Green and Gold

It's all about that...

Green and Gold

Ideally, I should write these just after the event, when things are fresh in my mind and not almost a week later. So, I must apologise to both the last winner of the BCL Indy, Gavyn Cooper and now Henrik Stepanyan, winner of the VIII BCL Individual, 3+2, weekly, blitz tournament, for poor articles. They deserve at least a decent write-up, their name in lights – even if it is on a newly formed website hardly anyone is likely to visit.

It was a sunny, Saturday afternoon in late May where thirty-six players with an average rating of 1966 met on lichess.org and played, between them, precisely 250 games of chess.

green and gold feature

All were there, of course, for the green and the gold. I’m not talking about anything illegal or even particularly valuable, but, rather, the green and the gold that signifies arena points. The green for a win and then the gold for a winning streak. At least, that’s how it looks for me using the lichess.org dark mode. I have dark mode on everything these days. Even the screenwriting software I use (plug for the free and great Scenarist).

Henrik Stepanyan managed two six-win streaks as well as a four-win streak out of nineteen games, ensuring a very comfortable win, fifteen points behind his nearest rival and second-place podium finisher, Ropie, an LSG player who quipped that it must feel different to not have an LSG player win for a change. I’m pretty sure we’ve never had an LSG winner of the individual. However, should more of their players enter, I’m sure that would change. Ropie had a ropey journey and couldn’t quite find his streak swing. A great performance no less!

Third-place podium finisher, Friarnator, also had a great tournament and obtained a handful of green and gold with, at one point, a seven-win streak. He played fewer games but had an excellent 71% win rate.

Chalah, Finlay, and DagdaTheClt were very close behind 3rd place but couldn’t quite do it. Chalah had an amazing no-loss streak at the end. After losing his first four he didn’t lose again for 12 games. He’s been doing great things lately. Finlay and DagdaTheClt both had an over 50% berserk rate as they sought podium finishes with sheer lunacy. Whenever I think of Berserkers, I’m put in mind of the old Celt warriors who would show up naked to fight, or the Scots who would lift their kilts to terrify their opponents before battle. Well, it would make one think.

Last week’s winner, Gavyn Cooper also had a high berserk rate but couldn’t manage better than joint 7th with Phil Zabrocki – himself a podium-contender.

This week though was all about Henrik. Losing only once (to Friarnator), he smashed his way through all of the contenders, proving himself the best player there. A grandmaster without the need of a federation title to prove it. It’s an honour to have him and players like him smashing us to pieces every week. It’s players like him that show us we still have a lot to learn. Long may it continue!

Week 2, Season 1

Season 1, Battle 2

Wow! What a night Battle 2 turned out to be. There seemed all to play for as Bischwiller, not content with the introduction of team champion, GM Etienne Bacrot last week, introduced another in the form of GM Arkadij Naiditsch. Surely tonight there was now a team who could challenge the masterful LSG?

As I play too, it can be hard, through the fog of war, to remember or even be aware of the progression of each team. I wish I was in on all of the stories, the individual battles, the victories snatched from the jaws of defeat, but I can only write from my own perspective.

So that is why I will begin with Halesowen. We were in 3rd place for such a long time throughout the battle that I had gotten a little too comfortable with it. My own performance was lacklustre and that I finished as 5th top scorer shows that we need to strengthen if we are to survive week upon week. Thankfully, the other players pulled their weight. Dave Bissell playing as BexB, John Edge, playing as diagonaliser – who I’m sure was pleased with his draw against 2500+ FraGer68 from the Bischwiller team. Fearless_Finlay finished as the team’s second lead scorer but still felt he underperformed despite drawing a game with the maestro that is LSGeneraal from the LSG team. It was GM Keith Arkell’s night as, clearly in his element, he stood at Halesowen’s head, and held his place with some of the best players in the world.

I remember wondering if Vasteras would fall at one point as they seemed to be struggling in the relegation zone. I watched the same thing happen to Roy Rene last week when a few of their superstar players were missing. The next thing I know, Vasteras had fought their way into 3rd position by the end of the tournament. A solid line-up of 5 leaders with scores from 22-30 helped keep them a head above the chasing pack. Well done to captain, Jonas Granath, the on-the-night Vasteras champion, Johan Nordebrink, and the rest of the battle-hardened Swedish team for another great performance.

Liverpool was in the relegation zone for a while and, toward the end, they managed to fight their way to 3rd as pointed out by one of the team’s jubilant players in the chat at one point. Liverpool held it well from then on, only slipping a little to 4th by the time it was all over. Again a solid front line, helped a team hold a place in the 1st 10. A proper team of battlers with a real sense of pride for their club that drives them onto great things. You cannot buy passion like that, you’re born into it. Truly amazing to see.

With it being Kings Head CC’s first time in the 1st 10, I did wonder which way they would go. A team with such a prestigious history deserves to do well and I wanted them to do well. They didn’t disappoint. They pulled a solid team which proved just strong enough to finish 1 point above the relegation zone. Now that they know the lay of the land, we may see a stronger Kings Head team next week.

It was shame for Wolverhampton, their champion on the night, Nat Paul scored exceptionally high, standing shoulder to shoulder with many masters. The rest of the team didn’t perform badly either, it’s just they lacked that extra bit of sparkle that would have edged them into safety. A 2-point win was all that separated them from Kings Head.

Lewisham’s die-hard battlers couldn’t find the firepower and ended up in last place. Isle of Wight had GM Bogdan Lalic line up, but then he left without playing a game. The rest of the team performed admirably but couldn’t do enough to stay up. Malahide yet again join Lewisham in the Contenders where both teams have the chance to win that division.

This night though, was really only about two teams. First, the mighty Bischwiller, growing from strength to strength they have fought their way from the bottom almost to the very top. Their wiley captain, Arnaud Ogier, put forward a fabulous and star-studded team consisting of none other than Super GMs Etienne Bacrot and Arkadij Naiditsch. There was also a 2500 player from super team Baden-Baden in attendance. Surely this firepower would be enough to propel Bischwiller to the prized number one spot!

Bischwiller Line-up

However, LSG, a team of masters, had other plans. They are not used to coming second to anybody and their top scorer, LSGeneraal, a champion’s champion, scored an out-of-this-world 72 arena points. The second-placed individual player, GM Etienne Bacrot scored 42, itself a superstar score. Can there be anyone to challenge the mighty LSGeneraal? Will LSG win every battle so convincingly?

What a Kill List from LSGeneraal. Rumours abound as to who this masked man is. Word is, he is a newly crowned Dutch Grandmaster and we are truly honoured by his presence. Long may he continue to slaughter us all at ease. However, we must have him challenged. Another like him must be found, if only to keep things interesting.

Hereis the final 10 individual standings. As you can see, LSGneraal stands several shoulders above the rest.

IM Ameet Ghasi returned for Sutton Coldfield after their relegation last week, bringing them back to full strength where along with the mighty Henrik Stepanyan, they were expected to top the Contenders. However, Roy Rene, also relegated last week, were also back to full strength with their champion FM Yesaiedo, a top 100 ultrabullet player, berserking his way through all opposition. Roy Rene had three champion players, joining FM Yesaiedo was Kapinovo and FM UnSinge2700. The three of them ensured Roy Rene finished convincingly in 1st place, 48 points ahead of Sutton Coldfield in 2nd. Every head in the 1st 10 should glance over their shoulder to look at the might of Roy Rene. For if they come at full strength next week, our place there is even more in question.

The fun does not stop there. Two more teams, this time from Eastern Europe in the form of Polish side, Kujawsko – Pomorski Związek Szachowy and Мурманский областной шахматный интернет-клуб, a team from the Murmansk region of Russia, both topped the Final Stage division very convincingly. They have some very strong players and may perhaps be able to turn out even stronger. We shall see.

Onward we ride, to battle 3.

Cooper’s Coup

Cooper's Coup

Gavyn Cooper tops a trio of fresh podium finishers in the 7th BCL Individual Blitz Tournament. GM Keith Arkell finished in 5th place and last week’s winner, Finlay Bowcott-Terry, in 7th.

Above Keith, Billybob, a Liverpool youngster, finished in 4th, scalping the likes of Finlay, Nat Paul, and Chalah along the way. A talent of the future, for sure.

I think this was Botahoofd (LSG’s captain) first time at the event and he certainly made his mark. Losing only two games, one to GM Keith Arkell and the other to Chalah, he nestled nicely into the 3rd spot, winning 80% of his games. A great finish from the mystery man!

Gavyn Cooper in 1st place. 

It takes hard work to get here.

An impressive sheet stretching over 16 games.

In second place was one of the Friar brothers who had a superb tournament. With a 2311 performance rating, he beat both Finlay and Keith! His only falls were to Boterhoofd, Dagdatheclt, and PhilZabrocki. I’m sure he’s over the moon with his performance and so he should be.

But this day was Gavyn’s, and nobody was going to stop him taking the top podium spot. GM Keith Arkell was Gavyn’s only loss and his only draw from 16 blitz games. Winning 14 with a performance rating of 2396! Couple that with the esteemed company he was playing amongst and the feat is even more amazing.

It was a great tournament, only made possible by the participants, so thanks to everyone for making it what it is.

Dustin Bowcott

The 1st Battle

Season 1 Battle 1

Even online, there is a certain tension as players take their places. The click through the other teams, checking out their strength, gauging the eventual winner, and then our own standing. Will our team have to fight to survive? Have all of our players arrived? It’s different when playing for your team, there’s more at stake. It’s not only personal pride we fight for but also, for the pride of the team. It’s nothing like a real battle, of course, or even a fight between football hooligans, but the feeling, the buzz as you virtually stand side-by-side with your team mates is surely similar.

The final minute counts down and the buzz intensifies, like electricity. Some can’t contain it and emit war cries that, in the chess world, translate to contained ‘good luck all’ and ‘good games all’ messages in the chat. And then, the hush as the final few seconds tick down. Which way will the excitement take us tonight? Will we be nervous during our first game, assured, excited, or will we go b-b-b-berserk!? We ready our weapons of choice; maybe a highly sensitive gaming mouse, or touchpad, even a finicky phone, or, in my case, a wireless mouse with a tendency to need a new battery during the middle of a game. However, it is a sacrifice I am prepared to make to remain wire free.

The board and pieces flash up and we are in the first game. Lichess generously allow some time to compose ourselves before making the first move but this also causes apprehension when we play our first move quickly and then… our opponent sits there. Come on! What are you going to do? This or that? Then I do this, or that. You hover over the pieces you usually move and then they play… of course, you’re hovering over the wrong piece so you must adjust, losing valuable hundredths of seconds.

After ever victory or defeat, we are shown the leaderboard. The anger as we see our team losing or a weaker team mate is performing better! The urge to get back into the fight to add those valuable arena points that mean more than rating, and, also, to prove our place in the team. Whether the team is relegated or not, we must prove our worth.

The 1st 10 battle, of the very first (proper) 10-week season, was a story of surprises. Sutton, the winner of the previous week’s preliminary battle was this time relegated. Their champion from the week before, IM Ameet Ghasi, did not play and this was visible not only from the final team score but the lowered morale as the others players did not play to the standard they’re capable of. After battling so many times, it will be a strange 1st 10 not having them there, and if we go down and they go up after Battle 2, it may take a while before we get chance again.

Another surprise drop was Roy Rene, a strong team who I expected to do well and even compete for the top spot. Perhaps they underestimated their opposition. I’m sure that now they know the strength of the field, we will see a different Roy Rene over the coming weeks.

Bischwiller, on the other hand, surprised upon previous weeks. I honestly had them pipped to go down to the Contenders where they would find a permanent home. But no, Bischwiller introduced a champion in the form of Etienne Bacrot, playing under the handle, Alphachecs. His presence improved the morale, showing once again the value in having a champion player on every team. I hope we get to see more of him. Credit to the captain for strengthening the team. It made all the difference.

Only 5 points separated 3rd from 7th, meaning any one of us could have hit the 7th spot and relegation. It could so easily have been 3rd-place Halesowen and not Roy Rene. For Halesowen, an old war dog and former board one now emigrated, finished ahead of both their usual champion, GM Keith Arkell and their fourteen-year-old junior star, Finlay Bowcott-Terry. The wiley introduction of FM Nick Thomas, scoring valuable points (as it happens, 5 more than the next leading scorer), along with a solid front line of even-scoring players eventually ensured that Halesowen survived… this time.

Finishing one point below Halesowen, Wolverhampton, a team led by Phil Bull, had a similar story to Halesowen’s. Their solid front line, including Nat Paul, Gavin Cooper, and their champion on the night, Phil Zabrocki helped them survive.

I feel a little bad for Liverpool. I have awarded them a league point, but I am going to take it away again as I have a new method of deciding draws that will entail the champions from either side, or a nominated other, playing a 3|0 blitz game to decide the winner. As this can mean the difference between relegation and not, this should be sorted out by playing chess and not an equation. As with Halesowen and Wolverhampton, Liverpool Chess Club, had a solid front line in their players like James Friar, a former Kidderminster and Wolverhampton League player, who fought just hard enough to stay out of relegation.

And what of the first two teams? Vasteras were a level above the chasing pack. Their campion on the night, CM Ludwig Carlsson led an impressive line-up including players such as, Erik Norberg, Karl Magnusson, André Nilsson (a lichess top 50 crazyhouse player), and Peter Bergström. But even their impressive strength could not compete with the eventual battle 1 winner, LSG.

LSG, led by Boterhoofd and championed by LSGeneraal, put forward an impressive team of 2300+ players. Other teams could only look on in awe as the LSG players lined up to play. We were like helpless villagers with pitchforks against a gun-toting army. It was brutal. Only Vasteras was able to get close.

Four excellent teams in the form of Kings Head, Malahide, Isle of Wight, and former preliminary league number 1, the Lewisham Lewnatics will ensure Battle 2 is very exciting. Perhaps one of them will be able to take on the might of LSG.

From the Final Stage arena, Warley Quinborne and Cornella move into the Contender ranks. Will the relegated teams rise again? What of the promoted teams? Do they have what it takes to make it into the 1st 10?

by 
Dustin Bowcott

Season 1

The League Has Formed

Possibly a bit of a rubbish title, and if that survives the edit, it means I haven’t thought of anything better. The league has formed. From its humble start of 13 teams, buzzing because we were stretched over 2 divisions – not full divisions but two necessary divisions, all the same – it has grown to 33 and stretches over 4 arenas.

After a preliminary season, I am happy that a correct-ish balance has been struck and that teams are either in the right division or in prime striking distance of achieving the division they’re meant to be in. With promotion and relegation each week, a team’s rise and fall can happen very quickly. So, I’m hoping everyone will be happy, and if they aren’t this week, then they should be next. Otherwise, I’d just be clashing teams forever. I estimated it would take 10 weeks but I also had other plans in mind regarding the structure. The scoring system has been figured out and is the same one as before, only reversed. So, the lower teams score points and the aim is to remain on zero. Promoted teams to a new division will start with 0. This is to protect teams who may start in the Contenders (or lower) and move up. A team has to be in a single arena 5 times to win it, and it goes on.

As teams all battle each other during one night, it is essentially an entire season, this means that teams will be relegated and promoted each week. It took me a while longer than it perhaps should have to arrive at that conclusion. I had seen that some European countries were already operating their own internal leagues but I hadn’t bothered to look at how they were doing it. I assumed they didn’t have any structure. And the beauty of it is, they didn’t. It was simple. They promoted and relegated every week. I’d completely missed it and had to wait for the cogs of my own mind to finally turn to the idea. One thing they don’t have though is a complicated scoring system!

As I write, there is less than 22 hours until the season begins and the main thing on my mind at this very moment, is whether 5 arena appearances is enough to entitle a team to win a leaderboard. Perhaps I should make it six?

Fearless Finlay on Fire!

On Fire, wins sixth Blitz Chess League Individual

I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout while having to compete with the ECF national Blitz tournament. Who, with a massive prize fund of £800 (sarcastic cough) up for grabs and some of the best players in the country participating, would pull a large crowd. I was going to run it alongside and concentrate on our European team members, but several English players who were playing in the ECF tournament, asked me not to. They wanted to play in this one as well! I was sceptical, it was a lot to expect players to finish the ECF tournament at 4, play mine at 5 till 7, and then play round 2 of the ECF tourney at 8. But play they did! 

Henrik flagged early but he did play very well at the ECF tournament so hopefully, this one helped him unwind a little in between. He certainly didn’t perform to his usual standard. I think this is the first time he has missed a podium finish. His support, as ever, is well received!

Keith wasn’t going to play at first and mentioned getting some sun. Unfortunately for Keith, but great for us, it was too windy outside and Keith agreed to play after all. He came a game late but then went on a 6-game winning streak, only being halted by Henrik. Meanwhile, Finlay was on his own 6-win berserk streak, adding an all-important extra arena point each time. He topped that off with a 7th win, using full time, against Henrik. After that his streak was halted dead in its tracks by Nat Paul, the eventual 3rd place podium finisher. Keith’s slow but steady pace, and a high win percentage almost paid off against Finlay’s gung-ho berserk spree. Toward the end, Finlay dropped game after game, berserking more to compensate for losses like a hungry gambler. Keith kept plodding along until eventually the tournament timer ticked down to the end and Keith was just two points shy of catching him.

It was also nice to see Gerry from Malahide, several Halesowen members also showing their support, along with Phil Bull – 10th place finisher, and Chris Lewis. Lots of players from other Blitz league clubs like Grobalkorn and many, many others. I’m looking forward to getting to know all of you better. Thank you to all who participate.

BCL Indy V – Flynn’s Rampage!

Podium finishers of the fifth Blitz Chess League Independent 3|2

I’m not going to be able to keep up with articles to the level I’d like as I’m too busy setting up the Blitz League. But this Independent 3|2 blitz was a good one and something must be written!
Despite the winner of the last 4 Indys being unable to attend, we had a record turnout of 52 entries. This is in large part due to an influx of teams from France, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden.

The top ten players came from Malahide, Sutton, Halesowen, Liverpool, Warley, Cornella, and Wolverhampton. Another top performance from Finlay Bowcott-Terry, a 14-year-old England star, and Halesowen player, finishing in third.

On paper, with Keith Arkell away, it looked like it would be Henrik’s day. Maybe streamer nerves, technical issues, or just having a bad start and being outplayed, Henrik lost his first game to pirategav. Despite playing brilliantly from then onward, Henrik just couldn’t make it and the Sutton Coldfield player had to settle for second place.

The star of the show, Malahide’s Jacob Flynn, won his first game against Venezuelan FM Alexander Hernandez Jimenez and didn’t look back. He went on a rampage of 10 straight wins before suffering his first loss. He won his next game, but then lost the next. At this point, it looked as though Henrik or Finlay might catch him. But Jacob regained his composure and won the next four games, sealing a tremendous victory!

BCL Indy III

GM Keith Arkell once again retains the crown but this time found himself up against two very stiff competitors in the form of Henrik Stepanyan of Sutton Coldfield Chess Club and Finlay Bowcott-Terry of Halesowen Chess Club. A mere three points separated 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

Twenty-two entrants is a record if only down to beating the first tournament by one. Even so, I felt that the tourney dragged at times. A couple of times it took a few minutes to get a game which, in an arena, can be a little frustrating as you just want to grab as many points as you can. Time is of the essence! So, hopefully, we can get a few more in for the next one and have a faster turnover of games.

My own performance isn’t worth mentioning – when is it ever in these tourneys? I do so much better when I don’t organise them myself, for some reason. However, there were some notable ones from others. The first time entry of Peter Chaplin, a very strong Bristolian who I’m sure was pleased not only with 6th place but also in beating a GM. Others who also managed to kill Keith’s streaks were Henrik, Dadgathecelt, Finlay, and Chalah. And of those, only Finlay gained the distinction of beating Keith twice.

Christopher Lewis not only had a great performance but has possibly staked a claim for the most amount of blitz games in a 90-minute period. I haven’t called The Guinness Book of World Records yet as I assume they call me? It was nice also to welcome Dave Tipper, secretary of the Bristol League and would be great to have him, along with Peter, back again.

Thanks to all the players who took part. Without you, it just wouldn’t be as much fun!

Blitz Chess League – 0101

The 15th April 2020 saw the first matches of the very first Blitz Chess League season. With only 10 teams manageable at a time by the Lichess servers, we quickly had to come up with another plan to accommodate teams that wanted to play. We didn’t like the idea of having separate divisions and honestly could not see how that would work anyway. So, we decided that teams would have to be split over two arenas and swap and change each week – with all playing all a fairly equal number of times.
A great beginning to the season saw 13 teams and a total of 100 players show up to compete. Despite agreeing to play, Redditch didn’t produce a team – leaving six teams competing in Arena 2.

Arena 1 looked to be the strongest and hardest fought. How that will change in the coming weeks, however, nobody can know. The likes of Hammersmith and Hackney have huge teams and could turn up with an army far stronger. So, perhaps it is a little too early to be judging anything.

English Blitz Chess League - Arena 1 results.

The best performing team over both arenas was Wolv in Arena 2. A team captained by Phil Bull, or ModusQ, and what a team it is, containing some real powerhouses from the Midlands chess scene. Wolv was close to doubling the trailing team’s (my own team, Halesowen) score with 122 to 70! Their champion on the night was pirategav with an impressive 44 tournament points but with the strength of their team, it seems any one of their players could pull off the same feat if caught on the right night.

English Chess Blitz League - Arena 2

Lewisham and Isle of Wight were the two teams in hot contention for the top spot in Arena 1. When the dust had settled, Lewisham, placing first, had two champions in the form of JudeTheDeadMan who went 62% berserk, and the more sedate but assured, vjones1. They helped Lewisham take first place by adding 61 of the team’s 93 points. Isle of Wight was close behind, largely due to the outstanding performance of their champion, GM Bogdan Lalic, the top player over both arenas, scoring 45 individual points.

Sutton Coldfield’s champion, Henrik_95, earned 37 team points (almost half his team’s score) but had to settle for Sutton finishing fourth. A team of their calibre finishing fourth shows just how tough the lineup was in Arena 1.

Rugeley‘s champion on the night, RyanWood, a 1400-rated blitz player, had some amazing results. He took down several higher-rated players – even managing to defeat a player 700 rating points above him. I’ll leave names out of it in this case, but they are easily discovered by clicking through the Arena 2 stats on Lichess. Ryan finished 17th and you’ll find him on page 2.

Hackney played with just one player for quite a while before two more showed up to help out. With more teammates showing support, Hackney managed to climb the table to finish 3rd – due in large part to their champion on the night, CormoranKR who scored 30 of their 58 points. Halesowen will be sharing an arena again with them next week and I wonder if things will be different next time?

Click here to see the league after round one.

The teams in Arena 1 next week: Lewisham, Isle of Wight, Muswell Hill, Sutton Coldfield, Wolv, Halesowen (gulp), and Hackney.

The teams in Arena 2 will be: South Birmingham, Chester, Warley, Athenaeum, Hammersmith, and Rugeley.

The BCL Indy II

Keith Arkell takes the EBCL Indy II crown.

GM Keith Arkell once again mixed it with some of the strongest Blitz players from the West Midlands in the BCL Indy II. Completely stealing the show and staking his claim as the best blitz player in the West Midlands, Keith finished well above his nearest rivals, Henrik Stepanyan and Phil Zabrocki.

The podium finishers from the EBCL Indy II

Keith played far faster than everyone else and dipped his win percentage in favour of more games and greater tournament points. His tactic worked and meant that he finished twenty-three points clear of Henrik and twenty-four points clear of Phil Zabrocki.

Top ten players from the EBCL Indy II

I think all eyes were on roshimaster after his lightning performance during the warm-up team blitz battle on Wednesday but he played a little more sedately this tournament and finished in 4th place just ahead of Finlay by tiebreaker.

Welcome new participant, Phil Zabrocki came very close to equalling Henrik’s score, who knows what difference another few minutes would have made but Henrik always seems to somehow manage to snatch that little extra edge that keeps him ahead of the chasing pack and on top in pole position when Keith isn’t playing!

Nat Paul went 13% berserk and was the only other player aside from Keith to do so. However, Keith topped that by going 55% berserk and racking up two three-game streaks.

It was nice to see some new players this week, hopefully for the next one we can get some of the others back from the week before and have a record entry.

It’s only worth organising these events if people are willing to play, so thank you all.