Here’s a rarity – yes, folks, you heard it here first – a blunder by Magnus Carlsen. It was played in the Grand Tour Chess Finals in London this afternoon (Sunday) in the 3rd/4th play-off between Carlsen and Lev Aronian.  Admittedly, it was a rapidplay game but Carlsen had five minutes left on his clock when this position arose after he (Black) had played 33…Nc4.

At this point Stockfish had the game as equal (-0.45). White then decided to exchange his rook for Black’s knight and Stockfish immediately gave Black as winning (-4.82). The game continued like this:

34. Rxc4     Qxc4

35. Qa8+    Kf7

36. Qf8+     Kg6

37. Rc1?!

Is this the blunder, you are thinking? But no, it was played by Aronian. So, what’s the blunder? Did Carlsen not take it? Yes, he did – this is how the game continued:

37…………….. Qxc1

38. Qe8+      Kh6

39. Qe6+

At this point we reach the following position:

This is like one of Danny King’s ‘How Good is Your Chess?’ questions. What would you play in this position? Incredibly, Stockfish gives three very contrasting scores depending on your choice. The best move for Black is 39…..Kh5 (-14.46) whereas after 39….Kg5 (0.00) White can force a draw with 40. Be7+ Kh5  41. Qf7+ Kh6  42. Qe6+. If Carlsen was wary of this, it doesn’t explain why he didn’t play 39…Kh5 because instead of either of these he chose to play 39….g6??  Hands up if you would have done the same?! But after 40. Bf8+ Kh5 41. Qe7 Black resigned. And so, in one move Black has gone from a winning position of -14.46 to facing mate in 12! After the game the commentators said that Aronian was walking around grinning like the Cheshire Cat. He knew he had swindled Carlsen and he must have played 37. Rc1 as a last throw of the dice (he had less than two and a half minutes left at this point) in the hope that Carlsen would make the fatal move.

The advantage of being an average woodpusher is that that as a result of personal experience, you know a blunder when you see one. And this, my friends, whether you are a world champion or not, was a blunder.


Shany (left) at last year’s Christmas Dinner

It is always a shock when someone you know dies and although Shany had been seriously ill for some time, this was certainly the case when we heard the sad news on October 27th. He was buried on November 18th in Canterbury Cemetery after a service attended by members of his family and friends from both Broadstairs and Bridge Chess Clubs. Shany was a strong player and a key member of Broadstairs’  Millar Cup team. His cheerful and outspoken presence will be much missed. As a small memorial, here is his last game at the club. It’s well worth playing through.

White:   David Faldon (178)    Black:  Shany Rezvany (160)

John Couzens Vase 2019  

David Faldon writes:

This was a semi-final of the John Couzens Vase – the club handicap knock-out tournament where the higher rated player has less time. By winning the game, Shany therefore qualified for the final which, sadly, was never played and so he was declared joint champion for 2019 with the winner of the other semi-final, Trefor Owens. In this game, Shany played his favourite defence and the position was pretty level right up to 21…h5. This h-pawn advance is not the start of a crude attack but rather a subtle defensive idea to keep white pieces out of the g4 square. It also sets a trap, which White (short of time) fell into with 22.Bg5? and 23.Qe3?, swapping off his good bishop. After that White had to be careful not to become much worse but he failed, allowing the terrific move 29…Ra3! So what, you might think, both sides have the same number of pieces and pawns, and White even has a bishop for a knight … but none of the white pieces have any good moves and to me Black is just winning. Rather than waiting around to be finished off, White immediately counter-attacked. The counter-attack is actually quite dangerous and Shany had to find some very good moves to preserve his advantage, for example 38…Na6!, 40…Rg3! And 41…Kf7! Any slight slip from Black would have seen White turn the tables, but Shany was on top form and made no mistake. A really great game – one I’m quite proud to have lost.

                                         Year 3 pupils from St George’s Primary with Bob and Reg

It was back to school for Reg and me this week – in Reg’s case, he really was going back although the new St George’s School in Broadstairs is a far cry from the one he attended a few (!) years ago.  As many people know, St George’s Secondary School has hosted the Thanet Congress for the past two years and following the opening of the new school building in 2010, a primary department was added in 2016. At our AGM in September a decision was made to strengthen our ties with St George’s and the local community while at the same time helping to promote the game we know and love. It was therefore decided to donate ten new chess sets to the school and the presentation took place on Tuesday. The primary department does not have a chess club at present but will use the new sets to start one up and the six Year 3 pupils you see here are going to be the ambassadors sent to spread the word. At the presentation we asked a few questions and then invited the children to ask us anything. “Why are there 64 squares?” asked one boy. “Ah…er…” Reg and I looked at each other. “Why are the pieces black and white?” asked one of the girls. “Another good question!” we replied unconvincingly. We knew what they were thinking – ‘Who are these imposters? They say they come from a chess club and have been playing all their lives but they can’t answer the most basic of questions!’ Time to beat a retreat, we thought.

We look forward to hearing about the new St George’s chess club which it is hoped will lead to matches against other schools in due course. Broadstairs Chess Club will follow the school’s progress keenly and we have offered any help and advice that is required. For any school wishing to start a chess club there is plenty of help available. In this county there is the Kent Schools Chess Association, and nationally there is the excellent Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) set up by Malcolm Pein in 2009 which provides coaches to teach chess in 300 state schools across the country and offers help to 500 more. Finally, there is the UK Chess Challenge, the world’s largest children’s chess competition which last year involved 40,000 children from over 1,200 schools. Perhaps St George’s will make that 1,201 in 2020.

It’s always reassuring to see grandmasters making the sort of mistakes that plague the average woodpusher week in week out –  what do you mean,  ‘speak for yourself….’? – and this Blunder of the Week falls into that very category. In the recently completed Isle of Man International Tournament David Howell was seeded 24/150 before the start and had enjoyed a successful tournament in ten of the eleven rounds, including a win over GM Alexander Grischuk in Round 10. Victory in his final game could have given him a share of first place depending on the result of the Nakamura-Caruana game on Board 1. In his way stood China’s Wang Hao (playing with the white pieces) who was also on 7/10 with similar ambitions. Here is the position after White’s 18th move. A glance at the board suggests that a win for either player is unlikely but likewise neither is defeat. White has just played 18. Qa4 so the bishop on a2 clearly has to move. Who knows what Howell was thinking but 18….Be6 looks a good bet.  However….


The joke about Howell making a howler has been made before – not least here – and this does look a shocker. It probably did not take White too long to reply 19. Rd1  and although the game continued for another nineteen moves, after 19….Bxb7 (what else?) 20. Rxd8 the damage was done. Howell still finished in eleventh place with a performance rating of 2743 but as a result of his victory, Wang Hao won both the tournament on a tie break and also a place in the 2020 Candidates Tournament.

The new season is under way and with it a few surprising features agreed at the AGM. The main surprise was the decision to change the time control for the club championship from the traditional 36 moves in 90 minutes and then all remaining moves in a fifteen-minute quickplay finish to the more forward-looking and increasingly popular Fischer time. This is used at most top level tournaments now and weekend congresses are beginning to adopt it including the Thanet Congress which has done so for the past few years. For the uninitiated, Fischer time stipulates that all moves are to be completed in a set time but with the addition of an fixed increment per move. In the Thanet Congress the time control is all moves in 90 minutes with a 30 second increment per move. It was used for one season at the club a few years ago but was then scrapped because all league competitions kept to quickplay finishes and the majority of members preferred to have one system for consistency. It was not a unanimous decision to reinstate it but so far it seems to be working well. The one bone of contention is that it was decided to play all moves in 60 rather than 90 minutes with a 30 second increment. The reason for this was a worry that games might go on beyond our allotted time in the club although this was not a problem last time.  However, time will tell.

The other innovation which, to be fair, is hardly an innovation at all but it is for Broadstairs, was the decision to timetable the club championship games. This is probably something that most clubs have always done but Broadstairs, while leading the way in Thanet for new ideas and progressive thinking, is also quite laid back in many ways and its approach to the the club championship reflected this. Games were always arranged between individuals, some of whom were more pro-active than others in doing this with the result that in recent years, especially as numbers have increased, several games were not completed by the end of the season.

Last year there were 20 players in the Goodall Cup – this year there are 22. It was agreed that adding specific dates to the club fixture list – in effect, creating 21 rounds for the competition – everyone would know when they had a Goodall game to play, the pairings would be pre-set in a round-robin format that you can download easily, and no-one need worry about arranging fixtures as they are already done. Two rounds have been played so far and while there have been a few postponements, players have been quick to re-arrange games at the earliest opportunity. Keen observers can keep up to date with the results and indeed all the Thanet chess news by going to the excellent ECF LMS site here.

It has been suggested that there should be a Game of the Round but we already have Game of the Week which might well come from the club championship. Instead, I prefer to call this ‘A Game of the Round’ which implies it is not claiming to be a masterpiece but it’s one that at least one of the players thinks is worth a second look. In this case it is David Faldon who suggested putting this game, the first in his defence of the title, on the site. His opponent, your correspondent, thought otherwise but then I would because I lost.

White:  Robert Page (133)   Black:  David Faldon (178)  

Goodall Cup

Congratulations to John Couzens who was asked to contribute to the 2019 edition of the Parliamentary Review which is an independent publication that aims to share best practice among policy makers and business leaders.  As a result of this, John was invited to their annual gala in London where he rubbed shoulders with the good, the bad and the…er…others. Here he is with the ex-Gangnam practioner, ex-Norwich City chairman and ex-Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls. The photo is crying out for a caption competition so I’ll start the Balls rolling…


“If you mention Boris Johnson once more, John, I’ll break the rest of your fingers.”