Sunday, 11 April 2021

Beat The ... Caro-Kann

IN this series I am looking at the statistically best way to play against popular opening lines.
The numbers are drawn from the 2021 edition of ChessBase's Mega database, ignoring, where possible, those results that include very few games and so are statistically insignificant.

The Caro-Kann: 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 is one of those openings whose popularity fluctuates at elite tournaments but tends to remain steady among club players.
White's best response statistically is 3.f3, which scores 58%.
Position after 3.f3
Since White's third move is clearly non-forcing, it is not surprising Black has seven reasonably popular replies.

A) 3...e6 (3,202 games)
White's most-successful try is 4.Nc3, to which Black has two main responses.
A1 4...Bb4, after which the position looks like a French Winawer, but with the extra moves f3 and c6. White's commonest continuation is 5.Bf4, which scores 57%, but White scores 59% with 5.a3, when the line splits.
A1.1 5...Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 dxe4 7.Nh3!? (not 7.fxe4? Qh4+), reaches a position that occurs just 10 times in Mega21. Four of those games saw 7...Qa5 8.Bb2, with White scoring 75%.
A1.2 5...Ba5 occurs just 24 times in Mega21. White scores 88% with 6.Bf4.
A2 4...Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.f4 c5 is a transposition to the absolute main line of the Steinitz Variation of the French, which will normally not be what a Caro-Kann player is wanting. There are more than 21,500 games in which White continues 7.Nf3, scoring 57%, but fewer than 400 in which White plays 7.Nce2, scoring 58%.

B) 3...dxe4 (2,384 games)
Black has two main ways of meeting 4.fxe4.
B1 4...e5 5.Nf3, after which the line splits.
B1.1 5...exd4 6.Bc4, when the line splits again.
B1.1a 6...Be6 7.Bxe6 fxe6 8.0-0 scores 79% for White.
B1.1b 6...Be7 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Ng5 0-0 9.Nxf7!? Rxf7 10.Bxf7+ Kxf7 11.e5 scores 80% for White.
B1.1c 6...Nf6 7.0-0 Bc5 (7...Be7 is a transposition to B1.1b) 8.Ng5 0-0 has been reached 13 times in Mega21. White scores 88% with 9.Nxf7, but Stockfish13 and Komodo12.1.1 reckon 9...Qe7!? seriously muddies the water. They much prefer 9.Bxf7+!? Rxf7 11.Nxf7.
B2 4...Nf6 5.e5 Nd5 6.c4 resembles an Alekhine and scores 77% for White.

C) 3...g6 (1,068 games)
After 4.Nc3 Bg7 5.Be3 Black has four main replies.
C1 5...dxe4 6.fxe4 leads to another split.
C1.1 6...Nf6 7.Nf3 0-0 8.h3 scores 69% for White.
C1.2 6...e5 7.Nf3 exd4 8.Bxd4 Bxd4 9.Qxd4 scores 63% for White.
C2 5...Qb6 and now the most-popular move 6.Qd2 scores only 43% for White, but 6.a3!? scores 55%.
C3 5...Nf6 6.e5 scores 61% for White against both 6...Nfd7 and 6...Ng8!?
C4 5...e6 6.Qd2 scores 70% for White.

D) 3...Qb6 (439 games)
Black has two main ways of meeting 4.Nc3
D1 4...dxe4 5.dxe4 e5!? 6.Nf3 exd4 7.Nxd4, after which the line splits again.
D1.1 7...Bc5 8.Na4 Qa5 9.c3 Be7 10.b4 scores 69% for White, albeit from a small sample, while 9...Bd6 10.Nf3 scores 75% for White, but again from a small sample.
D1.2 7...Nf6 8.e5 Ng4 9.e6!? Bxe6 10.Bc4!? Bxc4 11.Qxg4 scores 60% for White, again from a small sample.
D2 4...e6 White has usually met this with 5.a3, but only scored 44%. Much better, statistically, is the 83% of 5.a4!?, but it is from a much-smaller sample.

E) 3...e5!? (266 games)
After 4.dxe5 Bc5 5.Nc3 Black has two main replies.
E1 5...Qb6 6.Na4, after which the line splits again.
E1.1 6...Qa5+ 7.c3 Bxg1 8.Rxg1 scores 60% for White.
E1.2 6...Bf2+ 7.Ke2 Qd4 8.Qxd4 Bxd4 reaches a position that occurs 19 times in Mega21. Most popular is 9.exd5, which scores 54%, but the engines much prefer 9.f4, which scores 67%, albeit in just three games.
E2 5...Ne7 6.Bd3 0-0 reaches a position that occurs just six times in Mega21, and again the engines like pushing the f pawn, 7.f4.

F) 3...Nf6 (257 games)
After 4.e5 Black has two replies.
F1 4...Nfd7 5.f4 e6 6.Nf3 c5 7.Nc3 is another transposition to a mainline French Steinitz, from which White scores 57%.
F2 4...Ng8!? 5.Bd3 e6 6.f4 scores 60% for White, rising to 75% after 6...c5 7.c3.

G) 3...Nd7 (141 games)
White scores 72% with 4.Nc3 (White scores 77% with 4.Bd3, but that only occurs 11 times in Mega21). Black has two main replies.
G1 4...e6 5.Be3 Bb4 6.Bd3 scores 75% for White.
G2 4...Nb6!? 5.Bf4 scores an amazing 93% for White, but only occurs seven times in Mega21. Slightly more frequent, with 11 appearances, is 5.Be3, which is preferred by the engines and scores 64%.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Beat The ... French KIA

IN this series I am looking at the statistically best way to play against popular opening lines.
The numbers are drawn from the 2021 edition of ChessBase's Mega database, ignoring, where possible, those results that include very few games and so are statistically insignificant.

The King's Indian Attack against the French: 1.e4 e6 2.d3 is not generally highly regarded theoretically but is popular at club level and has been used by many attacking players, including Bobby Fischer.
Black scores 45% with the most-popular reply, 2...d5, and 46% with 2...c5, but statistically the best move is 2...b5!?, which scores 50%.
The move, which seems to have been first played by Bent Larsen in 1979, looks bizarre but has a strong positional basis in that it gains space on the queenside - often a black goal in the French - and prepares to develop the problem light-square bishop on a long diagonal.
Position after 2...b5!?
White has two popular replies.

A) 3.Nf3 (69 games)
Black scores an excellent 61% with the obvious 3...Bb7, when there are two main continuations.
A1 4.g3 d6!? 5.Bg2 Nf6 scores 75% for Black.
A2 4.Nbd2 c5 5.g3 Nc6 also scores 75% for Black.

B) 3.g3 (67 games)
3...Bb7 4.Bg2 (4.Nf3 has also been played but is a transposition to A1) c5 scores 48% for Black, at which point there are two main continuations.
B1 5.Nf3 d6!? 6.0-0 Nf6 reaches a much-more mainline KIA position, with the line again splitting.
B1.1 7.a4 b4 8.Nbd2 Nc6 scores 61% for Black.
B1.2 7.Nbd2 Nc6 8.Re1 Be7 scores 71% for Black.
B1.3 7.Re1Nbd7!? 8.Nbd2 Qc7 scores 61% for Black.
B2 5.f4!? d6!? scores 50% for Black.

Note that, unlike previous entries in this series, many of these statistics are based on only a handful of games - 2...b5!? is a very uncommon move.

Friday, 9 April 2021

Beat The ... Philidor

IN this series I am looking at the statistically best way to play against popular opening lines.
The numbers are drawn from the 2021 edition of ChessBase's Mega database, ignoring, where possible, those results that include very few games and so are statistically insignificant.

The Philidor: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 is a popular defence at club level, not least because it sidetracks both the Spanish and the Italian openings.
White's most-successful response is also the most-popular, namely 3.d4.
Position after 3.d4
Black has four main replies.

A) 3...exd4 (16,187 games)
White's best move, statistically, is the unusual but sharp 4.Bc4!?, which scores 66%.
Despite the looming threat to f7, Black has six replies that are popular enough to need looking at.
A1 4...Be7 is played almost half the time, the point being to develop the kingside while preventing a white piece landing on g5.
White does best by upping the sharpness with 5.c3!?, which scores 60%, after which the line splits again.
A1.1 5...Nf6 6.Qb3 0-0 7.Ng5!? scores 79% for White, although my main analysis engines Stockfish13 and Komodo12.1.1 much prefer 7.cxd4.
A1.2 5...dxc3?! runs into 6.Qb3, which scores 82%.
A1.3 5...d3?! also runs into 6.Qb3, which scores 67%.
A2 4...Nc6 is a transposition to a relatively minor line of the Scotch Gambit that normally arises from the move-order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 d6!?
White scores 64% with both Nd4 and c3. The latter is much less common and complements A1, so I will go with it. After 5.c3!?, there is another split.
A2.1 5...Ne5 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7.Qb3 scores 64% for White.
A2.2 5...dxc3 6.0-0 scores 61% for White after 6...Nf6, 63% after 6...Be7 and 64% after 6...Be6.
A2.3 5...Nf6 6.Qb3 scores 76% for White.
A2.4 5...d3 6.0-0 scores 70% for White.
A2.5 5...Be6 6.Bxe5 fxe6 7.Qb3 scores 82% for White.
A3 4...Bg4?! leaves the kingside undeveloped but is surprisingly popular.
White scores an incredible 85% with 5.c3, after which Black has tried many moves, but their scores, albeit from small samples, shows how difficult the Black position is, eg 5...Bxf3 (20%), 5...dxc3 (0%), 5...Nf6 (17%), etc.
A4 4...h6?! is the type of move to be expected from a tournament novice.
White scores 84% with the calm 5.0-0.
A5 4...Nf6!? is by no means as bad as it might at first appear.
After 5.Ng5, which scores 58% for White, Black has two reasonable possibilities.
A5.1 5...d5 6.exd5
White's score leaps to 70% when Black plays 6...Nxd5?! (White is already winning after 7.0-0, according to the engines), but a much-better try is 6...Bb4+ 7.c3 Qe7+. There are only seven games with this sub-line in Mega21, but the chances look even after the engines' 8.Qe2 Qxe2+ 9.Kxe2 dxc3 10.Nxc3 (only one game, between a 2217 as White and a 2276 as Black, reaches this position in Mega21, and it was quickly drawn, but both sides can play on with reasonable chances of creating interesting play).
A5.2 5...Be6
White scores 80%, albeit from a small sample size, by taking the bishop-pair with 6.Nxe6.
A6 4...Be6 5.Bxe6 fxe6 6.Nxd4 reaches a position that more-commonly arises from the move-order 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Be6 4.Bxe6 fxe6 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4.
Black has four fairly popular replies.
A6.1 6...Qd7 7.Qh5+ g6 8.Qh3 e5 9.Ne6 scores 81% for White.
A6.2 6...e5 7.Ne6 scores 77% for White.
A6.3 6...Nf6 7.Bg5 scores 88% for White (from a very small sample size).
A6.4 6...Qf6 7.0-0 also scores 88% for White, but again from very few games).

B) 3...Nd7 (4,965 games)
Again White does best statistically with 4.Bc4, which again scores 66%, and here it is the most-popular move in the position.
Black has three popular replies.
B1 4...c6
White does best, 69%, with the slightly unusual 5.c3!?, when the line again splits.
B1.1 5...b5!? 6.Bb3 Be7 7.0-0 scores 64% for White.
B1.2 5...Be7? (second-most popular with 49 games, but it is a mistake) 6.Qb3 d5 7.exd5 scores 83% for White.
B2 4...Be7?
Again an early ...Be7 in the 3...Nd7 variation is a mistake. After 5.dxe5 Black has two popular replies, but 5...Nxe5 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7.Qh5 g6 8.Qxe5 scores 85% for White while 5...dxe5? 6.Qd5 scores 94% for White.
B3 4...h6!?
This is more respectable here than in A4, but White scores 79% by getting on with development with 5.0-0.

C) 3...Nf6 (4,717 games)
White scores 64% with 4.dxe5.
Black's idea is to restore material equality with 4...Nxe4, but 5.Qd5 Nc5 6.Bg5 scores 69% for White, rising to 73% after 6...Be7 7.exd6 Qxd6 8.Nc3 and dipping only marginally to 68% after 6...Qd7 7.exd6 Bxd6 8.Nc3.

D) 3...Bg4 (1,577 games)
White scores 79% with Paul Morphy's famous Opera Game reply 4.dxe5, rising to 86% after 4...Bxf3 5.Qxf3 dxe5 6.Bc4 and 86% after the gambit-line 4...Nd7!? 5.exd6 Bxd6 6.h3.

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Beat The ... Nimzo-Indian

IN this series I am looking at the statistically best way to play against popular opening lines.
The numbers are drawn from the 2021 edition of ChessBase's Mega database, ignoring, where possible, those results that include very few games and so are statistically insignificant.

The Nimzo-Indian: 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 is one of the very most-popular responses to 1.d4.
White's most-successful continuation statistically is 4.g3!?, scoring 54%.
It has the practical advantage of being just the eighth most-popular continuation, so it is unlikely many blacks will be well-prepared.
Position after 4.g3!?
Black has three popular replies.

A) 4...c5 (1,232 games)
White normally, and most-successfully, plays 5.Nf3, after which the line splits.
A1 5...cxd4 6.Nxd4, after which there is another split.
A1.1 6....0-0 7.Bg2 d5 8.0-0 dxc4 9.Qa4 scores 66% for White.
A1.2 6...Ne4 7.Qd3, with a further split: A1.2a 7...Qa5 8.Nb3 Nxc3 9.Bd2 scores 63% for White; A1.2b 7...Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 Nc5 9.Qf3 scores 59% for White; A1.2c 7...Nxc3 8.bxc3 Be7 9.Bf4 scores 67% for White.
A2 5...0-0 6.Bg2, after which there is another split.
A2.1 6...cxd4 7.Nxd4 is a transposition to A1.1.
A2.2  6...d5 7.dxc5 scores 74% for White.
A3 5...Nc6 6.Bg2 Ne4 7.Bd2 Nxd2 8.Qxd2 scores 54% for White.
A4 5...Ne4 6.Qd3 Qa5 (the much less-popular 6...cxd4 7.Nxd4 is a transposition to A1.2) 7.Qxe4 Bxc3+ 8.Bd2 Bxd2+ 9.Nxd2 scores 56% for White.

B) 4...0-0 (1,190 games)
White nearly always plays 5.Bg2, after which the line splits.
B1 5...d5 6.Nf3, after which there is another split.
B1.1 6...dxc4 7.a3, with a further split: B1.1a 7...Be7 8.0-0 scores 62% for White; B1.1b 7...Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 scores 55% for White.
B1.2 6...c5 7.dxc5 is a transposition to A2.2.
B1.3 6...c6 7.Qb3 scores 67% for White.
B2 5...d6 6.Qb3!? scores 83% for White.
B3 5...c5 6.Nf3, after which there is another split.
B3.1 6...cxd4 7.Nxd4 is a transposition to A1.1.
B3.2 6...d5 7.dxc5 is another transposition to A2.2.

C) 4...d5 (337 games)
White nearly always plays 5.Bg2, to which Black almost invariably replies 5...0-0, a transposition to B1. Second, but a long way behind in popularity, is 5...c6, against which 6.Qb3 scores 71% for White.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Beat The ... Trompowsky

IN this series I am looking at the statistically best way to play against popular opening lines.
The numbers are drawn from the 2021 edition of ChessBase's Mega database, ignoring, where possible, those results that include very few games and so are statistically insignificant.

The Trompowsky: 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 goes through surges of popularity, often based on the publication of a dedicated book or repertoire recommendation.
Black's most-popular reply is 2...Ne4, which scores a respectable 46%.
But the most-successful move is Nakamura's favourite, 2...c5, which scores an excellent 50%.
Position after 2...c5
White has four main tries.

A) 3.Bxf6 (3,430 games)
The thematic move of the Trompowsky, but it only scores 49%, so Black already has an edge, statistically speaking.
Capturing towards the centre with 3...gxf6 is normal, at which point White usually pushes on with 4.d5 and Black replies 4...Qb6.
White could defend with 5.b3, but scores just 38%, so the main move is the ugly-looking 5.Qc1.
Black has a big choice here, but the most successful of the statistically significant ones is 5...d6, scoring 51%.
This is about as far as we can get with reasonable sample sizes. The position is rated as equal by the analysis engines Stockfish13 and Komodo12.1.1.

B) 3.d5 (2,411 games)
White grabs space, but gives Black a second chance to avoid the thematic capture on f6, and this, from a statistical view, is what Black should do by playing 3...Ne4, which scores 51%.
White usually replies 4.Bf4 (the other natural-looking retreat, 4.Bh4, scores an abysmal 15%, albeit from a small sample), when again it is time for 4...Qb6.
White has three popular continuations.
B1 5.Bc1, when 5...e6 6.f3 Nf6 7.e4 scores 51% for Black, while Kasparov's choice of 7.c4 is slightly less popular and scores 53% for Black.
B2 5.Nd2!? Qxb2 6.Nxe4 Qb4+ 7.Qd2 Qxe4 scores 54% for Black.
B3 5.Qc1 again looks ugly and is well-met by 5...c4 6.e3 Qa5+ 7.Nd2 c3! 8.bxc3 Nxc3, which scores 59% for Black.

C) 3.Nc3 (845 games)
This simple developing move is best met statistically by 3...d5, which scores 49%.
White has two main replies.
C1 4.Bxf6 gxf6, when this line splits:
C1.1 5.e3, after which Black scores 59% with 5...Nc6, rising to 61% after 6.Qh5 cxd4 7.exd4 e6.
C1.2 5.e4!?, after which Black scores 57% with 5...exd4, rising to 65% after 6.dxc5 f5 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 8.0-0-0+ Bd7.
C2 4.e3. when 4...cxd4 scores a tremendous 72%, rising to 81% after 5.exd4 Nc6 and to 77% after 5.Qxd4 Nc6.

D) 3.dxc5 (304 games)
Black scores 58% with the unusual 3...Na6!?
The main line runs 4.Nc3 Nxc5 5.Bxf6 gxf6, after which Black scores a still very good 55%.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Beat The ... Petrov

IN this series I am looking at the statistically best way to play against popular opening lines.
The numbers are drawn from the 2021 edition of ChessBase's Mega database, ignoring, where possible, those results that include very few games and so are statistically insignificant.

The Petrov 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 has largely fallen out of favour as a drawing weapon at the top level, replaced by the Berlin Variation of the Spanish.
But it retains its popularity at club level, where it is played for a win rather than mainly hoping to split a point.
White's commonest continuation is 3.Nxe5, but its excellent score of 59% is eclipsed by the 62% of 3.d4.
Position after 3.d4
Black has two major replies.

A) 3...Nxe4 (8,322 games)
White scores 61% with 4.Bd3, rising to 63% after 4...d5 5.dxe5!? (6.Nxe5 is much more popular but 'only' scores 62%).
Here the line splits.
A1 5...Nc5
White has three reasonably popular responses, the most successful being the least popular - by a small margin - 6.Nc3.
Black usually plays 6...c6, as the second-most common continuation, 6....Nxd3+ 7.Qxd3 c6 8.Bg5, wins the bishop-pair but leaves White with a huge lead in development and scoring 67%.
After 6...c6, the number of games is not statistically significant, but White scores best, 63%, with the restricting 7.h3.
A2 5...Be7
White scores 69% with 6.0-0, rising to 76% after 6...0-0 7.c4 and 6...Nc6 7.Nc3, but falling, albeit marginally, to 68% after 6...Nc5 7.Be2.
A3 5...Nc6
White scores 58% with 6.0-0, rising to 66% after 6...Bg4 7.Nc3, 76% after 6...Be7 7.Nc3 and 60%, albeit from a small sample, after 6...Bc5 7.Nc3.

B) 3...exd4 (2,338 games)
White scores 68% with the main continuation, 4.e5.
Here the line splits.
B1 4...Nxe4 5.Qxd4 d5 6.exd6 Nxd6, when White scores 68% with 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.Qf4.
B2 4...Nd5 5.Qxd4 Nb6 6.Nc3 Nc6 7.Qe4 scores an amazing 82% for White.
B3 4...Qe7 5.Be2 also scores 82% for White.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Beat The ... Berlin

IN this series I am looking at the statistically best way to play against popular opening lines.
The numbers are drawn from the 2021 edition of ChessBase's Mega database, ignoring, where possible, those results that include very few games and so are statistically insignificant.

The Berlin Variation of the Spanish: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 leapt from relative obscurity to become an ever-present in major international tournaments thanks to its adoption as a drawing line for Black.
Compared with the Petrov Defence, which it replaced in popularity among the elite, the Berlin is viewed as giving more winning chances.
This is no doubt largely because there are so many choices for both sides.
White scores 59% with the two main moves, 4.0-0 and 4.d3, but this is edged by the 60% scored by 4.Qe2!?
Position after 4.Qe2!?
Black has three main replies.

A) 4...Bc5 (605 games)
White's most-popular move is 5.c3, but that scores 55% compared with 60% for 5.d3, after which the line splits.
A1 5...d6 6.c3 0-0 7.Nbd2 scores 64% for White.
A2 5...Nd4 6.Nxd4 Bxd4 7.c3 Bb6 8.Bg5 scores 72% for White.
A3 5...0-0 6.c3 d6 transposes to A1, while 6...Re8 can be met by 7.Bg5, scoring 65% for White.

B) 4...d6 (449 games)
The simple 5.0-0 scores 71% for White. Black has two main tries.
B1 5...Bd7 6.c3 Be7 7.Rd1 scores 80% for White.
B2 5...Be7 6.c3 0-0 7.Rd1 scores 71% for White.

C) 4...a6 (292 games)
White scores 61% with 5.Ba4, which transposes to lines more normally reached by the move-order 3...a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.Qe2. This is a major system in itself, but here are the four main lines treated statistically from White's viewpoint.
C1 5...b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.d4!?, a little-known favourite of Tiviakov's that is liked by the analysis engines Stockfish13 and Komodo12.1.1 and scores an impressive 62% for White.
C2 5...Be7 6.0-0 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3, which scores 57% for White.
C3 5...d6 6.c3 Be7 7.0-0 0-0 8.h3, which scores 61% for White.
C4 5....Bc5 6.Bxc6!?  - another Tiviakov speciality liked by the engines. Black's main reply in Mega21, albeit by a small margin, is 6...dxc6, after which 7.Nxe5 scores 78% for White. Stronger players have recently usually preferred 6...bxc6, but there are only 18 examples in Mega21 and two of those are duplicates. For what it is worth, White's most-successful reply is 7.d3, scoring 67%, but from just three games, although they include a 2203 beating a 2540.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Alexander Alekhine's Forgotten Weapon Against The Italian Game (conclusion)

THE position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 is a very common one, and one that can get very sharp very quickly.
There are more than 107,000 games in ChessBase's 2021 Mega database with the reply 3...Bc5, and almost 80,000 with 3...Nf6.
Even when White does not go for the sharpest lines after these moves, there is a lot of theory to learn.
By contrast the move 3...d6 occurs fewer than 5,300 times.
Position after 3...d6 - relatively rare but with a prestigious pedigree
A list of big names who at one time or another have won from the black side of the diagram reads like a Who's Who of chess: Capablanca, Alekhine, Donald Byrne, Grob, Tal, Keres, Petrosian, Korchnoi, Karpov, Averbakh, Mestel, Dreev, Pachman, Hector, Ivan Sokolov and Spanton.
There is little theory to learn with 3...d6 for the simple reason that the Semi-Italian, as it is called in Wikipedia, has largely been left alone by theoreticians.
At present it is still very much an 'ideas' opening, and I hope I have covered in this series the important ones for both sides.
The only preparation necessary is by players thinking of meeting 4.c3 with 4...Bg4, when the reply 5.Qb3!? has been criticised by some annotators but is liked by analysis engines and is the one occasion sharp variations are likely to arise.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

More On OTB Returning

HAVE just received this from Tony Corfe at Castle Chess:

We hope that you may be looking forward to being with us as soon as we are up and running again. Please look below for details. We are planning for a pandemic tournament and have approached it as such, but if we are fortunate then we may be able to play under normal conditions.
Watch this space.
The Lysses House Hotel has agreed conditions with Castle Chess and so we will attempt to run the Congress at Fareham :
25th – 27th September 2020 12th – 14th March 2021
Now looking at the weekend 1st – 3rd October 2021
We had 24 positive responses to a previous Newsletter from players to say that they would like to play over-the-board chess as soon as Castle Chess can organise it. We have reserved space in the hotel, if you asked for it, and have worked out what a reduced capacity for the tournament will be.
It is unclear whether strict Covid rules will be in place. If this is true, but a number limited event is allowed to run, then the entry fee will need to be increased to allow the event to avoid a loss. This was the plan for last September, which had sufficient entries until we had to cancel at the last minute.
We would ask players to let us know about interest and to pay a deposit of £10. This will be entirely refundable if the event is cancelled.
As there is only one event this year the 50p towards the grand prix will be used for running the event.
IF COVID restrictions still apply
We hope to run three sections, but we may need to reduce this to two sections if the event has restricted numbers.
We will need to increase the entry fee by £10 to cover costs.
The hotel has a wide range of safety measures in place, especially cleaning. These will include the necessity of having to purchase drinks at the bar rather than the self service Castle Chess normally supplies.
Each player will be required to bring their own chess set and each player will make moves on their own board, just as you would if you are playing against a blind player.
Note: Castle Chess can sell you a new tournament set and board for £15 if ordered in advance and / or a face visor, if you prefer for £2.50.
Social distancing will apply in the tournament room and any analysis areas.
We will notify the ECF that the event will be happening and we will use the latest grading list available to us for the purposes of pairing.
This is the only event in the calendar for Castle Chess at present. Future Castle Chess Events for 2022 will be notified via the next Newsletter.
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Thank you, as always to the players who have offered to sponsor Castle Chess Events. Without them the events would not be able to survive. They have asked to remain anonymous.

Are You A County Chess Stakeholder?

MARK Murrell, the ECF's counties championship controller has set out tentative plans for a return to over-the-board chess at county level:
"I set out below an overview of the rationale behind the motions brought to Council by the Board, based on our recommendation following the short (but continuing) consultation with organising stakeholders.
"In essence we are seeking to bring the Championships into line with established events that have been using 4-digit ratings for some time (also different thinking here, especially as there will be players rated 100-700 which we have not had before) and also widen the catchment for each band in a more even way, partially addressing the concerns of reducing player numbers and consequential player overlap.
"Flexibility on band width is a more easily adjustable mechanism (either way) than reducing board numbers (ever reducing), which to my mind takes away the distinctiveness of the counties as a competition. It is not intended as a solve-all solution but hopefully a not too controversial attempt at restructuring to partially alleviate the building pressures and adapt to 4-digit ratings.
"We are mindful too that Covid-19 hesitancy will also be playing its part in the months ahead, as will the ever present variability of associated operating restrictions. A degree of pragmatism and adaptability is called for whilst retaining the ethos of the competition.
"Look out for the interim OTB event which will be tailored to Covid-19 operating conditions with a format to suit. The thinking here will be outside the conventional box, to make it both separate and distinct as a back-to-chess curtain raiser, in a similar vein to the proposed arrangements for the slimmed down 2021 British Championships intended for October.
"The intent is to give the 2021/22 Union qualifying competitions a clean start so they are best able to cope with the tribulations that may well lie ahead, and for those who wish to return to OTB as soon as, something to offer whilst conditions allow.
"Ahead of these events there will be a second season of the online competition over the summer either side of the online British. The Home and Events Directors and I are working on the finer scheduling and format detail of these pre-season county based events so that county competition can reach out to as many players as possible."