Battersea Chess Club

 Established in 1885, the BCC is London’s oldest continually existing chess club. We meet every Tuesday at Battersea Labour Club

Latvian Night at Battersea! Prepare for a Riga-rous examination of your chess

Latvian Night at Battersea Chess Club
Battersea Chess Club sponsored by Bishop's Move

It’s the country that gave us the daredevil attacking genius Mikhail Tal, his heir apparent, the former world number two Alexei Shirov, and the hypermodern king Aron Nimzowitsch.

So, when it’s absolutely Baltic outside – and it is freezing! – what better than to pay tribute to Latvia’s contribution to chess with our very first Latvian Night.

The event on Tuesday, February 6 will be dedicated to our far-away friends and will include a Baltic-themed blitz tournament.

The twist is all entrants have to use one of four carefully-chosen openings which all, of course, come from the land of Tal.

Latvian chess genius Mikhail Tal
Latvian chess genius Mikhail Tal

They are the well-known but rarely played Latvian Gambit, the Baltic Defence in the QGD, the Tal Variation of the Caro-Kann and the Shirov Gambit in the Philidor.

But don’t despair if you’ve never heard of them (nor have I), there is more on how to play them below.

This event, the first themed night we’ve put on at Battersea, was inspired by a friendly visit from Ivo Gubanovs, a member of the newly-founded Riga Chess Club, last October.

After getting in touch via email, Ivo brought with him a bottle of Latvian vodka as a gift to our club. We’ve kept in contact and one day hope to return the visit with a gift of our own. So thanks Ivo!

In the meantime, we are now offering that bottle up as the prize.

So, here’s what you have to know:

Tournament rules

Whoever gets to play White gets to select what opening is played. Black has to follow along.

We haven’t decided yet whether this will be a round robin or a Swiss, this will be worked out later possibly on the night depending on how many participants there are.

It will be a relaxed blitz time control of 5m + 3s. So people have that little bit more time to adjust to the position.

Players will also be given the option of going “berzerk” like Latvian legend Mikhail Tal. A player or both players have to declare it before the game to the tournament controller.

Anyone “going berzerk” will be given half the time with their increment eliminated so they will start at 2 minutes and 30 seconds. If they win they get double points. A draw still cares the same point value.

The prize for the overall winner will be a bottle of Latvian vodka.


So there you have it. The event on February 6 will start at 7.30pm. Don’t be… Lat. It is casual, a bit of fun, and it is free to enter.

All you need to do now is work out your openings.

Here are the four possible choices. The variations you use must be one of these, so get studying…

1. C40 Latvian Gambit

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 f5

The Latvian Gambit
The Latvian Gambit

2. D06 Queen’s Gambit Declined, Baltic Defence

1. d4 d5 2. c4 Bf5

The Baltic Defence
The Baltic Defence

3. B12 Caro-Kann Defence, Advance Variation, Tal Variation

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. h4

The Tal Variation
The Tal Variation

4. C41 Philidor Defence, Lion Variation, Shirov Gambit

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 Nd7 4. Nc3 Ngf6 5. g4

The Shirov Attack
The Shirov Attack