Bulletin No 07

Tynedale Chess Club: e-bulletin no. 7 (2.5.07)

With the Northumberland and South Tyne leagues over for this year, there is much less to report this month. Pride of place probably goes to the Summer Knock Out

Note that the Web Editor (TW) has again added cross references to the main sections.

The Summer Knockout

Tynedale 1b played Gateshead Gauchos in round 1 on April 17th.  Tim Wrigley had a good draw on board one and team captain Peter Crichton led by example on board two with an excellent win. Alas, Matthew Taylor and Steve Larkin both lost , so the match result was 2.5 to 1.5 in Gateshead’s favour. However, not for the first time this season, things were not that simple where Gateshead were concerned. Their board 4 player had been drafted in at the last moment and, contrary to competition rules, had no grading. A grading of 61 or more for him would have moved Gateshead into a higher handicap bracket and, given that he outplayed yours truly (whose grade is 57), that seemed a distinct possibility. The result was duly forwarded to the adjudicator, who decided that the player in question should have a grading in excess of 61. As a result, Tynedale 1b were awarded victory by 3 points (1.5 + 1.5 handicap) to 2.5 and so join Tynedale 1a in round 2. This is the second time this season that a Tynedale team has “lost” to a Gateshead Libraries team, only to beat them! In round 2, 1a face Tynemouth Warriors and 1b play Kings B.

County Durham Chess Congress (April 14-15)

Six members of the club plus Jim Dixon of HaydonBridge took part in this event. Mark Taylor and Peter Crichton played in the Major (under 151). This was very gallant on Peter’s part since, with a grade of 110, he could have entered the Minor (under 111) where he would have been the top-graded player. Alas, on this occasion virtue was not rewarded and Peter managed just two draws over the four rounds played (all the Tynedale players took a bye on round 3), still a creditable performance considering that he was the bottom-ranked player in the Major. Mark fared much better, notching up two wins, including a desperate scrap in his final game, involving just four pieces – the two kings, Mark’s queen and his opponent’s pawn, which transmuted into a knight. Mark brilliantly avoided all the potential stalemates to ensure a last-gasp victory.

In the Minor your editor, tackling his first congress for fifty years, had a dismal first day (a draw and a loss) but an enjoyable second (two wins) to finish on three out of five. Hot on his heels came Phil Taylor and Jack Bradshaw, both on two and a half. Phil was in line for a final score of three and a half but unluckily missed a winning combination in his final game and eventually lost. He still had two good wins under his belt, as did Jack, who must have surprised his opponents with the quality of his play. Being ungraded, he was ranked 29th out of 29 in the Minor – they won’t make that mistake next year! Matthew Taylor had a torrid time of it, managing just one win, as did Jim Dixon. So no prizes and no glory for the Tynedale squad, but some good games along the way.

The Reivers

We are unlikely to learn for some time whether the Reivers will play in division 1 or 2 next season, but for the record here are the results chalked up by the various members of the team during this season (details kindly provided by Mike Nicholson). The format is as follows:

  Number of games  average board number  W-D-L as white  W-D-L as  black  percentage overall.
Colin Davison  3  1.0  0-0-2  0-1-0  16.7
David Weldon  10  1.3  0-2-2  1-0-5  20.0
Mike Nicholson  10  2.3  1-3-2  1-1-2  40.0
Mark Taylor  9  3.33  2-1-1  2-0-3  50.0
Derek Blair  6  4.17  0-1-3  0-1-1  16.7
Tim Wrigley  5  4.4  0-1-1  2-1-0  60.0
Peter Crichton  3  5.0  0-1-0  0-0-2  16.7

Matthew Taylor (one game lost with black on 5) and Steve Larkin (one game lost with  white on 5) also played. Tim and Peter both also won one game by default.

It makes sobering reading and is a stark reminder, if such were needed, of the high standard in division one. Given that the Reivers are almost invariably outgraded from top to bottom, the results achieved, particularly by Tim, Mark and Mike, are respectable to say the least.

Club Championship

There has not been a great deal of activity here over the past month and time is beginning to run out for the pursuing pack if any of them are to overtake Jack. At the time of writing, the table looks like this:

Jack Bradshaw 13.5/20
Mike Nicholson 10.5/13
Derek Blair 9.5/15
Peter Crichton 9/14
Steve Larkin 8/15
Matthew Taylor 7/10
Mark Taylor 4/6
Malcolm Reid 4/8
Bruce Reed 3/9
Phil Taylor 2/12
Dan Woodhouse 1.5/9
David Wrigley 1/1
David Foster 0/3
Stephen Porritt 0/8


On 5 April, Mike Nicholson wrote: “Today at St. John Lee Jill and I attended the funeral of David  Langelaan, who was a member of the club not long after its  formation.  Maybe only David Weldon and I are members of long enough standing to remember him.  He came to Hexham as a biochemist at Hexham General, and had varied interests including the guitar and  particularly bird-watching.  He suffered mental problems which caused him to have to give up chess.  Some years later he made another attempt, but it was asking too much.  I recall a player of good average standard, who would have contributed much had his health permitted.“

Mike also sent the following update on his correspondence chess: “My rating recently topped the 2400 mark for the first time.  I had been scheduled to take up an England- nominated place in an up-coming postal section of World Championship preliminaries, but the lack of popularity of play by post prevented a section being formed in 2006.  Now my higher rating has enabled me to go straight into a semi-final, and this will be played on the ICCF  webserver at the rate of 10 moves in 50 days.  I stress that a semi-final is far less grand than it sounds!  Each section will probably have 15 players, and it will be necessary to win in order to  proceed to a 15-player three-quarter final (average rating over  2500).  Winning one of those would put me into the next 15-player  final (average rating over 2600).  So you see that I’m just a little way off being crowned champ, and the task is not only to play well  enough but to stay alive long enough too … “ Well done, Mike! You are clearly making your mark. And wouldn’t it be nice to have club member and centenarian Mike Nicholson crowned World Champion (postal) in two thousand and …!

I also reproduce the report on the HaydonBridge day that Mike wrote for the NCA bulletin: Introducing youngsters to chess

A new sort of venture

Tynedale chess club was recently presented with an opportunity with a difference.  Most clubs are familiar with requests from parents about help for their able chess-playing offspring, but on this occasion we were invited to run a session to motivate and challenge the brightest and most able students at the changeover stage between middle schools and high school – whether or not they had played any chess at all.

The county council initiative to focus on gifted and talented children requires each high school to work with its feeder middle schools to produce its own programmes.  The words ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ refer to those who have high academic ability and/or high level skills.  Anne Hudspith, in charge of running the Gifted and Talented programme at Haydon Bridge, had become interested in incorporating chess into the two-day Easter event by reading Steve Larkin’s monthly articles in the Hexham Courant.

Wondering what to do

So what do you do to challenge between 40 and 50 children at the top end of middle schools or first year at high school in a skill which some of them won’t yet have learnt, which some are already keen on, and which others know about but have rejected?  We were given up to two hours for whatever we chose to do, and a few weeks to plan it in.

First thing was to see if anyone else in the county had already faced a similar situation.  No-one had.  The Northumbria Junior Association was a first port of call, but Paul Bielby had a well-deserved walking holiday coinciding with the event.  Sophie Seeber’s England selection came at just the right time, but conversely she was fulfilling her selection at exactly the time of our event.  Roger Coathup, however, was very helpful in putting forward suggestions and acting as a sounding board.  We had our own under-15 county champion, Jack Bradshaw, as a role model, and he readily involved himself.  John Wheeler, as ever, was ready to assist.

Player support

Very encouraging was local player support.  David Tulip, who looks after the HaydonBridge village club in the South Tyne league, joined eight of us from Tynedale in plotting our offering.  A few of us met on a couple of occasions prior to the gathering of the social chess Wednesday afternoon meeting at Hexham Golf Club, and bit by bit came up with a plan we felt reasonably comfortable with.  It wasn’t easy, because we didn’t know too much about the rest of the two-day programme, nor what (or how much) was expected of us.

The chess contribution in context

Anne had told us of the keynote introductory event on the Tuesday morning, when former international athlete Alison Curbishley would be setting the tone.  We were to be the first group on after lunch.  Follow that!  In fact we ran our session for almost two hours, with a break in between while we took stock of progress so far and the youngsters were engaged in some physical exercise.  The following day they were engaged in such team-building challenges as bridge-building and hot-air balloon building, and in retrospect I felt relieved not to have known too much about that sort of competition in advance.

Our plan

Finally we came up with this as our basis.  I would start with a brief scene-setting about chess as a sport (e.g. as a world-wide activity with its professional exponents, plus what it’s worth personally if you engage with it seriously), and then we’d give them four options to choose from.  First a beginners section, trying to get them started with moves and first principles, leading on to simple game-playing.  The other three sections, all suitable for those who had played to some extent, each had a theme – respectively checkmates, winning tactics and games with coaching.  Problem-solving and learning was the name of the game.  We prepared diagrams for the first three sections (for the use of the leaders) though estimating the time needed and commitment won at each stage was impossible, so  our adaptability was put to the test.

Who did what

Jack took the beginners (well, he is starting a chess club at QEHS Hexham), Peter Crichton ran the tactics, Matthew Taylor was in charge of checkmates, and Mark Taylor did simuls and strategy.  There were sufficient of us for another member to support each section.

It’s an understatement to say I was mildly apprehensive before we got under way.  Mark, Matthew and I had gone along to dip our toes in the water at the morning session, and my heart sank when one young lady told me in no uncertain terms that she ‘wasn’t going to do chess’.  Could we really compete with someone recounting experiences of Olympic and Commonwealth games finals?  But once we had started, and because we had sufficient numbers to engage potentially disenchanted individuals personally, the atmosphere soon warmed up.  By the end of the session we seemed to have won the commitment battle, an impression borne out by the concentration evident on the many photographs taken.

Before they all left, we brought them back to their seats for a final discussion.  Roger had made the interesting suggestion to get them discussing whether chess should be taught in schools.  A good idea, but maybe a bit too much to expect of a group of 50, though several contributions were forthcoming.  They all had a hand-out to take away, telling them about, for example, the NJCA and its events (such as Chess At The Castle) and chess on the internet, and with helpful hints for teachers wishing to take chess further in school.

Not all our interested members were available on the day, and a special word of thanks goes to Colin Davison, who provided three years’ worth of recent Chess magazines, which now reside in the Haydon Bridge HS Sports College library.

Lessons for us

What if we were doing the whole thing again?  My personal reaction is that we should try less hard to predict what would work, and go armed with a wider range of ploys to turn to in case of need.  For example, at half-time Matthew proposed playing games with just a king and a few pawns each, and this worked well on the beginners’ tables, though there were too many pawn races and too little planning.  In general, too little planning also on the part of us tutors, because in the heat of battle it wasn’t easy to make time to draw out conclusions from the experience.  Appraisal forms were completed, but at the time of writing I haven’t seen the outcomes.  Anne herself was very pleased with the student response, and all in all I think we came away feeling our participation had been worthwhile.”

Just a reminder that Mike Nicholson has invited us all to sign an e-petition to no. 10, designed to encourage the government to have chess recognised as a sport. The web address is http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Mindsports/

Forthcoming events. The Hartlepool Chess Congress is on May 25-27 and entries close May 24th. The Hawick Chess Congress is on June 22-24 and entries close June 19th. And the Scarborough Chess Congress is on October 19-21.

And that’s all the news for this month. Just 8 weeks left before the club championship closes!

Steve Larkin

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