The Chess Diary of a hard-worked Club Chairman, team captain and ardent player

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
Ernest Hemmingway
Another Season... another log
 Andy's log is back for another season, reporting the triumphs, not quite triumphs and outright not really triumphs at all, of Penrith's chess teams in the Cumbria Open League and our Whitaker Cup and Northern Counties Chess Union teams (which exist to the extent that we can get our act together).  
Andy's log is not a solo effort but we like to make sure that he gets the blame. We aim to cover the majority of Penrith's matches at home and abroad and as many of Cumbria's chess events as we can afford to attend. There's no place we won't send a correspondent to, even Barrow.
Andy McAtear - looking for
a win ... or a pint ... or both.

My Experience at the World Junior Chess Championships
By Holden Davis

Before I begin my report of my time in New Delhi playing the world U20 chess championship I would like to thank everyone who donated in my online fundraiser towards the end of 2019. Without each and every one of your donations I would have struggled to gather the funds for the various expenses required for such a long trip. Your money went a long way to funding my flights to India, which as a student, I would have struggled to pay for without your financial help. So again, my deepest appreciation for everyone who has supported me on this chess journey.

I was intending to write up this report far earlier in the year, however, university work took over and I became overwhelmed with various things! During this intense period of lockdown, however, I have time to gather my thoughts and compile my games of the event. I do hope that everyone reading this secure and safe from the recent coronavirus outbreak, and I trust everyone is in good health!

After I flew to India I travelled to Chennai for two days where I had arranged for GM Kidambi Sundararajan to help prepare me for the event. After crushing me in a series of 10 minute games, he helped me solidify my repertoire in preparation for the tournament, as I did not want to be caught out in some tricky unknown opening! He gave me various tactical exercises, and positional problems to give me some confidence for the event. After spending two days in Chennai, I flew back to New Delhi, where I was taken to the hotel as pre-arranged by the organisers. The hotel was over an hours drive from the airport, and although I was extremely tired, it was wonderful to experience Eastern culture. Upon arriving at the hotel, I found that I was sharing a room with a Moroccan player, who as it turns out, I would later face in the tournament!

The hotel and playing conditions were absolutely fantastic. The perfect temperature, free refreshments during all games, top of the range digital boards and complementary pens, mugs and player cards for all participants. The other English representative was IM Ravi Haria, a friend of mine who was likely to have more of the English chess community following him than me, meaning thankfully I would not get spotted online when I made a horrendous blunder! The rest of the playing field was understandably far above my league. The top seed was a 2642 Iranian player followed by a field of some 80 (ish) GMs, IMs and FMs including the young Indian star, GM Praggnanandha. Much to my amazement I was not the bottom seed, so I was hoping that would allow me to get a few points on the scoreboard to lower players!

I had a spare day before the chess began, and used it to explore the hotel and rest and recover. A friend of mine, who introduced me to some other participants, suggested we warm up for the following day by playing some light games. We played some 10 minute games and I managed to scrape a win against someone I later discovered was a 2400 IM. Needless to say, that was a huge confidence booster for the upcoming tournament. Feeling rested in the morning, I went for breakfast with Ravi, before preparing for my game, which was to be played at 2pm in the afternoon.

Round 1

Naturally I was expecting a very strong opponent in round 1 and ended up paired off against another upcoming Indian prodigy, the 14 year old IM Shrivatri Anuj (FIDE: 2380). A good friend of mine from Macedonia, IM Nikola Nikolovski, was also giving me some online aid during the tournament and was kind enough to give me ‘mate’s rates’ for his usually very expensive coaching. He helped to prepare for this tough opponent, and although I wasn’t expecting a result, I was hoping to play a good game. If you want a lesson in attacking chess then here it is, as I made a misjudged move in the opening and gave the IM something the bite on. He quickly chucked his kingside pawns down the board and although I defended valiantly, it was no match for his lovely tactical breakthrough! For those e4 e5 players reading, this is a great game in what not to do as white, and most certainly what to do as black!
Play through Game 1.

Round 2

Game 2 was no easier, as I uncorked the Dutch Defence against a second strong Indian IM. I fought better in this game, and even had some attacking ideas, but it quickly went downhill after my opponent forced through a tricky breakthrough in the centre which gave all the advantage to white. Thus two games and two defeats, but I was ready to bounce back in round 3.

Round 3

My opponent in round 3 was CM William Li (FIDE: 2191), and I was gifted the white pieces. During preparation I found that he mostly played the Sicilian against 1.e4 and so I was ready to unleash my favourite weapon, the Morra gambit! He accepted it, and played a sub-optimal setup with the black pieces. We were both burning time on the clock, but I developed the upper hand due to my quicker development and mobilized pieces giving me a far superior position. During the time scramble, I managed to miss the final blow, which would have led to mate or a huge material gain and the position petered out to a draw. Thus, I had failed to capitalize on my winning position, but I had come away with a nice result against I strong opponent. I was on the score board! See the game here.

Round 4

In round 4 my French Defence was completely blown out of the water by a young FM from Chile, who launched a spectacular assault on my kingside. This is what happens when you mess up theory! See the game here for the action! Meanwhile, plenty of blood was being split by the top seeds, including that of my fellow Englishman Ravi Haria who had climbed his way into the top pack.

Round 5

This round gave me the unlucky pairing of my Moroccan roommate, Nassim Zrickem and we both agreed we wouldn’t prepare for the game as we wanted to stay on friendly terms. I wanted to come back onto the scoreboard, but this game wasn’t going to be easy. Nassim was an FM, with a 2400 tournament performance rating in the same event the previous year. Certainly I was the underdog! It was an interesting game, and Nassim opted for the Hungarian Defence, a slow and solid setup for black that allows for some aggressive possibilities on the kingside. I followed good chess principles, and immediately acted in the centre before he had time to launch a wing offensive by playing for f5. The position became extremely messy during the middlegame, and came down to raw calculation.  As it turns out, I had seen a move further than him, as he captured a poisoned pawn. This forced him to trade his queen for my two rooks, leaving his remaining pieces passive, whilst my queen and knight were actively reaping havoc. He offered me a draw, but I declined and played on for the win. As we approached the time scramble I won even more material and the win was looking likely.

Tragically (though credit to my opponent for finding it), I missed an engine-like draw move that stymied my knight in the corner and gave black a fortress. I pushed on for 40 moves, searching for a breakthrough, but eventually had to offer a draw as I had exhausted all options. He gladly accepted, a very lucky escape indeed, but a result I was happy with! See the game here soon.

Round 6

After the rest day, which not spent resting but rather travelling to see the monumental Taj Mahal, I was determined to find a win. I was paired against a lower rated FM from Sri Lanka (FIDE: 2191). My secret weapon this event was the Dutch Defence, which although I had been working on pre-tournament, I had never actually played in a rated game before. My opponents were no doubt looking through my games and expecting a Kings Indian Defence or a Benko gambit. This game was no exception, as my opponent was taken aback after I produced f5. I played a lovely positional game, slowly manoeuvring my pieces into good squares, whilst my opponent played a cramped line and struggled to unravel. After a lovely positional pawn sacrifice, which he immediately returned to gain some space, I was in a winning position, but again during yet another time scramble the win slipped through my hand and a draw was agreed.
See the game here.

Round 7

I was still yet to find a win, but I was not unhappy with my performance, as I was getting winning positions against stronger opponents. It was just about converting! Round 7 was not to be, as I played a poor game against a lower seed from Chile. This is one game where my Morra didn’t go as planned! Game here.
Until my loss I had avoided the very bottom bunch, and for the most of the event I had not been the player on the lowest points, but this defeat spiralled me back down into the lower group. I had to fight my way back up!

Round 8

My opponent, Sivathanujan, in round 8 played an unsound line, and after just 10 moves in I was much better. Needless to say I made one calamitous move, which lead to yet another crushing defeat...Game here.

Round 9

After two hard fought losses, I was given a bye in the following round, something I was hoping to avoid. Nonetheless I spent that day resting and recuperating, and followed some of the top games. After getting a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I knew I had just 2 rounds left to hit back hard.

Round 10

In round 10 I played a friendly Nepalese player CM Milan Lama, who was rated at 1980. This was the second lowest player I would face in the event, and a win was much needed. I played a very safe opening line, and outplayed my opponent in a rook endgame during a mutual time scramble (clearly a theme for me!). After securing the additional time, I slunk back into my chair and found the winning method, giving me my first win in the event. The game demonstrates a mostly dry opening/middlegame, but an accurately played rook endgame to secure me a win!

Round 11

After winning a game, albeit against an easier opponent than others I should have converted, my confidence was restored. I rested up and went into the final game the following day with the white pieces against a strong Frenchman, Elliot Papadiamandis (FIDE: 2269). He declined my Morra, and we entered a highly theoretical transposition to a c3 Sicilian. I gained a nice positional edge due to my bishops which had unchallenged scope towards his relatively open kingside. After some cat mouse, the assessment flipped and I was on the back foot forcing me to trade off my strong bishop for a knight. Needless to say I was worse, but not lost. He continued to play good moves, but I began to find resources leading into the endgame. Suddenly the position was highly unclear and as we approached the time control he offered me a draw, worried that his position could be going downhill. After some consideration I accepted, though in hindsight, I should have played on as the pressure was all on him. See for yourself here.

Thus after two horrible losses and a bye, I bounced back in the final rounds with a win and a draw, leaving me with an overall score of 4/11 and a tournament performance rating of 1983 Elo.

The event took place, as it did last year, at the Crown Hotel, Eamont Bridge. There were six teams entered from four clubs which is two less than last year but, due to disruption on the railways, Barrow couldn't make it this time. Current trophy holders, Penrith Juniors, were one 'junior' short of a team so couldn't defend their title. Penrith entered two teams, imaginatively named Penrith A and Penrith B. The A team consisted of Eggert, Dennis and Fred, the B team was made up of the two 'juniors' who were keen to play; Guy Griffiths and Hannah Brimble and myself. As Guy's rapid grade is higher than mine, he was to get the tougher games on board 1. I played board 2 and Hannah, who was playing in her first ever competition, board 3.
With six teams and five rounds, the format was a simple all-play-all, which made it easier for organiser, Peter Hanks.

Round 1 put both Penrith teams in at the deep end with Penrith A facing top seeds, Windermere and Penrith B, second seeds, Castles (an alias for Carlisle A). You would be forgiven for thinking that we got stuffed but, I forgot to mention that there is a handi-cap based on the total grades of each team and as it happens, both our teams emerged from that round with a result. Our A team, though beaten 2-1, drew their match as Fred's win coupled with a 1 point handi-cap for Windermere, resulted in a 1-1 draw. An excellent draw by Guy against FIDE Master, Robin Moss and a draw for me against eventual board 2 Gold medal winner, John Kelly, was enough to inflict upon Castles their only defeat of the tournament. So far so good...

Round 2 saw Penrith A beat 'Leave em Laughing' (AKA Ulverston), with a draw on board 1 for Eggert and wins for both Dennis and Fred. Our B team fared rather worse when 'Oddfellows' (Carlisle's other team) avenged their club mates by beating us 3-0.

Round 3, ironically, saw our A team avenge our B teams' loss when they beat 'Oddfellows' 3-0 and our B team triumphed over Windermere with a win for yours truly over Peter Caulfield and after the 2 point handi-cap was deducted from Windermere's score, our one point gave us a 1-0 win.

Round 4 was the 'derby round' for both Penrith and Carlisle. Castles won the Carlisle match with wins on every board. You might have expected a similar result in the Penrith match but, after Guy beat Eggert and I had a rare win over Dennis, it was our B team who took the spoils.

Round 5 turned out to be the toughest for both our teams. Our A team faced competition leaders, Castles, who now had the finishing line in sight and crossed it with a 3-0 victory, not only winning the trophy but Paul Rivers wrested the board 3 Gold medal from Fred's grasp in the process. Guy was forced to withdraw, just as the 5th round was to begin, after receiving a call from home. Hannah's dad, Jeff, kindly offered to make up the team which bumped me up to board 1 against 'Leave em laughing' and when they beat us convincingly (3-0) we were left tied for 2nd place.

Medals were also awarded for the best scores on each board:

Board 1 :

Dave Phillips (Windermere) 🥇

Robin Moss (Castles)🥈

Martin Gawne (Leave em laughing)🥉

Board 2 :

John Kelly (Castles) 🥇

Bill Burgess (Oddfellows)🥈

Andy McAtear (Penrith B)🥉

Board 3 :

Paul Rivers (Castles) 🥇

Fred Clough (Penrith A)🥈

Jonathan Rashleigh (Windermere)🥉

Congratulations to Castles and thanks to Peter Hanks for running the competition and to Mike and Anna of the Crown for providing an excellent venue and a very enjoyable day.

Andy McAtear 22nd October 2018

Welcome home Keswick

Keswick Chess Club has been in existence since long before the Cumbria Chess Association was formed. Founded in 1894, Keswick won the, recently formed, Cumberland and Westmorland Chess Association team championship the following year. Another notable occasion was when 'Kolty' visited Keswick and held a blindfold simultaneous display at the club in 1937. One of his opponents was, the famous novelist and chess enthusiast, Sir Hugh Walpole (see the game here). Koltanowski sacrificed his queen to mate with two bishops and knight.
So, it was a very sad day for Cumbria chess when, in 2006, Keswick played their last match in the Cumbria league. They could no longer field a team on a Saturday afternoon and as many clubs refused to play evening matches, they were left with no choice but to withdraw from the league. Since then, the recent floods have destroyed most of their equipment and for now, left them without a meeting place. Most would give up about now but...
 Nobody had heard from Keswick Chess Club for ten years then, out of the blue, I received a 'phone call from Allan Todd (Keswick Club Secretary), who rang to ask if Penrith might like to play Keswick in a friendly match or two. Naturally, I said "yes, when would you like to play?". So the match was arranged for Wednesday 23rd March at the Crown Hotel, Eamont Bridge. The Keswick team arrived to a warm welcome and soon we got down to the serous stuff. Apart from Allan, the only face I recognised was that of John Helps who had his rightful place on board 1 against Fred. I played against Paul Wilma and had no idea what I was up against. I think I should have had the white pieces but I just sat down opposite Paul and the game began (and ended) with me playing black. Clearly, it was some time since Paul had played in a league, as he asked me several questions on protocol such as; "Do I write my move down before pressing the clock?" and I had to mention that we no longer write our moves until they've been played. That aside, it was also clear that Paul could play chess! He had me on the ropes for quite a while before I could neutralize his attack and start to think of a counter offensive. The game was eventually won by me and can be seen here. Although all the games were close hard fought battles, Penrith managed to win all of them, which probably means Penrith Chess Club could do with some advice on PR. But, despite the result of the match, everyone enjoyed their games and the Keswick team enjoyed their visit to Penrith. We talked of a rematch and rejoining the Cumbria league before they left for home. So I'm sure our lack of PR skills hasn't put Keswick off from, once again, being an integral part of chess in Cumbria.

Andy McAtear 26th March 2016


Roger Hart was subjected to a fairly vicious looking Holden Davis attack but Holden's time management was off with the artichokes - 21 moves made, 7 minutes left to Roger's hour or so.
Kevin, playing Neil Jones entered an end game with a fairly clear advantage after a tense and complicated battle but imploded (again! and badly) in what was at least mutual time pressure.
Dave was on the not so nice end of a Scotch Game against Ian Stone and John Grave fell victim to Gary Sharkey's insistent pressure as his King's position started looking less like a fortress and more like a new brand of Swiss Cheese. 4-0 was probably a bit on the unjust side but we were definitely squished. 

Kevin Southernwood 12th October 2015


I have been very busy with chess this summer and as many of you will be taking a well-earned break, I have continued to show everybody I have no life! The Delancy Schools Uk Chess Challenge is a junior tournament spanning ages from U7 all the way to U18. The tournament is a four part marathon to see who the strongest juniors in the country are. After eight months of various tournaments and qualifiers I made it to the “Terafinal”, the final stage. The tournament pitched the last 66 juniors out of an original 200,000 and the top 4 seeds all had grades over 200. So it was going to be tough.

In round 1 I played U10 Danny Howlett, who despite his accurate play, lost to a nasty attack against the French. That rarely happens in the French! After a weird side-line, in the Advance Variation, he blundered a pawn and then, unfortunately, the game. My opponent offered me a draw and then realised that I had forced mate, thus concluding the game. So a good start!

Round 2 was very different as an unfortunate U11 ended up in a sticky situation in the Morra Gambit which, I am sure you are all aware, is a pet gambit of mine….

Take a look at the diagram on the left. Black has just played 26…Nd7 allowing 27. Nd5 which wins easily but is there a more forcing option?

Check your answer by playing through the game here.

Round 3 and I was shot right up to the live boards (the top 4) and I was against Koby Kalvannan who is a very renowned strong junior who entered the British Chess Championships Main Section! I had the black pieces and against d4 decided to play a really solid triangle system which was very unlike me! He took it apart with ease but ran into time rouble and after the time flurry I managed to pick up an exchange thus entering a wining ending. He offered a draw which I gladly accepted as I was feeling very ill and had a headache. Darn It!

Amazingly, for round 4 I was up-floated to the 2nd seed William Foo who has a grade of 206. I wasn’t expecting to get a result here but perseverance pulled me through and I actually won! Thankfully, I was given the white pieces but the opening was unfamiliar as my opponent played the Hippopotamus. (Play through the game.)

So far, I hadn’t lost a game and I even had my eye on the top prize of £2000 but unfortunately my streak was ended when I came up against one of my rivals Samuel Herring who played d4 and I slipped up my move order in the opening and fell victim to a crushing attack. I was mashed but my opponent missed a mate in 1! Well, I was still in contention with the top group if I could win my last game. I was against another familiar U16 Zoe Varney who I have a terrible record against. I once blundered a piece on move 7 playing her. So I wasn’t feeling “confident” going into my last round! However there was pressure on her as she was playing for the top girl prize of £1000. It was all to play for so I went all out. (Play through the game.)

So, after a hard weekend, I finished joint fifth in the tournament. I am looking forward to next season so good luck to everybody. Maybe Penrith will win this year…

Holden Davis 4th September 2015

Holden flies the flag for Penrith at the British Championships

While most of Penrith's chess players were taking it easy after a long, hard season, one young member, Holden Davis, was still raring to go. So off he went to
the British Championships in Coventry. He entered into the 11 round Major Open, which is more games than some of his club mates had played all season! With an ELo grade of 1704, Holden was seeded 31, out of 37 players, so he was bound to be up against it.

His first round game was always going to be a tough one as it would, more than likely, be against one of the higher seeded players. With black against, 13th seed, Alex Bullen (1994 Elo), Holden replied to 1. d4 with Nf6 and one of his favourite openings with black, the Budapest Gambit. Although he eventually lost the game, a pawn down in a rook and pawn endgame, Holden held his own for most of it.
In round 2 Holden had the white pieces against another strong opponent, Paul Calderon (1918 Elo) and when Paul replied with 1...c5 to 1 .e4, Holden got an early opportunity to play, a pet opening of his, the Smith-Morra Gambit. This, no doubt, cheered him up after his loss in the previous round and he didn't hold anything back. After only 23 moves of a very aggressive game, black resigned. A short game early in a long tournament is always welcome but could it have been shorter? Take a look at the diagram on the left. White plays 16. Nc3 here but did he have a better move? (Can't find it? Play through the game here.) Obviously, winning has its drawbacks...stronger opponents.

Round 3 and a French Defence for our man with black against Alex Rossiter (1930 Elo). All went fine until about move 21 when Holden tried to force a couple of strong bishops to retreat. Unfortunately, they didn't and white broke through with a winning attack.

Round 4 didn't go any better. This time white against Jacob Miller (1957 Elo). Jacob declined the second proffered pawn in the second outing for the Smith-Morra Gambit and things didn't quite go to plan for our hero and a 2 pawn deficit in the rook and pawn endgame proved too much to handle.

Another chance to try the French, in the 5th round and this time with with a better outcome. White, Rhys Bennett (1802 Elo), played 5. Bd2 instead of 5. a3, as was played in round 3 against Holden and the game opened up much sooner, which suited black more than white. It wasn't long before Holden took control of the f file with his rooks and oddly in a French, black's light squared bishop was quite menacing. White was forced to play defensively but when he had to retreat a threatened knight on move 31, a black rook to f2 meant that there was no move 32. A fine win for Holden putting him on 2 out of 5 games.
After 5 hard rounds, a game against a FIDE Master is probably the last thing you'd want. Unfortunately, that's exactly what Holden got in round 6. At least he had the white pieces but even with black, Oliver Jackson (2132 ELO) is a formidable adversary. Another plus was that Holden got to play yet another Smith-Morra Gambit but to no avail. Once black got his rook to d1 on move 21, it was just a matter of time and it was all over on move 36.
The next two rounds both resulted in draws, though, round 7 was easier than round 8 which went right to the wire.

Round 9 and white again and the final outing for the Smith-Morra Gambit. This time against Ilya Iyenga (2049 Elo) and despite being out-graded by over 300
Elo, Holden managed to forge a winning position. After 25...f6, black had weakened his king's position and followed it up with another two dubious moves, the second of which possibly won him the game as, although he had two strong replies to 27 ...Nc5 attacking his queen on d3, our hero blundered with 28. Qg3 which, although it evaded the attack by the knight on c5, did nothing to prevent the other black knight on d4 moving to e2, renewing the attack on white's queen but this time, also checking white's king (Have a look at the position on the right and see if you can find either or both winning moves for white. Check your answers by playing through the game here.). Holden fought on and even managed to get black's queen but the price was too heavy and he eventually lost.

Round 10 and at last, an opponent graded lower than our man. Lee Bullock (1527 Elo) opened with 1. Nf3 and a kind of Queen's Gambit ensued and after a long close game, an endgame was reached where black had a queen and 4 pawns against white's 2 rooks and 3 pawns. There were a couple of chances for white, who was playing way better than his grade would suggest, to draw the game but eventually on move 63, he blundered and Holden won a hard fought game.

At last! The final round of the tournament and just as in the first round, Holden, with black, was able to play the Budapest Gambit. His opponent, this time, was not graded nearly 300 Elo higher, as in the first round and although the game was very close, the endgame went in black's favour and Holden finished the tournament with a very respectable 5 points from 11 games with 4 wins and 2 draws and a tournament performance of 1829 Elo.
I'm sure I can speak on behalf of Penrith Chess Club when I say we are all proud to have Holden as one of our members. Well done!!

Play through all Holden's games in the British Championships.

Andy McAtear 9th August 2015

Penrith Chess Club given ECF Award for the best small chess club

This coveted award was presented to Penrith Chess Club by Julian Clissold, a member of the board of the English Chess Federation, the governing body of all chess in England, for the club’s achievements during the 2013-14 season.
This keenly contested award is usually won by one of the numerous clubs in and around London and the southern counties. For Penrith Chess Club to receive this award is truly remarkable when you consider that just before the start of the 2013-14 season, all their chess equipment was stolen by the unscrupulous tenant who had briefly taken over the Crown Hotel, Eamont Bridge after the previous Landlady’s retirement. There was considerable doubt that Penrith would even have a chess club for the coming season. Despite this and the fact that, as the Crown was closed, the club no longer had a club venue, all the members worked together to keep the club going and Club Secretary, Steve Murdoch, applied for a grant from the Eden District Council Community Fund which awarded the club enough money to replace all their equipment. That, coupled with the Crown reopening with a new Landlord, Mike Gardner, who has gone out of his way to support the club, even hosting the Cumbria Individual Championships, Penrith Chess Club was back on the map.
The media coverage of our ‘rags to riches’ tale, thanks to the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald, has also resulted in Penrith Chess Club gaining more members, to such an extent that Penrith were able to field four teams in the Cumbria Chess League. The club also had two teams in the Northern Counties Club Championships, one of which won by beating Skelmersdale Chess Club in the final, held at the Crown Hotel. On top of that two members, Steve Murdoch and Alistair Ridley, took and passed exams to become official ECF chess arbiters (itself, a remarkable achievement). Penrith Chess Club then went on to test their skills at arbitration by organising the First Penrith Summer Rapid-play tournament in August which attracted players from as far afield as Slovakia.
Club member, Kevin Southernwood, also runs a junior club at Ullswater Community College on Monday evenings, which regularly produces prodigies which go on to play in the adult league and one, Holden Davis, has even got a place on the England squad.
The club runs internal competitions such as the Club Championship, the games of which are graded by the ECF and other less serious tournaments like the ‘Last Wednesday Handicap’ which consists of short games where the higher graded player gets less time to move and although just for fun, is taken quite seriously by the competitive club members.
All of the above was considered by the ECF panel of judges to be a major contribution to the promotion of chess in Cumbria and our region and for the first time ever, the award came to Cumbria.

Andy McAtear 17th Apr 2015