4NCL Rapidplays, 5-6 October 2013, Daventry
by John Saunders
The 2013/14 4NCL Team and
Individual Rapidplay Championships were held at
the Daventry Court Hotel over the weekend of 5-6
October 2013. On the Saturday, Barbican 1
retained the team title they won in 2012/13 with
a score of 22 after seven rounds of four-board
matches. On the Sunday, GM Mark Hebden won the
individual championship on tie-break from
Australian GM David Smerdon and Marcus Harvey
after the three of them finished on 6/7.
Barbican 1 arrived in Daventry
as reigning 4NCL team rapidplay champions,
having won as clear favourites in 2012/13.
However, a scan of the other team’s line-ups
would have told them that the defence of their
title was going to anything but easy. Barbican 1
themselves had an average ECF grade of 222 –
Matthew Piper (242), John Cox (233), Jonathan
Rogers (216) and Isaac Sanders (199) – but
Guildford, newcomers to the event, weighed in at
an eye-watering 240 – Gawain Jones (249), David
Smerdon (248), Mark Hebden (249) and Gavin Wall
(215). Amongst other strong squads it is worth
highlighting the following: RSJ, averaging 213 –
Alan Merry (229), Andrew Mayhew (214), Ian Snape
(208), Paul Talsma (201) – and SMPS averaging
212 – GM William Watson (247), Richard Holmes
(222), Mark Josse (199), Martin Benjamin (180).
(left) vs. David Smerdon (0-1, 85
The time limit was ten minutes
per player for all the moves with ten-second
increments, which works out at 20 minutes each
for a 60-move game. Thanks to technical wizards
Dave Clayton and Steve Hughes, 16 games per
round were transmitted on the web via electronic
boards, which also means we have a good supply
of games to show you (see links on the front
page). When playing through them, please think
charitable thoughts of the players as they were
playing at a brisk time control. Also bear in
mind that, very occasionally, when the players
are moving quickly, the electronic boards can
garble the moves. We’ve done our best to
disentangle them after the event but without
scoresheets it is often just guesswork.
Nineteen teams of four played
matches against each other (with the odd number
necessitating three-way matches at the foot of
the pairings), with game points taking
precedence over match points (which would be the
first tie-break, if needed). Of course, this put
a premium on heavy scoring by individuals rather
than simply aiming to beat the opposition by
2½-1½ for a match win. After a standard
‘massacre of the innocents’ in round one, things
became more interesting in round two with no
team managing to score 4-0. RSJ came closest,
scoring 3½-½ against BCM Dragons, but Guildford
and Barbican managed 3 and 2½ against Oxford and
CSC (Chess in Schools and Communities) 1
Though they scored half a point
more than their leading rivals, Guildford’s loss
of a point in round two was the more traumatic
experience of the two by a country mile. Their
Irish IM board four was winning with almost
absurd ease against a player graded 129 when he
had the misfortune to compose an elegant
helpmate in one. Even Guildford’s non-playing
captain Roger Emerson was moved to describe this
as “quite a pretty construct”. Can you find the
one and only White move which allows Black to
give checkmate in one move?
4NCL Team Rapidplay, Round 2
(Guildford) - A.Riley
White to Play: Helpmate in 1
(answer at end of article)
Having already broken my own
admonition to others to be charitable towards
losers of rapidplay games (sorry, Gavin), we
move on to round three.
RSJ lined up against
Guildford. I’m not sure what RSJ stands for in
this context, but wasn’t that the thing which Mr
O’Reilly (the cowboy builder in a particularly
famous episode of Fawlty Towers) failed
to place over the door lintel of a load-bearing
wall? Not sure: anyway, this particular RSJ
collapsed under the strain of triple-GM-loaded
Guildford, though managing to keep their defeat
to only one point. Barbican 1, however, lost by
the odd point to SMPS (which I believe has a
connection with the Met Police Service, though
I’ve not been informed what the initial ‘S’
stands for). Captain Jonathan Rogers kept the
Barbican flag (the Jolly Rogers?) fluttering by
beating Richard Holmes.
3rd with 6/7 in the
losing only to Gawain Jones.
No, I’m not taking lunch myself.
I confess I wasn’t actually present in Daventry
myself during the weekend, so everything you’re
reading here is hearsay, but all the people I
have consulted about it have drawn my attention
to problems with ordering lunch at the venue.
Orders arrived anything up to 90 minutes after
they were placed, apparently, and this caused
much gnashing of teeth (and not in a good way).
The tricky bit was trying to time an order to
coincide with a break between rounds. I allude
to this simply to corroborate any excuses you
may have heard from friends who took part and
scored poorly. Slow service and rapid chess
don’t sit well together.
So at the beginning of round
four, Guildford led with 9½, ahead of RSJ and
SMPS on 9, Barbican 2 on 8½. In fifth place were
the holders Barbican 1 on 8 and, confesses their
captain Jonathan Rogers, already despairing of
retaining their title. Guildford kept up the
pace by beating SMPS 4-0 (the all-GM game
between Gawain Jones and Willie Watson being won
by the former), Barbican 2 did well to beat RSJ
2½-1½, while Barbican 1 beat Oxford 4-0 to move
up to second place, but still 1½ points adrift
1 team Captain
Rogers beat GM Mark Hebden.
Round five featured the big
clash between Barbican 1 and Guildford, with the
former needing to beat the latter by 3-1 to
overtake them. Despite being outrated on all
boards, they did so, and arguably with some
comfort as their board four decided discretion
was the better part of valour, taking a draw
when he was objectively winning. Two GMs bit the
dust in this match: Matthew Piper, untitled but
clearly a fine rapidplay exponent, downed Gawain
Jones, while FM Jonathan Rogers beat Mark Hebden.
So Barbican 1 had snatched the
lead on 15/20, though only by half a point from
three teams: Guildford, RSJ and their own second
team. One remarkable individual result in this
round was Sue Maroroa of Oxford beating GM
William Watson of SMPS, which hopefully assuaged
some of her hubby’s pain at his own defeat.
Sadly, this game was not played on a show board
so the score doesn’t appear in the download. Sue
laughed at my suggestion she try to reconstruct
Round six and the good thing
from Barbican’s point of view was that they
didn’t have to rely on other teams to give them
a leg up. In theory, anyway: in practice it
proved extremely handy that their second team
should have been paired against Guildford. They
themselves stormed home 4-0 against RSJ – no
mean feat – while their second team top board,
Scottish IM Craig Pritchett, inflicted a second
straight defeat on Gawain Jones to deprive
Guildford of a maximum.
The last round saw Barbican 1
paired with their own second team. With their
score of 19, it meant that three game points
would put them out of reach of Guildford even if
the latter scored 4 to reach 21½. There was no
funny business: the Barbican match was played in
Corinthian fashion (or possibly vice versa) and
the result accepted by their rivals Guildford in
sporting fashion, after Guildford had achieved
another maximum score.
So Barbican 1 had taken the
title again: their fourth success in the event.
(I am reliably informed the event has been held
six times, with Loz Cooper’s NACCPO team winning
in 2008, and Ben Purton’s Sons of Anarchy in
2011.) Quite a remarkable achievement,
considering that they possessed only one IM in
their first team, while there were four GMs and
four IMs in rival sides. The top individual
scorer was Barbican 1 captain Jonathan Rogers
who scored 6½/7. Overall the team scored 22,
with Guildford finishing second on 21½ and RSJ
further back on 18. My old county,
Buckinghamshire, won a prize for being the best
junior side, while MK Phoenix received a prize
for being the best under 175 side. Finally, an
honourable mention for the six CSC (Chess in the
Schools and Communities) teams which swelled the
numbers considerably. More power to their elbow.
Team Championship, leading
scores: 1 Barbican 1 22, 2 Guildford 21½, 3 RSJ
18. Junior prize: Bucks Juniors 6. Under 175: MK
4NCL Team Rapidplay, Round 5
M.Piper (Barbican 1) - G.Jones (Guildford)
(diagram right) 24...f6? 24...Qd2 gives
the black queen a diagonal home to h6 to defend
the kingside should White push g6. White still
has some dangerous threats after 25.Rf4, etc.
25.g6 h6 26.Qc4 With time on his clock,
White could have hoped to find 26.g7+! Kxg7
27.Rf2! Qxd3 28.Bf1! lining up immediately
conclusive threats of Rg2 or Bc4 here.
26...Qd2 27.Nf2 Rb2 28.Rae1 Kg7 29.d4 e5?
The engine finds 29...Nb5! when the active
knight gives Black some chances of salvation.
30.dxe5 fxe5 31.Rd1! Qf4 32.Qxf4 exf4 33.Rxd6
and White had established a winning
position, with Black not having time to capture
on f5 because of Rd7+ winning the stray knight.
White made a highly efficient job of winning the
game, despite the illustrious opposition and
Black’s creative play over the next 45 moves ...
Most of the team championship
competitors stayed overnight for the individual
championship the next day (7 October 2013),
though some family men such as William Watson
and Matthew Piper headed home, to be replaced by
such strong players as IM Mike Basman and the
Oxford-based Armenian FM David Zakarian, amongst
others (52 altogether).
(left) vs. Gawain Jones (Rnd4, 1-0)
Once again the Guildford squad
started as firm favourites, though of course
this time they would have to do battle with each
other. David Smerdon was the first of the
Guildford trio of GMs to drop a half point,
drawing with Don Mason in round two when the
Midlands player managed to construct an
impregnable rook and pawn fortress to keep the
Aussie GM at bay.
Meanwhile Gawain Jones and Mark
Hebden cruised along to 3/3 before being paired
against each other. It was fairly even until the
older player inexplicably hung a piece in what
looked like a level position.
With 4/4, Gawain
then met another team-mate of the previous day,
Gavin Wall, also on a 100% score. They drew a
tough game, which allowed another team-mate,
David Smerdon, to catch up with them, and also
an ‘outsider’, 17-year-old Alan Merry, from Bury
St Edmunds. All four were on 4½/5.
GAWAIN SLAIN AGAIN
As in the team tournament, round
six proved unfortunate for the highest rated
player Gawain Jones as he was sensationally
defeated by Alan Merry. With Wall and Smerdon
drawing, this meant that the Suffolk youngster
was leading on his own with 5½/6, ahead of
Hebden, Wall, Smerdon and Marcus Harvey on 5.
4NCL Individual Rapidplay, Round 4
D.Mason (W Select) - A.Merry (RSJ)
In the final round, Alan Merry
came up against David Smerdon’s trusty Centre
Counter, or Scandinavian, as it is now known. He
lost, thus allowing David to overtake him, Gavin
Wall seemed to be doing quite well against Mark
Hebden but then the game became complicated and
the IM blundered. Marcus Harvey, 17, of Bicester,
joined the two GMs on 6/7, but on tie-break (sum
of opponent’s scores, after sum of progressive
scores left Hebden and Smerdon still tied) it
turned out that the championship title went to
the 55-year-old English GM.
(left) vs. James Coleman
Alan Merry enjoyed a stroke of luck in round
four, but few rapidplay games stand up to
tactical analysis. 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5
4.exd5 exd5 5.Ngf3 Nc6 6.Bb5 Qe7+ The
Russian GM Zvjagintsev has been playing this
recently. 7.Be2 Nf6 8.0‑0 Qc7 9.Re1 Be6
10.Bb5 10.dxc5 Bxc5 11.Nb3 Bb6 has been
played a few times. 10...c4 11.c3 Bd6 12.b3
a6?! 12...cxb3 first is safer. 13.Bxc6+
Qxc6 14.Ne5 Qc7 Black decides he must give
up a pawn rather than play 14...Bxe5 15.dxe5
when his dark squares will be taken over by
White’s bishop after Ba3. 15.bxc4 dxc4
King safety is becoming urgent so perhaps
15...0‑0!? is better. 16.Ndxc4 Be7 17.Ba3 Nd5
17...Bxa3 18.Nxa3 0‑0 19.c4 leaves White a
comfortable pawn up. 18.Bxe7 Nxe7 19.Ne3 Qxc3
Black decides to mix things up rather than
soldier on a pawn down. 20.Rc1 Qa5 21.d5
(diagram) Rd8!? Bluffing - which is surely
what Black is doing here - is part and parcel of
quick chess. 22.Qf3? White plays the
right two-move combination but in the wrong
order: 22.N5c4! Qc7 23.Qf3 would win a piece.
22...Nxd5 23.N5c4 Qc5 24.Ne5 Only Borislav
Ivanov’s Fritz-powered footwear could enable a
player to find a move such as 24.Nb6!? Qxb6
25.Nxd5 which pretty well forces Black to give
up the exchange rather than face 26.Nc7+.
24...Qe7? 24...Qa5 would be equal.
25.Nf5? 25.Nxd5! Bxd5 26.Ng6! nets the queen
for a rook and a piece. 25...Qf6 26.Qa3??
Aaargh! 26.Ng4 is still very good for White but
White miscalculates horribly. 26...Qxf5
27.Rc7 Nxc7 28.Nc6 bxc6 0‑1
4NCL Individual Rapidplay, Round 5
A.Merry (RSJ) - C.Pritchett (Barbican
48.h5! “Cheapos are the soul of chess” (as I
am sure Philidor would have said had he played
rapidplay chess). Hiarcs wants to preface this
with 48.Ra1, when White has very dangerous play
for the pawn. 48...gxh5? Black obligingly
walks into the trap. After 48...f5 49.hxg6+ Rxg6
50.Qxf5 Qf6, White has regained his pawn but is
unlikely to be winning. 49.Rxd6 Qxd6 50.Qxg7+
Kxg7 51.Nf5+ Kg6 52.Nxd6 and Black soon
leading scores: 1. Mark Hebden (Guildford), 2.
David Smerdon (Guildford), 3. Marcus Harvey 6/7,
4-5 Gawain Jones (Guildford), Alan Merry (RSJ,
junior prize) 5½. Under 175 prize: Richard
Freeman 4 (MK Phoenix).
My thanks to everyone who has
supplied me with information, in particular to
Jonathan Rogers and Roger Emerson for their
extensive comments, and to the 4NCL technical
team for their help with the games and results.
Finish of Wall-Riley: 1.Ne2??
Chess Photos | Steve
Pairings and results
- 6 Oct
Click for round-by-round details |
(first 3 on tie break)
Team (113 games)
||- with thanks to John Saunders.