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Final Weekend Report
by GM Nick Pert
Sunningdale played host to the top 3 Divisions of the 4NCL for the final 3 rounds of this seasons 4NCL, held, as usual over the first May bank holiday weekend. The weekend started with Guildford ADC 1 being awarded the division 1 title, from last season. They were in pole position to retain this, and made no mistake, as they conceded just 3 game points in the 3 final matches combined! Stuart Conquest, Mark Hebden and Tony Kosten all made maximum scores over the weekend. Guildford ADC 2 also performed strongly and finished in 2nd place, seeing off their main rivals, Barbican 1, into 3rd with a 5.5-2.5 last round victory.
Despite running out convincing winners in the end, this season was far less smooth than last season for Guildford ADC 1, with some worrying moments earlier on against Cambridge and Richmond.
So the final standings are: 1st Guildford ADC 1 21 Match Points, 2nd Guildford ADC 2 20 MP, 3rd Barbican 1 17MP, 4th Betsson 15MP.
Elsewhere the ADs scored a crushing victory over a weakened Hilsmark team (7-1) to assure themselves of 5th, ahead of Hilsmark in 6th. Wood Green finished 7th losing 5 matches by the narrowest margin, 4.5-3.5!
Before looking at the usual promotion and relegation issues, it is worth mentioning the change in format of the competition for next season. As I read it the divisions will now consist of 16 teams. This means that none of the first or second division sides have been relegated as the league grows from 12 sides to 16.
I have been told that next season will be run as the French League is. Assuming this is the case, the 16 teams in each league will be split into 2 groups of 8. The first 7 rounds will involve all the teams within these groups playing each other. Then after round 7, the top 4 teams from each group will join the A group, and the bottom 4 teams from each group will join the B group. There will be 8 teams in each group, with each team having already played 3 of the other sides. These results carry through to the 2nd half of the season, and will be combined with the results of the other last 4 rounds to give a final position.
For example if Betsson finished 4th in their group, losing to the top 3 teams, but beating the bottom 4 teams, they would advance to the A Group, but carry through the 3 losses, and drop their 4 wins. Then if they finished 7th in that group, they would be placed 7th overall. The winner of the B group would be placed 9th and so on.
Onto division 2 and White Rose clung on to the title despite a crushing defeat at the hands of Pride and Prejudice (6.5-1.5) on the Saturday. They were without top seed Pete Wells, who had been competing in the European Individual Championships, but he returned to steady the ship for the last round.
The battle for 2nd place was incredibly tight, being decided in the end by just 0.5 game point as Bristol 1 sneaked in ahead of Pride and Prejudice on tie break. South Wales Dragons 1 also made it into the new look top division for next year, edging out Guildford 3 into 5th by 1.5 game points. This takes away the possibility of a 1-2-3 finish for Guildford next season!
Onto Division 3 and Jutes of Kent won the league consolidating on previous success by winning rounds 9 and 10 before being held to a draw by 3rd Place Pandora’s Box. Their main rivals, Warwickshire Select, won all their matches to finish up 2nd. Anglian Avengers 1 had a fantastic last weekend, winning all 3 matches to move up to division 2. Players from this team are based primarily in Suffolk, so I have played many of them in my younger years, when I was improving as a junior. FCA Solutions 1 and South Wales Dragons 2 also went up, benefitting from Slough Sharks 2 being deducted a point for excessive defaults.
Personally I was slightly disappointed this season, making +4 (4 more wins than draws), but missing some good chances to get more along the way, compared to last season where I had no complaints, as I managed +7.
Tactics were the main decisive factors in my games this weekend. On the Saturday Craig Pritchett fell for a simple knight fork which cost him 2 pieces for a rook. As my chess coach used to say to me, look at checks and captures on every move!
Pert,Nicholas (2545) - Pritchett,Craig W (2315) [E11]
4NCL/Div1/BAR2-GUI1 Sunningdale (9.4), 03.05.2008
I was feeling quite comfortable at this point with a strong hold over the central squares, but black was solid enough, so I had to look for a way to make progress. I realised my d2 knight was the piece I would most like to improve, and saw that based on a trick I could aim to put it on e4 where it lines up the c5, d6, f6 and g5 squares. 14.Ng5! h6?! [14...Ne7 Taking advantage of the fact Ne5 is no longer possible. 15.Nde4 With some edge to white.] 15.Nge4 With a powerful bishop on g2, and a superior pawn structure, white definitely has an edge, but the next move makes it a decisive one! 15...Nd5? [15...Nxe4 16.Nxe4 with a plus.]
16.Rxd5! exd5 17.Nc5 Qb5 18.Nxd7 Rfd8 19.Qg4 Kh8 20.Bh3 b6 21.Rc1 b3 22.axb3 Rac8 23.Rc3 a4 24.Qd1 a3 25.bxa3 Ne7 26.Rxc8 Rxc8 27.Ne5 f5 28.Nf7+ 1–0
The Sunday game I made a tactical miscalculation which allowed my opponent to gain a perpetual from a position where I had a definite initiative.
Monday and things were back in my favour again as a slip from my opponent allowed me to prematurely end the game.
Pert,Nicholas (2545) - Devereaux,Maxim (2412) [E13]
4NCL/Div1/BAR1–GUI2 Sunningdale (11.2), 05.05.2008
23..Qf3? Up until now Max had played very creatively, and although he had made some serious positional concessions was still well in the game. Since the pawn structure around the black king is worse than that around the white king, black cannot afford to let white consolidate his king position. [23...Qf5 keeping the white king on the c line, thus forcing a queen trade. 24.Qc2 Qxc2+ 25.Kxc2 Rfe8 with a slight edge to white.] 24.Kb1! Always good to remove the king from the same line as the opposing rook. After the game he hadn't considered this the most dangerous move, but for me it was an obvious option. 24...f5? Black should try Ba6, but would still suffer some discomfort. This move was based on a miscalculation. [24...Rfe8?! 25.Ne4! Qxb3 26.Nxf6+ Kf8 27.axb3 Is uncomfortable.] 25.Qc2! aiming to pick off f5.
25...Bxd5? The last few black moves had been based on this tactic, but unfortunately for him it doesn't work. 26.Rd3! [26.Rxd5? Rxc3 27.Qxc3 Qxd5 is the point when black is fine.; 26.Rf1? also fails 26...Qxf1! 27.Rxf1 Be4 28.Nxe4 Rxc2 29.Nf6+ Kg7 30.Nh5+ Kg6 31.Kxc2 Kxh5 and black survives.] 26...Rfe8 [26...Qg2 27.Rxd5 and now Rxc3 is not possible on account of Qxg2.] 27.Rxe8+ Rxe8 28.Rxd5 [28.Rxf3?! Re1+ 29.Nd1 Bxf3 Gives black some hope to play on, although it is still very strong for white.] 1–0
Elsewhere Mark Hebden played very well this weekend, and was gifted an easy victory when Andrew Ledger, normally very accurate, had a complete oversight.
Hebden,Mark L (2518) - Ledger,Andrew J (2421) [B07]
4NCL/Div1/GUI1–BET Sunningdale (10.3), 04.05.2008
White stands a little better, but with a bit of careful play black can fight hard to stay in the game. Maybe a manouvre like Rbd8 and c6 was called for. 23...gxh4?? Opens multiple routes to the surrounded black king. 24.Rg7 Rbe8 [24...Rhg8 25.Rxd6+ cxd6 26.Re7# Is the point.] 25.f4! Leading to mate in 2 as black is powerless against the plan of Nd4+ and f5 mate. 1–0
David Howell is one of the most promising rising players, and recently performed exceptionally at the Southend Easter Congress, so it was interesting to see how he would get on this weekend. On the Saturday he seemed to be under some pressure, but managed to fight off the attack to win.
Lewis,Andrew P (2282) - Howell,David WL (2533) [A34]
4NCL/Div1/BAR2-GUI1 Sunningdale (9.5), 03.05.2008
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb4 6.Bc4 Nd3+ 7.Ke2 Nxc1+ 8.Rxc1 Nc6 9.Bd5 Nb4 10.d4 Nxd5 11.exd5 e6 12.Re1 Be7 13.dxc5 Bxc5
14.dxe6 [14.Ne4 Is probably stronger 14...Bb6 15.Qa4+ Bd7 16.Nd6+ Kf8 17.Qa3 Kg8 18.Kf1 with advantage.] 14...Bxe6 15.Qa4+ Kf8 16.Kf1 h5! Black needs to find a way of bringing the h8 rook into the game so he can put his king on g8. 17.Rxe6 risky [17.Nb5 Bb6 18.Rcd1 Qf6 19.Nbd4 Bg4 20.h3 Bxf3 21.Nxf3 leaves white with a small but nagging edge due to his lead in development.] 17...fxe6 18.Rd1 Qe8 19.Ne5 [19.Rd7!?] 19...Kg8 [19...Qxa4 20.Nxa4 Be7 21.Ng6+ gives an endgame with a minimal edge to white.] 20.Qb3 [20.Rd7 was the move, to keep fair compensation for the exchange.] 20...Rh6 21.Ne4 Bb6
22.g3? Allowing black to complete his development and claim the initiative. [22.g4! hxg4 23.Nxg4 Rg6 (23...Rh4 24.Nef6+ wins for white.) 24.Ne5 When if black wants to play for the win he must give back an exchange.] 22...Rd8 23.Rxd8 Qxd8 24.Qf3 Qf8 25.Qd3 Qf5 26.f4 h4 27.Qf3 hxg3 28.hxg3 Rh2 29.g4 Qh7 30.g5 Rh3 0–1
The Sunday game was much smoother, but unfortunately he lost to Jonathan Parker, an experienced grandmaster, on Monday.
Howell,David WL (2533) - Webb,Laurence E (2309) [C55]
4NCL/Div1/GUI1–BET Sunningdale (10.5), 04.05.2008
Black's position is very passive and he is tied to many weak points. Often there is a decisive breakthrough in such positions, and Howell finds it easily. 46.fxe5 fxe5 47.Qe6+ Kf8 48.Rxe5! Qd7 [48...dxe5 49.Bxe7+ Ke8 50.Bd6#] 49.Rf5+ Bf6 50.Qxd7 Rxd7 51.e5 1–0
Eric Prie is a great fan of playing an early a3 as white, or a6 as black. Here he used it with some effect.
Prie,Eric (2520) - Britton,Richard L (2257) [D02]
4NCL/Div1/HK1–GUI1 Sunningdale (11.4), 05.05.2008
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d5 3.a3 g6 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 Nbd7 6.h3 c6 7.Nbd2 0–0 8.Be2 Ne4 9.0–0 Qb6 10.Nxe4 dxe4 11.Nd2
Qxb2?! A brave move, I personally hate grabbing pawns with maneuvers like Qb6-b2 in any position as they are so time consuming your opponent always gets some play. Here it is not easy to save the queen either! 12.Rb1 Qxa3 13.Nc4 Qa4 14.Ra1 Qb5 [14...Qb4 15.c3 Qxc3 16.Rc1 Qb4 17.Rb1 Qc3 18.Rb3 Traps her!] 15.Ra5 Qb4
16.c3 Qxc3 17.Qb1! Threatening Ra3. 17...c5 [17...Nb6 18.Rc1 Nxc4 19.Rxc3 Nxa5 Grabbing R + N for queen may have been better.] 18.Rb5 [18.Rc1 may be even stronger. 18...Qb4 19.Qa2 With Rb1 Qc3 and Ra3 to follow winning the queen.] 18...cxd4 19.Rc1 White finally traps the queen, winning it for a rook. Black gets a strong passed d pawn, but some careful play soon realises the extra material for white. 19...Qxc1+ 20.Qxc1 d3 21.Bd1 b6 22.Qa3 Bb7 23.Qxe7 Bc6 24.Rb1 Rfe8 25.Qa3 Bd5 26.Nd6 Re6 27.f3 f5 28.Rb5 Nc5 29.Rxc5 bxc5 30.Qxc5 Ba2 31.Qa5 1–0
Finally a quick look at Eric Prie against my brother. Richard required a win for a GM norm, and with his first child on the way I expect he had other things on his mind! Unfortunately Richard drew the game and missed out on the norm, but on the flip side his wife has given birth to a beautiful baby girl!
Pert,Richard G (2466) - Prie,Eric (2520) [D15]
4NCL/Div1/GUI1–BET Sunningdale (10.4), 04.05.2008
Richard required a win for a GM norm, and somewhat surprisingly offered a draw after exchanging rooks. White could have maintained the initiative with Qd3 or Be4! since Qxa2 falls for a tactical nuance in both cases. 24.Rxc8? Is just equal. [24.Qd3! Qxa2? (24...Qxd3 25.Rxd3 with a small edge.) 25.Rxc8 Rxc8
26.c5! Bxc5 27.Rc1 h6 28.Qd7 wins a piece; 24.Be4 Qxa2? (24...Qe2 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.Bb7 Bc5 27.Bf3 Bxd4 28.Bxe2 with a small edge to white.) 25.Rxc8 Rxc8 26.c5 f5 (26...Bxc5 27.Qxc5 Rxc5 28.Rd8#) 27.Qe5 fxe4 28.Rd7 is also strong.] ½–½
All in all there were some very exciting games this season. Hopefully it will be even better next season! It just leaves me to say a massive thank you to all those who make the 4NCL possible, and I hope that it continues to be popular, and attract top players for many years to come.
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