Ian McLeod 154

At the halfway point of the season we’re (presumably) on 3/6, having lost to the three teams who will be battling for the title, and beaten the other three teams. We’ll just need another couple of wins in the second half of the season to avoid relegation.

We still need to strengthen the team to be competitive. If you know anyone graded 170+ who’d like to play some matches in the Thames Valley League in the New Year please get in touch.

Our next match is not until Monday 21 January, when we visit Hammersmith. I wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year.


Chess Puzzle of the Week (12)


Last week we left you by this endgame study composed by RTCC and former RJCC star Caspar Bates.

Here’s the solution:

The natural move 1. bxa8Q only leads to a draw so:

1. a7 c1Q
2. axb8Q Kh7

Threatening Qh6#: it seems like White has no good checks, but…

3. Qh8+ Kxh8
4. Kg6

Black cannot avoid checkmate.

This week’s puzzle was something GM Bogdan Lalic posted on his Facebook page recently. Choose a move for Black.