England's Stokes not guilty of affray

Ben Stokes

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Ben Stokes’ defence barrister told the jury he had acted “to defend himself or in defence of another”

England cricketer Ben Stokes has been found not guilty of affray after a fight near a Bristol nightclub.

The Durham all-rounder, 27, denied the charge following the fracas between a group of men last September.

His lawyer Paul Lunt said it was “the end of an 11-month ordeal” for Mr Stokes, who was “keen to get back to cricket being his sole focus”.

Ryan Ali, 28 – who was knocked unconscious in the brawl – was also found not guilty of the same charge.

The fight happened several hours after England had played a one-day international against the West Indies at the County Ground in the city.

Mr Stokes and Mr Ali shook hands on leaving the dock.

His wife, Clare Stokes, cried when the not guilty verdicts were returned while her husband closed his eyes with relief and then looked up.

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Ryan Ali has been cleared of affray

During the six-day trial, Bristol Crown Court heard the incident described as “a sustained episode of significant violence” from Mr Stokes – of Castle Eden in Durham – who had “lost control”.

The prosecution said he was “drunk and enraged” after being refused entry back into Mbargo nightclub at 02:00 BST on 25 September.

But Mr Stokes told the jury he had “stepped in” to defend two gay men who were being verbally abused, and then had to defend himself from Mr Ali – of Forest Road in Bristol – and Ryan Hale, 27, who were threatening violence.

Mr Hale, of Burghill Road in Westbury-on-Trym, was acquitted of the same charge last week.

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Media captionHow events unfolded the night Ben Stokes was arrested

Mr Ali, who works for the emergency services, suffered a fractured eye socket in the brawl while Mr Hale, a former soldier, was left with concussion.

As Mr Ali left court, smiling, he told BBC Sport editor Dan Roan he was “relieved it’s all over” and said he had no further comment to make.

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Media captionBen Stokes’ lawyer, Paul Lunt, said the jury’s decision fairly reflected the truth of what happened in Bristol that night.

Outside court, two cricket fans from Bristol – who were part of the crowd awaiting the outcome – said they were pleased with the verdict.

Arthur Davis, 30, said: “He’s a great player although not in form and maybe this will change that.”

And Javen Rahiman, 26, said: “I’m pretty pleased but it’s not the best example he’s setting, especially as the evening of the fight was after such a good victory.

“I hope it’s a kick up the backside for him and he can focus more on the game now with no distractions.”

After the verdict the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said Mr Stokes would be added to England’s squad for the third Test against India.

The BBC’s cricket correspondent, Jonathan Agnew, said Mr Stokes would now face an ECB independent disciplinary committee, likely charged with bringing the game into disrepute.

On the first day of the trial, the prosecution team applied for Mr Stokes to be charged with two counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, a lesser charge, but this was rejected by Judge Peter Blair QC.

What is affray? Analysis from Clive Coleman, BBC legal correspondent

Under the Public Order Act 1986, ‘a person is guilty of affray if he uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and his conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety’.

So, though it may seem odd, the offence is not designed simply to protect those involved in the violent incident itself: it is also designed to protect other people who are present.

That could include, for example, passers by in a street, those drinking in a pub, or fans at a football game when violence is threatened or actually occurs.

However, the ‘person of reasonable firmness’ need not actually be present at the scene.

This person is sometimes known as the ‘hypothetical bystander’ and it is he or she rather than the victim, who must fear for his or her personal safety.

There must be a ‘victim’ present against whom the violence is to be directed, and some conduct, beyond the use of words, which is threatening and directed towards a person or people.

Nakamura, Mamedyarov Lead As St. Louis Turns To Blitz – Chess.com – Chess.com

There’s a good chance you can name a world elite sprinter, and there’s some chance you can even name a marathoner. But when it comes to middle-distance runners, not many are illustrious.

Ditto for chess.

Classical chess ratings are scrutinized to the decimal point, and blitz videos and streams are consumed in Netflix-type binges. But where’s the love for the middle discipline, rapid chess?

In the latest event to attempt to establish the Steve Prefontaine of chess, the 2018 Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz concluded the rapid portion today, with GMs Hikaru Nakamura and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov drafting and then passing GM Fabiano Caruana. The Usain Bolt section follows Tuesday and Wednesday with two full days of blitz.


Is the topsy-turvy event more stressful for the players, or for their seconds? | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

As for Mamedyarov, he’s already about to anoint Nakamura the winner of the event.

“He’s a machine in blitz; no one can stop him!” the Azeri said about the American. Chess.com asked Nakamura about the comment, and you can watch the video interview below for his response.

The two men overtook Caruana by virtue of grabbing five points today (two wins and a draw each) while the leader could only muster two points (a loss followed by two draws).


GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov would win the “golden brain” trophy if chess followed the ways of football and awarded marks for creativity. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

GM Leinier Dominguez could have figured into the mix as well. He had another all-world save in round seven when Caruana simply put a rook in take, but then he and his dwindling time became Nakamura’s second victim today in the later round.

Even though his game seems perfectly tuned to the format, this was the first time Nakamura leads a Grand Chess Tour event after the rapid since Paris 2016.

“Feels like a lifetime ago,” the American said.

Round 7

GM Alexander Grischuk came in freshly shaved, but all eyes remained on Caruana to see if he could go wire-to-wire (according to GM Maurice Ashley’s research, five of the seven rapid winners in Grand Chess Tour history went on to win the overall event).


GM Alexander Grischuk looked several years younger today, but he still got his usual time pressure. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

In the game that may do the most to upend the tournament, a common theme recurred: Dominguez saved a hopeless position against an American. Caruana’s two rooks and knight had trouble organizing against Dominguez’s queen, but when they did, surely things would be simple? Well, both players had only 13 seconds left, so nothing comes easy.

“I really had a golden opportunity to go to plus-four,” Caruana lamented to Chess.com. 

Not so fast. Caruana just moved his rook where it could be taken, banking on a fork. But the knight tasked with the would-be fork was pinned. It’s not every day five points are lost just like that.

Dominguez saw that his opponent’s blunder might happen, but talked himself out of the possibility. This was the world-championship challenger after all.


GM Fabiano Caruana relinquished his lead today for the first time, mostly because of the opening game. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

“I saw that he was going to make the move, but then I thought he would see [the knight was pinned],” Dominguez said.

Caruana was more laconic: “The first game was pretty horrible.”

How to describe such a move? This writer will defer to the 2800. “Re7 was just a blackout,” said Caruana. 

“You can’t really hope to win a game when you blunder a rook,” Caruana said. “If I had won the first game, which was entirely within my hands, it would have been a great rapid portion.”

So with Caruana stuck on eight points, two of the four in the second-place chase group took full advantage. Both Mamedyarov and Nakamura won to come even.

Nakamura said he wasn’t expectig Caruana to lose a game, but then added, “It seems like every event so far Fabiano found a way to turn a completely winning position into a loss. I know in Leuven and Paris it happened quite a few times. Unfortunately for Fabiano it happened today.”


After round eight, Dominguez and Mamedyarov discuss their game. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Mamedyarov had an especially fun game, even for his standards. For those not familiar by now with his rapid style this week, you can think of it this way: It’s like the Ginger GM Simon Williams’ impulses inside the body of a 2800. He said that after the first two GCT events, he decided he needed to “change something” and to play more aggressive chess.

The lunge 9. h4 portended the rest of the game. Shak was there to dunk. GM Sergey Karjakin spent several minutes on his reply, but the fusillade was just getting started.

More buildup ensued, then 16. Bg6! lit up Black’s composure. What might have really brought the house down was his chance two moves later. Can you spot the dramatic idea?

Before you go thinking you might be a better player than Mamedyarov, rest assured that he did see the move (Mamedyarov: “Tactical moves I see not bad!”). But there’s a rejoinder that he didn’t like that gave Black too much activity, as explained below in the game of the day analysis by GM Robert Hess. And besides, it’s not like he let the Russian off the hook.


Nakamura also took advantage, even though he didn’t care much for his play in his win over GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

The Frenchman had an especially rough day, dropping two games and temporarily becoming an outsider in the race to qualify for London.

Nakamura: “Maxime self-destructed today.”

Round 8

Every day so far has had one somnambulant round to temper the frenetic pace of rapid. Today the middle round served that purpose, although there have not been any rounds in which all five games ended drawn.

GM Wesley So beat Grischuk in a mostly-normal King’s Indian Defense where Black lost in the manner that the second player often does. Grischuk threw his entire lunchbox at the White king but failed to mate and thus lost on the queenside.

The game of the round was clearly GM Levon Aronian against Vachier-Lagrave. The Armenian showed some versatility by going to 1. e4 but that meant a Najdorf, the Frenchman’s specialty, and which Aronian said he played as a kid. Aronian didn’t shy away and the expected double-edged game commenced.


GM Levon Aronian was truly the joker today. He gave some of Brand X to Vachier-Lagrave. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

It looked for one ply that the bolt 29. Nc5 would give White the upper hand, but MVL simply left his queen en prise with the precise and unexpected 29…Rh2!, which also put his rook en prise! What can we say? He clearly has some fealty toward French expressions in chess.

It all came apart however with a subtle king move. Instead of 32…Kh7, he would have preferred to say j’adoube and switch to h8. Aronian’s petite combination trapped the king on the h-file, but should have only been good enough to hold. Instead, it produced the full point after a further error. 

Aronian MVL

Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave discuss what just transpired. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Interestingly, the word for “nightmare” in French, cauchemar, is a cognate in Russian: кошмар.

The loss was a double whammy for Vachier-Lagrave (15 points, fourth place) in that he is trying to hold off Aronian (13 points, fifth place) in the Grand Chess Tour standings, and only the top four advance to London.

Dominguez could have made it two wins in a row, but as he whispered to Mamedyarov afterward, “I completely missed …Qe8.”

The hold by Black meant the final round began with the same three leaders: Nakamura, Mamedyarov, and Caruana.

Round 9

Despite getting White twice today for the first time, Caruana didn’t get anything against So and drew in only 19 moves. He would then wait downstairs, giving some interviews while keeping an eye on the scoreboard.

It seemed for a while that he could still have a piece of the lead going into blitz, but then Mamedyarov finished off Anand.

Nakamura then won as well, taking advantage of Dominguez’s lack of time. At one point the clocks read 12 minutes to 13 seconds. The Cuban would not go 3-0 against the American trio.


Dominguez was so close to joining the top half of the tables today. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

“The last game was a little bit weird because I probably shouldn’t have won but you just keep plugging away,” Nakamura said.

Due to a transmission error upstairs, Nakamura came downstairs and thought for a moment he might be the sole leader, but then recognized that Mamedyarov winning that position made more sense in the end.

Chess.com caught up with Nakamura after the day ended. Here’s his thoughts on the rest of the tournament:

Watch Hikaru Nakamura On Grabbing The Lead In Saint Louis from Chess on www.twitch.tv

Going into the blitz, this is where the tournament stands. All 18 blitz games (5+3) will be worth one point.


All graphics courtesy Spectrum Studios.

The Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz is a five-day event from August 11-15. The first three days are a rapid round robin and the final two days are a blitz double round robin. The games begin at 1 p.m. Central U.S. time daily (8 p.m. Central Europe).

Earlier reports: