From Zero to Hero…

24 hours in the Chess World of Lord Clueless

“Always look on the bright side of life, always look on the bright side of life…”

In the week that has seen the passing of the comic genius that was Python Terry Jones, the words from the song finale at the end of “Life of Brian” have been echoing in my head.

It is a perfect song to ensure that you sometimes keep all matters in life in perspective, but it is a particularly apt response to the chess curveballs that Caissa can throw at you.

Caissa, that fickle chess God, can bring you so low and then let you soar. 

So, read on for the Clueless version of a Kiefer Sutherland Chess 24 (too many puns – ed).

On Monday night I turned out for Hammer 2 in the Middlesex League against the might of Albany in the heart of Fitzrovia.

Playing board 4 against a wily opponent, Chris Todd (graded 169), I basically played like a patzer. After equalising quite easily against 1.f4 (Bird’s Opening), unfortunately complacency set in and I did not pursue control of the e4 square. I then fell into a pin and dropped a piece. The rest of the game was excruciatingly bad and painful to watch. Definitely not Lord Clueless’s finest hour. Hammer 2 went down 5.5-2.5, with wins for Jeremy and Liam (the latter’s play was outstanding) and a draw for Laurie (particularly galling as his resolute play should have been better rewarded).

Not a great night for Clueless and the Hammer Crew.

The next night saw Clueless at our new venue, the Young Chelsea Bridge Club, with a manic night ahead. We had two eight-board matches, the junior hour and a club night to put on. Plus, the inevitable flow of potential new members, coupled with the teaching debut of the dynamic due of Christof and Jim for Junior Hour.

Christof putting the juniors through their paces at the practice board

A full plate was on for a morose Lord Clueless, who was still angry with his pathetic play form the night before.

This was the biggest night so far at our new venue, with probably 60 people attending, including parents and juniors and a lot to organise.

Redemption can sometimes come from the strangest source and this was the case this night. Our IM Mark did not appear and hence we had a gap on Board One against a very strong Ealing team. In the Thames Valley League the default is 30 minutes. Time was ticking.

Adam, our Secretary, approached me and asked if I would step in – I grabbed the moment.

Before we get to the game, I must pay tribute to my opponent Phil Makepeace – an absolute gent, sportsman, and a credit to Ealing Chess Club. He was generous in his post-match comments, and said how much he enjoyed the game.

My thought process whenever I play somebody who is 200-plus, which is pretty rare, is to take them out of their comfort zone. The premise being that they will crush me in main line theory – they know so much more – hence give them something they have not seen before.

This was the result:

The game was the last to finish, and a time scramble meant that not all the moves are there. In the end I was able to force a draw through repetition. The board at this stage was surrounded by both Ealing and Hammer players, willing both of us on. It was tense.

I definitely missed a win – if g4 had been played in the last few moves recorded, I would have had a decisive advantage. C’est la vie!

The draw ensured Hammer drew the match; Clueless had saved the day. Redemption was assured, and Clueless was the victim of several thank-you pints of beer!

This is the allure of chess – within 24 hours you can go from zero to here – from playing like a patzer to playing like a 200 plus player – that is why I love this beautiful game.

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