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First Weekend Report
by GM Nick Pert
The top 3 Divisions of the 4NCL kicked off this season in the De Vere Hotel in Sunningdale. Nigel Povah’s Guildford-ADC team smashed all records last season, when Guildford’s top 2 teams landed a convincing 1-2. Looking at the teamsheets this season, a repeat certainly could be on the cards as none of the other teams had acquired a major sponsor to compete with them. The ADS must be counted as challengers as they have some heavyweight players, but they often tend to disappoint. So probably the ever reliable Barbican 1 will end up being the main threats to another 1-2.
However chess is not always predictable, and Guildford 1, who certainly have more players in reserve, almost got caught cold in the very first match of the season by a newly promoted Richmond team. Firstly we were disadvantaged by James Plaskett missing the default time against Gavin Wall. Michael Franklin pulled off a shock victory over debutant Mohammed Tissir from a bad position and Danny Gormally beat Mark Hebden in the top board clash. As usual the strength in depth of the Guildford team saw them score heavily on the bottom boards and scrape through 4.5-3.5.
Here is Danny’s win over Mark. Both players had heavy nights, the night before the match, but despite this there was a lot of fight involved. Personally I was surprised after listening to Danny spend the whole night before the last round of Liverpool, bricking himself whether Fridman would give him a quick draw, just the previous weekend!!
Gormally,Daniel W (2509) - Hebden,Mark L (2540) [C88]
4NLC/Div1/RIC1–GUI1 Sunningdale ENG (1.1), 15.09.2007
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.a4 b4 9.d3 d6 10.Nbd2 Rb8 [10...Na5 Is more common when black can get his pawn to c5. 11.Ba2 c5 12.Nc4 Nc6 13.c3 Rb8 14.h3 h6 15.d4 0–1 Morozevich,A (2721)-Leko,P (2740)/Monte Carlo MNC 2006 (98)] 11.Nc4 White tries to stop the standard Na5 and c5 plan, but it appears as though black is totally fine anyway. 11...Be6 12.h3 [12.Be3 Ng4 13.Bd2 Bh4 14.Rf1 Be7 15.Rc1 Nf6 0–1 Firman,N (2505)-Ehlvest,J (2587)/Philadelphia USA 2003 (40)] 12...h6 13.Ba2 Be3 looks more logical. 13...Re8 14.c3 Bf8 15.Be3 Qc8 16.Bd2 White seems to be wasting time, but in a quiet position you can often get away with it! 16...Qb7 17.Ne3 b3 Very committal! 18.Bb1 d5 Maybe black should consider rerouting his knight to g6 before opening the centre. 19.exd5 d4 will lock the bishop in for a while if not. 19...Nxd5 20.Ng4 f6 21.d4!
Unleashing the beast on b1. 21...exd4 22.Nxd4 Nxd4 23.cxd4 Qc8? b6 looks like a much better post for the queen. 24.Bg6 Re7 25.Qf3 Nb4 26.Bxb4 Rxb4 27.Ne3 Bf7 Black intends a desperate exchange sack but never looks like surving after this. [27...Rxd4 28.Nf5 Bxf5 29.Bxf5 Qb8 Leaves black a pawn up but his light squares are in bits.] 28.Nd5 Rxe1+ 29.Rxe1 Bxg6 30.Nxb4 Bf7 [30...Bxb4 31.Qxb3+ Is trivially winning for white.] 31.Nc6 Qd7 32.Qe4 g6 33.d5 f5 34.Qe3 Qxd5 35.Ne7+ Bxe7 36.Qxe7 c5 37.Re5 Qd1+ 38.Kh2 The rook is coming in from c5 to c8, and with no time for a perpetual black can safely give up. 1–0
Elsewhere on the Saturday Jonathan Rogers win over John Cox was the only high point for Barbican 2 as they got destroyed by their first team. Slough Sharks 1 are a shadow of their former selves after losing their sponsorship, and were soundly beaten by Betsson.com who are supported mainly by Steve Ledger, despite the name of the team!
Hilsmark Kingfisher have also lost some punch from last season when their sponsorship went down and they drew 4-4 with North West Eagles 1. They have however recruited Steven Gordon who has been in awesome form recently, winning the English Championship and is just 1 norm away from the GM title. He is definitely one to keep your eye on for the future, and he picked up 2/2 this weekend to confirm that!
Cambridge University 1 seems to be composed of a team of players who were outstanding as juniors, but then went and got a life! I remember battling with the likes of Karl Mah, David Moskovic, Joe Conlon, David Garner and Rohan Churn many years ago, but they are rarely seen in tournaments these days! Still 2.5 points against the ADS is not bad!
Finally Guildford ADC 2 beat Wood Green in a tight match. Ian Sharpe, who funnily enough I played one night after the 4NCL in a league match, scored the only win over my old school teacher Graham Lee from Oakham School. There was a time when this would have been a GM packed match as Nigel Povah would try and spring a surprise on Brian Smith’s first team before the inevitable big clash at the end of the season. Sadly Brian, and Paul Littlewood, plus any other Wood Green sponsors who have contributed an enormous amount to British chess are not sponsoring their team in anything like the same way they used to. Maybe they are saving up their funds for an onslaught next season!? Brian does still support chess well through the London League it has to be said though.
Sunday brought about the clash between the 2 Guildford teams. The first game to finish lasted just 9 moves, and the result was decisive!
Samul,Marianna (1900) - Lalic,Susan (2350) [B01]
4NLC/Div1/GUI1–GUI2 Sunningdale ENG (2.8), 16.09.2007
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Nf6 3.c4 c6!? Lalic wants to get it over with quickly. 4.dxc6 Nxc6 5.b3?
And so does Samul! Nf3 is a better alternative. 5...e5 6.Bb2 Bc5 7.Nc3 Bg4 8.f3 Bf5 9.g4?? The position was awful anyway. 9...Nxg4! With Qh4-f2 amoungst many other threats. 0–1
David Howell, is clearly demonstrating his ability to play consistently at top level these days, and is surely one of the brightest talents Britain has seen over recent years. He confirmed this by dispatching the usually rock solid John Shaw in just 20 moves with black!
Shaw,John K (2446) - Howell,David W L (2519) [C60]
4NLC/Div1/GUI1–GUI2 Sunningdale ENG (2.2), 16.09.2007
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 g6 4.d4 exd4 5.Bg5 Be7 6.h4?! [6.Bxe7 Is standard move 6...Qxe7 7.Bxc6 dxc6 8.Qxd4 Nf6 9.Nc3 Bg4 10.0–0–0 ½–½ Volokitin,A (2558)-Malaniuk,V (2556)/Warsaw POL 2002 (23)] 6...Nf6 7.Bxc6?! I dont like the idea of giving up this bishop so freely. 7...dxc6 8.e5 Ng4 9.Bxe7 Qxe7 10.Qxd4 f6! Black already has a clear advantage. 11.Nbd2 fxe5 12.Qa4 0–0 13.0–0 [13.h5!? But still better for black] 13...Be6 14.Rae1 Rad8 15.Re4? Loses more time. 15...b5! 16.Qa5 [16.Qxa7 Ra8 17.Qb7 Qd7 Is unfortunate] 16...Bf5 17.Ree1 e4 18.Qxa7
Rxd2! A nice touch to finish off the game. 19.Nxd2 Qd6! [19...Qxh4 doesn't work. 20.Qxc7] 20.g3 Qxd2 21.Qc5 e3 0–1
On board 3 Graeme Buckley quickly picked off Danny King from the black side of a French advance. I’m not sure how familiar either player was with the opening, but King quickly lost his King in the complications!
Last season I collected 9 points from 11 games, and had a fantastic run of tournament successes, but despite this my confidence was low, after a poor finish to the British, and failing to win a game against stiff opposition in a match against China. Mark Hebden and Tony Kosten showed great team spirit in dropping me down the order and giving me a double white, without me asking for it! Amazingly I feel much stronger now I’ve picked up a couple of wins in a row – it’ strange how short term chess psychology is! I made hard work of it though on Sunday, in what was a tough game where I was struggling to overcome some dogged resistance against a solid opponent, Keith Richardson. I finally picked up my level in the following instructive rook and pawn ending. Having been on the receiving end of having half points stolen off me against the Chinese, it was nice to return the favour to someone else!
Pert,Nicholas (2536) - Richardson,Keith B (2239) [D79]
4NLC/Div1/GUI1–GUI2 Sunningdale ENG (2.5), 16.09.2007
In this position, white can easily force a draw by swapping d and b pawns at any stage, but with my advanced passed pawn I thought I could set black some problems. 32.Rb8+ Kg7 33.b6 Re3?! I think black is best off bringing his rook behind the b pawn straight away. Rooks are best behind pawns, but failing that, they are often stronger supporting pawns from the side. This move allowed me to do that. [33...Re6! Encouraging my pawn to b7. 34.b7 Rb6 35.Kf3 f5 36.g4 fxg4+ 37.Kxg4
Now black can wait with rook on b2 and just pass with his king on g7 and h7. If he can swap the e pawn off it's totally drawn. Then if King comes to e file he can take the pawn with check and return to b2, and if it comes to 2nd rank then black plays d3.] 34.Rc8! White has no interest in swapping pawns so bringing the rook to the d file just brings it a file closer to the enemy king. 34...Rb3 35.Rc6 h5 36.Ke1! The king starts a long journey towards the queenside. 36...Rb2 37.Kd1 Kh6 38.h4! Ensuring black makes no further progress on the kingside. The black king is actually quite badly placed on h6 as the pawn on h4 and rook effectively hold up any kingside counterplay. 38...Kg7
39.Kc1! Rb4 [39...Rxe2? 40.b7 Re1+ 41.Kb2 Re2+ 42.Kb1 Re1+ 43.Rc1 Re8 44.Rc8 Wins easily for white] 40.Kc2 Kh6? I think the king should go to f8 where it is nearer to the action. Black is just waiting for a timely counter attack but this is not ever quick enough. 41.Kd3 f5 42.e3 Forced in order to make progress. 42...dxe3 43.Kxe3 Rg4! [43...Rb3+ 44.Kd4! (44.Kf4 Rb5 45.Re6 Rd5 46.b7 Rb5 47.Re7 Also wins) 44...Rxg3 45.Rc3 (45.Kc4 transposes to game) 45...Rg1 46.Rb3 Rd1+ 47.Kc5 Rd8 48.b7 Rb8 49.Kc6 g5 50.Rb6! Also wins.] 44.Kd3! White must give a pawn to activate the king, but the other pawn and rook do a remarkable job at holding up black's kingside assault. 44...Rxg3+ 45.Kc4 Rg1
46.Kb5! A key moment. If white is not careful the endgame can easily result in a draw. [46.Kc5 Rb1! 47.Kd6? And now it's drawn. (47.Rd6 This still wins with the idea Rd4-b4) 47...f4 48.Kc7 f3 49.b7 (49.Rf6 Rc1+ 50.Kb8 Rf1 51.b7 f2 52.Kc7 Rc1+ Draws; 49.Rc2 g5 50.hxg5+ Kxg5 51.b7 Kh4 52.b8Q Rxb8 53.Kxb8 Kg3 54.Rc7 f2 55.Rg7+ Kh2 56.Rf7 Kg2 57.Rg7+ With a similar drawing plan, this time white must be careful though!) 49...f2 50.Rf6 Rc1+ 51.Kd7 Rb1 With repetition.] 46...f4 [46...Rb1+ 47.Ka6 f4 (47...Ra1+ 48.Kb7 f4 49.Kc7 f3 50.b7 Rb1 51.Rb6 Rxb6 52.Kxb6 f2 53.b8Q f1Q 54.Qh8# Just in time) 48.Rf6 Wins] 47.Rf6 Rb1+ 48.Kc5 f3 49.Rxf3 Kg7 50.Rf4! The most precise. 50...Rxb6? Ending resistance. [50...g5 51.hxg5 Kg6 52.Rb4 Rc1+ 53.Kd6 Rc8 54.Rb5! And the king gets cut along the 5th rank leading to a win. In Rook v pawn endings where the attacking king is a long way from the action, if the defending king is cut from the 5th rank, the pawn cannot promote, since when it reaches h3 it is simply rounded up by Rb3-h3. 54...h4 55.b7 Re8 56.Kc7 Re7+ 57.Kb6 Re8 58.Ka7 Re7 59.Ka8 Re8+ 60.b8Q Rxb8+ 61.Kxb8 Kh5 62.g6+ Kxg6 63.Kc7 h3 64.Rb3 Winning the pawn.] 51.Kxb6 g5 52.Rf5! 1–0
Hilsmark Kingfisher 1 picked up their first win of the season against Cambridge University 1. Barbican 1 absolutely annihilated Slough Sharks 1 7-1 to confirm themselves as genuine title contenders and top the table. They are remarkably strong despite their lack of a sponsor.
Wood Green and Richmond split the points with Richard Bates completing a very good weekend by picking up Richmond’s only win, against experienced Wood Green veteran Peter Sowray, whilst Graham Lee made amends for his loss on Saturday to regain the point on Sunday versus Thomas Nixon. Peter has also put a lot of time into chess, particularly with the 4NCL and on the International Scene. Most recently with selections for the European Team Championships, where it is certainly very difficult to keep everyone happy! We wait for the next open letter complaining about them!!
The ADS, or maybe they should be called the oldies as they never seem to have anyone young in their team, powered through North West Eagles 1 6.5-1.5 to leave them 2nd in the table.
Betsson.com (which I spend far too much time on playing poker!) also completed a good weekend winning 6-2. Richard Pert, Andrew Ledger and Harriet Hunt all scored maximums.
Sponsorship is so important these days, and hopefully the league will see more in future years to generate some interest. Some players stick to their teams, but most professionals are forced to go with the money. I have to admit I’ve moved around several times in the past, having played for Wood Green, Barbican, Betsson.com, Slough Sharks and now Guildford! The teams that are able to maintain the same players often do the best as Guildford’s relatively unchanged squad proved last season. My transfers have been slightly more successful than my brother Richard’s who was at one stage known as the Jonah of the 4NCL after playing for 3 different teams in 3 successive seasons and watching all 3 of them get relegated to the 2nd division whilst he jumped ship!!
Bristol 1 and White Rose lead Division 2 with maximum scores. The Jutes of Kent and Slough Sharks 2 are doing likewise in Division 3.
Simon Williams, a hired mercenary for newly promoted Jutes of Kent, showed his usual creativity in dispatching Bruce Jenks who lost track of the score after just 6 moves!! You may be (a little) less surprised when you see the game started!
Jenks,Bruce (2148) - Williams,Simon K (2480) [A20]
4NCL/Div3/WES2-JUT1 Sunningdale ENG (1.1), 15.09.2007
1.c4 e5 2.g3 h5!? Typical coffee house stuff by Simon 3.h4 d5!? 4.cxd5 c6!? and we have a reversed Morra gambit with h4 and h5 thrown in! Worth a look for amusement value in any case.
That wraps it up for the first weekend. Next up is the Paragon Hotel, Birmingham on 10/11 November which will see Barbican 1 meet the ADS in a table topping clash.
Pride and Prejudice
Barbican 4NCL 1
White Rose 1
Cambridge Univ. 1
Barbican 4NCL 2
Pandora's Box Grantham
S. Wales Dragons
Poisoned Pawns 1
Jutes of Kent
Warwickshire Select 1
Barbican 4NCL Youth
Poisoned Pawns 2
Celtic Tigers 1
White Rose 2
FCA Solutions 1
Sambuca Black Sheep
Cambridge Univ. 2
Warwickshire Select 2
FCA Solutions 2
The Full Ponty
Sussex Smart Ctls.
Braille Chess Assoc.
Beauty and the Beasts
Celtic Tigers 2