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Changing of the guard at 4NCL?

FM Steve Giddins reports on round 1 of the new season

The 2006-7 4NCL season kicked off on Saturday 16th September, at a new venue, Sunningdale Park, in Berkshire. The big news in the off-season was the withdrawal of major sponsorship from Wood Green, leaving the defending champions with only one team, instead of three, and only the regular club members in the team itself. On paper, this should leave the road clear for Guildford ADC, still sponsored by Nigel Povah, although Mark Hebden played down his team’s chances. “We’re all old fogeys!”, he said, and predicted a strong challenge from younger teams, such as Hilsmark Kingfisher and Slough Sharks.

Sunningdale Park
Photo - Steve Giddins

The Division 1 playing room at Sunningdale Park.

The results of the first round (see elsewhere on this site for full details) provided the first confirmation of the predicted demise of Wood Green. They went down 5-3 to Betsson, a solid team, but not one which would have got too close to the old Wood Green. Barbican 1 defeated Oldham 3Cs by the same score, helped by the latter’s default on the ladies’ board, whilst Hilsmark Kingfisher scored a comfortable 5 ½ - 2 ½ win over Bristol.

NW Eagles defeated the ADs by the same score. It is a little early to talk about relegation issues, but these two teams are perennial relegation battlers, so this is potentially an important result for both. One upset was the defeat of GM Jonathan Mestel by Eagles’ Graeme Morrison, who had a great season last year, and looks to have carried over his fine form. The day’s closest match saw Slough Sharks squeak through against SW Dragons by the narrowest possible margin.

The final tie of round one saw the two Guildford ADC teams face off against each other. Predictably enough, it was the first team which won, 5 ½ - 2 ½, but it was not all one-way traffic. Danny King, who top-scored for Guildford ADC 1 last season, suffered his first 4NCL defeat for a couple of years, after missing a nice tactical shot against David Howell:

Howell vs. King

Black has comfortable equality, but played the inauspicious 23...Nd3?, only to be hit with 24 Nc4! He fended off immediate material loss by 24...Qc5, but after 25 Nxb6 Rxb6 26 Qc2 Nf4 27 Re3 g6 28 Rae1, White had taken control of the position, and soon won.

Crouch and Arkell
Photo - Steve Giddins

Foreground: Colin Crouch and Keith Arkell.

One of the most eye-catching games of the day was the following:

Gormally,Daniel W (2513) - Cobb,Charles (2403) [C11]
4NCL0607/D1/BRI1–HKF1 Rd01–Sunningdale (1.2), 16.09.2006

1 e4 e6 2 d4 d5 3 Nc3 Nf6 4 e5 Nfd7 5 f4 c5 6 Nf3 Nc6 7 Be3 cxd4 8 Nxd4 Bc5 9 Qd2 Bxd4 10 Bxd4 Nxd4 11 Qxd4 Qb6 12 Qd2!?

An enterprising attempt to avoid the tedium of 12 Qxb6, when White has only a microscopic advantage, and Mikhail Gurevich has boasted of being "able to defend this position against anybody in the world!”

12...Qxb2 13 Rb1 Qa3 14 Nb5 Qxa2 15 Nd6+ Ke7 16 Rc1 Qb2 17 Be2

Gormally vs. Cobb


One of the more extraordinary theoretical novelties of 2006. Grischuk-Zvjagintsev, Mainz Rapid 2005, continued 17...Nc5, but here too, White won after 18 0-0 Nb3 19 Nf5+ exf5 20 Qb4+ Kd8 21 cxb3 Qxe2 22 Rc7! And White went on to win.

18 0–0 gxf4 19 Nxf7!?

A typically enterprising sacrifice from Gormally, but its soundness depends on the assessment of the line suggested at move 24.

19...Kxf7 20 Qxf4+ Ke8 21 Qg5 Nxe5 22 Bh5+ Kd7 23 c3 Ng6 24 c4 Qe5?

This loses. Black should try 24...Qd4+ 25 Kh1 Rf8, when it is not clear how White should continue the attack.

25 Rf7+ Kd6 26 Qd2!

A deadly switchback, threatening a lethal check on b4.

26...a5 27 Qf2 d4 28 c5+ Qxc5 29 Qg3+ e5

29...Qe5 30 Qa3+ wins.

30 Rxc5 1–0

Division 1

Pride and Prejudice
Barbican 4NCL 1
White Rose 1
Guildford-A&DC 1
Cambridge Univ. 1
The ADs
Barbican 4NCL 2
Oxford 1
Pandora's Box Grantham
S. Wales Dragons
Guildford-A&DC 2
Poisoned Pawns 1
Jutes of Kent

Division 2

Sambuca Sharks
Warwickshire Select 1
e2e4.org.uk 1
Barbican 4NCL Youth
AMCA Dragons
Kings Head
Poisoned Pawns 2
Anglian Avengers
Wessex 1
Celtic Tigers 1
Bristol 1
White Rose 2
Brown Jack
Guildford-A&DC 3
FCA Solutions 1

Division 3

Rhyfelwyr Essyllwg
Sambuca Black Sheep
Cambridge Univ. 2
Wessex 2
Warwickshire Select 2
KJCA Kings
FCA Solutions 2
The Full Ponty
Sussex Smart Ctls.
e2e4.org.uk 2
Nottinghamshire 1
Nottinghamshire 2
Oxford 2
AMCA Rhinos
Braille Chess Assoc.
AMCA Hippos
Glos. Gambits
Bristol 2
KJCA Knights
Guernsey Mates
Bristol 3
e2e4.org.uk 3
Beauty and the Beasts
Celtic Tigers 2
Oxford 3
Guildford-A&DC 4
AMCA Cheetahs