Guernsey 2015


I went to Guernsey as a spectator this year as ongoing nerve pain from shingles made it impossible for me to play. I had a great holiday though, doing as little as possible, eating well, and travelling around the island by bus. Despite only being able to sleep for about one hour per night, I felt pretty good and on the road to full recovery by the end of it. Did I watch any chess? Not really! I just watched Ian doing his thing versus a GM on the computer from my room and that was about it, save a couple of analysis sessions with Ian. I also spoke to our good pal Oliver Jackson who is the Tal to Ian’s Petrosian!! I have been deemed to be Spassky, so I hope he does not sue me! Broad generalisations in terms of describing the playing styles of each of us, rather than implying we play at that exalted level.

Oliver was off form and losing games he should have won. He becomes frustrated when playing weaker players who bore him and stop him attacking, even if the position is objectively good for him.  This leads him to blunder, and a vicious cycle follows. In one conversation between the three of us Oliver described how he was fed up because in his game he was just “a pawn up for nothing “in a completely dry position. I noticed Ian’s eyes sparkled like diamonds on a moonless night at the prospect of having this advantage! Oliver blundered and lost through trying to sacrifice for an attack. My view is that as players age, they naturally become more boring, but the compensation is that most of them play simplified positions better. The downside is that the mass of opening theory creates more problems than it ever did in the simpler days of yesteryear. Ian has always been an “elderly” type of player though. I remember once in 1975 he showed me a game between Van Vliet and Znosko-Borovsky from about 1916 featuring an excruciating attempt at a Colle-Stonewall Attack in which white answered a cxd4 from black with cxd4 instead of exd4 and was crushed on the queenside light squares and on the Queens Bishop file. My response was “That was boring, let’s play some Yugoslav Attacks in the Dragon!” Ian replied “Hooligan!” Oliver will never be a steady Eddy player, he will delight and frustrate in equal measure in his search for chess glory through attacking play of a sometimes dubious nature! Long may these two chess personalities prosper as they remind me of a spin bowler and a quick bowler in cricket….far more interesting than the medium pacers!
I did an Ian and travelled around the island seeing the wonderful castle for the first time. I found a super seafood restaurant and took advantage of it! Ian hardly came out…..but I know he was not studying the openings!! He only brings two books, and neither is really needed. He certainly will not be beaten by theoretical preparation. Oliver and I spent some time talking about Rapport’s Be2 novelty in the King’s Gambit. I remember when this was called “The little bishop’s gambit” many years ago when I was an aficionado of violence!

Our favourite days out were on Herm Island a truly beautiful and restful place, replete with local wildlife and few tourists in October. We went twice, mainly because Ian forgot his camera the first time.  I enjoyed myself, and not having to worry about the grim business of obtaining points on the scoreboard made it all the sweeter. Over to Ian for the chess.

Playing chess in a team still has certain attractions for me while playing for my own personal satisfaction has dwindled away as advancing years and associated health issues have taken more than the edge from my game. Perhaps my situation can be compared to an alcoholic who has to have another drink despite the damage it will cause. I know a little about that.
The onset of a painful bout of shingles meant Nick would be unable to share the trials and tribulations of plastic shifting. Man proposes and Nature disposes. Well, a trip to Guernsey is not to be missed, if possible, for lovers of the place and I had high expectations that a holiday would do much to aid Nick's morale if not the shingles.
The Peninsula hotel is situated in the north of the island and the need to get some lunch before chess in the afternoon limits the ability to indulge in some tourist activities. Previous visits have enabled me to see most of the main attractions but the ferry to the small island of Herm was the highlight of my visit. Yes, I did forget my camera and only remembered at the bus stop as the bus into town hove into view. I have to say that I would have made a second trip there in any case( but I would claim that, wouldn't I? ) for being able to experience the peace and quiet of nature untroubled by excessive interference from the noisy brains, and accompanying technological toys, of human kind was a treat. There is a delicious irony to be enjoyed. That which we have evolved into enabled us to go and experience that which we have evolved from.
I did snatch some delightful memories of Herm on camera to rekindle pleasant thoughts in the darker days of winter and then there are the glorious sunsets. I must have a picture or two of those to cheer me up. Lots of good walks, clean air and good food ought to be enough to make anybody feel happy and I did note a discernable improvement in my travelling partner which I am sure was agreeable to all concerned.

All in all, a fine time was had by all culminating in the usual desire to remain behind rather than return to normality. However, I did notice locals out on the beaches preparing to transport their boats to safer ground in preparation for the Atlantic storms that blow in during the winter. Perhaps Guernsey in January does not offer the same delights as warmer times.
Chess? This is supposed to be a chess column. True but Nick writes about chess while I write some rubbish about the things which interest me. Nick didn't play so he has nothing to write about so you have to. I don't want to! You have to. This is really quite preposterous.
Chess. In all honesty nearly all of my chess in Guernsey was quite unremarkable. I can't even remember what happened in a lot of the games and would have to refer to the score sheets to refresh my memory. Two players even more boring than me and making their desire for a draw even more obvious, if that were possible. Then there was the 13 year old who rejected the offer of a draw only to blunder a piece and lose. It seems the two bishops and far better king were inadequate compensation in his mind for a passed pawn which could not move. We live and learn.
Perhaps the first game against GM Chernaiev which I lost turned the following games into something akin to 'After the Lord Mayor's Show'. I certainly felt that way. As the game was on board 2 and going out over the internet I did feel the obligation to abandon my customary indifference and show the world some glimmering of life in the old dog. Pity I had the black pieces. At least there was no need for preparation. I gleaned from conversation that my opponent had only arrived that morning and would be playing off the cuff rather than the cursory glance necessary to conclude I would pose no problems to him.
Nick says I have to annotate this game. I say our reader can't operate a PC while wearing a straightjacket but he insists I have to annotate it. Perhaps the Nurse will agree to operate the buttons. Oh well.......
Hello Reader. I hope you are feeling better today. Here is a game for you to play over if you want to.


1 e4               g6

2 Nc3             d6

3 f4                Bg7           Disinclined to play 3...c5 and enter the Grand Prix Attack. It's a Hippo for me, Hippo for me etc.

4 Nf3             e6

5 d4               Ne7

6 Be3             a6            Hoping to dissuade white from the automatic Qd2 and 0-0-0 or perhaps encourage white to play a tactical game. A lucky shot is my only chance but the GM need not entertain such unnecessary violence and does not.

7 a4               b6            

8 Be2             .....           This modest move cheered me up as I anticipated Bd3 and 0-0 with a quick f5 in mind.

8 .....              Nd7

9 0-0              Bb7

10 Kh1           Nf6           A typical Hippo move. The knight observes e4 and g4 while inviting white to play e5 when f5 and d5 become available to the black pieces. Development, such as castling, can wait until the position takes on a more fixed pawn structure.

11 Nd2          Qd7 

12 Bf3             h5            Black wants to play d5 without allowing e5 and g4 launching a kingside pawn storm.

13 Bg1            d5

14 e5              Nfg8         The closed pawn structure allows black time to put the pieces on the best available squares.

15 a5              .....             An annoying move to face as black was contemplating a pawn break on c5 but not now. I can take on a5, play b5 or leave it.

15 .....              Nh6

16 axb6           cxb6          Houdini 3.3 says = at +0.16 for white. I was content that I wasn't being smashed on the net.

17 Na4             Nc8

18 b3                Nf5

19 g3                Qd8           I want to play 20....h4 21 g4 Ng3+ with hxg3+ and Qh4 to follow. Is it good? Who cares?

20 Bf2              Ra7           20...h4 is still on but I felt white could play Kg2 when exchanges on g3 leave white poised to take over the h file so I defended the bishop in case white plays c4. The position is still equal.

21 Re1              Bf8

22 Kg1              Be7

23 Nf1              Bf8

24 c3                 Qd7

25 Ra2              Bh6

26 Bg2              Kf8           Attracted by the idea of releasing the rook on h8 but presenting white with something to attack. I could have carried on doing nothing as white does not seem inclined to make an effort at the moment.

27 h3                Qd8

28 Qf3               Kg8

29 Bh1               Bf8

30 g4                  hxg4

31 hxg4             Nh4        This was somewhat ambitious for me.

32 Qd3              Bc6

33 Bg3               Ne7

34 Ne3               Bd7         I expected 34 Rh2 but lots of moves in this game can be played in different orders given the pawn structure.

35 Rf2                Bb5

36 Qb1               Rc7         Did white miss this? 36 Qd2 was better for white although not by too much says Houdini.

37 Nd1                  ......          Houdini gives black a substantial advantage (1.56 ) in this position although I noted Fritz 6 failed to spot the move. Houdini offers 37...Nef5 38 gxf5 Nxf5 39 Bh2 Be7 40 Rf3 Bh4 41 Nf2 when black takes on a4, f2 and c2. Needless to say, I saw none of this and simply defended the b pawn. 

37 .....                  Rc8

38 Nab2              Qd7

39 Qc1                g5?        Again not seeing Nhf5. This g5 move was played as a pawn sacrifice not realising white has just played Qc1 to prevent this move. 39....Nc6 is equal but white need not accept the pawn sacrifice which would ruin his pawn kingside structure. If I can see the merit of a sacrifice a GM must!! A dreadful move by me. It has been a candidate move before but I should have set it aside. My position rapidly deteriorates.

40 f5                    Bh6       

41 f6                   Neg6

42 Rh2                a5           Houdini still has the position at equal with only 0.24 for white.

43 Qd2               a4          I should wait with Ba6 rather than play something active.

44 bxa4              Bxa4

45 Nf2                Bb3

46 Nh3               Qc6

47 Rc1


I thought I was losing but the GM did not agree and condescended to adjourn to the analysis room to prove it. Houdini says I am lost. He said I played OK which I took as a major compliment.

Let me not fool myself or our dear reader. Chernaiev didn't make a serious mistake in the whole game and kept on grinding out move after move while keeping at least 10 minutes advantage on the clock. He felt that this waiting policy would result in a mistake by me and he was right. It is very difficult for a part time player to keep matching a professional player move for move within a time limit without coming under both physical and psychological pressure. I got quite a few compliments from other ordinary players and that did cheer me up but my opponent fully deserved to win the game. No argument!

Being an unimportant creature in the grand scheme of things I could always embellish this little story and tell the tale of the great day when I outplayed the Grandmaster only to miss a winning combination involving a piece sacrifice. If only....pity about this ugly thing called the truth.

I enjoyed Guernsey even though it didn't turn out as planned. Nick has made a good recovery from shingles while I have fallen foul of the thing I have tried to avoid all these years and find myself between a rock and a hard place at the moment. It pleases me to think there might yet be another opportunity to enjoy the charms of this delightful island.