Kirby Castlers
chess pieces

Kirby Castlers is a friendly Leicestershire chess club which meets every Thursday evening throughout the year. We play in the Kirby Muxloe Bowls Club clubhouse, so why not drop in one Thursday evening and enjoy a quiet game of chess with us?

If you are used to competitive chess or if you just want a friendly game, if you feel a bit rusty or are an absolute beginner, you will always find a warm welcome waiting for you at Kirby Castlers.

07/Nov/2017 - John - Update 2 The 2017 AGM was held at our normal time of the year on 22 June 2017.
At the AGM it was decided that due to our diminished strike force it would be sensible to only field 2 teams for the 2017/18 season in divisions 3 and 5 respectively. Our diminished strike force was due to the loss of the twins Ian & Fraser who were lured by other interests of a more attractive nature, Geoff White who was unable to continue due to ill health and Tom Brown whom the club had helped and encouraged since he started playing. Needless to say that club members were sad that Tom allowed himself to be poached by Richard who persuaded him to play his league chess for Braunstone. Que Sera Sera.
Although some might say that we have sufficient reason to feel otherwise, the truth is,
KCCC is happy for both Tom and Richard to continue using the club to play friendly games either with other club members or between themselves.

Shortly after the LRCA had arranged the league fixtures our strike force was more than adequately replenished when we were joined by John Whitmore, Osian Apgarth, Kevin Dalley and Richard Smith, this was very good news and they were all welcomed in our customary way; with open arms and warm hearts.
However, in order to accommodate the desire for league chess for all of our members, we were then faced with trying to get another team admitted to the league at the very last minute; it was touch and go whether it would be possible to include another team at this late stage, but our thanks should go to all the league officials whose unanimous co-operation ensured that we do indeed have 3 teams playing league chess again this season. We should also thank Ray Townsend for contacting all the teams we will be vying with this season to arrange the inserted fixture dates. The only down side is that we have 2 teams in division 5 and none in division 4, but bearing in mind that the LRCA reduced the number of divisions from 6 to 5 for the 2016/17 season onwards, KCCC is happy with the outcome.

Regretfully it was noted that the club championship trophy which had previously been considered to be temporarily misplaced whilst in the custody of Ewan, had indeed now to be accepted as permanently lost. We strongly suspect that the custodian has already felt personal remorse over this episode and being mindful of the circumstances prevailing at that time, we wish to make it very clear that there are no aspersions, recriminations, insinuations repercussions or anything else emanating from the club attaching to the loss of this trophy.
However we feel that it would be wrong not to mention its departure without acknowledging the fact that it would have been the envy of every chess club in the British Isles.
Being made entirely of solid brass and hand crafted to a very high standard, the writer can recall when it first arrived at the club and he tried to casually lift it up with one hand, fortunately for him he was quick enough to grab it with his other hand as well, before it had completely managed to slip from his grasp and amputate his toes. The jokes about the first winner of this trophy having to rush home to reinforce his mantelpiece, etc etc were all well founded.
Anyway it was indeed a magnificent one-off trophy and we are all sorry a to see it go, especially the previous winners whose names are proudly inscribed on it, but we will take pride in our wins and make light of our losses, sob, sob, as we look forward to another season of playing this incredible game.

Of the 3 teams we entered for the 2016/17 season, in divisions 3, 4, and 5 respectively, the first and third teams in divisions 3 and 5 would both have been runners up if the final league placings had been printed in reverse order. 'The first shall be last sayeth the Lord' presumably the same applies to second place, in which case these two results could possibly be construed as good, albeit somewhat disguised.
But then…the second team, who were remember, runners up in the previous season and once again ably captained by Jim Cowley (whose fingers are still numb from gripping the club championship trophy in 2011) amazingly did what nobody except Jim thought was attainable, he forced his men on to heights they hadn't realised they were capable of, as they beat their nearest rivals Ashby by one point to secure the fourth division title. Such was Jim's determination to win yet another cup to adorn his reinforced mantelpiece.
Well Done! To all the team for so many very good individual successes.

On 26 September 2017 the LRCA annual presentation was attended by the writer who went to collect the Cup and individual medals for the second team's league success, Jim Cowley was unable to attend due to a calf injury, which unfortunately still persists today. I was safely escorted by Dave Walton and Gijs Kruitbosch who were both very instrumental in securing top position and keen to hold their trophy aloft amid the clamour and cheers with blinding camera flashlights going off all around them, so imagine their disappointment, when KCCC's turn came to be presented with their cup, guess what?…….Heathcote, the previous winners could not return the trophy because they had lost it. Yes! Some things are just not meant to be Eh?
Only four individual medals were handed out by the LRCA, one each to my two disappointed escorts, one to Eddie Hill and one to Jim Cowley. Jim will find his waiting for him at the clubhouse when his calf injury has improved sufficiently for him to get there. Sadly there were no medals for Paul (1/1) and Ray (3/3) but we appreciate the minor roles they both played.

Finally to bring this resume up to date the, team that we entered for the Birstall Cup finished their season on 14 September 2017 with a dramatic final at home against an extremely strong side from Syston, narrowly losing by 3 - 3½ that seems reasonably impressive so long as nobody mentions the 2½ point handicap that we started with. Ahh Well! There's always tomorrow.
28/Oct/2017 - John - Update 1 The lead in the writers pencil snapped on the 3-May-16 and the writer who had been saving hard for almost a year and a half to buy a pencil sharpener, suddenly realised that he could sharpen his pencil with his Stanley knife, which obviously has a somewhat keener cutting edge and is more up to the task than the writer himself. Anyway for those of you who have an hour or two to spare, all the major events that have occurred during the “broken lead period” will follow on from here albeit maybe in several sessions.

The 2016 AGM was held somewhat later than usual on the 8 September 2016 for three reasons firstly because we were delayed in completing the club tournaments, secondly we were waiting for the club championship trophy to be returned before the presentations could be made and most importantly the lead in writer’s pencil was still broken during that time.

At the meeting it was decided that for the 2016/17 season we would submit three teams in the LRCA league one team in each of divisions 3, 4, and 5.
After some discussion about the price, bolstered by a belief that they would somehow make us all play better chess, a motion was carried to purchase six digital clocks. With the benefit of hindsight this turned out to be a grave error of judgement, because not only has the ECF recently offered brand new high quality digital clocks to league clubs at less than half price, but because the only players who have played better chess since we bought them have been our opponents.

Of the 4 teams that we entered for the 2015/16 season, in divisions 3,4,5 and 6 respectively, 3 of them had every reason to be optimistic for the coming season, whereas the second team playing in division 4 after a very close run battle for top spot finished a lamentable yet very creditable 1 point behind the winners.

The 2017 AGM was held at our normal time of the tear on 22 June 2017.
to be continued ……………
29/Sep/2017 - Ewan - This site is not dead! New content coming soon from old stagers. Also, the results and fixtures page no longer works after a change of webmaster at LRCA. Sigh. I'll try to get that going again when I have more time.
02/May/2016 - Ewan - Results and Fixtures Due to various life circumstances I haven't been able to add any burbling nonsense to this site for a while. A nation rejoices. However, I have linked in to the data provided by Michael Fraser, who writes the code for the Leicestershire and Rutland Chess Association, so forthcoming fixtures and recent results should now magically appear on this site.
26/Jul/2015 - Ewan - Peter Shaw, RIP My recollection of a typical Peter chess game is this: I'd get well on top in the first half of the game, but in the second half of the game I'd struggle to make my advantage count. Like the Spartans at Thermopylae, though with somewhat less homo-erotic semi-nudity, Pete would mount a ridiculously stubborn defence on which my vastly outnumbered forces would founder. Eventually we'd settle for a draw, and I'd be left scratching my head while he grinned.

Pete didn't like short games of chess. He was the anti-Eddie. Pete was in it for the long haul, enjoying the mental grind of it, the joy of complex calculation. He wasn't the best player in the club, and he wasn't the worst: he just liked to come along each week and play his game.

Demonstrating that cancer has no sense of narrative convention, Pete's final checkmate at the hands of the disease was actually quite swift. No long, drawn-out defence against impossible odds this time. But then, this brute cancer doesn't take one's pieces in a chivalrous, gentlemanly manner, and really doesn't deserve the honour of the game.

Pete's sad demise has left the whole club shocked. Our best wishes and sympathies to his widow Catherine, and to all those who have been touched by his life.
21/Jun/2015 - Ewan - 2015 AGM Last Thursday saw the AGM of Kirby Castlers Chess Club. As usual, this was a star-studded gala event compered by Miley Cyrus and with a fly-past by the Red Arrows. But once all the crowd-pleasing celebrity turns were over, talk turned to the successes of last year.

The 1st team of course came top of Division 4, gaining promotion to Division 3. Meanwhile, the 2nd team came a very creditable 6th in the same division, avoiding the relegation zone. The 3rd team gained an excellent 3rd place in Division 5, and the 4th team allowed our lower-graded players a lot of valuable experience in Division 6, making its overall placing entirely immaterial.

It was decided, after a lot of discussion which ranged over the minutiae of the league’s ‘barred players’ rules, that next year we would continue with four teams, even though this will require a certain amount of doubling-up initially. This means that any new players joining the club throughout the new season can be given league experience in one of the teams without depriving an established player of the opportunity.

The trophy for best league performance was a three-way tie between Lewis Turner, John Skelly and Thomas brown, each of whom achieved an amazing 75% win rate. John Walker might have taken the trophy outright, but his migratory habits meant that he didn’t quite play enough games to qualify. Incidentally, it was also noted that the youthful Thomas recently took part in the Leicestershire under-18 competition and won all of his six games, which made us both proud and glad that we wouldn’t have to be playing against him in the league next season. He also bagged a new club trophy for lower-graded players, which was christened the ‘Castlers’.

The officers for last season were all voted in again for this season, even where they didn’t want to be, and a binding blood-oath was taken by all that more people than the over-worked and under-conscientious webmaster would write updates for the website. So watch this space!
10/Jan/2015 - Ewan - Misha Impossible As a kid I was pretty good at football. I might have been good as an adult too, if instead of kicking a ball about I hadn’t devoted most of my childhood years to reading science fiction and eating pineapple chunks. But as a kid, well, I can still remember what it was like, when I was on form… one quick look up from the ball presenting the game both as puzzle and solution… a distant player’s misjudged stance a fulcrum on which a game can be turned… each mazy run with the ball a heady dance of leverage and misdirection.

Anyway, last Thursday we hosted a new player, Misha. She used to be good, really good, as a kid, but hasn’t played for some years. And those years away from the game showed, as they do now when I try to take to the football field (though, to be fair, she wasn’t red-faced and swearing after two minutes effort). But there were moments when you could see some old magic coalescing, and it was clear she was seeing the game in a way that I don’t think that I will ever achieve.

Misha is, I think, coming to play some league matches with us as a way of getting back into the game - when enough of the old instincts have kicked back in she’ll be on to bigger and better things. With Lewis and Richard in attendance she’ll also have some high-class sparring partners on club nights. And if she needs occasionally to swat some minor talents with minimal effort, well, I happen to know one fairly untalented patsy who would be willing to put himself in harm’s way*.

Both of last night’s matches ended up as draws, which means that Kirby Muxloe 1 and 2 are still at the top of Division 4, and Kirby Muxloe 4 is pulling away from the bottom of Division 6. The third team is also doing very well in Division 5, so things are looking pretty good at the moment.

* Paul. Haha!
29/Nov/2014 - Ewan - A Plea For Graciousness It’s not often that I turn for moral guidance to the Poets of the Toffs. For instance, take Henry Newbold’s famous admonishment, deemed to apply with equal weight to a tense cricket match and a desperate Sudanese battleground:

"Play up! Play up! and play the game!"

This reduction of the complex, fractured realities of combat to a schoolground sports match is surely insultingly simplistic to anyone older than the teenage boys who, presumably, are its target. And take Kipling’s totemic verse ‘If’, which reserves the status of manhood for someone only if

"...you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same"

This is problematic for someone like myself, who might charitably be called a shambling neurotic, incapable of keeping his head even when everyone else is - but who will nevertheless be counted amongst the grown-ups when it comes to things like paying taxes and criminal liability.

But still... when it comes to the game of chess, I think that these gentlemen rhymers may have a point. Chess is, after all, only a game. By all means, execute cruel stratagems within the play; apply merciless pressure designed to buckle a desperately defended position. But outside the confines of the game, let us adopt the old-fashioned virtues of manners and good sportsmanship.

I’m driven to this plea after Thursday’s matches, which were subject to more than the usual number of huffs and arguments. They came both from within our own ranks and our opponents, so I’m not advancing us as paragons of virtue. And I count myself amongst the past transgressors in this regard, so the pedestal I’m putting myself on isn’t quite as high as you’d think, certainly not as high as I’d like. But basically, can we not all try to get on, give our opponents the benefit of the doubt, and exhibit grace in both victory and defeat? After all, we are all brothers under the great and glorious English Chess Federation. So let’s act like this is the England that Rupert Brooke imagined it was and restrict ourselves to those

"thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven."
08/Nov/2014 - Ewan - Confirmation Bias So. Confirmation bias. I don't think that I've talked about confirmation bias yet. And I'm sure - yes, I'm sure - that out in the country, among the myriad folk who hang on every word of this chess site, there is an increasing clamour for a news article that references confirmation bias.

But how can I be so sure of this? Well, of all the voices in my head that urge certain courses of action, the ones that I have chosen to listen to are those that urge confirmation-bias-based articles (I have learnt the hard way to ignore the ones that suggest encasing my house in jelly or leaving my day job to become a taciturn gun-slinger). And thus, on top of my own natural desire to burble on about confirmation bias, it now feels kinda like I have some independent support for my decision.

Which is, of course, an example of confirmation bias. We tend to pay attention to things that confirm, rather than challenge, our existing views. So people with right-wing views tend to read right-wing newspapers; people with left-wing views tend to read left-wing newspapers. Climate-change sceptics focus their attention on the particular data-sets which go against the general trends predicted by the standard models; conspiracy theorists seek out others with their views so that they can assure each other that their worries are not crazy. In general, we tend to shape our sources of information to fit a pre-existing narrative.

And thus, meandering somewhat nearer to the point, this might go some way to explain why I have selected, from the many matches that we've played since I've last posted on this site, last Thursday's home double-header. For I have a pre-exsting view that the members of Kirby Castlers chess club are just great. And by great I don't just mean attractive, amusing and virtuous. All that goes without saying. No, I also mean great at chess.

So picture this for me if you will: a row of eight tables, four tables for the first team, four tables for the third team. On the heater-side of the tables (we'll take whatever home advantage we can) sit the Kirby Castlers heroes. On the chillier-side of the tables sit the assorted members of Melton Mowbray 3 and Braunstone 4. Now picture glorious victories for the Kirby side happening one by one, each accompanied by the merest hint of a victory conga-line. And imagine this happening until at the end of the night we've won seven out of the eight games, and even the single game that we lost was due merely to an over-officious clock.

So I guess that what I'm saying to you now, from my confirmationally biased view, is that the successful night proves without doubt that the Kirby Castlers team is great. Not just attractive, amusing and virtuous, though of course we're all that. But also great at chess.

And I guess that if I looked hard at the league positions of all our teams then I might find some evidence which would cast some doubt on this assertion. But you know what? I'm not looking. And neither should you.
08/Aug/2014 - Ewan - Chess Is Life Chess, as I’m sure you’re already aware, is life. You start off completely undeveloped, but with bags of potential. You make your moves as best you can, hoping to outwit those who would defeat you. But always there is an endgame beckoning, and the most any of us can truly hope for is for moments of grace and elegance along the way to the final mate.

And if chess is life, then it would follow that the end of chess is death. Which is why Death, the ultimate Grandmaster, plays such a mean game, I guess.

But chess is life in another way too. When you belong to a chess club the infusion of young blood feels like an affirmation of life; the club itself is given fresh enthusiasm and impetus. A few months ago I witnessed one of our youngest members, Thomas, defeat an experienced player from Blaby in the Chapman Cup. The atmosphere at the end of the game was fantastic, and his opponent very gracious in defeat (he’s written up the game on his blog, available at http://littlethorpe.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/ha1-out-of-chapman-in-preliminary-round.html). We all beamed like proud parents, appropriating his victory to justify our own existences, as you do.

And then yesterday we had a visit from another potential player – somewhat older than Thomas, being at university, but young enough for there to be at least one generation gap between him and most of us. And he is very good, too, good enough to be our board one if he decides to stay.

Actually, it was slightly embarrassing, the attention he received (nothing like the tears and ululations of joy that greeted my first attendance, of course, but still quite excessive). It was a little like a Nativity scene – a few old, wise men (plus a bunch of donkeys, haha), all excitedly following the new star. We’re hoping now for some miraculous wins when the league starts up.

But wait, that’s not it. Something else important happened yesterday. Now what was it, what was that very important thing…

… oh yes, now I remember. I beat Richard (current rating 165) in the club championship.

28/Jun/2014 - Ewan - AGM: A Great Meeting Last Thursday we had the Kirby Castlers AGM. Although I was appointed once more to the position of webmaster – as the only member who doesn’t run cowering from the savage mysteries of modern technology – it was noted with furrowed brows and some muttered asides that my news output had dried up entirely this year. Some questions were also raised about the ratio of drivel to useful information, though dark talk of a formal censure thankfully came to nought. So let this entry herald the turning of a new leaf.

First of all we discussed last year’s league placings. The first team, it is fair to say, was a bit of a disappointment. Lacking the firepower of some other clubs, not even the charismatic leadership of skipper Ray Townsend could halt the slide from the third to the fourth division. The second team, however, placed a creditable fourth in their division, with the magnificent efforts of John Skelly, under the wise tutelage of Jim Cowley, being a major factor in their success. The results of the third team were not so great, but this was not unexpected, since we had a policy of rotating new and low-ranked players to give everyone a chance of a game. The success of the third team, led jointly by Jim Kellog and Les Bowles, lay in the relish with which our new players approached their opportunity.

Due to the influx of new players – including some very talented youngsters – it was decided that Kirby Castlers would run four teams in the next league, probably two teams in the fourth division and two teams in the fifth. If nothing else, it was noted that this would cut down on the number of away matches!

The other major decision was that the club would drop the ‘handicap’ tournament in favour of a two-tier club tournament. This, it was hoped, would free time for a greater variety of activities on nights not dedicated to league matches. Which – if such a thing is indeed possible - should make Kirby Castlers an even greater place for pawn-wranglers of all qualities to come and enjoy the game. Hope to see you there.
11/Nov/2013 - Ewan - Go Us! Just a quick note to crow a little: the first team managed to pull off an excellent win against Syston 2 last week, with three wins and a draw. We're currently fifth in the table of nine. But with the renewed burst of optimism this win gives us, who knows how high we may go?
03/Nov/2013 - Ewan - The Midnight Caller There’s a TV show I once caught some episodes of, called Midnight Caller. The hero of the piece was a radio presenter called Jack Killian. He’d once been a cop, but had been caught up in a bad shoot and turned to drink for solace; but then he’d crawled out of the bottle and found a redemptive job broadcasting insights to insomniacs, whilst also solving minor private crimes by day.

As befits a man who had touched bottom and struggled back to the surface of life without being drowned by his misfortune, Jack Killian’s words were invested with the weight of experience. But for me their real import came from the fact that they were uttered in the small hours of the night.

For night is the time for the old truths: truths of love and fear, of joy and pain. In the darkness there is no need for the masks that we wear by day, and we can face truthfully to the world. There’s a reason that wolves and vampires come out at night, and estate agents work by day – the former are a more elemental kinds of predator, and don’t hide their desire for blood behind lies and period features.

So anyway, Jack Killian would solve some kind of minor crime in the afternoon – presumably he slept some time in the morning - and he would then dispense wisdom across the airwaves at night, reaching out and touching people with his words. And while I can’t actually remember any details of the crimes that were solved, I still remember the cadence and gravitas of his voice.

Which brings me to the major point of this blog entry, which I realised a few weeks ago: I am your Jack Killian. One voice in the wilderness broadcasting truth and wisdom to a slumbering populace, a self-made sage of a more technological age. Of course, I have never gained self-knowledge by fighting an addiction that took me to the very edge of sanity (though I do get a mite tetchy if someone tries to take away my pineapple chunks), and I can’t say that my record of solving crimes is one to brag excessively about, but other than that, the parallels are amazing. Assuming that you read this at night, of course.

So anyway, having stumbled upon this glorious insight, I’m slightly embarrassed that what I really want to tell you about is the car journey that I shared a few weeks back, on the way to losing a match at Wigston. Next time I’ll share with you some emotive truths about the human condition, I promise.

The first thing to know is that I have absolutely no head for navigation. So I’m at least as useless as anyone else in this tale. But it means that I am always happy to accept the offer of a lift.

The lift in question was with John and Malcolm. Mal was driving, but wasn’t entirely sure of the way. Luckily John, who was riding shotgun, was entirely sure of the way. And in any case, we were following Jim, who was definitely sure of the way. So I was able to relax in the back and concentrate on how I was going to throw away a promising position.

The point at which it became clear that following Jim wasn’t going to be our best strategy was when we followed him into a McDonald’s Drive-Thru lane, and it became clear that for some time we had actually been following not Jim, but some hungry motorist with a car somewhat like Jim’s. Backing out of a McDonald’s Drive-Thru lane, with people waiting to get in, is an undignified process. But eventually we managed it, and we switched to plan B, which was to rely upon John’s clear and certain navigational knowledge.

Let me draw a discrete veil over the next half an hour, but eventually we reached the point at which we were a clear ten minutes past the kick-off date, not obviously anywhere near the venue, and feelings were running high. It was at this point that Mal uttered the immortal words ‘So maybe I should turn on the satnav?’

‘You have a satnav?’ I exclaimed, with some surprise. ‘Hmm, I’m not sure I know the postcode’ said John. But then Mal topped his initial revelation: ‘Oh, I put the postcode in before we set off, just in case’. ‘So all this time, you could have just put the satnav on?’ I said, possibly with some incredulity. ‘Yes’, said Mal, ‘But I didn’t want to insult John. He was so sure he knew the way.’

We got there eventually, of course, and in enough time to play out my suicide mission. And let me be clear – I have the utmost respect and regard for both John and Malcolm individually. But together I’m pretty sure that they make up two halves of a nutter.
26/Aug/2013 - Ewan - The Off-Season When my boy plays chess it all seems very simple to him. You advance one piece at a time, until it has been taken, at which point you carry on the tactic with another piece.

Daddy, of course, has progressed beyond this simple strategy. But the progression has not been gradual. For ages there is no improvement and then all of a sudden a leap occurs to a new level of ability. Not a very high level of ability, I grant you, but a definite improvement on the preceding level.

Interestingly, there is a theory in evolutionary science known as the theory of ‘punctuated equilibria’. On this view evolution does not proceed in a gradual manner, but in a step-wise fashion. There are periods in history in which nothing much happens evolution-wise – the number of heads per animal remains pretty static, every small creature that falls off a cliff plummets to its death – and then suddenly boom! A frog taking a late night walk along a cliff-top takes a tumble, spreads wings that it never knew it had, and starts to shoot fire from its eyes.

So, my point, in case you missed it, is that chess is a bit like that. One day you’re walking a single piece at a time to its inevitable doom, the next day you’re reducing all your opponent’s pieces to dust with an incendiary glance.

Anyway, it is currently the chess off-season – no league games at the moment for Kirby Castlers. So we are all engaged upon a couple of internal tournaments, one featuring normal, vanilla chess, the other requiring the higher ranked players to give up some number of pieces to the lower ranked players. This latter tournament is, perhaps, more fun. It’s interesting to see what the top-ranked players can do against the lowest-ranked players when minus a queen, a rook and a pawn (say). Often it’s a surprising amount.

It’s also nice to welcome back to the club some of the folk injured in the gruelling league season. Dave, Richard and Jim have all sprung back from their respective physical trauma and are honing their formidable skills for the year ahead. It should be a good one.
28/Apr/2013 - Ewan - The End of the Season With almost all of the results in, the second team is looking as though it might be the eventual winner! Not of the division, of course. Heh. Not even close. But the winners of the more important challenge to place the highest of all of the Kirby Castlers teams in their respective divisions, and thus to gain bragging rights over the summer. The third team just has another game to play, I think, and then matters will be decided.

Of a fairly disappointing season all round, one of the big positives, I think, has been the results of Les Bowles for the third team. Of the last 10 games, I count that he's lost 2, drawn 1 and won 7, in the process knocking down some much higher ranked players. It can't be long before he's contesting for a place in the second team, which - and I don't know if I've mentioned this - may well be the best performing team in the club!

Another big positive has been the performance of Eddie Hill. Not so much on the playing side of things (although he's had some fine victories), but on the organisational front. It's no secret that the captain of the second team has been a poor organiser this season. Instead of sorting out a team and a route and a time to meet, he has spent most of the season lying on his velvet chaise-longe, languidly waving a scented handkerchief whenever another desire for jelly-babies comes over him. It has only been the steadfast efficiency of Eddie that has allowed the second team to - at least possibly - become the highest placed team in the club. Please write in demanding that Eddie be made captain of at least one team next season.

And there was one other thing... Ah yes. Ray has asked that I let it be known to the world that he lost to me in the club championship. Again. Hehe.
17/Mar/2013 - Ewan - More Chess, Fewer Dictators There is a fascinating psychological theory known as Cognitive Dissonance, which talks to how we deal with information that threatens our self-esteem. Suppose, for instance, that I believe myself to be extraordinarily handsome and charming, yet my attempts to chat up women are constantly rebuffed. Since it it hard for a mind to hold these two apparently inconsistent facts, they produce in me a mental 'dissonance', a cognitive itch that needs to be scratched. According to the theory, to resolve such dissonance we are unlikely to give up those beliefs which inflate our self-image. Instead, we will adopt views which explain away the apparent inconsistencies at no cost to ourselves. For instance, we may come to believe that women are unusually stupid or unperceptive, or that the vast majority of them are lesbians.

Dictators, I would suggest, have generally been experts in this kind of mental judo. Your military policies are not working? Well then, your advisers must be plotting against you. Have them shot. Your economic policies are leading to hyper-inflation? A shadowy Jewish cabal must working to destroy society. Have them shot. Your country's human rights record is questioned? Why, the evidence must have been fabricated by outside agents envious of your domestic harmony. Employ more secret police to root them out.

Which brings us to chess.

Quite often, at least for a player of my limited abilities, there are instances in which one's opponent makes an unexpected move that entirely destroys one's understanding of the current state of play. It may be that he takes a piece which one had mistakenly thought to be well-defended, or perhaps he throws in a back-rank check that one has completely missed. When I have experienced times like these I have felt my mental defences flail around, seeking to twist a fact to mitigate the blow. And of course there are small adjustments that can be made - I am more tired than I realised, perhaps, or the opponent is under-ranked. But the main facts of the matter cannot be twisted - they are laid out in front of one in black and white. And thus, after rapidly progressing through the various stages of grief - confusion, shock, despair, hope, despair again, anger, shame, wondering if Ray's going to take the piss, some more despair - one reaches an acceptance of the real situation, and starts looking at how to proceed.

It seems to me, then, that a dose of chess would be a good prescription for anyone with pretentions to dictatorship. It would force upon them practice in the important art of accepting the world as it is, rather than twisting it to meet a predefined set of self-regarding assumptions. It would, in short, make them face up to the fact of their own fallibility, and lead them inexorably to a liberal embrace of the value of every individual.

And if you're in any doubt as to the efficacy of chess in this matter, I can bear witness. For, since joining the chess club two years ago I have now come to realise that despite my immense charm and good looks I am not rebuffed by women because they are stupid or unperceptive. No, I accept that they are generally smart, capable women who see things clearly.

They're just intimidated by my brilliance, is all.
18/Feb/2013 - Ewan - Oh, some more stuff Recently the signs and portents have not been good. The economy is going backwards. Cosmic debris has been raining down from the skies. Meat pies have been found filled with meat from ocelot, zebra and immigrant.

Kirby Castlers, of course, has not been immune from the general malaise. Due to a series of unfortunate events we now have more teams than players, and come game night the three of us remaining have to keep making excuses to go outside and swap fake moustaches in order to play the twelve simultaneous games we are contractually obliged to finish.

I exaggerate.

In any case, my actual point was going to be that despite all the woes, there are now clear signs of recovery. For the second team has now won two matches in a row, and has leapt from a seedy eighth to a fairly repectable fifth. So well done us!

And since both of our other teams are seventh in their respective leagues, this means that the glorious 2nd is at the vanguard of our chess army. Which means that I am a better captain than either Paul or Jim. Ha! In your faces, Paul and Jim.

Also, I've updated the fixture list on the site.
05/Jan/2013 - Ewan - Happy New Year The second team played the first match of the New Year on Thursday. In the hope of generating some excitement, let me keep the score under wraps for a moment.

The initial auguries were not good, and…

… but hold on. It has been pointed out to me on occasion that I may suffer from the odd excrescence of otiose verbiage. Or, to put it as it is more commonly put to me, I am a gobshite. So just to confirm this, let me take just a second to introduce you to the fascinating history of the word ‘augury’. Back in the Roman times, there were a bunch of people whose business it was to predict the future from data that were highly unlikely to be predictive. You know, a bit like economists. Some of them would read the future in the livers of sacrificed animals, others would examine thunder and lightning, and yet others would examine the flights of birds. This last was known as ‘taking the auspices’, and was conducted by chaps called Augurs. Which is where we get the word ‘augury’.

Anyway, getting back to the chess match… it didn’t look good right from the start. Our club champion Jim C broke his collarbone over the Christmas holiday, and couldn’t play. It may be that he broke his bone in a fight with an in-law over the Christmas turkey, on the grounds that the in-law was ‘looking at his bird’. We just can’t be sure. But in any case, Jim was a no-show.

Luckily Arthur agreed to step in and play. And I say luckily, because Arthur is a top chess player from way back. He used to be very highly ranked, but doesn’t play much now, just on occasion stepping back out of retirement to fill a hole in our squad, overwhelming his opponent with his elite skills, then vanishing back into the mists, a tendril of fog obscuring his features.

Or so I had assumed. As it happens, though, an Augur might have seen in Jim’s Christmas turkey an appropriate future for the second team. For despite Eddie’s three hundredth straight win, and my boring draw, both Peter and Arthur lost their games. So yet again we went down to a narrow defeat.

14/Dec/2012 - Ewan - Quick Round-Up Yesterday the second team halved the match against Braunstone 4. This means that we are still, like the Titan Atlas*, carrying the weight of everyone else on our back. I began the game in an unorthodox manner, by gifting my opponent a knight after a few moves. Luckily I was able to secure a pawn for the knight, and managed to cling on to it long enough to force a draw. Jim C also took a draw, Eddie had a good victory, and Pete an unfortunate loss.

The previous week I turned out for the firsts, and was lucky enough to be put up against a novice. I discovered relatively quickly that she was knight-blind (someone unable to calculate the various squares to which a horsey might profitably jump), and this eased the sheer terror of playing a low-ranked novice lady. Having won the game, I watched Paul fight back from a bad position to a good one with a series of inspired moves.... only to fall into a checkmate that my own opponent would have spotted within seconds. A couple of draws by Ray and Jim meant that that match also finished an overall draw.

The results and league positions are not that good for Kirby Castlers at the moment. We have not had a good first half of the year, partly due to life events that have robbed us of players: people getting jobs, going to hospital, going away to university. But morale is still high within the club, and nothing is spoiling our enjoyment of the game, not even Ray's offensive jokes.

* In one tradition Atlas was sentenced to hold the world on his shoulders as a punishment for leading an unsuccessful coup attempt on Zeus; in another he heroically took on the job of holding the heavens away from the earth; in no tradition did he take on his role as a consequence of carelessly blundering pieces to the opposition.
16/Nov/2012 - Ewan - Playing for the Firsts As we were leaving the match against Willowbrook 2 yesterday, one of the opposition remarked jovially that he'd never before seen an attempt to claim a match based upon a reversing motability scooter.

What had happened was this. A couple of minutes into the match, some old dear just outside the room in which we were playing started backing up their vehicle. The design of this contraption, with a laudable eye towards pedestrian safety, incorporates a beeping warning sound to accompany its reverse motion. Hearing this sound, I was reminded that, stupidly, I hadn't turned my phone to silent before the match; I therefore resolved to do so immediately.

For obvious reasons, however, I didn't want to just hoick my phone out of my pocket and start pressing buttons - phones can play a mean game of chess these days. So I carefully extracted the handset and attempted quietly to explain to my opponent that I was just turning it off.

Unfortunately for all concerned, my opponent and I then entered into a classic comic misunderstanding, in which he thought that the sound of the scooter was in fact my phone ringing. We both proceeded to get more annoyed with each other's responses in the face of this misunderstanding until he declared loudly that he was claiming the game.

At this point other members of the team started to get involved. An honorary mention here should go to Jim C, who is an excellent chap to have around if you ever want to get punched in the face. At this point an old-fashioned brawl seemed very much on the cards, of the chairs-broken-on-backs, bottles-smashed-on-heads, bartender-humorously-saving-drinks-as-man-thrown-across-bar variety.

Luckily, however, one of their team suddenly realised what the misunderstanding was, and explained it to my opponent. So we avoided any physical violence, progressing straight to the arms-round-shoulders, banging-glasses-and-drinking-each-others-health stage.

As it happens, we didn't win the match: Ray and I grabbed the only points with a pair of draws. But the Willowbrook players were much higher ranked than us, so we weren't too put out.

And the guy in the motability scooter? I like to think that somewhere in Thurncourt he's reversing still, a phone-like beeping sound heralding his retrogression, while all around him random fights break out.
12/Nov/2012 - Paul - Match Report Match Report
Match: Syston 1 -v - Kirby 1
Date: 30th October 2012
Result: 2-2 Draw
Board 1: Paul - Pathetic loss [In fact so poor I'm dropping me for the next match]
Board 2: John - Unlucky loss [Close and hard fought game against a very good opponent]
Board 3: Jim C - Outstanding win [wonderful conversion of an early pawn advantage]
Board 4: Ewan - Excellent win [Stunning winning combination after early pressure]
11/Nov/2012 - Ewan - Second Team Success! The second team has finally won a match! This was due entirely to the captain's ability to inspire his colleagues to play to their potential, rather than his own rapidly disappearing chess ability. Good wins for Jim and Eddie were capped by a cheeky draw by Ray to grab us the extra half point for victory, after I had been beaten like an old, dusty, threadbare carpet.

Oddly, due to various problems with attendance, next week exactly the same team is turning out for the firsts. But just to keep things exciting, we'll be in a slightly different board order.

Oh, and the other exciting news is that I've finally finished version 1 of our news admin tool, so watch out for interesting news items from other members of the team.
14/Oct/2012 - Ewan
Well, the new chess season has started in earnest. The club has now played four matches – we have won two and lost two. Unfortunately, the two that we’ve lost have both been lost by the second team, with the firsts and thirds performing sterling work to keep the Kirby Castlers ship afloat. We should particularly highlight Jim Kellock’s win for the thirds here, since he’s been due a big win for a long time, and finally came good against a player graded nearly twice as high.

As far as I can see, the problem with the second team is the lack of charismatic – even competent – leadership. The bumbling captain regularly turns up to games with no team sheet, no game-plan, and it would seem only a rudimentary knowledge of the moves. Please, if you care about Kirby Castlers at all, I invite you to write in and demand a change of second team captain right away. If the peoples of Egypt, Libya, Syria etc. can rise up against their hated overlords, then surely a Kirby Spring can be organised to topple this hapless fool.

23/Sep/2012 - Ewan
Well, we won the Birstall Cup. And I shall draw a discreet veil over the ensuing celebrations, except to say that three nights later Pete woke up in a cantina just over the Mexican border, in the company of a broken-down donkey and a barrel of mescaline, wearing only the meat suit created by Lady Gaga for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.

15/Aug/2012 - Ewan
They say that nothing succeeds like success. But they’re wrong. Because success is currently tied for first place with Kirby Castlers, who managed to progress last Thursday into the final of the Birstall Cup. The final is to be played on the 30th of August at Wembley Stadium, or Kirby Bowls club, whichever proves more convenient.

They also say that success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan. If so, then the twin fathers of the Kirby Castlers’ win are the unfortunate chap from Market Harborough who couldn’t make the game - which gifted us an initial point - and Pete, who magnificently forced a draw to put us in an unassailable lead. Of course, the more conservative readers may balk here at the prospect of a child having two fathers, even when the child is merely an abstract noun, but these are days when liberal social attitudes hold sway in the land and I for one am not perturbed by the prospect. I only hope that if a separation does occur, then Pete retains full custody of the child.

Following Pete’s forced draw both Jim and I agreed draws with our respective opponents, who wished to return swiftly to their dens to lick their wounds, and the night drew to an agreeable close.

13/July/2012 - Ewan
Two weeks ago we had our second AGM, at which the future plans for the club were, like a fine piece of steak, disected, masticated, tasted, and eventually swallowed. The plans are now sitting in the collective gut of the club members, providing sustenance for the year ahead, and it's probably time to stop with this metaphor.

The main decision made at the AGM was to try to run three teams next year, hopefully one each in divisions 3, 4 and 5. With Paul continuing to lead the firsts, and Jim reluctantly agreeing to lead the thirds, there was a lot of argument about who should be captain of the second team. Impassioned speeches were made on the subject, chests were thumped, heartfelt pleas advanced for consideration.... but eventually I lost the argument and was made captain.

Paul retained his librarian post.

Last Thursday the second team (as was) played in the first round of the Birstall cup. We'd qualified for this by losing the first round of the Chapman cup, where we'd played a team of very highly ranked Latimer players and got beat across the board (I was actually a bit surprised that we lost to Latimer, since if Hollywood has taught me anything it's that a rag-tag team of confused nobodies always triumphs over the proper players. Hollywood lies.) Since Jim K couldn't make it on the night, Jim C took over at board one and narrowly lost to the Braunstone 2 star player. With losses also for Les and Paul, it was a bit of a surprise to everyone when I managed to get a victory on time over my opponent.

So at the end of the night we lost 1-3 to Braunstone 2... except that we didn't, because due to the extreme points difference between the teams, we were given an initial 2.5 points. So we ended up winning 3.5-3, and now progress to the next round! Maybe Hollywood doesn't lie all the time after all. Now if we only persuade our charismatic leader Paul to keel over then make a dramatic entrance on crutches in the final round, we might just stand a chance.
13/Jun/2012 - Not Dead
I have not posted for some while now, and for the disappointment and worry that this must have caused my hoard of internet followers, my sincerest apologies. These apparently effortless remarks actually take a great deal of time and planning to pull off, you know - a close attention to the poetical subtleties and nuances of the language, a painstaking construction of an affable but edgy Weltenshauung, that kind of thing. It's not just the sort of thing you can knock off before going to bed of an evening, oh no.

Anyway, the main chess season has now ended and we're into our fallow period (which is actually filled by various intra-club competitions, punctuated on occasion by the odd inter-club cup match). The firsts did jolly well in their league campaign, ending up promoted from division four. The seond team also did jolly well, given their lesser ambition, ending up a very creditable not-last in division five.

Excitingly, we seem to have recently attracted an influx of new players into the club, some of whom are very nearly as good as me (better, indeed, if you restrict the comparison to chess talent alone rather than including verbosity and juggling skills). Which means that next league season we might be running three teams. Heady days indeed.

I shall try to keep this more up-to-date.
16/Mar/2012 - Some Good Wins
The first team has been going from strength to strength recently, and the heady heights (or maybe the stomachy middles) of the third division are now beckoning in earnest.

Last Thursday night was particularly good. First of all Paul neatly sidestepped all of the boring middle- and end-game nonsense by agreeing a draw shortly after shaking hands. Then Eddie tried to demonstrate to his opponent that a King and a Rook can mate a King and a Knight when the latter two are together. Three thousand moves later he reluctantly agreed a draw. Ray, having stolen a pawn early in the game, pressed this advantage in his relentless Rayish way all the way to the end to take a good victory. And then it was all down to Jim.

By the end of the game both Jim and his opponent were down to minutes on the clock, and had delegated the task of writing down the moves to scribes who could barely keep up with the flurry of moves. In the end it was Jim who took the victory: in part due to possession of the superior chess brain, in part because he was somewhat better at remembering to hit the clock after his moves. Jim's victory dance - some kind of Maori haka performed on the table - was perhaps a little over the top, but forgiveable given the tension of the ending.

But the firsts, who really cares about the firsts? The second team is where the true human drama is to be found. And on Tuesday night thise drama was played out to a most satisfactory denouement.

The night began with new boy Shaun getting off to a good start due to his recent purchase of Openings For Dummies. Sadly it went downhill for him from there, so purchases of Middle Games and End Games for Dummies are probably in order. Peter executed a fantastic and quick victory, which left things down to late stand-in Arthur and myself. When I managed to squander the two pawn advantage that I'd worked for, by sending them off on ill-advised suicide missions, the game reduced to a draw. This then left Arthur to bring home the two points, which he did when time pressure caused his opponent to explode. Figuratively, anyway. And then we all went home for supper.
26/Feb/2012 - Nothing In Particular
There's not a lot to report, really. While a few games have been played, quite a lot of other have got cancelled due to weather or disinclination or gloom of night. We seem to have lost the tempo to life, which after our gleeful opening sallies last year has bogged us down with some negative play. Hopefully we'll be able to engage on some interesting lines in the coming weeks.

In terms of club nights, we have been playing a 'handicap' tournament, in which players with relatively higher rankings start with fewer pieces, according to an arcane formula. This has been quite interesting - however, since a number of us newcomers started off on artifically low rankings, and the tournament rules require us to use the start-of-season rankings, some of us have been given rather too great an advantage.

Oh, and a big thank-you to Jim Cowley for talking us all through his last game at the last club night. This kind of learning experience is invaluable for us relative newbies.

20/Jan/2012 - Roundup
First off, a big hello to our migratory member John Walker! John flies south for the winter, but likes to keep up-to-date with all the affairs of the chess club, so I have finally stirred myself to update the second team news. The first team played yesterday but as yet I have heard nothing official about it (a quick perusal of the Leicestershire and Rutland Chess Association suggests that this is because they got hammered, but as I said, I've heard nothing).

On the 5th of January the second team hosted Braunstone 5ths. Your friendly neighbourhood webmaster - who sometimes likes to talk about himself in the third person - was taken aback to see that his opponent was his lone nemesis from the away leg. But El Webmasterino - whose choice of pseudonyms shows clearly that he is one sad individual - bravely kept moving the pieces and when he was gifted a knight, for no apparent reason, accepted it with a glad heart, and eventually took the win. Unfortunately his colleagues weren't in receipt of such largesse, and we ended up going down 3-1.

And then on the 17th January we travelled, on a bitterly cold night, to Syston, to take on Syston 3. This time your webmaster was gifted two pieces in quick succession and accepted them with no hint of shame to record a win. Wins then followed for Scott - and the important thing about that is that a win's a win, even if your opponent is playing past his bedtime - and, after a mammoth session, for Pete.

Jim, sadly, got lured into the dark seductive embrace of the wrong pawn and couldn't complete the whitewash. But still, a second win for the second team was enough for us to all do a conga back to our respective homes.
19/Dec/2011 - Roundup
A bit of a roundup is in order, since I've been concentrating on Christmas presents recently and haven't done my weekly duties.

Well, it turned out that the second team game on the 30th of November was a bit of a disaster, probably due to the absence of their charismatic board two anchor. Ahem.

But then the first team game on 8th December consolidated our status as division four champions. Much rejoicing.

And then came the second team match on the 15th December, a real bottom-of-the-table scrap against Heathcote Arms 3. The match started oddly, in that the opposition turned up with six players, presumably trying to overwhelm us by sheer numbers. Sadly for them, this meant that we were able to conscript club champion Jim 'Gambit' Cowley on board one.

The match then continued oddly, with almost all of the Kirby Castlers falling behind immediately. Now, there are a number of well-known opening priciples: don't move the same piece twice; don't bring out the queen too early; etc. But the one that we somehow overlooked was this: don't start like a small child who has never seen a chess board before.

But then, somehow, Lazarus-style, like a phoenix from the flames, that may be too many similes, we came back to win 5-1. Amazing stuff. Jim Kellog was so excited by the end that he declared he was going to strip naked and dance a dance of rejoicing. At which point we all left.

Except Ray.
24/Nov/2011 - First Team League Game
A belated congratulations to the first team for getting another win, this time at home against Wigston 5. We are now at the top of the table with two points and a game in hand against our nearest rivals.
17/Nov/2011 - First Team League Game
The first team travelled away to Ray's old club to play Wigston 5th team. Wigston had requested a fifth board to blood one of their newcomers, so Webmaster Ewan came along to play the same role.
Jim and Paul rapidly achieved drawn games, and gentleman-chestler Ray agreed a draw despite his opponent's clock teetering on the edge of time. This left John to confirm the victory, and he seemed well ahead after employing the 'apple gambit' (loudly and insouciantly crunching an apple at important moments). But then a slight miscalculation and it was checkmate out of the blue to his opponent.
Luckily, often-hapless novice Ewan had somehow managed to save the day by beating his neophyte counterpart, thus salvaging a draw for the unlucky firsts and keeping them pinned to the top of the table. Hooray!
15/Nov/2011 - Second Team League Game With Eddie away, Ewan was propelled to the heady heights of board one. But sadly, like Icarus, he had flown too close to the sun and crashed to a flaming first defeat. As did everyone else apart from Pete, who managed to wangle a stalemate. One to forget.
10/Nov/2011 - Second Team League Game A win for the second team at last propels us from eigth place to the heady heights of... seventh. Victories for Eddie and Ewan were supported by a fine draw by Pete. Next week both the first team and the second team are in action, and rumour has it that the first team is to play host to a special mystery guest player. Oooh.
03/Nov/2011 - Second Team League Game And the Kirby Castlers first team finally take their deserved place at the top of the division four leader board! It actually turned out to be quite a tense occasion, with the match coming down to the final game, played by John. Despite being a piece down, John's pawn charge put his opponent under such pressure that he ran out of time trying to come up with a counter. Now the second team just needs to win their match on Thursday and all will be well in the world.
20/Oct/2011 - Second Team League Game The first home league match for the second team, and we narrowly missed out, going down 1.5 to 2.5. A good win for Eddie and an agreed draw for Ewan gave us the points.
13/Oct/2011 - Second Team League Game And thus it fell to the 2nd team to travel to Ashby to carry on the good work of the 1sts. Sadly, despite two debut wins from Peter and Ewan, we eventually went down 2-3. Special mention should be made of poor John, who seconds before the game was informed that the burgular alarm in his house was going off, knocking him right off his stride. (Coincidence? Maybe. But in the cut-throat world of Leicestershire and Rutland Fifth Division chess, nothing is off limits when it comes to getting a win).
12/Oct/2011 - First Team League Game Congratulations to the 1st team, who beat Red Admiral an incredible 4-0! Sadly, due to the iniquity of alphabetical order we are still 2nd in the league, behind Braunstone 3.
06/Oct/2011 - First Team League Game Jim Cowley with his trophy A fantastic win for the 1st team, playing against a strong Ashby 3rd team. With Paul, Ray and John all picking up draws, it fell to club champion Jim Cowley to take the day with a win. As you can see (right), Jim is still carrying his trophy around everywhere. The 1st team are playing again on Wednesday, then it's down to the 2nds on Thursday to carry on the good work.
29/Sep/2011 - Club Meeting Another good night at the club, with the club webmaster getting his first proper win since joining. There were rumours that this was payback for setting up the website, but it was probably just skill and talent. League games are nearly upon us!
22/Sep/2011 - Club Meeting Jim Cowley with his trophy The fantastic club-champion trophy turned up today with an all-new black plinth. (It was the plinth of darkness, hoho). Jim Cowley resisted all attempts to prise it from his loving fingers, and rushed home to reinforce his mantelpiece.
15/Sep/2011 - Club Meeting A fairly quiet club meeting, except for the occasional excessively noisy shout of 'check'.
08/Sep/2011 - First Club AGM Tonight we held the first club Annual General Meeting and elected our officers: