Opening Night 2021-22

The Champions Caterpillar

Arena from behind nine and ten [Photo: Mark Murrell]

My, how time flies! In March 2020, we had to notify all Members that the Club was closing its regular Club Night meetings because of the Covid pandemic. The country was in lockdown and chess took to the online world. A year ago we came out of lockdown on 1 September, which was a triumph in itself, but not our traditional Caterpillar Simultaneous for Opening Night – two-boarded chess only. So already we are into our second Opening Night since the pandemic and this time, we were able to celebrate the new Season in style!

For “social distancing” reasons, we held the Opening Night for the first time in the spacious, well-ventilated, well-lit surroundings of the Hall.

Our Champions were drawn from both spheres of activity: Online and over-the-board…

John Cawdery – a new member who has quickly made his mark on the Club by winning the Club Championship at his first attempt

Terry Whitton – Club President, who won in quick succession the speed double, Lightning Championship and Blitz Championship

Ashley Freeman – A new member of now a year’s standing, voluble, talented and joint Online Champion (the other joint Online Champion, Kyan Bui, couldn’t attend)

There now follows a report of the event, below which is given a link to the score sheet and a Gallery of pictures by Mark.

The Caterpillar Simultaneous, given by our Champions, pits the Club against the previous year’s winners circulating the arena and playing a move at each board in turn in series, but without consultation. Each time a member of the Caterpillar comes to a board, two moves by the opponent and two moves by their Caterpillar colleagues have been made since they last saw the position. A lot can happen in those 4-ply moves!

Sixteen Members were expected, but in the event only 14 boards were occupied. In pre-Covid times, we have had as many as 27 boards in play, all crammed into Roding room. The space available in the Hall by comparison is palatial and with doors open for ventilation, it is an excellent venue. It is safe to say, however, that no Caterpillar has had to walk so far to accomplish their task! (We remember a simul by GM Svetozar Gligoric given in this Hall, perhaps 55 years ago. Ilford Chess Club used to engage a GM after the annual Hastings congress to give a simul and one year, their original venue let them down but they were able to hire the Hall at Wanstead House instead.)

“We’re only a rook down on this board – we can still win! Don’t give up!”

After opening announcements, play got going at 7.40 pm and it took only half an hour for the Caterpillar to open their account. A second win followed nine minutes later, but by now, Ashley called to his colleagues with heavy irony “We’re only a rook down on this board – we can still win! Don’t give up!” That was Board 12, David Smith. While the Caterpillar indeed struggled on for a while, making what counterplay they could, they soon had to bow to the the inevitable, and David recorded the Club’s first point at 8.42. Old hands at this lark will know that David usually does well against the Caterpillar.

The Caterpillar put this reverse behind them by winning the next three games to finish, including a fine rook sacrifice against Philip, before having to give best to Mark Murrell, having gone a piece down and getting nothing for it. Score: Club 2-5 Caterpillar (9.19 pm).

“I think you have the best position in the room!”

Once more, this blip was overcome, with the next four results taking the Caterpillar to a 9-2 lead before John Jestico, like David before him a rook up, accepted the Caterpillar’s resignation. A win on 14, took the score to 10-3, which left one game in play, that against Matthias. Ashley had passed opinion on this game at an early juncture, informing Matthias “I think you have the best position in the room!” – and he wasn’t talking about Matthias’ seating arrangement. This game was keenly contested all evening and came down to a minor piece ending where Matthias had a few extra pawns which, however, were likely to get rounded up, though the Caterpillar had to keep an eye on the passed Black d-pawn. With all three now clustered around Matthias’ board, but having to keep in strict rotation without conferring, the position slowly reduced to K v K and B and a drawn position.

So an excellent evening’s event finished with a win for the Caterpillar with the excellent score of 10½-3½. Champions indeed!

Download: Champions Caterpillar (pdf)

Mark’s Gallery

All pictures by Mark Murrell. Click on any thumbnail to open slide show, then navigate either by ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons above the slides, or simply click on each picture for the next one. Left and right arrows on your keyboard (if you’re using one) work just as well.