September 25th, 2013  / Author: John Smith

The first round of this year’s SNCL is on 27 October. I’ve sent an email to those players who I know have been interested in playing in the past. If you didn’t get this and would like to play, please get in touch – we try to give games to everyone who would like one at some stage during the SNCL season.


September 4th, 2013  / Author: Neil Berry

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 at Edinburgh CC

July 16th, 2013  / Author: Neil Berry

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+!

Club Talk – Using Computers

June 13th, 2013  / Author: Neil Berry

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!

Club Successes

May 24th, 2013  / Author: Neil Berry

Following on from John’s reporting of the SNCL triumph, Edinburgh Chess Club also won the Edinburgh Premier Division, and Scotland’s premier team competition, the Richardson Cup.  This was our first victory since 1987, and 24th overall!  The results from the final against Edinburgh West were as follows:

Edinburgh 5.5 – 2.5 Edinburgh West

Calum MacQueen 1-0 Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant

Neil Berry 0.5-.05 Craig Pritchett

Clement Sreeves 0.5-0.5 Jonathan Grant

Adam Bremner 0.5-0.5 Neil Farrell

David Oswald 1-0 George Neave

David Robertson 0.5-0.5 Walter Buchanan

Hugh Brechin 0.5-0.5 Alan Bell

Raj Bhopal 1-0 Duncan Walker

Well done to everyone involved on a fantastic achievement!  I’ll be adding some chess content in due course.


SNCL March 2013

March 25th, 2013  / Author: John Smith

Both teams ended the SNCL season with draws – the first team against Edinburgh West and the second team against Stonehaven. The first team are champions of the SNCL, for the first time since 2001. The second team narrowly missed promotion, finishing third in division 2. My thanks and congratulations to all who took part.

SNCL 25 November

November 26th, 2012  / Author: John Smith

Results of SNCL rounds 3 and 4 played at Dunfermline on 25 November.

In division 1, Edinburgh 1 beat Giffnock and Clarkston by 4:1 and Edinburgh Uni by 3:2. Edinburgh 1 leads the division.

In division 2, Edinburgh 2 lost to Glenrothes Kings by 3.5:1.5 and drew with CS BoS 1. Edinburgh 2 is in second place on board points.

SNCL results

October 29th, 2012  / Author: John Smith

Results of the first two rounds of SNCL played on 28 October were: in Division 1, Edinburgh 1 beat Dundee City A by 3:2 and Hamilton A by 3:2 – really good results against last years winners and runners up. In Division 2, Edinburgh 2 beat Kilmarnock 3:2 and Dundee City B by 4.5: 0.5. Individual results are posted on the Chess Scotland noticeboard.

200th anniversary

September 24th, 2012  / Author: John Smith

A few first thoughts on whether we should be doing anything for the 200th anniversary in 10 years time and if so what. It seems to me that it would be nice, if we could, to organise at least one event that would make some sort of impact on the chess world, but I guess that’s the first question – do members have enough time, interest and enthusiasm to put something like that together. Or would people just prefer things that the membership could participate in? Then we get to the question of cost – we’re not going to host top GMs without some sizeable sponsorship. If possible, could we do a variety of events – perhaps a few visits, talks, or simuls for the members, perhaps a special local league event(s) to involve other Edinburgh players, and then school visits or a children’s tournament to encourage juniors? It would be nice to know how members feel about it. As an aside we should perhaps also be thinking about redecorating the premises if we’re going to put ourselves on show to the world. Please share your thoughts.

SNCL 2012/12

September 20th, 2012  / Author: John Smith

A new season and this year we start with a team in the top division! and one in the second. So hopefully tough opposition should be available to all wanting to play. If you’d like to play in SNCL and you haven’t been emailed by me in the past for each match, please let me know ( I’ll send out an email for teams for the first sncl day, which is at the end of October, in a few weeks. John