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Saturday, 21 November 2015

Mike Taylor R.I.P.

Close friends and readers of the Suffolk Chess blog, will be aware that Mike Taylor, long-time member of the Bury St Edmunds Chess Club, sadly died of a heart attack on Wednesday.

You can read Bob Jones' tribute to Mike here.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Thoughts on Chess Improvement

Chess study is hard. Chess improvement is hard. I'm sure there are lots of chess players out there who like me have got plenty of partially read, or even completely unread chess books on their shelves. How much better would I be if I'd read all those books? I don't know the answer to that, but I'd like to share with you a few ideas which in recent years have helped me improve my grade from around 100 ECF to 150 ECF (that's about 1450 ELO to 1825 ELO). These ideas are mainly aimed at players in the sub-125 bracket, though the next couple of paragraphs may be useful beyond that.

Learning from your games

Nearly every coach will tell you that you need to go over your games, especially your losses, work out where you went wrong and learn the lessons. If you go wrong in the opening, or in a technical endgame, then it's important to look up what you should have done, and to commit those things to memory. That's easier said than done, of course. Especially if your memory is anything like mine. However, this is often not a helpful approach. When you're out of the opening, and not in a recognised endgame there is no concrete theory to memorise, but there are still plenty of ways to go wrong.

Having religiously analysed my games for several seasons, I decided it wasn't enough to simply work out where I've gone wrong. Many of my games were being settled by gross blunders and it's obvious without further analysis what cost me the game. That's not always the case, but at my level it's often the case. Working out where I went wrong is easy. The question is, what to do about it? To answer that, you need to know not just what you did wrong, but why. Knowing the "why" means you don't merely have something to remember, but something to address, something to change about the way you're playing the game. Perhaps it's a thinking pattern you need to break. Perhaps it's one you need to establish.

Over the board

My first and most obvious "why" was that I kept overlooking simple tactics. These tactics weren't anything I hadn't seen many times before. So why was I missing them? What was I doing at the board, or failing to do, which caused me to slip into such ridiculous mistakes? Here some concrete advice from Ed Player was particularly helpful. His commonsense advice was that every move we should make sure we consider all the checks, captures and attacks on the queen (or major pieces). We should not only consider those available to us, but those which will be available to our opponent should we make the move we're considering.

For a player of my standard, this takes some time ... and depending on the situation on the clocks you may need to cut this short. Still, I've found this advice amazingly helpful. In years gone by, at the board my thinking has been very unstructured and more based upon how I feel about the position than on any objective assessment. Such feelings have their place, but they need to be undergirded by at least a minimal awareness of the tactical situation.

This gives me something concrete to do at the board. If I reach a position when I really don't feel I know what to do, I always make sure I carry out these basic checks. What can I capture? What checks are available? Can I threaten their queen? Do the resulting positions look good? If I make such-and-such a move, what can they capture? What checks will be available? Can they threaten my queen? How do I like the look of the resulting positions?

At 150 ECF, I still make stupid errors, and it's mostly because I struggle to follow my own advice as given above. But having improved significantly on that, I now begin to notice different patterns in "why" I lose. More things I should try to address. It's all grist for the mill.

What's your "why"? Perhaps you've found a way to address it. Do you have any useful routines for at the board which you'd be willing to share?

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Jon Collins - British u180 Champion

Jon Collins, a member of the Bury St Edmunds Chess Club, participated in u180 section at the 2015 British Championships in Warwick a few weeks ago. This was a five round Swiss in which Jon, graded 163 ECF, started the event as 16th seed from a total entry of 36 players.

In the third round, Jon handled the endgame much better than his higher graded opponent, the 3rd seed Ian Clarke (180 ECF), and secured the win. After an amusing nine move win in round four, Jon was joint leader on 3½ points and a draw would be enough to guarantee a share of first place. A draw was duly achieved and with a total score of 4 from 5 games, Jon became (joint) British u180 Chess Champion. Well done Jon!

You can find all five of Jon’s games in this event by searching for “Collins” here:

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Masterclass with Lorin D'Costa

Our long anticipated evening with IM Lorin D’Costa took place on Thursday 20 August. Twenty-seven eager chess players, including a large cohort of juniors and a number of guests from other clubs were treated to a wonderful evening of coaching followed a simultaneous exhibition.

The coaching concentrated on endgame surprises and amongst other lessons Lorin clearly demonstrated that you shouldn’t resign on the basis of long calculations. I’ve done that, only to find moments later that I’d resigned in a drawn position. Of course what counts as a long calculation for me is much shorter than for the GM who made this mistake in the example Lorin shared!

If you were at the event and would like a refresher, or weren’t and want to know what you missed, here’s a PDF of Lorin’s coaching notes.

The group put up an excellent fight in the simul, and while none of us were able to beat Lorin, four managed a draw, and we kept Lorin playing until a little after 11pm. Many thanks go to the staff at our venue for their letting us stay late!

The draws were achieved by John Peters, Steve Lovell, Bob Jones and Laureano Garcia-Munoz.

However, the promised book prize goes to junior Daniel Garcia, whose contributions in the coaching and play in the simul particularly impressed Lorin. He receives a copy of Lorin’s book Who Dares Wins! 

Lorin also named John Peters and Adam John as having done especially well. It’s always hard to single out those deserving of a special mention … I think we all did rather well.

If you attended and haven’t already given your feedback, we’d very much like to get your views via our survey here. If you’re having problems accessing that, you can download and print this version, fill it out and bring it along to the club.

Feedback so far has been very positive, so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to host a similar event next summer. Thanks for coming Lorin!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

BACL Rapidplay Format

At the AGM of the Bury Area Chess League it was agreed that due to dwindling support, we should investigate whether certain alternative formats for the Rapidplay event would be more popular amongst BACL club members. To that end, a survey has been designed to assess the likely impact of any change of format.

Please complete the survey online here:

You don’t need to supply any personal details, and it should only take a few minutes to complete. Even if you have no interest in Rapidplay chess or any of the proposed formats, that’s a response the league would like to receive and there are appropriate options for you to select.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Summer Grades are Out

You can find them on the ECF grading site, and and on our club's membership page.

Please check your game history, and inform the ECF (or me) of anything which is missing, extra or simply doesn't look right. They do make mistakes occasionally. A few seasons ago I was credited with the games of another Steve Lovell from a Rapidplay event. It resulted in me being given a rather higher grade than I should have been!

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Bury St Edmunds Chess Club Needs You

Bury St Edmunds Chess Club welcomes new members. Indeed, we actively seek them. But we can be more effective in that with your assistance. Here are three ways you can help us.

Chess Club FlyerSpread the Word
We've created some flyers to advertise the club. Take a look at them here. We've already put some of these in cafes, pubs and other meeting places in the town centre. But what about the places near you, or your place of work? There are flyers (and business cards) at the club. Why not take a few?

Come Along and Say 'Hi'
If you're not playing a fixture on a given Thursday, that doesn't mean chess club isn't happening. Why not come along and say hello? If there are faces you don't recognise, please introduce yourself - if they aren't playing a graded game at the time! There are normally a bunch of us on hand for casual chess, and a friendly crowd makes a good impression to anyone visiting. We're expecting several new faces at chess club this week (25 June 2015).

Special Events
The Bury library have invited our club to be part of an event celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of 'Alice in Wonderland'. Chess features heavily in the second of these books, so they hope to have people playing and teaching others to play. This will be on Saturday 4th July from 10am until 3pm in the Abbey Gardens. You can just turn up on the day, or get in touch with me in advance. As well as being a fun, family-friendly day, it should also raise the profile of our club!

Got any other ideas? Please share them below.

Club Championship 2015-16

We'll be starting the next club championship in September, which means you have until the end of August to enter.

To do that, please either leave your name in the comments below or send an email to Colin Roborts, our Club Championship organiser. Colin's contact details are on the contact page.

In a change from recent years, the competition will be organised in time-limited rounds, with a set number of weeks to play each fixture.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Summer News

There are a few updates to the Summer Programme, including confirmation of dates and venues for the league AGMs, and the addition of an extra week to our calendar of events.

The extra week is next week, Thursday 4th June, and accommodates the final of the Norfolk and Suffolk Cup, where we once again take on the best of Norfolk: the Broadland club. Why not come along to watch and (quietly) encourage our club's strongest players? There'll also be casual chess available so you can dip in and out of the main event.

Recent events saw Zac Vane pick up the grading prize in the BACL Rapidplay event, scoring four wins from the six rounds. Well done Zac!

Unfortunately the event has not been well supported in the last few years and it's future will be reviewed at the upcoming BACL AGM. If you have any suggestions please bring them to our own AGM on 11 June. Indeed, if you have any thoughts about the running of our club or of either of the chess leagues please come to the club AGM ready to share them.

Last night we played our Chess960 (Fischer Random) event. An enjoyable evening completely free of standard chess opening theory! After the completion of the available four rounds Bob Jones, Zac Vane and Steve Lovell were all tied on three points. Bob was declared the winner on tie-break.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Confirmed: Masterclass with IM Lorin D'Costa

Update: Enough people have now confirmed their attendance. The event will go ahead as planned. If you haven't told me you're coming, I'd still like to know. That will help us know how many chairs and tables we'll need and assist Lorin's planning.

As part of our Summer Programme we're planning to host an evening with IM Lorin D'Costa on Thursday 20th August 2015.

The idea is that we'll have around an hour of coaching, followed by a simul, with a book prize for the best simul.

Lorin D’Costa is an International Chess Master and a full time chess teacher in London. He is an ECF accredited coach, teaching individuals (many of whom have gone on to win national titles and represent England) as well as at the world and European youth championships with the best young English chess talent. Lorin is currently FIDE rated 2430 (and ECF graded 228), putting him comfortably in the top 50 amongst English players. He is currently coaching at a number of London schools, and is the author of two chess books and numerous instructional videos.

Since we need to cover Lorin's costs, this event can only go ahead if we have sufficient numbers attending. There will be a minimum fee of £5 per head.

If you would definitely attend, please leave your name in the comments box below. If you'd be willing to pay a little extra to ensure this event goes ahead, please say that too!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Summer Programme 2015

With the chess season all but completed, it’s time to unveil our programme of events for the summer. There are a few things yet to be confirmed, so it’s subject  to some change.

You can see the current plans at I'll be keeping that up to date should any changes be required.

You'll see that as usual, we will meet fortnightly from May to August.

BACL Summer Rapidplay

The BACL individual and team rapidplay takes place on Thursday 14th May at Bury chess club and then Wednesday 20th May at Cambridge city chess club. On each evening there are 3 graded games of 15 minutes plus 10 seconds per move. Assuming sufficient digital clocks that is. Any player with a visual handicap may insist on an analogue clock with a time limit of 25 minutes. Entry is free for ECF members; for non-members it is £3 for each night (less for juniors). Just come along and register your presence by 7.30 on each day to get included. There is no need to play both days.

The format is the same as the BACL rapidplay held last year. The essence of the pairing system is that the closest graded players are paired to play and in subsequent rounds 10 points are added to the grade of winners and subtracted from losers for the purpose of pairing the subsequent rounds. Club players are kept apart as much as possible. This may not be possible for Cambridge players at Cambridge and Bury players at Bury.

Teams consist of 3 or 4 players from the same club. A team of 4 has its scores multiplied by .75 for that evening. Teams can bring in other players on the second evening provided they have not played for another team. Teams need to enter before the start of round 2. The pairing system provides an element of handicap.

There will be trophies for the individual winner, grading prize and team winner.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

2014-15 Club Championship

Update: this event has now closed. The winner in the Open section was John Feavyour. In the Minor section, too few games were played so we weren't able to declare a winner.
We kicked off this event over the summer, but only a handful of games have been played so far. The event is split into an Open and a Minor section. All games should be played using Fischer timing as follows: 70 minutes each on the clock, with an additional 15 seconds added after each move.

Results should be emailed to the event organiser Colin Roberts (his email address is on the contact page), but please also include them as a comment below.

It is the players' responsibility to organise games. If you're available but not playing in a team fixture, why not see if any of the other competitors is in the same situation.

Fixtures for the Open Section

John FeavyourSteve Ruthen
Steve RuthenJon Collins
Jon Collins½-½John Feavyour
Bob Jones½-½Steve Ruthen
John Feavyour1-0Bob Jones
Steve RuthenSteve Lovell
Bob JonesJon Collins
Steve Lovell0-1John Feavyour
Colin RobertsSteve Ruthen
Jon Collins½-½Steve Lovell
John FeavyourColin Roberts
Steve RuthenScott Taylor
Steve Lovell1-0Bob Jones
Colin RobertsJon Collins
Scott Taylor(default) 0-1John Feavyour
Bob Jones1-0 Colin Roberts
Jon Collins1-0Scott Taylor
Colin RobertsSteve Lovell
Scott TaylorBob Jones
Steve Lovell1-0Scott Taylor
Scott TaylorColin Roberts

Fixtures for the Minor Section

Hugo Smith0-1Peter Massey
Peter MasseyDave Clark
Dave ClarkHugo Smith
Patrick GembisPeter Massey
Hugo SmithPatrick Gembis
Peter MasseyFraser Fallows
Patrick GembisDave Clark
Fraser Fallows0-1Hugo Smith
David WoodPeter Massey
Dave ClarkFraser Fallows
Hugo SmithDavid Wood
Fraser FallowsPatrick Gembis
David Wood0-1Dave Clark
Patrick Gembis1-0David Wood
David WoodFraser Fallows

Good luck everyone!