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.


                                                 Broadstairs   2½      Bridge  1½                       

1 Manoj Natarajan (e140) 1-0 Peter Blundell (115)
2 Paul Johnson (138) ½-½ Gary Hilleard (107)
3 Bob Page (133) 1-0 Tim Spencer (98)
4 Paul Carfrae (131) 0-1 James Smith (93)

Paul Johnson writes:

To have your strongest side out for your first match as captain is very encouraging indeed and as such we set out to take on Bridge. The match result was in our favour by the barest minimum and how this occurred I will explain. On board 4 was Paul Carfrae and he reminded me that he had beaten a player I lost to in our last match vs Folkestone. He then, very kindly, returned the favour by losing to a player I had beaten last time out at Bridge! Paul knows that if I adhere to the John Couzens school of team selection, then he will be in danger of being dropped from the return leg! Board 3 had Bob Page in a closed position looking for a breakthrough and by patient manoeuvring creating an opportunity to place rooks on open lines and with a cross cutting bishop, he forced his opponent to blunder and resign. I was on board 2 against former Broadstairs member Gary Hilleard and I had most of the pressure but no clear way I could see to win so we agreed a draw. Manoj Natarajan’s game was so strange I hardly know where to begin! By the end however, he had a bishop cleaning up pawns and won clearly. Afterwards he suggested I could have won my game but since I’m captain I’m unlikely to be dropped! Well done to my team and thanks to Bridge against whom we have some excellent matches!

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.

                                   Broadstairs  3½        Folkestone   3½

1 David Faldon (178) ½-½  Jim Bayford (180)
2 Richard Clement (145) 1-0  David Shire (176)
3 Manoj Natarajan (e140) 0-1  Martin Cutmore (161)
4 Paul Johnson (138) 0-1  Kevin Smyth (161)
5 Bob Page (133) ½-½  John Atherton (157)
6 Paul Carfrae (131) 1-0  Andrew Haycock (106)
7 John Couzens (108) ½-½  David Erwee (95)

David Faldon writes:                    

Due to an unfortunate clash between this match and Shany Rezvany’s funeral in Canterbury, we were missing many of our top players for the visit of last year’s Millar Cup champions. Coming pretty much straight off the train from the funeral, I didn’t feel like playing either, but as captain I didn’t think I had much choice. Luckily, my opponent offered me a draw after 16 moves of random aggression on my part (which turned out to be mostly bluff) and I wasn’t in any mood to decline. My game wasn’t the first to finish, however. Paul C on board six played even more aggressively than I did (see game below – Ed) and this time it wasn’t a bluff – a rook sacrifice cleared space for a neat mate and we were 1-0 up. Next to finish was Richard on board two. His habitual quiet-looking build-up with White contains a lot of hidden threats and this game revealed one of them. Richard won material and thereafter played pretty much a perfect game, never allowing his higher-rated opponent to get back into it. Most impressive. Paul J on board four also looked to be doing well in the opening, but then he missed something and found himself two pawns down. Tough defence proved insufficient. John, a late substitute on board seven, contributed the longest and wildest game of the match. It was also the most entertaining as every time I went over to look, the likely outcome appeared different. After some 90 moves a perpetual check ended the game with honours even. Great fun! Anyway, that result left us 3-2 up with two games left to finish. Manoj on board three and Bob on board five were both a pawn down but fighting hard in interesting-looking endings. Manoj didn’t manage to draw his game but Bob did (congratulations!) and the match finished in a 3½–3½ tie. All in all, a terrifically exciting match and, in the circumstances, a fantastic result for us. Shany would have loved to be there.

White:   Paul Carfrae (131)    Black:  Andrew Haycock (106)

Millar Cup v Folkestone

This is the second game by Dominic Blundell this season to be featured as Game of the Week, a crucial win in our first match defending the Mick Croft Cup that we won last season. The competition is a graded handicap with five players per team where the combined total must not exceed 625. Having now played five graded games for the club, Dominic has an estimate of 126 although this is sure to be higher when he gets an official grade in January. His win here owes much to an early error by Black who should have played 10….Bxc3+ instead of 10….Rxf7?? which enabled White to win a piece. However, White’s play thereafter was impressive and worth a look. In the final position Black resigned, unable to stop the h-pawn without considerable damage.

White:   Dominic Blundell (e126)    Black:  Keith Findley (e123)

Mick Croft Cup