Bringing Chess to Visually Impaired People

The Gazette - May 2021

Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

The BCA v Surrey Correspondence Match reaches the Final Stretches

Ben Graff writes:

As we go to print, Surrey leads the BCA by 11 points to 7, with four games still underway. Julie Leonard asked me to pull together a report, and I started by talking to our captain, Voldi Gailans. Voldi was quick to praise the contribution of Owen Phillips. “Owen was the catalyst. He reached out to Surrey and none of this would have happened without him. This match was an amazing thing for Owen to have suggested and is a real credit to him.” So, a big thank you from all at the BCA to Owen.

Julie rightly highlighted that special thanks are also due to Surrey captain, Richard Tillett. “Richard put a lot of work in to get the Surrey side together and collaborated with Voldi to get the match up and running. Voldi would obviously be too modest to say so, but he has also worked hard on this match and therefore deserves thanks too!”

Voldi told me that from his perspective everything had run smoothly and “relationships now existed between the players on the opposing sides, that weren’t there before.” This chimed with my own experience. I had not previously met my opponent Martin Smith, but we really enjoyed getting to know each other during our game. The last time I played correspondence chess was back in the early 1990s, when I would wait with anticipation for the post to arrive from far and wide. I even had an Icelandic opponent on one occasion! It is amazing to think about how much the world has changed in a relatively short period of time thanks to email.

Yet fundamentally perhaps nothing has changed. Correspondence chess is such a great way to make new friends. It gives all of us a chance to think deeply about our games, without the pressure of a ticking clock and is a particularly good medium for trying out new openings. Certainly, for me it was a refreshing antidote to the hours of meaningless blitz I am playing during lockdown. If anyone has not played correspondence chess before and might be tempted in the future, I would recommend it. Particularly in events such as this where you only play one game, the commitment is very manageable.

I have played through every game and wanted to pick out three to share in this piece. Peter Gibbs had a terrific victory on Board 1 against Matt Piper and Rod Macdonald also had a fine win on Board two against Justin Horton. These games have both been expertly analysed by Rod, who has provided the following commentary. (I’ve slightly edited, Rod’s analysis of his own game, just in the interests of space.) I thought I had better also share my own efforts…

Also, a special shout-out to Malcolm Jones who made Surrey’s Tim Cutter work hard for the point in their eighty-move battle and to Philip Doyle for his excellent victory against Dieter McDougall. Win lose or draw, I hope everyone has enjoyed this match as much as I have.

Board 1: Peter Gibbs (BCA) v Matt Piper (Surrey)

Opening: A29: English Opening, Four Knights Variation

1. c4 Nf6 2. Nc3 e5 3. g3 Bc5 4. Bg2 O-O 5. Nf3 d6 6. O-O Nc6 7. d3 Bf5 [Black should probably proceed with 7. ... Re8 here. e6 seems like a better development for the bishop rather than g6.]

8. e4 [8. Bg5!? h6 9. Bh4 looks promising.]

8. ... Bg6 [8. ... Be6 9. Be3 offers equality.]

9. Bg5 [Another choice is 9. h3 h6 10. Be3 with equal chances.]

9. ... Qd7?? [This weakens Black's position. Better is 9. ... h6 10. Bd2 Nd4, where White has only a slight edge. Another idea is 9. ... Nd4 10. Rb1 c6 11. Re1 a6 12. b3 b5. After White's next move White has a very strong position.]

10. Bxf6 gxf6 11. Nd5 [11. Nh4 Kh8 is very good for White. 11. ... Nd4 is also solid for White.]

11. ... Qd8 [11. ... Kh8 12. Kh1; or 11. ... Kg7 12. Nh4 are very strong for White.]

12. Nh4 [12. Qd2 Kg7 is also very strong for White.]

12. ... Nd4 [12. ... a5 would be a better try.]

13. Kh1 [13. b4 Bb6 leaves White moderately better.]

13. ... c6 14. Nc3 [14. Ne3 Kh8 is also good for White.]

14. ... a5? [14. ... f5!? must definitely be considered, but after 15. f4 exf4 16. exf5 Nxf5 17. Nxf5 Bxf5 18. Rxf4 Bg6 White is still comfortably better.]

15. f4 exf4 16. Rxf4 Kh8 [16. ... Ne6 17. Rf1 would be very strong for White.]

17. Qd2 Qe7 [17. ... Ne6 18. Rff1 is very strong for White.]

18. Raf1 a4 [18. ... Qe5 19. Rxf6 Rg8 20. Bh3 is a bit better but White is definitely in command.]

19. a3 [19. Rxf6!? might be the shorter path: 19. ... a3 20. bxa3 Kg7.]

19. ... Nb3 20. Qd1 Bd4 21. Nxa4! b5 [21. ... Rxa4 22. Nxg6+ Double attack; 22. Qxb3 Removes a defender]

22. cxb5 [22. Qxb3?! is much weaker; 22. ... bxa4 23. Qd1 Bxb2 offers only equality.]

22. ... Rxa4 23. Qxb3 [23. Nxg6+?! fxg6 24. Qxb3 cxb5 25. Qxb5 Ra7 and Black has equalized.]

23. ... cxb5 24. Nf5 [24. Qxb5 Qa7 25. Nxg6+ fxg6 gives White a moderate advantage. 24. Nxg6+?! is clearly inferior after 24. ... fxg6 25. Qxb5 Ra7, giving White only a slight advantage.]

24. ... Bxf5 [24. ... Qe5 25. Nxd4 Rxd4 26. Rxf6 is very strong for White.]

25. Rxf5 [25. exf5?! Be5 26. Rxa4 bxa4 27. Qxa4 Bxb2 is also very strong for White.]

25. ... Be5 26. Bh3 [26. Rh5 makes it even easier for White: 26. ... Qa7 27. Bh3 Qe3.]

26. ... Raa8? [26... Qa7 27. Rh5 Qe3 28. Qd1 and White wins. 28. Qxb5?! is much weaker. After 28. ... Rd4, White has only a moderate edge.]

27. Rh5 Rg8 28. Bf5 Rg7 29. Qxb5 Qa7 30. a4! [The decisive move, leading to a winning endgame. For example, 30. ... Qxa4 31. Qxa4 Rxa4 32. Rc1 Ra8 33. b4 Rb8 34. Rc6 Kg8 35. b5.]

30. ... Rb8 31. Qc6 1-0

Board 2: Justin Horton (Surrey) v. Rod Macdonald (BCA)

ECO: D47 - Semi-Slav, Meran System

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 c6 5. e3 [Roughly 50% of Master games continue with 5. e3. White gives priority to developing his light-squared bishop, and accepts that, for the time being, the dark-squared bishop will remain somewhat out of play. The main line continues with 5. ... Nbd7. The bishop moves 5. ... Bd6 and 5. ... Be7 are seldom seen, as Masters realised early-on that at e7, the bishop is passively placed and does nothing to further one of Black's aims - the freeing move ... e5. The unusual move 5. ... a6 is considered solid for Black. Some sources call 5. ... a6 the "accelerated Meran".]

5. ... Nbd7 6. Bd3 [One of the main variations of the Semi-Slav is the Meran Variation. White plays 6. Bd3, provoking the continuation 6. ... dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 where Black surrenders his centre in exchange for queenside expansion and some tempi against the white bishop. The line was first played in 1906 in the game Schlechter-Perlis. The variation takes its name from the town of Meran (Merano) in northern Italy. During a 1924 tournament in Meran, it was used successfully in the game Gruenfeld-Rubinstein. Gruenfeld adopted the same variation two rounds later against Spielmann, winning as well. White will play in the centre, leading to a rich, complicated game. These opposing strategies, with the ensuing keen play, have long made the Meran a favourite for enterprising players of either colour.]

6. ... dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Be2 [Retreating the bishop to e2, instead of the typical d3 square, has an impact on certain continuations, when the white queen is protecting the d-pawn. A line where Black plays in the typical Meran style might be: 8. Be2 a6 9. e4 c5 10. e5 cxd4 and now White has the option of playing 11. Qxd4 Bc5 12. Qf4 with a comfortable advantage.]

8. ... Bb7 9. O-O Be7 10. e4 b4 11. e5 bxc3 12. exf6 [This line is supposed to lead to a very tiny edge for White and the most frequent result is a draw.]

12. ... Bxf6 [12. ... Nxf6 is a safe alternative: 13. bxc3 O-O 14. Rb1 Qc7 (14. ... Qc8 15. Qb3 Ba6 is also playable) 15. Bf4 Qxf4 16. Rxb7 and White's initiative is not easy to convert into something more concrete. On the other hand, Black's position might not be to everybody's taste.]

13. bxc3 c5 [Temporarily sacrificing a pawn to double-isolate pawns on White's c-file.]

14. dxc5 O-O [Commenting on the Kramnik (2743) - Topalov (2813) playoff game, round 4, Elista 2006, won by White, Annotator Mihail Marin (Romania) commented, "Black usually played 14. ... O-O, when White cannot demonstrate a convincing way of developing his initiative too easily."]

15. Be3 [I ran out of applicable games to refer to at this point, although Fritz found a few more when I checked after the game ended. The usual continuation, as far as I could tell at the time, is 15. Ba3 Be7 16. Qd4 Qc7 17. Rab1. I was unable to find any games with 15. Be3, so my "book" closed here and I will be on my own from now on. Ahem! Black's plan now is to focus resources on the half-open c-file, to regain the sacrificed pawn and to eventually put pressure on White's second isolated c-pawn, currently resting on c3.]

15. ... Rc8 [Fritz suggests instead 15. ... Be7 16. Rb1 and now:

(A) 16. ... Bd5 17. Nd4 Bxc5 18. Bf3 Bxf3 19. Qxf3 Bb6 20. Rfd1 Qc8 21. Nc6 Kh8 22. Bf4 Qb7 23. Rb4 f6 24. Rd6 Rae8 25. Qh5 Qc7 26. Rd3 Qxc6 27. Rh3 Kg8 28. Qxh7+ Kf7 29. Bh6 Rg8 30. Rg4 Ke7 31. Bxg7, as played in the game D. Valerga (2468) - G. Della Morte (2384), Buenos Aires 2014, won by Black in 38 moves; or (B) 16. ... Qc8 17. Qd3 Rd8 18. Qb5 Rb8 19. Qa5 Bxc5 20. Bxc5 Nxc5 21. Rfd1 Rxd1+ 22. Rxd1 Ne4 23. c4 Qc5 24. Rd8+ Rxd8 25. Qxd8+ Qf8 26. Qa5 Qc5 27. Qd8+ Qf8, draw agreed, as in the game S. Lputian (2627) - V. Ivanchuk (2709), Bled 2002.]

16. Qa4 [White does not want to give back the extra pawn without a fight.]

16. ... Bd5 [I spent several days pondering this and came up with 16. ... Bd5. This protects the a-pawn, but the downside is that Black will likely have to move the Bishop again soon, or lose it. Alternatively, there is 16. ... Nxc5 17. Qxa7 Rc7 18. Qa5, which gives Black a slightly better position. 18. Bxc5? looks very tantalising, but not after 18. ... Bxf3 19. Bxf3 Rxa7 20. Bxa7 Bxc3, leaving Black with a very strong game.]

17. Rac1 [Of course not 17. Qxa7 Ra8 and White would lose his Queen. Fritz suggests that after 17. Qa3 Qc7, Black stands slightly better.]

17. ... Nxc5 [Now if White goes after the pawn on a7 we would have 18. Qxa7 Be7 19. Bxc5 Bxc5 20. Qa6 Ra8 21. Qb5 Ra5 22. Qb1 Rxa2 with a strong position for Black. But what is White going to do about the threat to his Queen?]

18. Bxc5? [Fritz assigned a question mark to this move, suggesting that 18. Qb4!? is worthy of consideration; and that 18. ... Be7 19. Qg4 offers equal chances.]

18. ... Rxc5 19. c4 [19. Qxa7 Ra5 20. Qe3 Qa8 is strong for Black.]

19. ... Qc7 20. Nd2? [Again, the question mark is from Fritz. 20. Qb3 is a better choice, but Black still stands much better.]

20. ... Qf4 [It's Guy Fawkes Day now...]

21. Qxa7 [21. Qb3 Bxg2 22. Kxg2 Qxd2 23. Qe3 is devastating for Black.]

21. ... Bxg2 22. Qxc5 Be5

0-1 [23. Nf3 Bxf3 24. Qxe5 Qxe5 25. Bxf3 Qg5+ 26. Kh1 Rc8 and White is lost.]

Board 6: Martin Smith (Surrey) v. Ben Graff (BCA)

During lockdown, I have mainly been working in the spare room in our house, and I had this game set out on a little wooden pocket board on the desk. There was many a moment where I drifted from whatever I was supposed to be doing to look at the position. Chess is just so engrossing!

Even so, I proved that having endless time does not always help. I was unsure as to a concrete plan and while I subsequently discovered that Fritz thought I was slightly better throughout, it never felt like that to me. Similarly, Martin Smith was not entirely confident either. He commented after the game: “I don’t think I played the sharpest opening – and dithered too much on the queenside. Was most impressed by your mysterious rook manoeuvres and was caught out by the cheeky pin along the rank! It was almost the triumph of creative defence over ponderous attack – was lucky to have that Qh7 resource at the end. Not sure if I’ll repeat that line against the Slav – though I see some GMs continue to indulge.”

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. c4 c6 4. g3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Be4 7. f3 Bg6 8. Qb3 Qb6 9. Nxg6 hxg6 10. c5 Qc7

11. Bf4 Qc8 12. 0-0-0 Nh5 13. e4 Tempting, but not the best choice. White’s doubled kingside pawns are a weakness, but set against this White has a space advantage and a position that is perhaps easier to play.

13… Nxf4 14. gxf4 Be7 15. Kb1 Nd7 16. Qc2 Qc7 17. Ne2 Nf6 18. h3 0-0-0 I am keen to get my king away from the centre. Notwithstanding this, Fritz likes follow ups that involve the b6 break, but I think a human would be very brave to play like this, given White’s potential along the c file.

19. e5 Nd7 20. Rc1 Kb8 21. Qa4 Rh4 22. Rg1 Rdh8 The “mysterious rook manoeuvres,” Martin refers to… I’m trying to use my open file to put pressure on the h and f pawns, but I lack a concrete plan. One of those positions where I failed to develop a long-term plan

23. Rg4 R4h5 24. Nc3 Bd8 25. b4 a6 26. Qb3 Ka8 27. Rc2 g5 Fritz isn’t a fan of this move, as it allows White to undouble the pawns, but it gives Black practical chances which put me on top.

28. fxg5 Rxg5 29. Rxg5 Bxg5 30. Qa4 Rh4 31. b5? Nxe5 32. b6 I don’t think b6 is the best choice, but again in a practical sense it proves useful given the lack of escape squares available to my king on a8.

32… Qc8 33. Rb2 Nc4 34 Bxc4 Rxd4 35. Rg4 Rxc4 36. Rxc4 dxc4 37. Qxc4 Qd7 38. Ne4 Qd1+ 39 Kb2 Qxf3? Looks clever but proves to be wrong

40. Nxg5 Qg2+ 41. Qc2 Qxg5 42. Q-h7 Qd2+ draw agreed. I can only stop the mate by giving a pawn and while still a pawn up, progress looked impossible to me. A fair result!

BCA v. Surrey E-mail Match – Results in full

Board 01: Peter Gibbs (BCA) 1 v 0 Matt Piper (Surrey)

Board 02: Justin Horton (Surrey) 0 v 1 Rod Macdonald (BCA)

Board 03: John Gallagher (BCA) 0.5 v 0.5 Tony Ashby (Surrey)

Board 05: Graham Lilley (BCA) 0.5 v 0.5 Steve Hooker (Surrey)

Board 06: Martin Smith (Surrey) 0.5 v 0.5 Ben Graff (BCA)

Board 07: Steve Burnell (BCA) 0 v 1 Graham Alcock (Surrey)

Board 11: Norman Andrews (BCA) 0.5 v 0.5 Paul Hartdegen (Surrey)

Board 12: Mike Gunn (Surrey) 1 v 0 Stan Lovell (BCA)

Board 13: Philip Doyle (BCA) 1 v 0 Dieter McDougall (Surrey)

Board 14: Richard Tillett (Surrey) 0.5 v 0.5 Alec Crombie (BCA)

Board 15: Eamonn Casey (BCA) 0 v 1 Tony Foreman (Surrey)

Board 16: Edward Mospan (Surrey) 0.5 v 0.5 Philip Gordon (BCA)

Board 17: Colin Fisher (BCA) 0.5 v 0.5 Mike Foss (Surrey)

Board 18: Tim Cutter (Surrey) 1 v 0 Malcolm Jones (BCA)

Board 19: Randy Kruzeniski (BCA) 0 v 1 Richard Jones (Surrey)

Board 20: Chris Rebbeck (Surrey) 1 v 0 Steve Thacker (BCA)

Board 21: Guy Whitehouse (BCA) 0.5 v 0.5 Andras Horvath (Surrey)

Board 22: Simon Rebbeck (Surrey) 1 v 0 Mark Hague (BCA)

Current Score: BCA 7, Surrey 11. (Four games are still in play.)