Here at Game of the Week HQ we are naturally partial to games where the underdog puts one over on a more exalted opponent. While this game may not quite qualify as a David v Goliath encounter, beating an opponent 26 points stronger is nonetheless a commendable achievement.  There is a theory – almost a truism – that chess players often do better against stronger opponents, whether the result of unintentional complacency, concentration (or lack of) and Michael seems to have become a convert: this fine performance was sandwiched between two games in the Walker Shield where the importance of the fixtures notwithstanding, he was less fortunate against lower rated players.

White:   John Couzens (117)     Black:  Michael Doyle (91)

Goodall Cup  

                                                 Broadstairs   1½      Ramsgate  2½                     

1 Andy Flood (110) 1-0 Malcolm Snashall (110)
2 Bob Cronin (103) 0-1 Josh Vaughan (94)
3 Reg Pidduck (101) ½-½ Bob Wallace (88)
4 Michael Doyle (91) 0-1 Don Richards (74)

Capt Mike Doyle writes:

If you are skiing on a slippery slope you will invariably fall and go downhill. That’s what happened to Broadstairs last night when we lost to Ramsgate. The only hope of  winning the Thanet Shield if we beat Ramsgate was gone when we lost by 2½-1½. To spare a complete disaster, Andy on Board 1 notched up our only win. With white holding the initiative, we lost on Boards 2 and 4 playing black, namely Bob C and your captain Mike with Reg achieving a draw with the white pieces. It only proves the point that a 50-50 chance of winning with either with white or black favours white! Our first loss was Bob C. He was eventually worn down by white and resigned before he was mated. It was an even game with Reg and Andy a few pawns ahead, but our captain was on do-or-die battle on board four playing black (you guessed it). He had the white king in check by a rook in the middle of the board and lo and behold in a right tussle he lost in the end game. It was Reg who gained a draw with repetitive checks in the middle of the game. With his passed pawn gaining a queen, Andy was the only one to win. Hard luck, lads! Next season, we’re hoping to win the Walker Shield – praying with a bit of luck!

 

                                          Broadstairs   ½      Margate  3½                     

1 Andy Flood (110) 0-1 Clive Le Baigue (11)
2 Bob Cronin (103) 0-1 Leon Garfield (102)
3 Reg Pidduck (101) ½-½ John Clarke (98)
4 Michael Doyle (91) 0-1 Ray McAloney (86)

Capt Mike Doyle writes:

‘It was a drubbing,’  the verdict of Reg Pidduck, president of Broadstairs Chess Club, after yesterday’s loss to Margate. It was a chess disaster! Three of the Broadstairs players lost and only Reg managed a draw. Our captain, Mike Doyle, was the first go down having played a Sicilian Defence against White’s onslaught.  Half way into the game I fought back but my queen was en pris and I took my eyes off as the knight pounced to take it off. It was the second match that I have lost my queen!  The next player go down was none other than Bob C who lost a bishop early on and resigned the game as it fell apart. On board three was Reg, the only points scorer with a draw, who managed to get his knight pinned against the side of the board and a draw was agreed. Last to go was inimitable Andy, who played a solid methodical game, until a piece down and was forced to resign at the end. Our hopes of winning the Walker Shield are up in smoke unless a miracle happens. As Andy said after the match: ‘We can now relax and enjoy the rest of the season’ not in stress going for the shield. Urrggh!

 

Photo courtesy of Brendan O’Gorman

And so to St Albans which has been something of a pilgrimage for this writer over the years. A combination of spring sunshine and lakeside walks in a city of historical significance forms an attractive background to a chess congress. ‘Pilgrimage’ is an appropriate word to use as part of the city’s importance is its religious history. St Alban was the first British martyr, executed in the 3rd or 4th century for sheltering a Christian priest from the Romans, and St Albans Cathedral now stands near the believed site of his execution.  The Romans had named the settlement Verulamium and its significance continued through Anglo-Saxon and medieval times. The Wars of the Roses began with the Battle of St Albans in 1455 and a second battle was fought there six years later.

The chess congress is in its 37th year. Its former home was St Albans School situated in the town centre – St Albans feels too small to be called a city – which was ideal for the shops, pubs and bookies (the congress invariably seems to coincide with the Grand National) but less convenient for car parking.  The current venue, St Columba’s College, is a longer walk from the centre but car parking is not a problem. The walk around the lake in Verulamium Park is a pleasant one where herons can be found nesting at this time of year and RSPB volunteers offer their ‘scopes’ for viewing.  The congress is always popular. Easy access from London and the timing of the congress during the Easter school holidays traditionally guarantees around 200 players of all ages. This year saw a record turnout of 250 and the online entry was closed a few days early. One of the unlucky ones who ‘missed the cut’ was Toby Stock, formally of this parish, who turned up nevertheless hoping in vain for a late withdrawal. Another former Broadstairs member, Oliver Finnegan, who did make the list probably wished he hadn’t bothered as despite being graded near the top of the Major, he lost two of his first three games and promptly withdrew.

The congress is run by St Albans Chess Club and it’s not clear who is in charge as there always seems to be an army of volunteers. Ray Claret and Terry Douse are two and Michael Flatt and Tony Corfe were the arbiters. Two is probably the minimum required in a hall with 250 players (see the above photo).  Fortunately for them, everything seemed to run smoothly this year with a couple of clock problems and a minor injury appearing to be the only hiccups. Prize money totalled £3,400 and this was increased on the day to take into account the strong turnout. Consequently, five extra prizes were awarded to the ‘lucky losers’ – those who just missed out on a prize in each of the five sections.

The Open had an impressive lineup, headed by GM Chris Ward and IMs Richard Pert, Richard Bates (last year’s winner), and the latest chess wunderkind, ten year old Shreyas Royal, who already has an ECF grade of 186. All were muscled out of the way by the eventual winner, John Merriman, of the Drunken Knights, who may not be quite so drunk in the immediate future as they have just been turfed out of the pub that has been their home for 29 years. Merriman defeated Bates in the last round to finish on 4½/5 while Ward and Pert drew. Full results can be found here and click here for more of Brendan O’Gorman’s photographs of the congress.

 

                                           Broadstairs   2½      Bridge  1½                     

1 Andy Flood (110) 0-1 Graeme Boxall (93)
2 Bob Cronin (103) 1-0 Ray Rennells (80)
3 Reg Pidduck (101) ½-½ Stuart Capel (e80)
4 Michael Doyle (91) 1-0 Barnaby Wills (77)

Capt Mike Doyle writes:

With four matches to play prior to the match against Bridge yesterday, Broadstairs had to win all four to win the Walker Shield. Last night’s victory brought us closer to winning the shield with only three matches to play. Capt Mike Doyle got us off to a flying start with nearly an hour’s play to defeat the upcoming junior Barnaby Wills by mating with two rooks. On Board 2 Bob had a tricky start but won with a pawn onslaught in the centre with Ray Rennells resigning: 2-0. On Board 3 Reg was a pawn down and looked like losing and Andy was losing against Capt Graeme Boxall. The match was heading for a tie, but Reg offered his opponent a draw and we won 2½- 1½. Bad luck, Andy, you had an even game until your king wandered off to the  other side off the board, leaving your opponent with a passed pawn.  Well done, lads! Keep up the good work on Thursday against Margate!