Mike Twyble (1964–2022)

A remembrance by Jon Manley, December 2022

Mike Twyble in 1998
(Cathy Rogers)

Mike Twyble, who lost a two-year battle with cancer last month, played for Ilford in the 1990s and contributed much to the club’s success during that time. He also represented Essex and played for Barbican in the Four Nations Chess League (4NCL).

One of the strongest players in Essex, Mike rarely competed in internationally rated events but he earned an IM norm in 2007 on the strength of his performance in the 4NCL. The selection of games below show what a tricky player he could be. He enjoyed playing a wide range of openings and would choose the one which he felt would most discomfort his opponent and put him on unfamiliar territory. He would try little-analysed offbeat lines, such as Van Geet’s Opening (1 Nc3), but equally he relished a theoretical battle and was a keen student of opening trends. There would be sharp tactics or quiet positional play depending on his mood and the opponent. This mix of styles and openings made him an ideal sparring partner.

Mike and I were clubmates and neighbours in Ilford in the early 1990s. At weekends he would often drop round, usually for a curry and a boozy blitz session which always ran into the small hours. He would invariably get the better of me in these matches until eventually I hit on a new strategy. I discovered he had a low tolerance for Carlsberg Special Brew (which he readily admitted to though it didn’t seem to lower his consumption). Keeping a few cans of Special in the house tended to improve my performance. Mike was always a stronger natural player than me and could hold most beer, so I needed the extra help. 

In 1991, to the surprise of many (not least myself) I won the Essex Chess Championship in one of its strongest fields for many years (though Mike didn’t play). Those late-night sessions certainly played a part in my success, and they continued (to the occasional exasperation of my partner!) until Mike moved back to Southend in the mid-90s.

His keen sense of humour, wide interests and Irish love of a jar (‘cidermike’ was his Chess.com handle) made him great company. He’d regularly astound Anne and me with his general knowledge. Tackling the Guardian’s fiendishly difficult weekly quiz became a Saturday ritual whenever Mike was round, and we’d save it especially for him. He’d invariably know the answers to the obscure questions that had stumped us.

It was fun to share our love of chess – both playing the game and discussing its personalities and history. He had nicknames for many of the local chess characters we knew – David ‘The Boy’ Sands, Karl ‘Big, Bad’ Bowden, ‘Cyanide’ Syd Kalinsky – which found their way into my Ilford Recorder chess column of the time. We’d exchange books too and I still have his copy of David Bronstein’s classic The Chess Struggle in Practice

We kept in touch after he moved to Southend and he continued to play for Ilford in chess competitions. Our most memorable trip was the European Club Cup Qualifier in Narva, Estonia in 1998, an event featuring many of the world’s top players. Ilford was paired with Reykjavik. We acquitted ourselves well, losing narrowly (2½-3½) to a team fielding 3 GMs and 2 IMs.  Mike held his own, played the Queen’s Gambit and drew easily with the future Icelandic Champion, GM Throstur Thorhallsson. Karl Bowden drew with GM Petursson and FM Philip Rossiter, our only titled player, defeated GM Igors Rausis (who would later gain notoriety for a cheating scandal).

Our paths rarely crossed after Mike moved to the west country but it was always fun catching up with him at matches to exchange stories and guffaws.

This is probably Mike’s best-known game, where he shocks a strong opponent with a novelty on move 2. It featured in the New In Chess Yearbook (Vol.5, 1986) in the section on ‘Various Openings’ alongside a game of Mike Basman’s that went 1 d4 h6 2 e4 g5: 

Mike Twyble, December 2021, by Helen Twyble

“About equally far away from ‘civilzed chess’ is the opening of Twyble-Sugden (VO 15.2): 1 Nc3 c5 2 Rb1 which gave White a winning position in just six moves. Is this chess or slap-stick?”

Mike Twyble – John Sugden
Southend Open, 1986 [Notes by Gerard Welling in New In Chess Yearbook 5]

1.Nc3 c5 2.Rb1?! – Novelty


2…Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.Bg2 e5
4…d4 5.Na4 (5.Ne4!?=) 5…Qa5 6.c4 Bd7! 7.Bxb7 Bxa4 8.b3 Bc6–+.
5.e4 Be6??

5…d4 is better.
6.exd5 Nxd5
6…Bxd5 7.Nxd5 Nxd5 8.Qf3+–.

7…Nc7 8.Qxb7 Nd7 9.Nb5!
8.bxc3 Nc6 9.Rxb7 Rc8?

9…Na5 is better.
10.Qxc6+ Rxc6 11.Bxc6+ Bd7 12.Rxd7 Qg5 13.Nf3 Qf5 14.Rd5+ Ke7 15.Rxe5+ Qxe5+ 16.Nxe5


Here is an excellent positional squeeze against future Grandmaster David Howell. David was only ten years old at the time and a rising star. A year later David played a four-game blitz match with Vladmir Kramnk, losing 3.5-0.5. By scoring one draw he became the youngest player to achieve a result against a reigning world champion.

Mike Twyble (2231) – David Howell (1984)
Southend Open, 13.04.2001

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bg5 Ne4 6.cxd5 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Qxd5 8.e3 Qa5
Black should play 8…c5 or 8…Bg4.
9.Qb3 Be6 10.Bc4 Bxc4 11.Qxc4 12.0–0 c6 13.Rab1 Nb6 14.Qb3

14…Qd5 15.c4 Qxc4 16.Qxc4 Nxc4 17.Rxb7 Bf6 18.Bxf6 exf6 19.Rc1 Na5 20.Rb4 [20.Rc7] 20…Kd7

White has the advantage due to his better pawn structure, Black’s weak c-pawn and offside knight.
21.Ra4 Nb7 22.Nd2 Rhc8 23.Nb3 Kd6 24.Ra6 Kd7 25.g3 Rc7 26.Kg2 Rcc8 27.Kf3 Rc7 [27…f5!?] 28.g4
Black is completely tied down and can do little but wait.
28…Rcc8 29.h4 h6 30.h5! g5 31.d5
Mike decides that he can cash in now that he has weakened Black’s kingside pawns.

31…cxd5 32.Rxc8 Rxc8 33.Nd4 Nd8 34.Rxa7+ Rc7 35.Rxc7+ Kxc7 36.Nf5 Kc6 37.Nxh6

White’s passed h-pawn will decide the game.

37…Kc5 38.Ng8 Ne6 39.h6 Nf8 40.Nxf6 Kc4 41.h7 Ng6 42.Ne8 Nh8 43.Ke2 Kc3 44.Nc7 Kc4 45.a4 Kb4 46.Nxd5+ Kxa4 47.Nc3+ Kb4 48.Ne4 Kc4 49.Nxg5 Kd5 50.f4 f6 51.Nf3 Ke6 52.Nh4 Kf7 53.f5 Kg7 54.Ng6 Nf7 55.h8B+ Nxh8 56.Nxh8 Kxh8 57.Kf3 Kg7 58.Kf4 Kh6 59.e4


Jack Rudd (2185) – Mike Twyble (2214)
4NCL Birmingham, 20.11.1999

Mike was ready to play unbalanced, complicated games as well as quiet positional ones. In this turbulent encounter with the formidable Jack Rudd (known as ‘the fastest pawn in the West’), Mike’s combative approach prevails after many adventures.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Bg5 e6 7.f4 Bd7 8.Qf3 Nc6 9.0–0–0 Nxd4 10.Rxd4 Bc6 11.Bc4 b5 12.Bb3 a5?
Too ambitious. 12…Be7 is safer.
13.a4 bxa4 14.Bxa4 Bxa4 15.Rxa4 Qb8 16.e5 Nd7 17.Rd1
17.exd6 Bxd6 followed by doubling rooks on the d-file would have been very strong.
17…Ra6 18.Rad4?!
18.exd6! Bxd6 19.Rad4 when 20 Ne4 will be decisive.
18…h6 19.Bh4 g5! 20.fxg5 Nxe5 21.Qe2 Rb6 22.Bg3?!
22.Ne4! Be7 23.g6 Nxg6 24.Bxe7 Kxe7 25.Qf3 keeps the initiative.
22…Be7 Black has secured the centre with his knight on e5 and is close to equalising.

23.h4?! [23.Na4=]
23…hxg5 24.h5 f5!? 25.Bxe5 dxe5 26.Rd7 g4 27.b3?
The computer prefers 27.Qc4 with an edge for White.
27…Ba3+ 28.Kb1 Rxb3+! 29.cxb3 Qxb3+ 30.Ka1 Qxc3+ 31.Ka2 Be7 32.Rb7

A mistake – it is important to keep the queen on c3 to defend e5: 32…Rxh5! was best. I suspect that Mike was in time pressure and played his next move partly because it appealed to his sense of humour!

It’s funny that even at this late stage Black can castle but it lets White right back into the game. The right way was 33…Rxh5! 34.Qxe5 Kf7 when Black is still holding his own.
34.Qxe5 also wins.
34…Rf6 35.Rdd7 Bf8

Now 36 Qc8 or Qc7 wins on the spot.
36.Rd8?? Qe3! 37.Rbb8?
37.Rxf8+ Rxf8 38.Qxe6+ Kh8 39.Qe7 when Black must take a draw by perpetual check.
37…Qg1+ 38.Ka2 Qxg2+ 39.Kb3 Qf3+ 40.Ka4? Qf4 41.Qxf4 exf4 42.h6 f3
Black’s pawns will decide.


%d bloggers like this: