Monday, 29 December 2014

Georges Koltanowski

Georges Koltanowski was a Belgian (later American) chess player who was one of the top European players in the 1930s.

He was a regular in the top tournaments and had many big-name scalps. Below is a game from the 1936/37 Hastings tournament where he drew with (and probably should have beaten) the eventual winner, former (and future) world champion, Alexander Alekhine.

So why is there a game from Georges Koltanowski on a website about Colchester Chess Club?

While Koltanowski (often called Kolty) was a very strong player, he was most famous for his incredible feats of blindfold chess. Georges Koltanowski set a world record on 20th September 1937, in a 34-game simultaneous match in Edinburgh, when playing blindfolded he won 24 games and lost 10, over a period of 13 hours. This remained the world record until November 2011. He also set another blindfold record in 1960 when be played 56 consecutive blindfolded 10-second per move games - winning 50 of them.

As part of a tour of the UK, Kolty visited Colchester Chess Club On the 24th March 1937 and gave a blindfold simultaneous display. He played 6 games - winning five (against Dr L S Penrose, Dr R C Turnbull, Councillor A H Cross, Mr R Garside and Mr E Dowsett) and drawing one (against Mr B Grey). After the simultaneous display he gave a short lecture containing anecdotes about his career and chess problems. The write-up about the event mentions that he showed himself to be an expert in the Colle system - he later wrote a book about this opening which he often used against amateur opponents (but rarely against strong players).

Kolty returned to give a second blindfold simultaneous display at Colchester Chess Club on the 29th January 1938. This time he played eight games - seven wins (against Cross, Turnbull, Stanley & Grey, Penrose & Krumpach, Hucklesby, Simmons, Garside & Sainsbury) and one loss (Rossiter & Spurge - playing together). After the simultaneous match he gave a short lecture about the Colle system - perhaps a specific request following his previous visit.

The signed picture of Kolty, above, was dedicated to Lionel Penrose (the match secretary at the club at that time).

Many of Kolty's relatives died in the holocaust, but Kolty survived as at the start of the 2nd World War he was touring South America. The American consul in Havana saw him giving a chess exhibition and decided to give him a US visa. He stayed in America where he wrote over 19,000 chess columns for the San Francisco Chronicle over a period of 52 years, he also became president of the United States Chess Federation. Unusually for a non-world class player, he made his living from chess - giving exhibitions and writing numerous books. He died in 2000 aged 96.

Further details about Kolty's visits to Colchester can be found in the scanned historical archives on the About the Club page.


[Event "Hastings 3637"] [Site "Hastings"] [Date "1936.??.??"] [Round "9"] [White "Koltanowski, George"] [Black "Alekhine, Alexander"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [ECO "A48"] [Annotator "Barnes, Nathan"] [PlyCount "88"] [EventDate "1936.12.??"] [EventType "tourn"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "ENG"] [Source "ChessBase"] [SourceDate "1999.07.01"] 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 b6 3. e3 Bb7 4. Nbd2 c5 5. c3 g6 6. Bd3 Bg7 7. e4 d6 8. O-O O-O 9. Qe2 cxd4 10. cxd4 {A better choice than Nxd4 as it maintains a strong presence in the centre.} Nc6 11. a3 Nd7 {The discovered attack from the g7 bishop threatens to win the d4 pawn.} 12. Nb3 a5 13. a4 {Preventing Black from playing a4 to push the knight away so that he can win the pawn on d4. The simple 13.Be3 was a bit better though.} Nb4 {the disadvantage of playing a4 - the Black knight occupies the hole on b4.} 14. Bb5 Nf6 15. d5 e6 {trying to reopen the a8-h1 diagonal} 16. dxe6 Nxe4 $2 (16... fxe6 17. Ng5 (17. Bg5 $2 { loses a pawn} Bxe4) 17... Qe7 18. Nd4 e5 $1 {and Black is okay} (18... Bc8 $2 { loses material} 19. Bc4)) 17. Ng5 $1 {neither the pawn on e6 or the knight on g5 can be safely captured} Bd5 (17... fxe6 $2 18. Nxe4 {wins a piece}) (17... Nxg5 $4 18. e7 {forking the queen and rook}) 18. exf7+ Kh8 {forced} (18... Bxf7 $2 {loses a piece} 19. Nxf7 Rxf7 20. Qxe4) (18... Rxf7 19. Nxf7 Bxf7 (19... Kxf7 {is about the same}) 20. Qxe4 Bxb3 {and Black has not got sufficient compensation for the exchange}) 19. Nxe4 Bxb3 20. Bg5 {developing with tempo} Qc7 21. Rac1 Qxf7 22. Nxd6 {White has come out a pawn up} Qe6 23. Qxe6 Bxe6 24. Bc4 Bxc4 25. Nxc4 Nd3 26. Rc2 (26. Nxb6 $2 Nxc1 27. Bxc1 {and Black is slightly better} (27. Nxa8 $2 Ne2+ $1 {Moving with check - meaning White gains a winning material advantage} 28. Kh1 Rxa8)) 26... Rac8 27. b3 {Necessary, otherwise Black wins back the material} (27. -- Nxb2 28. Rfc1 (28. Rxb2 Rxc4 29. Ra2) 28... Nxa4) 27... Rf5 28. Be3 b5 29. axb5 Rxb5 30. Rd2 Rxb3 31. Nxa5 Ra3 32. Rfd1 Rcc3 33. Nc4 Rxc4 34. Rxd3 Rxd3 35. Rxd3 h6 36. g3 { preventing any back-rank mates} Kh7 37. h4 h5 38. Kg2 Rc7 39. Ra3 Kg8 40. Ra7 Rxa7 41. Bxa7 Kf7 42. Kf3 Ke6 43. Ke4 Bh6 44. f3 Bf8 {White has an extra pawn but will not be able to force a win} 1/2-1/2

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

History of Colchester Chess Club 1

Colchester Chess Club has been around for a very long time (the exact date is not known but the club has existed formally since 1888) and a large amount of historical material about the club has been preserved.

The club archive contains material going as far back as 1905 and all of this is in the process of being scanned in and will be made available online. The archive contains match reports, minutes of meetings, newspaper cuttings and much more. Included with the archive was a pamphlet from Colchester Library (circa 1938 - exact date not known) listing the chess books they had in stock. The list was written by an unknown member of the Colchester Chess Club and also includes brief descriptions of some of the books listed.

The introductory text is reproduced below:


Books can improve your game if you are willing to give them serious consideration. Chess masters have their own methods of play: their writings can be of service to you. The following list of books does not, unfortunately, contain the early classics - Ruy Lopez, Polerio, Philidor, Ponziani, Koch or Horwitz - but copies of their works together with those of many modern masters will be borrowed for you by the Public Library on request.


As well as the list of books there are comments about books written by Capablanca, Euwe, Greig, Harley, Murray, Spielmann and Tartakower.

A pdf of the pamphlet can be viewed/downloaded here.

Monday, 22 December 2014


Here is the game played on Board 1 in the recent Colchester A v Wethersfield match. An interesting (though, according to the computer, dubious) sacrifice by Black on move 19 leads to a complicated game that White fails to find the right path through. Annotations by the winner.

[Event "NECL Plate 2014/15"] [Site "?"] [Date "2014.12.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Van Poucke, Stefaan"] [Black "Stemp, Matt"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D02"] [Annotator "Stemp, Matt"] [PlyCount "120"] [WhiteTeam "Colchester A"] [BlackTeam "Wethersfield"] {Here’s an interesting game I played in the recent match between Colchester A and Wethersfield. I’m playing black; watch out for a couple of unnecessary mistakes I make in the middle!} 1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 {An unusual move that leads to easy equality for Black, who can now treat the game as a reversed Queen’s Gambit Declined.} Bf5 4. e3 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. O-O Nc6 7. a3 {Unnecessarily losing time, as Nb4 is not a threat. White should really seek to play c4 at the first opportunity to make sense of b3.} Bd6 8. Bb2 cxd4 9. exd4 {This exchange provides an edge for Black due to the misplaced bishop on b2.} O-O 10. Nh4 Be4 11. Nd2 Qc7 12. h3 Rac8 13. Rc1 {This was the last opportunity for White to play c4, as the pawns on the queenside are now becoming a liability.} Qe7 14. b4 {Ra1 was better, maintaining a more flexible pawn structure, though understandably White does not want to concede that Rc1 was inaccurate.} Bf4 15. Nhf3 Bg6 16. g3 Bh6 17. Ra1 Rfd8 18. Nh4 {After some piece-shuffling Black has emerged from the opening with a decent advantage. However, Black now attempts to force the issue…} Bxc2 $6 {A tempting move given the positions of Black’s rook on c8 and knight on c6, together with White’s awkwardly placed minor pieces on the 2nd rank and weak queenside. But Black has miscalculated…} 19. Qxc2 Nxd4 20. Qd1 {20. Qd3 is equivalent} Nxe2+ $2 (20... Rc2 {is better, after which Black can claim compensation after} 21. Bxd4 Rxd2 22. Bxf6 Qxf6 23. Qe1 Rc8 {However, 20...Nxe2 was based on a poor evaluation of the next move.}) 21. Qxe2 Rc2 $4 ({Instead, Black does better to bail out with} 21... Bxd2 22. Qxd2 Ne4 {and attempt to draw. Fortunately, White misses the winning move.}) 22. Bxf6 $2 (22. Nf5 {forking the queen and bishop is simply winning for White, though easy to miss because of the pinned e6 pawn.}) 22... Qxf6 23. Rad1 Qb2 24. Nhf3 {Black has (somehow) come out well, tying up White’s pieces with better piece activity. However, rather than the simple Qxa3 with three pawns for the piece, Black wants more… } e5 $2 25. Qxe5 $2 {Black once again relies upon White missing the key move. 25. Qd3! is significantly better for White, if not winning, as e4 is simply met by 26. Nxe4, due to the loose rook on d8.} Qxe5 26. Nxe5 Bxd2 {Black enters the endgame a pawn up with strong winning chances.} 27. Nd3 g6 28. Nc5 b6 29. Nb3 Bc3 30. Rd3 Bb2 31. a4 {Nd4 offered better chances to hold, forcing – at some point – a trade of knight for bishop. Now White’s pawns are weak, and with the passed d-pawn Black should be able to grind out a victory.} Rc4 32. Rb1 Bf6 33. Nd2 Rc3 34. Rb3 Rxd3 35. Rxd3 Kf8 36. Kf1 Ke7 37. Ke2 Ke6 38. Re3+ Kd6 39. Rd3 Re8+ 40. Kd1 d4 {Black could have advanced this pawn much earlier (e.g. move 27)} 41. f3 $2 {A move that significantly weakens White’s position, making Black’s job much easier; Rf3 offered more hope.} Kd5 42. Kc2 Be5 {Re1 is also strong, if not stronger.} 43. Nb3 Rc8+ 44. Kd2 Rc4 45. f4 Bg7 {Bd6 is perhaps better, but Black wants to keep constant control of d4.} 46. a5 Rxb4 47. axb6 axb6 48. Ke2 f5 49. Kd2 Ra4 {A simple manoeuvre that further activates the rook.} 50. Nc1 Kc4 51. Kc2 Ra1 {White’s pieces are now completely tied up.} 52. Rd1 d3+ $1 {A nice move to secure the win. Neither piece can take the pawn because of the overloaded king.} 53. Nxd3 Rxd1 {Note that the bishop covers the b2 square against the knight.} 54. Ne5+ Bxe5 55. Kxd1 Bd4 56. Kc2 b5 57. g4 b4 58. gxf5 b3+ 59. Kb1 gxf5 60. h4 h5 {Overall, not a bad game. After a well-played opening, the Bxc2 sacrifice, while objectively not great, offered some serious initiative that led to a winning endgame. However, patience is key! Sometimes the simpler move is the wiser move, maintaining advantages rather than seeking for more than the position offers. While flashy moves can feel good to play, putting your opponent in the hot seat and often providing good practical chances, they are rarely the best moves on the board. In the middlegame especially, it is normally a better strategy to calmly improve your position and wait for better opportunities to capitalise. But then, who can refuse playing a sacrifice!} 0-1

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Matches against CRGS and Wethersfield

This week the A team beat Wethersfield (4-0) in the 3rd round of the plate competition. Matt Stemp won as a result of strong play following his speculative piece sacrifice that resulted in a dangerous position (for both players). Wethersfield defaulted on board 2. Aleksander Orava and Mike Wagstaff had fairly comfortable matches on boards 3 and 4. The semi-final of the plate competition will be in early January.

Date: Dec-2014
NECL Knockout - Plate
1 b Matt Stemp (e165) 1 0 Stefaan Van Poucke (148) w
2 w Nathan Barnes (146) 1 0 Default b
3 b Aleksander Orava (e155) 1 0 Ron Vallance (83) w
4 w Mike Wagstaff (147) 1 0 Sid McDonald (79) b
(avg=153) 4 0 (avg=103)

The D team remain top of Division 3 despite being beaten for the first time this season. On board 4, Shazia Jaufarally came the closest to winning - Ed and Mark were also involved in close matches - but eventually the grammar school won the match 4-0.

Date: Dec-2014
NECL Division 3
1 b Mohammud Jaufarally (e100) 0 1 Gorak Rajesh (163) w
2 w Ed Goodman (71) 0 1 Shivan Harani (102) b
3 b Mark Johnson (69) 0 1 Peter Harris (69) w
4 w Shazia Jaufarally (e55) 0 1 Lakindu Peries (80) b
(avg=73) 0 4 (avg=103)