4NCL Rapidplays, 4-5 October 2014, Daventry
by John Saunders
The 4NCL (Four Nations
Chess League) Team and Individual Rapidplay
tournaments, now almost the traditional
curtain-raisers to the new British chess season,
were held at the Daventry Court Hotel over the
weekend of 4-5 October 2014.
Twenty-seven teams took
part in this seven-round event, played over four
boards with squads of up to six players, on the
Saturday. Some creativity was put into the names
of teams, which, as is usual in the 4NCL, did
not necessarily relate to geographical entities.
For example, we had ‘West is Best’ (although, as
it turned out, they weren’t) and, confusingly,
both ‘Witney Brown Jack’ and ‘Brown Jack
Witney’. I’ve no idea whether this is some weird
West Country joke, or a more serious political
schism akin to the fictional one dividing the
‘Judean People’s Front’ and the ‘People’s Front
of Judea’ in the film ‘Life of Brian’.
We also had Sons of Anarchy
Grantham 1 and Sons of Anarchy Grantham 2,
though I feel the second team might have been
more logically labelled ‘Grandsons of’, etc,
etc. Quite what the late prime minister Margaret
Thatcher would have made of the link between her
home town and these chess-playing advocates of
lawlessness one can’t quite imagine. However, it
has to be admitted that they were a formidable
band of players and in the end it was only their
own self-inflicted act of anarchy (the second
team beating the first team, with Messrs Peter
Batchelor, Liam Varnam and Guy Batchelor beating
IMs Ameet Ghasi, Tom Rendle and Peter Roberson
respectively) that prevented the first team
clinching the championship. There is a moral
lesson there for us all, I think. Joking apart,
I should add that the Anarchy second team also
scored a quite astonishing victory over a strong
Barbican 1 side, with three players, Ben Purton,
Liam Varnam and Guy Batchelor, all making light
of 30+ grading differences (that’s something in
the region of 250 rating points for the benefit
of non-English readers) to score wins and
contribute to a 3½-½ scoreline. Impressive.
I suspect Mrs T would have
approved rather more of the law-abiding Home
Counties side from Guildford, who went on to win
the championship, though only by the narrowest
margin following a four-way pile-up on 18½ game
points out of a possible 28. The other three
teams in tie-break order were Sons of Anarchy
Grantham 1, Barbican 1 and Barbican 2. Guildford
squeaked through on match points, while SOAG 1
and Barbican 1 could only be separated into
second and third places on sum of opponents’
The time control was ten
minutes each per game, with ten-second
increments per move, and of course this brisk
pace brought about a good many surprise results
along the way. We had 12 electronic boards to
capture the moves: this was fortunate for us
spectators, but perhaps less so for some of the
One particularly gruesome error may
hang round the neck of the perpetrator like an
albatross. In round two an unfortunate FIDE
master managed to get mated in fewer moves than
there are letters in his surname. I wonder if
that has ever happened before. J.Hall -
P.Poobalasingam: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4
Nd7 4.Bc4 Be7? Already a serious error but
one which appears more than 300 times on Mega
Database 2014. 5.dxe5 dxe5?? Black has to
pretend it’s a pawn sac with a bluff like
5...Nb6. If 5...Nxe5 6.Nxe5 dxe5 7.Qh5 wins
material. 6.Qd5 That’s effectively game
over as Black can’t usefully defend his f7-pawn.
98 Black players on the database reached this
doleful position. Eight of them were higher
rated than the player in this game. Six of them
resigned immediately, while, of the other 92,
one managed to draw and three went on to win.
You may take it as read that the standard of
opposition in those games was not high. As Bent
Larsen once put it, databases are collections of
bad games. 6...Nb6 7.Qxf7+ Kd7 8.Nxe5+ Kd6
9.Bf4 Nxc4 10.Qd5 mate. Ouch. I feel a bit
guilty singling out poor Peter Poobalasingam in
this way – there were a good many other
‘blunderful’ games I could have chosen. Quite a
high proportion of rapidplay games, even those
played by players well in excess of 2200, do
seem to be decided by major blunders.
As already mentioned,
2013/14 4NCL champions Guildford didn’t have
everything their own way despite boasting a fine
six-player squad: Australian GM David Smerdon,
English GM Glenn Flear, IM Gavin Wall, promising
junior Matthew Wadsworth, WIM Christine Flear
and manager/captain/sponsor Roger Emerson.
Christine Flear was downed in the first round by
Guy Moss of Barbican 3, while they could only
muster 3-1 against Witney Brown Jack in round
two. Another 3-1 win followed in round three
against Metropolitan Police, with Glenn Flear
being found guilty of criminal damage in the
endgame and taken into custody by Chris Briscoe
of the Yard. The fourth round was even tougher,
only winning by 2½-1½ against Leeds University
Old Boys, with boy wonder Matthew Wadsworth
losing to Simon Deighton. They won by the same
score in round five against Barbican 2, but
worse was to befall them in round six, losing
1½-2½ to Sons of Anarchy Grantham 1. Glenn Flear
and Gavin Wall both lost, to Tom Rendle and
Peter Roberson respectively.
Here’s a game from the
Anarchy showdown in which the two players lived
up to their team name.
Rapidplay, Round 3, 2014
1, 2475) - P.Batchelor (SOAG 2, 2177)
should probably play more solidly with 30.Rc1
but, once an anarchist, always an anarchist.
30...Nxg3! Fighting fire with fire.
31.Qc3? 31.fxg3? Qxe3+ 32.Kg2 cxb6! 33.Qxc8
Rxd4 looks very good for Black. 31.Rc6 may be
safer. 31...Kh7! 32.Kg2?? 32.fxg3 is no
more appetising than on the previous move but it
seems to be the best White can do. 32...Ne2!
32...Ne4! is even more decisive: 33.Qc2 cxb6
34.Qxc8 Qxh4 and the white king is at the mercy
of the enemy pieces. 33.Qc6 Rd6 34.Qb7
34.Qc5 Qe4+ is probably no better than the game.
34...Rxb6 35.Qxc8 Qe4+! 36.Kf1 36.f3 Qxe3
is equally horrible for White. 36...Nxd4
36...Ng3+! 37.fxg3 Rxb2 38.Qh3 Qxe3 would only
be found by a player equipped with a computer.
37.Rxd4 Qh1+ 38.Ke2 Rxb2+ 39.Rd2 Rxd2+
40.Kxd2 Qxh4 With two extra pawns and a safe
king, this is a pretty easy win for Black, even
at rapidplay. 41.Qxc7 Qxf2+ 42.Kd3 h4 43.Qxa5
h3 44.Qd5 Qf5+ 0‑1
So, going into the final
round, SOAG 1 and Barbican 1 were leading on
16½, with Guildford on 15½, SOAG 2 & Leeds 15,
and Barbican 2, RSJ and Millfield on 14½. The
good news for Guildford was that the top two
were paired against each other, while they had
to take on SOAG 2. As it turned out, the top two
drew 2-2, so Guildford were able to get
alongside them with a 3-1 win. The last game to
finish was David Smerdon’s nail-biting endgame
win against Peter Batchelor. The latter came
close to making a draw in the endgame – Glenn
Flear pointed out his missed chance immediately
after the game – but the genial Aussie, in an
appropriately baggy green top, brought home
victory for Guildford.
Final scores: 1
Guildford 18½ game points (12 match points); 2
Sons of Anarchy Grantham 1 18½(11); 3 Barbican 1
18½(11); 4 Barbican 2 18½(9); 5 Leeds University
Old Boys 1 17½(10), etc.
Under 175 Grading: Leeds University Old Boys
2 on 14½. Junior: KJCA Knights 14.
winner: GM David Smerdon
The next day 75 players
lined up for the 4NCL Individual Rapidplay
Championship, also over seven rounds and at the
same time control. Three GMs, David Smerdon,
Glenn Flear and Matthew Turner, were amongst the
competitors, and two of them were at the head of
the table when the music stopped.
David Smerdon started with
a smooth and impressive 6/6 and was able to draw
with White against his only rival Glenn Flear,
to clinch the tournament in the final round on
6½/7. Glenn Flear finished second on 6/7 on
tie-break from 185-graded Peter Richmond, who
finished with a remarkable 5/5, including the GM
scalp of Matthew Turner. In 4-5th place were IM
Ameet Ghasi and Roger Emerson (who also won his
last five games) on 5½.
Here’s Roger Emerson’s
entertaining win in round six.
Rapidplay, Round 6, 2014
M.Josse (2174) -
Queen’s Gambit Declined
1.d4 d5 2.c4
e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.Qc2
order 6.e3 0‑0 7.Bd3 leads to something a bit
more solid for White. 6...0‑0
7.e3 h6 8.Bh4 Re8 9.Bd3 c5 10.dxc5
10.Nge2 c4 11.Bf5
Bxf5 12.Qxf5 Qd7 was Sowray-Emerson from the
same competition the year before, which White
went on to win. 10...Nc6 11.Nge2 d4!
Things now get quite lively. 12.0‑0‑0!?
understand that this move had been previously
suggested by Nigel Short. An almost identical
piece sacrifice with 12.Rd1!? g5 13.Bg3 dxc3
14.Bh7+ Nxh7 15.Rxd8 Rxd8 16.bxc3 Rd5 17.h4
eventually resulted in a win for White in a game
between two 2300‑rated Russians in 1991 but may
be reasonable for Black as things stand.
12...dxc3!? 13.Bxf6 13.Bh7+? Nxh7 14.Rxd8
Bxd8 gives up too much material for the queen.
13...Bxf6 Black is not obliged to
sacrifice his queen for rook and piece. It’s
better to play 13...cxb2+ 14.Bxb2 Qa5 15.Bc4
Bf8, leaving Black with some compensation for
the pawn in a game a few years ago. 14.Bh7+
Kh8 15.Rxd8 cxb2+ 16.Kb1 Rxd8
should play 17.Be4, which is assessed as a
slight plus for White by Houdini, but in the
context of rapidplay it’s anybody’s game. After
17...Be6 or 17...a6, Black can look forward to
some light square pressure on the queenside.
17...Rd2! Decisive. 18.Qxd2 Of
course, if 18.Qe4 Black has time to interpolate
18...Bxf5 before snaffling the knight on e2.
Altogether better than taking it immediately and
being mated on the back rank with 19. Qe8,
really. 18...Bxf5+ 19.Qc2 Bxc2+ 20.Kxc2 Rd8
21.Nc3 Nb4+ 22.Kxb2 Nd5 0‑1
Matthew Wadsworth defeated
Matthew Turner in round two. The GM was guilty
of overpressing but the younger player’s
technique to exploit the lapse was impressive.
Individual Rapidplay, Round 2, 2014
(2480) - M.Wadsworth (2221)
The GM tries hard
to win but only succeeds in ruining his own
(diagram) 32.Kf5 Bd4 33.Kg5
with 33.Ke4 is probably best. 33...Kd5
34.Kxh5? Ke4 White has won a pawn but the
black king is on a very fast track to the
queenside, while the bishop controls the
queening square on h8. 35.Nc3+ Kd3
Engines suggest 35...Bxc3 36.bxc3 c5 as being
more decisive but I’d suggest that is a lot
harder to assess at such a quick time control.
The text is more intuitive. 36.Kg5 a4!
Threatening ...a4–a3 and forcing White to spend
time on a defensive move. 37.a3 Kc2 There
is nothing to be done for White. Black’s
counterplay is moving much too fast for him.
38.f5 Kxb2 39.Ne2 Bh8 40.f6 b4 41.axb4 a3 42.Nf4
a2 43.Nd3+ Kb1 44.Ne5 a1Q 45.Kf5 Qb2 46.g4 Qf2+
1 David Smerdon (Guildford)
6½/7, 2 Glenn Flear (Guildford) 6, Peter
Richmond (Brown Jack) 6. Glenn Flear was placed
ahead of Peter Richmond on sum of progressive
U175 Grading: Stephen
Whatley (Millfield) 5. Junior: Ravi Haria 4½.
Junior 4NCL, Weekend 1
In an adjoining room at the
Daventry Court Hotel, 28 four-player junior
teams were taking part in a two-day five-round
tournament. The 4NCL has long since ceased to
live up to its original ‘four nations’ name but
two nations were strongly represented, with
seven of the 28 squads coming from Wales. The
winners were Knights and Forks with 9 match
points out of a possible ten, Chesspoint
Northampton second on 8 and Welsh Dragons Yellow
third on tie-break on 7.
- from the LIVE boards
Report, annotations and
photos by John Saunders,
Website: Steve Connor |
@stevechess | http://www.4ncl.co.uk/