All posts by Neil Berry

We entered 2 Teams in the Edinburgh 2020 Team Rapid event at Edinburgh University Teviot Hall on Saturday. The 1st Team came first on tiebreak from Glasgow University, with a strong Strathclyde University Team in 3rd. Individual scores (5 games): Neil Berry 3.5, Alastair White 2.5, Willie Rutherford 4, Andre Antunes 5. Both Willie and Andre won individual board prizes too.

A critical moment in our 2-2 draw with Edinburgh University. After 1.Na4?, my queenside initiative developed smoothly with …Qa5, …Ba6, …Rfc8, …Nf6-e4v and so on. Fortunately my opponent missed the shot 1.Nxd5!, when after 1…exd5 2.Qxd5 White exploits my lack of coordination to regain the material with interest.

Our Richardson Cup defence began and ended at the quarter final stage. We had a tough draw, away to Glasgow Polytechnic. Things were not looking good after a couple of hours play, and we were under pressure on a number of boards. We showed great fighting spirit to stay within striking distance – Kafka winning from a dubious looking position, and Oswald taking great risks to also net a point. We were still a bit behind – with 2 games to play we were a point behind. MacQueen had decent winning chances, but I was a pawn down in a Rook Ending to John Shaw. I expected to suffer, but defended well and even came up with a sneaky trap:

Now if White plays 1.Rf3??, Black has 1…g2 2.Rg3 and now the deflection 2…Rf3+! forces promotion. John played 1.Rf1, and after 1…Kxf6 2.Rg1 Rf3+ 3.Kb4 Kg5 a draw was soon agreed as both sides will give up their Rooks for the remaining pawns.

John said afterwards that he nearly played 1.Rf3! I’m not sure how close he actually was, but that was probably the last moment where victory was possible. Calum’s game was also eventually drawn, so the final result was:
Polytechnic 4.5-3.5 Edinburgh

Colin McNab 1-0 Clement Sreeves (W)
John Shaw draw Neil Berry
Vitalijs Samolins draw Calum MacQueen
Iain Swan draw Andrew Green
Larry Kirk 0-1 David Oswald
Algirdas Tiuninas 1-0 Hugh Brechin
Elaine Bamber 1-0 Raj Bhopal
Joseff Thomas 0-1 Graeme Kafka

So congratulations to Polytechnic. They will be hard to stop this year.

Home Director Keith Rose has tried to instigate a consolation tournament for the Richardson Cup losers. A very good idea in principle, but there hasn’t been too much interest. We will play one match at least, against last years’ finalists Edinburgh West next month at the club.

For the second time in three years, we sent a team to play in the European Club Cup. This years’ event was held in the splendid Rodos Palace Hotel in Rhodes, from October 19-27. We qualified as Richardson winners, and were joined by runners up Edinburgh West. We had an average rating of 2136, making us 43rd seeds out of the 53 Teams in the Open section. Here are my highlights:

1. Winning! We won 3 matches 3.5-2.5, which meant we finished in 33rd place. This was double our points total from last time (although we had a kinder draw this time around). Edinburgh West player John Watkins remarked that winning a game in the ECC was similar to winning a game in the Edinburgh Premier League. He meant it as a compliment…I guess we don’t have to face the mighty Edinburgh 1 so don’t have the same perspective!

2. Rubbing shoulders with the stars. It was nice having all the games in the one hall, and almost all of the Teams staying in the same Hotel. During meal times you would always see a number of galacticos. This extended to the local bars, where various groups of chess players gathered to watch the Champions League football matches or just unwind. Ukrainian GM Anton Korobov had the unfortunate experience of witnessing one of our worst pieces of analysis

3. The Morra Gambit! Well, not really, but it provided us with our first individual win, the following fine attacking effort from David Oswald:

19.g5! hxg5? [Too compliant.]

[19…Nd4 was better. The position is messy – White has a strong attack but Black has counterplay.]

20.hxg5 Bxg5 21.Rh1 [White’s attack flows naturally.]

21…Bxe3 22.Qxe3 Nd4! [The best try. Black combines an attack on the ?c4 with defensive resources such as …Nxf5–h6 or …Qg5+–h6 in some variations.]

23.Bd3! [The most impressive move of the game. White takes a time out to move his attacked Bishop, while preventing …Nxf5 and creating a new threat of f6. A very hard move to find when ‘mid combination’.]

[Neither 23.Qh3 Qg5+; nor 23.Ne4 Nxf5 work for White.]

23…e4 24.Bxe4 d5 25.Rh5 [25.Rxh7+ mates immediately, but the move played is plenty good enough to win.]

25…dxe4 26.Rch1 Kg8 27.Rxh7 f6 28.Rh8+ Kf7 29.Rxf8+ winning either the Queen or the Knight on d4. Black resigned. 1–0

Match Results:

Rd1: Reichenstein SSB (SUI) 4.5-1.5 Edinburgh
Rd2: Edinburgh 3.5-2.5 SV Voerendaal / KNSB (NED)
Rd3: Edinburgh 1.5-4.5 SK 47 Eynatten (BEL)
Rd4: Eppingen (GER) 2.5-3.5 Edinburgh
Rd5: White Rose (ENG) 3.5-2.5 Edinburgh
Rd6: Edinburgh 3.5-2.5 Adare (IRL)
Rd7: ASI Bologna (ITA) 4-2 Edinburgh

Individual scores:

1. Clement Sreeves 2.5/7
2. Calum MacQueen 3.5/7
3. Neil Berry 3.5/7
4. David Oswald 4/7
5. Alastair White 1/7
6. Chris Sykes 3.5/7

A few years ago I used to make an annual summer trip to a tournament on mainland Europe. Destinations included the Czech Republic, Denmark, Romania and Latvia. These events provided an opportunity to visit somewhere new and play against different players). With cheap flights making more and more of Europe easily accessible, it was good value and more interesting when compared against playing somewhere like the British. It’s been a few years since I played abroad in the summer. Part of this was due to the reinvigoration of the Scottish Championship, but also many of the group I went to these events with had either other interests or commitments that meant they were no longer willing or able to play.

Former club member Duncan Grassie was one of the group. Duncan hasn’t played much recently due to focussing on his other hobby (Orienteering), but primarily due to work commitments and moving abroad. Duncan decided it would be nice to have something of a ‘reunion’ this year, and a few of us were keen to play, so we decided on a tournament in Andorra. There wasn’t a huge amount of thinking behind the choice – the tournament itself was pretty strong (at least at the top), none of us had been before and travel seemed reasonably easy. It was an inspired choice.

Thanks to word of mouth and social media, our small group grew. And grew. The final count was 19 Scots entering the tournament – outnumbering the number of Andorrans(!). 10 of those were from Edinburgh Chess Club – myself, Calum MacQueen, Clement Sreeves, Adam Bremner, Andrew Green, Daniel McGowan, David Oswald, Hugh Brechin, Graeme Kafka and David Robertson. All of us performed well without perhaps hitting our absolute best form. Top Scot was Jonathan Edwards, who finished on 6/9. Jonathan is a former Tiger Cub, so perhaps we should claim a bit of credit for his result! Anyway, the event is strongly recommended to those searching for a summer tournament.

Armageddon Chess is a relatively recent phenomenon, but I’m not sure exactly who invented it.  The concept is this: the game must produce a decisive result.  Black has draw odds, and to compensate this White has extra time.  It is often used in knockout tournaments as a “tiebreak of last resort”, if the players cannot be split by a series of tiebreak games with shorter and shorter time controls.  In this case usually White has 6 minutes to Black’s 5, or perhaps 5 v 4.  It has even appeared in the World Championship regulations.  While this might sound like a ridiculous way to decide a World Championship match (it is), there have been plenty of examples of worse.  The most famous is probably the Smyslov-Hubner Candidates quarter final in 1983 being decided by the roll of the roulette ball (although the ball landed on zero first time!).

A few years ago the US Championship introduced Armageddon into their event, albeit with a twist.  After 8 rounds of a normal Swiss, the top 4 players would qualify for the Armageddon playoff, with 2 semis and a final.  The time control was slightly different, with White having a fixed time (of say 30 minutes – I can’t recall the exact details) and players ‘bidding’ for the Black pieces.  The player with the lowest bid would ‘win’ the Black pieces and draw odds, but would start the game with their bid against White’s full allocation.

Edinburgh Chess Club member David Oswald has organised 2 similar Weekend events at the club – the so-called Elite Armageddon events.  After a 4 round Swiss, players are split into groups of 4 according to finishing places to play a semi-final and final/ playoff (although most of the prizes are for the top group only).  Here White has 45 minutes to start with.  There has been a huge variance in strategy, with a number of players bidding 45 minutes to secure White, right down to the bidding style of Andrew “the 14 minute man” Green.  My own preference has been somewhere in the middle.  I had the opportunity to ask a couple of the strongest players on the planet (!) after the Scottish Blitz this year what they might bid.  Their verdict was that it would hugely depend on the situation and how you were feeling at that moment.  Or they were sitting on the fence!

Both events have been won by Alan Tate of Wandering Dragons.  Alan is generally one of the 45 minute bidders (although he did go a bit lower against me in the final of the first event).  In the final of the second against GM Keti Arakhamia-Grant both players bid 45 minutes!  In this case, the rules allow for one resubmission should players wish to alter their bid.    Again, both players bid 45 minutes.  There was then a coin toss to decide who was to get White.  This got me thinking.  If both players wanted White and bid 45 minutes, then why not reverse the auction?  So for the second bid, players would bid for White.  Would the players actually be willing to take less time and give draw odds just for the White pieces?  Food for thought.

To finish, here is a position from the second Armageddon event.  The result of Oswald-Groves probably had no bearing on the final positions, but was still dramatic…

Black played 1…Nxg4, and after 2.Rxh7+ Kg6 3.Rhg7+ Kh6 the move 4.hxg4?? allowed Black to draw immediately with 4…Qh1+! 5.Kg3 Qg2+! 6.Kf4 Qf3+!

I gave a talk at the club on 28th April on using computers to improve your game.  Here are the key points:


  • My database contains around 5 million games – this is probably fairly typical for CB Users.
  • The latest games can be downloaded from the Week in Chess and added easily to the database.
  • It is also possible to create a database of only Scottish tournament games.  However, there is some cleansing required as names are inputted in different formats.  The games can be found on the Chess Scotland website.
  • Chessbase can be used to conveniently store and analyse your own games, top level games and openings you are interested in.
  • You can search a particular opening position.  Chessbase will return all games in the database from this position (this can be filtered too), what score each move has from the position, who the best players to play each move are and other stats.
  • More advanced features are available, e.g. finding all games featuring a particular pawn structure.

Analysis Engines

  • Engines can be purchased as stand alone piece of software (e.g. Fritz, Rybka, Shredder) or downloaded for free, to be run in Chessbase (e.g. Stockfish, Critter).  An engine like Houdini was originally open source, but later versions are commercial.  If you already have Chessbase, it probably makes most sense to use the free engines – they are all incredibly strong.
  • There are other features available with the commercial software.  For example, purchasing Fritz will give you 1 year’s free membership on (a site for playing online blitz games).
  • Use the engines to analyse your own games (or top GM games you are studying).  Make sure you analyse the variations you considered during the game as well).
  • Trust the moves more than the evaluation.  The evaluation can change as you go through a complicated variation.  The other point is that the computer does not suffer from defending bad positions, and may assess a position as equal that humans would find extremely difficult to play.  Houdini is particularly bad for this – chess after all is just a draw!

I showed some interesting examples.  Here is one, from Think Like a Grandmaster.  This book has generally stood the test of time quite well, and it is only in the computer era that the following improvement is possible:

1.e8Q and now not 1…Rex8? when 2.Qxg7+! Bxg7 3.Rxe8+ leads to mate.  Black should instead play 1…Rd2+! Now taking the Rook allows Black to take the Queen on e8 safely, so White must play 2.Kh1.  Here the author recommends taking the draw with 2…Rd1+.  However, Black has 2…Rxb2! There are a number of wonderful variations, e.g. 3.Qce5 Rxe8 4.Qxc5 Rd8! or 3.Qee5 Rb3! 4.Qxc5 Bxc5.  Use an engine to check them out!