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Division 2 4NCL Final Weekend, Hinckley Island, 5th-7th May 2012 by John Carleton



Hinckley Island Hotel


The Atticus team assembled in a mood of well-founded optimism [contrasting with the usual baseless over-estimation of our prospects] after the fine result in the first of our demotion pool matches.


The subsequent inspirational motivational input carefully crafted by the Club Management Board also contributed to the squad reaching close to peak condition. Assembled is perhaps a loose description as the team were spread over the bank-holiday hit motorway network until quite close to the start of the first match of the weekend against Cambridge University 2. We could draw parallels with last season where we needed two wins from the three matches to be confident of promotion as this year we felt two wins from three matches would maintain our elevated status in division 2.


The match started in what has become the traditional manner in our games with players of the white pieces generally building on their opening advantages. Thus all our even boards, Nick, Sheila, Steve and Dave Robertson looked in good shape with promising initiatives. Our black players soon started to chip away at our opponents; my game on board 1 was pretty level and, spectacularly, on board 5 Peter had shaken his opponent's position to its foundations. Less hopeful was Andy Mort on board 7 where the Atticus player had scant compensation for his gambited pawn and board 3 where Dave Latham was facing a protracted and difficult defence with rook and knight against rook and dominant bishop.


The next phase of play proved awkward for us: Steve blundered a piece and resigned instantly. Sheila had gained a big space advantage but at the cost of a pawn so this was hard to judge. I started to drift in my game and Carl Spencer, my opponent, started to pinpoint my potential weaknesses. Dave Robertson was also not having matters his own way, firstly having his initial pressure blocked and then facing potentially dangerous counterplay from his youthful opponent. Peter did finish his game with aplomb, mate on the 22nd move with the black pieces: bravo!


Andrew Smith v Andrew Bak (-) and (foreground) Oskar Hackner v Sheila Jackson (0-1)


Thereafter there were four more decisive results: Andy Mort was put out of his misery by a clinical opponent. The other three went our way: Dave had controlled the tactics better than his opponent on board 8 and launched a winning offensive on the long diagonal. Nick on board 2 produced a towering game of constriction including establishing a protected passed pawn on e7 by move 25 with all the heavy pieces on the board and opponent Charles Pickard's king shivering on e8; black's suffering did not last too much longer.




Andrew Drabble, Bradford DCA 1

Sheila had gradually built up the tension, her complete domination of the light squares made decisive material gain inevitable as the time control was reached. And so, four points had been reached but with Dave Latham and myself still in trouble, victory was not assured. What my skill could not provide a time scramble did : as we evaluated the various ways to convert my opponent's positional advantage to concrete gains the position became increasingly random. At the time control it was apparent that the queen, rook and bishops of opposite colour ending enabled me to condemn him to passivity despite his being pawns to the good and a draw was soon agreed. Dave Latham battled on into the second session but having got close at one point to equalising was duly ground down by his resourceful and persevering opponent. He was, as it transpired, merely playing himself into form for the challenges ahead and joined the happy Spirit of Atticus clan as we headed for dinner in Hinckley at the same venue as for our last Saturday meal. There was no superstition involved in this choice [although the day after that visit did see our best performance of the season to date]. We were happy again to experience and enjoy the friendly and efficient service at Rossini's. The company was vibrant and confident, pleased to be half way to safety. Because of the gentler schedule of the 1:00pm start of the next day many of the team felt it appropriate to have an extra drink or two or ... The captain trusts his troops implicitly of course but did stay in the bar to ensure the team ethic was never compromised.



David Latham v Jim Nicholson (1-0) and

(foreground left) Peter Ackley v Roger Jennings (-)


And so to round 10 where we met old rivals and friends in Bradford DCA. In our respective short 4NCL careers we have trodden similar paths entering Division 2 via the Northern League and though we are happy to emphasise the benefits [more spacious playing conditions and black pudding are the ones that spring immediately to mind from my final report of last season. Are you a Northern based club/group thinking of taking the plunge? Do it! Are you playing in the 3rd Division South but with Northern/Midland based players? Make the switch! You will be impressed; translators are readily available for those who have trouble understanding the dialect. This is only the tip of the wonderful Northern Iceberg] of that competition neither team was keen to rush straight back.


On this day Spirit of Atticus were on fire and the charge was led by Dave Robertson who, because of the vagaries of the ELO system compared with ECF grading has found himself playing on the lifeboat board [mainly women and children] at the bottom of the team throughout the season. Maybe because he was playing an "ordinary" person in the form of Dave Patrick our Dave was able to relax and go for it. The result was a forced mate before move 30. [Just a year ago Dave Patrick had delivered the third division championship to Bradford, his last gasp win on the final day ensuring they pipped us on "goal average".] There was plenty of other heavy artillery heading Bradford's way notably in Dave Latham's game against Jim Nicholson; resignation came with Black's king wide open. Nick on board 2 preferred a more stealthy approach, gradually picking off pawns but getting a lengthy game out of it all as his opponent made sure Nick could "win a won game".


Sheila plumped for the Rambo approach sending a small force in behind opponent Oskar Hackner's lines. This proved mightily effective with an almost total wipe-out of the white position by Sheila; the final position was unusual with Sheila not having moved her a,b or d pawns [and thus her QR and QB were also still at home]. Andy Smith on board 3 went for it too but opponent Andrew Bak was happy to meet fire with fire and after a brief skirmish peace was agreed. A draw also resulted in Peter Ackley's game after bold play with the black pieces by Peter but a murky resulting position saw discretion adopted as the better part of valour. Steve's game on board 7 also saw some bold play by both sides and the draw agreed also in an unclear position. Thus at the time control the only game in play was mine against Andrew Drabble. This had seemed likely to be quite a quick win for me in the first session but my resourceful opponent found some good ideas and the result was in doubt until near the end when the position finally clarified in my favour.


This fantastic win meant we were safe! Our next move was to our restaurant in Coventry, most of this part of the Midlands being closed on Sundays, to begin our celebrations in earnest. The food was good, the service was poor and the table creaked under the weight of wine and champagne bought for us by Entertainments Secretary and Toastmaster without parallel, Dave Robertson. The nine players only [putting one in mind of the Liverpool FC. Team in the Seventies who won Division 1,as it then was, using 14 players only] who played through the season were all present plus our two loyal WAGS. Dave unilaterally declared Nick Ivell as player of the year [few would disagree, Nick's arrival really galvanised us into playing to our potential in addition to playing some quality games of his own] and paid tribute to the Captain [who wishes to make it clear he does not mind if he is replaced]. All four categories [team, WAGS, Nick, Captain] were duly toasted with enthusiasm and we can only thank Dave for his work and generosity throughout the season. The celebrations continued apace with a night cap in the hotel bar.



Round 11: Spirit of Atticus playing FCA Solutions 1. The match finished 4-3.


And so to the final round of the season and to our opponents FCA Solutions who were promoted with us last year but already booked to make the return journey for next year. The match started in a rather strange manner and this can only be laid at the Skipper's door. Before the start of play I had had a senior moment and locked my keys in my car, resulting in my having to liaise with the AA [Editor's note: this is the Automobile Association we're talking about here]. This meant my emotional pre-match rallying call to victory including a demand that the players of the black pieces should contribute more was never delivered. Maybe rumours got out concerning this request because in pretty quick time three of our white players had agreed draws totalling some 55 moves between them. The fourth white, Peter, pretended he was black by playing 1/a3 , then played a Dutch "defence" and subsequently "went for it".


Meanwhile Steve had, playing black on board 7, lost a big central pawn and his opponent became Stewart Rubinstein until the end of the game, exploiting his plusses with alacrity. Then Peter lost, the latest of our number to run into an impressively strong junior. Tarun Malhotra provoked Peter into an unsound advance and then exploited the gaps to pour into the white [or pretend black, position] for a well deserved victory. This left us two down with three in play. David on board 5 and myself on board 1 won in distinct fashions. David got way ahead with the progress of his attack in a game of opposite side of the board castling and cast the final mating net leaving his opponent only a couple of spite checks before capitulation. After a loose opening by my opponent Paul Habershon I ended in an ending a pawn up but one that could pose big problems to convert. An error by Paul approaching the time control gave me a quicker win than I dared hope for and the match was all square with Andy Smith still in play on board 3 with black against Charles Tippleston.


Division 2 Demotion Pool, Final Standings

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 GP Pts
1 Barbican Youth   3-5 4-3 5-2 6-2 6-1 4-3 6-2 36 12
2 Spirit of Atticus 5-3   4-4 3-5 4-3 6-1 4-3 4-3 32 11
3 Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg 3-4 4-4   7-1 3-5 4-3 4-3 4-3 31 9
4 3Cs 1 2-5 5-3 1-7   3-4 4-3 5-3 5-3 26 8
5 Cambridge University 2 2-6 3-4 5-3 4-3   2-5 4-4 5-2 27 7
6 Bradford DCA Knights A 1-6 1-6 3-4 3-4 5-2   4-3 4-4 23 5
7 Brown Jack 3-4 3-4 3-4 3-5 4-4 3-4   4-4 25 2
8 FCA Solutions 1 2-6 3-4 3-4 3-5 2-5 4-4 4-4   22 2


The rook is in many respects the most straightforward of pieces but it does carry its own mystique. Most famous perhaps are Nimzo's mysterious rook moves [this theme being developed brilliantly in many a study]. For Historians, Lasker's celebrated rook manoeuvre against Tarrasch, fourth match game Dusseldorf 1908 [The rook went e8-e5-c5-c4 in between the respective pawn chains] which culminated in a stunning victory. Andy made a bid to break into this exalted company with his own [so far] uncelebrated rook manoeuvre: [f8]-d8-d5-f5-f4-f6-f5-b5-d5-d6. The long and the short of it was that Andy had provoked some pawn weaknesses, Charles still held the only open file and both players had used lots of time. With an intriguing fight still in prospect the time element proved decisive, Charles on move 40 walked into a knight fork which cost a whole rook and induced instant resignation. A strange final match for Spirit of Atticus, very much an after the Lord Mayor's Show event, but one which we are relieved to win to finish the season on a high.


At the end of this rewarding yet exhausting season I would like to pause to thank the many back room workers on our behalf within the 4NCL structure. We never seem to give due recognition to the vision of those who had the dream nor to those whose unstinting endeavours bring it to fruition. Thank you all. We are proud to be a small part of the whole show. We are proud to be the only team promoted from division 3 last year to survive in division 2. We note with interest that all four teams who are promoted to division 1 next season were in our pool at the start of the season. We wish them well. We again commiserate with Brown Jack who are the only team from our pool to be relegated to division 3 having scored 5 match points in the games against those 4 teams who will be in division 1 next season. We look forward to renewing old friendships and rivalries plus the challenges of the new season 2012-13.





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