Here we are again, folks, bursting the balloon which is the apparent invulnerability of top players. Yes, we’ve all done it: made howlers at vital moments while rehearsing our victory speech at the prize giving – “I’d like to thank….oops, what happened there?” Somehow, though, we have this idea that blunders are the preserve of mere woodpushers like us. Well, it may be that by definition more mistakes are made by weaker players otherwise we would all be grandmasters. However, while sympathising with anyone who makes a howler – unless, of course, it is your opponent – we can’t avoid affording ourselves the smuggest of smug grins. For this example, I have to thank Geoff Chandler, a contributor to the English Chess Forum who has a team of spies whom he calls his Blunder Hunters. This game was played in Round 5 of the Irish Championship. After seventy moves the players had reached the following position where White has just played 70.Kc2. Have a look at the position and before you see what Black played, think carefully and – be honest – what would you do?

White:   GM Alexander Baburin (2432)    Black:  Killian Delaney (2247)

Irish Championship 2019

Black played 70…Qxa5?? It is debatable who was more surprised, White on seeing this move, or Black when White replied 71.Qb2+ whereupon Black resigned. In fact, although it looks like it should be a draw, the only move that guarantees this for Black is 70…Qe2+. All other checks allow a trade off of queens and the a-pawn romps home. If you were thinking of 70…Qc4+ 71.Qxc4 stalemate, think again because White simply ignores the capture and plays 71.Qc3+ again forcing off the queens. And if you looked at this position for a long time and still would have played 70…Qxa5??, then that is why you (and I) are the grade we are.

There are only fourteen days until the 50th Thanet Chess Congress and things are hotting up. Numbers currently stand at 89 which is a pretty healthy position at this stage. With it being the fiftieth congress, there are some special prizes as everyone must know by now and this latest photograph shows where we are with them.  John says: “Ten kings in the rough ready for polishing. Should get them back mid next week ready to fit mahogany bases.”

David Faldon warmed up for the congress by taking part in the U2050 section of the British Championship which this year is being held in Torquay. His tournament consisted of five games, one each afternoon and after losing his first game, David recovered to finish on a respectable 3/5. His only loss was to a typical young whippersnapper that you are likely to come up across at the British. The boy is currently graded 152 but last year he was 129 and the year before that 107. By next year he may have overtaken David. We shall have to wait to find out the last time David lost to a player graded 152 or below – surely, it couldn’t have been your humble editor, could it?!

Meanwhile, we should offer a belated ‘well done’ to Trefor Owens who finished second in the Tunbridge Wells Major in June. Victory in his final game would have made him the outright winner but he could only draw with his opponent who began the round half a point ahead. Trefor had no complaints about his draw, however:  “I was happy to come second. Actually my final round opponent and the winner (of the Major), David Heath, is a really nice guy and was also my opponent when I played my very first competitive game, I think in 1974 when I was 15.” In this photo Trefor is about to unleash a devastating move against his Round 4 opponent, Geoffrey Bishop.

Photo by Karen Shilstone

With three wins and two draws, Trefor can be pleased with his performance. Here is his Round 2 win with his own comments.

White:   Trefor Owens (156)    Black:  Chris Hann (146)

Tunbridge Wells Major 2019


At the Thanet Chess League AGM on Tuesday, the Chairman, Broadstairs’ own Andy Flood, announced that the league was in a very healthy financial position, helped considerably by another successful Thanet Congress in 2018. Andy (seen on the left receiving the Mick Croft Cup for Broadstairs from League Event organiser, John Clarke) has done so much for the league in his three years in charge and last month he appeared – if that’s the right word – on BBC Radio Kent promoting chess in general but specifically the 50th Thanet Chess Congress which is fast approaching. He has been promised another slot in September when he hopes to be able to give some feedback on what promises to be a very special occasion. (If you haven’t read earlier items on the congress, we have received entries from five players who took part in the first Thanet Congress in 1970 and from Gordon Lloyd the instigator of the congress and controller for the first dozen years or so.)

The evening was also a successful one for Broadstairs Chess Club. In addition to the Mick Croft Cup, the club was presented with four further trophies for winning the Jamboree, the Hargreaves Shield, the Team Buzzer and the Team Quickplay. This capped an excellent year for the club which also finished second in the Millar Cup and the B teams finished runners up in both the Team Buzzer and Team Quickplay.

As they say in all the awards ceremonies, there are too many people to mention individually but thanks to all those who contributed to the club’s success in the past year. Unfortunately, Andy was the only captain present of any of the winning Broadstairs teams to collect his award – and even he was a non-playing captain of the Hargreaves Shield team – so the editor collected three trophies despite not playing in any of the respective competitions. Here he is receiving the shield for the Team Quickplay. This is a relatively new competition but Broadstairs’ first victory in our initial attempt.

Thanks were given also to Ian Hames (who took the photos and who appears in the mirror reminiscent of that painting by Velásquez) who as League Secretary has done so much to help by setting up the ECF LMS account for the Thanet League, arranging fixtures and helping Andy with the congress. Roll on the 50th Thanet Chess Congress in three weeks’ time and for those of you who have been on Mars for the past few months, information and online entry can be found on the congress website here.


The 50th Thanet Chess Congress will take place from August 16th-18th at St George’s School in Broadstairs. As this is the 50th congress, in addition to some very generous prize money, both the SCCU and Kent Individual Championships, and qualification for the ECF Grand Prix, there are five special prizes of brass kings (see right) to be awarded to the winners of each of the sections. These are being made by Broadstairs’ own John Couzens and are unique prizes so sign up now. The policy of offering free entry to GMs and IMs and charging only £5 for U16s, which resulted in a high class field of juniors last year, is being repeated. Once again, there will be a charity bookstall and this year the chosen charity is the Royal British Legion. If you have any unwanted old (or new) chess books that are cluttering up your house that you wish to discard, please bring some along and they will be made available for anyone who wants them in return for a donation in the charity box.  Full details including online entry can be found on the congress website by clicking here.  At present, top seed in the Open is IM Alan Merry. Here is one of his wins on the way to victory two years ago.

White:  Alan Merry (240)          Black: Paul Kemp (185)

2017  Thanet Open  

                              The Native Americans

The annual Broadstairs Blitz took place on Monday and this year’s theme was the Wild West. No cowboys and indians in this 21st century politically correct chess club – oh no, it was Cowpersons versus Native Americans. The format is tried and tested:  the sixteen players were divided into two teams of eight of roughly equal grading strength. There are eight rounds and everyone plays the eight on the opposite team. In order to add a little spice – and not a little confusion at times – each player this year was given the name of a character. For example, the Cowpersons numbered amongst their team Arnie Oakley, Buffalo Bob and Jesse Hames while the Native Americans could call upon Crazy Horse, Clothes Horse and Passing Water. When reading out the names at the start of the evening, it did seem as someone noted that perhaps the organiser had a little too much time on his hands but it was all good fun.

What of the chess? It’s always hard to predict these tournaments. The teams may be equal in grades but few of our players have rapid play grades and two players with similar standard grades could be very different players at blitz. It is always hoped that the competition will be close, that one team does not win every round and fortunately it was the case this year. The Native Americans got off to a strong start, winning the first two rounds. However, a convincing 6-2 win for the Cowpersons in round 4 meant that the scores were level 16-16 at the half-way stage. A narrow win for the Native Americans in round 5 restored  their lead but the Cowpersons came back to win round 6 and the scores were level again with two rounds to go.   Marshall Gambit then rallied his troops and just like in all the old Hollywood films, the Native Americans were soon in retreat. The Cowpersons won the last two rounds to finish winners 35-29.

Congratulations to Arnaud Wisman (Arnie Oakley) who finished with the highest individual score of 7½/8. In the crucial last round he beat Shany Rezvany (Crazy Horse) and in a rematch of the Battle of Little Big Horn Paul Johnson (Sitting Paul) defeated Chris Stampe (General Custard) once again, providing another example of history repeating itself. In blitz games, of course, things don’t always go to plan and the player who lost with only five seconds gone on his clock had best remain anonymous!

                                          The Cowpersons

Photos  of the two teams reveal only fifteen players so apologies to Michael Doyle (Marshall Gambit) who had jumped on his horse and ridden off into the sunset when the Cowpersons photo was taken. He played his part in their victory, scoring 3/8 on board 7 with wins against Andy Flood (Running Water), Reg Pidduck (Passing Wind) and Fredy Reber (Geronimo). Yee ha!

Cowpersons: Arnaud Wisman, Ian Hames, Bob Page, Chris Stampe, Gary Hilleard, Bob Cronin, Michael Doyle, Michael Jenkinson.

Native Americans: Shany Rezvany, Richard Clement, Paul Carfrae, Paul Johnson, Andy Flood, John Couzens, Reg Pidduck, Fredy Reber.