LOCL Season 3 is a wrap!

By Hendon LOCL captain Andrew Medworth
Wednesday 18 August, 2021

The eleventh and final round of season 3 of the London Online Chess League took place on Tornelo tonight. The Hurricanes and Harriers both lost against strong opposition, though Kennan defeated a FIDE Master in the former match, and the Spitfires defeated Ilford to finish the season on a high!

Hendon Hurricanes Hendon Hurricanes Cavendish A Cavendish A
CM Rob Willmoth
2200 0 - 1
IM John Cox
Alex Leslie
2088 ½ - ½
FM Gary Kenworthy
Kennan Kesterson
1983 1 - 0
FM Andy Lewis
David Amior
1900 0 - 1
Jeff Goldberg
1½ - 2½

In the Queens Division, the Hurricanes faced Cavendish A, who are a somewhat enigmatic outfit. They have an incredibly strong squad, as evidenced by the IM and two FMs in their side tonight, but somehow they were languishing in the bottom half of the table before this match, with just 4/10 match points!

They’ve defaulted a couple of matches, which obviously hasn’t helped, and they haven’t always had a line-up as strong as this available. Even then, a side featuring the same three titled players was held to a draw by Petts Wood & Orpington last week, with none of the three winning, so it was hard to know quite what to expect.

Whatever the explanation for past results, unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the “laws of Elo physics” were back in force tonight, though Cavendish did once again rely on a point from their only non-titled player to get a result here.

On Board 1, Rob faced John Cox, whom he had faced in both the last two seasons, scoring a win and a draw. Tonight, sadly, he completed the set, in fairly spectacular fashion too, after errors on moves 12 and 13 of a sharp Dutch Defence left him losing decisive material.

On Board 2, Alex creditably held his FM opponent to a draw, after having been considerably better for most of the game, but things petered out after Alex spurned the opportunity to win a pawn. Alex should be very proud that he is now able to routinely hold his own against opposition of this level!

On Board 4, David Amior got into trouble in the early middlegame when his opponent opened the queenside and David’s pawn structure collapsed, with his kingside attack not strong enough to compensate. David allowed a sacrifice which swiftly forced mate, but was already much worse by that point.

However, Kennan gave Hurricanes fans something to cheer about on Board 3, by defeating his FM opponent! It was quite a strange game overall, with Kennan choosing an opening variation that wasn’t the best, but his opponent blundering straight away, allowing him to win a pawn. There were plenty of mutual errors in the middlegame, but the eventual result was a rook ending where Kennan had retained his extra pawn.

I’m pretty sure this should have been holdable for Black, but the Cavendish player made a fateful decision to infiltrate his king to the queenside to try to run his a-pawn, which triggered a race he could not win. Kennan queened first and cleaned up. Very well done indeed to him on this superb result!

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 3 - Queens"] [Site "Tornelo INT"] [Date "2021.08.18"] [Round "11.3.3"] [White "Kesterson, Kennan"] [Black "Paul Lewis, Andrew"] [Result "1-0"] [BlackElo "2260"] [ECO "B56"] [FEN "8/r7/3p2p1/p2Pk2p/R1P1P2P/4K3/6P1/8 w - - 1 35"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "1983"] { White has an extra pawn in this ending, but Black should be fine. } 35.Kf3 Kd4 $2 { This is the wrong plan, however. The White king should be kept out of the kingside. } ( 35...Rf7+ { should hold simply enough } 36.Ke3 Ra7 { It's hard to see any other ideas for White - if the Ra4 moves then Black will just push the pawn, and should have sufficient counterplay. } 37.Kd3 Ra8 38.Ra3 a4 $10 ) 36.Kf4 $1 Kc3 { In for a penny, in for a pound, but this just continues the incorrect plan. } ( 36...Rf7+ 37.Kg5 Rf2 38.Rxa5 Rxg2+ ( 38...Kxe4 39.Kxg6 Rxg2+ 40.Kxh5 Rg8 41.Ra6 Ke5 42.Rc6 $18 ) 39.Kf6 Kxe4 40.Ke6 g5 41.hxg5 Rxg5 42.Kxd6 Kd4 43.Kc6 Kxc4 44.Ra4+ Kb3 45.Rh4 $18 { This is an easy win, with the Black pawn blocked and the king cut off. } ) 37.c5 $1 dxc5 38.e5 { This central pawn breakthrough is completely decisive. } 38...Kb3 39.Re4 c4 40.e6 c3 41.Re3 Kc4 42.e7 ( 42.d6 c2 43.Re1 $18 { was also sufficient } ) 42...Rxe7 43.Rxe7 Kxd5 44.Ke3 Kc4 45.Rc7+ Kb3 46.Kd3 a4 47.Rb7+ { A nice game by Sasha, who outclassed a very strong opponent in this endgame! } 1-0

A pity to end with a loss, after six matches unbeaten, particularly after we’d just got several players back from their holidays; still, one can hardly be too disappointed with a narrow defeat against such a strong side.

The final-round games in the Queens Division are currently available here.

Hendon Spitfires Hendon Spitfires Ilford A Ilford A
Chris Rogal
1803 0 - 1
George Horan
Morris Jones
1758 1 - 0
Neville Twitchell
Amirabbas Mehrafarin
1734 1 - 0
Tom Barton
James Baxter
1700 1 - 0
Jef Page
3 - 1

In the Rooks Division, I was optimistic of getting a result against Ilford, despite the grades being against us, as several of our players have improved significantly since the grades were last updated over a year ago. The games all went the distance, but the Spitfires ran out decisive victors.

James’s opponent on Board 4 played a dubious gambit resulting in a worse position, and then blundered material on move 12, leaving James with an easy conversion. His opponent played on until being mated on move 69, long after there was no longer anything meaningful to play for.

I’ve never understood why people do that; I respect the concept of dogged resistance in a lost position, but when your opponent has a bishop and two pawns against your bare king, and has an increment of 15 seconds per move protecting them from being flagged or making a gross blunder, surely there are better things to do with the rest of the evening than playing on for another 17 moves? Nonetheless, James kept cool and closed the game out.

Morris’s game was very complex. He had the better of it early on, being Black in a “Sveshnikov gone right” (I’m not sure if this was a tribute to the great man who sadly passed away today, but if so, it was a fitting one).

Morris didn’t make the absolute most of his position, though, and the game arrived in a double-rook ending with Morris having a pawn more. There was an interesting moment where Morris’s opponent missed the opportunity to trade off into a drawn king-and-pawn ending, leaving Morris with an easily winning rook ending, which he played well to convert.

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 3 - Rooks"] [Site "Tornelo INT"] [Date "2021.08.14"] [Round "11.9.2"] [White "Twitchell, Neville"] [Black "Jones, Morris"] [Result "0-1"] [BlackElo "1758"] [ECO "B33"] [FEN "8/4r1k1/4r2p/RR5P/4pp2/8/6PK/8 w - - 1 48"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "1923"] { Both players were very short of time here, so the engine suggestions should be interpreted in that context, but nonetheless, I find these positions fun to analyse. } 48.Kg1 ( 48.Kh3 { is the surprising choice of my engine, keeping the king off the back rank } 48...e3 49.Rb1 e2 50.Re1 Re3+ 51.Kh2 f3 52.gxf3 Rxf3 53.Kg2 $10 { Black can't make any progress here. } ) 48...e3 49.Kf1 { This natural move appears to be a decisive mistake. } ( 49.Rb1 { still seems to be good enough to save the game } 49...Kf6 ( 49...e2 50.Re1 Re3 51.Rf5 Rf7 52.Ra5 f3 53.gxf3 Rfxf3 54.Ra2 $10 { e2 falls. } ) 50.Rf1 $1 Re4 51.g4 $1 R7e5 52.Ra6+ Re6 53.Ra5 e2 54.Re1 R4e5 55.Ra8 Kg5 56.Rg8+ Kh4 57.Kf2 Re3 58.Rf8 Kxg4 59.Rg8+ Kf5 60.Rf8+ Rf6 61.Rg8 { Despite the two pawns more, my engine can't seem to make any progress here. } ) 49...Rd7 ( 49...Rd6 50.Rb1 { is now too late } 50...Red7 { and the Black rooks penetrate } 51.Ra4 Rd2 52.Rxf4 e2+ 53.Ke1 Rd1+ $19 ) 50.Rd5 Rxd5 51.Rxd5 { This rook ending is definitely lost. } 51...Kf6 $1 52.Ke2 Re5 $2 { The king-and-pawn ending, however, would be a draw. } ( 52...Ra6 53.Rb5 Ra2+ 54.Kf1 Ra1+ 55.Ke2 Rg1 56.Kf3 Rf1+ 57.Ke2 Rf2+ $19 { g2 drops and that's the end of that. } ) 53.Rd8 $2 { But White doesn't go for it! } ( 53.Rxe5 Kxe5 54.g3 $1 { I guess this move was tricky to see with little time. } 54...fxg3 ( 54...Kf5 55.gxf4 Kxf4 56.Ke1 Kf3 57.Kf1 e2+ 58.Ke1 Kg4 59.Kxe2 Kxh5 60.Kf2 $10 ) 55.Kxe3 $10 { The g-pawn can't be saved. } ) 53...Kg5 54.Rf8 Rf5 55.Rg8+ ( 55.Rxf5+ Kxf5 { The king-and-pawn ending is no salvation this time, as the Black king is too close to the action } 56.g3 fxg3 57.Kxe3 Kg4 $19 ) 55...Kh4 56.Kf3 Re5 $1 57.Ke2 Kxh5 58.g4+ Kh4 $1 ( 58...fxg3 $2 59.Rxg3 $10 ) 59.Rg6 h5 60.gxh5 Kxh5 61.Rg1 { With two connected passed pawns, this isn't too challenging for Black now. Nonetheless, it's possible to let the win slip if you're not careful, and Morris played very well from here. } 61...Rg5 62.Rh1+ Kg6 63.Kf3 Kf5 64.Ra1 Rg3+ $1 { Otherwise Ra5+ would be a problem. } 65.Ke2 Rg2+ 66.Kf1 Rd2 67.Ra8 Kg4 68.Rh8 Kf3 69.Rh3+ Ke4 70.Rh8 f3 71.Re8+ Kd3 72.Rd8+ Kc2 73.Rc8+ Kd1 74.Re8 Rf2+ ( 74...e2+ { was a bit more straightforward, but the text doesn't spoil anything. } ) 75.Kg1 Ke2 76.Ra8 Rf1+ 77.Kh2 Kf2 78.Ra2+ e2 79.Rb2 Rg1 80.Ra2 Kf1 81.Ra1+ e1=Q 82.Rxe1+ Kxe1 83.Kxg1 f2+ 84.Kg2 f1=Q+ { Very nicely done by Morris! } 0-1

On Board 3, Amirabbas faced the Ilford captain, who committed a mouse slip on move 9, dropping a crucial central pawn. He then sacrificed his queen for a rook and bishop, leaving a strange material balance, albeit one that was very favourable for Amirabbas, who duly converted.

The only point for Ilford came on top board. Chris had very much the better of things for the first 35 moves, missing a number of complicated chances, but then his opponent started to get serious counterplay, and Chris got short of time. The key moment was when Chris offered the exchange of queens; this sealed his fate, as the Ilford player pushed his pawns through.

Congratulations to the Spitfires, who have had a very good season, and deserved to cap it with a win!

The final-round games from the Rooks Division are currently available here.

Charlton Chess Mates Charlton Chess Mates Hendon Harriers Hendon Harriers
Humphrey Jones
1623 1 - 0
Jean-Claude Sartenaer
Mateusz Bazan
1660 1 - 0
Matty Berenblut
Ciaran Brightley-Davies
1593 0 - 1
Marcel Berenblut
Stephen Thompson
1300 1 - 0
Julie Oh
3 - 1

Finally, we turn to the Harriers, who were facing the second-placed side in the Bishops Division (coincidentally meaning that a Hendon team faced a Charlton team for the third week in a row!).

The games were all closely contested. To begin with, Berenbluts father and son exchanged points with their Charlton counterparts.

Matty had a great position out of the opening when the Charlton player missed the opportunity to recapture a pawn on e5; the result was a winning king-and-pawn ending, though the win wasn’t straightforward, and slipped away. The resulting ending should still have been a draw, but then Matty allowed an outside passed pawn to be created, which won the game for his opponent: a tough but useful endgame lesson.

[Event "London Online Chess League Season 3 - Bishops"] [Site "Tornelo INT"] [Date "2021.08.14"] [Round "11.17.2"] [White "Berenblut, Matty"] [Black "Bazan, Mateusz"] [Result "0-1"] [BlackElo "1501"] [ECO "A45"] [FEN "6k1/1pp2p2/p4P1p/4p1p1/4P3/7P/PPP1KPP1/8 b - - 1 23"] [SetUp "1"] [WhiteElo "1450"] { An interesting king-and-pawn ending. White has a pawn more, but it looks like it's about to be lost. White is winning, but accuracy is required. } 23...Kh7 24.Kf3 $2 { Unfortunately this isn't where the king wants to be. } ( 24.Kd3 $1 Kg6 25.Kc4 $1 Kxf6 26.Kd5 $1 { and the e5 pawn will inevitably fall to a Zugzwang - Black will run out of moves! } 26...h5 27.g4 hxg4 28.hxg4 a5 29.a4 b6 30.Kc6 $18 ) 24...Kg6 25.Kg4 h5+ 26.Kg3 Kxf6 27.Kf3 Ke6 28.g4 h4 $1 ( 28...hxg4+ $2 29.Kxg4 $1 { and White would be winning again, as once again Black will run out of moves } 29...f6 30.b4 b5 31.f3 c6 32.a3 Ke7 33.Kh5 $1 ( 33.Kf5 $2 Kf7 $1 34.c3 Ke7 35.Kg6 Ke6 $10 { White can't achieve anything here. } ) 33...Kf7 34.Kh6 Ke7 35.Kg6 Ke6 36.c3 { This is the exact same position but with Black to move! It's mutual Zugzwang, and Black is lost. } 36...Ke7 37.Kg7 Ke6 38.Kf8 f5 { The only alternative was to allow Kf7, but this is no better: } 39.Kg7 { and the g-pawn will fall } 39...fxe4 40.fxe4 $18 { Black simply has no answer to Kg6 and Kxg5. } ) 29.Ke3 c5 30.Kd3 b5 31.c4 Kd6 32.Kc3 Kc6 33.b4 Kb6 34.Kb3 Kc6 35.a4 $2 { Unfortunately this is a decisive mistake, as it gives Black an outside passed pawn. } ( 35.a3 cxb4 36.cxb5+ axb5 37.axb4 $10 ) 35...bxa4+ $1 36.Kxa4 cxb4 37.Kxb4 { In such structures, the player with the "outside passed pawn" - in this case Black's a-pawn - is often at a decisive advantage, as the opponent's king will be further away from the action after it has taken care of it. Unfortunately this position is no exception. } 37...a5+ 38.Kb3 ( 38.Kxa5 Kc5 $19 ) 38...Kc5 39.Ka4 Kxc4 40.Kxa5 Kd4 { This is the problem - the Black king has a head-start and can clean up White's kingside. The rest requires no comment. } 41.f3 Ke3 42.Kb5 Kxf3 43.Kc5 Kxe4 44.Kd6 f5 45.gxf5 Kxf5 46.Kd5 g4 47.hxg4+ Kxg4 48.Kxe5 h3 0-1

Meanwhile, his Dad Marcel was getting on rather better on the next board down. He came out of the opening very strongly, after having destroyed his opponent’s central pawn structure and taken full control of the only open file with his rooks. His opponent’s position collapsed when he failed to defend the e3 pawn; there was an elegant little pirouette of knights on move 27, which evidently confused the Ilford player, as immediately he hung the a1 rook and was mated.

Honours even so far, but JC seemed to be in bad shape on top board, where I’d had high hopes of a win. His opponent had started with a comedy opening (1. a3), but the game ended up looking like a fairly normal Pirc. The middlegame was very complex, and understandably had many errors by both sides. The pivotal moment was probably when JC took the e4 pawn on move 26, allowing a tactic that won material.

There should have been a ludicrous reversal, after the Ilford player hung a rook on move 37 (he was relying on a knight fork to win it back, but if JC had taken the rook, the fork would have been illegal, as the knight would have been pinned to the king). Unfortunately JC missed this also, and his opponent gave him no more chances.

On Board 4, Julie embarked on a sacrificial attack, opening up her opponent’s king. Full marks for aggression and enterprise, but the idea was not sound, and Julie ended up two pieces down, and her opponent finished off in style.

Despite the defeat today, the Harriers should be proud of their season, which exceeded all my expectations!

The final-round games in the Bishops Division are currently available here.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played for Hendon in LOCL season 3. It’s been another great 11 weeks of online chess! A full report on the season will follow in due course, as there have been some remarkable accomplishments to talk about.

You can find a list of all stories about this season of the London Online Chess League here.