Wirral Winners

Last night the AGM of the Wirral League was held. This included a presentation to the outstanding players of the year. First up was John Carleton who captained the all-conquering Chester 1 knockout team to the title.

Next was Nethuli Saram who was joint winner of the division 4 player of the year, awarded to the player with the best results. Well done to Nethuli and the KO1 team!

June Events – Wallasey match, League AGM and Chess in the Park

Despite the season being over June was still a busy month for the club. Firstly we took on Wallasey in their splendid venue. The match was as usual very close. Right at the end Chester pulled away as the top boards finished with Chris Doran winning the final game with both players down to their final seconds. Thanks to everyone who helped us get such a big turnout.

Freya plays in her first Wallasey match
John had flown across continents to get back in time for the match
Your reporter conceives a devilish plan to mate the black king with R, B and pawns
Chris was last to finish
As the crowd got bigger

Last week was the AGM for the Chester and District League. Chester were presented with trophies for winning the 1st division, 2nd division, knock out and U120 knock out. Ray Williams also won player of the year for division 3. I’ll spare you needing to see me collecting all of these prizes on behalf of the winners but here’s a sample one:

Incoming league president Stephen Dunning presents Chester with another trophy

Last weekend we held our first Chess in the Park event. The weather held up and everyone seemed to have fun.

Seren prepares to take on her dad whilst Vlad (who recounts he learned to play the game in parks in Romania) takes on Dan
Paul plays a solid opening against Jixin
Dan takes on a strong park visitor as the group got bigger with Rohan and Riyaan celebrating the end of exams.

Finally, if you subscribe to Chess then look out for the article covering our centenary.

Individual Winners

At our June AGM we presented trophies to the winners of the junior and adult club competitions. Congratulations to this year’s winners:

Ethan Challoner wins Most Improved Player award from John Carleton and Phil Skippon
George Turner wins the Young Masters
Vignesh Seshadri wins the Chester Cup
Milan Kustos retains the Holdcroft Shield
Ben Woodfinden wins the Junior Championship
Sam Burchett wins the Townsend Trophy (scoring more points than the adults)
Ian Clayton won the summer Hallard Cup
Colin White prevailed in the Club Championship
And is the first to grab a selfie with John

Not pictured – your photographer Phil Crocker – who won the summer Coleby Cup.

2018/ 19 Team Reports

The reports below are based on summaries from the captains. Thanks to all of them for leading us through the season.

A) John Carleton’s Teams

Chester A Division 1 Wirral Chess League

With 4 Chester teams in the first division of The Wirral League we did not anticipate any realistic challenge for the title but were determined to push forward and enjoy the beautiful game.[ not to be confused with the greedy game aka “football”. ] Our season started well with 3 wins against each of Chester B, C and D with the biggest slice of luck required to overcome The D team. Interspersed was a defeat to Penyffordd who played well and kept a slight edge throughout against our strongest line-up. That finished our wins in the Wirral League although we did get two more draws to finish with 50%. One of our other losses saw me blunder in a frantic search for a player to make up the team following a late cry-off through illness. There were 6 Chester teams scheduled to play across the Leagues on that evening and there appeared to be no players left beyond beginners to play 5th board. Then one of the other Chester teams had a cry-off and I grabbed what turned out to be an ineligible player[ yes eligible players from the same cancelled match were available!] to make up our team, turning a draw over the boards into a 1-4 defeat. Throughout the season, as Chester suffered an unprecedented number of players lost to work requirements and longer term illness, I  was grateful on many occasions for the willingness of players to step in at short notice and the freely given help from other captains. I realise that we got off relatively lightly compared with several other teams particularly the heroes of Chester C/3. The ubiquitous ageless Graham Bromley must not be overlooked in this context, not only for finding players to fill the ever increasing gaps  but for plugging many of those gaps himself and racking up some 30 appearances over the two local leagues.

Chester 1 Division 1 C&DCL

As defending champions we had hopes of retaining our title but after beating our fellow Chester teams we, with one of our regulars missing, stumbled to a 3-2 defeat against Wrexham who were rejuvenated by the return to action of Charles Morris. Interestingly enough, Charles missed the first 2 games of the season [before going on to be joint top scorer with Dave Robertson in the 1st division over the season] and maybe was saved to help “sand-bag” us in this big fixture. Anyway, following our loss, we were left facing a chase that we anticipated would last for the remainder of the season and one for which there were no guarantees of success. The final two matches of the first half of the season saw us earn two victories each by 3-2 and clearly our confidence had been shaken by the defeat at Wrexham. However, whilst we were winning the first of these two fixtures Chester 2 held Wrexham to a draw {more accurately Wrexham did very well to slither out with a draw from a pretty dicey situation]. Thus the possibility  of retaining our title was now definitely in our own hands. In the second half of the season we won comfortably against Chester 2 and Chester 3, or so it would seem from the scorecards. Let us confirm for the record that we had the better of the luck on offer in these two matches. And so on to the return fixture with Wrexham; this time they were slightly off full strength and we had our first choice 5. After a match of some tension our two leading scorers at this stage of the season, Daniel and Steve had both lost but we squeezed the match with two good wins by the two Daves and when my optimism in what had been a poor position was rewarded with good luck. The championship was retained in bizarre fashion: Chester 2 beat Wrexham whilst we won by default following a fit of pique from the opposing captain in the next fixture. We did win our final match, narrowly, to maintain what appears a healthy gap between ourselves and our erstwhile opponents, This year was Daniel Savidge’s  4th in the team since first becoming a regular at the age of 14. It is no coincidence that Chester 1 won the C&DCL on all 4 occasions. We wish him well in his university career and will miss his chess and amiable personality tremendously. We used reserves on 3 occasions only throughout the season and we were unbeaten in those 3 games. [ 2 draws against the grading by 35 and 28 points respectively by John Sutcliffe and a win for Ray Williams in an equally graded game].Our regular players dominated, without winning, the Player of the year title : Dave R 7/9, Daniel 6/8  Steve Connor 5/7 and Dave Stuttard 5/8. Here that defaulted match  against us may have cost one of our players dear. Only the skipper with 50%  finished outside the top 10 but I felt a justified pride in our collective efforts. 

Wirral League K.O. : Chester A K.O. and C&DCL  K.O. : Chester 1 K.O.

These two competitions are set up in markedly different ways. The Wirral League K.O. is set up in a traditional manner with handicap advantages for sides from lower divisions meeting higher league opposition and is played over 7 boards. The C&DCL K.O. is set up with a handicap system based on the ratings of the two teams involved on the night: the side which does better relative to its overall grading progresses through the tie. This is played over 6 boards. The C&DCL system makes every match a random event [ If your best player is not available, fear not, you will just get an easier target score!]. There were 8 entrants for the C&DCL K.O. but there was a default in round 1. We played all three 1st division teams in our progress through this competition. In round 1 we played Colwyn Bay who were without their highest rated player and we needed to win 5-1 or better. We won 5-1 conceding two draws. Our team stayed calm under pressure in those games and delivered the wins in the others. In the semi-final we played Malpas & Oswestry  and needed to win 4.5-1.5. This score seemed to be well beyond our capabilities until the dying embers of the fixture. We lost an early game, won a couple quite easily but seemed hopelessly placed in Mike McDonagh’s  match and levelish in the other two. In one of those two, Chris Doran ground out an efficient win from a theoretically drawn ending and Mike fought back, even to the extent of turning down a draw before eventually agreeing the half-point. In the meantime, the final game, involving Dave Robertson for Chester, had seen our man slip to the edge of the abyss. A wild time scramble saw Dave win material and delver mate with aplomb. We were into the final where we played Wrexham  and needed to win 4-2 or better. It was no surprise that this was an extremely close run matter. Mike McDonagh again decisively influenced the result , this time with a fine win against Bob Clark. Ian Mclean  courted danger for a while but gradually exerted his control over what had been a very loose position to gain another win. It will come as no surprise that Dave Robertson’s chess program of choice is Houdini. If the semi-final saw Escape to Victory then this one was definitely The Great Escape  and with a scrappy draw from me and a great rearguard draw from Phil Crocker we were assured of the trophy.

The Wirral League saw 13 entrants and we were required to win 4 matches to go all the way. In the first two rounds we played strong 2nd division opposition in the form of Wrexham and Atticus, newly promoted to division 1.For each game we had a strong line-up and played well. In the semi-final we played Wallasey and after a somewhat nervy performance we prevailed by 4-3. This meant that we were through to the final which was a repeat of last year’s match. This year we reversed the result and the score so were victorious by 5-2. We were never seriously under threat with plenty of solid performances and two eye-catching wins; Phil won elegantly and speedily against Hoylake’s young star Tom Carroll while Dave beat the experienced and strong Mike Smith with a sustained attack complete with a positional exchange sacrifice. 

The K.O. double has, remarkably, been completed by us just twice in the last 8 seasons but the treble [ 3 of the 4 trophies available at the top of the two local leagues] has been completed 4 times. In many ways this year’s success was the most resilient of them all. In the K.O. competitions we started with a squad of 10 with 2 possible emergency reserves but this shrank to 7 in total  half-way through the season. We were able to use reserves below the B team for times when we were really stretched and three times we called upon on one or other of the Yang family. Jixin won in the final of the Wirral K.O. when he came in as a late substitute. Well done Dad! Over the 7 K.O. fixtures and 46 individual games we lost just 7 [2 of those defeats were by the skipper which just goes to show the loneliness of command or some such excuse].

Nothing seems to be easy for the up-coming season but I am sure we will respond positively to the challenges ahead just as we have this season. John Carleton

B) Ray Williams’ Teams

C&D Div3 – Chester 6

Chester 6 finished 2nd with 5.5 points, only losing top spot to Holywell Knights by a goal difference of one!

Wirral Div 2 – Chester E

Chester E secured 5th place in Division 2 again, with 5.5 points. A mid-table performance against strong opposition for this league, featuring Wallasey 2 (eventual winners) Crewe and Wrexham. We used 10 players throughout the season, due to some regular players being unavailable. Particular thanks to Graham Bromley, Nick Pendlebury and Paul Watson for stepping in at short notice to support this team.

Chester Knock-Out Team 2

Chester K/O 2 again fielded teams in both C&D and Wirral leagues. In the C&D K/O we faced Rhyl in the first round but they declined to play on the day due to potentially bad weather. Due to the late start to this competition (1st round matches were scheduled for January) it was impracticable to reschedule this match and Rhyl agreed to concede. We then faced Wrexham in the next round with a target of 2 points from the 6 games played. We almost made it with 1.5 points, but Wrexham progressed to the final.

In the Wirral K/O, Chester K/O 2 played Hoylake in the first round and were beaten 4:3. With no points handicap available and Hoylake defaulting their bottom board the match was a lot closer than anticipated.

Thanks to all the players who took part in the team and K/O matches. Ray Wiiliams

C) Steve Lloyd’s Teams

Chester 3/C – A difficult Season

Before the start of the season there were a few personnel changes to the squad. In the Wirral League, out went Jairo , Ben and reserve player Manuel. In the Chester League, then captained by Colm, the Yesudian brothers sat out due to increased school commitments. For both leagues, in came Ian McLean and Robert Killeen.

Things started off well. A 3-2 win against Malpas in the Chester League was followed by a 3.5 – 1.5 win against the Juniors in the Wirral League. However problems soon began.

First, Rob’s work contract in Chester ended sooner than expected and so returned home. Then Colm had to withdraw due to increased commitments.

To compensate, new player Phil McKeown was added to both squads and David Hulme was traded from Chester 1 as back up for the Chester League. Phil got off to a great start, defeating future club champion Colin White when the team met Chester 1 at Hoole.

Several other players helped out the team by playing the odd game. These include Keith, Joe, James, Steve W, new player Kev, Mario and Jixin. However, finding a victory proved difficult, and one didn’t come until a 3-2 win against Colwyn Bay in March.

Colm returned for the final 3 games to aid the team’s survival against relegation. In the final Wirral games, the team took half a point from champions elect Penyffordd to ensure they would finish second from bottom ahead of Chester D.

D) Dave Bryan’s Chester B

Chester B had their worst season since I’ve been captain. We only managed to win two games out of eight and finished third from bottom. Some players are clearly only playing for the pay cheque and are not prepared to die for the club. I see a mass clear out happening during the summer months in conjunction with some frenzied transfer activity.

There were, however, a couple of mitigating circumstances. Rokas was unable to play for almost the entire season owing to work commitments (He has told me the situation will be similar next season). Also, Joe Nemczek, our first reserve, was unavailable because of family illness.

E) Daniel Savidge’s Chester D

The 2018/19 season was a difficult season as the Junior Team finished the season 9th with 1/8. With an unchanged tight-knit team, we performed consistently and managed to challenge all the teams in the league, only losing by a 3 point margin on one occasion. Highlights of the season include losing marginally 3-2 to Penyffordd the league winners and also drawing on the last day of the season with Chester B to cap off the season. 

F) Jixin Yang’s Chester F

We were not one of the strong teams in this division and it has been quite lucky to avoid relegation by finishing at the 7th place out of 9 teams.  The most difficulty was from the availability of regular players — for this reason in total 14 players were used for the entire season, a hard record to break for the future.  I have to thank everyone who has contributed their time and effort to this team.  Two players, Ian Clayton and Nethuli Saram scored 50%.  Well done!

G) Ian Clayton’s Chester 5

We all enjoyed our matches and although we were relegated we did draw 4 of them as well as losing some close ones too. Thanks to everyone who played and especially to Nethuli Saram for her enthusiasm and commitment. Ian Clayton.

H) Phil Skippon’s Chester G

Somewhat funny season for Chester G, as we experienced no fewer than three defaults against us due to confusion amongst our opponents about fixtures. A hard-fought draw with Chester H was sandwiched between narrow defeats to Wallasey 5 and to Frodsham (the latter seeing us a player down), before losing a tough fixture against a strong Pensby team. We ended the season on a winning note, beating eventual division champions Wallasey 6 at home. This, plus our three defaulted matches, gave us an eventual finish of third.

Summer Chess Dates

League matches have finished but there are still a few dates for the diary:

Club AGM – Tuesday June 4th at the Town Crier

Annual Wallasey match – Thursday 20th June at Wallasey

Rapid Match against Crewe – Tuesday 23rd July at Town Crier

Chess in the Park – Date TBC according to weather, likely to be a Sunday afternoon in June/ July in Grosvenor Park

Captains’ Meeting – Tuesday 20th August club night at Town Crier will be used for planning next season’s teams.

Please contact Mike McDonagh if you are interested in playing in the matches against Wallasey or Crewe.

Game Changing Simul

On Saturday Chester welcomed GM Matthew Sadler and WIM Natasha Regan to the Hoole Community Centre. There they entertained around 40 members and guests from as far away as Stockport and London.

Following an entertaining talk and games analysis about AlphaZero from their book Game Changer there was an opportunity to buy copies of Game Changer and to have books signed.

Freya and Jasmine with Matthew and Natasha

At that point the serious simul business started. The organisers had jumbled together a few types of boards and arranged the tables suitably far apart to reduce the grandmaster edge as much as possible. And early on that seemed to be helping the participants gain some chances.

Ready to go. Chris and Dave (right) discuss tactics whilst Matthew and Natasha (back) do the same.
Ethan focuses on the task ahead.
Stephen, Jack and Andrew play their openings.
Colin plays on the queenside whilst Matthew contemplates Stockport sharks Allan and Andy.
John looks on as Sam makes his move and Colin gets ready.
Nick prepares to make his move.

As the community centre management started to wonder when it might finish, Matthew kicked up a gear (many of the photos were too blurred to use as he sped round the hall – it transpires that when not working, writing, playing, studying openings, or reviewing books he also runs regularly).

Matthew devises a cunning plan against Freya’s queenside expansion. Ethan and Chris get ready to move.
Chris wonders how best to get some winning chances from his piece sacrifice.

Chester knock out first team players were amongst the last to finish. Chris and Colm’s attacks were ultimately pushed back leaving Daniel as the last hope of any result against Matthew.

Matthew calmly parries Colm’s attack, defending his king with his queen on the h1-a8 diagonal.
Dan is the final player to finish. Material up he faced a tricky conversion, but looked unlikely to lose…
Disaster strikes…Dan, Black to move, centralises his king with ..Ke6, allowing the unfortunate Bg4

In the end the one on one blitz pressure proved too much and Matthew completed his 100% sweep. For his efforts Dan won the best game prize, a signed centenary mug.

After coming tantalisingly close to a result, Dan has to be satisfied with a signed mug as consolation.

But what of the secondary simul you might be asking? Or might not. WIM Natasha was joined by your writer (and Chester league individual champion) Phil in a tandem simul against those players preferring less extreme opposition. I couldn’t honestly claim our results were spectacular. Well not spectacularly good anyway. Playing my first simul I let the side down early on by allowing Ian Clayton to inflict a cunning ..Nh3+, forking our king(g1) and queen (f2). Prospective new member Dave played in AlphaZero style crushing us by pushing his h-pawn all the way to h3 (just as Natasha had explained in her talk!) Other players perhaps showed more respect than was merited; John Sutcliffe resigned a couple of times when we were only a couple of pawns up in an ending. Where we failed to impress we hopefully entertained…

Jixin assists Jasmine with algebraic notation as she takes action in the centre.
Ian prepares to play ..Nh3 whilst Jasmine prepares some further sacrifices.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the event a success. Thanks in particular to Matthew and Natasha for coming all the way from London and devoting so much energy to the talk and simuls. And thanks to Stephen Chapman for generously taking and providing over 100 photos including the majority of those above.

Phil Skippon to run Chester half marathon, raising funds for junior club clocks

Junior Club organiser Phil Skippon, pictured below receiving the Townsend trophy last year, has set himself a possibly tougher task to complete the Chester half marathon on Sunday May 19th.

Phil receives the Townsend Trophy from John Carleton

Starting at the racecourse around 9am he hopes to arrive at the Town Hall around 11am. He’s aiming to raise funds for the junior club to purchase additional chess clocks. If you’d like to sponsor him please contact him directly or you can use the club email info@chesterchess.co.uk. Good luck to Phil!

Graham Bromley Receives Centennial Award at Dinner

Last Thursday the club held its Centennial Dinner at The Architect. Well situated in a private dining room 18 of our members enjoyed excellent food and a few celebratory drinks.

First team captain and elite junior coach John Carleton was the main speaker, regaling the group with stories since the club’s founding in 1919. He entertainingly led into the pop classic “It’s fun to play at the YMCA” (the YMCA being the club venue for many years).

The other highlight was the presentation of a lifetime service award to Graham Bromley. Graham has helped develop the club over many years and held several official roles including president, treasurer and junior organiser.

Graham Bromley about to receive a centenary mug (including logo he designed!) signed by members

Thanks to Paul Watson and Ray Williams for organising a fantastic evening!

Chester Chess Club Hosts Centenary Rapid Tournament

The tournament begins with Phil Crocker and Matthew Carr on stage and Mike McDonagh below

On Sunday April 7th the club hosted a rapid tournament to celebrate its founding a hundred years ago in 1919.

The organisers’ target was to attract 100 entrants, one for each of the years. After a worryingly slow start there was a late surge in entrants with the target hit with just minutes to spare.

Chester was well represented with 17 players young and a bit older. UK players came from as far as Halifax, Colwyn Bay and Birmingham to play. Internationally we had entrants from Brussels (former club member Tom Wiley) and three of the finest players from the Brombach club in Chester’s twin town in Germany near Basel. Polish, Spanish, Swiss, Bulgarian, Irish and Slovakian chess federations were also represented

The atmosphere was unusually jovial for a chess tournament, helped perhaps by the cut-price coffee and flapjacks on offer. Notwithstanding the pleasant environment, the tournaments were all hard fought.

In the Open Grandmaster Stephen Gordon triumphed with 5/6 closely followed by Chester’s number one John Carleton, former member Paul Townsend and Henrik Stepanyan on 4.5/6. Chester player Steve Connor finished just a half point back on 4/6.

GM Stephen Gordon secures first place, holding John Carleton to a draw in the final round

In the Major Michael Connor and Philip Zabrocki finished on 5/6 with Paul Watson being the top Chester player on 3.5/6.

In the Minor Robert Owens finished clear first on an impressive 5.5/6. Nick Pendlebury was the top Chester player on 3.5/6 with Ben Woodfinden and Jack Yang the top Chester juniors on 50%. Chester juniors and brother and sister Ethan and Caitlin Challoner both did well to score 2/6 in their first adult tournament. Seren Fletcher was the youngest Chester participant also playing her first adult tournament and gaining some useful experience.

Caitlin Challoner puts her Chester chess teacher Phil Skippon under pressure, with brother Ethan opposite

Thanks to everyone who helped make the tournament happen: Mike McDonagh (overall lead), Graham Bromley (finances and more) supported by Chris Doran and Steve Lloyd (multiple other tasks). On the day Matthew Carr kept everything running smoothly and Jixin Yang helped out invaluably. And last but not least the catering provided by Melinda Crocker got many 5 star reviews and attracted no end of celebrating winners and despondent losers.

A selection of further photos follow, and we look forward to seeing everyone again for the 150th…

An all Chester match in the Open with Steve Connor taking on John Carleton
Chester junior Seren Fletcher concentrates hard
All that thinking needs flapjack for fuel
Dave Bryan and Steve Lloyd take the white pieces
Chris Doran and Colm Buckley face off in the Open
Jack Yang deep in thought with league rival Sue Parry to his right
Brombach’s finest players sample England’s finest cuisine
Former member Tom Wiley in action on the top tables
Former Chester member Paul Townsend takes on GM Stephen Gordon
Graham Bromley and Ray Williams ponder their next moves with Phil McKeown to the far right
Paul Watson and Ray Williams in a key Major match-up
Brombach Club President Markus Haag faces John Carleton on the top tables on the stage

Schachmatt in Inzlingen

Last weekend I had the pleasure of playing in the 10th Wasserschloss Open in Inzlingen, organised by Chester’s twin town club Brombach. It’s situated in the top floor of a grand “water-castle” in a picturesque village near the border of Switzerland, France and Germany at Basel.

I’d previously met a couple of the organisers Markus Haag (right) and Andreas Kuglstatter (left) in Chester

Before the tournament Andreas generously showed me around Basel and their chess club. Brombach have a dedicated room (ie no one else uses it to state the obvious which is difficult to understand in the UK) which is also free. Apparently local government support for clubs in Germany is the norm.

Brombach’s dedicated and free of charge chess club

The tournament went quite well for me. I salvaged a draw from a losing endgame in round one, won a couple, was crushed by the number 2 seed in round 4 and then won in the final round to finish 5th on 3.5/5. In England it would have been joint 3rd but they use tie breaks in Germany which cuts down on the hassle of splitting a £20 prize 7 ways I guess. Best of all was a raffle at the prize giving where I won a voucher for the castle restaurant. I was also interviewed for regional newspaper Badische Zeitung with their article referencing (in German) our upcoming centenary and picturing my first round game: http://www.badische-zeitung.de/inzlingen/schachspieler-bringen-die-figuren-zum-tanzen–167710353.html

Now Germany is known for being excellent at many important things like making beer, sausages and high quality cars. Less well-known is the outstanding contribution to chess vocabulary through the effective use of combining words together (Wortbildung or word-building as a self-referencing example). We have Zugzwang (much better than move-compulsion), Zwischenzug (in-between-move) and relevant to the final position in my 4th round game kaput. I was fortunate enough to be able to demonstrate all of these concepts in the tournament as illustrated in the following fairly straightforward four puzzles.

1) How does Black to move most cleanly put White in Zugzwang?
2) How does Black to move put White in Zugzwang?
3) Which Zwischenzug can Black play against Bxf5?
4) What German word beginning with k best describes my position as White in round 4?

Before giving the answers I’d like to thank Andreas, Markus and the other organisers for arranging a splendid tournament. They will be visiting Chester on the weekend of 7th April to play in our centenary rapid tournament and to sample the delights of Chester and Liverpool.


  1. ..Rf3 forces White to give up a pawn. The remaining pawn can easily be stopped by Black’s king and rook.
  2. ..Qc6 and White’s king must move away from the pawn. With the pawn on a7 and the king on a8 White gets a well-known stalemate, but if the pawn is still on a6 there is no hope of that.
  3. ..Nxc4 hits the bishop on e3. If White moves that away then ..gxf5 follows with Black having destroyed White’s centre and in some lines remaining a pawn up.
  4. Kaput!