Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Northern 4NCL First Weekend

by John Carleton

Redworth Hall
John Carleton
The first weekend of the newly formed northern branch of Britain's most prestigious team tournament got under way at Barcelo Redworth Hotel, beautifully appointed albeit bewildering in its internal geography, on the outskirts of Darlington.

With only the lists of registered players to guide us we anticipated a possible rough ride from Manchester Manticores in our Saturday match and perhaps a more straightforward task on Sunday facing Bradford DCA Knights B team. As is frequently the case in such matters the actuality proved somewhat different. 

Round 1

Manchester Manticores were without their two most highly rated registered players and because of a late cry-off were doomed to scoring the only defaults of the weekend [one in each round]. Thus Spirit of Atticus scored the first point in the history of this branch of the competition and approached the task of adding to this score with relish. At the outset Dave Robertson on board 4 seemed most likely to notch our first "genuine" win quickly setting up a mobile centre which soon converted to a bone in Black's throat in the form of a big passed pawn on d6. This likelihood soon vanished as Steve Connor had settled into a very smooth rhythm on board 3 with the black pieces, Steve boldly favoured two knights against two bishops, set up a bind that netted a pawn and left his opponent facing only further discomfort and material loss. The resignation appeared early at first glance but a little study showed it to be totally justified.

Peter Ackley on Bd2
Peter Ackley on board 2 agreed a draw in a somewhat stodgy position each side facing a strongly placed opposition knight severely restricting their options. As [true for both sides] the "cure" of removing the knight was even worse than the original illness, and correctly judging that the match was progressing rather well, Peter agreed a draw.

My match reached the outcome that seemed inevitable fairly soon after my opponent unsoundly sacrificed a piece in the opening. Then, after a rather sketchy opening [as ever, understatement is one of my strengths], Mike on board 5 sprung into action. Firstly a pawn was shed to obtain some elbow room. An exchange sacrifice soon followed and White was defenceless; Mike clinically delivered the full point.

Meanwhile Andy Mort our scheduled board 6, did not have the afternoon off. Instead he played against Bradford's reserve and the extremely tough battle that resulted saw Andy victorious approaching 4 hours play. In completing this match Andy set a record for a gap between successive Atticus games of approximately 35 years [If any Atticus old-timers fancy a pop at this record we will be glad to accommodate their attempt]. This left Dave alone still in play against his opponent who many felt showed a commendable if somewhat surprisingly long-lasting interest in the ending of king, two knights and two pawns [Dave] versus king and bishop [Himself]. Dave was in due course victorious. 

Preparations for Round 2
With scarcely a backward glance at Yorvik and Cheddleton 2 still locked in battle and the splattering of games in the other matches round the room, we hurried to the bar to gather our strength. After a couple of drinks we had a couple of drinks more and then boarded our taxi headed for what Dave's assiduous research had revealed is one of the finest curry houses in England outside of Bradford. In fact, the length of the journey was such that we thought we might actually arrive in Bradford.

Before we could get amongst the food we had of course to stock up on drinks, and at this point came the most tense phase of the entire weekend: the waiters gathered round the table, five of the Atticus team fidgeted nervously and the sixth, Dave submerged into a trance. Dave sniffed the wine before him, his face inscrutable. Then, furrowing his brow and looking skywards Dave seemed to be summoning divine help to fathom some mystery before suddenly awakening to announce to the assembly that this was a very fine wine. The relief was palpable; waiters returned to their duties, the team threw the wine down their throats with gusto and the excellent food was enjoyed by one and all.

Round 2

And so, the match against Bradford B got underway, and it quickly became apparent that our youthful opponents were ready for battle. They had lost the day before to their senior team, [containing the highest rated players on view for the weekend] but the margin of 4-2 was not undeserved and hinted at their potential.

The Surtees Conference Room, where conditions were of the usual 4NCL high standard
photo © Pat Bennett (Holmes Chapel)

Nonetheless, Steve was once again the man in a hurry, opening the scoring for us by the simple expedient of grabbing a pawn and exchanging down to a won ending which he duly won avoiding his opponent's attempts to cause confusion. 

Robbo meanwhile was involved in a tactical melee which saw him emerge with 4 pawns for a piece; alas by then all routes for the white pieces were heading for Dave's king and he was helpless as the Bradford player levelled the match scores with an all round impressive performance.

Board 2 was next to finish; despite playing the black side of an exchange French Peter soon found himself in a lively position. He quickly adapted to the changing face of the game and assumed almost total control. It is possible Peter's opponent missed some tactical chances to extend the fight but the result was a reward for Peter's controlled aggression. My game was next to conclude doubling our advantage; the position suddenly went from somewhat advantageous for me to overwhelming as my opponent tried to attack more quickly than was warranted by the position. We thus needed one draw from the bottom two boards to clinch the match and for a good while Andy on board 6 seemed to offer Atticus the better prospects for this happy outcome; we were soon disabused of the notion that matters would be easy when his opponent stoked up a sustained attack to break through decisively for another impressive Bradford victory.

By this time Mike had gradually worked his way back into the game [from a position arising from an extremely sketchy opening on this occasion] and had exchanged to an ending where he had even gained a not very valuable pawn. The draw was his for the asking and in making the request Mike ensured a happy start for the Spirit of Atticus who now lie 2nd in the newly formed league [on alphabetical order!].

On the evidence of this first weekend, the competition promises many close matches and interesting chess over the coming months.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

4NCL & The Spirit of Atticus

John Carleton
We are pleased to announce that a 'Spirit of Atticus' team has been entered for the new Northern 4NCL which has been advertised on our website over the previous few months.

We regard the Northern 4NCL as an exciting development which will hopefully grow in the forthcoming years and will counter the southern drift which has gradually afflicted the mainline event. We also see the entry of an Atticus team into the competition as a very natural development.

The team has been entered under the captaincy of John Carleton and if you might be interested in playing some or all of the matches please contact him on (0151) 724 4515 or email John directly. The 'Spirit of Atticus' team is open to any interested party wishing to be available for selection.

We look forward to playing competitive chess under pleasant conditions and a civilised time limit, although it must be admitted that all time limits tend towards the uncivilised once chess players get involved!

The format is the same as the main 4NCL, viz. each weekend hosts a game on Saturday afternoon/evening [start 2:00pm] and a game on Sunday morning/afternoon [start 11:00am]. The normal pattern for the games 'at a distance' is for competitors to stay overnight on the Saturday at the venue at the reasonable rates negotiated by the organisers but it is not uncommon for players to play on just one of the days of the weekend.

The weekends to be used are the same as for the 4NCL itself, and details may be found on the 4NCL site or see Mike Truran's contact on our homepage.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Collusion or Conspiracy?

Fischer v Korchnoi, Curacao Candidates 1962
There have been many accusations of collusion, either of players deliberately losing (often to help a friend get a norm), of players agreeing draws or teams agreeing to throw matches to prevent another from winning an event.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis claim that Soviet players colluded in world chess championships held from 1940 to 1964.

They argue that players agreed draws amongst themselves to improve their chances. The most famous instance, the 1962 Candidates' Tournament, concerned the allegations of collusion by the Soviets.

The three top finishers, Petrosian, Geller and Keres drew all twelve of their games against each other, in an average of only 19 moves. Soon after the tournament, Fischer publicly alleged that the Soviets had colluded to prevent him from winning. His main allegation was that Petrosian, Geller and Keres had pre-arranged to draw all their games.

Yuri Averbakh
Fischer's allegation has long been accepted as correct. Yuri Averbakh, who was head of the Soviet team at the time, admitted collusion in a 2002 interview, 'Keres wanted to conserve energy, and Petrosian and Geller were good friends with a history of drawing with each other.'

Fischer's complaint titled 'The Russians Have Fixed World Chess' published in Sports Illustrated (August 20th 1962), forced FIDE to change the format of future Candidates' Tournaments beginning with the 1966 cycle. They were replaced by a series of elimination matches to prevent collusion and to avoid further embarrassment.

Could such collusion, between players, teams or even clubs happen in amateur chess? Of course it can. Last year in the MCA league, match re-arrangments in Division 1 during the second half of the season led to accusations of collusion. A delay of over four months occurred before two clubs got round to playing their crucial 'decider'. And John Carleton's article 'Fair Competition' eloquently details the extent to which officials will go to, to win at all costs i.e. to prevent another club from winning the league competition fairly.

A disturbing feature is that the collusion took place under the very noses of the league officials. This is bad enough but worse, the officials have failed to take any action or condemn the behaviour and another club has gone to the extent of publicly congratulating the 'winners'. This bizarre twist should be an alarm call to any self-respecting player because it begs the question - where does the collusion end - two clubs, three clubs?

By any reasonable measure and on the evidence available, that's the direction in which things are moving in the Merseyside League.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Arctic Securities Rapid: Anand and Carlsen lead with 2.5/3

The first half brought the result many expected: the World Champion and the world's highest ranked player won both their games against their lower-ranked opponents, and drew the encounter against each other. But it was not all smooth sailing. In his game against compatriot Jon Ludvig Hammer Magnus stared disaster in the face. First day report with poignant videos by Europe Echecs.

This rapid chess tournament is taking place in Kristiansund from Saturday, August 28th to Monday, August 30th 2010. It is a double round robin with four players: Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Judit Polgar and Jon Ludvig Hammer. On Monday there follows the finals between the two leading players, together with the bronze final for third place. Time controls are 20 minutes + 10 seconds increment per move.

Introduction and excerpts from the press conference before the tournament.

Interviews with the players

In the second video report the "blunder of the day" is vividly described by Jon Ludvig, who apparently like all Norwegians speaks a very high level of English. Starting at 1:57 min into the video he talks about the missed chance, while the thumbnail on the top left (from 2:14 min) shows Magnus playing 39.Rd2?? and Hammer immediately recapturing with his h-rook – and realising what he has missed at 2:21 min. Heartbreaking to watch.


Text: Courtesy of Chessbase

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Ratticus Norvegicus

There are an estimated 70 million rats in the UK, which roughly equates to one for every person. They're often seen in places where rubbish is lying around, in drains, sewers and outbuildings. They're also found in rural areas and are becoming a serious nuisance. They have also contaminated some areas of Liverpool.

As well as creating structural damage, rats pose a health risk because of the diseases they carry such as salmonella, E.coli and Tuberculosis. They also have ticks, mites, fleas, b.o. and bad breath. It is therefore imperative that you protect yourself from these pests or you’ll find yourself with a big problem.

It is said that at any one time, no person in Britain is more than nine metres away from a rat. During match nights at one chess club in Liverpool this decreases to one metre. Reason: The Club has been infested by rats. These rats can lie, deceive and spread falsehoods about fellow members. There are even cases of rats using computers to spread propaganda and twisted versions of reality for the gullible to injest. Their poison is dangerous so take great care. These rats rarely marry but they do form themselves into groups to comfort one another, drink copious amounts of beer and plot against the innocent.

However, smart people such as rat catchers with no more than the slightest whiff of their stench take immediate and permanent action. They set traps which these pesky vermin fall into, giving rat catchers the upper hand. This is a most gratifying outcome and can rid an area of these hazardous and selfish vermin once and for all.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Filipino lawyer for a woman who filed a paternity lawsuit claiming that Bobby Fischer was the father of her daughter, has criticized how tissue samples were obtained to perform the DNA tests. The test, which reportedly came back negative on Tuesday, was ordered by the Supreme Court of Iceland as part of a dispute over Fischer’s estate.

Bobby Fischer died in January 2008 at the age of 64 and left no will.

The lawyer, Samuel Estimo, also criticized the lawyer who represents the woman and daughter in Iceland, Thordur Bogason, saying that he had disclosed the results without the authorization of his clients, Marilyn Young and her daughter, Jinky.

 Bobby Fischer’s grave site in the cemetery of Laugardaelir Church in Iceland.

Mr. Estimo also said that Mr. Bogason had prematurely withdrawn the mother and daughter’s claim to the estate.

Mr. Estimo aired his criticisms and concerns about the case by forwarding a series of e-mail exchanges with Mr. Bogason to media organizations, including The New York Times, a day after the paternity test results were divulged.

In his e-mails, Mr. Estimo included a detailed description from Mr. Bogason of how the tissue samples were retrieved from Fischer’s grave in the cemetery of Laugardaelir Church in Iceland. Mr. Estimo included the description of the exhumation, though Mr. Bogason’s letter said that the manner in which it was done should be kept confidential.

Read full story

NH Chess Tournament: Rising stars v Experience

In the sixth round, The Experience team once again outscored the Rising stars, closing the distance to 15.5-14.5. Nakamura beat Ljubojevic to come within a half point of Rising Star leader, Giri. Gelfand continues to stamp his authority, this time beating Howell, and van Wely scored his first NH Chess win after sixteen tries.

In the fifth round of the NH Chess Tournament the Rising Stars and the Experience team split the points. Anish Giri’s win over Peter Heine Nielsen was compensated for by Boris Gelfand’s win over Hikaru Nakamura. Halfway through the event the Rising Stars lead 13½-11½.

The NH Chess Tournament takes place August 12-22 in hotel Krasnapolsky, in the heart of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. As always, the tournament is a confrontation between a team of five young ‘Rising Stars’ and a team of five ‘Experienced’ grandmasters.

The two teams play a ‘Scheveningen’ tournament, which means that each player of one team plays against each of the players of the other team. They do so twice, once with the white pieces and once with the black pieces. The team that collects most points wins the tournament. The best player of the ‘Rising Stars’ team will be invited to the 20th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament in March 2011 in Nice, provided he or she scores over 50% in the NH Chess Tournament in Amsterdam.

All games in PGN
Official tournament site

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Reflections on the EGM

Dear Chessfriends,

My reflections on the recent EGM of the Club are obviously going to be a great deal shorter than those of Club members who managed to sit through the meeting to the end. But here we go.

I raised an important question at the start of the meeting regarding how the proposed Constitution had come to be be moved at this time. I had raised the same question with the Secretary in an e-mail when members were sent a copy of the proposed Constitution. I also asked for the identity of those moving the Constitution to be revealed, and also for a quick explanation of the rationale behind each section of the document. It seemed to me most important that members should have a chance to reflect on what was being proposed before the meeting. In fact we had been provided with a copy of the draft only after a request from Dave Hurley. I received no reply whatsoever to my requests.

Thus when Dave James revealed that the draft Constitution was in response to the behaviour of Dave Robertson, Steve Connor and myself, it became finally clear to me that the business afoot was a continuation of the dispute already provoked, not by the three of us, but rather by Dave James and his cronies.

So it was entirely appropriate that I stressed pertinent information relating to that dispute, including new information that had come to light as a result of the AGM. When Dave James made the explicit criticism of us, it meant that the discussion of the Constitution was doomed to be tarnished until the earlier dispute was resolved. I should stress that it was at the insistence of Dave James that the meeting, rather bizarrely, interrupted the unfinished business of the dispute (and its related dummy motion concerning to the election of webmaster) to discuss the proposed Constitution. It was also his accusation/explanation for the constitution coming up now that meant the dispute and its ramifications had to be dealt with first. Thus the repeated interruptions from the chair were inappropriate, as were many of those from the floor.

About the small contribution I was able to make, I would make the following points. The Secretary was correct to say that the evidence I produced regarding doctoring of proposed minutes looked very bad. He was correct to offer his resignation. This resignation should be accepted. His explanation that the situation arose through gross incompetence rather than design does not hold water in respect of the evidence produced, and indeed the further evidence I will publish if it is felt necessary. It is also inconceivable that the Secretary acted without input from at least the Chair of their committee since at no point did the Secretary take a leadership role in (their provoking of) the dispute. Thus, being prevented from doing first things first, I felt obliged to exempt myself from the remainder of the meeting.

I should say that if a constitution is regarded as useful, then Tom Bimpson's proposals do seem eminently reasonable and reflect a fair and appropriate way that club members can interact. This is in stark contrast to the original proposals. It does not require a psychologist to work out that these proposals were a continuation of the bellicose intentions of those involved in its production.

As luck would have it, we had a psychologist to hand anyway: Andrej's demolition of the "expulsion clause" did help to restore some sanity to the situation. Thereafter the club should be appreciative of Tom's efforts to introduce a calm and sensible working document.

One of my regrets at leaving early was that I did not have the opportunity to hear Dave James propose item 17, regarding disputes. "In the event of a dispute with a team from another club this will be taken up by the Captain with the Captain of the opposing team. In the event that this does not resolve the dispute it shall be pursued by the Secretary under advisement of the relevant Captain and the Committee."

It would have been particularly interesting to hear how, when I had an unresolved dispute as Atticus2 Captain and tried to assemble a meeting to discuss the issue, and hopefully obtain consensus on united action, that:

(a) no such meeting was ever forthcoming, and
(b) how Dave James's briefing of Club members against me - while not informing me of what he was doing - squares with this eminently reasonable section of the new Constitution.

The proposal of the original section 17 regarding threatening or abusive behaviour would also have been an interesting pitch. I'm sure that Dave James's crystal clear view that everything is Dave Robertson's fault would have come across forcefully. I am still available to go through the truth with anyone who is still in doubt.

With regards to the Constitution itself, may I just pose a few questions?

• Will the constitution stop a group within the committee calling a meeting, and taking action against an uninvited committee member; and indeed not inviting another elected committee member who is likely to oppose their view?

• Will the constitution prevent some committee members pretending to be a complete committee and then traducing some club members on a public forum?

The answer to both of these questions must be "no". Both these events happened during last season. The fact that the answer is "no" is not the fault of the Constitution because a Constitution cannot be expected to cover matters of such basic common decency.

• Another situation that falls outside the sphere of the reasonable is that of Dave James's stirring up club members with misinformation behind my back, referred to above. Naturally no constitution can be expected to cover such flawed and warped behaviour. But how does the Club respond? Does it feel this is appropriate behaviour?

• Will the constitution stop part of the committee invoking made-up powers; e.g telling the Webmaster that everything he publishes has to be agreed by the committee? The answer here is "yes"; (this also happened last season). Under section 18 "In the event of complaints about the content of the Atticus Chess Club website this will be dealt with by the the Webmaster under the advisement of the General Committee"; it is clear that the whole tenor of the Chair's communications with Steve Connor were grossly improper.

My main regret at leaving the EGM early is that I was unable to express my personal gratitude for the unstinting work in the service of Chess and Atticus of two of our members. First, I must honour the Club's finest son, Dave Robertson. It is no slight on Steve Connor that I designate him thus. Dave Robertson's selfless and tireless work on behalf of Chess and our City over many years, but particularly during 2006-2008, have been well documented. The pushing of Atticus into the 21st century with the provision of the fabulous Adelphi venue and the complete restocking of our boards and sets, all at no cost to the Club, is undoubtedly one of the two main reasons why Atticus is currently such a magnet for chess players.

In most other clubs Steve Connor would be the greatest servant of Chess in their history. He is currently webmaster for the British Championship site, the 4NCL site and the London Classic site. His professionalism and dynamism are respected by all sections of British Chess. The Atticus website under his care has undoubtedly been the other most significant reason for the recent growth of the Club, and has been admired far and wide for the whole of Steve's tenure.

I am ashamed to be a member of a Club that treats its greatest servants so badly, but proud to regard Dave and Steve as my friends. You may question my judgement. For it is true that I thought Dave James was a friend for well over 30 years. Reality has taken over only as I felt his stiletto between my shoulder blades. However in the case of Steve and Dave you need not concern yourself with my judgement; their record of unambiguous, straightforward exposition of the beauty and occasional deceit within our great game is the only testament they require together with the legacy of their many achievements within Chess.

John Carleton
July 27, 2010

After 38 years

Following an EGM on 19 July 2010, the club has split and been destroyed by a clique of spineless individuals calling themselves a committee.

Concerns for the welfare of remaining members should be of interest to all chess players.

For the record, I remain in full support of John Carleton, David Robertson and others who have taken a principled and courageous position regarding the dispute with Widnes over the last 18 months or so.

They are outstanding examples of kind, hard working, honourable people the like of which we rarely meet in our lives.

For 38 years they have given unstinting support to Atticus Chess Club.

The unforgivable and unprecedented public attack on them and other long-serving members published on the MCA website was a disgrace. The ‘Dossier’, produced by the 'committee', a further act of lies and malice, should be treated with contempt as should the individuals who attach their names to it; individuals morally bankrupt, prepared to betray their colleagues at the drop of a hat and possessing a breath-taking level of vindictiveness. They know who they are and when the truth unfolds, others will too.

My contribution as webmaster has been to support and promote chess for the benefit of the Club and the wider community. I have acted honourably and recognition for such action has been forthcoming. Only this ‘committee’ with their propaganda and paranoia could see it differently. But they ignore the truth because it’s no longer convenient.

Members not so easily hoodwinked will no doubt have their own worries and so they should because this ‘committee’ will now take the Club down some very dark and dreary pathways in the years ahead.

Fair Competition

Dear Chessfriends,

Herein I would like to consider two or three strands of Widnes' current practice, principally from season 2009-10, which are quite disturbing for those who support normal notions of transparency and fair play.

A) On paper Widnes 1 have the strongest squad in the MCA. Thus the performance against them is likely to be crucial for any side aspiring to win the championship. One reason, if not the major reason, why Aigburth won the championship this season was that they were not required to play a full strength Widnes 1 team in either of their matches against the former champions. This arose for two reasons:

i) Widnes and Aigburth postponed the game that was due to be played before Christmas until two weeks after the scheduled end of the Division 1 season. Their scheduled last game was also against each other so this meant both the last two games of the season for these highly rated teams were against each other. In my opinion, the league controller was distinctly naive in claiming: "It was only a quirk of fate that meant an early season match, postponed to the end of April, finally decided the outcome", a naivety you will appreciate as you read on; 

ii) shortly after they were thrashed 6½-1½ by Atticus 1, Widnes 1 with some five games left apparently realised that they had no realistic prospect of winning the league. For most teams the recognition of this state of affairs would not actually affect the teams they put out. But for Widnes there was an immediate drop in the calibre of the teams that they fielded. So far as the division as a whole went, these teams were quite strong. But if you were relying on them to get a result against Aigburth (or for that matter against Atticus 1, were there any games left against them), then you would be backing against the odds.

Let us just back these claims up with a few numbers. The average grades of the Widnes 1 players in each of their games against Atticus 1 were:

a) 179 [won 5-3 by Widnes]
b) 180 [won 6½-1½ by Atticus]

Against Aigburth they were:

a) 171 [won 4½-3½ by Aigburth]
b) 161 [! maybe that previous one had been too close, won 5-3 by Aigburth]

Clearly, Atticus 1 played in a much harder league than Aigburth - on the valid assumption that other teams would have fielded players of the same calibre against them. At no stage in the season did Widnes 1, even in their "we've given up" phase, play a team as weak as in the second Aigburth match.

It should not be thought that Widnes, in the later stages of the season, had given up trying to win any trophies. In the final of the John Ripley trophy, the team they fielded had an average grade of 185. They lost to Waterloo on handicap. We may assume that, had they been in contention for winning the league, Widnes would have produced markedly stronger teams than they actually did on their run-in. Obviously, it's easier to have a highly graded team over 6 boards than it is over 8. So let's just put the strength of the Widnes Cup-final team into the league context. Had the top 6 players in the Cup final played in the first game against Aigburth, then the bottom two boards, to ‘maintain’ the strength of the Widnes league team, would have each had to have been graded 129. In the ‘decider’, the two bottom boards would each have needed a grade of 89.....

Dave James, perhaps wishing to lay claim to the title of History's most magnanimous loser (currently held by Sir George Thomas), did not mention any of this in his end of season report to the Atticus AGM. Instead he concentrated on establishing that Aigburth deserved the title. "They beat us fair and square" (match played March 3rd, won 4½-3½ by Aigburth). True, Dave says, we did beat them earlier in the season (October 26th 6-2) but this was, Dave says, because Aigburth were not at full strength. Well actually, Dave, there is a view that your being missing for the crucial March game meant that we were not at full strength for that one! This report did require a little mental agility to deliver without implying that Atticus might feel badly done by. Dave did pretty well; most of the Club remain unaware that the season was anything other than totally normal. Perhaps the only blot on Dave's performance was forgetting to mention, until reminded to do so by a member of his audience, that Enayet Hossain scored 14/14 to win player of the year. Some acknowledgement from Aigburth that Atticus 1 did not have the rub of the green would have been appreciated.
B) Perhaps this is the most minor of the three concerns I intend to raise. It is ‘only’ a moral issue and thus very hard to deal with without resorting to notions of fair play. In the aforementioned Cup final Widnes brought in a professional chess player, Keith Arkell, to play on top board although he had not played in any other match for them over the course of the season. (Keith was paid by and played regularly last season for Widnes). Last time a "ringer" was brought in for a Cup final, there was fairly universal condemnation throughout the MCA...
C) In contrast to the last item, this section will examine Widnes activities both against the spirit of the MCA rules and also against the letter of the law. I would like to bring to your attention the way that Widnes Chess Club manage their resources vis-a-vis the League rules relating to listed players and related issues.

First, the relevant rules for the last couple of seasons should be summarised: for each team of 8 players, the Club concerned shall send a list of 7 players who will always be invited to play for that team and have indicated that they expect to be available for the majority of the games. Such listed players shall be ineligible to play in any lower team of that club during the season. If when 50% of the fixtures have been played a listed player has failed to play in at least 3 matches then the club will be expected to list an additional player unless it can convince the Controller that the player in question will complete his obligation. Any players, whether listed or not, shall not be eligible to play in any given team if they have played a total of four times during the season for a higher team or teams in matches where they have played on a board above the lowest listed player in that team or teams. Games played on boards below the lowest listed player do not count towards this total. Teams must play their boards in order of playing strength.

This last slightly contorted section was introduced a few years ago and replaced the long-standing: Any players, whether listed or not, shall not be eligible to play in any given team if they have played a total of five times in any higher team or teams during that season.

A key concept in the framing of the rule relating to listed players is the notion of players indicating "that they expect to be available for the majority of the games". My belief is that most people read this to mean that the player expects to be available for all or nearly all games (i.e. the vast majority of games). If the majority is taken to mean "more often than not", then that would be better described as "over half the games". The idea of the listed players is to establish regular players who cannot therefore play for lower teams. The other side of a similar coin relates to the number of games a non-listed player may play for a higher team: If a player plays 13/14 [say] for a first division team, is it right they should be playing for a lower team throughout the season? [or 12/14, or 11/14 or 9/14 or 8/14...?] .The old rule stated above made things clear: once you played 5 games for higher team[s] you could not be part of a lower team: if you play that many times for one higher team, it was recognised that you were part of that team. The present loose framing of the rules allows situations that are contra-common sense and contra-fair play.

Before looking at the detail of my assertions, let us look at some new "league" tables. These show, for each of the last two seasons, the % of games played by listed players out of those possible. I am very grateful to Division 1 controller Dave Whitby for passing me his end of season report which presents in a clear and straightforward way the information that I have used to prepare my statistics and make comments thereon.

Atticus 2 91.7%
Atticus 1 85.7 %
Aigburth 1 81.0%
Prescot 1 75.0%
Widnes 1 69.0 %
Widnes 2 67.9%
Wallasey A 64.3%

Atticus 1 93.9%
Formby 1 89.8%
Prescot 1 80.6%
Atticus 2 79.6%
Widnes 2 77.6%
Aigburth 1 71.4%
Wallasey A 67.3%
Widnes 1 58.2%

Thus, last season Widnes 1 listed players just "beat" an average of 8/14 [=57.1%] appearances which is in any case indefensible as a ‘majority’ in this context. Three out of the seven listed players did not play over a half of the possible games: Woodcock [4], M.Ellis [7] and Clissold [6]. I would suggest that R.Clissold should not be eligible to be a listed player since for the second year running, although listed, he failed to play a reasonable number of games (last year he played 4 out of 12 possible matches). Incidentally, the same also applies to E.H.Taylor of Wallasey [who played 5/12 and 4/14 although a listed player].

Some consideration may be given to N.Barnaby's position. This year he played 8/14 thereby achieving the hollow "majority"; last year he played 6/12 (also listed for each season). Three of the Widnes 1 team did play 13 games last season. They were R.A.James (listed); P.Coughlin who became listed only on the 12th March; and M.I.Connor who was never listed. Last season Connor, also without ever being listed, went one better and was the only player in Widnes 1 to play 100% of league matches. Thus to summarise: Widnes 1 played on average only 4.1 listed players per match making a total of 57 games. P Coughlin, M.I.Connor, S.Potter [8 games, listed for Widnes1 on 30th March], and M.French [9 games never became listed for Widnes 1] were between them not only clocking up 43 appearances for Widnes 1 but also spearheading the Widnes 3 challenge to win Division 2. This challenge faltered only at the tail end of the season, so (as with the John Ripley Cup final), justice was done. But we should not be relying on fortuitous outcomes when a team is disregarding the rules. It is in Division 2 that Widnes 1 gained the unfair benefit of ignoring the rules pertaining to listed players.

I have put my remarks in context by producing the above tables and you may feel that some of the other entries therein are a cause for alarm. I would recommend Dave Whitby's aforementioned reports (below) if you wish to investigate, and possibly flesh out your concerns.

The Executive committee of the MCA have, for next season, firmed up (or so it might appear) the rules relating to listed players. The part relating to ‘playing up’ now reads something to the effect of: A player who plays up can do so as many times as s/he likes provided s/he does not play above the lowest graded player of the higher team (irrespective of whether or not that lowest graded starred player is actually playing on the night). So far as the "playing up" that matters is concerned, i.e. the non-observance of league rules by Widnes, this regulation is irrelevant. It is actually very difficult to see what difference will be made to any practical situation. All it does do however is to to emphasise the dodgy principle that it is acceptable for a player to play all (or virtually all) of the games for each of more than one team within the MCA. One reason that Widnes have pursued their blatant disregard of the listed player rules is because of this laissez-faire arrangement. Principally though, rather than acquiescing in their non-observance of rules, the sanctions already in place should be enforced with, if necessary, a view to strengthening those sanctions rather than tinkering with the fine print of the regulations. The notion of fair competition is an idea worth fighting for.

John Carleton
July 2010

Related files:

David Whitby's 0910 reports
Season 0910
Player results 0910
Div 1 Player Statistics 0910
Div 1 Match results 0910

Click to read this document on the Atticus Forum