Not All Moves Are Equal

In some games of chess, often in the early middlegame, you will likely reach a point where there are a number of plausible moves, each one instigating a slightly different plan which will frame the remainder of your play in the game. In some cases this may be a simple choice of move order, in which certain responses by your opponent must be considered. In others, it may be about creating a target for your pieces, whether that be a forward outpost for your Knights, the creation of an open file for your Rooks, or saddling your opponent with a weak backward pawn. The decision is not often an easy one as it involves projecting your thoughts forward several moves and ensuring there are no tactical flaws in your chosen idea. There are also other considerations, such as remaining time for both players, and a knowledge of the style of position that suits your own play best, or perhaps given a familiar opponent, a pawn structure that they have struggled with in the past.

Active moves are always better than passive ones in this context, they force your opponent to give your play due consideration, whereas passive defensive play allows them to dictate terms. Sometimes if you have a particularly poorly placed bishop the investment of a pawn in order to ensure its freedom is worth it. With the advent of highly advanced engines it is often revealed to be the case that several moves are broadly similar in evaluation in a given position. This allows a player more freedom to steer the game along a path of their choosing. The position below comes after black’s 13th move, in the Cambridge Springs variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined (Full game and notes attached). Black’s last move was Nd7xe5, completing a pawn exchange on the e5 square.

In the position white has a number of possible candidate moves, examples of which follow the diagram:

Garys diagram of the game position
The Game Position

1) The occupation of the d file with one of the rooks, the King’s rook being preferable while the Queens rook maintains a close watch on the a pawn.
2) Playing pawn to a3, forcing the b4 bishop into a decision.
3) Playing pawn to c5, interfering with the Queen’s protection of the e5 Knight.

The exact position has occurred before, from the games I could find, white had either played a3 with some success, or the rather slow looking Nd1 (leading to defeat), possibly with the idea of shoring up the c pawn with b3 followed by Nb2.

After some minutes of consideration, and at this point a considerable amount of time behind on the clock, white found a very interesting continuation:


Putting the position into an engine afterwards, the engine initially preferred the moves a3 and Rfd1, but once Nd5 was entered this started to change. Even after a long period of assessment the move is not rated much better than the previously mentioned moves (and at a similar level to the companion move 14.Nb5), but engines don’t take into account the additional psychological impact of such a move on the second player. Up until this point he had assessed his position as relatively comfortable. The purpose of the move is to put a difficult question to both the b4 Bishop and e5 Knight, the former of which is under threat of exchange and the latter now being en prise due to the interference in the Queen on a5’s defence. In addition there are possibilities of playing Ne7+ advantageously in some lines. In addition the a2-g8 diagonal to the black King is severely weakened, such that taking the Knight with the pawn in exchange for the e5 Knight will lead to a great deal of pressure being exerted by white’s long ranged pieces against the vulnerable black Kingside.

In the actual game black fell apart in very few additional moves due to a miscalculation, starting with …Nxf3+?, losing at least a pawn. Had he found the strongest reply, …Bd6, white would still have had the better game, and some momentum. Should white have opted for one of the quieter but equally good moves from an engine perspective such as a3 or Rfd1 in the position, black would have had the luxury of choosing whether to exchange on c3 to saddle white with weakened pawns, or to complete his development naturally and perhaps consider an assault on the white King’s position later in the game.


Sidcup 3 v Snodand 3 – 29.4.15

On Wednesday 29th April, our 3rd team playing in the Fuller Cup had a semi final match at home against a strong Snodland side who came runners up in their section of the Fuller Cup.

After a very hard fought match, Sidcup won the match 3 games to 1.

Snodland had a very strong side with the team grading just below the limit of 440 at 439 so they were stronger on 3 of the 4 boards. The evening started with Keith losing the toss and Rob Thompson (no relation) the Snodland Captain playing on board 1 electing to play white on boards 1 & 3.

The first to finish was Keith Thompson (93) playing white against his namesake Matt Thompson (60) (again, no relation) forcing black to resign on move 42 when Keith had mating attack which Matt could not escape.

The next match to finish was Sarah (93) playing against Hugh Broadbent (her father) (117). The game was very hard fought and Sarah had her chances but finally Sarah’s father finally managed to win the day. At one stage during the match, Hugh asked his team mates if a draw was going to be good enough but their matches were still going on and they could not say.

Hugh had the first good chance on move 36 when Sarah played an incorrect queen move and gave Hugh good chances to win from the position. Then 3 moves later she grabbed a pawn that could not be taken and the position was even again. I think here it could have been an easy draw for both players if they kept checking their respective kings but Hugh (I think) went for the win. He moved his king up to assist his queen and made a mistake on move 39 so chances were equal again. On move 43, Sarah had a slight advantage and a further mistake 2 moves later by her father gave Sarah a winning advantage. On move 47, she missed her chance to move her e pawn to a square nearer promotion and the position was equal again. Then, on move 48, she gave her father the winning advantage which he took and Sarah resigned a move later.

While Sarah was in her struggles, Bob and Lee were having there own gigantic problems.

Lee (117) playing white against David Lettington (129) missed a chance to take an advantage on move 27.  David tempted Lee to take his knight playing Nxd5 but Lee could not take this as then the sequence would be Rxd5 Rxd5 pxd5 Rxc2. Lee saw this a played Bxh7 but a pawn move to f4 attacking his rook would have given David something to think about and given Lee an advantage. After this, the position for the next 10 moves was very equal and David was the one to crack making an incorrect king move on move 37. Lee took advantage and went on to promote his d pawn to a queen whereupon David resigned.

Lee Brockwell (courtesy of Brendan O'Gorman)
Lee Brockwell

Bob (125) playing black on board 1 against Rob Thompson (137), was the last to finish after playing over 100 moves in an epic battle. Rob had a slight advantage and because it is sometimes a struggle for black to reach equal terms, Bob had to play 39 moves before white gave him any chances whatsoever. Then white played the incorrect Qe3 and gave Bob the advantage but at move 40 missed Nxe6 and the position was equal until move 47 when white again played an incorrect queen move. This gave Bob the advantage again who then played an incorrect RXR move on move 52 leaving the position was equal again for the next 34 moves. The duel and finally came to an end on move 86.

Bob Mitchell (courtesy of Brendan O'Gorman)
Bob Mitchell

Rob made the final queen mistake to give Bob a winning game and mated Rob on move 101 to send us through to the final where we play Weald of Kent. They topped the Mid Kent division and found that Gravesend defaulted in their semi final.

Score Card
Score Card

So, it looks as though it will be another epic struggle next Sunday .

Keith Thompson

(Photos courtesy of Brendan O’Gorman)

Harvey Cup – 25.3.15

In the last game of the season Dartford came to play our Harvey Cup team. Sidcup won by the strange score for a six board match of 3 – 2. Some of Dartfford’s usual players were unavailable and this resulted in our opponents conceding a penalty point for fielding an overgraded team.

In the match Ian McAllan won easily when his opponent blundered a piece early on and Sarah Walker-Buckton had a solid draw with an opponent graded 30 points above her. When David Gilbert after an up-and-down game found a way to reach a winning pawn ending it looked all over. However, the team’s season of close results looked to be continuing when Lee Brockwell eventually had to resign after losing a piece for two pawns early on and Don Chapman lost on time in a complicated position where he was material down. In the last game to finish Gary Sharp was defending an inferior position and when his opponent found no way through the draw was agreed, which won the match.

This means our Harvey Cup team came third, a full point ahead of fourth, but a full point behind second place in the league.

Ian McAllan

Intro Cup – 18.3.15

The final match of the season saw Sidcup at home to Gravesend.

Phil Broughton (51) played very well to beat a higher rated player in Alan Evans (87). This was followed by a win for Andrew Parkin (50) with a nice rook sacrifice to force mate against another higher rated player Paul Loasby (76).

Sarah Walker-Buckton (98) fought a long nail-biting game against Bernard Lis (89) but was checkmated in a close finish. With the score at 2-1 David Helps (138) was playing a very evenly balanced game against John Fowers (115). With not much time left on the clocks, they were down to pawns and kings. David got himself one move ahead and rounded off a fine 3-1 win for the team.

It has been a good season for the Intro team having achieved 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats from all their matches.

Mark E Lenette

Harvey Cup – 4.3.15

On Wednesday 4th March our Harvey Cup team continued its run of close results by drawing with Charlton.

The evening started with Don Chapman losing to a much stronger opponent and Sarah Walker-Buckton winning almost as quickly. Then Lee Brockwell’s draw and Dave Helps’ loss left us needing something from the top two boards. Gary Sharp’s game ended in a draw, but Ian McAllan converted a favourable ending in the last game to finish to tie the match.

Ian McAllan

Sidcup v Dartford – 26.2.15

Sidcup went to league leaders Dartford on Thursday, needing a win to give them any chance of qualifying for the knockout stages.

Prior to this game we had achieved a 50% record with 2 wins, 2 loses, and a draw.

It was always going to be a tough ask, especially with 2 regular first team players away, but it turned out to be a close fought match.

Ken Smith was disappointed with his performance succumbing to an early loss on board 4. Keith Thompson then followed this with a draw on board 6, despite being out-graded by nearly 30 points, and playing his first game for the first team. Lee Brockwell on Board 5 then followed with another draw.

The remaining 3 games all went to the wire, with the clock playing a massive part. Ian McAllan on board 1 saw his opponent withstand a strong king side attack, which then left Ian in time trouble. Despite coming through the time control with his position intact, Ian was unaware that the time control had been reached and played the next 2 moves instantly, believing he still had moves to make. Those moves were critical and turned a potential winning position into a position which was eventually played to a draw. David Gilbert on board 3 then delivered a fine win, in a finely edged position, where his better time management probably made all the difference. This left everything hinging on board 2 and Gary Sharp. Time once again was key here, and Gary was always behind on that score. Unfortunately it was the type of end game which needed a large number of moves to see completion. This played into his opponent’s hands, who played solid moves, knowing Gary’s clock would run out eventually. This it duly did, giving Dartford a well-earned 3.5 to 2.5 win.

So far our experiment of playing in the stronger En Passant league, has been positive and we have acquitted ourselves well. It’s also giving the better players more games which can only be beneficial.

Lee Brockwell

Sidcup 3 v Petts Wood 4 – 19.2.15

On Wednesday 19th February, our team Sidcup 3 played Petts Wood 4 in a match which, if they won, would see them into the Semi-Finals as winners of the division with 3 matches left to play winning 5 out of 5.

The evening did not start off too well for Petts Wood when they defaulted on board 4 and the evening gradually got worse for them.

The first match to finish was David Gilbert (132) – stepping in for an unwell Ken Smith – managing a draw against Paul Jones (127). Then Lee Brockwell (109) had a good win against their captain Phil Wheeler (116) and finally Sarah Walker-Buckton (98) won a hard fought game and was up against the clock at the end. With 2 minutes to spare, she managed to queen her 2 past pawns
and checkmated Victor Jamroz (97) to round off a very successful evening.

With 3 matches left to play and our third team winning the Tom Fuller Met Section, we can now look forward to a home tie against the runners up of Mid Kent section.

Keith Thompson

Sidcup 3 v Gravesend 5 – 25.2.15

On Wednesday, Sidcup 3 lost their unbeaten run of 5 matches and lost to Gravesend 3 1 in what seemed an easy win for Gravesend.

I think we were still having a hangover from winning the division and looking forward to a home tie in the semi finals against who is yet to be decided. The Mid East Section of the Fuller league looks very tight and could be decided on the last matches played in the division.

Sidcup (playing White on the odd boards 1 & 3) got off to a good start with Keith Thompson playing his normal Caro Kann defence for Black; he had a good win against Paul Loasby who was left with a weak centre pawn which Keith was able to attack. After his opening, he was left with a weak pawn but Paul was unable to attack this. (See attached game.)

This was the only success of the evening for Sidcup who were struggling to get another win to earn a draw to protect there unbeaten run.

Lee Brockwell playing black lost to Peter Belka in what was a reversal of fortunes for him as he had won the away tie against Peter.

Ken (still suffering from the virus he had last week) lost in a hard fought game against Nav Bansal (120).

Sarah, playing white, was against John Fowers who used a Pirc Defence Classical system which Sarah found very hard to break down. She went down after a very hard struggle and resigned when she could not stop John’s A pawn from going to the eighth rank and becoming a queen.

We have 2 more matches to play in the league and hope to have got over our blip and carry on with our winning ways.

Keith Thompson

Sidcup 3 v Petts Wood 4 – 19.2.15

On Wednesday 19th February, our team (Sidcup 3) played Petts Wood 4 in a match which, if they had won, would see them into the Semi-Finals as winners of the division with 3 matches left to play and  winning 5 out of 5.

The evening did not start off too well for Petts Wood when they defaulted on board 4 and the evening gradually got worse for them. The first match to finish was David Gilbert (132) stepping in for an unwell Ken Smith and managing a draw against Paul Jones (127). Then Lee Brockwell (109) had a good win against their captain Phil Wheeler (116) and finally Sarah Walker-Buckton (98) won a hard fought game and was up against the clock at the and with 2 minutes to spare. She managed to queen her 2 past pawn’s and checkmated Victor Jamroz (97) to round off a very successful evening .

With 3 matches left to play, we saw our third team winning the Tom Fuller Met Section and can now look forward to a home tie against the runners up of Mid Kent section.

Keith Thompson

Sidcup v Chislehurst – 28.1.15

On Wednesday 28th January Sidcup continued its run of close matches by defeating Chislehurst by the narrowest margin.

Mark Lenette celebrated his first official English Chess Federation grade, which appeared two days earlier, by drawing with an opponent graded 18 points above him and nearly winning. Sarah Walker-Buckton, also with a newly minted first grade and playing someone graded higher than her, won two pawns for the exchange but blundered in time-trouble and lost. The opponents of Gary Sharp and Ian McAllan both blundered away the exchange and were not allowed to recover. Ken Smith blundered away a piece early on in his game and despite a strong rearguard action eventually had to resign. So all depended on the last game to finish where Dave Helps was a pawn up at the first time-control but looked to be heading for a draw. However, his opponent overlooked a trap allowing Dave to win a piece, so the match was won (just).

Ian McAllan