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The Northern 4NCL 4th Weekend, 26th-27th Mar 2011, Wychwood Park by John Carleton



De Vere Venues, Wychwood Park, near Crewe


There was a feeling of familiarity on our return to Wychwood Park on the outskirts of Crewe, not only for the prospect of the welcoming venue, but the awareness amongst the the Spirit of Atticus team of a tough match in prospect on the Saturday. Our opponents were to be locally based Holmes Chapel placed third in the league and as such hot on our heels. There were other interesting tussles in prospect, not least the bottom of the table collision between Aigburth and Manchester Manticores.


The Saturday round did have one novel feature and that was the posting of regular updates from the other major sporting event of the weekend [the Sri Lanka versus England quarter final tie in the cricket world cup]. These were provided by controller Alex McFarlane, who was, as ever, sensitive to the feelings of the players, but as he admitted, having no interest in the contest. Amazingly, Alex's interest seemed to grow as the afternoon wore on, and, as the magnitude of the disaster facing England became more and more apparent, the regular updates were almost a ball by ball commentary. Absolutely no sour grapes on my part obviously.




John Carleton

The actual games started uncharacteristically brightly for us and after about an hour and a half's play we had great looking positions for myself on board 1, for Dave Stuttard on board 4 and for Andy Mort on board 6. In addition Peter having started passively on board 2 was approaching equality, Mike Driscoll was equal on board 5 and only Dave Robertson's game was just starting to slip towards his opponent on board 3. After another hour or so normal service was resumed and we were in a really close fight, with the final outcome impossible to call. Andy had unleashed his threatened attack and netted an overwhelming material preponderance which forced resignation. However, my thunderous position had settled to a nagging edge after a fine piece of startling castling from Patrick Bennett.


In addition Dave Stuttard was finding opponent Mike Hancock's queen putting on a Rambo-style act of defiance, singlehandedly tying up much of Dave's firepower as he tried to close in on the slumbering white army. Further, by now Dave Robertson had progressed to genuine discomfort and celebrated grandmaster-slayer Chris Doran was winding up the pressure on Mike Driscoll. The next game to finish was Peter on board 2 following a slightly confusing sequence of events: Peter seemed to avoid the natural equalising sequence, confidently played a few moves and offered a draw which was immediately declined. Just a couple of moves later his opponent returned the draw offer which was immediately accepted; the general view is that the final position was extremely dicey for Peter. The denouement, as is frequently the case, came round the time control; firstly my nagging edge yielded the full point when Patrick blundered his queen but Mike's colours were lowered on board 5 as the pressure on his king became unbearable. Dave Stuttard had sacrificed a piece, got it back and arrived a slightly better ending which turned into a slightly worse ending when he dropped his most dangerous pawn [All in a day's work for Dave!]. The draw was not long delayed once the players arrived in a dead position with just rook and one pawn each. Dave Robertson gradually broke out of his cramped quarters and a flat knight and pawn ending was agreed drawn just a few moves after the first time control.





Thus, with this win by the narrowest of margins, we had achieved possibly our best result of the tournament to date. Other results were significant: a thumping win by Bradford A against the usually resilient Jorvik, a shock win by Bradford B against Cheddleton 2 and, again against the odds, victory for Manchester against Aigburth in the battle of the basement.


Saturday evening saw us visit the Thai restaurant in one of leafy Cheshire's finest towns, Nantwich, and as usual our research officer [Refreshments and Sicilian defence] Robbo had provided a venue providing fine food, drink and we of course provided the convivial company. We were pleased to welcome a fellow addict from another team, who perhaps aware of our close connections with other chess conditioning coaches [Yermolinsky and Dvoretsky principally] followed our preparation methods assiduously and, showing himself a quick learner was the sole victor in his team the following day.




And so Sunday duly arrived; an inexplicable fatigue, the lost hour, a team captains or interested parties meeting and of course the jamboree format with the team spread round the room meant, for this captain at any rate, that it was extremely difficult to keep tabs on what was happening. Fortunately, my opponent lost the thread of our game early on and my position took on overwhelming proportions and resignation followed inside a couple of hours. This meant I could have constant updates ready for my players still embroiled in battle, or could do what I actually did and go for an energising walk round the golf club and wild life areas in the beautiful vernal sunshine. I returned to find that Andy and Mike had each had somewhat the better of draws; Mike had been playing smoothly and efficiently but was not alone on this day in feeling real determination from an opponent from Aigburth. Andy had an edge but was an hour behind on the clock. Just before my walk, Dave Robertson on board 4 against Martina Flint from Jorvik had been offered an interesting [and difficult to evaluate] change of pawn formation. After considerable thought Dave declined the offer and "got on with the game". Unfortunately this immediately lost the exchange to a knight fork. On my return, Dave had dug in, grabbed a pawn and generated some counter-play.


Eventually, the players set up a repetition and after about 5 repeats one of them spoke and a draw was agreed. Peter Ackley played a queenside against kingside strategy and kept his king in the middle ready to run if the going got tough. His strategy was completely vindicated keeping a black knight shut out of the game on b8 and thus effectively playing a piece ahead. Gradually exchanges came emphasising Peter's advantage; his opponent gave up the trapped knight for a pawn but to no avail. Faced with a pawn on the verge of queening he bowed to the inevitable and Peter had delivered the point to ensure us the "match" points. Dave Stuttard sacrificed a pawn in the opening for nebulous compensation and then generated complications which always offered good drawing chances but little more. After 5 hours play his opponent gave up trying to chase the elusive win, agreeing the draw in the lifeless, despite his extra passed pawn, bishop of opposite colour ending that had arisen.


The afternoon provided two fine examples of bouncebackability: Jorvik after being crushed on Saturday were leading scorers with 5 game points and Aigburth opened their account with 4 game points to move away from the bottom of the league. Bradford deservedly pushed on at the top although we've kept chasing. It just remains for me to wish good luck to our new friends and rivals from the North as we venture together into the unknown for the final weekend.


Rd7 results Rd8 jamboree results

Spirit of Atticus team page

Northern league Table Games in PGN


This report can also be seen here.


Additional reports by John Carleton

The Northern 4NCL Third Weekend
The Northern 4NCL Second Weekend
The Northern 4NCL First Weekend








- 4NCL