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The 4NCL Final Weekend, 30th April-2nd May 2011, Hinckley Island by John Carleton



WGM Sheila Jackson, 2155, with 2/3 this weekend


Barcelo Hotel, Hinckley Island

It was in high spirits but with some apprehension that we set out for the final weekend of the 4NCL not only to play in the combined 3rd Division but to enjoy the company of the great and the good of British [indeed European] chess settling down to do battle in the 1st and 2nd divisions. For the first time in the tournament we had been struggling to field a full team for the weekend but an approach to a former Atticus regular, albeit her last game played was thirty two and a half years ago, [still short of Andy Mort's all time record] found Sheila Jackson responding enthusiastically to the call. In the first match we were scheduled against the 2nd placed team from the [Southern] 3rd division, Wessex 2 and we were ready for a tough match against buoyant and resilient opponents.


As ever, we were not to be disappointed in our expectations: there was quick interaction on two of the boards where we were white: Steve Connor and Philip Taylor-Bowd on board 4 whizzed off a long theoretical line whilst I was still filling in the headings on my score sheet and Andy Mort and Roger Marsh on board 6 were soon embroiled in a queenside versus kingside attack from an English. In Sheila's game on board 2 moves came at a more sedate rate but the conflict was intense from an early stage with tactics to the fore. In our black games Peter on board 3 and Dave on board 5 accepted small opening disadvantages and set about neutralising their opponents attacking intentions. My game was unbalanced and unclear from an early stage with Allan Pleasants having a central preponderance and targets in the shape of my fractured kingside pawn formation but in return I had an advanced protected passed pawn on the queenside.



Ilian Mladenov, 2194 vs. John J Carleton, 2307 (-)

Andy was first to finish agreeing a draw after netting the exchange for a pawn but messy complications emerging. Steve's game was also agreed drawn, the position never veering much from level. As the time control approached Dave consolidated his position and a flat ending had emerged; the draw agreement was a formality. Peter too, once he had equalised, had to recognise the limitations of his position and in due course the draw was agreed.


Thus we had four draws with Sheila and I still in play. Sheila had moved on to a difficult ending with rook, bishop and knight and inferior pawn formation against rook and two bishops. In severe time pressure Sheila rattled off some great counter-attacking ideas to establish a stone cold draw. Now it was five draws with my game ongoing: after the time scramble we had arrived at an ending where I still had my big passed pawn but the final outcome was uncertain. It was however certain that Allan faced a tough early evening even if the position could indeed be held. The truth of the matter was not tested as Allan adopted the wrong formation and I was able to deliver us the match-clincher by the traditional "narrowest of margins". This was the cue for our customary post-match celebration in a delightful restaurant near [well, quite near] our base in Daventry which itself was some twenty miles to the south. As ever, the venue was unearthed by Robbo in his role as entertainment secretary and as usual the ambiance, service and quality were first rate. We were proud to find ourselves top of the league and once we had shared our tales of the joy of the royal wedding we settled into our traditional preparation for the following day's match.


The reason we found ourselves top of division 3 was that Brown Jack, our opponents on Sunday [and league leaders from the South at the merger stage] had beaten Bradford 4-2, leaders from the North. Sunday's game offered an enormous challenge and we approached it with a mixture of relish and trepidation. The early stages appeared evenly balanced: maybe a slight edge for me on board 1, Sheila very comfortable with black on board 2, Peter looking ready to attack on board 3, Steve under some discomfort on board 4, Dave's position unclear on board 5 and Andy just slightly cramped.



Board 3: Peter Ackley unbeaten until rd11.

The match situation took on a different outlook when Peter won the exchange and a pawn with a simple combination but was forced into a big think when it became apparent that his opponent Pablo Padilla Cabero had seen further and held a sizeable initiative. My game fluctuated heading back to even and then on to unclear with my position the easier to play. Sheila was improving her position, gradually gaining the upper hand. Peter had been given no choice but to bail out into a knight and rook versus good bishop and rook ending and the promise of much suffering to come. Steve was also under big pressure and his position was looking very loose. Dave and Peter Girdlestone had constructed a position that remained hard to read: Dave's castled king's position looked in some danger but neither was the black king necessarily safe stuck in the middle. I ,for one, could not work it out but gained some hope from the fact that Dave had nearly an hour more left on his clock. Perhaps Peter was thinking back to the day before where he had been on board 1 putting Ben Hague to the sword ... [yes board 5 for this match!] Andy seemed equal but no more.


Then the results started flowing: Steve's opponent missed a big move, exchanges into a lifeless position ensued and a draw was agreed. Andy grabbed a pawn but faced with two raking bishops was content with a draw. Peter's defensive battle was rewarded with a hard- earned draw and we started to have big hopes. Sheila had played a fine game but Timothy Headlong engineered a nice save to salvage the draw in the knight and pawn ending. The big news was on board 5 where Dave had an advanced passed h pawn, an imminent outside passed pawn on the queenside supported by a bishop and his king was more active. Peter struggled manfully but his knight and central pawn mass were just not at the races. Dave completed the win which put us onto 3 points and the glory- hunting skipper delivered the win by agreeing the theoretically drawn ending, where he had the nominal advantage of rook and two pawns against rook and pawn, as an actual draw.




The Windmill Inn Hotel at Badby

We were extremely proud of this good win in a season of good wins and were impressed immensely by the losers' grace and sportsmanship in the face of what must have been a big disappointment. We were thus assured of promotion and those who had had concerns regarding Bradford's prospects after round 9 were put straight, as they also scored a fine success against our "hotel-mates" Celtic Tigers and were also guaranteed promotion. They were now the only team who could pip us for the third division title. And so to the celebration; champagne provided by Dave [only fair, the match win can be laid firmly at his door] was added to the normal beer, wine and fine food to be consumed by the assembly. The venue was "provided" by Andy who is waiting in the wings should a younger man be needed for the entertainment position. In making the toast Dave rightly paid tribute to the fighting spirit and esprit de corps of our team with a special mention for the contributions of the absent Mike Driscoll and Dave Stuttard.


The final round was a special occasion for us as we took our seats beside the great players in the 1st division title-deciding show-down between Wood Green Hilsmark and Pride and Prejudice as the 4NCL brilliant techies prepared to relay our games along side those of Luke McShane against Michael Adams, etc. to the waiting world via the internet. I am unreliably informed that two fans seated at their laptops in the coffee bar were overheard to have had a conversation along the lines of "Are you following that pawn sac in the Pert v Flear game?" "No, I'm waiting to see how Alan Byron handles Steve Connor's set-up against the Caro-Kann". We were playing a team, very similar to ourselves, with their high ratings and useful balance of youth and experience. [well, on reflection there is absolutely no similarity].



Dave Robertson scored 2/3 in rds 9-11

We were buoyed by the knowledge that our fans all over the world were able to follow our efforts and will us on. There was evidence of understandable battle-weariness and two quick draws resulted. On board 6 a flat position arrived speedily between Andy and David Coates. On board 4, between Steve and Alan Byron there was more scope in this level position if the players had had the energy. Steve had every right to be weary having had a busy weekend of chess and celebrations topping off each day by working into the wee hours on the 4NCL website in the service of our chess community [thanks Steve!]. The most startling evidence of mutual fatigue came in the latter stages of Dave's game on board 5; to your roving reporter's eye Dave appeared to have blunted white's attack and maybe stood slightly better for a while but had faltered in letting the white knight into f6 allowing a draw shortly afterwards. However after the game Rybka told us white is simply winning [other rook to d file, Rxf8 and mate to follow]. Meanwhile Peter Ackley, our big hitter over the first, unbeaten [for him] 10 rounds was playing the supporting role in a very fine game: his opponent James Jackson responded admirably to Peter's bold plan to castle queenside. Peter's king's position was ripped apart before he could generate a meaningful counterattack. The interference theme in the finishing move was a lovely conclusion to the sustained aggression shown by the young e2e4 player.


Our team was not without menace and Sheila squared the match up following a game of flowing logic. Having trapped her opponent's king in the centre Sheila showed great composure in building up pressure and then, counter intuitively, perhaps, exchanging queens. This enabled her to demonstrate the superiority of her reduced army over her opponent's, gain a pawn and move into a knight ending which, this time, she won easily. This left my game which meandered on with my structure better if I could ever open matters up. There was one wild sacrifice available but it would most likely lose; it wasn't clear if Bradford would draw [O.K. for us, we capture the title] or win [not so good, if we draw they win the title on points scored]. Unwilling to risk us losing and Bradford winning the title by drawing, I dithered long enough for the sacrifice not become even vaguely viable. My opponent was not the demonstrative sort of fellow but was clearly enjoying my company: firstly a complaint was made to the arbiter that I had left the board [to view the Bradford match which was being played downstairs] during my move; secondly he turned down a draw offer after the exchange of rooks and played another 10 meaningless moves before acceding to my claim for a draw by repetition.


Round 10: Brown Jack vs. Spirit of Atticus (Final score 2-3)


Later we heard that Dave Patrick had "brought home the bacon" with success in the long, last game for Bradford to win their match and take the title. Many congratulations to Bradford, deserved champions, the only team to beat the second placed team [us!]. Congratulations too to the other promoted teams Brown Jack and FCA Solutions 1 [winners in each of the last 3 rounds]. Commiserations to Celtic Tigers who, despite a storming last round win found themselves squeezed out of the last promotion spot by just half a game point.


This, for us, is the end of a memorable season and as soon as we recover we will be looking forward to the new campaign in division 2. Many thanks to all those tireless workers in the 4NCL cause who make it all possible. One who deserves particular praise and thanks from us is Mike Truran, whose vision of the Northern 4NCL has, due in no small part to his energy and enthusiasm, arrived and produced a new string to the 4NCL bow. We anticipate rejoining a flourishing Northern flock in 2012-13 season after a gallant but unsuccessful fight against relegation. If you are a Northern team looking for a new challenge or a Midland team contemplating a different challenge or a "Southern" team with predominantly Northern players, then this is the competition for you. The chess is tough and uncompromising. There is genuine respect between teams at and away from the board. The venues are, as in the South, fantastic, but the playing facilities tend to be more spacious. You are guaranteed black pudding as an option with your full English. The attractions of this competition are numerous; we heartily recommend you join the party.


Rd9-11 results

Spirit of Atticus team page

Division 3 league Table Games in PGN


This report can also be seen here.


Additional reports by John Carleton

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










- 4NCL